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Blood: The River of Health

Blood is the ultimate vehicle for our life force, but we all take it for granted.

Your blood travels from your head to your toe in less than 10 seconds.

Approximately 2.4 million red blood cells are created in our body every second.

These cells live for 120 days and travel 300 miles in their lifetime.

What we eat has a dramatic effect on our cells and the state of our health. We live in a world where burger is the king and dairy is the queen, and it’s no wonder that so many people today are tired, overweight and looking for a magic bullet.

You wouldn’t feed your pets the wrong food, or put the wrong fuel in your car – but we continually put the wrong food into our bodies. Your body requires 40 different nutrients a day and your cells can die prematurely from deficiency or toxicity. Vitamins B6, B9, and B12 are required for the production of hemoglobin – a protein which carries oxygen throughout your body, and carbon dioxide out. Minerals iron and copper are needed daily to generate the necessary chemicals in your hemoglobin. Your blood cells originate from the stem cells in your bone marrow; Vitamin A helps this process. Eating the right foods may just be that magic bullet.

With today’s five new food groups – Frozen, Fast, Fried, Junk and Processed – we’ve shifted our diets away from what our bodies truly need because of marketing, convenience, and taste. Making healthy foods today is actually easier than we think, and often times cheaper. Putting a salad together, steaming vegetables, and putting a piece of chicken in the oven does not require extreme culinary skills nor a lot of time. So what do we need?
Eating three to five pieces of fruit and five to seven servings of vegetables a day provides your body with nutrients like fibre, water, vitamins, minerals, electrolytes – all necessary for optimal body chemistry. Not to mention, they help keep our bodies at an alkaline state.

Find Your Potential of Health pH represents potential hydrogen. From a holistic perspective, we can say that it stands for potential of health. It is the value given to indicate the alkalinity or acidity of a substance, with complete acid at the low end of the scale – neutral at 7.0 – and pure alkaline at 14. Your body functions best when the pH of most of its fluids are in a range of 6.5 to 7.0.

Our diets play a major role in the amount of acid produced in our body; if one has too much acid, we begin depleting our minerals – sodium, calcium, magnesium and potassium – in order to buffer out the excess. If we don’t have an abundance of these alkaline minerals found in fruits and vegetables we open ourselves to a host of issues. Calcium loss results in bone density loss, and magnesium loss results in nervous dysfunction, muscle cramping and irregular heartbeat. Sustained exhaustion of this nature can lead to the diseases we see so prevalent in North America today. All meats, fish, wheat, alcohol, colas, sweeteners and condiments are acid forming in the body.

Life is about balance  We can certainly enjoy treats here and there. It is our overall diet and lifestyle that has the largest effect. It’s what we do 80 percent of the time that matters, and your diet should be 80 percent alkaline. However, most people are only at five percent. Lemons are a naturally acidic food – however, the body does not need to buffer the natural acids. The naturally occurring citric acid is a “weak” acid; once it’s done providing energy to metabolism, the remaining nutrients are alkaline. Along with almost all fruits and vegetables – a diet containing beans, flax, eggs, nuts, quinoa, garlic, and cold pressed oils will help our body remain in its ideal alkaline state.

All of those red blood cells you make each day want to live in a healthy environment. Taking responsibility of your own health can provide you with long lasting energy and vitality, and reduce your risk of the health issues that are plaguing our society today and costing our health care system billions of dollars a year. Keep nutrition simple; eat foods that grow toward the sunshine, are not found at a pickup window, and don’t have to pass a chemistry lab on the way to your mouth.

Hugging Complete Strangers: A Weekend of Life Coaching

I’d heard about life coaches before.

I’d previously pictured a strong, scary, yelling man on the sidelines of your life, telling you what plays to execute. Or a man in a windbreaker giving you some inspirational speech in a locker room.

So what is a life coach?

A life coach is kind of like a personal goal therapist. They help you achieve things in your life using weekly or bi-weekly one-on-one sessions. Less frequent sessions are possible, but are not ideal. If you have a goal you’re trying to reach, wouldn’t you want to focus on it at least once a week? Life coaches take an objective standpoint and are trained to ask the right questions to help lead you to your right path. They are not there to give advice or share opinions, they are there to coach you into making your own decisions, the decisions that are right for you and will help you reach your goals.

The idea of someone coaching you in your life was kind of a foreign idea to me, until I was tossed right into the thick of it when I attended Module One of The Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching’s (iPEC) Coach Training Program.

Now, this isn’t the kind of thing I’d normally do. Initially the idea of spending three days (three weekend days) sitting in a chair and learning some inspirational and life changing ideas sounded a bit far fetched to me, not to mention uncomfortable.

On top of that, I’ve found myself to be a bit shy when put in a situation where I don’t know anyone. This sent my anxiety into overdrive.

That is, until I heard that Module One would only consist of 15-20 people. My walls began to come down when the opportunity to connect with others became more probable. Instead of picturing myself in a hotel’s grand ballroom, sitting among rows of other aspiring coaches, I pictured us in a small room, spending hour upon hour with each other, bonding over our shared experience.

So I went. Even though I knew almost nothing about life coaching, and I had no intention to become a life coach, I did know that I wanted to be a leader. I did know that this weekend would teach me things that would transfer over into other parts of my life. What I didn’t know was that it would help to make me a better person.

Day One: Learning About Life Coaching

I walked into Module One of iPEC’s Coach Training Course a bit scared and a bit wired after already drinking two coffees before we’d even reached 9am. I scanned the room for a place to sit and found a spot in the U-shape of chairs.

Outside of my comfort zone and immediately being asked to find a partner and share an interesting fact about myself sent my brain into overdrive. I forgot every thing I’d ever done. What a start to the day.

