Tuesday, August 23, 2011

weight loss plateau?

Hello my lovelies,
I was thinking it'd be a good idea to do a post on plateaus. While I am not a qualified nutritionist, I speak from experience. I am someone who's had trouble losing weight all her life and even when I transitioned to veganism, I still struggled. In my aerobics classes (which I teach at Curves in Toronto and at York University), I talk to many of my participants who have had similar struggles.

From a vegan's perspective (health-focussed), one can be a successful 'junk food vegan' but like any diet (vegan or not), junk food is never the answer; nor is giving up. So I've comprised a list of things that have helped me break out of a plateau in the past.
  • Read your labels! If you can't identify what is on a list of ingredients on the back of the can or box of food you're about to buy, don't eat it! My rule of thumb is to stick to whole foods (a.k.a. things you can find in your garden or at least something that you can identify i.e. a head of broccoli, apples, lettuce and brown rice). So hydrogenated-what'sawhoozits are off the list of real food and on the list of 'fake food'. If you're going to a restaurant, first look at their online menu if they've got one. Secondly, stick to things that you know are generally healthy such as steamed vegetables and baked tofu, etc. Also, ask the waiter or cook if you're unsure about what something is on the menu, don't be shy. Sometimes restaurants use excess oils and dairy products to make their menu items taste richer so double check with the waiter and/or cook.
  • Update your food diary! If you don't already have a food diary, make one. Just pick up a notebook from the dollar store or even start one on your laptop/other mobile device and without changing anything in your diet, write down everything you eat for about a week. You may be eating more than you realise. Speciality coffees at Tim Hortons or Starbucks might be the culprit for your plateau or recent gain so write it down and make changes accordingly the following week. Buy small single-sized treats rather than a whole chocolate bar or whatever your guilty pleasure is. This has worked for me in the past because I can't buy a large chocolate bar and not eat the whole thing. Know thyself.
  • Increase your activity level and/or add weights. If you workout 3-4 days a week, try to increase the length of time of your workout and/or the intensity. Changing your workout after about 4 weeks of the same activity is pertinent for weight loss success because once your body gets used to an exercise, it's no longer challenging. For instance, if you jog 4 days a week for half an hour each session, try doing some sprinting (jog for 2 minutes and sprint for 30 seconds, jog for 2 minutes and sprint for 30 seconds, etc.). Or change your workout entirely, if you do a step class 4 days a week, then try 2 step classes and 2 kickboxing classes, etc. You want your workout to be hard; if it's easy you're not going to see the results you want. If you really enjoy your workout but you'd like it to make it more challenging, add ankle and/or wrist weights. When your body has more weight to carry, it burns more calories trying to do the same amount of exercise.
  • Remember the old adage: burn more calories than you take in, BUT sometimes you need a metabolism kick-start. If you're feeling heavy and unmotivated, try a detox. You can do a green smoothie detox or you can find one in your local healthfood store. I like this one. Sometimes it's the opposite problem, sometimes you've been restricting too much and in this case, a 'cheat meal' is the best cure. One cheat meal a week can actually help rev your metabolism but don't overdo it! Enjoy your cheat meal and then get back on track.

So there's a post for this week. More tips will come next week! :)

Happy weight loss! And remember, WHOLE FOODS!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Back to the Breath

Recently I've become more aware of my destructive nature. I procrastinate, I have addictions and I am quite lazy. I spoke to my dear friend who often reads my tarot cards for me (when I need it) and they were quite clear about how I really needed to clear away these addictions in order for me to grow. I also have to accept myself completely in order to find my own personal joy.

I love yoga. Vegan and yoga make sense together. Being vegan is about giving the body the best food it can receive and helping to defend those (especially animals) who cannot defend themselves against cruelty and injustice. Yoga is about being in tune with the body, emotions and spirit and bringing about positive change into one's own life; it is also giving but to the self. Although that may seem counter-intuitive to veganism, if one can take proper care of herself, she can take proper care of others around her. Being generous to the self (to a reasonable degree) allows one to be generous to others. We can't be dependent on others to ensure our own mental and physical health. We were given one body and we have to treat it right.

I found this article about yoga spoke to me about this very issue. As a writer (who is more often than not blocked, procrastinating, etc.), it is essential to get out of my head and become more aware of my action and inaction.

Everyday upon rising it is important to take a few deep breaths to connect back to the inner self and nature and ask our own intuition what we need to do for ourselves. It can be a small thing like meditating, making a list, or simply enjoying nature, or a big thing like completing a goal or unfinished project, giving back to the community, etc. Giving can be very soothing but remember to give back to the self, not in an overly indulgent sense, but in a way that it helps you to move forward or even get through a difficulty or mundane.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

...May showers bring June flowers?

