Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Loss

It’s amazing how your life can change in just a few moments. I had just posted my last update, where I talked about avoiding the holiday food overload and mentioned how hard it is to steer clear of my mother-in-law’s amazing baked goods. Never in a million years did I suspect when I wrote those words that I might never have the opportunity to enjoy her food again. My mother-in-law passed away suddenly on December 2nd at the age of 55. It broke my heart and shattered my husband’s.

There are difficult things in life that we all must go through and losing our parents is one of them. It is the kind of trial that is never easy. Losing my father in 2007 was the hardest thing I have ever been through and the emotional strain still resonates today. I am better now and much stronger because of what I went through when I lost him, but it is the kind of pain that you would never wish on anyone, let alone the one you love most of all.

Shawn and his brother were raised by a single mother. She was an amazing woman who did her best to make sure that they turned out to be amazing, capable men. She taught them to be self-sufficient, to be good-hearted, to treat women well. I feel like I am the recipient of her greatest gift to the world whenever I am around her son.

So losing her has changed so much of the focus in our world. I didn’t much feel like eating clean last week and so I didn’t. I indulged in a few treats, I skipped going to the gym and I just put my time and energy into taking care of my husband and helping him through the motions that go with the loss of a loved one. We had so many friends and family there to support us and it meant the world.

Now we look forward to a strange new life, one without my mother-in-law’s trademark giggle, her zest for life and her amazing, tempting cookies. We start our clean eating journey anew in the new year and, despite my resolve to give up sugar for my health, nothing in the world would make me happier than to be sitting around her dining room table sharing stories and coconut macaroons with her instead.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Eating Right When Eating Out

I eat out a lot. It’s not something that I’m particularly proud of, but it’s a fact within my life right now. When my friends and I make plans it almost always involves having brunch, lunch, dinner or some sort of snack in between. It’s not for want of trying to find other things we could do, it’s simply how things tend to work within the confines of all our busy schedules.

And I love eating out. It’s fun to try new foods or old favourites, I like interacting with the wait staff and I love to be out with people I enjoy. So now that I’m trying to eat clean how do I go out to eat and not go completely off the rails?

So far it’s been tough. Many restaurants have minimal healthy options and even if something looks healthy on the menu it might not be when it arrives. Luckily, I work close to Fresh, an amazing vegan restaurant in Toronto , so I can always steer co-workers there if we need to go out for lunch. Dinners are tough, though. At a pub with my lovely friend Donna recently (it was her turn to choose) I ordered a grilled chicken salad with raspberry balsamic dressing, only I forgot to ask for the dressing on the side and it was pretty much drenched in the stuff. It’s a healthier choice of dressing, but actually pretty gross in excess. And there were nuts on the salad, which I’m fine with, but they actually seemed almost candied. Um, really? In a salad?

I try to be flexible, so I ate the salad and tried to leave as much of the dressing in the bowl as possible. No sense ruining the meal for my friend by freaking out about the food. I figure all in all it was still better than the vegetable curry I used to order at that restaurant.

Another night Shawn and I went out and I ordered a pasta dish. It was a splurge night for me, as it wasn’t whole wheat pasta, but I only ate ½ and I chose one with lean protein (grilled chicken) and no added cheese. Better than what I would have ordered two months ago, but still not great. There weren’t many other options on the menu that could have been better anyway.

So what’s a girl to do? I’ve been consulting Hungry Girl’s site for tips (I love Hungry Girl), but she doesn’t do much that’s low-sugar or artificial sweetener free… Anyone have any tips (other than remembering to ask for dressing on the side – I won’t be making that mistake again).

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Spooky Sweets

It’s been a busy few weeks and the blog has suffered for it. I have been keeping up my clean eating habits, though, and feel better and stronger than I ever have.

Halloween was a tough one, but not as bad as I had anticipated. Growing up, Halloween was a huge incentive for me to gorge on candy. It’s a habit that I took with me into adulthood, as I was always the first to dip into the candy jar at the office (and then go back for seconds and thirds and twenty-thirds…) and I happily stocked up on discount mini-chocolate bars on November 1st. It was a problem. But this year I found that, despite an office full of tiny chocolate bars and goodies, I had no desire to indulge.

One thing I did want, or thought I wanted, was a peanut butter cup. Just one. A small treat of what had always been a favourite indulgence. So I decided to go for it. I sat and slowly savoured each tiny bite – nibbling off the ridged edge, then slowly letting each small creamy bite melt in my mouth. And it was… not so great.. The chocolate tasted sort of fake and plastic, the peanut butter seemed overly salty and the whole experience was less than stellar. I finished my treat and felt no desire to have another one. In past years I would have eaten all three in the package, but not anymore. This newfound self-control is still pretty exciting for me.

And even more exciting was slipping into a pair of size 4, (yes, 4!) jeans the other day. I have been losing inches steadily since I dropped sugar and picked up a thrice weekly gym habit instead, so new pants were in order. I have already gone through a set of size 6 work pants that are rapidly growing looser, so I decided to try a 4 and… they fit! I even asked the salesgirl if they were too tight, as I found it hard to believe, but she assured me that they were just perfect. And they are!

