to love you more (hint: quit treating your body like a garbage disposal)

Sometimes things can get muddled in the world of self love, self acceptance, self appreciation and any other rah-rah self proclamation. I have had countless discussions with people about their quest to love, hell or even like, themselves.

It usually follows the same basic outline, I sit there listening to how they are not being as hard on themselves, accepting their bodies, choices and most importantly not beating themselves up for what they consider screw-ups. If you have read my blog up to this point or are a returning follower of the former blog, you know I am a cheerleader. I will support the shit out of this type of behaviour…. within reason.

Yeah, I have limits. In our quest for a much deserved positive and happy relationship with ourselves we tend to put on the blinders and in our process of accepting ourselves, fail to hold ourselves accountable or address areas which we can improve. This my friends is essential in the process of genuine and truly self appreciation.

To love ourselves does not mean we cannot see room for growth or change – even if that change means admitting or pointing out ways that we are not providing ourselves the optimum amount of healthy food/activity/mental health support and emotional love that we not only need, but deserve.

Sometimes real self love comes in the form of a reality check, tough love and a little push in the right direction. Self acceptance does not mean accepting that you love fast food and are a couch potato and don’t want to change and because you’ve accepted it, you love yourself. That is self denial, not self love.

We have no problem giving the best to everyone and everything that demands it, or we feel deserves it, yet when it comes to ourselves we treat our bodies, minds and often sheer existence like a garbage disposal – continuously pouring junk in the forms of food, news, toxic relationships, stress, ignoring our better judgement….the list goes on and on. And we do these things under the pretence of a healthy relationship with ourselves.

If any of this sounds familiar to you I highly suggest taking some time to get reconnected with your real thoughts and feelings about yourself, your life and the choices you make and where you’d like to be. This can be incredibly uncomfortable. That’s good. I recently read something that said, ‘ change does not come from a place of comfort’. Hard truth to that statement.

Sometimes the path to self respect and true love for ourselves is a winding and bumping road. Sometimes it means making a lot of changes, back tracking, starting over and making only 1 or 2 at a time. It doesn’t matter. Just trust that every positive change you make is one more in the right direction.

If you’re not at a place where you want to take on all that shit, then don’t..that’s right. Forcing something you’re not ready for serves no positive purpose in our lives. But I will offer this advice: add in.

Don’t worry about all the things you know you should want to change, and maybe even do want to change, but instead of focusing on the negative, focus on adding in. Add in some fruit with your breakfast. Add in more water. Add in vegetables to your supper and a salad at lunch. Add in even a quick 15-20 minutes of movement into your day – even if its a quick jaunt around the office at coffee break time. Focus on adding in.

The positive things you add in will do wonders in serving your body, far more than focusing on all the stuff you need to remove from your life. The benefits of healthy food and fuel are still there without the bullshit of nagging yourself for the less than ideal things you are doing.

Focus on the positive and healthy. The unhealthy and negative will naturally begin to weed itself out. And this..this will lead to self love and acceptance.

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lemon walnut pesto pasta

***Repost…. This is an old post, but I still make this recipe regularly (including last night!) except use nutritional yeast instead of parmesan since I actively try to avoid dairy. ***

The first thing that many people think of when they think of a gluten free diet is all of the things they can’t eat, instead of all the wonderful things still left for them. Not to mention that companies are becoming increasingly aware of the niche out there for selling gluten free products. Which really, is fantastic for anyone with Celiac or person who eliminates gluten (or anything else for that matter) for any other reason. It means choices! Options! Variety! We’re not left eating or drinking one gross alternative because it’s all that’s out there. We are still left with choices.