It was on the first day that I learned what life coaching truly was. Have you ever needed someone to help you solve a problem, but they were too busy getting stuck inside their own feelings to help you? Life coaches are there to help you find the solutions to your problems from a subjective point of view. They have amazing ways to help lead you to the answers that you need through asking the right questions and focusing on you, instead of themselves and how they feel about the situation. I was continually amazed how through being coached I was led to answers to my problems that I didn’t even know I had inside myself.

Some other things changed as the day went on. With each break in the day, with each new chance to congregate around the coffee cart, my walls began to come down, and so did everyone elses’.

Beyond that, I started to truly learn things, but I wouldn’t realize how much I’d learned until the next day.

Day Two: Losing My Victim Status

On the first day we learned about energy levels. There are seven and they all have their different pros and cons. Level One is the lowest, Level Seven is the highest. We may be operating at multiple energy levels at once, but they all have to do with our point of view and affect the way we lead our lives.

Level one is a level of victimization. Things are happening to you and there’s nothing you can do about it so you create an attitude of victimization in your life.

It wasn’t until I learned this that I realized how much I had victimized myself in my head. Even something as simple as being forced to walk a few blocks because the subway was under repair had been something that would have left me thinking “poor me.” Until I attended Module One.

The morning of Day Two I walked those extra blocks with a smile on my face. I grabbed a coffee and enjoyed the opportunity to take the city in and feel the sunshine on my face. I know this all sounds a little silly, but the point is that through the conference I was able to completely change my perspective. It was empowering.

Day Two was one of awareness. I was now aware of how I perceived the world, and how I could change it.

I was breaking down my barriers, and possibly also my joints. Sitting all day is not good for these runners’ knees!

Day Three: Hugging Strangers

What has struck me most was how much things can evolve over the course of three days.

In the beginning I felt shy, scared, and insecure. Others admitted their fears as well.

By the end we seemed more optimistic, more open, and more empowered. Instead of feeling a bit of panic each time we were told to find a partner, a new partner, I found myself excited to learn from someone new.

I know, it sounds like I drank some kind of Kool-Aid while I was there. The truth is that it was because I was open, and because I kept myself at a distance as well, that I got so much out of this. Not only did I allow myself to participate and get everything I could from the weekend, but I also tried to watch from a distance, which helped me see the full picture of what was happening.

The pinnacle of the weekend came down to the last minutes. Module One was over. No more sitting in chairs. No more group work. No more learning. We were free to go. But we didn’t. We congregated in the middle and each person began hugging each other.

This is so not me. I was hugging strangers here, but they weren’t really strangers. We had opened ourselves up to each other, experienced something challenging and uplifting together. In some ways they knew me in ways that my friends had never seen me.

The weekend truly changed the way I see things. I even began saying that everyone should take Module One of iPEC’s Coach Training Program, just so they can become better people.

Of course attending iPEC’s Coach Training Program isn’t for everyone, you may even be scared at the idea of it, but when you open yourself up to the possibilities, you never know where they may take you. I know that they took me from sitting scared in a chair, to standing up and hugging strangers.

Beat the Bloat! The Worst Foods for the Abdomen

Picture this: you’re at the beach this summer, preparing to soak up the sun.

You find the perfect spot, set yourself up, take your sundress off and immediately notice that something is wrong. You look down at your stomach and realize that you look about four months pregnant.

There goes your perfect tan. You throw your sundress back on and wallow under an umbrella for the rest of the day.

No one likes to be bloated.

Not only does it feel uncomfortable, but it also makes us look heavier than we actually are. In fact, some women can bloat so severely that they could pass for being pregnant!

Your health is important, and a part of staying healthy is maintaining a good weight, and trying hard to minimize fat around the abdomen. Fat in this area is a relatively good indicator of high risk for heart disease and coronary conditions, so keeping your abdomen looking trim is one of the best ways to help keep you fit and well.

What Causes Bloating?

Abdominal bloating can be caused by a number of reasons – mostly as a result of our own dietary habits. A common cause of bloating is dehydration. It may seem strange that a lack of water can cause bloating, but, when the body is being starved of fluid, it holds onto whatever water it can. This leads to water retention, which can cause us to look bigger than we actually are, particularly in the stomach area.

Water retention is relatively common – it can happen during menstruation, illness, or even after a workout, and can cause the scales to register a weight 3 or 4 lbs heavier – perhaps even more – than usual. It’s not that you have gained 3 or 4 lbs of fat, it’s just ‘bloat’. Fortunately, by keeping an eye on our diets, we can reduce the likelihood of bloating, and help keep our abdomen tight and toned.

Food & Drinks to Avoid

While we wholeheartedly recommend ‘everything in moderation’, if you’re looking to maintain a flat stomach it is important to limit the amount of bloat-inducing food and drink you consume on a regular basis. Here are some of the worst culprits for encouraging water retention:


Think caffeine is the worst offender for causing bloating? Think again! While caffeine can reduce water by 1.7 ml per mg of caffeine consumed, alcohol well surpasses this, creating a 10 ml fluid reduction per gram of alcohol. Alcohol is a diuretic which encourages urination, which is why you need to use the bathroom more when you’ve had a few beers. Once the body realizes it’s running low on water, it clings onto what’s left, causing bloating.

The main problem with alcohol is that many adults underestimate how much they consume, so they think that their bloating couldn’t possibly be caused by drinking. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that women limit themselves to no more than one alcoholic drink per day, and men no more than two. If you’re drinking too much, it could be a reason for your water retention.

Salty Products

Salt is another diuretic which works in a similar way to alcohol. It encourages urination, which is why you feel very thirsty after eating a Chinese meal, for example – your body is crying out for water. Eating large amounts of salty foods is practically guaranteed to cause bloating. Try to limit salty foods such as bacon, popcorn, pre-packaged sauces and condiments, and cured meats. Not only will you find yourself less prone to bloating, but cutting salt out of your diet is good for your heart, too.

