How do you like Halloween?

This October has been an extremely full month for me in terms of work, school and personal growth. I notice the occasion of Halloween brings many different responses in small children and adults alike. I know kids that love Halloween starting from toddlerhood. I know children that are past Halloween by age 10. I know adults that never tire of Halloween and love the opportunity to create a costume each year. I know children and adults who are afraid of all the spooky things that Halloween can bring up-you won’t find me volunteering to be at a haunted house! And there are people that really dislike Halloween altogether.

Halloween is right in between the end of summer and the start of winter. We can consider it the cusp between light and dark, the twilight zone. The depth of different responses is a highlight of humanity and how we handle the cusp of light and darkness. It is a great time to reflect on how we see light and darkness within ourselves. Can we embrace the whole entirety of ourself in relation to the world around us?

Happy halloween!

Recipe: Banana Chia Pudding

This summer my good friend K offered me a chia pudding cup. I never got around to eating it, so I asked her what it was made with and she said banana. The next time I came across some ripe bananas, I figured I would make my own banana chia pudding. I had full fat coconut milk on hand, so I mashed the banana, added coconut milk and Coconut Dream to make my chia pudding. I swirled in some strawberry jam as sweetener and found a tasty snack, or breakfast or alternative to yogurt. Chia seeds also have the added benefit of aiding digestion by moving through the intestines. I prefer whole chia seeds. However, this week, I showed a client how to make this pudding and found she had only ground chia seeds, so we made pudding with just banana and added coconut water as liquid with a touch of cinnamon plus maple syrup to sweeten. Quite pleasant tasting…

I am not going to include a photo of either forms of pudding as they actually look a bit like barf. Think of chia pudding as an alternative to yogurt or a tasty medicinal digestive aid, so give it a try. This is so easy to make that I will suggest you create your own recipe to suit your tastes:

3 tablespoons whole white chia seeds

1/2-1 whole mashed ripe banana

1/4-1/2 cup coconut milk (from a can)-optional

1/4-1/2 cup non dairy milk of your choice or juice or coconut water

Mash banana in a medium bowl, stir in chia seeds, add liquid to create a pudding like consistency. Refrigerate for an hour or overnight, When ready to serve, stir again and add more liquid for desired consistency. Sweeten with jam, maple syrup or honey. Top with granola, nuts or fruit and enjoy,

Posture and Breathing First

It has been a long hot summer in Toronto, the best one ever yet. Some days have been so warm and humid that I notice myself breathing quite shallowly. Having started studies in traditional chinese medicine this spring, I have come to the conclusion that proper breathing is extremely important to optimal health. As a personal trainer, I know that posture is exceptionally important. I have found that improved posture is the most valuable result of working with me my clients report, as it brings such a positive change to their life.

In a recent friendly discussion with a fellow professional, I realized I feel so strongly about optimal posture that I prioritize a client having optimal posture over how much weight they can squat or deadlift. I notice that I am mindful of my own posture and whenever I have my photo taken by surprise, the first thing I check is my posture. Another perspective I have taken recently is poor posture is one sign of aging that a person can avoid with their exercise program. Good posture helps a person to look their best and comes with the benefit of alignment within the body to facilitate optimal breathing, which is integral to optimal health. Good posture and breathing are keys to optimal health, as it helps to maintain peak function of the lungs, an organ we have much conscious influence on with our breathing. Take a few deep belly breaths whenever you can,

Recipe: Shortcakes for summer

I have loved strawberry shortcake since childhood. There are differing versions, spongecake layers versus biscuit like shortcake. I have taken a liking to the simplicity of the biscuit form of strawberry shortcake as a delicious summer treat that happens to be low in sugar. I feel it is best to make your own whipped cream with organic whipping cream. Here are two recipes I make regularly with ease and great results. The first recipe was first seen in the the Globe and Mail from Lucy Waverman many years ago. The second recipe is gluten free adapted from the Coconut Diet Cookbook.

Simple shortcakes

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar, plus a little extra for sprinkling if desired

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup whipping cream

Preheat oven to 400F. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl, mix well. Add whipping cream and stir together with a spoon just until the mixture resembles a ball of dough.

Shape dough into a ball with your hands and press into a disc on a lightly floured surface, flatten to 1/4 inch thickness.

Use a round cutter of your choice (2-3inches) and cut dough into rounds, placing onto a baking sheet. Gather scraps of dough and cut until finished. Brush with tops of the rounds with the dregs of whipping cream and sprinkle with a touch of sugar if desired.

