Category Archives: Mental Health

Taking care of your body from the inside. Mental health

Eating Clean in 2016!

eat clean picture

DEFINITION OF EATING CLEAN: Eating clean is a good way to refresh your eating habits: it’s about eating more of the best and healthiest options in each of the food groups—and eating less of the not-so-healthy ones. That means embracing whole foods like vegetables, fruits and whole grains, plus healthy proteins and fats.


eating clean

The older I get the more I feel an enormous connection between what I put into my body and how my mind and body feel as a result.  I used to be able to skip breakfast, eat a burger and fries for lunch and then wolf down some ramen noodles or a Subway sandwich for dinner (basically my College diet) without noticeably feeling horrible.  But all that has changed now that I’m approaching my late 30’s.

I now feel the need to eliminate fast-food, processed crap and refined sugars from my diet as much as possible, in order to feel energized and healthy.  Eating processed/fast-food literally makes me feel tired and sluggish and even moody.  Don’t get me wrong.  I LOVE a good greasy burger, a bag of potato chips, chocolate ANYTHING and even the occasional poutine, but these foods are now eaten more rarely as a treat as opposed to being part of my regular diet.

I didn’t start out eliminating processed food from my diet in order to feel better.  I started to decrease my ‘crap food’ intake because I wanted to lose weight.  But the more I substituted processed foods for healthy ‘natural’ ones the more I realized there were SO many other reasons to eat well besides weight loss (although that is a great reason).  Basically, eating well makes me MUCH healthier, happier and more energized.  I also look better when I’m eating well.  I notice a significant difference in the appearance of my skin, my hair and even my nails.

Another important reason I’m trying to embrace eating healthier, more natural foods is because of my kids.  I want to ‘live what I preach’ and set a good example.  I have found that they are generally willing to try almost anything I’m eating and they usually really LIKE what I introduce.  I have them eating chia, flax and sunflower seeds, all kinds of nuts and a wide variety of beans/lentils along with a wide variety of fresh fruits,vegetables and fish.  I honestly thought it would be more of a battle than it has been but they’re really embracing the healthier foods and it makes me feel much better about our weekly pizza night, the occasional hot dog from Costco, or their nightly dessert (:

So now when I, or my kids, are feeling lethargic or snackish, instead of reaching for a sugary, fatty snack, I/we reach for a handful of nuts and dried berries or throw some seeds and fruit onto yogurt and we’re good to go!

My 4 year old adding chia and flax to his morning yogurt (:

My 4 year old adding chia and flax to his morning yogurt (:


 

I almost ALWAYS eat a ‘clean’ nutritional breakfast within an hour of waking up.  This sets the tone for the entire day and makes me feel GREAT.  (My go-to breakfast is quick-cook oatmeal with 1/2 a cup of frozen blueberries, 1/4 tsp of cinnamon, 1 tsp of flaxseeds and 1 tsp of chia seeds.  It’s the PERFECT breakfast to keep me full and energized for the entire morning and amazing for a pre-workout meal or snack).

My go-to pre-workout breakfast!

My go-to pre-workout breakfast!


 

Below I’ve found some GREAT links to really interesting articles that are related to eating clean:

  • I watched an episode of The Nature of Things on the link between micro-organisms in the body and obesity and it blew my mind.  It was one of the most interesting and thought-provoking shows about the how our body processes food that I’ve seen in a long time.  It’s a MUST WATCH if you’re struggling with your weight or just want to be educated on how our bodies process food!  I HIGHLY recommend it!

http://www.cbc.ca/natureofthings/episodes/it-takes-guts

  • This is a GREAT (and short) article I read in Bon Appetit on how to be a healthy, political savvy, environmentally friendly eater (:

http://www.bonappetit.com/entertaining-style/trends-news/article/environmentally-friendly-food-sam-kass

  • In the winter particularly, it can be difficult to stay happy and energized.  Below is a great read about foods that actually help to make you feel happy!!

http://greatist.com/happiness/nutrients-boost-mood


 

  • Lastly, I’ve included links to some of my favourite ‘clean’ recipes!  Here’s to a healthy, happy, AMAZING 2016 and many more to follow!!

CABBAGE SOUP

http://www.frugalfreshfood.com/cleansing-ground-turkey-cabbage-and-caraway-soup/

BROCCOLI SALAD

http://www.frugalfreshfood.com/broccoli-and-lemon-salad-with-feta/

MINESTRONE SOUP

http://www.frugalfreshfood.com/hearty-organic-garden-minestrone-soup/

FARRO AND VEGETABLE PILAF

http://www.frugalfreshfood.com/vegetable-farro-pilaf-with-fresh-mint-and-parsley/

BEET SALAD

http://www.frugalfreshfood.com/beet-orange-salad-walnuts-goats-cheese/

OVEN ROASTED VEGETABLES

http://www.frugalfreshfood.com/oven-roasted-vegetables-herbs-parmesan-served-vegetarian-favourite-meat/

eating clean 2016

 

 

 

 

Motivation Monday – the health benefits of nuts

thumbs_Almond-Heart

My last few ‘Motivation Monday‘ posts have been related to physical fitness.  However, finding the motivation to eat right can be just as challenging as finding the motivation to exercise.  You  can’t achieve a healthy, balanced lifestyle without incorporating both physical activity AND healthy eating habits into your daily/weekly routine.  Diet is just as important, if not more so, than exercise when it comes to staying mentally and physically healthy.

Lately I’ve been trying to incorporate a lot more ‘raw foods’ into my diet.  Nuts and seeds in particular.  I have increased the amount of nuts I’m eating over the last month or so and the results have been amazing.  Not only are they a quick and easy way to get tonnes of stuff into my body that’s good for me, they also keep me feeling full throughout the day so I’m much less likely to reach for that cheese bun or bag of chips at 3pm.  I find that if I snack on a few nuts before working out I’m performing better overall.  I am also finding that if I snack on a few in the afternoon I eat smaller portions of dinner and am less fatigued into the evening.

Why should you eat nuts?…

A golf ball-sized portion (about 30g) of unsalted nuts makes a vitality-boosting snack and, unlike most other options, contributes a mix of valuable vitamins and minerals. All nuts have different nutrition credentials and will offer various health benefits.

