If it was Good Enough for Jesus….

This time of year I always look forward to two fruits that are mainly reserved for the holiday season, pomegranates and tangerines. As a part of my immune system boosting this cold and flu season, I bought my first pomegranate of the season and plan to include it on my weekly shopping list. This fruit always reminds me of Jesus. Pomegranate must have been a central part of his diet being indigenous to that region, along with dates, figs, nuts and fish. Hey, if eating a healthy diet, why not follow Jesus’ clean eats? He did treat his body like a temple after all.  I can’t imagine that there were a lot of cases of high blood pressure and obesity in those days.  The Biblical diet seems extremely healthy (I’m also pretty sure they enjoyed a glass of vino from time to time.) Once removed from the skin and bitter white rind, these juicy little seeds have big health benefits.

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Health Benefits of pomegranate:

  • Reduces the risk of prostate cancer and lowers PSA levels
  • Provides antiviral and antibacterial protection
  • High in vitamin C
  • Promotes joint health

(source Healing Foods)

I used to avoid buying pomegranates because they are just such a pain to de-seed. Then I read Jamie Oliver’s method on his blog to open and de-seed this luscious super fruit and life with the pomegranate was made a bit easier.

1. Cut the pomegranate in half.

2. Turn skin side up. Hold with fingers spread, so seeds can fall freely.  Place bowl underneath to gather seeds.

3. Hit pomegranate with a large wooden spoon vigorously until seeds fall out. This is where you can release any pent up aggression.

4. Remove any pieces of sour white rind from bowl.

Enjoy sprinkled on top of your favourite salad, or try out this recipe found in the book Healing Foods.

Superfood Salad:

Combine pomegranate seeds with pear, pineapple and orange segments, chopped fresh mint and lettuce. Drizzle with a honey-sweetened dressing.

I also add pomegranate seeds to Greek yogurt or simply enjoy on their own.

Do you enjoy pomegranates?

Because Sometimes Poppy is a Little Sloppy. Staying Healthy During Flu Season

ahm103d_1000_240img_1428Did you ever see that Seinfeld episode when Poppy was a little sloppy? Jerry refused to eat the pizza at a restaurant his girlfriend raved about because he saw the chef, Poppy, in the washroom who didn’t wash his hands after using the toilet. When Poppy told Jerry, “I-a personally gonna make dinner for you and Audrey,” leaving poor Jerry dumbfounded. Jerry watched in horror as the pizza chef kneaded the dough with a big grin on his face. A similar thing happened to me last year.  I was dining at a fancy schmancy restaurant with a few friends for a birthday party. My friend and I excused ourselves from our party to go to the ladies room. As we stood at the sink washing our hands, another lady came out of the third stall. She ran the water and what we observed was quite shocking. She wet only the tips of her fingers, and patted down the sides of her hair. She then puckered her lips to apply a coat of ruby-red lipstick taken from her stylish beaded clutch purse. My friend and I glanced at one another. When she left the facilities I asked my friend, “did that just happen?” Who cares about your sexy lips, lady! Your hands!

Which leads me to my first tip to staying healthy this flu season.

1. I don’t shake stranger’s hands anymore, especially after witnessing first “hand” (insert bad joke here) that some people don’t hand wash after doing their business. What if she was working in the kitchen? I wondered if she held the door for any patrons as they left the restaurant. Wash those hands, everyone. Wash after holding a grocery cart, an escalator rail or a revolving door, because you just don’t know. Which is tip number 2……

I no longer hold doors in public anymore, but have devised a very unique way of stopping the door with my feet or elbows and I always use a paper towel in the washroom if I have to open the door first. I don’t really care what folks think. People pick noses, cough in their hands and don’t hand wash and then hold onto surfaces….or make pizza. Which I try not to think about. (Sometimes I guess ignorance is bliss.)

3. If I am sick, I stay home in bed. I used to be one of those silly people who went to work sick. Well, not these days. When I am sick there is only one place you will find me. In my bed, with my Vicks Vapour rub watching Sex in the City reruns. The world will continue and your job will be there tomorrow. You are no good to any project, manager or team if you are burning with fever or so congested that you can’t smell and people think you said “bye” when you really said “my”. I once witnessed a man on the train when I worked downtown. He was hacking so badly with a cough that people were getting up and leaving the seats near him (myself included). If you’re that sick, stay home. Nobody wants to catch what you have and you will never recover if you do not take the sufficient amount of rest.