One of the first things I replaced with a gluten free variety in my pantry was pasta. I enjoy pasta immensely,  find it to be incredibly versatile and the base for so many dishes.  While in many dishes pasta can be substituted for something like spaghetti squash , or vermicelli noodles are a perfectly delicious substitute in stir fry style dishes, sometimes a girl just wants some regular, old fashioned pasta. I’ve tried a variety of gluten free pastas already – everything from vegetable to soy noodles, but my favorite is brown rice noodles. I find white rice ones cook  too mushy and remind me of white bread the way they kind of disintegrate in my mouth – and that’s freakin’ nasty.  I’ve tried a couple different varieties of the brown rice pasta, but my favorite so far is one by a brand called Rizopia. I first saw it at Nutters, but later found it in the natural food section at Superstore. AND it was still under $3/bag which is pretty comparable to regular wheat pasta. Win-win. Catelli has a great gluten-free line also that tastes and cooks like normal pasta.

Anyways.. I stumbled upon a recipe and I can’t even remember where I found it, but it’s pretty basic. It’s a Walnut Pesto Pasta and I added Edamame for some extra protein, fiber and deliciousness.

Side note: my spell check wants to keep correcting edamame to enema. Uh, not quite the same thing!

Walnut Pesto Pasta..with Edamame

Prep time: 5 minutes  Cook Time: 15 minutes

Makes 2 full sized meals, or 4 side dishes

As usual, increase flavors you like or eliminate ones you don’t

What You Need:

  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of walnuts
  • 1 1/2 cups of fresh basil or about 1/3 cup of dried (start little, add more as you go!)
  • 1 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup parsley
  • parmesan cheese (quick fact: parmesan is edible for people with lactose intolerances because as cheese ages it loses its lactose. Also edible? Old cheddar.)
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice (optional)
  • 1 cup of edamame, pre-cooked (again, optional)
  • 2 servings of your pasta of choice

How You Do It:

  1. In a pot boil your pasta
  2. In a pan heat the oil
  3. Toss in the garlic cloves. When your kitchen starts to smell delicious add the basil, salt and parsley (leaving a bit of basil and parsley for toppings if you wish!)
  4. Mix all that goodness up for a couple of minutes
  5. Pour in the lemon juice
  6. Toss in the walnuts and edamame
  7. Mix it all up for about 5 minutes
  8. Combine the pasta and sauce and mix it all around
  9. Dish it out
  10. sprinkle with parmesan, basil and parsley
  11. Eat!

The wonderful thing about something like this is that it can easily be adapted to a non gluten free, vegetarian diet and some extra veggies or whole grain pasta could be swapped in like lickity split. Either way, the flavors are delicious.  AND I’ve made it several times swapping out the spaghetti for shells or corkscrews and ate it cold as a pasta salad.

if these (gut) walls could talk

I talk a lot about the relationship we have with food and ourselves, but in the process of a healthy emotional and mental relationship, a key component is building a healthy physical body.

It’s not the sexiest topic, but it’s something I have become incredibly passionate about over the years as I’ve worked through my own physical ailments.

Our gut health. Hormones and the biological make up of our guts have a direct impact on our overall physical, mental and emotional health. Our stomachs have long been considered our second brains, and for good reason. Studies have shown that what we put into our bodies releases different hormone receptors and causes different types of responses. The opposite is also true; our mental health impacts our body’s ability to break down and utilize nutrients. Stress eating, physical pain from worry, easy digestion when you’re happy? All legitimate responses.

Our body’s ability to break down, digest and utilize nutrients is based on the health of our guts. Good bacteria work in our bodies to allow for the absorption of key nutrients which leads to ultimate physical and mental health. Unfortunately due to poor eating habits, over use of antibiotics and medications, and environmental toxins the balance between good and bad bacteria often tips the wrong way. When this happens we create a volatile environment, which results in so many uncomfortable side effects and symptoms including bloating, diarrhea, constipation, skin issues, mood swings, sleep disruption, mental fog, headaches, joint pain… the list goes on and on.

Why does this happen? Well. To put it plainly, when we are constantly chowing down on junk food we cannot process or utilize combined with environmental toxins and a lack of healthy nutrients going in, our bodies become overloaded. Most of us have been on antibiotics at some point also. While I think we are so fortunate to live in a time when medicine is as advanced as it is, we have become so accustomed to pill popping which wipes out the bad and good bacteria leaving our bodies depleted of the much needed assistance required to break down nutrients for absorption.