Nuts are underrated as nutritious snacks — particularly raw tree nuts, such as almonds, cashews and walnuts, which have been linked to lower cholesterol, better heart health, weight control, and even a lower cancer risk.

Unfortunately, too few North-Americans eat nuts regularly: They account for less than eight percent of daily antioxidant intake.  That may be because people are afraid of the fat and calories in nuts, but they shouldn’t be!   A small handful can pack your diet with filling protein, fiber, unsaturated fats, and important vitamins and minerals.

Below are some of my favourite nuts and the health benefits they provide.  Hopefully this will motivate you to incorporate more into your diet!

ALMONDS

Almonds are a great choice to ensure you’re getting enough calcium. Almonds are also high in vitamin E, a nutrient which helps to improve the condition and appearance of your skin. For some extra heart help, swap flaked almonds for the whole nut – with the skin intact – because the almond’s skin is full of heart-protecting compounds called flavonoids.

CASHEWS

Because they contribute a good level of protein and are a useful source of minerals like iron and zinc, cashews make an excellent choice, especially if you’re following a vegetarian diet. They’re also rich in the mineral magnesium, which is thought to improve recall and delay, age-related memory loss.

PECANS

Heart-friendly pecans are packed with plant sterols, valuable compounds that are effective at lowering cholesterol levels. Pecans are also antioxidant-rich which helps prevent the plaque formation that causes hardening of the arteries. They’re rich in oleic acid, the healthy fat found in olives and avocado. As a good source of vitamin B3 pecans are the perfect option if you’re fighting fatigue because this vitamin helps us access the energy in our food.

WALNUTS

Their superior antioxidant content means walnuts are useful in the fight against cancer. They’re also a good source of mono-unsaturated, heart-friendly fats, and studies show they help to lower the bad form of cholesterol (LDL). Finally, they’re rich in omega-3, so they’re a great alternative if you don’t eat oily fish.

PEANUTS

Peanut kernels are good source of dietary protein; compose fine quality amino acids that are essential for growth and development.

Research studies have shown that peanuts contain high concentrations of poly-phenolic antioxidants, primarily p-coumaric acid. This compound has been thought to reduce the risk of stomach cancer by limiting formation of carcinogenic nitrosamines in the stomach.

Peanuts are an excellent source of resveratrol, another polyphenolic antioxidant. Resveratrol has been found to have protective function against cancers, heart disease, degenerative nerve disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and viral/fungal infections.

The kernels are an excellent source of vitamin E. The nuts are packed with many important B-complex groups of vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6, and folates. 100 g of peanuts provide about 85% of RDI of niacin, which contribute to brain health and blood flow to brain.

The nuts are rich source of minerals like copper, manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and selenium.

Just a handful of peanuts per day provides enough recommended levels of phenolic anti-oxidants, minerals, vitamins, and protein.

Motivation Monday! – Reasons to Exercise

me getting my sweat on at the park!

me getting my ’30 minutes in’ at the park!

Welcome to Motivation Monday!

Finding the motivation to exercise can be REALLY tough.  Everyone is so busy and tired these days.  With everything going on in our day-to-day lives, finding the time to squeeze in physical fitness often takes a back burner to just about anything else – but it shouldn’t.

Many people think about exercising as a method to lose weight and it absolutely is.  But there are SO many more extremely important reasons to stay fit and healthy other than to improve physical appearance.  So even if you’re not over weight, EVERYONE should be making exercise a priority in order to live their best and healthiest life, now and in the future.

Exercise can literally be life changing.  Below I have provided links focusing on some of the best reasons to stay fit!  If you’re not already getting enough exercise, I hope the below information can nudge you in the right direction!  If you are already exercising, this information will hopefully give you all the motivation you need to keep going!

In case you were wondering how much exercise is enough, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that adults “engage in moderate-intensity physical activity for at least 30 minutes on five or more days of the week,” or “engage in vigorous-intensity physical activity for at least 20 minutes on three or more days of the week”.

GREAT REASONS TO EXERCISE!

#1 – Exercising has been proven to reduce your chances of getting many types of cancer including BREAST CANCER.

http://www.livescience.com/35164-exercise-reduces-risk-some-cancer.html

http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/obesity/physical-activity-fact-sheet

#2 – I LOVE this link!  The 10 reasons to exercise, besides losing weight, listed in this link are more than enough to motivate me to exercise regularly!!

http://lifehacker.com/top-10-reasons-to-exercise-regularly-besides-losing-we-1473616982

http://greatist.com/grow/reasons-exercise-and-eat-right

#3 – Exercise can be used as an ‘anti-depressant’!.  I find this fascinating and this is by far THE #1 reason that I exercise!  Depression affects nearly 19 million adults each year.  To avoid being one of them, I exercise regularly.  I’ve been off antidepressants now for 7 years and counting (:

http://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/exercise-and-depression-report-excerpt

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/brain-bootcamp/201009/can-exercise-cure-depression

#4 – Lastly, the below link gives the top 6 EXCUSES people give for not exercising and how we you can move past them!  NO MORE EXCUSES!!!

http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/guide/the-top-6-exercise-excuses-and-how-to-beat-them

How to Get/Stay Motivated!?

What works best for me is consistent routine.  I take spin classes, cardio step classes, sculpting/weight training classes and I play squash once a week.  I do the same things at the same times every week at my local recreation centre.   The classes are all included in the membership!  Now my body and brain are used to it and I’m MUCH less likely to talk myself out of something that I’m already mentally committed to.

Pick the days and times you want to exercise and mark them down for the week.  GET A ROUTINE GOING.  If possible, take classes you really enjoy every week at your local gym/recreation centre.  Signing up for a class motivates you to ‘keep your appointment’ and allows someone else to do the mental motivation for you.  All you have to do is show up and do what the instructor tells you!  It’s the ONLY way I manage to stay consistent.

