Wednesday, June 4, 2014

So this is what I've been up to...

I've had some people ask me about my physical health routine, so I thought I would share what has been working for me. It's taken two years, but I've gone down six sizes and have lost, and have kept off, 50lbs. I have met and exceeded my original weight loss goal and am now focusing on improving my strength and endurance.

Hint: Dieting on its own doesn't work. Exercise on its own doesn't work. Everyone is different and sometimes you just have to work with what you've got, because genetics suck sometimes.

Food:
Take a good look at what you're eating. I thought my diet was ok until I met with a nutritionist. If your health plan covers it or if you can afford it, I highly recommend seeing a nutritionist or a naturopathic doctor who specializes in nutrition, even if just for one or two visits. The one I saw provided me with recipes, recommendations for supplements, exercise suggestions, and meal planning tips. (Tip: keep a food diary for a week – it's much easier to see where changes can be made if it's laid out right in front of you.)

I'm gluten-free due to having celiac's disease, so the first thing I eliminated from my diet was food made to be gluten-free: GF pizza, GF cookies, GF bread… it's full of carbs and sugars, and often lots of other weird stuff to make it taste good. And it's expensive. Gone.

I eat as clean as possible, following a high protein, low carb and low sugar diet. Being mostly vegetarian since a teenager, increasing my protein intake was difficult, but now I eat less because I stay fuller longer and don't get hungry in between meals. I stay away from packaged and prepared sauces and cook most of my food from scratch, relying on herbs and spices to add flavour. (Tip: Read the labels on spice blends – they tend to have a lot of added sugar and salt.)

Here are some typical food stuffs I eat:
Proteins: chicken, turkey, eggs, fish, tofu, almond milk, goat's milk yogurt and goat's milk cheeses, quinoa, protein powder and protein bars (see more on these below)
Beans and legumes (good for protein and fiber): chickpeas, lentils, black beans, soy beans, kidney beans
Fibre: ground flax seed in my smoothie
Lots of veggies – usually raw, steamed or sauteed
Snacks: crackers or raw veggies with hummus, apples with almond butter, almonds, yogurt with some maple syrup and cinnamon and nuts or dried fruit, dark chocolate as a treat

No: white rice, white potatoes, corn products

(Tip: Don't drink your sugars! I don't put fruit (other than half a banana and sometimes blueberries) or fruit juice in my smoothies, and I don't drink fruit juices. And stay away from those fruit on the bottom yogurts.)

Meal planning: Get organized and decide on what you're going to eat during the week. I do a lot of bulk cooking to ensure I have healthy lunches stored in the freezer, ready to go, to avoid having to eat out a lot. I also pre-cook batches of quinoa and chick peas (both of which can be frozen but will last in the fridge for about 5 days) to have on hand to make last-minute salads. I use a lot of ground chicken and sometimes turkey to make meat balls, patties, chili and stirfrys, and use chicken breasts for curries and stews (all of which can be frozen). You can even do this with someone, to reduce the effort or to increase the quantity and variety.

If you're planning on using a gym or having an active physical exercise routine of some sort, consider using a protein powder (whey protein isolate) and protein bars. I resisted using protein powder for a while, thinking that as long as I was eating well, I should haven't to dump a bunch of powder into my smoothie. Wrong. Because it takes me 45 minutes to get to my gym (I usually go in the early morning before work), I drink a protein smoothie before my workout and I eat a Lara bar afterwards. This has helped immensely with maintaining my appetite throughout the day.

If you have any allergies, food sensitivities or restrictions, please carefully read the ingredients for the protein powders and protein bars! There are so many to choose from and it can be overwhelming as to which one to use – some brands have sample packs you can try, or just ask around to see what other people use. I was using Vega Sport but recently switched to Diesel because it's a bit cheaper.

Treats and cheat meals: Don't deny yourself small rewards. I try to eat out only once a week, and allow myself a treat (chocolate, a fancy coffee) at most once a week. I have a sweet tooth and it's taken a lot of discipline but I now no longer get the kind of cravings I used to. Your body will soon learn not to miss sugar.

Exercise and physical activities:
If you're new to using a gym and if you can afford it, I highly recommend hiring a personal trainer for at least 6 months. They will create a plan based on your abilities and goals, and show you how to use the equipment and lift weights properly so you get the most benefit from your workout, and to reduce the risk of injury.

Try not to focus too much on the number on the scale. Measurements are a more accurate reflection of your progress. I do my own check-in once a month (weight and measurements) to see how I'm doing. On average, I've only been losing about 2 lbs a month but have gained a lot of muscle mass (being able to deadlift your own weight = pretty freaking awesome). If your primary goal is weight loss, you can lose more faster, but from what I've learned, gaining muscle mass helps keep the fat off longer, and you'll be more fit and healthy overall in the long run.

My typical week consists of 3-4 visits to the gym: 1-2 medium to high intensity cardio classes (usually Zumba and Step), yoga or pilates, and weights and low cardio. At a minimum, I think it would difficult see any positive changes without going at least twice a week. I'm at the point now where I really enjoy going to the gym so I don't see that time as a burden or a chore. But, I also don't have kids and can afford that kind of time.

I don't have a car, so I do a lot of walking. When the weather is nice I try to get out for walks and bike rides on the weekends. Over the winter I did indoor skating at my local arena. I always take the stairs, not escalators (one of my pet peeves on the TTC: able-bodied people who will wait in a crowd to go up an escalator. Walk. Up. The. Stairs. It's not so bad!). I walk eight flights of stairs to get to the lunch room I use at work.

