Time to Kick Ass (or at least reduce mine)

Well, it has been quite a while since I had the motivation to share the thoughts constantly streaming in my very active brain.  You know the ongoing dialogue that interrupts all the attempts at meditation and the “what I think are brilliant ideas” that come to me while I am out walking.  Yes, the ones that I never remember when I get home.

I am back on track with my healthy life style plan and the best plan of action for me is to share and to have my family and friends (and readers) keep me real.  I have read that this works for some and not for others but it is always a great idea for me.  I was being very strict with myself in the weeks prior to my doctor’s appointment mid January.  I then was a little more lenient in the past 2 weeks – no weight gain but no weight loss either.

I like to use the old weight watchers plan –pre 2010.  It is the best one for me – only some vegetables are free points and everything else needs to be weighed and calculated.  It has worked every time for me and I have been so blessed to not gain anything back since 2004 when I first put it into use.  I managed to drop another 15 pounds since last August and then plateaued.  I think it is time to put more exercise in the mix at least 3 days a week and walk for nothing less than a half hour on the other days.  I have lost 80 pounds in total so far – 20 more to go.

For me the best diet secret is just not to have the bad stuff in the house.  I am watching my sugar intake so I have pretty much eliminated packaged foods (maybe a package of Ryvita crackers once in a while), removed the maple syrup, divide my meat in portions before I put it in the freezer as well as removing fat and skin ( too tempting when you are cooking at 5pm and already hungry), and stocking the freezer with frozen vegetables that are easy to cook in a hurry or when I need to snack.  My favourite go-to splurge is all you can eat sushi every few weeks.

If you want to try the very old weight watcher’s plan without the expense you can try this resource and you can calculate your point value here.  You can also find the value of thousands of food right here.  On the old system you can calculate your point allotment here.

I am inspired to keep this up because my last Doctor’s appointment was successful.  All my numbers were on the decline!  Yup, cholesterol, blood sugar – everything – the doctor was very pleased and won’t see me again for 6 months.  I want to reach my goal weight of 150 pounds by then.  It’s important for me to talk numbers and I wish more of us did.  I am certain that if I knew that so many women weighed in the same range as me, I wouldn’t have felt like the biggest one around.  I wish that I had that measuring stick instead of the chart that said I was supposed to weigh 130 when my starting point was 160.   I had no idea that a size 14 was average.

I started losing weight in 2004 – dropped 35 pounds – felt fabulous and svelt and didn’t try to lose again until my diagnosis with Type 2 Diabetes.  I then dropped another 20 and was able to go without medications for another 2 years.  Last year my numbers were escalating and I am now on a few medications that are working well.  For those of you familiar with Diabetic medication – Metformin does not work for me – the side effects leave my joints sore and stiff and cause a lot of digestive problems.  I recommend not relying on your family physician but getting an Endocrinologist as soon as you are diagnosed.  I am taking 2 new medications – Trajenta and Jardiance.  They are working for now but my goal is once again to be medication free.  That is why I am working so hard! I continue to have a monthly acupuncture treatment and to take my Chinese Herbs daily.

It’s all about health and healing.  I am committed to this journey. Help keep me honest.  I love sharing recipes and food ideas, exercise plans and anything that has been successful.  I wish I knew all this when I was younger and I wish that I put a stop to the slow weight gain of 5 pounds every year but there is no sense in crying over that spilled milk.  I am sure there are a lot of important lessons in it all.  At least I know that being overweight did not stop me from doing anything – EVER!

Time to kick ass!  Or at least reduce mine.

Am I Fat?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately (always) about food, about dieting, about weight.  The reality of being 60 means a lot of history to contend with and a lot of struggles to sort out.  I am back on medication for Type 2 Diabetes and Hypertension.  For 2 fabulous years, I was able to maintain normal levels with Chinese Medicine but rising levels meant seeing a specialist and mainstream, western medication.  Now I am committed to exercise and losing another 25 pounds to be able to take the least amount of medication possible.