Losing weight was never a big motivation for me on this journey and it still blows my mind how quickly my body has transformed. I’m actually eating more food, but now it’s fresh fruit, veggies, lean proteins and whole grains instead of processed junk. And working out has given me more energy then I could have imagined. The other day one of the machines I needed at the gym was in use, so I decided to do a few push-ups while I waited – something I have always struggled with – and I did it! Ten perfect push-ups (not the girl ones either). I wasn’t even tired! I could have done more! When did that happen? I couldn’t stop smiling for the rest of my work-out and I’m smiling now as I write this. Being healthy definitely rocks.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Comfort Food and KD


I’ve been comfort eating this week. I’m not sure what it is – maybe the cold, dreary weather, work stress or just plain old PMS, but I have really struggled to eat properly this week. And it’s shown. At the gym yesterday morning I felt exhausted and the routine that was easy three days ago seemed to take all the energy I had. I got through it, but instead of the usual energy burst a good work-out brings on I felt kind of… sapped! Not so good when it’s 8:30am on a work day.

But it’s my own fault. All week my body has been screaming for, of all things, Kraft Dinner. Growing up, I practically lived on this stuff, especially when I first lived away from home. It’s quick, easy and oh-so-tasty. It’s also a major calorie-bomb and as far from clean eating as I could get. I gave in last night anyway and I’m definitely regretting it today. Now, if it was just the KD alone, I probably wouldn’t be feeling the effects so much, but my body has had the major munchies this week and I’ve given in a few times – a mango martini and teeny tiny dessert at my best friend’s birthday dinner, a few too many Garden Fresh tortilla chips (which, thankfully, are a better choice then most chips), more than my share of Kashi bars (again, better than most, but still not the best option) and, worst of all, peanut butter sandwiches for lunch two days this week.

Partly, it’s that Shawn has been busy with school and social obligations and hasn’t been making all my meals. I tend to get lazy when he isn’t doing the cooking in our house, which I know is a problem. I can also see that stress, fatigue and other factors have played into my bad eating week – causing a downward spiral: Giving in and eating badly when I was feeling tired and stressed only made me feel worse and less enthusiastic about eating properly. I’m sure that a few days eating clean will have me feeling good again in no time.

And I do look at the little victories – I still kept my sugar intake fairly low (no gummy bear meltdowns or ice cream overloads), I chose better food options for my comfort splurges than I might otherwise have (those peanut butter sandwiches were on 100% whole wheat bread) and didn’t run to the store for Dorritos.

Here’s to doing a better job next week and to making it through Halloween without going into a candy coma.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Little PSA...

I don't usually blog about my work, but I thought this was a very worthwhile exception.

The non-profit organization that I work for, Invest in Kids, is taking part in the Aviva Community Fund Challenge. If you are a parent or want to support Canadian parents, please take a moment to read our idea and consider voting for us. You can vote daily and help us to Unleash the Power of Parenting. Just click on the banner below to find out more:

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Survival of the Fittest

I had a fitness test at my gym the other day to update my progress since I started going six months ago. When I first started, my whole focus was on getting ready for the wedding, so I was just looking to tone up my arms a bit. I wasn’t overly motivated and I was swamped with wedding errands, so my first few months were a bit spotty attendance-wise.

But once the wedding was over I found myself in a mood for change. I cut off all my hair, I stopped ODing on sugar every day, I started making an effort to read more and I determined that in order to be healthy and happy I needed to commit to really, really trying. So the gym visits became more regular – three times a week minimum – and I started to take my plan seriously.

It turns out that when you eat properly (or at least far better than you have in 30 years) and work out three days a week, you start to see real results. When I did my first fitness test I was so out of shape that I barely made it to a ‘fair’ fitness rating. In the seven minute stationary bike ride I thought I was going to pass out and my heart rate was through the roof. This time it was hard to get my heart rate high enough to register while riding AND talking to my amazing trainer. I wasn’t winded at all and I felt fantastic.

I am lucky to have an amazing support system at my gym and they were all thrilled by the results of this test. I have lost weight, gained lean muscle mass, improved my fitness level (from fair in April to superior in September) and lost inches all over my body. I feel good, I sleep better and I actually really look forward to my workouts now. I still have a long way to go, but I feel like I’m finally on a path that’s leading to a healthy, happier person.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Climbing Back on Board

This week has been better. I feel good about most of the food choices that I’ve made, though I’ve noticed that I feel ravenous a lot of the time. I’m not sure what’s up with that, since I’ve actually found that my insane hunger has been a little more under control since I cut down on sugar and started eating a cleaner diet. Maybe my week of excess left me with a lot of work to re-do.

I’ve tried not to give in too much to the hunger, unless I feel like it’s a genuine need and not just the scary cravings monster rearing its ugly head yet again. I caved and had some of those Quaker rice crisps a few times, but those are such a nutritional wasteland that I’m determined not to make that a habit. Some of Quaker’s rice cakes are made from brown rice, so those feel like a better choice. It’s just that those don’t tend to be what I want when it’s 8:30pm and I’m tired and watching C.S.I.

And during the day I’ve turned to Lara Bars a few too many times this week. I think those are a great food for when you’re on-the-go and aren’t able to stop for a proper re-fuel. Typically I’ll turn to them once a week or so when I have to run errands that involve me getting home later than normal or if I’m going to be out all day and am not sure what healthy options will be available. They were a huge help when my mother-in-law was in the hospital and I was there every weekend – who knew hospital food was so unhealthy? But this week I’ve found myself starving mid-morning and eating half of one to get me through to lunch. Then mid-afternoon I find myself digging into the second half.

