A while back I posted a “recipe challenge” on my Facebook page, where I asked my friends to list their favourite treats, and I would try to make healthier versions of them.
The first challenge I took on was to make healthy cookie dough, and it was successful! I made a whole bunch and shared it with a bunch of friends and family, and they all LOVED it! I brought over a dozen cookie dough balls to my favourite health food store (where all the staff know me lol) and they were in love. Sure, it’s a biased sample group because they’re all obviously into healthy stuff, but even my brother ravaged the cookie dough! Awesome
And here, I bring forth a successful second challenge – chocolate ice cream! You don’t even need an ice cream maker.
-1/2 cup plain 0% yogurt
-1 medium avocado, ripe
-1 scoop (28g) Vega energizing smoothie mix, chocolate flavour*
-3 tbsp cocoa powder
-1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
-2 tbsp coconut sugar (or other natural sugar)
-natural sweetener, to taste (I used stevia liquid drops and 2tbsp natural xylitol. Xylitol has 10 cals per teaspoon.)
-splash of coffee (1 or 2 tbsp)**
*You can always buy just a single-serving packet at your local health food store. Or, feel free to use any other chocolate flavoured protein powder, as long as it’s natural! Gotta stay healthy
**The coffee won’t actually make the ice cream taste like a mocha/coffee ice cream. The purpose of the coffee is to downplay the avocado taste. You can also use instant coffee granules – just a teaspoon should work!
If you have an ice cream maker, great – just blend everything together and freeze according to your manufacturer’s instructions. If not, no worries. I don’t have one either. This is how you do it:
1) Throw everything in a food processor and whip it up nicely until it’s smooth and creamy!
2) Place in a tupperware container and freeze the mixture until it’s rock solid, or just about. It will be very icy.
3) Take it out of the freezer, and let it defrost on your counter for just a tiny bit until you can break it up with a spoon or a butter knife. Then, throw it all back in the food processor and blend it up again. You’ll notice that the texture is no longer “icy” and frozen, but it’s getting more fluffy, like real ice cream. If needed, add a splash of almond milk (or organic cream, if you want).
4) Repeat steps 2 and 3 one more time.
To make ice cream fluffy and creamy, rather than icy, air has to be whipped into it. Kind of like how whipping cream works. So yes, the process is a little bit tedious if you’re using a food processor, but it works the exact same way that an ice cream maker does, except you have to get a bit more involved. BUT, this recipe is totally worth it, because check out the nutritional info below!
Makes about 2 cups. You get a massive dose of fiber (from the avocado and cocoa powder) and protein, as well as tons of healthy fats (again, avocado and cocoa). Seriously, this stuff is great for your health. This is also high in iron and magnesium, thanks to the cocoa powder!
For the ENTIRE batch…
Calories: 540 (this includes my 2tbsp xylitol, which is 60 calories)
Carbs: 89g (22g fiber – WOW! – and 30g sugar)
Like this recipe? Of course you do! Share it on Facebook and Twitter
Feel free to add chocolate chips, banana slices, berries, shredded coconut – whatever you like!
And here comes more completely flawed research that will scare people away from eating animal products!
This gem of a study starts off like this…
“That chicken wing you’re eating could be as deadly as a cigarette. In a new study that tracked a large sample of adults for nearly two decades, researchers have found that eating a diet rich in animal proteins during middle age makes you four times more likely to die of cancer than someone with a low-protein diet — a mortality risk factor comparable to smoking.”
First of all, it only compares the people eating protein-rich diets to people eating low-protein diets. There are so many other factors that should have been considered – namely, organic vs conventional meats being used in the study. Duh. It says NOTHING about the quality of meat they were eating – so we can probably accurately assume that the meat, whether it was chicken or beef or fish, was conventional, factory-raised meat. Knowing how our disgusting food systems work, the animals were more than likely…
-fed corn/grain-based diets (typically GMO, non-organic, sprayed with pesticides, chemicals, and grown in fake fertilizers).
-crammed in small living spaces, thus raising their cortisol/stress levels (meaning their meat, when we eat it, is high in cortisol and then raises our own cortisol levels, contributing to the health problems that this study focused on).
-given growth hormones and antibiotics…take a look at how that stuff affects our human health before we blame our heart problems entirely on fat and protein. Maybe it’s not the grams of protein or fat we consume that lead to the healthy problems… maybe, just maybe, it could also be partly due to what the animals are pumped with!