Basic biology teaches us that bacteria thrive in a sugar filled environment. So when we are feeding our bodies highly refined and processed foods, this so easily converts to sugar and boom! The nasty bacteria overtakes our bodies, causes havoc in our stomachs, and then our bodies.

Often overlooked is the mind-gut connection and the unbalanced cycle which is created. When we eat poorly, our body cannot function the way we want it to; this includes our mental health. We are more likely to make poor choices, food and otherwise, when we are depriving our body of the healthy nutrients it needs. So no matter how much we may want to make good choices, we are setting ourselves up for failure. Instead we will chose the high, empty calorie, high sugar, high refined carbohydrates foods which are often filled with unhealthy fats. Our bodies are designed to work when being fed a high nutrient diet and this includes a healthy balance of carbohydrates (fibre filled!), protein and fats. So when we continuously feed it garbage, it’s still going to want the good stuff, and so the cycle begins. We eat unhealthy, over processed crap, our bodies signal we are still hungry so we give it more of the same junk instead of what it actually wants and then beat ourselves up because we ‘caved’ and ate too much.

The good news is that once you understand this mind-gut connection even in the most simple, basic form you are then able to work towards changing the way your body is functioning. It’s not a permanent problem and can be changed with a shift to more healthy foods and less junk. (I seriously cannot even say junk ‘food’ because that is not food!)

My number one suggestion for anyone wanting to make any sort of improvement to their health a simple one: add in more fruits and veggies. Even if you continue to consume the junk (hopefully in smaller quantities), at the very least your body is still getting some of the basic nutrients that it needs to function at optimum levels. By doing this you can begin to replenish the happy, gut environment and restore nutrients to your body.

trust the process

I get it..how can we possibly trust a process when we aren’t even sure what the process is suppose to be, or if we can trust ourselves in the process?

The process, in theory, is reaching our health related goals. Or if we’re honest, goals often disguised as ‘health’ goals. These types of goals are generally related to our weight within a timeline. We want to fit into a size X by summer; we want to be down those 10 pounds before our winter holiday etc. But when we place a timeline to our goal guess what? The health aspect more often than not takes backseat to the timeline.

So how do we switch our mentality to ensure our goals are genuine when we associate them with our health?

My only rule is…. make no rules.

Yup. You read that’s correctly. I can hear it already “but Racheal, how will I….”… “but Racheal, X, Y and Z isn’t healthy…”. These concerns are valid, often true and can leave you with a sense of fear because as a society we are taught to take control of our lives – except when it comes to what we put into our mouths. When it comes to food, there is no lack of diets out there with their list of foods to eat and not eat, rules about when to how, how to eat and how much to eat. We have quite literally become so consumed by the rules surrounding our food we no longer know how to eat.

Years ago I had a friend call me. She had read a book was wanting to know my opinion on this diet she was considering. It was a book based on intuitive eating. Someone had written a book and made money off of a skill we are born with but have lost. I often compare babies or my small children to adults. Babies eat when they are hungry, stop when they are full. They do not care if they ‘should’ eat more or less, they eat based on intuition and their own bodies. Anyways, so my friend calls and asks my opinion – the concept behind this book was to eat what you want, stop when you are full. Naturally I supported this concept.

The thing is, when given the freedom to eat whatever we want, ‘permission’ so to speak, there is this strange cycle that takes places. A healthy cycle from my perspective, but one which can be very daunting. We are told ‘eat what you want’. So we do. This might look like pizza every night for two weeks. Weight is gained. We panic. But at this pivotal point instead of reverting back to old, restrictive ways, trust in the process. When you mentally get used to the concept of being free to eat anything you want to, at any time, in any quantity, you will naturally begin to want it less. Personally I am the type of person when told I can’t do something, regardless of whether I wanted to before, I do now! The same goes for food. Tell me no, and I’m all over it. Tell me I can have it anytime I want? And well, most of the time I’m going to reach for the fruits and veggies over the pizza.

I do not mean to imply that we should just consume garbage in gluttonous quantities without a care for our nutritional needs or health, quite the opposite. We need to take this time to provide our bodies with nourishing foods but trust that we will be okay if we eat that pizza instead. And listen.