It’s not the worst snack in the world and I’ve only done this a few times this week, but it still makes me think that there’s something not right in my diet. Hopefully this weekend I’ll get in a good grocery shop so that I’ll have lots of fresh fruit and veggies to help me through any cravings.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Stumble, Then a Fall

I fell off the clean eating wagon this week. It was probably inevitable that it would happen at some point, I just didn't think I would do it in such spectacular fashion. It started out innocently enough with a few bites of the wedding cake that my mother-in-law had frozen after our wedding. I brought it into the office so that I wouldn't have a ton in my freezer and was tempted into just a few bites. It was super sweet and gave me a headache.

The next evening Shawn and I had a romantic date night, our first in awhile, and we decided to just forego clean eating for that one day. So we split popcorn at the movies (no butter or topping, but still...) then we had pad thai at one of my favourite restaurants and I had a raspberry martini. I should have stopped there, of course, but I think that the wedding cake triggered my sugar cravings and I talked him into splitting a slice of pumpkin cheesecake. It was divine. We walked home afterwards (about 45 minutes), but I still felt overly full and gross.

The next day was better and I resolved to get to the gym, but a friend came into town unexpectedly and I joined her for dinner instead. It was worth it to see her, but the cleanish-sounding wrap I ordered for dinner ended up being a bit more sauce-heavy then the description and, once again, I ended the day on a poor meal choice.

Then last night, after a day of better choices, Shawn's band played a show. We ended up eating dinner at Tim Horton's since there wasn't a lot of other options outside of bar food in that area. So dinner was once again not clean, but at least better than fries and a burger. Being out with friends and having a blast, it was easy to have a drink... or four... over the course of a very long evening. I've been drinking whiskey and club soda when I want a cleaner option, but overdoing it is never good. It was the most I've had to drink in ages and at the end of the night we ended up going for pizza to put some food in my stomach - a bad habit that neither of us have engaged in in ages.

This morning I feel pretty gross. I'm disappointed that I only got to the gym twice this week because of my hectic schedule and that my social eating put me so far off track. It does firm up my resolve to get back on the wagon this week, though. I've already scheduled in my gym visits and, starting today, I will be eating clean again. I could beat myself up about the choices I made (and, if I'm being honest, I already have), but I have to look at this as a setback in what has otherwise been a pretty steady few months of doing the best I can. It was a tough week with way more events and activities then I've had to deal with since I started on this journey to better health and I realized that in the future I'll need to better prepare for those sorts of busy times. Today is a new day and I'm going to look forward from here on in.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Eating Clean at the Cottage

Over the summer Shawn and I had the opportunity to slip away from the city for a few days at a family member’s cottage by the lake. It was a wonderful opportunity and we created some incredible memories during our visits. We have gone to the same cottage several other times in the past, but this year we were doing our best to eat clean while away. We found that it was far harder than we had hoped, but it also helped both of us to decide when it is worth it to indulge and when it’s best to keep to the straight and narrow.

In general, we try to bring our own food for these trips. We’re limited by things that will travel well in our cooler, but it does mean that we can load up a bag of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grain breads to bring with us. We also try to pick up a healthier snack option, as we both tend to get the munchies when we are there. Whether it is low-sodium blue corn chips, Rice Works sea salt chips or my sugar-free banana oat cookies, we are conscious of slipping in something to take the edge off and keep us from making a run to the local supermarket for a snack. Usually it works.

I did fall off the clean wagon a few more times on our trips than I likely would have at home. But as we sat on the dock watching the moon rise over the lake I found that it was easier to just sit back and enjoy the moment – and my hot skim milk with amaretto – then to beat myself up for having a sweet indulgence. One of very few on the trip. Likewise, when Shawn’s grandmother invited us to her church for pancake breakfast I at first fretted about how to avoid the lovely, fluffy sweet treats that I’m sure are brimming with sugar. In the end, I gave in and had two (sans syrup) and enjoyed both the pancakes and the company. It was a relatively small indulgence (especially without all the extras) and I walked it off later that day taking in the local arts festival. His grandmother was thrilled, I had a short sugar high, and I was back to eating clean hours later.

Now that we’re home I’m happy to have a little more control over our diets. I’m also looking forward to spending the cooler months developing even more clean snacks and treats that will travel well for next year. Does anyone have a good pancake recipe? There’s a church group that might be interested…

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

State of the Sugar Address

It’s been a few months since I started my journey towards better health and a cleaner diet. There have been many ups and downs as I figured out what worked for me and what didn’t and while I tried to manage my new lifestyle.

Looking back, there were moments I caved when I wish I hadn’t, but those incidents also helped me to realize how little my body actually wants the foods that I couldn’t resist before. And there have been times where little splurges helped keep my spirits up and my resolve in place. It’s been about balance.

I also have a wonderful support system in place. My hubby cooks all our meals and was thrilled when I suggested eating healthier. I think sometimes he wishes I had his same ability to indulge in moderation, but he understands my struggles and is happy to experiment with fresh, healthy food that is both delicious and nutritious. This would have been a much harder few months without coming home to his avocado, mango and grilled chicken salad or brown rice and bean medley, among dozens of other mouth-watering dinners.