And if they were eating meat from restaurants, there’s a good chance they came into contact with meat glue - you know, the stuff they use for fake steaks. Gee, I wonder if that causes health problems at all?
It then goes on to say…
“Not only is excessive* protein consumption linked** to a dramatic rise in cancer mortality, but middle-aged people who eat lots of proteins from animal sources — including meat, milk and cheese — are also more susceptible to early death in general, reveals the study to be published March 4 in Cell Metabolism. Protein-lovers were 74 percent more likely to die of any cause within the study period than their more low-protein counterparts. They were also several times more likely to die of diabetes.”
*Excessive amounts of anything can kill you, so this statement is unfair. Excessive water and excessive air will kill you, too.
**Linked to does not mean causes. “Linked to” means other factors could have contributed (and probably did) to the health problems, so they’re not allowed to blame it all on excessive protein.
Oh, and not only are these study participants consuming meat, but they’re also consuming dairy and cheese. If it was unpasteurized organic milk and cheese, perhaps their health wouldn’t have suffered as much as it did by consuming regular dairy – which is even more processed than the meat it came from! The milk is pasteurized, killing off the bacteria, sure, but also destroying the good bacteria and digestive enzymes that let you digest the milk properly.
On top of that, we all know how much blood and pus gets into dairy products from the cows (thanks to being hooked up to mechanical milkers all day long) and that has to be “cleaned” out of the milk before we consume it.
And this is just before individual companies add their own specialty ingredients and colours to the dairy products – for starters, just read a label of Cracker Barrel “cheese” and compare that to some organic raw cheese. Their extra sharp cheddar made with 2 per cent milk contain vitamin A Palmitate, which is naturally found in animal fats. However, when you actually see it on an ingredients label, that means it was synthetically produced and added to the product. Want to know the problem with this? Too much vitamin A Palmitate causes headaches, nausea, vomiting, birth defects, liver abnormalities and reduced bone density. But what can you expect from Kraft, really? (Or ANY brand that isn’t certified organic?)
Anyway, got a little off-topic there…
But do you see my point?
Do you see how FLAWED and BIASED these studies are? Besides, what were the activity levels of these subjects? What ELSE were they consuming – a lot of sugar? Artificial sweeteners, colours, flavours? Did they drink alcohol, did they smoke, were they overweight? There’s an awful lot of omission going on here. Don’t even get me started on The China Study…!
How about we compare people who eat conventional meat/dairy products to people who eat organic, non-GMO, pasture-raised meat and dairy? And keep the portion sizes normal, not excessive! Have the subjects exercise, have them eat healthy diets overall, and at least try to let the only variable be the quality of the meat and dairy.
THAT would be an interesting effing study! There is NO good reason to compare a good hunk of organic, pasture-raised and humanely killed beef (free of added hormones and antibiotics!) to smoking a cigarette. Brainwashing at its finest.
It’s no doubt that a nice hunk of grilled salmon does wonders for our taste buds – but is it true that it’s also good for your brain?
According to this recent study on omega-3 fatty acids and brain health, the answer is yes!
The Oregon Health & Science University study found that monkeys who ate a diet rich in omega-3′s had highly connected and well organized neural networks in their brains (similar to the neural networks in healthy humans). Monkeys that lacked these fatty acids, however, had significantly limited brain networking.
The neural networks in question were responsible for things like visual pathways, higher-level processing and cognition, and attention span.
So I just checked out my Facebook movie, and over the past seven years, much of what I posted about had to do with my fitness/powerlifting life (including writing for fitness magazines), my love for kittens, and my creepy spider encounters.
I understand that a large chunk of girls are not fond of spiders and we all have some creepy spider stories to share, but I can say with certainty that I have WAY more spider encounters than most people seem to.
For many years now – probably at least five or six – spiders have actually affected the quality of my life. I would average at least two spider encounters each week, even in the winter time. But if it was summer time, I’d be running into the eight-legged creepy crawlies at least once every day.
But the weird part is that the spiders were always in the same spots.
They would always mystically appear in one specific corner of my room near my dresser. This corner of my room has the vent in the floor and my window so I thought they’d come from there… but even after keeping the vent shut and never opening my window and checking for cracks, they would still appear. No nests or anything, though. Weird.
Another spot they loved? My car. Countless times I’ve been driving and see a little thing crawling across the inside of my windshield. Cue me pulling over suddenly, cars honking, so I can kill it.
