Welcome to the Islands and the Big Blue

“Life is very complicated. Don’t try to find answers because when you find answers, life changes the question.”

My last day in Chiang Mai was a lesson in discovering my boundaries for physical discomfort. The recipe involves a handful of over heating, some exhaustion, a pinch of digestive issues and season with frustration to your liking. 

The good part about being pushed to your limits is that you can always push past them. In the end being physically uncomfortable, even perhaps the most physically uncomfortable I have ever been, isn’t really a big deal in the grand scheme of things. The lesson; What’s it like to be the most uncomfortable thus far? Well, it’s just like any other experience on the compendium of life. It expresses what it needs to express and then changes, just like everything else. 

Arriving in Phuket at 1:00 a.m. I tagged along with a French couple and an American med student who were headed to Phuket City. When the taxi driver asked us what hotel we were staying at I casually claimed one of the afformentioned dwellings and ended up getting a discount as additional business.

I truly didn’t have a plan in Phuket and frankly didn’t even know where Phuket city was  because I didn’t have a chance to look at a map. In the morning I chose the nearest breakfast nook filled with locals. The staff brought a tray of already prepared dumplings, fried fish and what looked to me like puff pastries. The puff pastry, bread thingy was put on the table first with a sweet chestnut spread and fresh coffee. Imagine the inside of a honey crueller, slightly less sweet to make it appropriate for breakfast with a delicate and smooth outer shell. With the spread it was a pairing that I would gladly suffer the post food choma for.

I checked out the trendy cafes serving Phuket style coffee that has to be one of the strongest *kapow* coffees I’v ever had. Served with milk and ice in a tall luxurious glass the presentation is not complete without syrop in a shot glass for your cosmology pleasure. 

I felt like Moses parting the Dead Sea with each movement I made. The air is rich and thick with humidity and the faint scent of seafood makes its way through the busy streets. My mind noticed similarities between Phuket City and Havana but apparently it’s taboo to compare any place to another. I’ll pretend I didn’t make the comparison and leave Phuket City to reveal its flavour and uniqueness. Perhaps on another trip.

Prompted by another traveller I made my way to Koh (island) Phi Phi on the afternoon ferry. Kokyo, who I would later share a room with in Phi Phi, informed me about the secrets of the infamous ping pong show. In short don’t expect to see  a ping pong show when you’re asked to see the ping pong show. That is all.

Arriving on shore of Koh Phi Phi I heard the Jurassic park theme music playing somewhere in the back of my mind. Like a little kid I perched myself at the front of the boat and marvelled at the untamed beauty of the rock formations covered with dense green jungle to meet the sparkling turquoise edges of the ocean in perfect harmony.

Again following Kokyo (whose name was given by her 4 year old brother) we found ourselves on the opposite side of the island at a room on the beach with the sand at our doorstep. As dusk fell the music began and we found ourselves next door to the seaside bars and fire shows famous to the islands. The music is fantastic and you can feel the base accosting your heart at every beat. The fire show is a must see. Gorgeous, shirtless Thai men handle chains blazoned with torches to spin them around their bodies in mesmerizing, seemingly impossible ways. If I hadn’t been driven to the flame like a moth to bright lights I wouldn’t have gone to see it on my own volition. Aside for being super cool, it captures the wildness and “anything goes” attitude of the Thai islands. Chang beer is cheap and delicious and the party goes on well into the night. Practice your limbo skills and see if you can win a free boozy bucket.

The next day Derrick organized an all day water taxi to the various beaches and sights surrounding the island. Everyone has their talents and Derrick’s is bringing people together. Organizing groups using social media is what he has done his entire trip.

We started out at monkey island which is small and predictably habitated with greedy monkeys. Go ahead and take photos but if you have food prepare to have your  personal space violated. Next stop was an overcrowded yet beautiful beach that as already escaped my mind due to the hoard of selfie sticks and wifi seakers.

Next, a picturesque green lagoon, snorkelling with needle fish, and lunch at a quietly removed beach eased and prepped our sunburned bodies before heading to shark point. 

Anchoring at shark point I grabbed my mask and snorkel with ferver and dove into the water as fast as I could. While the girls stayed back and the boys strapped themselves into their life jackets I swam with a vengeance to the large rock formation that the sharks are said to patrol.

Sharks still terrify me. In kindergarten I remember looking through picture books of great whites to seehow frightened I could get by opening the most fiersome page as fast as I could and then recoiling with terror at the image of raw, primal power. I have yet to come face to face with these incredible beasts but in the mean time any opportunity to share space with the species excites my inner flame like no other, silencing any lingering fear to a mere whisper.