Another great motivator is having support from friends.  If possible, recruit a friend or family member to exercise with you!   I have a really good like-minded friend who takes almost all the same classes as me.  I look forward to seeing her each day/week.  We also keep each other accountable and support one another in our fitness goals.  It makes it a lot easier to get to the gym 4 days a week!  A good support system is hugely motivating!

The most important thing is finding something you enjoy or you won’t be motivated to keep going.  Lastly, don’t set your expectations too high and don’t exercise just for the purpose of weight loss.  Remind yourself it’s for SO MANY other reasons and ANY amount of exercise is better than none at all.  Just START SOMEWHERE and work from there.  Set small, achievable goals so you won’t get discouraged and give up.  EVERY.  STEP.  COUNTS!

Have a wonderful, healthy, happy week and keep moving!

The Roller Coaster of Our Minds (dealing with depression & anxiety)

the red tree of fall

Up until 2 days ago I’d been having a rough month, mentally speaking.  It felt like it came out of nowhere.  One day I was feeling optimistic and happy and the next I woke up feeling ‘off’.  I felt tired and weepy and just didn’t want to accomplish anything.  All the normal day-to-day things I usually enjoy seemed like a huge burden (exercising, cooking, picking the kids up from school…).  I wondered if I was getting sick and maybe that was why I felt sad and anxious and annoyed at everything.  I wasn’t getting sick.  Not physically anyway.

After nearly four weeks I was still feeling the same way and I was beginning to get scared.  I woke up every day hoping I’d feel excited and renewed, but it didn’t happen. I wanted to sleep more than I should have. I bounced around from being insatiably hungry to having no appetite at all. I felt bored even though there was plenty to do. I felt sad and temperamental even though nothing specific had triggered those emotions. I wanted to do anything to change my state of mind. I wanted desperately to escape my own head.

I cried, for no reason, up to five times a day sometimes.  I was beginning to be concerned that perhaps I was falling into a state of inexplicable depression.  (sadly, my mind doesn’t need a ‘reason’ to turn on itself.  Sometimes it just happens).

I used to be on antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication.  I only stopped when I became pregnant almost 7 years ago at my doctor’s recommendation (they don’t know the long-term effects of these medications on the fetus).  Since that time I’ve had short periods of sadness (as does everyone) and I’m an anxious person over all, but it’s never gotten to the point of being labelled a full-blown depression.  Nothing that requires a return to medication – in my opinion anyway.  I was hoping beyond all hope that a life filled with the love of family and friends, proper nutrition, positive mantras and regular exercise would be enough to keep me sane and positive.  I hoped that if I did ‘all the right things’ and practiced ‘all the right mantras’ moving forward that I could go through life being generally optimistic and satisfied, for the most part.  Unfortunately, that hopeful attitude feels more like wishful thinking.

There are some things in life that you just have to accept for what they are.  I have to accept the fact that I’m always going to struggle to stay mentally on track and feel ‘normal’.  Mental illness runs rampant in my family.  My grandfather and uncle both committed suicide.  My father was bi-polar before he died of alcohol poisoning when I was in my early 20’s.  My mother has suffered from severe depression for most of her life, as did her father.  My brother is bi-polar.  One of my sisters is on medication for depression and my other sister has been depressed for decades and is suffering from severe alcoholism.  You could say the odds are stacked against me.  As my husband has so sympathetically put it, ‘It’s amazing you’re not more f****ed up than you are!”.  Thanks love.  Very comforting.

There are very effective medications that can do wonders for improving mental health.  But that would be my ‘last resort’.  When I was on various medications (prozac, zoloft, etc) I always had a feeling like I wasn’t a ‘true’ version of myself, if that makes any sense.  Yes, I stopped feeling those extremely low feelings, but the cost was that I never experienced that amazing over-the-top excited or overjoyed feeling either.  I just sort of hovered in the middle of the ‘feelings spectrum’.  I didn’t like it.  What had effectively removed the worst part of my mind had also taken away the best part.  I’m a little manic at times.  I’m OCD in what I want/need to accomplish on a day-to-day basis.  Medication took that away from me.  My mind didn’t feel so scattered, but without the voice in my head telling me what to do, I became complacent with everything.  I lost a lot of my drive.  My ambition.  Myself.

Having said all that, if I ever start feeling as depressed as I have in the past, I would choose medication again in a heartbeat because the alternative is that awful.  The sadness and fear from depression and anxiety cripples you to the point where you feel like you can barely move or even breath.  It is the most horrible, lonely, debilitating hell that you can’t escape from.  So ya, I’d choose medication and ‘losing myself’ a little to avoid that feeling again.  But as I said, it’s a ‘last resort’ and I’m far from that point right now (I’m so incredibly thankful for that).

In the past I’ve dealt with depression and anxiety in the worst way.  Just trying to numb the pain with self-destructive behavior.  Drugs and alcohol.  Retreating inwards and isolating myself from others.  I know now from so much experience that, obviously, internalizing and avoiding dealing with sadness is only a band-aid solution and only makes things MUCH worse in the long-term.  So over the last few weeks I’ve tried to do everything ‘right’ to change my mental state around.  I’ve gotten plenty of sleep.  I’ve limited my alcohol intake (that’s been a REALLY tough one because when I feel like sh** all I want to do is numb the negative thoughts and sadness).  I’ve exercised a lot even though it’s been HELL pushing myself to do it.  I’ve been eating lots of fruits and vegetables and been avoiding processed food even though all I’ve wanted to do is eat bags of Oreo cookies and mountains of pasta.  I’ve even forced myself to engage with people and be socially active even though I constantly feel like curling up alone in a dark room with a BOX of wine and doing nothing but zoning out to crime dramas (THAT would be doing everything WRONG!).