(Tip: Combine your physical activities with social opportunities – take a yoga class with a friend, go for a walk with a co-worker at lunch, go for a bike ride with your partner.)

Tracking and Accountability: I started using a Fitbit fitness activity tracker about 6 months ago and I love it! For a while, I was also inputting all my food in the website but found it really cumbersome. If you are concerned about your portion sizes, eat out a lot, snack a lot, or are an emotional eater, it may be worthwhile being consistent with entering your food. I found that my caloric intake wasn't too bad, it was my lack of physical activity that needed to improve.

The benefits of an active lifestyle extend beyond physical improvements. I sleep better and my energy is maintained more throughout the day. Being able to run up a flight of stairs or run after the bus without running out of breath feels really good! I have muscles. My confidence and self-esteem has improved. And I'm working towards the prevention of the effects of aging, such as osteoporosis.

Monday, April 28, 2014

New gym

This past March I decided to change gyms, one that had more locations and variety of classes, and a lower membership price. I get bored easily with routine and need a way to stay motivated and challenged. At my old gym I worked with a trainer twice a week for about 6 months, which I found really beneficial, but not wallet friendly. 

As someone with anxiety, it's not easy for me to walk into someplace new and feel comfortable, but I'm trying to challenge this by going to different locations and taking different classes. Finding the gym, locating the change room and the class studio, adjusting to a new instructor or routine, figuring out where the showers are… can all be very stressful for me. There's also the challenge of getting organized at night to ensure I have everything I need for the day, including a healthy lunch and snacks, and getting up when the alarm goes off at 5:30am. I find that going in the morning is easier than after work – the TTC is far less crowded and I'm more likely to go, as sometimes things come up after work. I also find that my energy level is more consistent throughout the day and I sleep much better at night.

In the past 7 weeks, I have managed to visit 6 different locations and take a variety of classes (I love Zumba!). I'm really proud of myself for not letting the anxiety prevent me from doing the things I want to do. Going to the gym 3 times a week has become part of my routine and I'm really happy with how fit and healthy I feel.

Monday, April 21, 2014

New dress which took far too long to make!

I started this dress back in December, and just finished it. Sometimes I can finish a dress in a week-end, but with this winter being so long, dark and cold, I just wasn't feeling creative or motivated. It's a vintage pattern I found on Etsy, from an Australian and New Zealand company called Style.

I had a few problems with making this dress, the first being that it was a Miss pattern and I wasn't sure how the measurements would work out, so I added an inch all around, which turned out to be unnecessary. Also, since I started the dress, I've gone down a size so I had to make more adjustments. It seemed that each time I tried on the dress to see how it was fitting I had to make more adjustments. Also, the contrasting fabric I purchased to use as the sleeves was too heavy and it wasn't draping nicely, so I ended up putting it around the neckline, and somehow it actually lined up.


Overall I'm not very happy with my sewing skills on this dress, it's not my best work. This should have been an easy pattern but because it took me so long to finish I kept losing motivation and focus. I'm relieved it's done, too bad the weather isn't nice enough here for me to wear it yet!


Monday, April 14, 2014

It's finally spring!

This winter was pretty awful for a lot of people, myself included, and I'm slowly trying to fight my way out of hibernation. Getting through the ice storm and power outage, the stress of the holidays, major ongoing stress at work, and a resurgence of TMJ pain and a subsequent neck injury meant that I wasn't feeling very motivated or inspired to do much. I started sewing a dress in December and it's still not finished, much to my frustration. My basement isn't heated so it only gets residual heat from the furnace, and with it being so cold this winter I just didn't feel like being in that space. At the beginning of April I had to deal with raccoons, who made their way into my attic over the winter, meaning I may need to have some repairs done to my attic or roof. 

But, one good that happened recently is that I was treated by a friend to a really nice high tea at Toronto's Windsor Arms Hotel. I was really impressed by the d├ęcor and service, and by their gluten-free menu, meaning I was able to enjoy cute tiny sandwiches along with my friend. It made me realize how much I've missed by shutting myself in and that I need to go out more and spend quality time with friends.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Closing of Wise Daughters Craft Market

At the end of March, Wise Daughters Craft Market, in the Junction area of Toronto, closed after 5 years. For 3 years, I had the pleasure of selling my coin purses, glasses cases and magnet sets at this store, and found many wonderful gifts for friends and family. I even took some classes there. I'm sorry to see the store gone, and I'm sure it wasn't an easy decision for the owner. The space has been taken over by LaDeeBee, which will sell yarn and bead supplies and offer workshops. For now, I'm still selling at Jinks Art Factory and Artisans at Work.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

New top

It's been a while since I've had the time to make something for myself, but over the Christmas holidays I set out to do just that. Fabric is a light blue cotton gauze, and I used
Butterick's B4684, with some slight modifications with the sleeves.


Sunday, January 5, 2014

Closing down one of my Etsy shops

After almost 6 years, I have decided to close my very first Etsy shop, the one I opened to sell clothes and accessories for Blythe dolls. About a year ago I noticed a sharp decline in sales and quite honestly I've lost interest in Blythe dolls as a hobby. I haven't been updating the shop and let the items expire. I'm going to focus on my other shop, Zippster, and retail opportunities.