bicyclebicycling

I want to talk about my story with weight, with body image, and with insecurities.  When I was 13 years, I went away to summer camp where the camp nurse weighed each of us.  I stood innocently on the scale and weighed in at 160 pounds.  The nurse reacted with a Wow! Or something similar to that.  I think she told me it was too much.  I was overweight.  That was the only beginning.  I remember being a very lonely child.  My dad was strict and I wasn’t allowed the same freedoms that my brothers had.  I had to come in before dark and sleepovers were not allowed.  I had a friend who lived across the street – Karen.  She always seemed so normal – typical……just what I dreamed of being.  We stopped at the grocery store near our school a couple of times and bought a chocolate bar.  I thought I was so cool!!  I told my Mom and I saw her face fall.  I knew she was thinking that I was too fat to be eating a chocolate bar.  Now I knew I was fat…fatter than the other kids…the fattest….the big one.  Different, the odd one….the fat, Jewish one. D.i.f.f.e.r.e.n.t.  and that was the beginning of a life time of dieting.

chocolate bar

In my teen years I tried a few very weird diets.  One day I ate only bananas and almost fainted in gym class.  Gym class – now that is a whole story in itself.  I always felt fat and awkward and clumsy.  I was sure that all the other girls were athletic.  I do remember thinking I was a great soccer goalie well, until half the girls on the other team came crashing and kicking at me! I dreaded gym from day 1 until I finally could drop it as a course in Grade 10 when it was no longer mandatory.  My favourite teenage diet and one I often did was 500 calories a day eaten in 2 meals.  Each meal allowed a half piece of bread, 1 cup of salad with no dressing, 3 ounces of meat or fish and 1 apple.  Great diet for a growing teenager!  I would usually keep this regime Monday through Friday and eat normally on the weekend.  On this diet you should lose a pound per day they proclaimed.  I usually lost a pound or 2 a week.  I once asked my Mother to show me how big a pound was and she took out a pound of butter from the fridge.  That was my go to image each time I lost some weight.

butter

 

At 19 and madly in love, I ran into some relationship problems.  I couldn’t eat.  I was heartbroken.  My boss used to ask in the morning if I had eaten anything and send me to the cafeteria for tea and toast that I usually threw up after eating.  Lunch was cup-of-soup, an apple or some popcorn and dinner wasn’t much better.  I often had a few crackers with some dip.  The weight was falling off and I was at my lowest weight of 150 pounds.  Only 10 pounds lighter than my normal weight of the past 6 years but of course, everyone said how great I looked and I felt like a super model. 150 pounds was still 30 pounds over the weight the charts told me I should be at. I got married in this time and had some very beautiful photos taken.  I knew that the long white dress hid my curves and the beautiful face shots hid the body.

Sandra 1976 Indian Rocks Beach, Florida
Sandra at 20 years old and 155 pounds. Indian Rocks Beach, Florida

I don’t remember my husband ever telling me I was beautiful or sexy or openly admiring my body.  I didn’t have a lot of money to buy really trendy clothing.  Clothing is a very important part of this narrative and one I have been thinking of a lot.  When I was around 12 years old, my mother took me shopping at Curls in Moncton, N.B. , an independent store for mature women and definitely not for teens.  She bought me several new dresses.  The sales woman was my aunt.  Both my Mom and Aunt were in their 50s by then.  When I got home and we showed the new clothes to my dad, I remember him telling Mom the clothes were too old for me and Mom saying that younger clothes didn’t fit me.  When I was old enough to shop for myself, I remember struggling to find jeans in size 14 and later size 16.  I was a travel consultant at Eaton’s Travel and we wore uniforms from Eatons.  I couldn’t find a suit to fit so I had to have mine custom made.  Fortunately, the Ports’ blouses fit my corpulent size 16 body.  When I was 30 years old and still wearing size 16, I was a manager of a large women’s clothing store, Fairweather, and rarely found clothes that fit me.  We were supposed to wear only Fairweather clothes.  I often had to find something similar in another store.  Although, a solution always was possible, I was always aware that I wasn’t an “average” size.

Over the next 15 years, I gained 50 pounds at 5 pounds per year until I reached 255 and a size 24.  I was fulfilling my self-proclaimed prophecy as a fat woman.  However, I always felt that I looked good.  People always told me that I was beautiful…they loved my clothes….copied my style…told me I flowed when I walked…told me I was sexy….saw me as a trendsetter. I did some plus size modeling.  I dated…I had confidence…turned a few heads when I entered a room but deep down, I knew that I was the fattest one!  At least, that was the old and ugly tape going on in my head.