After what seemed like an eternity of self-inflicted crappy days that dragged on endlessly the most wonderful thing happened two days ago.  I woke up and I didn’t feel like I was a thousand pounds of concrete trying to drag myself weepily out of bed.  I had only slept 7 hours instead of my now usual 9 or 10.  For the first time in weeks, I wasn’t tired.  I was looking forward to my morning coffee.  I actually wanted to get out of bed.  The thought was so exciting to me that I could barely contain myself.  I felt hopeful.  I felt SO incredibly grateful.  I felt like I’d been given a new beginning.  A new chance at happiness.  It literally felt like that feeling when you’ve had a terrible flu for 3 days straight and then you wake up and it’s over and you just appreciate everything SO much more.  Your body works.  You have an appetite.  You can get out of bed and go for a walk and breathe fresh air.  That’s how I felt.  Suddenly I wanted to catch up on all the things that had felt like terrible burdens just the day before.  I wanted to start writing again (I could barely bring myself to go near a computer for weeks).  I wanted to cook EVERYTHING (no more Kraft dinner, frozen pizza and instant rice!).  I wanted to exercise.  I wanted to make plans. I wanted to see friends.  I wanted to LIVE again.  My mind shouted ‘I’m back baby!’  The thought was so overwhelmingly joyful that I began sobbing with relief.  I wanted to shout back ‘Thank gawd!  Don’t leave me like that again!  I missed you so much and I was so scared you weren’t coming back!’

The ONE good thing that comes out of these bouts of depression, however short or long they may be, is that it makes me realize how precious and delicate our minds are.  Every single thing we choose to do, or not do, is because our mind has driven us to do it.  The mind can be our best ally in life or our worst enemy.  Taking care of it and nurturing it is imperative to a happy existence.  I try to do this in many ways.  Proper nutrition and physical health are HUGE factors in the well-being of my overall mental state.  It’s constant work but it’s worth it.  The alternative is unthinkable to me.  I know what I’m like when I don’t take care of myself and it’s not the person I want to be.

Because of my ongoing struggle with a mental disorder I find that I’m much less judgmental and much more sympathetic to others and whatever issues they’re going through. People get so caught up in their own heads that sometimes it’s hard to relate to others and realize that everyone is just doing the best they can with the brain they’ve been given.  When my brain isn’t working the way I want it to, I understand how hard it must be for others too.  I completely understand and relate to people who just can’t seem to get their lives where they want them to be.  I understand that some people have an uncontrollable urge to overeat, drink too much or do drugs.  I get that exercise is just too daunting for some people to bear.  I’ve had those days.  Some people never have any other kind of day.  We all have to live with the minds we were given.  Some have a much rougher road than others. How do you eat well when your brain is constantly telling you it wants sugar and fat?  How do you stay productive when all your brain wants to do is rest?  How do you manage to exercise when your brain is telling you it just DOESN’T want to do it?  It’s next to impossible to find the inner strength to work against your own constant thoughts telling you to do something else.  But don’t give up.  Keeping trying.

I exercise and eat well because I’m wired that way and I’m terrified of what will happen if I don’t.  I have some OCD and vanity/self-esteem issues so my brain tells me to get my ass to the gym and shove another hard-boiled egg into my mouth instead of bacon.  But my brain also has all kinds of terrible, self-destructive, negative thoughts that I constantly have to battle against.  Some days I lose the battle.  Other days I win.  The war never ends.  My brain, like everyone else’s, can be my best friend or my worst enemy.  The scary thing is, I’m never sure what I’m going to wake up to.

We all struggle.  Although we are all different, we are all in this together.  Just do the best you can and take baby steps to improve yourself.  Don’t hate yourself when you fail.  Everyone experiences failure.  Just get back up and try again.  Some days will be better than others because we are not wired to be happy or content all the time.  It’s just not reality.  So take life one day at a time and embrace your happy moments; realize when you’re having them.  They are our greatest gift and when things get bad, know that it will pass.  These times are needed so that we can truly appreciate the good times.  Without the good and bad, everything would just be ‘blah’.

On the roller coaster of life we will all experience a lot of terrifying lows and exhilarating highs.  Don’t close your eyes and clench the bar waiting for it to end.  Just put your hands up in the air, feel the wind on your face and try to smile before the ride is over.

Slow down and live in the moment – before the moment is gone

hourglass

I’m an admitted control freak.  I like to be in control of everything including everyone around me.  I make lists for lists and plan everything way in advance to ensure everything goes exactly my way.  Being in control helps me cope with obsessive compulsive tendencies and anxiety.  But the problem with trying desperately to be in control of everything is that when something or someone veers from my idea of how things are ‘supposed to be’, it sends me into anxiety overdrive and I become antsy, irritable, sad and even angry.  I HATE not having control.  But I’m realizing that in order to enjoy life more, I’m just going to have to learn to give some of it up and stop trying to control the uncontrollable.

Recently, I stepped back and began to see things differently (like most people, I’m always striving to become a better, happier and more enlightened person as I go through life).  I began to see how much I was trying, in vain, to control everything and make everyone, including myself, ‘perfect’ much to the frustration of myself and my family.   It was MY ‘idea’ of perfect.  Not anyone else’s.  All it was doing was giving me more anxiety and making me feel helpless because I was trying to achieve the unachievable.  NO ONE is perfect.  There is no such thing.  I wasn’t being a fun and enjoyable mother or partner.  I wasn’t giving my kids (or my husband) what they needed most – my full attention and happiness.

Every day my husband comes to kiss me goodbye before he leaves for work.  I’m almost always busy doing something.  I don’t bother to even look up most of the time.  Then a while back I did look up and I saw a sad look on his face.  I thought about it for a minute and suddenly I wanted to run up to him and wrap my arms around his neck and kiss him hard and tell him I love him.  I ran down the stairs and opened the front door.  It was too late.  He was gone.  I felt tears well up in my eyes.  What had I been doing?  Was whatever I was busy with every day (laundry, cooking, dishes…) too important to pause for ONE MINUTE to give a genuine good-bye and show my appreciation, admiration and love for my partner?  What if that was the last time I ever saw him?    So I’m going to try and do better moving forward.  Now I stop whatever it is I’m doing to let him know I not only want those hugs and kisses before he leaves me, I need them.  I long for them.  They make me feel loved and nurtured and safe.  I want him to know that and I want him to feel the same way, so I look him in the eye now.  I tell him I love him.  It only takes a moment but it means everything – to both of us.