4.  Eat well. Have your five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Fruits and vegetables are full of antioxidants and keep your immune system strong. Drink a lot (and I mean a lot) of fresh, filtered water as well as green tea. This will flush out those toxins and help you to heal faster if you are sick.

5.  I find that supplements such as vitamin D and Camu C are very good for immune system boosting. Camu camu is a powerful fruit found in the Brazilian rainforest with higher amounts of vitamin C than oranges.

I don’t mean to get all Howie Mandell on you, but as I said, you just never know. That lady in that fancy eating establishment looked clean, put together and polished. Perfect hair, make-up with an expensive looking outfit, yet she failed to wash her hands. Poppy looked well-groomed too, yet he was a little sloppy and failed to wash his hands.

Take care, my friends. What are your tips for staying healthy this season. Did anyone get the flu shot? Did you ever see that Seinfeld episode?

Andy’s Eggplant Parmesan

Do you know the saying, “a man’s heart is to his stomach”? Well, I have to say in our case, it was the reverse. One of the things that I fell in love with was Andy’s culinary skills. The ability to create good food without ever following a recipe. That’s talent in my books!  Always one to take the path less traveled, his spin on eggplant parm has no breadcrumbs and no egg wash.

You will need:

  • One eggplant
  • Cooking oil
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 2 handfuls of grated low-fat cheddar
  • A small piece of a red onion
  • 2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  •  Sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh, finely chopped rosemary

1. Wash the outside of your eggplant thoroughly before cutting.

2. Cut the eggplant in a little less than 1/4 of an inch circles. (thinly sliced)

3. In a baking or pyrex dish, coat the bottom with a one tablespoon of Purolivia cooking oil.

4. Add a little (1 to 2 teaspoons) water to one can of tomato paste in a separate dish. Mix well until tomato paste is smooth and spreadable.

5. Cover the bottom of the pyrex dish with first layer of eggplant.

6. Cover layer of eggplant with the tomato paste/water mixture.

7. Sprinkle a handful of grated low-fat cheddar cheese on top.

8. Add another layer of eggplant, covered by another layer of tomato paste mixture. Follow with another layer of sprinkled cheddar cheese.

9. Finish by topping with a few circles of chopped red onions, (a garnish serving), two teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil sprinkled on top and a sprinkle of fresh, grated parmesan. Sprinkle a dash of sea salt.

10.  As a final step to add more flavour, add a sprinkle of finely chopped fresh rosemary.

11. Bake at 350 F for 30-35 minutes.

Why not enjoy this easy, tasty side dish this week?

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There’s no Place like home- A beginner’s Guide to Creating a Workout Space

Do you want to get into better shape, but can’t afford a gym membership? Then it may be time to consider building a gym to workout in the comfort of your home. You don’t have to break the bank or buy an elaborate Bowflex type of apparatus. Getting and staying into shape doesn’t have to be expensive or complex. I went over to my neighbourhood Target and found all kinds of goodies in their fitness/active living department to build an ideal home gym to fit almost any budget. So clear out that space in the spare bedroom or basement you have been meaning to de-clutter and get your gym ready.

Home Gym Necessities:

1. Hand held dumbbells-  If you are just starting out with strength training, a set of 5 pound dumbbells is all you need in the initial stages. These dumbbells were on sale at 7.99 each. Of course you will need to purchase two. As your strength increases you can add heavier weights to your collection.

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2. If your preference is resistance bands:

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3. A Yoga mat is the perfect surface, not only for Yoga but for slip free stretching or push-ups.

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4. Cardio is an important component to any fitness routine. You can do equipment-free jumping jacks or jogging on the spot to get your heart rate up. Skipping is also a great cardiovascular exercise. This rope was priced at:

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All four items for keeping it very basic just coming in at around 50.00 dollars (without sales tax here in Can.)

As your fitness level increases you can add more equipment to your gym. You don’t need to buy the equipment all at once. Simply add to your gym as your budget allows.