High Fat

We all know that large amounts of fat are bad for us, but could that also be the cause of abdominal bloating? Very possibly. It is much harder for the body to digest fatty foods than foods high in protein or carbohydrates, so it takes longer for the body to break down a fatty meal. While this is good in the sense that you’ll feel fuller for longer, it also means that the food will stick around in your stomach for a while, filling you out and making you feel heavy and sluggish. To maintain a flat stomach, it’s better to stick to foods that can easily be digested and moved along to the intestines, rather than being left to hangout in your belly.

High Fiber

Fiber is so good for us – it help keeps things moving and reasonable amounts of fiber can actually help reduce bloating by keeping the digestive system working well. It is recommended that adults eat around 25 grams of fiber each day. Of course, a little more or a little less isn’t going to make too much of a difference, but in consuming much more than this amount, you could be causing your abdomen to bloat.

Foods that are high in fiber are those such as beans, legumes, and whole wheat – all products that cause gas! As you’ll probably know, when you’re suffering with gas you tend to get a very large, rock hard belly that’s crampy and painful. Eating fiber is important, but don’t go overboard!

Foods for a Flat Belly

If you’re striving for a flat belly, it’s best to limit the amount of the above foods you consume as part of your everyday diet.

So the question is – what *can* you eat?

Be sure to include lots of lean protein (which is digested quickly and easily), healthy oils such as olive oil and those found in nuts and avocados (which provide healthy amounts of ‘good’ fats), and probiotic yogurts which contain good bacteria that cleanse the digestive system, helping to speed up the process.

Maintaining a toned abdomen is simple once you know how!

This year, instead of hiding your midsection under a sundress, sarong, or one-piece, you can flash your abs with pride! And you don’t need to spend hours doing crunches to make it happen. By changing your diet in these small ways you can finally get rid of that pesky stomach bloat and finally be able to wear that itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini that you’ve hear so much about.

The Problem With the Pill

There is nothing less sexy than a pregnancy scare.

Who wants to be getting steamy in the bedroom, while at the same time praying that the condom doesn’t break?

The answer is no one.

That is why the pill has been so revolutionary for women.

The pill has been around longer than most of the people who are now using it, and this convenient little dose of hormones has allowed women to take their rights back. We’re able to have sex for fun, not just for reproduction. The pill allows us to regulate our cycles, stop painful or heavy menstruation, and cures acne. We can choose when and if we have children and all thanks to a tiny little pill that we only need to pop once a day for 23 days out of the month.

Sounds pretty convenient right?

Well the truth is that while the pill has been able to do so much for us, it may actually be taking from us too.

Ross Pelton, a Pharmacist, Certified Clinical Nutritionist, author and lecturer, has found that the birth control pill is responsible for sucking out some very essential nutrients from us.

Unfortunately, these side effects aren’t explained to us by our doctors when they prescribe the pill to us and, even worse, it’s unclear how long it takes them to resurrect themselves once you go off the pill.

What are some of these side effects?

1. Lower sex drive All women who take oral contraceptives will have lower levels of testosterone, and testosterone regulates our sex drive. This leads to a reduction in libido, difficulty becoming aroused, less lubrication (which causes painful sex) , and difficulty or inability to achieve orgasm. Talk about an uh-oh face.

2. Higher susceptibility to yeast infections The estrogen in the pill changes your acid base balance to become more alkaline. A more alkaline environment leads to more yeast because it is a more favourable environment for growth.

3. Higher likelihood of infertility Being robbed of these key nutrients for such a long period of time can make it harder for you to be able to reproduce at all. You need a healthy body to be able to grow a whole baby inside you don’t you? Well the pill can rob you of that ability.

4. Loss of immune protection By losing some of these important pieces of the immunity puzzle, you’re increasing your risk for STDs, HPV and anemia.

These aren’t even all of the symptoms!

Ross Pelton has identified 15 different health consequences of oral contraceptive in his new book The Pill Problem: How to Protect Your Health from the Side Effects of Oral Contraceptives.

Now here’s some good news: this data is not found in all of the forms of birth control. That means that you have other options such as:

1. The patch   This flesh-coloured patch looks exactly like a nicotine patch and is applied to your hip or buttox. The patch is kept on for three periods of seven days and then kept off for a week (much like the cycle of the pill). Used perfectly, less than one in 100 women get pregnant. This is a great method because it only has to be applied once a week and therefore is easier to execute perfectly.

2. The ring This soft, flexible ring is placed in the vagina for a three week period and then taken out for a week. It has the same success rate as the patch and takes even less work because you only have to remember it once a month.

3. The needle The shot contains the hormone progestin and is given by your doctor every three months, which means even less worrying than the other forms of birth control. Used perfectly, less than one in 100 women become pregnant.

3. An Intra-Uterine Device The IUD is a T-shaped device that is either made of copper or releases the hormone progestin. It is inserted by a healthcare provider into your uterus and afterwards can provide up to 5 years of birth control if it releases progestin, or up to 12 years if made of copper, without any action on your part.

There are tons of options out there for you, both with their own pros and cons, so educate yourself before you make any decisions.

If you feel more comfortable with the pill, Ross has found ways to alleviate the side effects with different supplements, which he outlines in his book.

There is nothing sexy about sacrificing your health for the convenience of a pill. There are so many options out there for us and so much information available that there is no reason that we have to spend one more day blindly taking pills.

When you are healthy, protected, and happy, that’s a true turn on.

Workout for Your Body Type

Have you ever tried losing weight and just couldn’t?

What about gaining weight?

Or gaining muscle?

At some point, we have to come to the realization that our bodies, for better or for worse, are meant to be a certain shape, or weight.

It’s another case of nature versus nurture.

When we are born, we are predisposed to a particular eye color, skin tone and hair texture. We also inherit our body type from our biological parents.

But how much of our shape are we destined to grow old with and how much do we have the ability to transform?