Every night I make dinner and then call the kids to the table to eat (my husband leaves for work at 4pm Tuesday – Saturday).  I’ve always felt a compulsion to finish all the dishes before I sit down so that I don’t have to ‘worry’ about doing them after dinner.  The kids always ask me to come eat with them and I always say I’ll be there as soon as I’m done.  But by the time I finish up they’re half way through dinner and mine is cold.  I was literally doing this up until a few days ago.  Then the other day I overheard a conversation my boys were having at the dinner table.  I was missing it.  I wasn’t there for them.  I realized I was being completely ridiculous and selfish.  I was missing part of one of my absolute favourite things in the world EVERY night – dinner with my children.  The damn dishes could wait.  Now I’m trying something different.  I still try to tidy things as I go along to minimize my anxiety about the clean up after dinner, but I sit down WITH them.  I push all the thoughts about the stuff I have to get done away from my mind.  I take my time and eat my meal while it’s still warm and we talk about our day and our dreams and our life.  Every night. I can see a noticeable and amazing change in both the boys when I’m at the table with them and we have our best conversations there.  It’s our special time together and I’ll never take it for granted again.

I just want to give them my best self before they no longer want to talk to me for hours on end and cuddle me at night and kiss me and hug me 20 times a day.  Before they’d rather be somewhere (anywhere!) else than snuggled in with me for movie night.  Before they don’t want me to help them get dressed and brush their teeth and tuck them in to bed.  Before I never get to watch them play at a park or ride their tiny bikes again.

I was walking my 6 year old son to school the other day and he asked when it would be okay for him to walk alone.  It was an innocent question asked as he watched other kids walking to school without their parents.  I nearly burst into tears right then and there.  He’s slipping away, I thought.  Each day he needs me a little less.  Suddenly I felt the urge to grab his hand in mine and hold it tight; and never let go.  But that’s the thing with life.  Eventually you have to let everything go.  So hold on to every precious moment for as long as you can.  Don’t rush them.

Some days I look at my kids and for a brief moment I imagine my life with them all grown up and gone and my heart nearly explodes and I find it hard to breath.  The thought is unbearable so I quickly push it away.  But in those brief moments I realize how amazing they are and how lucky I am and how I never want to take a single minute of it for granted even though I do.  I take so many of those moments for granted.  I wonder how and why I get so angry about the dumbest things.  I wonder why I’m always in a rush to get everything done when there’s always going to be something else to get done anyway.  I wonder why I always nag at them to hurry through dinner or pull away first when they hug me because we’re running late.  (Is there such a thing as a hug from a child that lasts too long?)  I need to STOP.  Just stop trying to make everything be neat and perfect.  Stop rushing through the best part of my life until it’s a complete blur.  Stop trying to control these wonderful, amazing perfect little things to a fault.  Stop trying to turn them into ME – because I truly don’t want that for them anyway.  The last thing I need is more of me around!  Haha.

I don’t want them to remember me with my frowning, disapproving face or stern voice.  I don’t want them to remember me rushing them out the door or threatening to withhold dessert if they don’t get something done the way I want it done.  I want them to remember me dancing and smiling and laughing.  I want them to remember my patience and empathy and compassion.  I want them to remember me hugging them and tucking them in and listening to them and loving them.  Loving them so much.  Because I do.  I do with all my heart.  I don’t ever want to lose sight of that.

Some day this messy, crazy, unpredictable, beautiful life will all be nothing but a memory so I want as many good memories as I can possibly cram into my head.  I’m no longer going to try to control everything and move through life at breakneck speed.  I’m going to take deep breaths when things don’t go my way and just go with the flow.  I’m going to embrace imperfection.  I’m going to try to worry less about things that are out of my control.  I’m not going to be angry or upset because things don’t go my way and my kids don’t want to do things exactly the way I would do it.  They’re their own people and their way is okay too.  (Same goes with my husband!).  I’m going to try to be nicer, calmer, gentler, happier and more optimistic.  I’m going to try.  I don’t want to reach my destination and realize I didn’t take the time to enjoy the journey.  I don’t want to live with regret.

Now if I could only figure out how to still my mind long enough to meditate for even a minute…. I’m going to work on that too.  Baby steps… Haha.

What I’m realizing after over 20 years of abusing alcohol

wine

Alcohol has always been a part of my life, for better or for worse.

My father was a terrible alcoholic.  I grew up being scared of him, feeling sorry for him, loving him and hating him all at the same time.  So you would think after seeing firsthand how alcohol can destroy a person and everything around them I would have avoided it like the plague.  Unfortunately, I did the opposite.

I started drinking when I was 14.  As a young girl I was already suffering from anxiety, insomnia,  mild OCD, depression and poor body image.  Drinking quickly become my coping mechanism.

I continued drinking heavily through College and straight into my late 20’s.  Working in the restaurant industry is one of the worst places for drug addiction and alcoholism.  It’s rampant.  I worked hard and played even harder, as did everyone around me.  No one ever called me out on it because everyone was in the same boat – a sinking boat.

At the time, I never really realized that alcohol actually exasperated my problems.  I always felt like it helped to alleviate them.  At least, that’s what I told myself.  Alcohol allowed me to suppress and avoid all my negative feelings and painful memories.  It also allowed me to be more social and outgoing without feeling as anxious.  But in doing so, I never actually dealt with anything, and so, I never worked through anything.  

At the age of 29, I accidentally got pregnant.  I had been with my boyfriend for 3 years and we agreed we really wanted the baby.  It was time to grow up anyway!  I somehow found the strength to temporarily stop drinking.  It was something I had always desperately wanted, but never had the strength to do, until I had a reason that was bigger and more important than myself.

Fast forward 7 years.  My life has done a 180, but unfortunately, I still live with all the same inner turmoil, due to the fact that I’ve never really dealt with any of it.   I’ve always just suppressed it.

I now live in the suburbs with my partner and 2 children.  I quit working in kitchens a few years ago to focus on being a mother.  (I wanted to be around for my kids while they’re still young).  I am hopelessly in love with my husband and am thankful every single day that I have him and my 2 wonderful boys.  I honestly don’t know where I’d be if I didn’t have them to remind me of why I need to keep my shit together.  They give me purpose and direction.  I have everything I could ever want.  I feel truly grateful and blessed every day.