With my heart pounding I streamled my body to try and intercept the path of a shark in constant motion. Suddenly and almost missing it entirely I saw the first 5 footer eyeing me carefully while continuing on its destined path. It only took about 0.5 seconds to be reminded of my very fleshy, human body as fear jolted through my body reminding me of my vulnerability. I only had to experience the fear for a few seconds before remembering that I am so far off the Sharks radar as potential food that I might as well not exist. In addition it’s actually quite difficult to cross paths with one due to their electro-magnetic signals. They don’t want anything to do with you and are aware of you the moment you place a toe in the water. Your only hope is to swim around and accidentally cut one off. 

The second shark I saw was much larger and did a wide half circle to check me out before picking up pace and gracefully disappearing into the blue. The life jackets and gathering too close to the boat prevented the others from cashing in on the experience.

That evening the long day and persistent sun blessed me with rougey, tender skin and a deep, deep slumber.

Intro to Chiang Mai

The fresh Chiang Mai air was a welcome change to the pollution of Bangkok. The majority of us on the train were backpacking travellers and stumbling out of the train we looked like fresh meat to the tuk tuk and taxi drivers. I hadn’t booked a hostel in advance so I tagged along with a German girl to her hostel in old Chiang Mai.

I booked a room at the Lana Guesthouse on a main road and decided I would save some money on a room with only a fan… Within 10 minutes of unpacking my bag the tiny room turned into a full blown sauna blowing hot air on my face and turning me into a quick, tense ball of agitation and regret. Me and my Canadian blood promptly paid the extra cash for an upgraded single room with AC. Sweet, sweet relief.

My hostel is a skip away from one of the many Wat(temple) in the old part of the city so I checked that out first. It might be true that once you’ve seen one temple, you’ve seen them all.

Meandering down the street looking for a semi famous used book store I became pleasantly lost. Two English speaking tourists were ahead of me and without much thought I found myself tracing their steps. When they themselves became lost and doubled back one of them pronounced “hey, are you following us?” again without thinking I blurted “well I thought you knew where you were going!”.

It turns out they were searching for a motorbike rental shop to make their way to Wat Phara That Doi. A temple up on the mountain most know for it’s 309 steps… In this heat, each step counts. 

Richard and David accompanied me to the book store before we all made our way to the rental shop. I was surprised to notice an inner fear of riding, thanks dad. Once on the road it was eazy breezy cruising (considering I was on the back and the bike was a scooter… Baby steps).

The winding road up the mountain is a pleasant break from the stagnant city air. Once at the top we prepped ourselves with enough water and triumphantly wheezed our way up the 309 steps. 

In order to enter the temple your shoulders and knees must be covered so at most temples there are wraps and shawls for borrow. If you know the Dallas family or have spent any amount of time with us in the heat you will know that we sweat. We don’t perspire, we sweat. With the addition of what felt like a burlap sack wrapped around my shoulders and waist, most people were relieved of their suffering with a simple glance in my direction. Sweating is an understatement. 

The views from the top are quite stunning and if you catch a breeze you can enjoy it in all its glory. It’s fun to imagine monks in a time long passed meditating and chanting to fill the hills with quiet awareness. 

We parted ways and I found myself following hand painted signs through back alleys towards “The Bodhi Tree Cafe.  Organic, vegan food made with love”. The Bodhi Tree Cafe looks like it should be next to the ocean in a film about simple living for the modern day hippie. Nestled underneath the shade of a large bodhi tree with cushions, hammocks and a pleasant warmth this is a haven for recharging your energies. Sjoerd who has been travelling solo for 11 months, also enjoying the shade of the Bodhi tree, has been in the process of developing a novel as he continues his explorations. No spoilers here, I’ll let you discover this gem on your own when the book is translated to English. In a contemplative manner he travels without any sense of urgency trying to make sense of himself and this beautiful world. “I  like to take photos of people taking photos, the phenomenon of it”. His photo of a monk poised for a perfect angle shot makes for a unique observational perspective.

Back through the walking market which happens every Sunday you can find any kind of trinket, delicassy and treasure imaginable. The energy is high as the streets are shut down and the vendors display their goods while the locals and tourists alike flock to find the best deals continuing into the night. Before heading to bed I pondered over the glowing red orb descending behind mountains and thatched roof houses.

I made a simple resolution to myself to get in some form of exercise first thing in the morning each day. I awoke at 6:00 a.m. feeling like a super star to run around the city before the heat made it impossible. My reward was to be a coffee at an air conditioned Cafe. Little did I know that the relaxed pace of Chiang Mai and Thailand in general means that most shops and cafes don’t open until 8 or 9 a.m. Continuing my stroll I came across the highly reviewed massage centre exclusively staffed by women ex prisoners who have perfected the art of Thai massage. I haven’t made massage a priority, but when I do I’ll go here. 

