My happy place. I always make time to get out in nature with the dogs.
This week I’ve been thinking a lot about balance, and my constant struggle to find it. Especially right now, with the month of May being full of birthdays, camping, trips and other activities. My weekends are pretty much booked full for the next two months. Part of me is excited by all these fun things and experiences I get to be a part of, but the other part is wondering how I’m going to find the time to take care of general chores, tackle yard work, write blog posts, write my regular freelance articles, help my online fitness clients, work at my 9-5 job, and make time for family and self care.
According to the American Psychological Association, busyness is the reason why the majority of American’s have high stress levels that interferes with their health, and as author Scott Dannemiller points out in this Huffington Post piece, the majority of the stress we experience is brought on ourselves:
Dr. Michael Marmot, a British epidemiologist, has studied stress and its effects, and found the root causes to be two types of busyness. Though he doesn’t give them official names, he describes the most damaging as busyness without control, which primarily affects the poor. Their economic reality simply does not allow for downtime. They have to work two to three jobs to keep the family afloat. When you add kids to the mix, it becomes overwhelming, and the stress results in legitimate health problems.
The second type of busyness also results in health problems, but it is a sickness we bring on ourselves. Like voluntarily licking the door handle of a preschool bathroom or having a sweaty picnic in the Ball Pit at Chuck E. Cheese’s.
It’s busyness we control.
I definitely think I self-create the majority of my stress. (more…)
Raise your hand if your morning routine goes a little something like this:
Crap, I’m already running late for work because the kids are fighting/my hair is just NOT working today/I have nothing to wear/I lost 10 minutes of my life to Facebook/the dog just puked all over the carpet. *Looks in fridge* I guess I’ll just take this leftover spaghetti from last week to eat for lunch because I have no time to make anything else. *Opens container, notices something growing on it* Never mind, I’ll buy lunch.
And then similarly, your work day goes something like this:
It’s only 10 a.m. and I’m starving. Ohhh sweet, someone bought a box of doughnuts to the office! *Chows down on a Boston cream and gets back to work* How is it 1 p.m. already? I have so much to do, I really don’t have time to grab lunch. I’ll just see what’s in the vending machine/snack shack. *Buys a frozen Lean Cuisine* I guess this is healthy enough, it says ‘”lean” on it… and that looks like a piece of broccoli in there. *Unwraps and heats up Lean Cuisine, eats it at desk* Ugh, it’s only 3 p.m.! I’m starving. *Heads to vending machine and buys a bag of chips and a chocolate granola bar* Hopefully this will tide me over until dinner! *Gets home, feels ravenous. Eats cereal from the box while deciding what to make for dinner*
When you have a busy life and an even busier job that entails sitting behind a computer for most of the day, making time for healthy habits can be hard. Not only is it tough to take a break, get up and move around, but making healthy food choices can also be challenging.
Because most of us nine-to-fivers don’t always have the time to prepare roasted kale chips or homemade protein bars, I’ve come up with a list of snacks you can prep in a pinch and bring to work with you that will keep you fueled throughout the day until dinnertime. Bonus: You’ll save a ton of cash by bringing your own food. (more…)
As the girlfriend of a typical red-meat loving Canadian man who does manly things like wear plaid shirts, drink scotch, chop wood, build things and play hockey, forgoing animal protein on my plate is usually met with concern. Not just by Matt, but by the majority of my family and friends. Where’s the protein? Are you really going to turn your nose up at a juicy steak or hamburger? Do you want chicken instead?
Even in this day and age, veganism still sits outside of what our North American culture considers to be normal and acceptable—well, outside of Los Angeles, anyway. Although you can easily meet your daily protein requirements on a plant-based diet and can get almost all the vitamins and nutrients you need from vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds and legumes, people who don’t eat animal products are still perceived as weird, judgmental, hippy elitists. And sure, some of them still are. But not everyone who chooses a plant-based diet is weird hippy who’s judging you for eating meat. Some of us just don’t feel good about eating animals, especially if we’re highly sensitive and empathetic animal-lovers. Some of us have hereditarily high cholesterol and therefore benefit from a diet free of animal products. Some of us might be allergic to eggs and dairy, or have a hard time digesting animal protein. And some of us feel terrible for what we’re doing to the planet by eating meat.
I fall into the category of all of the above (minus the weird judgmental elitist – I guess I’m kind of a default hippy, being from the Pacific Northwest and all). I already avoid dairy because I’m lactose intolerant, and stopped eating beef, pork and lamb about a year ago because A) I don’t like it, and B) I’ve always had a hard time eating flesh from four-legged animals (cows, pigs and sheep remind me of dogs). I’ve considered going vegan for years, but never went through with it because I didn’t want to be “that” person. I didn’t want to be a bother at family dinners, and I didn’t want others to think I was being pretentious and difficult. I also didn’t want to cause concern for my manly plaid-wearing boyfriend.