And the ladies at my gym, Christine’s Fitness, have been such an amazing support and resource to me. I had no idea that working out three days a week could shape and sculpt my body so quickly and effectively. I am not killing myself in my workouts, as I had feared, but I am definitely pushing harder each time I'm there. With so many gyms to choose from in Toronto I am forever glad that I made the right choice with them. They are always there to answer a question or help guide me towards making healthier decisions and they are also some of the nicest ladies I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.

There are still struggles. I eat out too often and it’s hard to make good choices when I step out of Shawn’s home cooking zone. I’ve had moments where I over-indulged in salty snacks, especially when my body was in the initial stages of re-adjusting. And there are times when I am tired and hungry and just want to eat whatever. But as time passes it’s easier to not fall off the wagon. I’m learning to eat out without eating myself to death and I’m finding a whole new community online to help me navigate the tougher moments. Life is good.

Monday, August 31, 2009

All's Fair in Love and Food Choices

I discovered this week that eating healthy on a fairground is not as simple as I had otherwise thought. Shawn and I hit the CNE on Friday night, a yearly tradition that neither of us was willing to give up. Despite The Food Building being one of the biggest you'll ever encounter, the healthy food options are few and far between.

Now, if you want a Beaver Tail, you're totally in luck (though you will have to brave the line to get one), but if you're eating clean you'll have to really scramble. So we made the evening a cheat day, though neither of us felt the urge to get too out of control. We had a chicken shawarma (chock full of veggies, if nothing else) and then split the smallest ice cream we could find. I felt very full.

We were back to eating properly the next morning and I don't think either of us regret the splurge, but I know I'll be hitting the gym extra hard today.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Clean Eating


On a recent trip to Costco I picked up an issue of Clean Eating magazine. I’d never heard of it, but the recipes looked good and I thought we’d give it a try. It turned out to be a great read and it helped me with the realization that, more than just giving up sugar, my new diet is about embracing the idea of clean eating.

Since implementing this new way of eating, I’ve become so much more conscious of what goes into the food we put into our bodies. I read labels now. I mean, really read them. Before, I would check the calories and fat, maybe the sodium, and toss it into the cart if it didn’t look too bad. I loved anything classified as a 100 Calorie snack and happily noshed on whatever whenever without too much thought beyond calories and fat.

These days I have more fun in the produce section than anywhere else in the grocery store, filling our cart with fresh fruit and veggies. We have cut way down on processed foods and we spend a lot longer looking over the nutritional stats on any product that we are considering buying. Shawn has always been really interested in healthy eating, but together we are becoming and even stronger team. We have started putting things back on the shelf if the ingredient list is too long and if it’s full of things we can’t pronounce.

So with all this in mind, Clean Eating is a great addition to our reading list. There are lots of recipes full of fresh, natural ingredients – including desserts with no refined sugars or artificial sweeteners! I can’t wait to try the sweet potato brownies – I’ll post a review when I make them.

One negative – we looked up subscribing and six issues would run us about $40/year because, even though the magazine is made in Canada , it does not offer the same discount in pricing to Canadians. A little weird, but I’m sure they have their reasons. For now we will just pick it up when we come across it in stores.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Shop 'Cause I Dropped

One of the unintentional benefits of my going (mostly) sugar free has been the transformation in my body. Now, cutting out sugar alone was not enough for me to go down two pant sizes – for that I have to give credit to joining a gym and actually going three days a week, in addition to changing my eating habits. I know, it’s like rocket science – eat well and exercise and suddenly you lose weight and gain muscle. Who knew?

But, in all honesty, this change was a little unexpected. I wanted to get healthy, I wanted to possibly fix my chronic stomach issues (still currently plaguing me) and I wanted to avoid long-term diseases down the road. I really had no desire to buy a new wardrobe. In fact, that’s the last thing I wanted.

Sure, I love to shop as much as the next girl, but shopping costs money and that’s not in great supply right now. It’s been getting harder and harder to avoid, though, and last week I finally had to give in and buy some new dress pants for the office. There’s nothing that says ‘efficient public relations professional’ quite like khaki pants that are drooping at the ass and barely staying up.

So I have two new pairs of office pants and five days in the work week. I’ve been getting by in dresses that are just a little baggy and the few outfits that sort of still fit, but a major shopping spree is in my future. I’m not sure how much my wallet will like the expedition, but at least I have a valid excuse these days.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sweet Dreams

I think my subconscious is trying to tell me something. I actually had dreams about candy and sweets last night. I was trying to find my chocolate bar - one of those fruit and nut filled confections that I don't actually even like that much in reality. I ended up at a store trying to buy one after watching a friend enjoy theirs in front of my ravenous self. At the store I was tempted by the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (a real-life favourite), but instead chose a cranberry scone - then I woke up before I could eat it. Apparently my body can't even get dream satisfaction for its sugar cravings these days!