At 45 years old, after years of weight gain and then years of maintaining my weight, I started dieting again using the Weight Watchers plan.  I couldn’t afford their program so I got their books from my size 0 zero (and lifelong Weight Watcher member) and taught myself the program.

weight watcher books

I don’t remember what motivated me to make that commitment.  After losing 35 pounds, I thought about how my role as a mother was changing.  My daughters were leaving home for university and no longer needed me to be to be 2 parents or needed me to protect them.  I wondered if my subconscious realized that my warrior/protector role was changing and I didn’t need to be so “big and strong”. I got smaller through diet and daily exercise.  I walked the 6 km to work and back.  I then started biking to work and in the first week dropped 7 pounds.  I hit a plateau at 217 pounds and I felt like a little mini.  It was exciting.  I dropped 3 sizes and felt so healthy.  I maintained that weight for the next 10 years.  It took me a long time to realize I was actually no longer a size 24 – I once went in a fitting with size 24 pants that fell off me.  My daughters both told me they thought I had  a touch of body dysmorphia (might be a bit of a stretch) but the truth is, I always subconsciously, saw myself as the biggest one in room.

In the past 2 years, I have dropped another 40 pounds.  I am now 175 pounds.  This was my weight in my 30’s and I have really been working on seeing my body as it really is.  As I mentioned earlier, I have been struggling with health issues – hypertension and type 2 diabetes.  These problems can be genetic – my father, my grandfather, my grandmother, mother and brother have had one or both.  However, all I hear is OBESE, caused by OBESITY….ringing painfully in my head.  I also believe that if I lose another 25 pounds, I will miraculously be cured.  I will be the picture of health.

 

I remember an experience with a OB/Gyn during my first pregnancy.  His “bedside” manner with me was never that good- although he had been recommended by several of my friends.  I was never sure what the problem was but at one of the Jewish holidays, I asked him if I should fast.  He said no, but that didn’t mean I should be eating Cheetos in the synagogue!!  After a few more rude comments, I decided to move on to another physician.  His nurse told me that the only other time a patient complained she also was overweight.  I was 5’3” and weighed 190 pounds.   When I was living in Haifa, I had a knee injury and went to the hospital where the doctor asked me to raise my skirt so she could see the knee.  She literally gasped and said, “I didn’t realize you were obese!!”  Can I just say, Yowza….what the hell was that?

I have always loved my body….I like looking in the mirror.  I actually admire my luscious although downward facing breasts, my rounded hips, my full and juicy belly.  I really wish we saw more photos of all body types and I really hope we all continue this conversation.  This isn’t an issue particular to men or women.  It is a struggle all around.  I have loved and enjoyed many body types.

I wanted to share this story today.  We are talking a lot about fat shaming, loving all body types and then the issues around health and wellness. When I openly refer to myself as fat these days, I am reclaiming myself.  I am not shaming myself.  I am saying openly….this is who I am and I like it! I am a voluptuous, big, bold and beautiful womyn!  I am hoping that you will share your stories with me.  I am hoping that you will stand in the mirror and say with passion and love…..I love me!!!!!!!

cartoon sandra

That’s What a Healthy Life Looks Like

Yesterday I retired from my position as the National Coordinator for Canadian Voice of Women for Peace.  I am ready for the change and so excited for the challenge ahead.

Today I am heading to Milford, Connecticut to cat/house sit.  Deb and I met in 2015 when I first visited as a Bed and Breakfast guest.  I love her home – cozy, clean, quaint and a block from the beach.  This will be home for the 2 ½ weeks.

I am back on a very healthy eating and weight loss program.  Although I am satisfied with my weight and how I look these days, I can’t seem to get my health in good order.  Several years ago, I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and Hypertension (High blood pressure).  Both of these are hereditary on both sides of my family but that shouldn’t have made it inevitable.  I changed my eating habits, lost 20 pounds and worked closely with a practitioner of Chinese medicine.  I take herbs and have monthly treatments.  For 2 years, I was able to lower my blood sugar readings to normal and maintain a healthy blood pressure but then last year my numbers started going up.  No matter how much I restricted what I was eating, I couldn’t do it.  I dropped another 10 pounds but then the weight loss stopped and I have been stuck for several months.  I am seeing an endocrinologist ( a specialist for diabetes) and he has me on 3 different medications and they are all at the maximum  dosage.  I am not feeling any side effects but we are also not getting to the normal numbers that he wants.  The prognosis is that I will need a new mediation but he has given me until December to lose more weight.