But after a year of soul-searching that proceeded my 30th birthday last year, I decided it was time to live more in line with my values and to stop caring about what others think. Instead of announcing it to the world, I decided to see if I could go vegan without telling anybody—to be covert about how I ordered food, to cook plant-based without explanation, to avoid using the V word whenever possible. I decided to stop eating animal products on January 1st of this year for at least an entire month, and wanted to see how long it would take my family to find out. Here’s how it went down.
Matt and I planned to go out for Vietnamese, but our favorite restaurant (where they serve pho with miso broth) was closed for the holidays. We went to another place and everything has fish sauce in it, so I opted to slip up on day two of veganism instead of making a fuss. After dinner, we went to Starbucks and they messed up my order, giving me milk in my London fog instead of soy. I tossed it after one sip, but still had to admit defeat that day. North American Diet – 1, Bri – 0.
The rest of the week went fine. I ate my normal breakfast of oatmeal and berries, cooked up a big batch of vegan curry for lunches and made tofu stir-fry, tempeh and rice and other veggie-based meals for dinner (with chicken or beef instead of tofu for Matt). Since I’m the first one home from work, I was able to prepare the meals without having to explain my choice of choosing tofu over chicken. When he raised an eyebrow at our different-looking dinner plates, I said I just felt like having tofu.
Tofu stir fry!
I was confronted about my new diet behavior by the end of week one. “You haven’t eaten meat all week,” he said.
“Yup, and I feel great. I’m eating like an athlete – I want to be in as good as shape as possible for my marathon next month, so I’m cutting out anything that might be inflammatory or upsetting to my stomach,” I said.
Which is true. It wasn’t the only reason why I wasn’t eating meat, but it was all true.
This was a difficult week. Not only did I have a family dinner, but also several dinners out to eat for my birthday. Going out to eat wasn’t too much of a hassle—although I received some concerning looks from my family when I told the server to “hold the chicken” on my chicken salad, no one questioned it. Since I already avoid dairy, my mom got me a chocolate vegan cake for my birthday, which I pretty much ate all to myself (score!).
Black bean and quinoa fiesta bowl
The real test was at Sunday dinner, where the host, a meat-loving family friend, asked what I wanted for my birthday dinner. In this case, I felt like I had to explain myself a bit, but I still managed to avoid using the V word. I asked for spaghetti with vegetarian pasta sauce, a meal he’s prepared before for me while making a separate meat sauce for everyone else since I’ve been beef-free for a year. Dessert was a dairy-free nanaimo bar—there could have been some egg in there, but I felt like I would have been pushing it at that point if I requested a special birthday cake.
Plant-based home-cooked meals continued as normal, with Matt announcing to several people on a few occasions that I wasn’t eating meat. Not in a mean way or in an overall supportive way, but in a matter-of-fact way. I met concerned looks with my usual response: “I’m training for a marathon and am eating like an athlete!” They seemed satisfied with that.
I feel way less bloated after meals and my skin has gotten much clearer. My recovery time between workouts and runs are noticeably shorter. I don’t miss eggs as much as I thought I would have, and I haven’t had a problem meeting my daily nutrient requirements for the day. I started taking a B12 supplement, however, just in case.
Raw Superfood Pad Thai – made with zucchini and black bean noodles
Matt hasn’t brought up my meatless diet this week, and seems fine to sit by my side and eat with different protein sources on our plates.
To veganism and beyond
Going vegan without “going vegan” wasn’t as challenging as I thought it was going to be. There were a few slip-ups, but that’s to be expected when you secretly go vegan for a month. I suppose it also helps that I live on an incense-burning, dreadlock-donning, local-food-loving island in the Pacific, so I had plenty of plant-based options available to me.
My hope from this “experiment” was to show everyone eating completely plant-based is not a weird or difficult thing to do; that I’m still the same Bri without eating animal products, only now I’m more in line with my values and feel better because of it.
So will I continue to eat completely plant-based? You bet. At this point, I don’t think I can eat animal flesh again unless my body requires it. I just don’t feel I can support a process that treats animals in this way just because we like the taste of meat and think we need to have it all the time. As my hero Jane Goodall says, “animals are put in terrible conditions to feed our appetites. [Factory farming] demonstrates not only the suffering of animals (remember, pigs are every bit as intelligent as dogs and all the pictured creatures can suffer, know fear, depression and pain), but also the harm we are inflicting on ourselves” in the form of obesity and other diet-related diseases.
Although I won’t be eating meat or dairy, I have added eggs back into my diet on weekends as I’m in a muscle building phase right now and they’re a convenient source of protein. Also, we can buy our eggs from happy hens from our neighbours down the road, which I feel good about.
As for convincing my manly, scotch-drinking boyfriend of the benefits of a plant-based diet…. well, let’s just say I hope to live by example, one tofu stir-fry and Jane Goodall quote at a time.
When someone tells you to do something you don’t particularly want to do, what’s your immediate response?
Do you think about it for a moment before making up an excuse not to do it or just immediately say no? Do you act defiant until you realize it’s not a criticism and perhaps a good idea after all? Or are you open to the possibility of the action and agree after briefly thinking it through?