Additional equipment:

A medicine ball:

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A pull-up bar:

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A kettlebell:

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Equipment in total: 129.42 (tax not included)

Not a bad price to pay for becoming a healthier you.

There you have it. A gym from home that you can build upon and add to as you become fitter, and buy at your own financial pace. Looking for the camaraderie that a gym provides? Why not invite a friend or two over to workout with you a few times per week? Entice him/her with a glass of wine, I mean a smoothie, yes a smoothie after your workout.

Getting in shape can suit almost any budget. For a complete beginner home gym workout click here. I tried this workout this evening by celebrity trainer Autumn Calabrese which is perfect and safe for beginners. There are many home gym DVD’s and YouTube workouts to choose from. Now go start clearing out those boxes of clothes from the ’80′s in your basement!

What would be your ultimate home gym essential?

*It is advisable to consult with your doctor before starting this or any new exercise routine. Physical ability and over all health and safety must be considered first and foremost.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are They on your Team?

He sat on the sofa eating his fries, sipping his beer and licking the grease from his fingers after each chicken wing.
“C’mon babe,” he said, trying to entice her by shaking his carton full of fries, “just have a couple fries.”
Nooooo, I can’t,” she protested, mixing greens on a plate next to her grilled chicken breast. “You know I have to lose weight or I can’t have my surgery.”
“Well, don’t expect me to be eating rabbit food. F@*^ that!” He retorted, taking a swig of his beer for effect.

This was the scene I watched one evening on a show called My 600 Pound Life. The show documents the journey of the morbidly obese as they prepare for gastric bypass surgery and how their lives have changed post surgery. With this particular lady, her husband seemed to feel very threatened at the thought of her weight loss. He did whatever he could to sabotage her from reaching her goals. Can you believe on the way home from the hospital after her surgery, he wanted to stop for fast food? After her gastric bypass surgery, she joined a gym, a weight loss support group and ended up losing over 300 pounds. Her husband by this time had become resentful, and she described their relationship as roommates rather than husband and wife. What kept her from throwing in the towel many times and going for that double burger with super sized fries, and pints of ice-cream each night was seeing the joy her weight loss brought to her daughter. This lady said being able to take her little girl to the park, pushing her on the swing, and riding bikes together was the best feeling she had ever experienced and was not about to return to a life of being immobile and stuffing her face with donuts. Weight loss brought her freedom, mobility and more importantly a renewed relationship with her daughter and herself. This feeling tasted a lot better than donuts. While she was falling in love with herself, she was falling out of love with her husband.

The relationship with her couch-potato husband also evolved, but for the worse. Overtime, he became angry, spiteful (eating pizza every night in front of her) and she observed, began to become more overweight and sedentary himself. While sabotaging her goals, he was becoming obese. When she encouraged him to go on walks with her, he merely scoffed. These two were becoming very different people and she didn’t think their marriage would out-live the year. I had to agree with her. Clearly, now that this woman went from potato chips to kale chips, her spouse was no longer on her team.

I think that when you are changing for the better, but those around you want you stuck in your same destructive patterns, it is because they don’t want to look in the mirror at themselves. They want no part of self-reflection. This man was a junk food addict and he needed others as a cushion. By surrounding himself with like-minded people, he could live his lifestyle without accountability. Although this guy was a bonafide jerk, I truly felt sorry for him. He seemed so stuck in his bad habits that I could see deep down he was miserable. He was terrified of changing for the better, so he didn’t want his wife to improve the quality of her life. I think the most difficult hurdle the folks who undergo this drastic lifestyle change face is not having the support of their family and friends. I observed through this show just how vital support is.

Refusing that slice of cake, glass of wine and fast food take-out on a regular basis, and saying yes to steamed broccoli and fish can be difficult when you have become a slave to the fast food industry. However, with your own mental strength and resolve, plus the support, encouragement and love from people in your life it doesn’t have to be.

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Quote resource: http://www.livelifehappy.com

Seeing Red

I am not often a ranter and usually I am a go with the flow kinda gal, but I feel this issue warrants a wee rant so here I go.