Heavy on the listening.

I often say to start a food journal. Not to count calories, points, exchanges or any other method of tracking food, but a feeling food journal. Write down what you are eating, write down how you physically feel after, write down anything emotional happening.

This is also where I get the eye rolls and lose people. But stay with me, eh?

When we write down our physical feelings – stomach ache, bloating, cramping, feeling too full, constipation etc. we can then see a direct relationship between foods our body doesn’t want, like or need and how we feel afterwards. There are plenty of foods I regularly pass on because I do not want to feel any or all of the above, so declining to eat them isn’t a punishment, choosing to eat them is. This took many years to truly embrace, but man am I glad I did.

When we write down our emotional feelings – whether we were feeling stressed out, sad, happy etc. before or after we consumed a meal we are able to then tie our feelings to our food responses. The stomach is often referred to as the second brain because of it’ strong connection our gut has to our mind. This is because when we eat certain foods, it directly and often quickly will impact our we think, feel, or our bodies respond. I know people who get diarrhea when they are stressed, stress eaters, loss of appetite when sad or depressed, or people who eat when they’re excited and happy. When we are able to recognize how emotional and mental connections to different foods we can then learn ways to either manage those wants, OR…this is a big OR.. consume the foods anyways, but in a mindful way. Again, trusting the process. Accepting that yes, I am having a bad day. And yes, I am choosing to eat this cupcake for lunch instead of the veggie wrap I had planned.

This to me is healthy when doing so mindfully. And this is where so many people struggle. We want to be told what to eat, when to eat and how to eat. But before we can focus on the how and what, we need to learn to listen to our bodies physical needs and emotional wants.

The process, if you will, is developing a healthy relationship with food to the point where we trust ourselves to eat when hungry, choose healthy foods, indulge in treats, respect our choices and just truly focus on the health of our bodies over the number on the scale, the size of our pants or what we think we should be eating.

There is no timeline to a healthy lifestyle. There is no magic number to reach. It is an everyday choice to add in fruits and vegetables and hopefully eat a few less French fries that day. The process looks different for everyone. Some people may need a month to truly learn to listen to their bodies and other years. Neither is right or wrong, because we each do it differently. There is no magic formula – if there was, we’d all look the same and there wouldn’t be a million books out there on the subject.

Our health has no limits, no choice is without benefits. Every single healthy choice we make – whether it be a to walk instead of drive to the store, drink the water instead of soda, eat the fruit instead of chocolate bar, is one more positive choice you made.

And this, my friends, is the process.

this life is more than just a read through

I haven’t always been a health and nutrition advocate. In fact, I’d argue being the exact opposite of a health conscious person is what got me here in the first place. Whose up for a story??

Close to 9 years ago I got married. Saw my wedding pictures and was genuinely so upset, depressed and to be completely honest disgusted with what I saw looking back at me. In hindsight I am so happy I did not have that perception of myself until after my wedding, or I truly don’t think I would have wanted to be the focal point that day.

I saw my pictures on a Sunday. Monday I joined a gym. Wednesday my “healthy” eating began. 10 months later I was down 50 pounds. But what I gained over the next several years was so much more valuable than anything I lost in that first one.

I didn’t use any magical system promising to help me shed unwanted pounds, I didn’t need any wraps, colour coordinated containers or to count points or ‘exchange’ my food. This is the part that continuously baffles people. They want to know how I did it. And I always respond the same way, I made life changes.

Huh?

Look, losing 50 pounds in 10 months is on average 5 pounds a month, which most people paying for a program are not going to be happy with. We live in a culture so obsessed with results, and results now that anything less than 10-15 pounds that so many programs promise is seen as failure. But, the long term outcome of losing 10-15 pounds a month is firstly, usually it’s gained right back. But what’s even worse than just gaining back the physical pounds, is the emotional weight. Self doubt. Low confidence.We carry with us this feeling that we cannot control ourselves, so something must be fundamentally wrong with us. There is no longer a feeling of pride, appreciation or respect for ourselves. And the viscous cycle begins.