I'm sure it's just a byproduct of my recent fixations with food, but it made me smile when I woke up. Then Shawn sated my sweet tooth by making a healthier version of French toast using 16 grain low-sugar bread, a sprinkle of cinnamon and bananas with a drizzle of peanut butter instead of syrup. One slice and some scrambled egg whites (we split one yolk between the two of us) and I am more than over any dream cravings.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Coconut Cream Dream


I tried one of the Coconut Cream Pie Larabars today and was suitably impressed. I split it with Shawn, which I think was a good choice, since it's very sweet tasting. There's no refined sugar in the bar and it's MUCH better for you than a Bounty would have been, but it still tastes amazing. Sweet, chewy and decadent - especially for a 'healthy' food. It has 21g of sugar, which is more than I typically have these days, but it is all natural sugar. The only downside is that it has extra virgin coconut oil, which is high in fat. However, I believe it is a good fat. This goes on my list for an occasional treat that meets my new diet requirements. Yum.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Martini Madness

I gave into temptation tonight at a dinner out. What can I say, my downfall was the pear martini prominently displayed on the table card. Shawn actually encouraged this indulgence, as he did the ice cream - he sees the occasional treat as a perfect way to avoid a complete meltdown at some point.

I'm at the stage now where I could have gone without and not totally obsessed about it, but there was something so fantastic about giving in this time when it was something I really, really wanted. And, unlike the ice cream, this martini felt so, so worth it. I think it may have been the best martini I ever had. But instead of gulping it down and ordering another, like I would have in my sugar soaked life, I sipped it all through dinner. I have never had a martini last that long in my life - and every sweet sip was perfect.



A lot of the sugar-free diets advocate abstaining from alcohol. I've found that in life overall that's not bad advice. But I like a drink now and then. So far this month I've had whiskey with club soda twice, during social events. It's been a good lower sugar option for me. I don't think I'll be going back to drinking sugary sweet drinks on a regular basis (those were always my favourites), but it was nice to know that there are some sweet things that still taste better than ever.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Still Sweet

It’s been about a month now and I’m still sticking with my sugar free ways. I’m pleasantly surprised that I’ve managed this long, but I’m not going to knock it! I think part of my success is that I haven’t been as strict as some of the reading I’ve done suggests I should be. Maybe that lessens the impact of what I’ve achieved, but it has definitely helped me keep up with this lifestyle change without it feeling too much like the dreaded ‘diet’ that kept me unmotivated for so many years.

I have cut out deserts and sweets pretty much totally. I say pretty much because I did have a baby cup of my favourite ice cream during our recent cottage vacation. Shawn assured me that it wasn’t the worst thing in the world to indulge in a much loved treat now and then (and might keep him from coming home one night to find me passed out on the kitchen floor surrounded by candy wrappers). The ice cream was good, but it wasn’t the crazy, amazing good that I had thought before the sugar fast. I don’t feel all that compelled to have it on our next trip, which is a big change for me – usually I start plotting how soon we can get to the ice cream place the minute a cottage trip is planned.

And, while I’ve been much more conscious about reading labels and checking the sugar content in foods, I haven’t completely cut out any food with sugar in it. If the sugar content is low and sugar is far down the ingredients list I will sometimes still choose to eat that food. This has helped when Shawn isn’t home to cook and I have had to turn to a frozen Weight Watchers dinner or something similarly fast. It also means that I am not completely cut off from eating all of the foods that I love.

I worry that maybe by not fully committing to the process I’m still hurting my body, but I also want to make this change something I can really live with. So for now the occasional tablespoon of Kraft Peanut Butter still passes through these lips and even a teaspoon of my favourite homemade Dutch apple jam once in awhile too. And next week I’m meeting a friend at the Italian restaurant in the city that I love and I have already planned to indulge in the gnocci that I’ve been salivating for since sometime last year. I never wanted my food choices to rule my life and I’m hoping that this balance will keep that from happening.

Funnily enough, as I make better food choices overall I feel less inclined to make bad ones anyway. At Taste of the Danforth last weekend my friends and I decided to buy a gyro from a popular restaurant and I was shocked when they stuffed it half full of French fries. I’d never seen that done before! I haven’t had fries at all since I started eating better, but they are a food that I often enjoyed before, so I decided ‘what the heck?’ since it was a special outing with friends. I got maybe half done and was so full I could barely breathe, not to mention a little grossed out by the thing. In my old life I would have scarfed that sucker down and then had some baklava to top it off.

Instead, I went to The Big Carrot and geeked out because they had so many different flavours of Lara Bars that I hadn’t tried. Lately, that’s the kind of treat I enjoy when Shawn and I are out running errands on the weekend. I think they’re actually better then the doughnuts or candy I might have chosen before – and I even share them with him instead of wolfing down a full one!

So my pants are now a size 6 (sadly, shopping for pants still kind of sucks) and I’m feeling so much better than I have in years. I’m keeping up my workouts, getting more sleep, trying to sort out the stresses in my life and it feels good. Maybe licking the sugar habit has been paying off in more ways than one!

Monday, August 10, 2009

A Bloody Good Time

Over the summer months I tend to cut down my TV viewing, partly because most of my favourite shows are in re-runs, but also because I tend to find myself with a bit more energy after work during the warmer months. Maybe it’s the extra hours of daylight, but I’m certainly not complaining.

That said, there is one show on my ‘can’t miss’ list all summer long – HBO’s True Blood. Shawn and I started watching the show last year and at first were a little thrown off by all the sex, violence and oddball characters. Usually, we love those elements in a TV show, but it took us awhile to find the flow with this one. Once we did, we were hooked. I would say that True Blood now rates second only to Dexter amongst our favourite shows, which is saying a lot given our devotion to all things Dexter.