The very next day after Halloween, I made my way to the gym. My gym is located in the major shopping centre in my city. What I saw nearly made me drop my heavy steel water bottle on my foot. A Christmas tree all lit up in one of the mall’s main foyers. Was that “Silver Bells” I heard playing in replace of the usual elevator music? I barely had time to wipe off my day of the dead make-up before the festive season made a sudden appearance. Not long ago, it was unheard of here in Canada to be playing carols and decorating for the season before respecting and honouring our veterans and military service people, past and present, on Remembrance Day on November 11th. Officially the start of the season kicked off on the U.S. Black Friday. What is the rush? Don’t let me get started on the red cups. I’m still savouring my pumpkin spiced lattes and lighting my pumpkin scented candles, peeps! I paid $24 bucks for that candle and it is not going to stop burning already. I love Christmas as much as the next guy, but slow down, retailers! I know people want to get ready and perhaps start their shopping and plan their menus and yes, I can relate to this. I have already bought Andy’s present and it is hidden where he will NEVER find it. Did you hear me, A? I repeat, you will NEVER find it so don’t even try lookin.’  But I digress. Sure budget may allow us to start with an early Christmas list check-off, but I do not want to hear, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” right now. Truly, it’s still looking a lot like fall.

Okay, so ends my rant.  Let us honour and pay our respects to the service men and women who put their lives on the line for us everyday, so that we can live in peace, comfort and joy every holiday season. Some who have survived have lost mobility or are living with terrible bouts of PTSD, depression and other mental illnesses. Let us think of the brave men and women who lost their lives in battle this Remembrance and Veterans Day. After the 11th go crazy, bust out the jingle bells (which I still feel is early) but please, let us not forget.

Personally, this is the only red I want to see right now:

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Agree or disagree? Do you think the holiday season is starting earlier and earlier these days?

Photo source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:RemembrancePoppies.jpg

 

 

 

You Think You’re in Good Shape Until…

You try something new and find yourself gasping, or wincing in exhaustion mid workout. Your face is covered in sweat and beet red. If you read this post you might remember I did a TribeCore class. On Tuesday night I did TribeCore’s meaner and more intense big sister TribeFit. A series of burpees, treadmill sprints, push-ups, squats, walking lunges and walking planks were all on the agenda with no rest in between.  Before I continue can I just say that burpees are evil. They were put on this earth to make us suffer while getting us into shape. They are three moves in one: a plank, a push-up and a jump. Evil, mean little burpees. I try to avoid them like the plague because they are so hard.  To say I was challenged in TribeFit is an understatement.

On Sunday, I did the Core Killer workout from the NTC app. Killer is right, considering I felt like I was on the verge of death by the end of the workout. Only 15 minutes but an INTENSE 15 minutes.  Here I was, little overly-confident me, thinking I can handle the Core Killer. Hey, I can plank straight for two minutes. How hard can this 15 minutes be? Well, my ab region was in pain (the good hardworking,  muscles are crying pain) during the workout and I struggled throughout.

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After recovering from the Core Killer on Sunday night, I was watching Nik Wallenda and his death-defying stunt of walking the tightrope between two Chicago high rise buildings, without a net and tether. (would he do it any other way?) Oh yeah, he was also blindfolded. Something he said in an interview before his walk really resonated with me. It was along the lines of, “if you have a passion, you can’t stay stuck in the same old routine. You’ve got to test your limits to grow, challenge yourself and become better.”  Hence the reason, Wallenda explained that he felt compelled to walk the rope blindfolded. His next stunt will be doing a handstand on the rope mid way through his walk. Again, testing those limits through his passion. I realized that I tend to get stuck in a rut, sometimes through my own stubbornness. I am now in a pull-up crazed frenzy, so I have tunnel vision of training my lats to achieve one unassisted pull-up. While this is a good goal, I have to remember that fitness entails other components, such as endurance and speed, and not just strength.

Now while I won’t be walking a tightrope across The Grand Canyon anytime soon, or without 50 tethers and 50 nets, I will certainly be testing my limits in fitness because fitness is my passion. I will try to do at least two new activities per month and will utilize the killer workouts on the NTC app more often instead of avoiding them, and will even add more burpees in my life. Although we are not one of the Flying Wallendas, I believe we all have passions in our lives that need we need to grow, develop and challenge.