Spiders would also seem to “wait” for me when I’d get home in the night time. They’d be on my front door just about every time I came home at the end of the day, forcing my to use my foot to open the door, kick it open, LEAP inside the house and slam the door shut. There were usually two or three spiders on the door. But one awful night, I was just overwhelmed by the number of spiders on my front door. I STOPPED counting them all when I reached twelve or thirteen and I called my dad from outside so he could help me get in.
And the last spot they’d love to “wait” for me was on the wall area above the doorframe on the outside of my room.
I’d have to get creative in killing them – usually my dad or my brother would get ‘em, but if they weren’t home, then I’d use other tactics.
Spraying them with febreeze (usually takes a while before they start suffocating).
Smacking them with a long stick, like a back scratcher.
Splashing water on them until they drown.
But even if I wasn’t home, they seemed to follow me.
They were around at other people’s homes when I was there. They crawled around on sidewalks when I’d go for walks, usually forcing me to walk on the roads instead (seriously, you can even ask my boyfriend at the time – he’d get mad at me for walking on the road until I’d point out the spiders that popped up on the sidewalk every ten steps). In my ex-boyfriend’s basement, I moved a box, and a BUNCH of baby spiders sprawled out all over the wall. There was a nest of them behind that box!!! GROSS!
I could go on and on with stories, but you get the point.
But because spiders had such a powerful role in my life, I decided to research what this could all mean (like spirit animals, or totem animals).
Here is what one source says:
“The spider is a remarkable figure of feminine energy and creativity in the spirit animal kingdom. Spiders are characterized by the skilled weaving of intricate webs and patience in awaiting their prey. By affinity with the spider spirit animal, you may have qualities of high receptivity and creativity. Having the spider as a power animal or totem helps you tune into life’s ebbs and flows and ingeniously weave every step of your destiny.”
Another very interesting point about spiders:
“We can derive more Spider symbol meaning when we consider certain subtle characteristics that represent ancient symbols of infinity. The infinity symbol meanings occur when we consider most Spiders have eight eyes and all have eight legs. The number eight is also a symbol of infinity or lemniscate (an eight turned on its side). Also, the vibrational frequency indicates the meaning of number eight involves cycles, passage of time, and evolution.”
But what rings truest for myself…
“The Spider is the guardian of the ancient languages and alphabets. Every society has had myths about how the different languages and alphabets were formed. One example is the Ogham. The Ogham can be found in the web of a Spider. This is why the Spider is considered the teacher of language and the magic of writing. Those who weave magic with the written word probably have a Spider as a guide.”
That above point is very relevant to my life. I went to school for Print Journalism – I’m a blogger, a health and fitness writer, I have written tons of poetry since I was about eight years old, and… well… my life revolves around writing!
“Spiders are also found to be connected to Halloween or Samhain. This is because Spiders are related to death because of the venom they carry. This venom is of course also used as basis for the antidote, connecting the Spider both to death and rebirth and thus she stands for the completion of the circle.”
For the past few months, I have had significantly fewer spider encounters. When I went to volunteer on an organic farm in British Columbia this past November, I dealt with the worst of the worst spiders. Huge, disgusting, thick black spiders, including black widows (yes there are black widows in BC) were all around in the little cabin/shack I stayed in, and I had to kill them all because I was by myself. I had to get my sh*t together and just get rid of them. By the end of my week there, I was used to it.
But since I’ve been back, I haven’t killed any spiders – I’ve seen maybe two or three, but I’ve left them alone.
And now, they just aren’t around anymore. But I probably just jinxed myself so hard and will probably find a spider sometime soon (thanks to law of attraction) but I think they have been less and less frequent in my life because I don’t need their “guidance” as much, and because I don’t have such a strong aversion to them anymore. I’ve “learned my lesson” so they are no longer needed, perhaps.
In the past few months, consider the infrequent spider encounters, a lot in my life has changed. After my boyfriend of 4.5 years split up with me in September 2013, spiders have not been around nearly as often as when I was with him. That was the life cycle of our relationship coming to an end – birth, rebirth, death.
Also, my freelancing “career” took off during this time – my first legit paid article was published around fall/winter – just after that breakup.
And I’ve also dropped about 20 pounds between September and November 2013. It’s like my body is “letting go” of old hurts, old patterns and issues (sometimes it’s difficult to lose weight when you’re still “holding on” to difficult issues or old ways of thinking).
Finally, as I’ve posted on here before, I’m more in tune with my femininity. Powerlifting and fitness had sort of hardened me a bit, but on my journey to letting my feminine side shine more, I’ve decreased how often I lift heavy and get competitive, and spiders have decreased their visits in my life.
