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Exercise is no longer my swear word….

I have a confession to make. I have not practiced what I  preach. All my patients over the years have heard me praise the virtues of exercise. Many of them have been motivated by my words to start their own fitness programs. I have just never been very good at it myself.  I have tried. I have joined gyms and quit gyms.  I have started and ended more home exercise routines than I have fingers and toes. Just take a look at the entire shelf of exercise books in my rec room.  Feast your eyes on the treadmill, the re-bounder, the free weights, the Swiss ball and the skipping rope.

The problem was that exercise felt like a duty. Another obligation. Not fun. Boring. When I did start a program I would inevitably spend all day procrastinating about doing a work out and then when it was very late at night promise myself to do it tomorrow instead.

A few weeks ago I was browsing a bookstore at a mall and saw “You are Your Own Gym”, by Mark Lauren. The good looking guy on the front cover drew my eye and I picked it up and read the back. “Forget about gym memberships” (Oh good, lets do that ). ” 125 exercises” – hmm –  that should help with the boredom factor. Although the book said Mark Lauren developed his program teaching special forces, I also saw lots of pictures of women doing the exercises. I liked the way each movement was pictured and described from easy to more challenging. This 50 something woman knew right away she could start with the wall-push-ups and have a chance of doing regular floor push-ups one day, but she also realized that handstand push-ups were about as likely as a berth on the Mars colony ship.

So I brought the book home, and being disinclined to spend a lot of time figuring out an exercise regime , decided to start with his most basic 10 week program because all the exercises were laid out and there were only four of them to do a few times a week. It looked easy. It was not. Much to my chagrin, I found I couldn’t even complete all the exercises in the first most basic arm workout. I was stiff and sore and had to spend extra time napping that day. OK, another failed exercise program headed for the dusty bookshelf.

Then I had an epiphany. Last year I developed back spasms due to my extreme inactivity. I had to start a regular stretching program to keep them at bay. One of the stretches was sitting in a semi-squat position with my back flat against the wall. I did that daily for about a month and then found one day I could stand up from squatting in front of the fruit drawer of the refrigerator without feeling like I would topple over. Without even realizing it I had strengthened my legs.

So based on this experience my thought was to throw out my perfectionist tendencies telling me that if I couldn’t do it “right” not to bother at all, and to instead do it as well as I could with the hope of increasing my strength over time. This is what I am  doing, and it is working. I am not as sore and exhausted.

I was interested to learn after my first couple of workouts that Mark Lauren also has a book specifically for women titled “Body by You”.  I did get this book out of the library, but it was mostly what I had started doing anyway, a more gradual approach to the body weight exercises.

So how is the program going now? I am  half-way through week four.  Last week a strange thing happened, though. I started to look forward to my workouts. I feel good after them now, a little sore and stiff but nothing major. I make sure to have a green smoothie with protein powder right after a workout and I think that has done a lot to reduce inflammation. I am feeling happier, and pleased with the butt and arm toning I am already noticing. This is the first exercise program ever that I miss on my rest days. I repeat, I actually miss exercising the days I am not doing the workouts. This is not me. This is some strange alien fitness loving replacement of me!  I like the alien me, though. I feel better and look better. I am slowing down aging and getting stronger and feeling calmer. I expect that I will use this book for years, there are so many variations of the body weight exercises. It will also be a book to pack when I travel, since the workouts can be done anywhere. Mark Lauren has an app out with his exercises as well, which even eliminates the need to pack the book.

Here’s a link to the book on Amazon. It is my affiliate link. You could also get the book out from the library first, and perhaps get out “Body by You” at the same time to compare them to see which one you prefer. Give his workouts a try and see if you, like me, will  no longer consider the word exercise as a swear word……

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No BBQ? No Problem! Fast and Healthy Summer Meals