There are three basic body types. Most people are a mixture of the three, while only five percent of the population are purely one type. Since weight is so strongly related to your body type, body composition (the ratio of fat to fat-free mass) is a much better indication of ideal body weight than is the total weight obtained from stepping on a scale.

Genetic factors strongly dominate adult height, limb and trunk lengths, skeletal and sexual maturation and body type. On the other hand, other physical characteristics related to physical performance, such as body weight, skinfold thickness and body circumference can be modified considerably by environmental influences, though these influences interact with and are limited by genetic factors.

The 3 Body Types

Mesomorphs Mesomorphs have muscular bodies, with broad shoulders, thick chests and narrow waists (think Jessica Biel and Sarah Jessica Parker). They tend to be more proportioned. Mesomorphs can have normal or low body fat, even though they may be overweight according to standard height and weight charts.

They have an advantage over taller, less muscular people in weightlifting movements.

Mesomorphs have greater strength potential. To minimize injuries, the total volume of repetitions, the number of training sessions and the frequency of high intensity workouts should be less than for other body types. They may also need more recovery time.

The Workout Plan The mesomorphic program should focus on a combination of strengthening, cardio, and stretching. Total body strengthening exercises should be performed 2–3 times weekly on alternating days, using a resistance that causes them to fatigue in 8–12 repetitions.

Cardio can be done 3+ days of the week for 30-60 minutes in their target heart rate zone. Any activities the person enjoys can be engaged in.

Stretching should be done after each exercise session. The focus of the program is to manage body composition and enhance their predisposed strength advantage.

Ectomorphs Ectomorphic people are thin, lean and tall, with low amounts of fat-free mass, and they can be underweight according to the weight charts (examples include Kate Moss and Gisele Bunchen). Typically they are extremely low in body fat and make the best endurance athletes. These body types do best in sprints, the long jump and the vertical jump. They have later skeletal and sexual maturation than the other two body types.

The Workout Plan Ectomorphs with long torsos should work on stabilization exercises during total body workouts and sports movements. Working the abdominal and lower back should be a focus of their exercise program. Pilates and yoga would be advantageous to them. Overhead work like shoulder presses will be important to help gain control over their long torsos. Front squatting is also very helpful to work on balance and strength.

It’s more difficult for ectomorphs to lift weights, because they have such long limbs and have to push and pull resistance farther than the other body types — therefore, they work harder. An ectomorph wouldn’t be very competitive as a powerlifter. They have to use lighter weights, because they are moving throughout a greater range of motion.

Ectomorphs make great basketball and volleyball players. They typically have longer feet, which help with cutting and changing direction on the court. Ectomorphs typically have weak wrists and ankles, so they should also work on strengthening them with resistance training. Many people will wrap their wrists and ankles for added support.

Ectomorphs should perform strength training on alternating days weekly, choosing a resistance that causes them to fatigue in 6–10 repetitions. Cardio can be done 3+ times weekly for 20-60 minutes per session. Flexibility training should be engaged in after each exercise session. The focus of the program is to increase strength, gain muscle and decrease the risk of osteoporosis. Individuals should strive to do impact cardio activities like running and perform strength training using free weights in a standing position.

Endomorphs Endomorphs are rounder, heavier, bigger, and softer than most people (think of curvy ladies like Kate Winslet and Jennifer Hudson). These people are typically overweight, with large amounts of fat free mass (muscle) and fat mass. Endomorphs have long arms, long legs and short torsos.

The Workout Plan Endomorphs should keep impact activities like jumping and running to a minimum, as the extra body weight causes additional stress on the joints and can potentially cause injuries to the feet, ankles, knees, hips and back. They should start out slowly, working up to 20 minutes of activity in their target heart rate range. Then, over several sessions, they should gradually increase the time, followed by increasing intensity.

Endomorphs should focus on strength training 2–3 times weekly, choosing a resistance that causes them to fatigue in 10–15 repetitions. They can do cardio most days of the week for 30–60 minutes in their target heart rate zone. Activities should be low and non-impact to start.

Stretching should be performed after each exercise session. The focus of the exercise program is reducing body fat, improving health and decreasing risk of disease.

The bottom line is to choose exercises you love and do them often, but if you can tweak your program to work with your body type, there is a better chance of decreasing your risk of injury and seeing the results you desire and deserve.

You may not be just one body type, you’re probably a combination of a couple. At the same time, you don’t need to necessary be muscular to be a mesomorph, or overweight to be considered an endomorph. There may be three categories of body types but there certainly aren’t three body types in the world. Find out which body type you may classify yourself under and use these tips to help you find workouts that are great for your body and will cause it the least amount of stress.

Take your body type and accept it, nourish it and make it the best version it can be!

**Edited for repurpose by Taylor Brown, the Associate Editor of Goddess Connections’ publicationWomen Who Run It.

5 Lifelong Lessons from a Natural Health Nut

Where are you on the road to health? I’m probably on the same journey as you. I’ve just been hauling around my (virtual) backpack of tofu and granola longer than most people I know.

My interest in natural health began in my early 20s with my first real job. It surged and waned and came back in full force recently when I decided to focus my copywriting business on the natural health industry.

This gives me access to a large variety of natural health experts, including alternative health doctors, naturopaths and nutritionists.

I’ve also been a guinea pig along the way, trying various diets and supplements to see what works best for me.

Here are some of the lifelong lessons I learned on my journey to vibrant health:

*Note: Please don’t take any of this as a prescription. Consult a qualified professional for any health issues you have. Consider this food for thought.

1. A Lifelong Lesson From Teaching a Blind 90-Year-Old to Knit

Fresh out of university with a fine arts degree and no job skills whatsoever, I landed my first job at an old-age hospital teaching arts and crafts to people aged 80 and over.

I was actually challenged with teaching a 90-year old blind woman to knit! They called it “recreational therapy”.

These were not active, healthy seniors. They were the demented ones who sat hunched over in wheelchairs, and cried out “What am I doing here? Get me out of here!”