Dark clouds of charcoal-grey blanket the skies as they have for the past month or so; there's a rumble in the distance and a zig-zagging flash of light that parts the monochromatic scheme... And then, of course, the scent of rain fills our noses and begins to tumble down from the sky all willy-nilly. It soaks the yellow grass and turns the dirt to mud, it flows off the grass and onto the streets uninhibited and it fills the already full rivers until they spill over onto the grass and beyond...

And then, eventually, it stops. Sunshine parts the clouds like the queen she is and dries out the lands, soaks up the rain and returns it to the significantly lighter clouds. The earth is green again, albeit slightly flooded in some places, but lush and green and alive.

Once the sunshine peeks through and as we find ourselves finally saying hello to spring, it's a great time to explore Kensington Market's offerings, particularly of the animal-friendly variety. Wanda's Pie in the Sky is a great casual place to enjoy some vegetable soup, sandwiches and, of course, pie. While the place is often bustling, you and your friend can still manage to find a seat near a window and wait (although not for long!) for the staff to bring you your food. They also make some delicious coffee!

This summer I'm making it my goal to try out new vegan places a couple times a month at least. Despite my status as a graduated university student, I still feel the need to explore every nook and (expensive) cranny in this city.

I am also going to be looking at more of the vegan foodie blogs out there. One my friend showed me is called Lovely Green Lifestyle that appears to offer simple yet yummy looking recipes such as the Quinoa Mung Bean Salad; it also brings us back to some of our favourite food awareness videos like Food Inc.. This blogger creates a montage of the green lifestyle through photos, words and colour.

Once I get my act together, I'd like to start posting photos more frequently on here so come back often and see what's new! Now don't get wet!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Pizza, Sushi and Dining, Oh My!

So the last time I touched this blog it was Christmas time... I think it's become a quarterly blog. Hmmm.... not good. It should be re-named the Procrastinator's Blog.

Well much has occurred since Christmas time on the vegan front and on the 'rest of life' front. In terms of the vegan front, I hit up The Magic Oven on Wellesley downtown T-dot. The best thing is they offer foodstuffs for non-veggies so you can bring your non-veg friends and encourage them to take a bite of your Gourmet Veggie Magic pizza; of course, the beautiful thing about their pizzas is you can make your own and/or mix up your toppings! For instance, instead of zucchini, I asked for broccoli and instead of goat cheese, I asked for Daiya dairy-free cheese (which is SOOO good; it melts like real cheese and is made of tapioca). My friends who came with had a bite and agreed but equally enjoyed their own dairy-topped pizzas. We also split an order of Green-Tea infused Organic Tofu Fingers. It was yummy! One thing I love about this place is they have lots of organic options, non-GMO sauces and wonderful dairy-free options. So if you're vegan and really missing traditional pizza, this is the place to go.

On one minor note, the staff at this place were wonderful! Unlike some of the vegan restaurants I've been to that I won't name, the staff are not pretentious but wonderfully patient and extremely helpful in their recommendations. These people seem very to work here which is great from a customer point of view.

The next wonderful new place I've checked out (just last night actually) is New Generation Sushi on Bloor (near Bathhurst). It's in a very busy location across from Lee's Palace (a night club) so it's easy to find once you get into the right area. The service was friendly although I did have to wait a bit for my chopsticks but they certainly had enough staff working for them. The restaurant itself was very busy so I think that's a pretty good sign that it's a respectable, well-established place. I had a miso soup as my starter, the New Gen Vegetarian Maki as my entree and green tea as my drink. All were delicious. I really enjoyed the Maki which was a vegetable spring roll, tofu and avocado all wrapped up in rice and seaweed. Everything from the lighting to the dishes really contributed to this Japanese theme. If you're looking to change up from your usual vegan BLT or pasta and marinara, check out New Generation Sushi. The only disappointing thing was that they only offer ice creams (albeit interesting ice creams like red bean, green tea, mango and black sesame) which my friends were able to indulge in but I could not. In any case, the fruity drinks we had at The Mod Club afterward were more than enough to satisfy my sweet tooth even if the rock music was not.

So get out of your house and enjoy a night out with some friends downtown at any of these places and live a little! Life is incredibly short, after all. That being said, enjoy today and maybe take your mum out for Mother's Day.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Winter Solstice and Christmas Holidays

We all have a choice to make around the holidays: enjoy or be grinch/scrooge. This year I've chosen to celebrate and that decision was partially encouraged by the movies and Christmas specials on TV.