I took my time at a cafe finally, updated this blog and finished reading the untethered soul. Back to the Bodhi tree for breakfast I met a girl (next resolution, remember names) voluntering for the peace Corps in Cambodia providing basic health care education in rural villages. She has been there for two years and certainly not without its challenges. She is making the most of her time in this part of the world by travelling the surrounding countries when she can.

For a reason unknown to me my hostel, according to the visible flip flops, has a grand total of 5 guests. This is no good for meeting people. With hints from the grapevine I made my way to deejai hostel down the street which was buzzing with people. I introduced myself to a group and after deep discussions about the nature of humanity with a drunken 19 year old I convinced them to sample the locals food at a street stall. With a little hesitation they accepted the challenge and all had a second plate of the pulled pork on rice reminiscent of tender duck and the best of comfort foods. With the help of a few beverages the men of the group fell for the “here, try this sweet pepper” trick and finished the last of their meal cursing with flaming tongues.

Richard, from the scooter drive, introduced me to an app called backpackers that connects you to travellers in the area. Soon I was in contact with a group headed to the South Island of Phuket RIGHT AWAY! Although I couldn’t make it in time with them I was awarded a glance at the true desire of my heart which is to be with the ocean. Next stop, Phuket.

Alyssa Smith 2

Advice From Canada’s Strongest Woman “Be Your Own Motivation”

Guest Blog by Alyssa Smith

I know when you first start an exercise routine it can be hard for so many different reasons. What am I suppose do to? Should I go back?  It’s so intimidating! How do I know how many reps or sets I should do? What equipment should I use? You get the point. There are things you simply won’t know when you first start out and you know what, that’s completely okay. Everyone has been there once before.

I have never met anyone before who said they knew exactly what to do when they first started. No one does. Especially with all the different fads, false articles and phony magazines out there. It’s too easy to be confused and not know what to do or where to start. Don’t be discouraged. There are many different ways to become educated and self-efficient in your own way. The important thing is that you’re trying to better yourself. This in itself is your first step, so pat yourself on the back.

Here are 6 tips that kept me going when I had no clue what I was doing:

1. Don’t ever worry about what’s going on around you. This shouldn’t concern you whatsoever. You are your focus, not them.
2. Keep track of what you’re doing whether it’s your eating habits, your workouts, whatever it may be, WRITE IT DOWN. This is the best way to track your progress.
3. Make small, realistic goals. Don’t go too hard just yet. Ease into it.
4. Get a personal trainer. It doesn’t have to be for long but knowing the basics will bring you a long way and save you a lot of time and frustration. But make sure they’re a good fit for you. Not every trainer is reputable or reliable for that matter. (I suggest trying a free consultation first to see if they’re a good fit for you).
5. Don’t Compare yourself to others. Your goal is not to become them, but to become the best you.
6. Don’t give up!

My biggest success when I first started out was simply not giving up. There will be times you feel defeated, you feel like you’ve failed or you hit a bump in the road and just want to give it up. Don’t! Don’t let your thoughts hold you back. Everyone fails, it’s what makes us stronger. All of us have bad days, does this mean we are supposed to curl up in a ball and give up? Absolutely not, you pick yourself up and find a solution to your problem. You improve yourself and get back on track.

This is why I titled this blog “Be Your Own Motivation”. Don’t compare yourself to others, your goal is not to become them, your goal is to become the best you. You can have inspirations, motivators and heroes but in the end you should be your own inspiration. Your progress, hard work, dedication, time spent and goals met are the biggest influence to keep you focused on your goals and the road ahead. I really do understand the struggle, I was there. When I started my journey I had no idea what the heck I was doing. I was like a lost dog in a park.

You see, growing up I had no motivation. I was depressed, overweight, into drugs & alcohol, and was just plain miserable. My mother forced me into the gym when I was about 15 years of age. Surprisingly I took a liking to it. I didn’t have any specific goals at the time but to lose weight like almost everyone else when they first start. I had no idea what I was doing so I got a personal trainer and it gave me a much better understanding on exactly what I needed to do to lose weight and keep it off.

Shortly after, I went on my own for a bit but hit a plateau and felt like I was back where I started. I didn’t know if I wanted to continue, I felt like a failure. I decided to seek some help and got another personal trainer, long term this time. I started creating new goals, like gaining strength, feeling better, looking better and I kept track of everything I was doing. My trainer at the time introduced me to her boyfriend who was a powerlifter. I thought there was no way I could ever do that, I’m a girl! But I never turn down a challenge so I gave it a try and fell in love with the sport!