How will you challenge yourself this month?

Black Men Get Your Butts to the Doctor!

Welcome November! Or should I say Movember? This month is prostate cancer awareness month, so usually clean-shaven men might be sporting a little extra facial hair to bring about awareness to this disease.  I just bought a new jar of upper lip hair removal cream, so I won’t be sporting a ‘stache. If I skipped my hair removal cream ritual however, I may very well be looking like a Movember participant in a few months:

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Now, let’s talk prostate. What is prostate cancer? Well, first let us take a look at what the prostate is:

The prostate is a walnut-sized gland just below the bladder. It produces part of the fluid that carries sperm. Normally, as men age, the prostate increases in size. If it grows large enough, it may press on the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder. This may make the urine flow weaker or slower or make men have to urinate more often, especially at night. In the large majority of cases, an increase in the size of the prostate and a change in urine flow do not mean you have cancer – these are just a normal part of aging. Nonetheless, healthy men who experience symptoms should consult a physician without delay.

Prostate cancer is:

In some cases, a growth in the prostate is cancerous.  Prostate cancer is different in different men. Sometimes the cancer stays in the prostate gland and has little or no effect on how a man feels or how long he lives. Some men with prostate cancer have no symptoms – in other words, it is possible to have prostate cancer without the prostate being enlarged, without urinary problems, and without pain. About seven out of every 10 men diagnosed with prostate cancer will not die from this disease – rather they will die with the disease and from other causes such as heart disease, stroke or old age.

Prostate cancer can also be fatal and it is important to talk with your doctor to understand if you are at risk. In order to detect for risk of prostate cancer men must undergo a PSA blood test (prostate specific antigen) to see if levels are high (at risk) or normal. During your routine check-up, your doctor will also give you a prostate rectal exam to test for an enlarged prostate.

Now, this is where things get dicey. Did you know that black males have a higher risk of prostate cancer than caucasian males? This is the reason I relentlessly harassed Andy to get an exam. As much as I harassed him, he was not going to get this exam done. Like many men he argued, “I’m not letting anybody do that to me. Doctor or not.”  Unfortunately, this is a common reason why men skip this life-saving exam. Fear and pride of feeling violated or less masculine are often factors.  These very same reasons could also lead to their demise. If left to grow, prostate cancer is deadly. If detected early chances of survival are high.

If you are a black male between the ages of 45-60 +, please read this. I have asked Andy how he came to terms with finally deciding to have the rectal exam, and how he overcame his fear.

Me: Hi Andy. Thanks for answering my questions. First, why did you decide to have this exam?

Andy: Well, as you know, prostate cancer is in my family history. Both my older brothers have battled and survived, so I knew I had to get it done.

Me: How did you set aside the feeling of doubt and undergo the exam? What advice would you have for men that may have the same fear that you did?

Andy: I realized that common sense prevails. The first piece of advice is that you should have a good relationship with your doctor. I asked him many questions about the exam. I felt comfortable enough to discuss my concerns, and he is a doctor with a very good bedside manner and was able to put my mind at ease. We talked about the exam during many visits before he actually performed the exam. Make sure you can ask your doctor anything. You have to be an advocate for your health. If your doctor is a good doctor, he/she will also be an advocate for your health.

Me: Will out divulging too much information, how was the actual exam?

Andy:  Not bad. It was very quick with a little discomfort of course. My doctor talked me through the whole process which was something that I found really helped me. My discomfort was more my mental barriers than physical.

Me: Finally, what advice would you have from a man who may be at risk, but who refuses to have this exam because he does not want his doctor to touch this area of his body.

Andy: Man, I understand your concerns, but it can save your life. You don’t want this disease, to be on your death bed and find out it could have been cured, but for a 2 minute exam. We, as black men, must get over this foolish notion that you are less of a man for having this exam. You are more of a man for getting this done. Your loved ones wouldn’t want you to go this way. Think of your children or grandchildren, your significant other. You are taking your health care in your own hands and that is what a man does.

Eat well, exercise and especially If you are a black male, book your rectal exam and PSA blood test now. If you are 45 plus and prostate cancer runs in your family, swallow your pride. It could very well be life saving.

