As a traditional chinese medicine practitioner in training, natural wholistic health(lifestyle) is integral to the treatment approach. Having been in the field of health and fitness for 19 years this week, I learned many years ago that sleep is hugely important to being truly healthy. Sleep is a healthy habit that requires daily practice. Sleep restores your body and mind-it needs to be a priority. For many years I have advised people that quality sleep comes before the ambitious start to exercise first thing in the morning. It is also easier to make healthier food choices with better sleep. Sleep, exercise and nutrition are 3 pillars of being healthy.
Sleep has had much more air time in the field of health information in recent years. What actually happens with a person’s sleep is a different story, as sleep is a subjective experience. Here are my views on what quality sleep is:
- Falling asleep easily in a relaxed state
- Staying asleep with possible waking for urination
- Waking up feeling energized and well rested 7-8 hours later
This is the sleep standard I strive for. There are plenty of nights that are below this standard, and I keep practicing. Being able to manage your emotions and daily stressors is helpful to relaxing at the end of a day and letting go to fall asleep. Staying asleep and/or falling back asleep easily is a condition that I find traditional chinese medicine to be extremely helpful for. Waking up feeling energized, I find comes naturally with the habit of regular exercise, and being enthusiastic about life. Well rested, the science shows 7-8 hours of sleep is needed for optimal health. Consider it a required investment of 7-8 hours to start the day on the right track, so you can live well.
I love sweet treats and sugar. I may the only fitness and wellness professional to publicly share this feeling. There is a spectrum of healthy sweet treats and indulgences. I have been working with some gluten free banana bread recipes lately and decided to make these coconut flour bites in a silicone mini muffin mold. There is a much higher likelihood of success in gluten free baking if smaller pans are used. I have enjoyed these little treats that are low in sugar and high on taste as a bit of fuel on the go to keep me going between meals.
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
2-3 tablespoons melted coconut oil
1 tablespoon or less honey or to taste
1/2 cup coconut flour
2 tablespoons dark chocolate chips
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together bananas, eggs, coconut oil and honey. Add coconut flour. Stir together with a wooden spoon just until blended. Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts. Spoon batter into mini muffin mold. Bake approximately 20 min or until tops are slightly brown. Cool and enjoy. Keeps in an airtight container for a few days refrigerated.
I taught yoga on Easter Sunday this year. I mentioned the idea to watch our thinking, as we can easily be carried away and fall into extreme forms of thought. I told a story of attending a church away from home and being questioned harshly that I apparently did not conform to their proclamation of accepting Jesus. Then I made a light hearted remark-here we are at the cult of yoga.
Having been in the field of fitness, health and wellness for over 18 years, I have seen various trends. Sometimes the trend easily becomes a form of entrenched belief so that people feel the need to convert others. Diet is the most obvious cycle of trends that people get caught up with and start insisting others follow their thinking. Forms of exercise with rigid programs dictate that movement must be performed in a certain way. Yoga can be an example of this with some forms of yoga being based on a very rigid, extreme routine.
After I made my comment on the cult of yoga, various articles came into my consciousness this week which highlighted the potential and existence of abuse in rigid practices of yoga. Being a yoga teacher, I felt disappointed to learn of this abuse in the community. I believe a way to prevent this type of cult following is to always be observing our thinking. 95% of our actions and thinking is unconscious, so it is a real daily practice to become more conscious of our behaviour and thinking. With consciousness and education, we are much more capable of thinking for ourselves. Add mindful meditation to thought watch, and we can have more peace within ourselves. The practice of yoga first and foremost is practicing being peaceful-
Recently a client gave me a piece of her favourite banana bread. Her absolute favourite recipe after many years of baking. Truly outstanding. She was kind enough to share the recipe and it comes all the way from Australia! I went to try the recipe and had eaten enough wheat in recent times, so I tried making it gluten free. First it was dry, then I forgot xanthan gum and on the third attempt, replacing the walnuts with chocolate chips, it turned out amazing! Here is the recipe, be sure to use mini loaf pans, the smaller volume increases odds of success, as gluten free baking can be finicky. Also check for doneness sooner than you think, as this banana bread goes dry very quickly while baking.
1 3/4 cups gluten free flour blend (I used millet, chickpea, sorghum, rice, banana and teff flour, more types of flour is better)
1.5-2 teaspoons xanthan gum
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3-4 very ripe bananas
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, stir together dry ingredients. In another medium bowl, mash bananas then whisk together with sugar, eggs and melted butter. Fold dry ingredients into the banana mixture and mix with a wooden spoon until just blended. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour batter into 3-4 greased mini loaf pans. Bake for 20-30 minutes, checking for doneness at 15 min. Tops will be cracked, if a fork comes out sticky, the loaves can sit in the oven that is off for a few extra minutes to finish cooking. Enjoy at room temperature and store in an airtight container.
I was at a wonderful all inclusive resort last week in Rose Hall Montego Bay teaching fitness and enjoying some sunshine. I was planning on giving a quick nutrition talk on healthy eating on vacation and at the buffet, however the plans were changed. I still gave the talk plenty of thought and wish to share it here.