Bake for 20-22 minutes or until tops are golden. Let cool slightly, slice in half and top with whipped cream and strawberries, enjoy!

Makes 4-6 shortcakes depending on the size of cutter you use.

 

 

Coconut Shortcakes (gluten free)

 

1/3 cup melted coconut oil

6 eggs

1/4 cup coconut sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup coconut flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

 

Preheat oven to 400F. In a medium bowl, whisk together coconut oil, eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla. Add coconut flour, mix together with a spoon until a batter forms. Pour into muffin tin or silicon baking cups filling just over halfway. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 10-15 minutes before slicing in half, serving with whipped cream and strawberries.

 

 

 

10 weeks of tacos!

I have been a big fan of Seven Lives tacos since I ate my very first one in 2014. I started studies in traditional chinese medicine in April and found myself at Seven Lives for lunch. I told the manager Alex that I may have no motivation to bring my lunch and I wondered if I would tire of eating tacos? Alex promised I would not tire of the tacos and suggested I have lunch there every week I was at school-10 weeks of tacos became the name. During this time, I was offered a shift behind the counter on the grill(!) Spongebob may be a better fry cook than I-

I actually ate 12 weeks tacos diligently with the addition of amazing popsicles (paletas) when the Seven Lives Paleteria opened. My enthusiasm for the tacos remained steady and I will endorse having one of their tacos as an ideal lunch to maintain good energy levels in the afternoon. Definitely some of the best and most original tacos I have eaten, with the octopus taco being my favourite. If you haven’t had some Seven Lives tacos, I highly recommend them.

On the note of my top picks, I would also like to add Holy Chuck as the best quick burger. I have tested a few and the burger at Holy Chuck comes in as my favourite with P & L as a close second. This is a topic of hot debate and I am happy to test any other burger recommendations…

Happy Canada Day!

 

Peace at Every Meal

I recently started studying traditional chinese medicine. Part of the learning for me is being treated as a patient at the student clinic. I have been prescribed some food therapy while studying herbal medicine as well. One thing I can conclude with my all my studies in nutrition and health is a lot of conflicting information on what we ‘should’ eat exists. In our world of privilege, we have unprecedented access to food of any sort combined with a vast array of information on what is best for health. It is easy for meal time to be conflicted with what we ‘should’ eat and what we actually want to eat.

This is a lengthy philosophical debate that I will explore further another time. I do have a couple suggestions to consider and apply any time. First, it is a good goal to be at peace every time you eat. This peace is being mindful and free to enjoy your food as nourishment wholeheartedly. This can be accomplished by a practice of grace or gratitude before a meal in addition to taking the time to eat mindfully. Secondly, pay close attention to how you feel after you eat, as you are the best judge of what foods are best for your body. This awareness takes practice, so work on it whenever you can. These two practices are part of a healthy food relationship, which is making life good.

 

Exercise Can Keep You Young

I have said ‘exercise is supposed to keep you young’ quite a few times. Exercise of the right dose and quality keeps energy levels high and maintains optimal body function and health. However, once we get into the habit of exercise it is easy to think more is better, especially for the achievement oriented person. I coax myself on a regular basis to practice restorative yoga instead of going for another run. Our workouts need to have different energies to keep us healthy, balanced and well. We need workouts that bring us close to maximal effort in speed or strength. Steady, medium pace workouts. Recovery workouts, leisurely walks and plenty of work to maintain our range of motion with stretching or yoga.

I have noticed that it is easier for me to stay in shape by focusing on being healthy. That means having a high energy level, improving or maintaining speed and strength, range of motion (working on the splits), getting good quality rest and meditation. I need to tailor my workouts to address all of those goals, which means the workouts of different energies that I mention above. I will share that I am a big fan of 20 minute workouts that push me close to my max. This type of workout is challenging and effective for maintaining strength, speed and body composition.

One easy way to tell if you have the right mix of exercise in your program is to take stock of your energy level when you wake up and a quick look in the mirror. Do you feel energized with even energy throughout the day almost everyday? Do you look full of vitality and feel young? Do you move easily and well? If so, keep it going and stay young. If the answer is no to any of the above, time to take another look at your routine and improve, so you can feel your best all the time. Get good rest, work out smarter, not longer.