I decided I’d like to try a competition just to see if I’d like it. I was absolutely horrified the first time, the crowds of people watching you, the pressure, I was very uncomfortable and out of my comfort zone. But sometimes you have to step outside of that zone to accomplish what you’ve been working towards. I must say it paid off, I didn’t do well but it drove me to want do it again and be better.

Since then I studied for 2 years to become a personal trainer, received multiple certifications, and began working as a personal trainer full-time! Helping to change a person’s life and be a part of their journey like someone once was for me is the best feeling in the world. I also continued with powerlifting and recently be Canada’s strongest woman! I hold the #1 total in Canada with a 440lbs back squat, 203lbs bench press and 496lbs deadlift. The biggest powerlifting total to ever be done in Canada! I’m happier than I’ve ever been. I’m confident, I feel awesome and I have surpassed every goal I had. If you asked me when I first started, I never would have thought I’d be accomplishing the things I have. When things got rough and difficult, I didn’t give up. I believed in myself like everyone should. Everyone has the ability to better themselves and reach for the starts.

The point is I was once in your position and I took action and failed but I picked myself back up multiple times and kept going. No matter what the circumstances are, do not make excuses for why “you can’t” or why “you’re not good enough” because fact of the matter is you’re lying to yourself. You’re better than that and you can accomplish anything that you’re willing to put the effort and work into. YOU ARE what is going to make you reach your goals and strive for success.

Keep your head in the game, if I can do it so can you.

– Alyssa Smith


Alyssa Smith

Strives for total wellness to achieve her goals. Healthy diet, proper rest, correct exercise, right mindset, positive environment, amazing team and chiropractic are all key players in helping her get to where she is today. She is one amazingly strong woman both physically and mentally. She continues to help change lives by inspiring amazing transformations with her personal training clients and smashing through not only Canadian but World records in powerlifting. Amidst all her success she somehow manages to stay down to earth and can still make people laugh until it hurts. Check out Alyssa’s website to learn more about her story, see some of her client’s amazing transformations, check out unbelievable lifting videos or get in touch with her personally.

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Redefining Your Health

Last week for the first time I had the privilege of working with Chiropractor Dr. John MacPhee to detect patterns of subluxation in my nervous system. I had never been to a chiropractor before and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Admittedly there was a lot I didn’t know about chiropractic. I gained a wealth of exciting knowledge but i’ll have to save that for another post.

During my first consultation, prior to getting started with the “Insight Subluxation Station” technology, Dr. Macphee asked me a question that I was surprisingly unprepared for. With all of my years working in the fitness and health industry I had never been asked this question and quite honestly at the time I didn’t have any thought out answers to give. The question was “what does perfect or optimal health look like to you and how is it expressed?” My first thoughts were along the lines of being a healthy weight, not getting sick, sleeping well etc. but I quickly noticed that these aren’t my thoughts at all but a conditioned, default response to a question I had never thought out before. Dr. MacPhee was prepared with a follow up homework assignment. My task was to think of what optimal health means to me and write down 10 ways it could be expressed. In other words if I could wave a magic wand right now and have perfect health, what would that be.

I thought about it for a few days. The obvious responses came up like “feeling great” and again “not getting sick” but that didn’t seem right. How is feeling great expressed? Is it simply the state we’re in when we aren’t feeling bad? Have sickness and health become synonymous in our culture? The definition of health by the Oxford Dictionary is the state of being free from illness or injury. It’s almost as if health doesn’t exist. Sickness exists and health by definition is the absence of it. Our well-being is defined by sickness, nothing more.

The human body and spirit deserve way more credit. We are capable of being more than just free from symptoms of illness. To quote TheWellnessGroup “We believe that every human being is designed to be extraordinary”. If there were no obstacles in your way, what 10 expressions of perfect health would be on your list? Dr. MacPhee mentioned being able to play on a play structure with your grandchildren or great grand children or living to 130! Here is what I came up with:

10 Expressions of Optimal Health:

1.   Be able to out wit any 20 year old when I’m in my 90’s

2.   Be able to move through full range of motion and maintain relative strength until my last day

3.   Fall asleep easily, sleep deeply and wake up with abundant energy every night

4.   Be physically able to embark on adventures for the rest of my life. Watch out for the grandma climbing base camp everest and scuba diving in the Maldives.

5.   Have bulletproof self-esteem

6.   Be able to handle stress effectively and bounce back quickly

7.   Be able to feel and express full range of emotion in a productive way. Self-awareness.

8.   Experience superhero memory, critical thinking and clarity

9.   Have clearly defined purpose, values and goals

10.  Have healthy relationship with food. Eat when I’m hungry, stop when I’m full, full-fill my bodies requirements for nutrients.