While still in my tender 20s, I learned a lifelong lesson: I never want to end up here, and I will do anything I can to be healthy and avoid the hospital or old-age home. That began my lifelong quest for health.

2. You can’t take just one drug.

At the old-age hospital, they held “rounds” every Friday, and I felt very important when I was invited to attend, clad in a white lab coat just like the doctors wore!

Each department reported on how specific patients were progressing (always downward).

This is what struck me, and stayed with me forever: Not one patient was on just one or two medications. They were all on 8-10 medications. That’s because each medication had side effects that had to be countered with more drugs. The mantra I heard was, “Once you take one drug, you take 10”.

No wonder all these poor doped up patients were non-functional.

My lifelong lesson was to avoid drugs as much as possible, and use food (and a few supplements) to keep myself healthy. It’s working well so far!

3. A vitamin a day can keep the doctor away.

When I was a kid, I got sick a lot. Nothing too serious, but I always seemed to have a cold, an infection, or a sore throat – sure signs that my body was run down.

One day when I was a young adult, my aunt, a biochemist, noticed my sorry condition and suggested I try Vitamin C. I was skeptical, but took some and my cold disappeared much more quickly than usual.

I was intrigued, and began to research vitamins. “Earl Mindel’s Vitamin Bible” became my bible and my lifelong fascination with vitamins and minerals was born.

4. Forgoing French fries for kale and cauliflower

Once I understood the power of eating specific foods and taking supplements to optimize my health, I spent years devouring books on the subject.

My family laughed at me and called me a health nut, because I was baking with spelt flour and carob, and eating broccoli while they were enjoying their burgers and fries.

Today, one of these close family members has cancer. Another is suffering terribly from a degenerative disease, and two cousins younger than me died well before their time.

I love fries as much as anyone, but on a daily basis I’m happy to eat kale and cauliflower. My lifelong lesson is that my health is too precious to me to waste any time lying in a hospital bed, or risk missing out on my children’s and grandchildren’s lives.

5. Pay the farmer or pay the doctor

True confession: I buy most of my food at the health food store, and probably spend more on organic food and supplements than most people do. I was lamenting my obsession to a naturopathic doctor who works in the health food store where I shop.

He said, “You are investing in your health. Better to pay the farmer than the doctor.”

When I get my monthly Visa bill, I sometimes wonder if it’s all worth it. Then I get a call from a friend who is frantic because he’s losing his eyesight to glaucoma, and I think, “I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing, thanks!”

Are You Counting Numbers or Counting Nutrition?

The other day, I came across an intense debate on the ever popular social media outlet, Instagram. A photo of a diet coke can and one of a fresh fruit smoothie had the caption “200 calories of this is better than 0 calories of that.” I swear to you, some people had a field day with that. They couldn’t wrap their minds around thinking that drinking something packed with [good] calories could ever be better than drinking something with no calories. We could get into the issue of aspartame and how detrimental it is for your body and mind, but that’s a different topic completely.

Reading the comments below that image got me to realize that this is an epidemic plaguing most women. They like to see the low numbers on the nutritional information but never bother to look at the ingredients. My morning protein smoothie has about 300-400 calories in it, but I pack it with super-foods that have me energized and full until it’s lunch time. If you decide to drink the diet coke in the morning over the smoothie you’ll notice how it effects your day. It’s the same with all other food too. At this point I have completely tossed out counting calories, fat, carbs, blah blah blah. It’s all bullshit really. If your foods are rich in nutrients, your body will be able to utilize them and put those ‘numbers’ to proper use.

Take for example those 100 calorie packs. The first ingredient is enriched wheat flour. Sounds nice, huh? “Enriched” is actually the opposite of what it sounds like. It means the nutrients have been stripped out of the wheat in order to achieve a better texture and longer shelf life. Once you ingest it, your body breaks down the flour too quickly and adds a huge shot of sugar to your blood stream all at once, and what does it do with all that extra sugar? It stores it in fat cells so that you can use it later…which let’s face it, we don’t always do. So next time you’re wondering where that spare tire in your mid-section came from, give your bread a glare!

The next few ingredients are not a surprise at all: sugar and canola oil. And with the company being Nabisco, a known GMO-supporter, you better think twice before grabbing this “healthy” snack off the shelves. This one example can extend to most “health” foods and foods that are found prepackaged.

So with all of this in mind, why don’t you try half an avocado instead? It’s 160 calories, with 15 grams of fat, but it’s packed with protein and vitamins that have been proven to stabilize blood sugar, prevent cancer and Alzheimers, and even help you to lose weight (avocados are packed with fibre).

Here are some other foods that get backed away from due to their calorie content, even when they’re actually much better for you than many low-calorie meals:

  • Peanut Butter: 100 calories in every tablespoon looks a little dangerous, yeah? But peanut butter is rich in proteins and improves your metabolic fat-burning rate – it’s the top alternative to fatty meats that have the same protein count and aren’t nearly as good for you

  • Nuts: Not pub nuts so much as walnuts, almonds, pistachios, and peanuts. Nearly 190 calories in each ounce of these but,  to be fair, yet you’d be hard-pressed to find better food that’s so rich in fibre and protein and also helps stabilize your blood sugar.

  • Olive Oil: So what if it’s great for cooking? 120 calories in each tablespoon of it means people tend to pass on it. But olive oil has been known to protect against certain types of cancer, and it holds anti-inflammatory properties that are linked to a lower risk of heart disease.

  • Bananas: In fairness, the calorie count in bananas (120) is almost double what you’d find in any other fruit. But they’re packed with fibre, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin B6, folic acid, and countless other nutrients. They’re basically nature’s nutrition energy bars, made specially for you.

  • Granola: Granola gets a bad rap for containing almost 600 calories in one cupful. Yet it’s made from whole wheat and compressed nuts, and often mixed with yogurt and sweetened with molasses or sugar. It’s rich in essential oils, incredibly nutritious, and tastes great.