There are times when Sookie and Bill’s human/vamp relationship seems a little frustrating (they seem to fight more than any couple I know, the results of course being far more interesting than any mere human disagreement), but overall I find myself rooting for them despite the occasional eye-roll at their constant break-up/make-up style. And this season, even though the spats continue, the relationship seems on much more solid ground.

And I love the other characters – Tara with her little girl lost underneath the brash, tough-girl exterior, Lafayette whose flamboyantly gay antics have been dulled by his recent vamp captivity is now more complex than ever, tormented Jason who was sucked into an anti-vampire religious sect after the murder of his girlfriend left him lost and looking for his place in the world and shape-shifter Sam who seems to be having an affair with a new waitress every episode is morphing into both a dog and a bizarrely lovable character. And I could go on and on and on, from the alcoholic detective and his put-upon Sheriff boss through to Tara ’s newly exorcised mother and far beyond, True Blood offers some of the most well-written characters on TV today.

We’ve turned several of our friends into converts since we started watching I can’t wait to turn a few more on to the fangbanging fabulosity.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Sugar Sugar

Recently, I made the decision to cut down on my sugar consumption. I’ve been a sugar junkie as long as I can remember and I’ve justified my bad habit for about as long. I’m not particularly overweight, I don’t drink all that much and I walk 90 minutes most days, so it was easy to shrug off my inner voice when I scarfed down cookies after lunch, ice cream after dinner and candy for a late night snack. I loved sugar and no one was going to take it away from me, damnit.

But the voice in my head had started to get louder over the years. It was telling me that my body kind of felt like crap all the time now and that the tiny little belly pouch I’d developed was not-so-sexy. I started to cut down on the sugar… a little. And then one day Shawn, who is one of the most health conscious people I know, pointed out that I was addicted to sugar and that, most likely, I was going to end up diabetic or worse if I kept up my habits. He didn’t say it in a mean way, but in the kind of matter-of-fact way that he relays information that is what it is, even though he may wish it wasn’t.

And he scared me. Suddenly my inner voice's fears had been spoken out loud and I had to acknowledge them. A few months earlier I had purchased Lick the Sugar Habit, a first step in acknowledging that I needed to change. After Shawn’s observation I started reading it and realized very quickly that I AM a sugar addict. And I’m not alone. The book also pointed out that so many of the stomach ailments that have plagued me over the last year are not just stress-related (as my family doctor believed), but also related to my sugar consumption.

I always figured that of all the vices I could have, sugar was pretty low on the totem pole. In high school my friends snuck beer at the beaches and I scarfed bags of Fuzzy Peaches while I watched them drink. I would get silly for awhile and then crash, just like them, but my high was legal and so I felt a little smug about the whole thing. But reading the book I realized that all that sugar – and the mountains more I have consumed since – was doing almost as much damage to my body as alcohol (not that I’ve abstained from that as an adult either).

So I decided to quit. Not quite cold turkey, as the book suggests, because sugar is in almost everything these days (another reason for the alarming obesity stats in first world nations), but as close as possible. So for the last few weeks I have stopped eating dessert. No sweets after lunch, after dinner or for snacks throughout the day. No cake, no cookies, no candy and, hardest of all, no ice cream.

At first, it sucked. I won’t lie. I even conceded to one Godiva chocolate after lunch on the first few days to make withdrawal easier. Funnily enough, after a few days I didn’t even want the chocolate anymore. Cutting back on my sugar made me want less, not more, just like the book said. So now I eat almost no refined sugar throughout the day. I still eat fruit and raisins and naturally sweet things, but there is no more mainlining Sour Kids after a rough day.

Will I keep it up? Maybe. I hope so. I don’t know that I’ll be as militant as I have been the last few weeks – I’d like to think that I could have a slice of birthday cake or an ice cream cone once in awhile and really enjoy them – but I don’t think I’ll ever go back to being a sugar junkie. I’m so much more aware of how much sugar is in my food now. Reading labels blows me away! And I’ve even given up artificial sweeteners as much as possible too – the research shows that they are even worse for my body than refined sugars, plus they make me crave sweet treats too. It’s a lifestyle change and those are always hard, but I’d like to be one junkie that kicked her habit.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Priorities

It's been a rough few weeks. It seems like in my life the hardest things always come alongside the happiest moments. I guess it's the cosmic sense of humour or some such thing. I'm getting married in less than a month and I'm absolutely thrilled - but in the last few months I've lost some people who were dear to me. And I've watched some people I really cared about suffer their own losses. It's hard to really focus on my happiness about the wedding with all of that swirling around, but I'm trying. I think that's the way the ones I've lost would have wanted it.

So I've fallen behind in my blogging and my novel is still waiting for me to find an editor, as I deal with who will sit with who and hunting down my MIA photographer. And I wonder sometimes if that's really where my focus should be, but then there are moments that make me realize that I'm right where I need to be. I was listening to "Then" by Brad Paisley tonight and that was one of those times. Sometimes you realize that celebrating love is just as important as mourning a loss.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

An Ode to Blender Magazine (RIP)


I've been a magazine junkie as long as I remember. Growing up, music magazines were my drug of choice. I read them all - Metal Edge, Circus, Hit Parade... anything that involved a long haired, pop-metal band and I was putting my allowance on the counter without hesitation. I would sit in my room and devour them cover to cover. As I got older my musical tastes matured (OK, just a little - I still listen to a lot of Poison and Bon Jovi) and I started reading Rolling Stone. It was the perfect transition into adulthood, as it covered popular music and the liberal politics that were informing my thinking.