Initially, choosing 10 expressions of health was difficult. Narrowing them down and identifying things that weren’t related to symptom relief was a surprising challenge. At the end of the exercise I had twice as many things to include that encompassed physical, intellectual, emotional, social, environmental and spiritual health.

What if we viewed health as the optimal expression of our existence? Would we be more inclined to take action to achieve it beyond the presence of sickness? Would we think differently about the choices we make? About the lives we want to live?

What does optimal health mean to you and how is it expressed? Within reason, (i.e. you can’t grow wings or tell the future) brainstorm what your 10 expressions of optimal health are. Don’t let perceived obstacles or limitations cloud your list. This exercise can be a powerful tool in gaining perspective, clarity and motivation.

Dream big, think outside the box and enjoy the process.

Please feel free to post your list in the comments below to share your inspiration and ideas!

Thanks for reading!  – Jules

Nomnom Paleo Cookbook Review

About two weeks ago JEdible Arrangementsesse surprised me with a birthday gift of assorted fruits arranged to look like a bouquet of flowers. It was really quite amazing and the perfect gift for a whole food fanatic. To top it off little rounded pieces of apple had been dipped in dark chocolate. We couldn’t wait to devour it but we thought it was wise to gobble up the treats throughout the week and share the splendour with our roommates instead. Sharing is caring, and to be honest I couldn’t eat all that fruit by myself. Anyways, long story short a certain someone could not resist the temptation of the chocolaty goodness and within a day all of the little chocolatey apple bites were but a thing of memory.

I guess that certain someone was feeling a bit guilty about eating all the chocolate. To my surprise the next evening I discovered “nomnom paleo” cookbook hiding underneath my pillow before bed. Apology accepted. In fact I was so happy I even gave the book a hug, like it had feelings.

You see, I’v never actually owned my own cookbook before and I had my eye on this baby for awhile. The bright colours with the bold print hooked me in like a moth to bright light. I’m surprised I didn’t buy it myself actually. These past couple of years I have been more and more interested in cooking. Normally I get most of my recipes online (see resources) but having a cookbook with readily available ideas is surprisingly useful and rewarding to have on hand in the kitchen. Michelle Tam and Henry Fong’s nomnom paleo cookbook is not only hilarious but an excellent introduction and resource to paleo cooking. So much so that I decided to write a review on it.

Robb Wolf (author of The Paleo Solution) –  “I don’t care if you’re a discriminating foodie or a picky tot: If you’re a human who eats food, you need this book.”

 

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1. INTRODUCTIONIMG_3390

Michelle Tam first started sharing her zest for delicious paleo cooking on nomnompaleo.com in the fall of 2010. Since then she has received awards for her blog and inspired many with her unique, playful and heartwarming approach to healthy cooking. Michelle along with her husband Henry finally decided to release a cookbook filled with recipes free of grain, soy and added sugar. When talking about inspiration, the visuals alone are enough to inspire you to eat healthier but I personally think it is Michelle’s unique passion and humour that really shine through in this book.

“There’s a contagious joyousness about the way Michelle presents food that makes you want to cook along with her. I want to cook Paleo because she makes it look so fun!” -Michael Ruhlman

2. LAYOUT 

The book is broken down into very practical chapters that are tailored towards a paleo diet. For example preparation is very important when eating paleo because if you want a bit of extra flava flave on your omelette, grabbing the sriracha sauce from the store will add a lot of unnecessary sugar and sulphites. Instead if you want sriracha you will have to make it yourself. Fortunately this iIMG_3419s very do-able and tastes super delicious (i’v tried it!). Chapter One: Building Blocks has a bunch of excellent paleo prep meal tips and ideas like home-made sriracha, paleo mayonnaise and easy guacamole to name a few. If you feel like your options are or will be limited on the paleo diet a simple solution is to be prepared! Dedicate a day of the week (Sunday works for most folks) for food preparation so your week can be filled with delicious, no stress feasts! If you don’t have any ideas, grab a cookbook or start to browse online recipes (check resources). Other chapters include Eggs, Plants, Soups and Salads, Meat, Seafood, Nibbles and *gasp* even some Desert!

3. TONE

Michelle does an amazing job at keeping the tone of the whole cook book simple, hilarious and very personable. She is realistic and extremely relatable when addressing the paleo lifestyle. She discusses her challenges and successes with the family eating paleo, her own health journey and a realistic insight into what it is like to live this way. A simple introduction to paleo foods at the beginning of the book by using a “Green Light, Red Light, Yellow Light” list of ingredients keeps the focus less on rules and more on the delicious food. Throughout the entire book there are funny little comics that offer cooking tips, answer questions about Michelle’s life and add comedic expression to the beautiful food photography and practical layout. There is enough information about the diet to get you started and help you feel confident in your choices but not so much that it takes away from the main focus of the book which is clearly that eating paleo is delicious!