So, this post isn’t totally fitness related, but it’s just a peek into my personal life and that facebook movie got me thinking.
Do you ever have frequent animal or insect encounters that are just plain odd? Or what about recurring dreams featuring a specific creature? (I’ve always had wolf/coyote dreams since grade four, and more recently – the past three years or so – I’ve had recurring bear dreams). I’d suggest looking it up. It can give you great insight into your life and guide you along the right path. Here’s a great online dream dictionary. Random fact – I’m huge on dream analysis. Love it. What are your little-known quirks?
After almost two years of practicing just pull ups and dips, I did my first muscle-up three weeks ago. It was on olympic rings, it was strict form (no kipping) and it was pretty seamless because I had developed a lot of strength from just pull-ups and dips over time.
This morning I practiced muscle-ups again, just doing single reps. In about an hour, I did about ten muscle-ups, I think. I nearrrllly did two in a row but I was getting fatigued! Anyway, here’s the video – my bodyweight was 100lbs this morning as I am doing this fasted (on an empty belly).
When I first ventured into the intimidating world of deadlifts, macros, calories and Fitspo, I was about 17 or 18 years old and just gave up being a vegetarian for the past four years. My goal was just to look hot. I did squats because they would help reshape my body, and I ate foods based on how much they would help me to lose body fat. I never thought about doing squats to improve my posture, to get stronger, to strengthen my skeletal system so I won’t be a brittle old lady in the future. I never thought about eating broccoli to fight of excess estrogens and detoxify my body – I ate it because it was low-calorie and that’s what fitness models ate to look good.
I believed that having a fit, tight body would make me happier. I would be proud of what I saw in the mirror. People would like me more, my boyfriend would love me more, and maybe I’d even do better in school. I’d have a better career. I believed that changing my body would change my entire life. After all, the girls in those Tumblr and Twitter #fitspo pictures always looked happy. They wore nicer clothes, kissed hotter guys, had more friends, and had more fun. You’d never see a fit girl looking sad.
Over the next few years, after much trial and error, I’ve achieved the absolute epitome of what #fitspo is.
I have collar bones that pop. I have a thigh gap. I have visible abs at a low 9.5% body fat. I have back dimples. I don’t have a hip dip anymore, and my hip bones pop out a little bit. On top of that, unrelated to fitness, I let my hair grow nice and long so it reaches just above my 24 inch waist. If somebody were to take a picture of me, and add some cute Tumblr quote, I could be somebody’s #fitspo.
But here’s the thing…
My mindset shifted from “looking hot” to getting healthy and strong. Having an efficient body. So I lifted weights to get strong, not to have a bountiful booty. I ate my leafy greens to nourish my body, to detoxify it. I ate my protein to repair my muscles so they could work harder tomorrow. I went for runs to improve my circulation and breathe in fresh air. I took up yoga to grow my mind, not to get lithe.
It was the health benefits of training and nutrition that improved my life. Eating well makes you happier because nutrients affect your brain chemicals. Exercising and dopamine – I’m sure you know about how it makes you happier! And there is a major confidence booster from hitting new personal records in the gym. It’s also a blessing to be strong and healthy enough to do a myriad of physical tasks without hesitation.
Those are the improvements that a healthy lifestyle creates. And yes, loving the way you look is a major confidence booster, too, and the healthier you are the better you look.
However, even after I got abs and a thigh gap, I realized that external things in my life didn’t change too much.
My boyfriend didn’t magically love me more just because I looked better. Our relationship didn’t improve just because my collar bones popped out more. We still fought. I’d still get jealous of other girls.
Guys don’t hit on me anymore at 102bs than they did when I weighed 110lbs, or 118lbs, or 128lbs.
I still had fights with my parents, I still had trouble making money, and I still had to work just as hard as everybody else in my school program in order to graduate.
People don’t open the door for you more just because your hip bone juts out.
Having back dimples didn’t make it any easier when my 4.5 year relationship ended. Having abs doesn’t prevent family fall-outs. It doesn’t make your summer infinitely more fun – I worked for most of my summer days. Sure, clothes fit better, and I’ll admit I look good in oversized sweaters and leggings, but that doesn’t for one second mean I am loved more. It doesn’t make me any more deeply fulfilled in life.
My friends didn’t want to hang out more just because they could see a space between my legs.
But the biggest realization of all…
Your insecurities DON’T go away after achieving your ultimate body. (At least, not for me).
If you’re insecure now, you’ll still be insecure even after dropping 30lbs, because insecurity is an internal problem, not a physical one.