So when I tried my hand (again) at vegan baking...let's just say beware. I made these snickerdoodles but unfortunately, I had no soy flour and used oatmeal instead. :S Obviously, I'm not a baker. Let's just say they didn't turn out so well...I got to the 'rolling them into balls' part and the dough just wasn't sticky enough so I added some almond milk and additional Earth Balance butter. Yeah.... it didn't make it work really... I rolled the dough into balls and baked them but they were so incredibly dry...just ugh! Yuck.

Tonight I made a delicious vegan pizza and that turned out so well I didn't even take a photo before it got gobbled up by my mum, dad and myself! My sisters were not interested since it had vegetables and no cheese.... c'est la vie, I guess.

Now the order of the day is coming up with a couple of vegan dishes for Christmas Eve. My family does this big party thing on Xmas Eve and well Xmas Day too... Point is, the food on the table is not vegan, besides potential side dishes (i.e. steamed broccoli and roasted carrots, etc.). One of my sisters is vegetarian so we're trying to find something both of us can enjoy for the holidays. :) I will write another entry on what we finally decide on! Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Readers, what are you doing food-wise for the holidays?

On a random, unrelated-to-veganism note, did anyone see the lunar eclipse on Monday night? The moon turned red!

It was a late night but pretty historical, or so I read. And it was beautiful. Happy Solstice!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

new restaurant experience!

Hello internet-world! :)

I hope you are well and enjoying the change in season. Here in Toronto it's flip-flopping between -2 and 5 degrees (approx.), grey and rainy. Ick. At least there are still leaves on the ground.

So I went on a date (eeeee!!!! I squee!), and we went to this fabulous vegan gourmet restaurant called fressen. Wow. Just gotta say, wow. It was seriously one of the best meals I've eaten in...gosh, I don't know how long. And best of all, no unpleasant stomach pains or anything else that comes with eating dairy when one is lactose intolerant!

Since there are no pictures available on the website, here are descriptions of what my date and I had.

  • Appetizer: "Sliced shiitake and crimini mushrooms mixed with shredded spinach in cashew cream wrapped in a filo pastry puff."
  • Main course: "Rice flour wrapped squash ravioli with basil and creamed sesame butter, sautéed with leeks and basil in a tomato and olive oil sauce."
  • Dessert: It was basically chocolate mousse surrounded by chunks of chocolate and fruit.
  • Drink: A lychee martini.

The presentation was absolutely beautiful; very rare for me to see! :) So I highly HIGHLY recommend checking this place out.

Also, on a personal note, my date went amazingly well.

So if you're on Queen Street West, check out fressen. You won't regret it. And lastly, smile and enjoy life readers!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

new vegan products....

So I've been dying to re-try miso soup in hopes that I would learn to like it... Turns out while it's now awful, I really don't care all that much for it. So much for that! I liked the miso itself and even the tofu (I really like tofu) but the "sea vegetables" aka seaweed (in my case, wakami) was really hard to make myself eat. Now I've got all this sitting in my fridge and well, not much else at the moment. I have to go grocery shopping.

The other 'vegan'--and well to be honest, it's not a specially made vegan product, I don't think, but it work for vegans because it's animal-free!-- thing I've tried is agave. Now, I've tried agave before but it's expensive so I don't buy it. Honey, though not vegan, is cheaper I've found, and easier to find at most stores. At least at the little cheapie market around the corner and down the street from my house. :P So maybe there is some laziness there at times, but really, sometimes public transit just doesn't appeal. But since I just got paid and my school loan, I finally feel free! I went on a grocery trip last week to celebrate! And one of the things I bought was a small container or agave. Can I just say: nom nom! It's lovely in coffee! So that's my story! :) But I still can't let go of honey... I truly believe it's a healthful food item. One side note on agave...I have read conflicting articles about how healthful it is...the one I've linked is of particular interest, though I am not a raw foodist. Thoughts?

Also! Before I forget, I made petit fours for my family's Thanksgiving dinner! It was sort of outshone by the richer, more decadent chocolate and caramel cheesecake and non-vegan pumpkin pie. But they were pretty good, I gotta say. Although, if I made them again, I'd probably put them in smaller muffin treys; I used the big ones and they just looked like cupcakes that didn't rise. :/ That is my epic failure as a baker! Sad, sad day for vegan everywhere; they're crying now. But I looooved the ganache! Oui mes amis, I made vegan ganache. I will show pictures when I get them (my uncle took those photos for me seeing as my camera's rather useless at the moment); just gonna say, ganache = heavenly. I highly recommend! And it was a simple recipe I found online involving semi-sweet dairy-free chocolate chips, Earth Balance buttery spread and soy milk.

Well, 'til next time!