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“THIS IS MY DAD. LAMB IS HIS FAVOURITE FOOD.” “MARY HAD A LITTLE LAMB. UNTIL I ATE IT”

“Use a Julienne peeler or a spiral cutter. (Of Course, if you’re a certified kitchen ninja, feel free to hand-cut your zoodles)”.

4. FOOD

The themeIMG_3420 is oriental flavour meets trendy Californian attitude. Too many recipes can become overwhelming but this book has the perfect amount. Enough to keep you curious and satisfied but not too many that you never actually get around to cooking anything! You don’t have to be a master chef to enjoy any of the foods either, simple steps for delicious meals that pretty much everyone can do. All the recipes all paleo friendly and provide some innovative cooking ideas to make the transition a bit easier. Like cauliflower rice and an assortment of paleo “chips”. Some of the recipes do require extra equipment though. Like the spiral cutter mentioned above. It cuts things into noodle shapes, yay! For example you can make zucchini noodles… or carrot noodles too. If you are going to be spending more time in the kitchen (which you will) it’s probably a good idea to stock up on kitchen tools anyways.

5. SUMMARY

IMG_3422This book is a must have for any whole food or paleo enthusiast. Perfect for any beginner who doesn’t know where to start or is a bit confused about what to eat. Even if you are a seasoned vet in the kitchen, some of the ideas and tips in this book could refresh your creativity and liven up your palette. If you are caught in a rut of eating chicken and vegetables every night for dinner then do yourself a huge favour and check out this book or visit Michelle’s website first for a taste of what you will find in the book. The website is how she got started and offers lots of recipes for you to try. Check it out! http://nomnompaleo.com/

Anyone who says there isn’t enough to eat on paleo needs this book and they need it now. Did I mention I was a fan?

6 . TESTED RECIPES

Caramalized Onions: Success
great to cook them in bulk and add to meals through the week

Paleo Mayonnaise: Disaster, then Success
First attempt I ignored the instructions and blended it all at once. Don’t do that. Second attempt was a success and I made Louisiana Remoulade with the mayonnaise!

Paleo Sriracha: Okay
The taste is phenomenal but I couldn’t find red jalapeño peppers anywhere so I settled with green. Just not the same without that fiery red…

Holy’Moly (Easy Guacamole): Success
So simple, so delicious

Apple Chips: Okay 
I found these too sweet and they took a long time to cook. Not worth it in my opinion. They resembled apple crumble flavour though so they get an okay stamp.

Kale Chips: Success
A new staple in my diet.  Many people seem to have trouble with these. Either too soggy or too burnt. Follow this recipe. When you master them, you will never turn back. Also, a note from my aunt: Don’t refrigerate.

Chopped Liver + Bacon: Success 
Some people can’t stand liver. I have to confess, when my mom used to cook liver in the oven as dog treats and the house filled with an unmentionable odour, I was sure i’d deny liver foreverrrrr! This recipe blew my mind though. Unbelievably flavourful, great as a dip and a fantastic source of Vitamin A.

Chinese Egg Foo Young: Okay 
I wasn’t sold on these. Although I used tuna as a meat filling instead of the recommended ham. She said use any meat you like!! The recipe makes a large batch and they don’t keep well. You should eat them right away.

Zoodles: Success 
I first tried these in NZ thanks to my host mom’s ingenuity. These are for the pasta lover. I mean c’mon… ZOODLES! How fun is that?

Slow Cooker Kalua Pig: Success 
The slow cooker can make almost anything taste good but this was so unbelievably flavourful Jesse and I both had extra servings.

Thanks for reading.

– Jules

10 Ways to Make Exercising More Fun

Last Sunday I went to the gym seeking an open treadmill because even though it’s now officially spring I wasn’t feeling up to toughing the -13 weather outside and I just wanted to walk.  Usually I find treadmills extremely boring but if I have a new podcast to listen to then I can usually zone out and sort of enjoy the fact that I’m walking in one spot for 30 minutes to go nowhere.

