Saturday, April 30, 2011

Silent Observer

I have a mountain bike, bought years ago when my husband and I camped more regularly, and while I never even really mountain biked much then, I am grateful to have had it. I dusted it off this afternoon for the first time this year, and I'm so happy I did.

Sitting at home earlier today and contemplating chores and work I have to get done, I thought, "What would be a great distraction?" Yes, this is a tactic many people are familiar with, I know. It's the "how can I get out of doing something by doing something else" technique. Rather popular, really. While this may seem negative, occasionally it leads to something positive being done. Today, that positivity got me off my butt and riding my bike up and down hilly roads east of where I live. It was city riding, so there was not a lot of scenic beauty to speak of, but the burn in my quads and the sun on my face felt fantastic. It's amazing what a person notices when she rides a bike rather than takes transit or drives. Family dynamics are fascinating when people are unaware they're being observed (I realise how creepy that sounds!): kids walking with their friends, laughing and telling jokes, parents pushing their wee ones in strollers, some people with pained expressions, maybe squinting at the sun, maybe reflecting on things, others smiling even while walking alone. Not to mention other people riding bikes and making comparisons. In my case, I was observing how much faster everyone else was going!

It's strange how I suddenly pay more attention to other bikes and their features. Now, don't get this mixed up with me actually knowing something about bikes. Noooo...still quite amateur am I! But I am taking note. People who ride with different intentions have different gear (youth usually with no helmut! Not cool!). Younger kids tend to ride with one hand and carry a convenience store bag (often with pop and chips in the other). Some kids race each other, or compete in some other way, jumping curbs and such. Some adults ride with groceries, and others with their kids. It's amazing to see people out there while the sun's beaming down on Earth instead of them succumbing to the allure of their sofas or computer games! It really made me feel like a part of humanity, seeing the rest of the world waking from a long winter (and lately rainy) slumber.

Happy Spring!!!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Aftermath!

Popping buttons and the desperate need for stretchy pants, all the while swearing off food for an eternity...until the leftovers start calling your name. Sali-vation, tempation, celebration! Ahh! Is there anything more detrimental to a well-balanced nutrition and exercise plan than fabulous family festivities!?! Not in my books! But here it is, only days after the feast, with wonderful memories and no regrets.

Food, really good food, when eaten in the presence of love and delight, cannot be bad for the soul. The daily consumption of holiday foods can definitely be bad for the body, but a wise man once said that if you eat these foods regularly, then it's not a treat. How right he was! And there was never a gain to be had from lamenting the consumption of food made and eaten with gratitude and love.

All too often, people who have struggled with their weight their whole lives look at the holidays as scary--a test of will. The joy fades into the backdrop and the only thing present in their minds is the ramification of eating these deliciously crafted, sumptiously selected foods. It's so sad to me that the all the love that went into the cooking, baking, marinating, barbecuing, garnishing, and seasoning gets lost in feelings of self-deprication and judgement.

So, start every new day with gratitude that you have loved ones to share great meals with, and keep doing everything else right in order to honour yourself with positive, healthy habits. That way, when any holiday comes a-knockin', your only thoughts will be of gratefulness and great-full-ness!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

This Moment

It seems that suddenly our world has been inundated with "quick fix" syndrome--this is what I like to define as wanting brilliant outcomes with little to no effort. What ever happened to the journey and sweat being the reward? Don't get me wrong, I have the same tendencies to want to blink and have the house clean (no toilet scrubbing, vacuuming, de-cluttering or dusting EVER would be part of my perfect world!). The interesting thing is that we forget to enjoy being HUMAN amidst all the quickness. Many Eastern philosophers believe that we have come to inhabit our bodies as a result of various rebirths after many difficult feats, so to squander our time in them is to not really understand the magnitude of what we've been given. We see ourselves as being entitled to certain things rather than to appreciate the lot we're blessed with.

Even if one doesn't believe in the concept of karma or rebirth, the reality of how little time we're given in a lifetime seems to go unheeded. When we live each moment not knowing what the next one holds, it should help us realize how important this moment really is. The idea of "killing time" is actually quite disturbing in this sense, especially when one considers the many people who live their last moments wishing they had more time doing the things they enjoyed most or hanging out with the people they loved.

In his mid-eighties, while my grandfather-in-law was near the end of his life--in and out of lucid states--he smiled and said, "If you want to be happy, live the life I've lead." I can't think of a more gratifying thing for a family to hear when a loved one is dying. Here was a man who survived a war and cancer and felt that he'd lived life the best he could and felt at peace as a result. He worked very hard for a good portion of his life, and he also played well for most of it. Every once in a while, when I'm feeling stressed or upset about something, regardless of whether it's in or out of my control, I reflect on all of the wonderful things that I've done in my life that have been on my wish list, and how lucky I am to be capable to do more at this point in my life. I also try to remember not to compare myself to others, especially since my idea of fulfillment is not the same as everyone else.

I challenge everyone to slow down and enjoy the moments of their lives, as well as the process that goes into becoming our best selves. Work does not have to be a bad word! It can be simultaneously labourious AND enjoyable! So, not to date myself, but in the illuminating words of Ferris Bueller (yes, I did go there!), "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

Sunday, April 10, 2011


This is a glorious time of year! There is newness everywhere, and it feels as though each of us is being given a second chance at something. As far as I'm concerned, spring is even more exciting than the beginning of a new year because it's literally the beginning of new life. My mind's eye envisions a cartoon-esque landscape of blooming flowers and budding trees! Of course, there is also the chemical factor--finally getting the natural vitamin D which we're all starved for after what feels like an endless winter, but more than that for me, it's excitement at new opportunities.