But despite all that, happiness still doesn’t come easily for me. I have to work extremely hard in order to remain productive and positive as opposed to negative and self destructive.  I don’t know whether I am just hereditarily wired this way, whether it has to do with being a product of my environment growing up, or whether it has to do with 23 years of drug and alcohol abuse.  I suspect it’s a combination of all three.

I don’t consider myself a drunk but I know I drink more than I should.  I drink when I’m sad.  I drink when I’m happy.  I drink to celebrate.  I drink when I’m bored (and I’m VERY easily bored).  I drink to alleviate stress and social anxiety.  I drink to soften the sharp edges.  I drink to cope with life.  I drink to cope with myself.  I drink to avoid feeling anything too deeply for too long.  This has always been the way I’ve dealt with things.  

I am still struggling every day to be the kind of person I want to be, for myself and for my family.      Alcohol doesn’t feel like it’s alleviating anything anymore.  It just makes everything worse.  I’m getting too old for this shit.  Sure, I enjoy a glass or two of wine with dinner and have no plans to change that.  I just can’t party and drink like I’m used to doing and walk away unscathed anymore.  Now there are consequences and repercussions.   After a night of drinking (not a drink.  drinkING) I feel tired for days.  I don’t have any motivation to eat right or exercise.  I get sad and angry.  I get anxious.  I get lazy.  I just kinda suck.

I eat well and exercise on a very consistent basis.  I now crave this consistency and routine.  I NEED it. The main reason is because it truly makes me feel happy and proud of myself.  Exercise is my anti-depressant.  Food/cooking is my creative outlet and a way to avoid boredom.  It’s therapeutic and relaxing for me.

But I also monitor what I eat and exercise a lot because I’m always trying to overcompensate for my failure to control my drinking and emotional state.  I try to control everything else around me instead.   If I look a certain way and act a certain way, maybe I can ‘trick’ people into thinking I’m better than I feel like I am.  On the outside I look like I have it all figured out, but on the inside I’m usually hanging on by a thread and feeling like I’m a failure.

Life isn’t easy and I’m starting to realize it’s never going to be no matter how great everything appears to be.  Everything worth achieving in life takes work.  Happiness and fulfillment are no different.  For once, I’m not going to try and numb the difficult parts of myself with alcohol.  For once I’m going to learn to face my emotions head-on.  I’m TRYING.  I just have to keep trying.  Some days I’m going to fail miserably and that’s okay.  But some days I won’t.

So on that note, I’m going to attempt to not drink for an entire month beginning September 1st.  I’m freakin’ terrified and sad about it already.  Haha.  (Other than when I was pregnant, I haven’t achieved this feat since I was around 14 years old). I’m going to write a post each week describing the ups and downs and struggles I’m feeling in the hopes that there is strength in numbers and maybe I can connect with people and be a comforting and relatable voice to others who are also struggling with alcohol, and they in turn, can comfort me.

If I slip (and I very likely will)  I’ll just get back up, dust myself off and try again.  My goal is to learn to not use alcohol as a crutch.  As the saying goes, life isn’t about the destination, it’s about the journey.  I’m doing my best to make this journey count.  I really want that for myself.  I want to be happy.  I want to like myself. This seems like a good step in the right direction…

 

Want to stay motivated to eat right and exercise regularly? The key is to lower your expectations!

lunge bicep curl at park

I am, by nature, a very goal oriented person.  I like to set goals and achieve them.  It gives me a sense of accomplishment and pride.  There’s only one problem with the goals I have set in the past regarding my eating and exercise habits.  I would set goals that were extremely difficult to achieve.  Then I would struggle to achieve them, feel like a failure, and ultimately give up.  Once I’d given up, I would feel like an even bigger failure.  It was a vicious cycle that got me nowhere and only eroded my self-esteem even further.

Eating healthy and exercising consistently are not easy things to do.  Magazines and television make it look like everyone should have an amazing body and that you suck if can’t achieve that.  The reality for most of us is that it takes a lot of work, willpower and dedication just to have an average looking body; and the older you get, the harder it gets.  The older you get, the harder it is to break old habits and form new ones too.  Being healthy is all about consistency and habit-forming.  The hardest part BY FAR is starting.  But you need to start somewhere.  Anywhere.

I truly believe that your MINDSET is 99% of what it takes to look and feel your best.  If you don’t feel like eating right and exercising, eventually you’re going to stop doing it.  So the key is to get your mind in a place where it actually WANTS to do these things – not just see the results from doing them.

After I had my first child, I was shocked at how much my body had changed.  My hips literally felt wider.  My stomach was looser.  After I was done nursing, (which I did with both the kids for around 10 months each), my breasts were deflated and left smaller than before I got pregnant.  WTF?!  I always felt tired and I was always so busy and even the thought of the daunting challenge of getting my ‘old body back’  just made me want to get into my pyjamas and eat a bag of chips.  I wasn’t mentally ‘in the game’.  Until one day I was trying on clothes and feeling horrible about myself and I decided I was just going to start somewhere.  I needed and WANTED to make a lifestyle change.

This was a pivotal moment for me.  A ‘game changer’.  Because this time I was going to do things differently.  I was a mom now.  I had nothing to prove to anyone but myself.  No one expected me to look perfect, and honestly, no one cared.  So why should I?!  I didn’t want to look ‘perfect’ anymore (whatever that means).  I just wanted to feel good about myself.  This time I was going to take baby steps and make very small changes over time.  I wasn’t going to set ridiculously high expectations and goals that I couldn’t possibly achieve.  THIS time, I was going to set ridiculously LOW expectations and goals so that I couldn’t fail and hate on myself!  Eureka!

I started by setting short-term goals rather than long-term ones.  I wasn’t going to tell myself I needed to lose 10 pounds ‘by the end of the month’ or not eat chocolate for a week, because I had been down that road enough times to know it wasn’t going to happen.  Instead, I would set a goal to take a 10 minute walk and eat just one serving less of bread for the day.  The next day it would be 2 push ups and only half the dessert I usually eat, and so on.  These were attainable goals.  Because I was now mentally saying ‘this is so easy’ each day, I actually looked forward to my little challenges and felt good about myself when I accomplished them.   It really is the little things that add up to BIG changes over time.  Cutting out one piece of cheese or a handful of crackers a day might not seem to make any difference in a week, or even a month, but by cutting just 100 calories a day, you can potentially lose up to 10 pounds within a year.  Baby steps and consistency are key.