God Bless.Prostate-Blue-Ribbon-166842352

Source:  http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/public/programs/cancer/prostate/

An Ode to the Legend

When I look through my Instagram feed, I see a lot of posts of women flexing, working out, doing handstands, push-ups and pull-ups. I truly love it. To see women becoming strong, eating clean with defined biceps is a refreshing change from the waif movement years ago. There is a strong revolution happening in our midst and being unrealistically skinny is no longer the new sexy. (Thank goodness.) However, where did it all begin?

Before these squatting, pressing and lifting ladies on social media feeds, there once was a powerhouse named Rachel McLish. She was one of many female bodybuilders who dominated the body-building world of the 80′s. Rachel McLish was the first ever woman to win the coveted title of Ms.Olympia. She did so twice in her bodybuilding career.  Cory Everson won the title an outstanding SIX times in her career. I tried to find Rachel McLish (one of my fitness idols) on various social media outlets for my own motivational purposes, but couldn’t find her anywhere. It appears she is as elusive as she is strong and beautiful. She must be in her late 50′s today, but I read in a bodybuilding forum somewhere that she still works hard and eats well. In her hay-day, there was no Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Lady lifters put in the work at the gym and went home to practice posing instead of posting posing.

This phenomenal lady paved the way for the Monica Brants, Jamie Easons and Trish Stratus’. So when I see people showing off their strong backs, biceps or quads on Instagram, respect and acknowledgement must be made to the first lady of flexing, the original beauty with barbells, the original lady who lifts, and mademoiselle with muscle (ok, I’m having too much fun with this.)  Her accomplishments empowered women across the globe to see and believe that strong is certainly beautiful. Weight lifting women do not equate looking masculine, but do equate looking beautiful.  She started this movement for you. She started this for me. When I do that next flex, or shameful gym selfie, I will always remember who to thank before posting, sharing, tagging and liking became the norm.

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Strong and sexy, Rachel McLish poses in her glory days.

photo source

other sources: www.bodybuilding.com

Workouts Lately and the Kindness of Strangers

My workouts and energy-fueling eating plan have been going great. Going to the gym is becoming easier and easier, as I feel excited to meet new challenges.  Food prepping is consistent to ensure I’m getting enough protein, fats and carbohydrates to train effectively.

My schedule looks like this:

Monday: Upper body strength + pull up training

Tuesday: Cardio/lower body. I choose one activity:

Zumba Tone

HIIT

Tabata

Spin

Jogging/sprinting drills

Nike or TFG App- Cardio drills

Wednesday: Upper body strength+ pull up training

Thursday: Rest

Friday: Upper body strength

Saturday: Cardio with lower body strength and resistance training (lunges, deadlifts, squats.)

Sunday: Kundalini or restorative Yoga, along with active rest injury prevention exercises.

I am still doing Dr. Lynn’s program, along with some challenge strength routines from The Fitness Games app. Today I did this workout:

IMG_0866My back was annihilated for sure!

Pull-up Progress:

Still assisted, but now I am rotating between doing my pull-ups from assisted machine to the actual bar with the resistance band and I think this is proving to be more auspicious in helping me to reach my goal of one unassisted pull-up. It felt odd using the resistance band at first. Putting my foot in the loop didn’t feel very secure and I was wobbling all over the place. As I was doing the pull-ups I kept thinking the band would snap and I would go tumbling down. Once I got to my third set, it felt a lot more comfortable and I got into a good tempo.

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Bar with resistance band

My back is getting a bit of a taper from all the pull-ups.  On Friday, a woman I have never seen before at the gym really started my weekend off on a high note. She told me my back looks muscular and asked me what I do. To say I was gushing is an understatement. More importantly, I have to remember to be less critical of myself and be proud of what I have accomplished. Sometimes it takes a nice compliment from a complete stranger to remind us that we are doing pretty good after all.

Progress pictures are coming soon. First I just want to order this outfit from Fabletics to pose in. Hey, girlfriend wants to look decent. Holla to Kate Hudson for reasonably priced shipping to Canada and a whole outfit for only $24.99.

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Have a wonderful week. Work hard, eat well and take care of yourself and one another.