Because now that you don’t have jiggly thigh fat to worry about, you will just find something else.
Great, I have abs, but now I have literally no boobs.
I can deadlift 2.5x my bodyweight, but that other girl can deadlift three times her bodyweight.
My thighs are slimmer, but ohmygod, I have these weird red bumps on the backs of my thighs.
Why won’t this exercise fix how squinty my eyes look?!
Trust me, getting fitter and healthier does wonders to improve your life, but it doesn’t hold up to those #Fitspo promises you see in pictures. You think girls with thigh gaps and collar bones don’t experience family deaths, abusive relationships, breakups, losing their jobs, depression, eating disorders, jealousy, insecurity, sour friendships? No abs are strong enough to brace you for that.
It protects you against heart disease and obesity, but don’t believe those #Fitspo pictures. Abs can make you happier but they won’t make you perfect.
People don’t buy organic food because they are “too expensive” so perhaps a sugar tax will have the same deterring effect to keep people away from junk treats! (As if the negative health effects of refined sugars wasn’t enough of a deterrent!)
Researchers from Cornell and Stanford university used data from more than 123 million purchasing decisions by food and beverage shoppers to determine the effect of two tax options:
1) A nation-wide tax on individual nutrients in fattening foods, like sugar and fat itself (before it’s even added to the product)
2) Taxing the products that make us fat
The thing is, who gets to determine what gets taxed and what doesn’t? I’m sure many diet products wouldn’t get taxed, though they should (like low-fat diet bars or sugar-free treats… still full of artificial chemicals, flavours and preservatives). And if sugar and fat were to be taxed, would that include even natural, unrefined nutrients like coconut sugar or organic butter?
Before I continue nitpicking the potential flaws of this proposed tax, I already agree that the benefits would outweigh these petty flaws. Here’s what the report says:
“A 20 percent tax on a product category, such as candy, would raise the price of a $2 candy bar to $2.40 (plus sales tax, where applicable).
But tax-adverse consumers, desperate for their salt/sugar/fat fix, could easily switch from candy to another snack category not already taxed – or even invented, yet, by the processed food industry – like the hypothetical ‘SeaSaltCaramelDeep-friedPorkRinds.’
Unless, that is, the individual, unhealthy commodities are taxed at the supply side – before they get to the candy factory of the Heart-Stopping Snack Co. That way, researchers said, the price premium on unhealthy products would be unavoidable. They estimated that a 20 percent tax on sugar, for example, would reduce consumption – and calories – by about 18 percent.”
Aside from the obvious health benefits of such a tax, there would actually be economic benefits, as well. American taxpayers and health care consumers cough up more than $147 billion every year for obesity-related disease costs, and that cost would be substantially reduced if people just could just eat less junk food!
What are your thoughts on taxing junk food? What are some potential downfalls to this idea? Do you think this will motivate people to buy junk less often, or do you think sugar fiends will find ways around this tax?
If you’re a fan of hitting the sauna to help you sweat out some weight, you might be doing yourself a favour if you expose yourself to colder temperatures, too.
According to researchers writing for Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism, cold exposure weight loss is a very real phenomenon! Sure, saunas help you to sweat out water weight immediately, but letting your body warm itself up burns actual body fat. The study states:
“…heat-generating, calorie-burning brown fat isn’t just for babies. Adults have it too and some more than others. Marken Lichtenbelt says they now have evidence to suggest that a more variable indoor temperature – one that is allowed to drift along with temperatures outside – might be beneficial, although long-term effects still await further investigation. A research group from Japan found a decrease in body fat after people spent 2 hours per day at 17 degrees Celsius (62.6 degrees F) for six weeks.”
This is what happens when you let your body adjust its own temperature to warm itself up, rather than cranking the thermostat to remain comfortable.
This is fairly old news, though. Researchers have been on this topic for many years now, and if I remember correctly, Tim Ferris proved quite a while ago (in his famous book The 4 Hour Body) that taking cold showers/ice baths burns stubborn fat.
You don’t have to go jogging through Alaska just to shed a couple of pounds, though.
Instead, here are some ideas to induce cold exposure weight loss:
-Wear fewer layers
-Turn down the heat in your house just a wee bit
-Spend the last few minutes in your shower in cold water
-Park farther away in the winter time (more outdoor cold time)
-Go skating outdoors
And if you’re really brave, take an ice bath!
But depending on where you live, winter can get way too cold to stay outdoors for long. Here are 8 awesome indoor cardio ideas.