That’s where I am today, one week later and magically 3 pounds lighter.   I am using the weight watchers program (pre 2010).  I know it and it has worked for me in the past.  In 2004, I lost 35 pounds and kept it off, and since then I have used it to lose another 35.  At least I have gained any weight in the past 20 years.  I have an ideal weight in mine – my lowest adult weight from when I was 19 years old.  That is another 35 pounds but my goal for now is 20 pounds.   Since my diagnosis a few years ago, I believed that I could beat this if I could reach that weight.

I am inviting you to come on this journey with me – keep me motivated, keep me honest, encourage me and maybe some of you will work at this with me.  When I want a change, I believe in going public!  Go big or go home!!

Here is the plan – stick to the old weight watchers plan, work at things that I love, commit to exercise a minimum of 3 times a week but trying for 5.  The next 17 days I want to kickstart it!  I am going to beach destination in Connecticut, on the beautiful Long Island Sound, a bicycle with flat roads and a state park, miles of beach and quiet.  I am going to bike every day with a goal of 12 kilometres per day.  I want to walk the beach at low tide everyday rain or shine soaking up the healthy salt air and the “negative ions”.  My diet splurges will be fresh lobster and quahogs and a glass or 2 of wine, maybe even a light beer.  Alcohol isn’t something I drink very often but vacation screams “Have a glass or 2.” Of course, it means giving up something else on the weight watchers’ plan.

I need to purchase lunch in the airport today and I know I could have chosen a salad but instead I picked a roasted vegetable sandwich and a coffee.  I ate one half of the bun and through the rest away.  For me, that is important to throw out what I shouldn’t eat otherwise it may find its way into my mouth an hour later.  I am only supposed to have one coffee a day but every now and then, I treat myself to an extra one.  Love the dark roast with a splash of lowfat cream.

An hour until my flight departs.  I feel that my whole life is about to lift off.  Fingers crossed.

 

Puh-leese!!!! Tell me – what do you mean you don’t cook?

I had a chat recently with a woman who said “I rarely cook.  You know, I live alone so it just doesn’t make sense. She has always lived alone so it isn’t a matter of learning to cook for herself after years of feeding a big family. Usually I am more polite and would have quietly nodded but this wasn’t one of my more polite moments.  Forgive me. I just said no – I don’t know.  In fact, it is a total enigma to me. I have been thinking about it all week.  Granted it isn’t the first time I have heard it and I guess it won’t be the last since now I am asking you, dear reader, do you only cook when there is someone else to feed?

fast food

I did have a neighbour who lived alone and at the end of every week her recycling was filled with pizza boxes.

So now, scratching my head, I am wondering about those who don’t cook. What do you eat?  Do you not cook because you have found awesome food to eat every day?  Do you go to restaurants for 3 meals a day?  Do you use a food delivery service?  Do you eat the prepared food in a grocery store?  Do you live on pizzas and hamburgers? Oh my goodness, my questions are limitless. Where do you find fresh vegetables lightly steamed or roasted?  Don’t you ever crave a big pot of spinach, Kale, broccoli?

fresh veggies

I am not a fancy cook for myself – actually not a fancy cook for company.  I think I am a simple cook and I do love feeding people. I love to have people around my table enjoying and appreciating something I have made.  I also truly appreciate feeding myself.  I don’t spend hours preparing dishes but I do make sure that I get lots of vegetables and protein every day.  I aim for a balance of carbohydrates, vegetables and protein 3 times a day.  I am cognizant of the amount of sodium I consume and 2 years ago gave up sugar and sugar substitutes.  Infrequently, I will have a tablespoon of honey or maple syrup in a dessert.

Several years ago, my daughter was ill and I was staying with her.  She couldn’t tolerate the smell of cooking so I was picking up a meal on my way to her home after work each day.  I tried to make a healthy choice but it isn’t that easy – there was a Pizzaria near me where I would get 2 slices of the Mediterranean,  a Middle Eastern takeout for a chicken shwarma, and I did find a little Mom/Pop restaurant where the owner would make me a serving of white rice, unsalted chicken breast, simple salad with iceberg lettuce and a container of her homemade salt free hot sauce.  On occasion I would pick up a barbecue chicken and coleslaw. After about a month of this, I had gained 14 pounds and my blood pressure was through the roof!  My daughter was feeling better and I stepped back for a while, cooked my own food and after 14 days the weight disappeared and I was back on track.