So forget counting calories and start counting nutrition. It may seem a little scary at first, especially for those who write down every single detail. I challenge you to forget the numbers and instead, eat foods that are beneficial to your health, despite the calories.

You’ll be the better for it! The nutritional benefits will easily outweigh the calorie cost. You’ll have more energy – and you’ll wind up burning off those extra calories in a heartbeat, anyway. You’ll love the food you’re eating and you’ll be happier. If anything is worth a few extra calories, it is certainly that.

Get The Skinny on How to Dress Your Body

How many times have you caught a cursory glance of yourself while passing a window, or had a photo taken of yourself and upon seeing the result, you cringed? You’ve got a lump here, a bump there and your clothes seem to be doing nothing for you. The woman you saw when you were standing in the mirror this morning is a distant, distant relative of the reflection you’re seeing now.

The problem is that sometimes we have no idea what the solution is. Our bodies are not the ones that we see modeling our clothing. We aren’t of the same dimensions as the store mannequins that first lured us into buying our clothes.

This problem is more common than you know. Many woman have no idea how to dress their bodies. We lose weight, we gain weight, we get older, and we get confused by the new trends, but what tends to stay the same is our unflattering styling.

This problem is so common that it was the topic of a recent episode of CBC’s Steven and Chris. Luckily for you, Women Who Run It was there to interview the show’s Fashion Expert Genny Iannucci to make sure that you get the inside scoop on how to dress to make your body shine instead of spending one more day hiding it.

While you can watch all of the tips by going to Steven and Chris’ website, we also got you some tailor-made (pun intended) secrets straight from Genny herself.
Genny Iannucci’s Dress Skinnier Tips:
1. Dressing skinnier boosts your self-confidence. “When you feel really good about the way you look it just blossoms in terms of confidence. “
When you feel that confidence it radiates from you in a way that will attract others. If you know you look good, others are going to know it too. Dress skinny and not only will it make you look better, but it will make you more confident and confidence is sexy!
2. Create the nicest, cleaning line on the body. Genny shared that the biggest fashion mistake is wearing the wrong size. “A lot of times we’re just wearing items that are either too big… Excess fabric is going to add some visual weight…on the other hand, people compensate for that and go too tight. If you go too tight it’s the same thing as wearing something too loose.”
Wear clothing that is as close to your body as possible without any pulling or tugging. Clothing should simply skim over your body.
3. No matter how comfortable a woman should never wear something that doesn’t make her feel beautiful.  Plain and simple.
4. No matter how fabulous a woman should never wear shoes she can’t walk in. This is for everyone’s benefit. For you, and the people who have to watch you massacre everything that is sexy about the stiletto.
5. Know your body. “Clothing is cut on a standard and we don’t all fit into that standard.”
We need to know where our body differs from this and know what we want to hide and what we want to accentuate.  By getting a good grasp on your body you’ll know what flatters it and what a good fit looks like. A good fit is the biggest battle that women face.
6. Or stick to some fool-proof tips. Genny always suggests keeping it vertical. Draw the eyes up and down, not across. Go with vertical prints, v-necks, heels that will elongate you, and dangly jewellery like necklaces and earrings to keep the eyes moving.
Her idea of a universally un-flattering shape is a giant, shapeless caftan and her idea of a universally flattering shape is a wrap dress or a great boot-cut jean.

Genny’s best tip of the day came when I asked her what most women don’t know about their bodies. We seem to be so stumped about what fits and what doesn’t, so I was looking for some kind of tip that us women are missing when it comes to seeing our bodies. Genny hit the nail on the head when she replied “how beautiful it is.”

So many times we complain about a part of our body, but we forget that there are other women out there who wish they had what we see as a burden. How often have you heard women of all bust sizes complain? We all tend to want what we can’t have but instead we should appreciate what we do have.
Celebrate your body in all the beauty it is and show it off. Don’t look at dressing as a way to hide, but instead to enhance so you never have to hide from that reflection in the window but instead strut past and think “Damn, I look good!”

Do You Know What’s in Your Cosmetics?

It’s not often that we bother to do our own research on those long-and-complexly-named chemicals that we find on the back of our cosmetics. I can hardly reel off the ingredient list on my face cream, let alone my toner and concealer.

Can you?

We tend to recognize the particular ingredients we’re allergic to. And maybe there’s that one product that has been making headlines for being recalled off the shelves, or that other dangerous chemical compound we’re warned to be on the lookout for. But as for the rest of them? So long as they give us a healthy glow and don’t cause us to break out in hives, they pretty much pass Go with us.

No matter; surely the companies that produce these products know what they’re doing. We can trust them to have done the research and keep us safe…can’t we?
“Can you believe what they put in this skin cream?”, my daughter (a biologist) exclaimed to me over the phone one day, before reciting a long list of chemical ingredients. “Donʼt they know how bad petrochemicals are for you?”

The truth is, while extensive FDA regulations require cosmetic manufacturers to provide unadulterated products that are labeled correctly, they are not required to prove the safety of their products. They may be held liable for damages, but unlike drug companies, they are not required to test their products extensively before sale. Plus, imported cosmetics are rarely inspected at all.

So it could be years before dangerous or negative side effects from cosmetics are discovered. We are basically guinea pigs in a massive experiment to determine the long-term safety of our cosmetics.

As we continue to discover increasing numbers of harmful ingredients previously assumed to be safe, it becomes clear that it is up to us to protect ourselves from the potential dangers of volatile man-made chemicals in cosmetics.

The world we live in now is not the world of our grandparents.

Literally thousands of man-made chemicals flood our environment in our food supply, in the air, on our clothes (flame retardants), in pesticides and herbicides, in building/housing materials, in plastics, and in our soaps, shampoos, and make-up. Who knows how severe the cumulative effects of these exposures will be?