My politics haven't changed much over the years, but my interest in Rolling Stone has. These days I tend to read more of O The Oprah Magazine and Chatelaine than music magazines. My Entertainment Weekly addiction gives me a good overview of what's happening in that world and, as I've transitioned out of working in music I have grown less and less interested in the day to day happenings of my favourite bands. Besides which, these days I get most of that on the internet anyway.

So when Blender Magazine announced that it was no longer publishing, why was I so sad to hear the news? Well, while I will fully admit to not having picked up the last few issues, Blender has been my music mag of choice for awhile. I liked Blender. It was funny, snarky and hip, without sounding like it was being written by and for the few thousand music snobs who work at indie record stores and debate the merits of each Mission of Burma CD. Blender would have Nikki Sixx and Lil Wayne in an issue alongside U2 and Katie Perry. They wrote about whoever was interesting at the moment and they wrote about them well. They walked the line between celebrity tabloid and music criticism and they did it well. Every issue I would laugh out loud, learn about the latest releases and discover that despite myself I was actually enjoying articles on everyone from Fergie to Fountains of Wayne.

Maybe it's because Blender was the perfect magazine for someone like me that things didn't work out. I'm not hip enough to know or care about the latest, hottest thing in the underground. I don't buy Beyonce albums, but I don't mind that you do. And I'll enjoy reading about her in the same way I'll enjoy reading about Kelly Clarkson or Britney Spears or whomever has a song on the radio right now that's getting lots of spins. I own more Kid Rock than Flaming Lips CDs and I'm happy to read about who Kid is dating, hating or imitating. And I loved that Blender would include country reviews, as well as the occasional article (even if it was almost always with a Taylor Swift or Carrie Underwood - hey, they give good pictorial, what are you gonna do?). I can't imagine there are a lot of readers like me. People who like a little bit of a lot and who look at good writing as a stronger criteria for reading a magazine then whether or not The Jonas Brothers are in it are probably not bringing in strong enough numbers to keep any mag afloat these days.

So I'm saying my goodbyes to Blender and wondering if I'll find a new music magazine of choice now. I'm doubtful, but you never know... There's always Country Weekly or Teen Beat, right?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Tao of Dolly

I have to preface this post with an embarrassing admission: I tend to take song lyrics to heart. I'm one of those people that spent my teen years scribbling Motley Crue and TPOH lyrics in my notebooks at school and listening to tortured love songs by candlelight in my bedroom. And while I have a soft spot for a well-written turn of phrase, I am an equally huge sucker for a change-your-life, pump-your-fist anthem to live by. So when I read over this post and realized how cheesy and uncool it is to admit what I'm about to admit, I decided you might just need some history.

There’s something irrepressible about Dolly Parton: The sparkly fashions, the tiny waist and that sweet, southern charm that makes each spicy one-liner go down like poetry. Dolly is one of a kind and I adore her.

I’ve only had the chance to meet her once, but I think I’ve loved Dolly since she first sashayed across my T.V. screen as a child. She’s a larger than life Barbie doll with a heart far bigger than one would suspect could fit into that tiny little frame. Her Imagination Library literacy program has allowed the world to see just how dedicated she is to making a difference for children around the world – and for the adults they will become. I can only hope to make one tenth of that kind of impact in my lifetime.

And it’s with this big heartedness in mind that I’ve decided to try a little harder to live by the Tao of Dolly. I was listening to her song “Better Get to Livin,” on the Backwoods Barbie CD and it struck me that Ms. Dolly could have been talking right to me.

“A girlfriend came to my house
Started cryin' on my shoulder Sunday evening
She was spinnin' such a sad tale
I could not believe the yarn that she was weavin'
So negative the words she had to say
I said if I had a violin I'd play.

I said you'd better get to livin', givin'
Be willing and forgivin'
Cause all healing has to start with you
You better stop whining, pining
Get your dreams in line
And then just shine, design, refine
Until they come true
And you better get to livin'.

Sure, it’s not a new sentiment by any stretch but it made me realize how important it is to just live. Especially during a month like March when all I wanted to do is curl up in bed with the covers over my head until someone shook me awake in April. As Dolly so eloquently puts it, “The day we’re born we start to die. Don’t waste one minute of this life.”

I’ve got books to write and work to do. March may have shaken my confidence, but it’s no excuse not to build a bridge and get over it, as a good friend’s brother always says.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Pontypool

When I was in university I had a show on the campus radio station, which served me well years later when I specialized in radio tracking and promotion as a publicist. Campus radio doesn't actually have much in common with mainstream radio, but it did give me an idea of how it feels to sit behind the booth and have people tune in to hear what you had to say.

I've gotten to know a lot about the radio business over the years, especially how things operate in small towns. You'd never hear Q107 in Toronto doing a Swap Shop feature where listeners call in to talk about what they're buying, selling or trading, but you most likely would if you're listening in Campbellford (which has an awesome station, for the record). My favourite small town radio show was actually one in rural Nova Scotia where the DJ would list things that people had lost or found - I was listening in one day while I was on hold and I thought it was one of the most brilliant and insane things I'd ever heard. Apparently, it was a really popular feature.