 

 

Recipe: Roasted Squash soup

I had some roasted squash soup as a special at Foxley in the fall. It was so delicious, I set out to make some myself the very next day. The recipe has taken some practice and I did ask chef Tom Thai for tips-the key is to rest the squash after it was roasted. The kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass impart such a nice balance with the rich coconut milk above the delicious roasted squash base.

1 buttercup squash

1 butternut squash

1 apple, peeled, cored and diced

1 onion, chopped

2 tablespoons coconut oil

handful of kaffir lime leaves

1 stalk of lemongrass, cut into pieces

4-6 cups vegetable stock

1 can full fat coconut milk

butternut and buttercup squash ready for roasting-2 types add depth of flavour

butternut and buttercup squash ready for roasting-2 types add depth of flavour

Wash the squash in warm water thoroughly. Usually squash are hard to cut through, so I throw them in the oven for 10-15 minutes whole to soften. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (soften up the squash as well).

Cut squash in half, scoop out seeds and rub with a little coconut or olive oil. Roast squash in a baking dish for 45-60 minutes. Leave in oven to ‘rest’ for a couple hours or until cool.

Depending on the softness of the squash, you can scoop out the flesh in chunks or peel the skin and cut into chunks.

In a large pot, heat coconut oil over medium heat and saute the onion and apple until softened. Add the squash, vegetable broth, lime leaves, and lemongrass. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the lime leaves and lemongrass. Puree with an immersion blender. Season with salt and stir in coconut milk until blended. Enjoy!

The Making Life Good weekly shopping list

I recently realized that for all that I have gone on about eating vegetables and fruit, I have yet to share what is involved on a weekly basis to build and maintain this habit. I actually have an unspoken commitment to myself to buy a variety of vegetables and fruit every week. When I travel, this is one of my first tasks upon arriving at my destination if I have a refrigerator at my accommodation and it is a must do as soon as I return home.

What do I typically buy? My good friend Emily taught me years ago that I ought to purchase in season local produce whenever possible (farmers markets are a good way to go). However, if you know me, I do have a predilection for strawberries, especially with some chilled champagne or clotted cream all year round. Most important is getting into the habit of buying and being sure to consume the fresh produce you bring home. Stocking your kitchen with fruits and veggies you enjoy is sure to improve your health by having healthy choices readily available.

Here is a rough list of what I buy on a weekly basis:

Organic lemons

Organic romaine lettuce

organic black kale

watercress

cucumber

grape tomatoes

green onion

avocados

parsley, cilantro

honey crisp apples, blueberries, pomegranate, oranges (winter fruits)

fresh fruits and veggies of the week

fresh fruits and veggies of the week

 

 

 

Dry January

Happy 2016 to all! The start of a new year always brings some contemplation to my life, as the question of what I wish to accomplish this year comes to mind. This month I noticed the term ‘Dry January’ for the concept of being sober for the entire month of January, which is 31 whole days! The idea is not a new one, but seems to have been popularized in the UK recently and brings awareness to our alcohol consumption patterns. I must admit that abstaining from alcohol for an entire month seems too restrictive to me. I also say the same about diets, cleanses and crazy workouts, as I believe in developing sustainable healthy habits. Periodically, I have been able to not drink for a week, and the longest I have managed is 20 days, but this happened naturally, as I do not have the discipline to say I won’t have a drink for a week let alone a whole month.

No health and wellness expert could say that drinking alcohol is a great idea. However, it seems to be that some alcohol in moderation can be beneficial to overall health. The big question is always what is the right amount to be moderate? Self observation, monitoring and some mild discipline are the key lifelong habits to learn and practice for being healthy in relation to food and drink. I have long recommended and practiced the habit of counting the number of alcoholic drinks I have each week and recording it in a calendar to keep myself in check http://www.vivianlaw.ca/how-many-drinks-count-them/

Booze is different than food, as it has no nutritive value, so I feel it is always important to ask and monitor what is driving us to drink? How often do you drink? How does drinking make you feel? I have heard from many people that they are not able to handle alcohol in the same degree as they get older. That may be true, especially if you can feel the ill effects in your well being and energy level. It is a wise idea to cut back on your alcohol consumption if you are not feeling your best. It is not because you are getting old, however, it is just always a good idea to take care of yourself at any moment. New guidelines in Canada recommend at least one or more days a week of not consuming any alcohol. I would agree with this recommendation as your liver could use a break from processing alcohol at least one day a week.

I love to enjoy a drink for many different occasions, so making life good recommends (ac)counting the drinks you enjoy in care of  yourself,