My personal philosophy is to minimize my familyʼs exposure to man-made chemicals as much as possible. That means eating organic food, using natural products for cleaning, and buying organic or natural personal care products. It is somewhat ironic that natural products generally cost more, even though fewer numbers of ingredients are involved. However, just as processed foods are cheaper to produce than real, whole foods, cosmetics and body care products that use pure, high quality ingredients are often more expensive than those made with synthetic substitutes.

Since quality goods do regularly cost more, we all have to make compromises while choosing the products we can afford. However, some ingredients are more harmful than others and should definitely be avoided regardless of cost. The following ingredients are thought to be problematic because they either disrupt hormones (endocrine disruptors), cause cancer (carcinogenic), or they are toxins:

  • Parabens: Endocrine and reproductive disrupters.

  • BHA and BHT: Endocrine disrupters and carcinogens.

  • Diazolidiny Urea (also DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea):Releases formaldehyde in the body/carcinogenic.

  • Dibutyl Phthalate: Suspected endocrine disruptor and reproductive toxicant.

  • Diethanolamine: Possible carcinogen.

  • Sodium Lauryl (th) Sulfate: Possible carcinogen.

  • Petrolatum: Possible carcinogen.

  • Parfum (fragrances): Allergens, carcinogens, and neurotoxins.

  • Triclosan: Endocrine disrupter / causes antibiotic resistance.

  • PEG – Polyethylene Glycol: Carcinogen.

  • Siloxanes: Suspected endocrine disruptors and reproductive toxicants.

  • Coal tar dyes (CL + 5 digit # or FD&C): Heavy metal toxins and carcinogens.

Keep an eye out for these synthetic additives in your personal care products, and consider substituting for safer alternatives when possible.

After checking your personal care products, be sure and read your lipstick container next. A disconcerting study published in Environmental Health Perspectives showed the presence of heavy metals in 75% of lipsticks tested. A full 100% contained the metals chromium, manganese or aluminum. No amount of lead is considered safe for human consumption, and lead is easily swallowed when lipsticks containing it are applied (and reapplied) to the lips. It is worth the extra effort and cost to find lipstick that doesnʼt contain lead or other metals.

Many cosmetic producers argue that there is no danger from their products because our skin provides a protective barrier that is not easily penetrated. But we know that if the particle size is small enough or the base cream used is soluble, then products like hormone creams or medicine patches are easily absorbed through the skin.

We also know from blood and urine tests that hundreds of these additives have indeed found their way into our bodies. Since we donʼt know the cumulative effects of recurring man made chemical exposure, a wise precautionary position could be to assume that any chemical placed on the skin can potentially be absorbed.

I have heard the argument for years that since every chemical out there has the potential to kill us, why bother being careful? Something is bound to kill us someday. But there must be a thoughtful balance between complete denial of potential danger and paranoid overreaction.

Since my personal bias is to consider food the solution for every problem, (food is our friend!) I naturally consider organic foods a viable substitute for some personal care products. Foods and herbs can provide natural, inexpensive, and safe alternatives and they are literally safe enough to eat! Foods high in antioxidants and healthy fats not only benefit the body from the inside, but can help from the outside too. Here are a few possibilities:

  1. Organic, virgin, cold-pressed coconut oil: It contains lauric acid, an antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial fatty acid. It works wonders on dry patchy skin.

  2. Cucumbers: These are thought to help decrease puffiness around the eyes due to their high antioxidant content. Cooled chamomile tea bags produce a similar effect.

  3. Organic apple juice: It is a natural toner and astringent.

  4. Egg whites: They help remove oil from skin, and an egg white mask has astringent properties to firm saggy skin.

  5. Antioxidant-rich avocados: They are moisturizing and full of healing vitamins.

  6. Brown sugar: Mixed with olive oil and a little water, it makes an excellent exfoliant.

  7. Full fat sour cream: It contains alpha hydroxyl acid, which improves skin tone and texture.

  8. Cornstarch: It can substitute for loose powder to soak up excess oil on the skin.

Natural plants and herbs can provide the cleansing and nurturing ingredients we need to stay healthy when eaten internally or absorbed through the skin externally. Why risk the dangers of synthetic chemicals in products when Mother Nature does such a fabulous job producing superior products naturally?

I know itʼs overwhelming to make drastic changes all at once, so start slowly. Take baby steps and begin by reading the ingredient list on products you are using now. As they run out, consider replacing the worst ones with natural alternatives or products made without dangerous additives. Over time, you can proactively decrease your exposure to undesirable synthetic chemicals and minimize the risk of the side effects they produce.

It’s always better to be vigilant, and to do the research on your own. The companies that produce our cosmetic and care products have their own interests, and there is no guarantee that they will line up with yours. By fully understanding what your own interests are, what results you want out of your makeup products, you can find out the safest, healthiest ways of getting those results and looking great – no dangers included.

**Repurposed by Amy Kisaka, a staff writer for Goddess Connections Publication Women Who Run It.

The Craziest Workout Trends of 2013

It’s nothing new that people will do just about anything for their health. Some people have no limits! We are constantly being told about new trends for working out, and we’re always looking for something new that will help us stay fit, or in my case, get fit in the first place. From products to exercises, there is no end to the things people come up with to get in shape.

There have been some crazy workout trends in the past year. The kicker? Some of them actually work! The others, however… the only thing they’ll do is make you look silly. Here are some of my favourite crazy workout trends from the year, and just incase you partake in any of these, I’ll let you know what you’re wasting your time with.

Let’s start with some of the crazy products people have come up with. These are always entertaining because you really get to see the extent some people go to in order to avoid going to the gym.