I have to try really hard not to act defiant when someone tells me to do something I only mildly despise, so I can’t imagine how some of my personal training clients feel when I give them an exercise plan. “On Monday, do this strength workout for 45 minutes”. Ugggh, they must think, especially if they’ve been told they need to lose weight by their doctor and exercising is something they have to do. They may want to have a strong and fit body, but aren’t looking forward to the work it’s going to take to make that happen. It also doesn’t help that the human brain values immediate rewards more highly than future rewards, so an hour spent on the couch watching Netflix will easily trump an hour spent squatting and sweating any day of the week.
If that wasn’t enough to contend with, there’s also something else going on in the brain that works against your best interests when someone tries to help you with their well-meaning fitness and health advice. (more…)
First off, you might be thinking, akrasia? Is this some new sensitivity associated with gluten? Is it slowing down my metabolism so I can’t lose weight? Is it causing leaky gut syndrome so I’m retaining water and feel bloated all the time? Is it altering my thyroid and messing with my hormones?
Here’s the definition of akrasia from the Oxford Dictionary:
The state of mind in which someone acts against their better judgment through weakness of will.
So, in other words, this state of mind:
I think I’ll sleep in rather than get up and go for that run I planned to do because my bed is cozy and warm and it’s cold and gross outside, even though I know running will make me fitter and boost my mood.
Might as well eat this whole bar of chocolate/extra piece of pizza/bag of chips because it’s delicious and I’m feeling stressed, and this helps make me feel better right now… even though I’m trying to cut back on sugar/salt/fat to try to lose weight so I can be healthier and have more energy to play with my kids.(more…)
I started publicly sharing my goals back in 2012 as a way to keep myself accountable, but also so I could look back and see where I was at the time fitness-wise, professionally and personally.
My 2012 and 2013 years were tough professionally and personally, as I was leaving one long-term relationship and moving into another, and transitioning from a tough contract job into a government position. In 2011 I completed my first triathlon and was a running machine, signing up for almost every local race I could afford. But in 2013 my focus shifted, and for some reason I made it my goal to “have abs” in 2013. I’m glad I decided to run my first ultra instead. That’s a much more bad-ass goal.
Happy almost Christmas, friends! I have a feeling this may be my only post this week due to general holiday busyness and a whole pile of freelance work I’d like to finish before taking a much needed break with my family and friends for the rest of the week. My holiday plans consist of Christmas eve at my parents’ house with my brother, sis-in-law and niece and nephew followed by more festivities at a family friends’ house; Christmas day with Matt and his parents; Boxing Day at my parents’ house with the rest of my family; and the day after Boxing Day at Matt’s parents’ house for another holiday shindig. Somewhere in there I need to do a few strength sessions and tempo runs, as well as a long recovery run on Sunday. I ran a decent 28 km this past weekend in anticipation of a recovery week this week, before I plan to build my marathon training mileage back up again next week.
Although I’ve been pretty good with fueling and eating lots of nutritious food throughout December to help keep my body healthy, I’ve definitely indulged and enjoyed myself at various get-togethers that have occurred almost twice a week since the end of November. I’ve tried to plan my long runs around late nights, but sometimes a post-too-many-glasses-of-vino-and-food-that-my-stomach-can’t-handle-the-night-before run is inevitable. I’m proud of myself, though, for not missing a single training run so far. I knew training for a marathon throughout winter and the holiday season would be tough, and although I love the holiday season, I’ll be happy when I can get back to a normal routine.
I plan to do a 2016 goals blog sometime before the New Year, but I want to do a bit more reflecting back on this past year before it comes to an end. I’ve already shared how I did with my 2015 goals, and below I’ll be sharing my most-read posts of 2015. But I can’t move forward without recognizing some of the challenges I faced this year and the incredible growth I’ve experienced that I had no idea was in the cards for me in 2015. (more…)
Happy Friday, friends! How was your week? Have you finished your Christmas baking/shopping/decorating? Are all your Starbucks-holiday-drink-consuming, Christmas-movie-watching, annual-holiday-traditions activities well underway? If they are, I hope you’re taking a moment to truly enjoy the season and not get caught up in the stress of “needing to to do it all.”
But speaking of needing to do it all, my Erin Condren customized planner arrived yesterday, and the type-A in me is SO EXCITED to start planning out my entire 2016 with customized stickers, a budget book, notes, colourful markers, and tabs. (more…)
When was the last time you wrote something down by hand?
Perhaps it was on Monday when you wrote out your to-do list in your work notebook. Or maybe it was Wednesday when you wrote on a Post-It note to remind yourself to pick up eggs. Or perhaps in was on Friday when you wrote a few pleasantries in a birthday card that you were planning to give your friend on the weekend.
Or maybe you just typed your to-do list in your lap top at work, set a reminder on your phone to get eggs and wished your friend a Happy Birthday on their Facebook wall.
Although my handwriting is barely legible and I misspell almost every word I write, I love writing things down. Pen to paper is my jam. I’m a visual learner, so there’s something about physically writing things out that helps me to remember it better than if I typed it out on a computer screen. (more…)