I talk a lot about the emotions and body imagine with people when discussion diets and health, because the two sides are so unbelievably connected and as a culture we do not connect them in a healthy way.

At the core of my health journey was an appreciation for myself, for the strength I was building through activity, the respect I was now showing my body by providing it with the nutrients, respect and love that it deserved.

Yes, I have formal education in nutrition..but you don’t need a formal education to understand you should love and respect yourself. We all know we should do this, but we have been so far removed from the concept of loving what we are right now, in this exact moment without any changes the thought of actually doing it seems so daunting.

The past decade hasn’t been smooth sailing; after after children I struggled to find that place of “I love myself today!” mentality I had nurtured for the years before. But I eventually got back to that place.

Do not confuse my words. Loving and respecting who and where you are right now in your life – health and otherwise, does not mean you cannot also want to improve, grow or strive to be better. I would argue loving and respecting yourself is key to improving and growing as a person. It’s all in how we approach it. Truly believing you are perfectly good as is can allow you to freely move forward in becoming a stronger and healthier person. You can love the future version you have of yourself, whether that’s more successful in your career, fitter, stronger, happier… but still love the current version just as much.

In my practice, I really promote a healthy relationship with food. Building that confidence that you know what give your body; build the understanding that in order to truly power through as your best version you need to be fuelling your body with the best foods. The connection between what we are putting into our bodies and what we think about our bodies goes far beyond the mirror and scale. I promote more than just a meal plan hoping to get you back to your pre-baby weight, your high school weight, your whatever weight. I say we need to view weight loss as a byproduct of overall health. An added bonus to the big picture. Before we even begin to think about physical weight loss as a goal, we need to work on gaining. Gaining a healthy attitude towards food, gaining the knowledge and confidence to nourish our bodies, gaining the sense of pride, appreciation and love we have lost.

Have you ever had a great day, where your day was full of physical movement and wholesome, nutrition foods and you looked back at the end of the day with excitement and happiness and thought, hell yeah!? Exactly.

comfort food: all season lentil soup

Comfort food is often mentally translated to unhealthy, heavy, full of unhealthy fat and processed carbohydrates. But comfort food can really be anything that brings you a sense of calm or inner peace for those few minutes that you are enjoying them. For me, this means hearty, sometimes heavy. I want my comfort food to fill my belly to the point of being comfortably full – physically and emotionally.

I have never been a big meat eater, but throughout my life it still remained a component because being 100% fruits and vegetables, pasta and rices didn’t do it for me, and I had no interest in stepping into the bean/lentil/legume world. All I can say is… WHAT A WASTE OF LENTIL EATING TIME! Seriously.

Finally, well into adulthood, I made my first chickpea burger, then bean dish and before long the lentils were introduced. Over the years I have made many (so many!) lentil dishes and soups, both from recipes and made on the spot following what I call the “pinch of this, pinch of that” method.

Lentils are incredibly versatile and can easily replace ground anything in a traditional meal such as a bolognese sauce. They are also a great source of iron and protein – two main concerns of people considering conversion to a more plant based diet. Besides iron and protein they aren’t also packed with fibre (the real hero), zinc, potassium, manganese..

Because of their high fibre content they are a great blood sugar stabilizer and excellent digestive health food. They also aid in keeping you full longer due to their high complex carbohydrate content, which is great for virtually any health aspect you’re trying to improve on from energy to weight loss.

This has been my go-to recipe for years now; it often strays to include vegetables or other legumes I need to use up or have on hand, but the basics remain the same!

Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 30 minutes

What you need:

  • 2 cups of brown lentils/green lentil/green split peas/red lentils (I usually use a mix!), rinsed and drained
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped (any colour but red!)
  • 1 yellow or red potato, diced (fairly small)
  • 1-2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 1/2 cup of crushed tomatoes (optional)
  • 1 large carrot, chopped (optional. I usually include it, but as per respect of a 4 year old it was left out in the picture above)
  • 4-6 cups of vegetable broth (are you more a broth soup fan, or a thicker stew lover?)
  • 1 -1.5 tsp each of cumin, paprika and coriander
  • 1 tsp of parsley
  • 1 lemon, juiced (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

How you do it:

  1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add in the garlic, and onion. Sauté for about 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add in the celery, carrots, potatoes. Cook for 10 minutes or so – until the veggies soften up and the house starts to smell delicious.
  3. Add in the remaining ingredients, except the lemon juice, and bring to a simmer.
  4. Reduce heat, cover and let simmer for 30 minutes, until lentils are cooked
  5. You can either eat as is, add more broth if you like more of a broth based soup, or even use a stick blender to give it a couple swirls to thicken it up if you prefer that!
  6. Squeeze in the lemon juice
  7. Eat up!

I often have this with a salad, but it’s also the perfect homemade garlic bread dunking soup!

This soup freezes really well, and is also (oddly? Not so oddly?) delicious cold.

we’re all just the hungry, hungry caterpillar

Have you read the children’s book, the hungry, hungry caterpillar? It goes like this: the little caterpillar is born, and days 1-5 he eats all his fruits and veggies.  Day 6 he binges. The little caterpillar eats all the cake, all the sausage (who wrote this book?), pie, ice cream…you name it. But then day 7 rolls around and he eats a nice, big, green leaf.

And this, my friends, is us all. Well, until the end of day 6 anyways. What happens on day 7 is where the story changes from person to person; do you proceed in your ice cream and pie eating, or do you pick up and continue with your nice, big, green leaf?

We live in a constant state of cycles, our bodies are continuously detoxing and retoxing, the earth spins, the seasons change. Many people, myself included, find so do their eating habits. While this might appear to be ‘wrong’ or make us uncomfortable to admit, I want to throw it out there and just say nope! It’s healthy, it’s normal, you’re perfectly okay.

Food is meant to nourish us, support our bodies so we can achieve all our kickass, world domination goals. But we are also emotional eaters. We eat to celebrate, we eat when we are happy or when we are feeling down. Sometimes our emotional eating is a big old’ salad after a kickass workout, and sometimes it’s a bowl bucket of lime sorbet after a terrible day.  We’ve been taught that this is somehow wrong, that we have no willpower or self-control; that all it takes is some internal strength.

But when we look at our choices and our decisions as a temporary thing, with temporary consequences when the following choice or decision can change the course… it no longer becomes anything other than day 6. Creating a healthy relationship with food means allowing for those day sixes; and allowing for the unhealthy food that serves no purpose but to emotionally make us feel better in that moment.

Moving on past day 6, to the nice, big, green leaf is the kicker though, and not letting ourselves toss in the towel. When we see our unhealthy choice as one of many and not as the choice that ended all choices we let go of that little nagging voice telling us we need to get it together; that we need to regain control. It simple becomes another day in our food cycle.

A quick google search will pull up literally thousands of suggestions and ‘best’ diets to achieve your health or physical appearance goals, but what I have learned through trial and error and the many conversations I’ve had with people is that it’s not that simple. We have been taught we are eating good or eating bad, that this food is ‘good’ and that food is ‘bad’. To make matters worse the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods are continuously changing!

In comes my hungry, hungry caterpillar food philosophy. It’s not new, and it’s not even original, but any way you look at it, it makes the most sense. I believe it was Michael Pollan that originally said something similar, but I follow the simple rule to eat whole foods, mostly plants. 

After scouring through literally hundreds of books and websites reading about different diets and food philosophies out there, one day I thought “holy bananas. No wonder everyone is confused.” So, then I switched gears to read about the healthiest people in the world and the diets they consume. I realized in all my reading one thing remained consistent, plants.  No one could argue the benefits of plant based foods. Every diet, every group of people, every health advocate across the world emphasized the same thing: plants.

Then it dawned on me, I don’t have to have a list of foods I can eat, or not eat. Or a list of foods I tell people they can eat or not eat (unless allergies come in to play!). Let’s just act like the not so little caterpillar and focus on all the earth grown, plants the world has to offer and concern ourselves less with all the other foods. When we do that, we naturally eat less of the unhealthy stuff and in the process, can keep our sanity.