All you can eat buffet, does that mean we should eat all we can? The short answer is no it is not a good idea to eat all that you can. Food is for nourishment and enjoyment. Our body is rebuilt on a daily basis, so we need food as fuel. Eating excessive quantities of food essentially causes illness when there is too much food for your system to digest. There is a spectrum of how much food our appetite and bodies can handle. Ever notice how special occasions like Christmas and Thanksgiving can prompt us to eat extra? A buffet is a similar concept with even more choice and more volume of food. At an all inclusive resort, we have the privilege to choose just about anything we want. That’s the first concept to keep in mind, it is a privilege to have access to such a vast quantity of food, so the first rule is to minimize waste.
The most appealing aspect of a buffet is the huge variety and choice there is. I recommend taking a walk around the entire food selection and noting what seems most appealing to you. Often the desserts appeal most to me, which is something I have loved since childhood. A sweet childhood memory is going to look at the desserts right away and plotting out which ones I would try first.
Once you have taken it all in, carefully select the foods the have the most appeal to you. I like trying many different dishes, so I partake in a few bites of many things. I find inspiration in learning new flavours and cooking techniques. In addition, make yourself a proper meal that has a mixture of protein, fat, carbohydrates and most importantly, vegetables with the selection that is available.
There was one day that I tested out the possibility of eating all that I could, so I ate a bit extra. I noticed my appetite decreased the next day and then I continued to stick with the concepts I mention here for the rest of my holiday. I did manage to put on a pound or two even with daily exercise. An all you can eat buffet is a lesson in self mastery with a little self discipline.
The start of 2018 brought to mind the concept and practice of gratitude. I practiced something of a gratitude journal and after some time realized gratitude is more of an attitude, a frame of mind, a form of consciousness. With the continual practice of placing focus on a more positive frame of mind, I noticed being grateful helps build strength towards being inspired.
As the sun sets on 2018, I’m taking stock of all the amazing things that happened and all that I learned. The challenging experiences I take note and consider how I can improve and learn. Every challenge in life is a test of what you really stand for-
Tomorrow, the first day of the year, I’ll take extra time to meditate and reflect on my intentions for 2019. Happy new year!
At a cycle class I taught last week just after American Thanksgiving, I shared that now is the time to be extra serious about workouts. We all enjoy some extra food and drink during the upcoming festive season. Being sure to make time for exercise is an important step to staying healthy. This way January is a fresh new year without any major work such as weight loss required.
In other words the best weight loss program is prevention. Many life changes/circumstances can result in weight gain. However, the holiday season is an easily avoidable situation if we carve out the time to keep up with workouts, eating healthy while not at celebrations, and getting high quality sleep. Yes, you will skip some workouts. My recommendation is to maintain the greater majority of your activity level. For example, if you usually are active or work out 20 times/month, make a commitment to yourself to do at least 15 workouts in December. This is Making Life Good formula for enjoying the holidays and staying in shape. Cheers!
I celebrated my birthday recently by choosing a Wayne Dyer book for myself. I chose Real Magic and I have been loving the book. Essentially the message is we can experience real magic in our lives by choosing to align with our invisible spiritual selves first and foremost. Another way to understand this is to develop our intuition and use it to guide us.
Intuition is visible and invisible information experienced in the body as sensations that guide us. The discernment and application of knowledge through all of our senses and mind in combination with any extra information we perceive/sense is the effective use of intuition. Our first impressions are quite useful as a marker of our intuition. Be it a person or life situation, using our first impression as guidance can be helpful.
I discussed crystal balls and tarot cards at my last yoga class. I believe these are tools that can be used as guidance for yourself. We cannot know the future, however, we can clarify what our intentions are, which will guide us in the right direction. Developing your intuition through trusting it and taking appropriate action guides your spiritual growth to help you find the best path for yourself.
After a cycle class recently at the Toronto Athletic Club I found myself stepping in and giving food recommendations to an out of town guest who needed some healthy food soon. That gave me the idea to share my picks for lunch in the downtown core.
My favourite spot is the hot table at Mcewan for the variety of absolutely delicious food. It is the best self serve hot/cold bar I have tried yet. I like to fill a box with whatever catches my fancy. Their jerk chicken is the best! I much prefer getting there before 12pm, as the selection is best with a shorter line to pay. As lunch hour goes on, the selection dwindles.
TD Centre 66 Wellington St W http://mcewan.mcewangroup.ca
I have really enjoyed Greenbox ever since it was introduced to me by a friend this summer. The grab and go boxed salads are delicious. I also enjoy the variety of bowls they serve. The recipes are developed by the owner and I recently tried the hazelnut energy ball, all very good!
200 University Ave https://greenboxexpress.ca
Assembly Chefs Food Hall is another interesting option. Think of it as a food court with great food. Little Dailo is always a good choice
111 Richmond St W https://www.assemblychefshall.com
Forno Cultura has the most delicious cookies and sweets(I love the pistachio amaretti and apricot pastry) The grab and go sandwiches are hearty and tasty
First Canadian Place 100 King St W https://www.fornocultura.com/#first-canadian-place
I also enjoy Copper Branch as an option for tasty vegan food. The fries are particularly good here.
199 Bay St https://eatcopperbranch.com