So again, I ask the question, if you don’t cook for yourself what do you eat?

My favourite meal at home is broiled chicken (preferably thighs or leg and thigh) with lots of a green vegetable and a sweet potato.  The vegetables range from broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower( not green) spinach, kale, brussel sprouts, swiss chard or beet greens.  My choice of carbs vary as well – brown rice, barley, buckwheat groats, white potato, sweet potato, steelcut oatmeal, squash or rye bread.  When I am lazy (often), I put it all in one pan in the oven.  Voila, after 40-60 minutes dinner is done and on the plate.  Home cooked fast food.

dinner at home
Bake at 400 for 50 -60 minutes

I love a stir fry where I take out my electric wok and start with a wee bit of oil, 3 cloves of garlic and a chopped onion. Now I add the kitchen sink – usually zucchini, green beans, broccoli, spinach and anything else around.  Frozen vegetables come in handy here – peas, corn, beans, medleys of broccoli and cauliflower….just toss it all in…add a bit of water or broth rather than more oil.  For protein you can toss in black beans, chick peas, chicken, beef or pork, shrimp, tilapia, salmon or seafood medley – a different idea and mixture every day.  You can add some brown rice or any of the choices I mentioned above.  Sometimes I use frozen hash browns (no name are the lowest in sodium).  Noodles made of buckwheat (soba) are my favourite but whole wheat are healthy choice, rice noodles.  This is quick and easy food and dinner can be on the table in 20 minutes.

There is always the crock pot…put everything you want in and when you come home, dinner is hot and ready.  Last year, I learned that I could through in a whole squash – spaghetti or otherwise and it would be ready when I got home.  Any sauce tastes great on spaghetti squash.  My choice is my home made pesto.

Even a homemade pizza is a healthy at home choice – whole wheat pita, low fat mozzarella cheese grated with onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, and peppers – fast and nothing hidden! How about fish tacos – tortillas, avocado, cole slaw and a piece of fish.  Dinner is done! How about an omelette?  Spaghetti with sauce from a jar?  A sandwich piled how with protein and vegetables?

sandwich

Puh-leese!!!! Tell me – what do you mean you don’t cook? Signed puzzled in Toronto 🙂

The Staycation continues and Some recipes

After an outstanding shopping experience at Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market, it is time to make the best use of all that fresh and delicious food.

Market day with Tovah
Heading out to the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto

Shopping in the market is really part of my staycation mentality.  I love shopping in markets around the world and cooking my own food at home.  The St. Lawrence is the best of what Toronto has to offer and it is really well priced.  I bought all my groceries there this week.  The lemons and avocados are huge – 2 avocados for $3 compares to a whole bag of those little one at a discount market.  The same goes for lemons – 4 times the size of the ones in the grocery store.

It was all about the lunch yesterday.  I treated myself to 15 fresh oysters – they were $1 each and an extra 25 cents to have them shucked.  I was literally in heaven………….savouring every delicious bite.   This is living life large.  I don’t need an expensive restaurant – just amazing fresh food.  Eating it right there in the market transported me to a picnic table at the wharf in Pt. du Chene, N.B.

I used my Uber account for the first time to get home with all my loot.  My grocery cart filled to capacity.  The trip was $13 – from downtown to the beaches – usually pay $10 with tip to get home from my local supermarket so this really isn’t a big difference.  Kudos to Uber.  They are really doing it right.  The drivers are interesting, vehicles are clean and this really feels like the sharing economy.   This has been a tough decision for me.  I drove a taxi part time for 5 years in the early 90’s to supplement my income as a single parent.

For me the secret to healthy eating is being prepared.  A kitchen filled with healthy options.  Each week I make my own hummus.  Today’s batch turned out better than ever and I thought it might be the perfect time to share the recipe.

Hummus Recipe

hummus

I soak 1 cup of dried chickpeas over night.  Usually I do 2 cups at a time so I have chick peas to cook with during the week or to whip up another hummus batch mid-week.  In the morning I cover the chick peas with water and boil for at least an hour.  Rinse and cool the chick peas.