Every single treadmill in the place was taken but one. The gym was busy that day, maybe there was some post Saturday night guilt going around.  Quickly I claimed my territory on the treadmill, put my headphones on and started walking. The treadmill I was using was on the second floor of the gym. Directly in front of it was a giant t.v. and a view of the lower level which had most of the cardio equipment on it. If I had to guess from memory there was probably 40 to 50 pieces of cardio equipment on the floor, laid out warehouse style and every single one was being used. As I was trying to concentrate on listening to Coffee Break – French  I couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling that the gym (specifically the sea of cardio equipment) reminded me of a science experiment involving mice who learned to run on a wheel for their food or to avoid punishment.

I’m not knocking treadmills or people who work out in a gym. Gym’s can provide a sense of community, motivation and a platform for building strength and It’s also true that some people genuinely claim to love doing stationary cardio but let’s face it – no one is jumping onto a cardio machine simultaneously thinking “Wow, this is SO much fun! I wish I could do this more often”. Usually the dialogue sounds more like “Gee, I haven’t done much exercise today. Maybe I should log some miles on the treadmill? I hope my ipod is fully charged”.

The image of mice got me thinking. Have we forgotten to move for the sake of moving? Do we exercise like conditioned mice in a gym because we enjoy it or because it has become the social norm? Certainly we moved as children because it was fun. We didn’t play tag because we were trying to be healthy. We just did it because we wanted to, because it was play and it brought joy.

Becoming an adult too often causes play to mysteriously disappear from our lives. We are taught that play is for children and it’s important to get down to business and start being an adult. Choosing exercise you don’t enjoy and expecting to be successful with it through sheer willpower is going to end in disappointment and discouragement.  If you don’t like walking on a treadmill, don’t do it. If you don’t enjoy biking, don’t bike. Not only will the quality of your life improve because you sincerely enjoy what you’re doing but finding exercise that you enjoy (structured or not) will help you stick with it long term. It’s human nature to avoid things we don’t enjoy. Now, there is a time and place for hard work but If dread is what’s stopping you from getting off of the couch or computer chair remember that movement should be fun!  Here are 9 ways to make exercise fun again:

1. Dance

If you love to dance or always wanted to try a dance class, now is the time! You won’t even realize how much exercise you are getting because you’ll be having so much fun. It’s also a great way to try something new and meet new people. Or just go dancing! Every Sunday Babylon nightclub hosts Mod Night, dance your worries away. Heck, just blast your favourite song and let loose in the comforts of your own home. Who knows, you may discover your inner dance queen.

2. Sports

Join a sports team that you really enjoy or if you’ve never been into sports try something new that you think would be a good fit for you. Winter sports are abundant in Canada, there is no excuse to be cooped up inside all winter. If it doesn’t work out you can try something else. Being on a team helps keep you accountable and if you’re really out of shape and you love your sport then you’ll be motivated to get more fit.

3. Get Outside

Get outside. Pack a lunch, grab a friend and get going. Ottawa is fortunate enough to be right next door to the Gatineau Park which is a great place to go for a hike. On a sunny day head to the ByWard Market and spend the day walking around checking out the sights. Go biking on one of the many bike paths Ottawa has to offer. Every Sunday the City of Ottawa closes down major roads to be used as oversized bike paths. Check out Sunday Bikedays to find out where to ride. In the winter go skating on the World’s Largest Skating Rink. You can take up cross country skiing, downhill skiing or snowboarding. Invest in a pair of snowshoes and trek unbeaten paths. If winter usually brings you down, don’t stay cooped up inside. Dress warm and get out there!

4. Try Something New

Are you adventurous? Try rock climbing at Vertical Reality. Learn what the Crossfit craze is all about. Check out Algonquin’s Impact Zone to experience different disciplines of martial arts. Maybe powerlifting is your thing?
If you already have enough excitement in your life try Yoga if you haven’t already. There are hundreds of group fitness classes just waiting for you to try them.
There are so many different communities out there. If you look for them you are bound to find one that’s perfect for you.

5. Walk Your Dog

This should go without saying but if you have a dog, walk it.  Your dog needs exercise, you do too. You will both be happier because of it.

6. Be More Playful

Do you have children, younger brothers and sisters, younger cousins? Take them to the park or play structure and go exploring together. See if you can still swing on the bars, create mini challenges like how fast can you climb, what about cartwheels? Not only will you make the kids day (because adults are boring) but you will surprise yourself with how much fun you can have. This may not be a good idea if the structure is packed with kids who recently learned how to walk.
Go on a new nature walk and view your environment as a giant play ground. See if you can climb any rocks or trees, discover the size of rocks you can or can’t lift. Try new paths or “wannabe” paths. Go exploring.
Darryl Edwards, an exercise therapist specializing in the art of play, introduces great ideas on how to interact more with your environment to facilitate movement as play.
Check out Episode: 10 on The Primal Blueprint Podcast on itunes to hear what he has to say.