All this talk about radio is because I had the opportunity to see an advance screening of Bruce McDonald's new film Pontypool tonight. It's a horror movie set in a small town, revolving around the local morning show hosts, which I thought was a pretty amazing premise. In downtown Vancouver you might not have to tune into the radio station to get your news, but in a rural area local radio can be a lifeline to everything from community events to livestock listings. If, say, zombies infected with an unknown virus storm your city and start eating your neighbours, you'd most likely turn on the radio to figure out what the heck was going on - even if the hosts are just as confused as you are.

McDonald has always been a fascinating director. I loved Hard Core Logo and Dance Me Outside, so I had high expectations for Pontypool. I knew going in that it was about zombies, but little else. It ended up being more of a psychological thriller than a horror flick, but there was just enough of the traditional running, screaming and blood splatter to keep horror fans interested. There was a Q&A with McDonald after the movie and he filled our audience in on some of the details about shooting the movie in Toronto and why he made the decision to set the film in a small town radio station (for the record, the movie is based on a book, though apparently the film itself is only a loose interpretation). It was a nice to have that perspective and to hear a few details about how the movie was made.

I'm hoping that many of those who saw the screening tonight will decide to blog, Twitter and Facebook about it. I'd love to see Pontypool be successful enough to warrant a sequel. Apparently, McDonald and the book's author have discussed making it a trilogy and I'd love to see how that would play out. You can check out the film's trailer below. It opens in Toronto on Friday with the rest of the country to follow.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Because I Love My Book Club

As I've mentioned before in the blog, my office now has a book club. I've always wanted to be in a book club, so I've been super enthusiastic about it ever since the topic came up for discussion. I love to read, I love to talk about books and the chance to hang out with some of the lovely ladies at my office a little more often is a pretty good thing too.

One of the great things that's come out of it is that I've discovered some amazing authors that I otherwise would have missed out on. So far my favourite selection, hands down, has been Joseph Boyden's Through Black Spruce. It won The Giller Prize this year and deservedly so.

Our next selection is The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak, which I will fully admit to never having heard of before. The reviews are excellent, though, so I'm looking forward to starting it.

Right now I'm reading A Brief History of Anxiety (Yours and Mine) by Patricia Pearson. It's not on the book club list, but I read an interview with the author in Chatelaine last year and it struck a chord. It's a good book, though not as intense an experience as I had been expecting. I'm not quite sure what I was hoping for with this one, but I haven't found it. Still, I'm enjoying it overall and learning more than I ever would have expected about the history of anxiety. Who knew that it's always been with us.

I've found that I'm reading so much more recently - a happy outcome of being part of a group that encourages such things. It's not helping me edit my book any faster, but I think it all balances out in the end. It's certainly keeping me motivated to write. I'm also looking into the possibility of joining a writer's group or organization. I checked out the Toronto Romance Writers Association, but I'm not sure if that's quite right for me. I'd love suggestions for others that might be a good fit.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Vampira

It's been a few days since I watched it, but I still find myself thinking about the Pretty Bloody documentary. I'm not sure what it was, but the whole concept struck a nerve and I've found myself discussing women in the horror industry with a few friends over the last few days. One of the stories that stuck out most for me was about Vampira.

Now, if you're like most of my friends, you've never heard of Vampira, but she was the host of a horror television program in the 1950s, long before Elvira came along. I was blown away not only by her tiny waist, but by the fact that she ended up leaving the show because the television station that aired it wanted to own more than 50% of her character. That decision pretty much ended her career, but I loved that she was willing to stand up for her rights at a time when many actresses were still stuck in the unfair studio system. You can Google Vampira and find out all sorts of interesting things about her life and career, including her work with Ed Wood.



This weekend is a busy one, but I've scheduled in time to work on re-writes. I have a lot done on that and I'm mindful that I could pick away at the novel for the next twenty years and still find things to change, so hopefully this will be a fruitful session. I'd like to start pitching agents and publishers when I'm back from my honeymoon in July, so at least I have a deadline in mind.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Pretty Bloody

I watched a documentary on women in the horror movie business called "Pretty Bloody" last night on Space. I was really glad that I took the time to check that out. I'm on Rue Morgue Magazine's newsletter list, so I had received a note that it was playing (their female editor-in-chief is profiled) or I likely would have missed out.

I'm not as big a fan of the horror genre now as I was growing up. I was one of those kids who saw every Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th movie (at my friend's house because my mom was not so keen on me watching that stuff) and I used to buy any book about vampires that was released. I loved gory horror novels and, as I got older, I got more into B-movie horror stuff. I still think all of those things are pretty awesome, but there's been less and less of it in my life as an adult.

Pretty Bloody made me remember all that I've been missing out on. I don't write horror fiction, nor have I ever been inclined to, but I understand the potency of the genre. Each month in our book club at the office someone chooses a title that they enjoy and we all read it. Often, this takes us out of our reading comfort zones and gets us to try something we otherwise might have missed. A few months ago one of the women chose a horror novel - nothing too out there, but something that I would have loved in high school and overlooked as an adult. It was a pretty great read and it reminded me that it's not about the genre, but about the quality of the writing and the compelling nature of the story. Great horror writing is something I definitely want to find more time for. I might also try to squeeze in a horror movie this weekend - there's something to be said for a good scare now and then.