Now put the chick peas in your food processor.  If you don’t have a food processor, you can use your blender but usually need more liquid.

Add 1 tsp salt, 1 heaping tbsp cumin, ¼ cup apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice), ½ cup water, 1 clove garlic (or 1 tsp. Garlic powder), 2 tbsp tahini.  I often add fresh or dried parsley and sometimes a sprinkle of red chili flakes.

Blend until smooth. Delicious!

This week I made a batch of Spinach and Basil pesto. I pour it into an ice cube tray and freeze so that I can use only a few cubes as needed over the next several weeks.  It is great with soba noodles, or any wheat pasta, over fava beans or chick peas, and my favourite is mixed with spaghetti squash!  I got this recipe over 20 years ago from my sister and she got it from the Moosewood cookbook.  I lost the recipe years and this is how I make it.

Spinach Basil Pesto Recipe

1 large bunch of fresh spinach

1 bunch of fresh basil

¼ cup olive oil

¼ cup parmesan cheese  (optional).  I am not eating dairy these days so I sprinkle nutritional yeast when I am eating it.  I haven’t tried putting it in and then freezing.

¼ cup sunflower seeds (substitute pine nuts or walnuts).  I always use sunflower seeds.

1 tsp salt

1 clove garlic

Everything goes into the food processor until it is liquid.  Then I pour into  an ice-cube tray, slip into a plastic bag and into the freezer.

Spinach Basil Pesto

When it is frozen, I break it into individual cubes and put into the plastic bag.    This is so yummy and so easy.

Frozen pesto

Black Bean Dip

I also make this is in my food processor.  I like to make everything the same day to cut down on clean up.0

1 cup dried black beans.  Soak the bean overnight and cover with water and simmer for an hour.

Add the beans to food processor

1 tsp salt

1 lemon (juice only)

2 tbsp olive oil

1 clove garlic

Few sprigs of cilantro

I like this thick so I don’t blend for too long.  This is good as a dip or made into patties and baked or fried.

Frugal Food Shopping: Healthy Eating

With the cost of fresh food skyrocketing, we have a lot of decisions to make each week in the market.  I chose last week to shop in Chinatown.  I spent only $45 and went home with loads of fresh vegetables and several kilos of chicken.  I love shopping in Chinatown on Gerrard or Spadina streets in Toronto.  It just feels like I am on one of travels.  This week washed bags of baby spinach and kale were only $1, kohlrabi was reasonably priced (when celery was $4), and delicious snap peas were very cheap.  They also had 2 bags of avocados for only $3!!!  Snow peas and Kohlrabi are new to my kitchen.  A few weeks ago, I purchased a huge bag of small turnips for less than $2.

I just refuse to pay the current prices for cucumbers, tomatoes, celery, broccoli and cauliflower.  It is time to get creative.  The turnips are delicious eaten raw, thinly slice and dipped in my homemade hummus, eggplant or black bean dip.  The same with kohlrabi.  Have you eaten kohlrabi?  I think I may have bought one once when I lived in Haifa. I peeled my mine and thinly sliced it.  It is crunchier than a cucumber but similar in ts

kohlrabi
kohlrabi

I also was surprised that the cost of frozen vegetables in the regular supermarkets is still quite reasonable.  I purchased bags of mixed broccoli and cauliflower for only $2 as well as bags of peas and corn (they are higher in sugars and not the best choice for me but they are comfort food).

One of my favourite fast food dinners is to take hash browns (the no-name ones have the lowest sodium) sautéed with fresh onion, garlic, zucchini, mushrooms and maybe peas or whatever I have.  With a little Frank’s hot sauce, it is a gourmet dish. It could also be perfect paired with homemade turkey sausage*. I also do the same thing with cabbage. I love coleslaw especially in a vinegrette – mix a few different types of vinegar (like apple cider and rice wine), maybe a dash of oil, garlic, pinch of salt, and a little drizzle of honey.  Cabbage is so affordable in the winter – red or green – eaten raw or cooked.  I also make a cabbage roll casserole ( just too lazy to make cabbage rolls).  Sautee onion and garlic, add cabbage, 1 can of no sodium tomatoes, 1 cup of uncooked rice, 1 cup of water.  Sometime I add  1 pound of raw ground chicken or turkey.  Bake at 400 degrees for an hour.