7. Change Gyms

If it’s the gym you don’t like (too busy, too stuffy, bad atmosphere, grumpy staff, poor location, etc.) then try out another gym! Not all gym’s are created equal. Give some local fitness facilities a call and tell them you would like to try their facility. They will be more than happy to introduce you and set you up with a free workout. You may find that your whole attitude changes. Environment influences performance.

8. Try Personal Training

Talk to different personal trainers and see who you mesh well with. Tell them that you want your workouts to be fun… REALLY fun! Finding a personal trainer who can get you to work hard without knowing it will get you results you didn’t think we’re possible.

9. Social Influence

Exercising with a friend or friends provides you with a social outlet and keeps you more motivated to exercise. Surround yourself with like minded people who are active or want to become more active. Tried and true, this is one of the best ways to stick with exercise. Its also a lot of fun.

10. Clean?

Ok, so this might not be “fun” or play, but if you have some household chores that need to be done blast your favourite music and vacuum that house. By the end you’ll notice you’ve actually done a fair bit of moving around. Heck, sometimes I get a small sweat going when I catch the cleaning bug (Is that just me or does anyone else get this?). You will feel better afterwards because now there’s one less thing you have to do and you have a clean house. Yay.

“Movement is Medicine” –– anon. 

Thanks for reading, I hope you found it helpful. Thank you to everyone who has been sharing and following the blog, it really means a lot to me. You guys are great! If you haven’t done so already, it would really help me if you spread the word about fitnesswithjules.

– Jules

What About Fruit?

If you are currently digging the morning fruit smoothie routine that’s been established because you read somewhere that they are delicious AND good for you then prepare to cringe.

In 1 large fruit smoothie with 1 banana, 1 apple, 1 cup of berries, 1 cup of skim milk and 1 fat-free berry yogurt you are consuming roughly 83.8 grams of sugar.
To put that in perspective that’s almost the equivalent of a LARGE Dairy Queen chocolate sundae.

Recently I have been receiving a lot of questions about fruit. If sugar is bad for me and there is sugar in fruit then is fruit bad for me too? If sugar causes fat gain then won’t eating fruit cause me to gain fat as well? How much fruit should I have a day? Should I never eat fruit again? TELL ME WHAT’S UP WITH THE FRUIT!?

Let me try to explain why fruit consumption still seems to be a mystery for some folks. According to Canada’s Food Guide the recommended consumption of fruits and vegetables ranges from 7-10 servings a day. There are no recommendations as to how you should split your servings of fruit and servings of vegetables. So in theory according to Canada’s food guide If you were to drink the smoothie with 83.8 grams of sugar you would be getting a seemingly modest 4 servings of fruit, totally healthy right? … right? Not exactly.

All sugar is linked to fat storage because it is directly responsible for the secretion of insulin, which is the hormone that is responsible for fat storage. Insulin’s job is to transfer energy from the food you eat into your body’s cells to be used as energy. Glucose is the bodies preferred source of energy from sugar and it is mainly stored in the liver and muscles. Your body only has so much storage for glucose before it reaches capacity and begins to store any excess as body fat through a conversion process that happens in the liver.

So essentially all forms of sugar including carbohydrates eventually get converted into glucose to be used as fuel.  Any excess will be stored as body fat.

If you think you eat a lot of fruit, pay attention. Fructose, the simple sugar that is found naturally in fruit and tastes very sweet is metabolized first by the liver to be converted into glucose. When too much fructose is consumed, the liver cannot convert it fast enough and so most of it will be stored as body fat instead.

To sum things up all excess sugar that the body cannot use is stored as body fat. Sugar from fruit can only be metabolized by the liver and the liver can only do so much at a time. There for the majority of fructose is more likely to be stored as body fat.

 So what’s up with fruit? You can enjoy it in moderation without risk of fat gain because your liver can metabolize small amounts. A general rule of thumb for maintaining weight is 1 serving of fruit per day. Do not shun fruit from your life forever. It is important to try and understand how and why certain foods affect your body the way they do. You might want to think of fruit as an occasional treat and start including more colourful veggies into your diet. If you really love the convenience of smoothies but want to avoid the potential sugar bomb then here is a link on how to make green smoothies which won’t be as sweet but will be kinder to your waistline and encourage you to eat more healthy green veggies! Yay!

How to Make a Green Smoothie

Hopefully after reading you feel a bitter more confident about fruit. If you found the information of value I would really appreciate it if you could share the link with friends or family. Thanks for reading!

– Jules

Resources:
Canada’s Food Guide        Glycogen
Calorie Count                    Fructose
Insulin/Glucagon               Fructose and Fat Storage