         Summer is here, and we like to spend a lot of time outside the house, so my  priority is to make meals with maximum nutrition but a minimum of fuss! My meals are also all “BBQ and microwave free”, since I don’t own either one! Convenient, prepared food is also kept to a minimum since it usually contains too many additives I don’t want in our diet.
          It can be such a temptation to grab “fast food” after a long day, so here are some of the ideas from my kitchen which keep us well fed. I have most of these foods in stock, but I do vary this list a bit from week to week depending on budget and what is available. It is also very helpful that I shop only once a week but get an organic fruit and veg bin delivery mid-way through the week.
          I love cold dishes for meals when it is hot outside, so many  of the following are variations on salads.They are also lean toward paleo which means they are light on grains, and light on dairy. I do use some legumes, however.  As well these meals and snacks are very low in added sweeteners and contain no refined sugars. A bottle of maple syrup or honey lasts us a very long time as I have found that a tiny bit of either will go a long way!
         Here are the sorts of food I stock and pick up with most grocery orders in the summer:
Cupboard – cans of Pacific pink or red salmon, cans of light tuna, cans of chick peas, black beans, kidney beans (or use frozen previously cooked beans), brown rice pasta, bacon crumbles with no preservatives. olive oil, healthy mayo, coconut oil, potatoes, low sugar cereal or granola or seed type cereal, semi-sweet chocolate chips, raisins, cocoa, banana , pasta sauce, honey or maple syrup, herbal tea bags, spices,  dried herbs
Fridge – mini carrots, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, romaine lettuce, broccoli, red peppers, avocado, strawberries, melon, other seasonal fruit, eggs, plain yogurt, milk or a milk alternative, pecans, almonds, walnuts, fresh seasonal herbs, sauerkraut or other fermented veggies.
Freezer – blueberries, frozen organic corn, broccoli, mixed veg, grass fed beef and chicken burgers, pastured small sausages.
           Sunday night or a night before a stretch of really busy days the following prep will take you about 45 minutes :
          Wash and put a bunch of potatoes in to boil. (Perhaps 1/2 5 lb bag for two people, the whole 5lbs for 4) . Use organic potatoes if you can. I don’t peel them, since a lot of the nutrition is in the skin. Also, I will refrigerate these potatoes after which creates resistant starch with a lower glycemic index. A trick for cooking them  is to boil them for about 15 minutes, then turn off the heat and let them sit in water until cooked.
           At the same time, place 6 eggs (for 2 people),  8 or 12 eggs (for four) in cold water in a saucepan, bring to a boil, covered, boil for 5 minutes then just let sit until water is cool.
           While the potatoes and eggs  are cooking on top of the stove, peel and wash several large beets, or butternut squash. Put in a roasting pan or casserole dish with water and a little olive oil – perhaps some rosemary sprinkled on top -and bake for 1/2 hr at 350 then turn the oven off and let cool.
            Get out your book and glass of wine and relax while the foods are cooking themselves! When they have cooled to about room temperature, refrigerate promptly.
             Now  you have  lots of fast, healthy foods to throw together in different combinations! Here are some ideas:
Breakfasts:
-eggs with hash browns and seasonal fruit
-yogurt with berries
-cereal with yogurt or milk alternative
-eggs and sausages and fruit
-omelette with chopped red pepper, crumbled bacon pieces
Lunch or Dinner:
– Chop egg mix with cooked beets and potato add mayo for a healthy salad
– chickpeas in food processor with olive oil and seasonings to make hummus – use as a dip for raw veg.
– boil rice pasta, drain, cool, add thawed frozen corn, black beans, red pepper diced , avocado and seasonings for a southwest type salad
– guacamole with raw vegetables
– black beans, olive oil, fresh cilantro for a black bean dip to have with veggies
– salmon or tuna in food processor with mayo and seasonings – process and serve on top of romaine lettuce with cherry tomatoes
– beef burger cooked in frying pan or on grill with sauteed broccoli and red peppers
– pasta sauce with leftover beef burger broken up, kidney beans and seasonings for “chili”
– chicken burgers with reheated roasted beets or butternut squash, green salad
Desserts and snacks:
– yogurt with berries or other fruit
– nut, raisin and chocolate chip mixes
– plain piece of melon or other seasonal fruit
– chocolate banana or fruit smoothie using milk or milk alternative, banana and cocoa powder in blender, add fresh mint for a “green smoothie” mint chocolate taste!
– I will often drop one or two herbal tea bags into a glass pitcher or large glass jar , fill with water and refrigerate for a few hours for a refreshing “iced tea” – no sweetener needed –  this can also be poured  into Popsicle molds.
– freeze bananas or other fruit, let thaw for a few minutes then make a “ice cream” in the food processor – this can be “chocolate” flavoured with the addition of cocoa
            Many of these foods can also be grabbed for a spur-of-the moment picnic as well. If you do eat grains, consider adding some whole grain crackers to your cupboard list, and if dairy is a good fit, some high quality goat or cow’s milk cheese can also be used. Have fun this summer, and enjoy the wonderful food and activities this time of year offers!

Healthy Chocolate Fudge (No dairy, gluten, nuts or soy)

This works well for fudge cravings and gives you calcium, protein and fiber so it is almost guilt free. About a million calories though, so cut a small piece if you are counting those!

1/2 jar of sunflower seed butter (500 gm jar)

3 Tbsp of unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp real vanilla extract

2 Tbsp of honey

1/2 tsp of salt

Mix it all together by hand, then press into a pie pan. Freeze for a few hours, or overnight, then  cut into small pieces. If you are diabetic or strictly sugar free, you could try this with a little stevia instead of the honey and it should still be pretty good. One of the best ways I know of to eat sunflower seeds!