Once I had shown myself that I could stick with something, I started setting weekly goals such as doing some form of exercise for just 15 – 20 minutes 3 times a week and ensuring that I ate at least 2 servings of fruits and/or vegetables and only half my usual portion of carbohydrates each day…

It took some time, but eventually I began to see results.  I was feeling happier, more confident, and proud of myself.  This was the driving force to keep going.  Now I was in a consistent routine.  I just had to improve on it more and more over time; and as long as I wasn’t going backwards, I had all the time I needed.  It was a gradual climb – and still is.

I have now committed to taking classes at my local recreation centre (such as spinning, cardio/sculpting) an average of 3 – 4 times a week.  I can honestly say that I really ENJOY these classes.  I just have to show up (which is the hardest part!) and an instructor yells and tells me what to do for an hour while I listen to music.  I don’t have to think about it or motivate myself to keep going or work harder.  Someone else does it for me!  Thank gawd, because there are SO many days when I wouldn’t do it on my own!  (When my children were still in the baby and toddler stages, this was the best part of my day because it was time to myself and a huge stress reliever!  SIDE NOTE:  most local recreation centres offer one hour per day of FREE child minding with memberships!)

I now take these classes at the same time (early morning before by brain and body can talk me out of going!) and on the same days each week.  (I switch up the classes to keep my body guessing and working, but I take classes consistently).  It has become such an ingrained routine that I don’t even have to think about it/procrastinate anymore.  I just get up, get ready, and go.  I also weight train, but not nearly as much as people think.  I go to the gym 20 minutes before my classes start and do around 15 – 20 minutes of weights.  I believe that this has been crucial in changing my body and helping me to achieve my goal weight.  When you do cardio, you’re only burning calories and fat while you’re exercising; but when you do weight training, your body continues to burn fat and calories at an accelerated rate for the rest of the day.  You might lose weight with cardio alone, but you can actually change the way your body looks by incorporating weight/resistance training.  Another HUGE plus is that your muscles burn a lot more fuel than fat does so this means you can get away with eating more food and not gaining weight if you’re working on your muscles!  I feel that weight training is just as important, if not more important, than cardio.

By going to the gym and eating (mostly) healthy foods consistently, I set myself up to feel happy, energized, and motivated.  This alone is enough to keep me going.  As soon as I stop eating right (which I do around 80% of the time) and exercising regularly, I start to feel depressed, lethargic and unmotivated.  So I keep going.  It makes me a better person both physically, and more importantly, mentally.  A better wife, friend and mother; and seeing how my lifestyle choices are positively affecting my husband and children is my greatest reward.

The old saying is so true:  “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!”.  I am happy; and proud of myself; and everyone around me benefits from that.

Today is Yesterday’s Tomorrow (make good decisions today to feel better tomorrow)

Anyone who says they have ‘no regrets‘ obviously hasn’t skipped the gym, eaten greasy fast food for lunch, polished off a bottle of wine (by themselves) in the afternoon and then eaten a bag of cookies and a half litre of ice cream before passing out for the night.  Because when you wake up following a day like that, there IS going to be regret (or at least, there should be) – and probably a nasty hangover to go with it…

I had been feeling kinda bored and lethargic for a few days.  I’ve just been a bit depressed for no real reason.  I’ve lived long enough to know that I will come out on the other side of the bad days and be all the more grateful for the good ones.  I truly believe that we need that feeling of sadness sometimes so we can recognize and appreciate how truly wonderful it is to feel happy.  But by day four I was starting to not only feel sad, but angry, because I didn’t want to have that feeling of utter boredom with everything anymore.  Even the things that usually make me happy just weren’t appealing to me at all.

That’s when I did something stupid.  Instead of taking steps to feel better long term, I made things worse by taking the impulsive and easy way out.  I went for the ‘quick fix’.   Instead of going for a workout, making healthy food choices all day and then getting a good nights sleep to ensure I woke up feeling at least a little bit better the next day, I decided to be self destructive and self medicate.  That meant skipping the gym, emotional eating (I was craving all things fatty, sugary and carb heavy) and then numbing my boredom/sadness/anger with a bottle of wine.  In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with a nice glass of wine or two to ‘take the edge off’ once in a while (or a few times a week…) but drinking to get drunk just because you’re bored and/or feeling blue is definitely never a good plan.  Especially when you’re doing it by yourself.

As anyone could have guessed, when I woke up today, I did not feel any better.  Instead, I woke up at 4am with a dry mouth, a pounding headache and a sore stomach; and of course, the worst feeling of all of them, REGRET – and a bit of self loathing.  Now I REALLY didn’t feel like going to the gym (ever again) and I sure as hell didn’t feel like eating anything even remotely healthy with a hangover.  I wanted to eat a bagel, drink a litre of water and crawl back into bed.

The thing about mistakes is that you’re always going to be making them. You either keep making the same ones over and over again, or you learn from them, stop beating yourself up, and move on.  Now don’t get me wrong.  Even though I know I made a poor choice in judgement, I’m quite certain it’s one I will make many, many times again (will power has never been one of my better qualities).  Haha.

However, I won’t be making the same mistakes again today.  I am not about to have another day like yesterday because tomorrow I don’t want to wake up feeling like I do today.  So I’m getting my hungover ass up, I’m going to sweat off this wine at the gym (kill me now) and then I’m going home and eating a healthy lunch (despite wanting to eat 3 servings of pasta).  Not because it will make me feel great today (I’m dreading every minute of it) – but because, at the very least, I’ll wake up without regrets tomorrow; and that will be the start of a better day.