Shedding layers of winter clothes is also symbolic of exiting a cocoon and spreading our wings (arms?). It's like releasing the biggest, most satisfying yawn after a much needed, but overly extended, slumber. The Hindu Goddess Kali is a Mother Goddess who is often misunderstood as destructive (perhaps because she's often depicted standing over a body while holding a knife in one hand and a head in another), but really, she represents the stripping away of falsehoods in order to make room for new life. We should all take a page out of her wisdom now, as the layers are stripped and the possibilities that new life hold are at our fingertips. So, I say revel in the newness and do the unthinkable! Live your best life in the manner you were meant to, without the fear of failure and only the wonder of possibility as your compass!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Where's the Chocolate from?

BBC's Passionate Eye aired a documentary earlier this year called, Chocolate: The Bitter Truth. Now, I'm a holistic nutritionist, and I'm aware of the implied contradiction. I have had a sweet tooth my whole life. There's a history, of course. As a kid, my grandfather worked at a chocolate factory, and he would always bring my brother and me a bag of chocolate bars each. No joke. We always had chocolate in the house. It was in drawers and bowls and in bags. Thankfully, my brother and I were very active children, always into sports or just running around as kids do, so while we were still fit, we were, nonetheless, chocolate fiends. The thing is that, as a kid, it never occurred to me where it came from or what the health consequences of eating it in abundance would be. Studying nutrition answered the latter of these questions for me, but this documentary opened my eyes to the initial question as to where it comes from.

The documentary followed a journalist's investigation into West African cacao fields and the child labour that sustains many of them. Youngsters who should be in school were, instead, using machetes and risking bodily harm for the sake of the rest of the world's chocolate addiction. In some cases, the kids working had never even tasted a chocolate bar. There were heart-breaking stories of kids taken from their families and forced into work. The journalist tried following the trail of cacao beans from harvesting right through to sales, and the truth is that it is unbelievably easy to lose track of whether the beans are from legitimate sources (non-child labour, or fair trade), or whether they were child-labour farms.

As I watched, the disgust of it all slowly rose in me. It's not that I wasn't previously aware that child-labour existed, but somehow the reality of it hadn't struck a cord until this moment. I like all types of chocolate--dark, milk, nut-filled, cherry-filled, mint-flavoured, etc. But it's important to me that my vice isn't one that's feeding an industry that's keeping kids from their parents and out of school while yielding machetes instead of books. I think of my nieces and little cousins and how it breaks my heart to think that fate could have dealt them that hand instead of the one they presently have.

So, I've been making a conscious effort to find chocolate that is fair trade, and I've been quite successful! Actually, at the end of the doc, there was a note saying that Cadbury has had fair trade chocolate available in North America since June 2010. I've only been able to find milk chocolate Cadbury with the fair trade label, but it's definitely something. Another great brand I've discovered is Sjaaks ( Their chocolate is 100% organic AND fair trade! I've tasted a few of their bite sized chocolates, and I've been pleased.

In this era of social justice and awareness, it's easy to get swept away with all that's wrong. We must often decide which ethical battles to make a stance for depending on what our consciouses will allow. But there's a positive lesson here, too. There are organizations doing the right thing. It's a small contribution, and I'm not saving the world by any means whatsoever, but my heart feels lighter when I know that I've chosen fair trade chocolate.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Sweet Victory

The Weather Gods brushed my cheek with a kiss today and blessed me with a beautiful, sunny day for my first race in 20 years. Nervous with anticipation and fear as the crowd waited for the gun to sound, I found myself starting to get excited rather than scared. And when the gun did sound, I was smiling uncontrollably as I made my way (slowly, as I was in the latter half of 2000 people!) to the starting line. And suddenly, after about a minute of walking, I started to run! It was exhilarating! It wasn't that I was going fast, rather it was that I felt truly alive and in the moment--trying to find my pace and get a feel for the ground beneath me reminded me of why I love to run. Of course, it wasn't too long after that exhilaration that I started panting and wondering just how far 5km really was. I started counting my paces and trying to focus on the beauty of the trail, loons on water. Alas, this didn't last too long, either. The occasional stitch in my gut and side also distracted me.

Once I found my stride (after about 1 km), I ran steadily for a couple of kilometres, counting my steps in rhythm and feeling quite good about not having yet collapsed. Then my mind started getting the better of me, and I started thinking the end must be in sight. After all, I'd been running steadily for what felt like ages, so my reward had to be that the finish line was near! With each new hill I had to climb, the reality of having still further to go suddenly struck me, and against my better knowledge, I had to walk for a bit. I knew I shouldn't. I climbed the CN Tower a couple of years ago and learned that stopping to rest made it harder to continue. Even with this knowledge, I gave in and walked for a bit at about the 3.5km mark. It wasn't over, though, so after a few minutes, I began running again, but with 2 more brief walking stints before the finish line. The trickery of it was that believing the end was near left me feeling a bit desperate.

Finally, the last hill to climb and it would be over! Keeping it together (barely!) for a few more hundred metres suddenly seemed like the hardest thing to do ever! But, somehow I did it, and with a friend having come to cheer me on and my husband waiting for me at the finish line, I felt absolutely...exhausted! AND AMAZING!!! Truly! I wasn't sure of my time or whether my lips would ever regain the moisture they'd lost because of my sweating and panting, but I was done.

The best part was that when I got home and checked my time online, I learned that I had beat the time I'd set for myself! I wanted to complete it in 40 minutes, and I finished in 37:46.9 minutes. THAT knowledge was a great reward.

So, does this mean I'll be running more races in the future? Yes! Definitely! But I'll have to readjust my attitude about incorporating hills into my routine (damn! don't love those hills...), but I'll definitely be running again.