Here are my top 5 favourite weird products of 2013:

1. Vibration Plates – I saw one of these pedestals that you stand on that vibrate under your feet at my gym one day, and spent a good half hour of my treadmill time trying to think of what it could possibly be used for. Then, a few days later, I saw an older man using it, and it was so loud and obnoxious I couldn’t think of what that possibly could do for your body. According to ABC News, the base is actually vibrating under your feet, which forces your body’s muscles to contract to keep your balance while you do exercises on it. If you want one of these badboys for yourself, you’ll have to fork over about $2,500. There’s a chance it might help with your circulation and bone density, but it won’t help you with weight loss, especially if you’re using it to shorten your workouts.

2. Sound Wave Technology – There is a product called Vaser that uses sonic waves to get rid of your unwanted belly fat. It acts like liposuction and sucks it out. According to ABC News the cost for this procedure ranges from $8,000-$20,000. Sure, it works, but for that much money you’re better off just getting liposuction in the first place, which has long-term proven results.

3. Leg Weights – Apparently you can tone your legs while walking around the office or at work with the invention of leg weights. They are basically weights that wrap around your ankles or calves with the intention of giving your legs a strength workout while doing everyday tasks. Do you really want to walk around all day with weights on your ankles, though? Skip these, especially if you work a job where you sit the majority of the time.

4. The Treadmill Bike – Just incase you can’t decide between running and biking, you can now do both at the same time!  The treadmill bike is exactly what it sounds like: a treadmill on a bike. The bike looks like a giant scooter with a treadmill where the seat and pedals would be on a bike. The bike will cost you roughly $2,000CAD or $2,450USD, which is significantly more than a gym membership or running outside, and the medical bills this dangerous contraption might end up costing you are even higher. The best part of this, though, is that there is a side attachment you can get to “walk” your dog beside you.

5. The Entertrainer – According to Daily Life, this contraption is something you strap to yourself while you’re watching television. It monitors your heart rate, and when your heart rate drops too low, it shuts the television off until you do enough exercises to get it up again. These are perfect for those who can’t pull themselves away from the television for more than half an hour. It costs $139.99 on their website, which is less than the cost of your television, but this product is priceless for any couch potato.

Some people like to do the lazy version of things. That’s why we are hearing about products that shorten your workout time and use minimal effort to get you fit. But some people take it to the next level.

I am now going to share with you my 5 favourite crazy and weird exercise trends of 2013:

1. Backwards Running – This needs no description. Shawn Radcliffe of Men’s Fitness says that some people have reported that running backwards uses 30 percent more energy than facing the right direction. It’s also 100 percent more likely to get you seriously injured. And don’t try this outside.
2. Working out Barefoot – This has been a subject of much debate in 2013 especially, as more and more people are trying to live “like their ancestors did” or “as minimal as possible.” Working out in your bare feet is supposed to strengthen the muscles in your lower leg, feet and ankle as well as increase your balance. If you’re willing to get past the germs, bacteria, and overall dirtiness that comes from being barefeet in a public place, that is. Personally, I’d rather not put my barefeet on a disgusting gym floor just to increase my balance.

3. The High Heel Workout – According to Christine Egan of Blisstree, this workout is led by a professional dancer who leads you through a series of workouts while everyone wears- you guessed it- stilettos. It’s supposed to help you improve leg muscles and posture. To me, it’s just asking for a broken neck or ankle. If I can barely walk in stilettos I’m not going to risk injury (and loss of dignity) exercising in them.

4. Doga – Doga, or dog yoga, is apparently a real thing where people bring their dogs to yoga class. The dogs can either choose to participate or run around knocking the zen out of everyone. Shawn says that people who attend these classes claim that the dogs bring a sense of fun and lighten the mood of the classes. Just make sure you bring a poop bag.

5. Flirty Girl Fitness – This is the ultimate workout if you want to piss off a feminist. In these classes, which have been described as a “showgirl workout,” stripper poles are used as an accessory. Other accessories, according to their website, are pink feather boas and kitchen chairs. These classes teach you moves you’ll be able to practice at a nightclub if that’s what you like to do for fun.

Now I’m sure you’re wondering if there are some crazy exercise trends that actually do work. The answer is yes, some people aren’t just crazy- they’re actually getting a good workout! Here are some of the crazy workout trends that actually do work, if you can get past how strange they are. Try them out yourself and see how sometimes these crazy people are really on to something.

One of my personal favourites is drum fitness. Not just because I’m a musician, but because my personal workout mentality is that a workout needs to be fun or I’m not doing it. Drum fitness oozes fun from the name alone. In these workouts rhythmic drumming is combined with aerobics, like squats and lunges. It’s a full body workout focusing on your arms that’ll give you killer results (and a super fun time). If you’re interested, “Drums Alive” and “Pound” are the most popular drum fitness classes and you can look them up to see how you can get involved.

Jungshin is another of my favourites. It’s a martial arts workout that uses a sword. How can that not sound awesome? It’ll give you an amazing strength workout as well as a full-body aerobic experience. On top of the amazing results you’ll get, it will make you feel like a warrior and a badass. Who doesn’t like feeling like that? You can hit up their website to find out more information.

One of the most effective weird workout trends of 2013 is tabata training. Tabata workouts can be completed in 4 minutes. That’s right, you’ll have no excuse for not being able to fit it in. In the time that it would take you to drive to the gym you’ll have already completed your workout. Sounds crazy, right? The key is that tabata training uses high intensity interval training, or HIIT. HIIT is an effective way to structure your workouts because your body burns fat at such a high rate you’ll continue burning fat after you’ve stopped working out. This particular Japanese workout consists of 20 seconds of intense training, followed by 10 seconds of rest. This is repeated over 8 rounds. To find out how you can get in on this quick workout, visit their website.

The biggest workout trend this year has been mashing up different workout classes. You’ve most likely heard of piloxing, a mix of pilates and kickboxing. Then you’ve got zumba, a mix of latin dance and aerobics, and buti, a mix of tribal dance and yoga. Aqua spinning is another, which mixes swimming and spinning. These are awesome workouts because they change things up and give you something new to try.

Who does single-type classes anymore, anyway? That was so 2012.