Instead of bringing to work my usual salad of tomatoes, cukes, peppers, onion, olives with white balsamic vinegar, I have been bringing roasted vegetables.  Throw anything into a roasting pan – lined with parchment and a quick spray of olive oil.  This week I had mushrooms, peppers and eggplant.  Delicious!

This is the time for soup and let your imagination run wild.  Chicken soup, lentil soup, cream soups made with almond or cashew milk – think mushroom, kale, clam chowder.  Limitless ideas and so easy.

My advice – don’t panic, buy local, buy according to season, cook from scratch and BE CREATIVE!  Happy eating.  Let me know what you are doing to eat healthy with the rising costs of food.  Write me at sixtyinthecitynow@gmail.com.

*Sausage recipe – 1 pound ground turkey, 1 tsp ground fennel,  1 tsp garlic.  The fennel is the ingredient that gives it a sausage taste but from there you can add any spices to suit your own taste – cumin, red pepper, thyme, oregano…..choices are limitless.  Enjoy experimenting.  I then roll the meat into a cigar shape and wrap in saran or tin foil and freeze.  That’s it – no preservatives, no added sodium and I can cook 1 at a time.

 

 

 

Smile, breathe and laugh a little

Finally I am ready and able to return to my blog.  What are the expressions?  The best laid plans of mice and women….. or God is laughing at our plans.  Yup, how true!!  I just could not find that energy to write about myself during the massacre on Gaza this summer although my intention had been to write every week.

Sandra and fellow activist Nadine
World Pride 2014, Queers Against Israeli Apartheid

The healing journey is just that – a journey with all the ups and downs of climbing a mountain, swimming across an ocean or that journey of love.  Wow!!!  My practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine, the wonderful Emily Babaris, told me it would be hard. I scoffed.  Ha!!  Joke was on me.  It is hard and it is a lot of work and it is so darn worth it!!!

I have to say that I am discovering a side of my personality I wasn’t really aware of.  At my last treatment, Emily mentioned that my tongue was a bit swollen indicating that I am over –thinking.  Oh yeah, my name is Sandra and I am an over-thinker!!!  I have definitely been more than a bit obsessive/compulsive.  I take my blood pressure over and over, I test my blood sugar way toooooo much and I weigh myself ten times more than I promised myself.    Need a sign to carry…BEWARE – OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE OVER-THINKER.  Actually if you know me, you probably know I don’t need the sign.  Yikes!!

Now let me tell me you a little bit about the work.  I am no longer taking any medications.  I have stopped all four – nothing for blood pressure and nothing for my type 2 Diabetes.  I am taking Chinese herbs that have been prescribed and drinking a special tea every day. I am eating healthier and less food.  I am exercising at least 30 minutes every day and I am trying to meditate regularly as well.  I see my TCM practitioner at least once a month for acupuncture and this month I went to a registered massage therapist for a full body massage.

How do I feel?  I feel amazing!!!  On average I am losing a half pound to a pound every week.  My skin is clear, my eyes are bright and my energy level is beyond anything I have experienced in the past several years.  I feel younger and lighter and healthy and happy.  It is the best feeling ever.  For the past 3 years I have been plagued with body pain – hip, knees, joints – stiffness and creakiness.  It’s gone!!!  Gone!!  I am walking up and down stairs now without leaning on the handrails and without taking one step and bringing the other foot up but walking up and down stairs like a normal healthy person.  I am walking faster and further and I don’t arrive so stiff and sore and exhausted.  I feel myself breathing deeply and easily.

Well that is the physical side to it.  The struggle of the journey is not giving up desserts especially ice-cream or cutting up piles of vegetables for every meal and not eating after dinner or 7:30pm.  The struggle is the ongoing conversation inside my head.  I worry about what I am eating, I worry that the numbers are not as low as they should be and I worry that it is not possible to meet my goals and be healthy.  I write to Emily at least once a week.  Today she reminded me that healing is a journery and healing takes time and that for now I am fairly stable.  For me I hear her saying calm down….you are on the right path.

This is the right path for me.  I spent my life since I was 30 talking about alternative healing and avoiding western style medicine.  I then jumped right in with both feet and followed the plan of my general practitioner – every few months increasing the medicines and feeling sicker and sicker – truly becoming a patient.  I hurt all over, my stomach burned, reoccurring diarrhea, lack of energy and every time I took my pills I felt like I was poisoning myself.   I tried smudging my pill bottles and blessing them…..nothing really worked.