I’ve Got That Summer Time Sadness

I count my many blessings every day.  I am truly grateful and appreciative of everything and everyone in my life.  I’m alive.  I’m healthy.  Things could always be a LOT worse.   I’m generally very happy and fairly content.  But some days I just feel sad.  Then I feel guilty and angry about feeling sad because I can’t put a finger on WHY I’m sad and I really have no right to complain or feel sorry for myself.  After all, I know how lucky I am.  But sometimes knowing that doesn’t make me any happier.  I definately have WAY more ‘good days’ than ‘bad days’ but I tend to have more ‘bad days’ in the summer than any other season.

Summer is actually my least favourite season.  It always has been. Don’t get me wrong, there are things about summer that I love and look forward to every year.  Beach days, barbecued food, picking fresh vegetables and herbs from the garden, a drink on ANY patio with friends, time with my children… but there are also a lot of things I don’t like about summer.

I got up today with a feeling of sadness that I just couldn’t shake.  It was one of those mornings where I woke up about 2 hours before I actually wanted to get out of bed and then laid there until I didn’t want to get out of bed at all.  The more I thought about all the things I had to do, the more I started to dread doing them.  Honestly, to me, everything (besides anything that involves water) is more annoying when it’s HOT out.  I don’t do well in the heat.  haha.  I feel like I should have more energy in the summer, but I always have less.  (I FORCED myself to go to the gym to take a spin class, literally hoping that if I pedalled fast enough, I could regain some energy and get away from the nagging feeling of anxiety and weepiness.  Unfortunately, today it just didn’t work).  

I think I know why.  I have had different friends over for the past 3 afternoons/evenings, and of course, what’s a get together without eating too much and drinking on the patio?!   I do love spending time with friends and entertaining.  I just need to space it out a bit more these days.  I wish I still had the desire to socialize as much as I did in my 20’s, but the truth is, I don’t.  It just takes too much out of me both mentally and physically.  When I make too many commitments and don’t make the effort to get enough sleep and ‘alone time’ (not to mention when I’m over eating and drinking too much) I become moody and anxious.  (I know I sound old and boring and it’s not helping my mood at all… haha).

I’m a bit of an introverted person and also suffer from bouts of anxiety.  So during the summer when everyone’s routine, including mine, is out of whack, my anxiety is heightened.  Everyone always seems to want to jam SO many events into a few short months.  I’m in shock and awe of many of my friends who could literally count the days they don’t have something planned on one hand!  How do people do it?!  How do they enjoy it?!  I’m envious.  I have friends over or go to a party and need days to mentally get back on track and feel ‘normal’ again.   I really do need my down time and I just don’t feel like I get enough of it during the summer.  Part of that is my own fault, but most of the time it’s unavoidable.  The kids are always up late and the sun is shining at 5am practically yelling at me to ‘get out of bed and get moving!’.   I’m constantly running my kids around to a waterpark or to swim lessons or to birthday parties or SOMETHING (I know, we ALL are), and when I am at home, I feel guilty about not being out!  The sun is shining, it’s warm outside, I should be out doing MORE.  I should be showing my kids the best summer ever!  But I’m tired of constantly being on the go.  I just want to chill once in a while.  I want to eat dinner early and watch TV in the dark by myself – before 10pm.

When I tell people I’m just about ready for summer to be over, they look at me like I’m bat shit crazy and a total buzz kill.  They all seem to wish summer would never end (am I really the only person I know who gets tired of endless days and hot weather?!).  I’m happy for everyone still enjoying this season, but personally, I’m looking forward to the fall, when it’s cooler, darker and the kids and I are back into a less hectic, chaotic routine.  Now, off to swimming lessons and then the park at 7pm – because the sun is still shining and the kids are still full of energy.  Yippy!

My Love/Hate Relationship with Alcohol (:

It’s summer time and that means lots of barbecues, late nights on the patio, and hot days made easier with a cocktail or two!  I have been a drinker since I was 14 (I’m not proud of that, but it’s a fact).  Alcoholism runs in my family so I’ve witnessed first hand, many times, the damage that it can cause.  I drank far too much in College (but didn’t everyone?) and in my 20’s.  Especially when I worked in the hospitality industry (as a line cook).  Everyone was done their shift at around 12am – 1am and after 10 – 12 hour days working our asses off we would all go out and drink all night to let off steam.  This cycle went on for YEARS.  In fact, I didn’t slow down until I was pregnant (accidentally!) with my first child.  I’m proud to say that I did not drink at all during my pregnancies but I quickly started again when I was no longer carrying that load around (:

Lately I’ve been feeling tired a lot.  I eat very well most of the time, exercise regularly and get lots of sleep but I still feel lethargic and run down by mid afternoon.  I think I’ve been in denial a long time but I’m starting to think that alcohol is the main culprit.   NOOOOOOOO!

I will have a casual afternoon glass of wine most days while I’m doing food prep.  Then a glass with dinner and maybe one more after dinner to blur the edges while I’m stuck watching another kids movie.   My husband works nights (as a bartender at a hotel) and leaves around 3pm each day, returning long after I’m asleep, so I’m alone every night.  I’m also very easily bored and a few drinks makes me feel a little less ‘on edge’.  When I do go out (which isn’t very often), I drink far more than I should.  I’m 107 pounds and 5 feet tall so I can get a nice buzz from 2 or 3 drinks, but I have a bit of social anxiety and I just CAN’T seem to manage to slowly sip on a drink.  I end up drinking about 3/hour.  Although I am not a bad drunk and don’t seem drunk until I’ve really exceeded my limit, I always wake up feeling awful and wishing I had more self control.

I didn’t drink for 4 days in a row last week and by day 4 I was feeling weepy and overly emotional.  This seems like a clear sign that perhaps I do, in fact, have a problem.  SO, I’m going to try to cut WAY back.  Yesterday I was hung over (we’d been at a friends birthday party for 7 hours the night before and I lost count of how much I drank within the first 3 hours… ugh) so it was easy not to drink.  Today I’m feeling angry with myself (again) so it’s easy not to drink.  This mentality should carry on for a few days and then that little voice in my head will start to say ‘hey, one or two drinks won’t hurt you’.

I have a girls night on Sunday.  I’m going to TRY not to have even ONE drink until then (6 days from now).  And I’m going to set a 2 drink limit for Sunday.  Baby steps and fingers crossed….