So what is it I am eating? Typical breakfast these days is a bowl of steel cut oatmeal with almond milk, some berries, and a generous sprinkling  of cinnamon.  Lunch is a big salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, peppers, onions, avocado, olives and feta.  Dinner varies but I try to have a few vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, green beans, brussel sprouts, zucchini), brown rice and some type of protein.  I am limiting my meat and fish to 3 to 4 times a week.  I love chicken – broiled, baked or grilled.  Sometimes I sprinkle  Panko crumbs over them (lowest sodium of all crumbs).  I actually made my sausage using ground lean turkey.  I mixed it with ground fennel seeds, cumin, thyme, oregano, red pepper flakes, and then rolled each into a little weiner shape and wrapped individually in tin foil.  Omgawsh, they are delicious without added sodium or nitrates.  Guilt free eating!

 

Brown rice noodles with grated Parmesan cheese and chopped vegetables
Photo
Brown rice with zucchini, yellow peppers, onions, garlic, spinach and more

I am most proud of my exercise routines.  I am the one who hates exercise the most, fears the gym and just hates to sweat.  I know that I have always loved dancing and that there are certain songs that made me start moving even in my chair….soooooooooooooooo…..I made a playlist of workout songs on youtube.  I have songs from the 50’s to today.  Kt Tunstall and Chubby Checker and everything in between.  Remember YMCA, Pop Goes the World, the Macarena, the Chicken Dance???

 

I have several hours of music and don’t have to play the same ones over and over which keeps my routine fresh and interesting. Here is my playlist.  It includes a few yoga workouts that I really like as well.

At home I  lay out my yoga mat, put on the tunes and dance.  I stretch, do some yoga moves and work up a sweat for a half hour.  Most important – I smile, I breathe and I laugh a little.

I invite everyone do just that – smile, breathe and laugh a little

 

Peace and love

On this Summer Solstice…do you want to dance?

Mmmmm, that type of morning where you wake up refreshed after a great night’s sleep (7-8 hours) excited to start your day with anticipation.  I had a delicious breakfast of steel cut oatmeal made with lavender flowers and cinnamon and topped with fresh blueberries and strawberries with almond milk.  I had my one cup of coffee (cutting back from 2) and then danced for 30 minutes.

oatmeal and coffee
Steel cut oatmeal and coffee. Wow!!

 

 

Today is the Summer Solstice and it is my favorite day of the year.  A day I always celebrate with family and friends.  Today is extra special because my darling grandson Oscar is coming to visit and we are having our first sleepover!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Yowza!!!!

I love to celebrate the summer solstice beside the water
I love to celebrate the summer solstice beside the water

Just as I suspected, this healing journey I began, is not going to be an easy one.  I remain committed to it.  I have stopped taking my diabetic medication but I am still taking the ones for high blood pressure.  I am going to concentrate on one problem at a time.  My blood sugar remained stable for the first 2 weeks but has crept up a bit for the past 4 days.  We have added a tea to drink daily along with my Chinese herbs and monthly acupuncture treatment. I don’t love exercise.  I would much rather read a book or even watch a marathon on Netflix –Orange is the New Black, anyone? I know that I have to get moving, keep moving, move faster and make it a life habit.  I am totally committed to this.

Emily Babaris, my Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner recommends that I exercise in some way every day for at least 30 minutes.  She said walking, swimming, dancing, yoga – something every day.  These are my choices but you might enjoy something else and that is good too.  I do walk everyday for at least a few kilometres – just part of not having a car and using public transit.  I really love not having a car (healthy, carefree choice for me and environmentally friendly) and using the Toronto transit system (TTC).  I have a monthly pass that is delivered to my home by Canada Post.  My payment is withdrawn monthly from my bank account.  Easy, unlimited travel in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA)…..perfect!

Emily Babaris, R.TCMP, R.Ac, BES, received her Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) certificate in Victoria, BC.

Ok back to exercise (see how easily I get off topic on that one– I knew I wouldn’t stay committed to a class or even going to a gym or a pool.  Pooh! I am just lazy and hate to leave home soooooooooooo…….I know that I love music and that there have been many songs over the years that made me smile and made me just want to dance.  I decided to make a workout playlist on Youtube.  I added songs that inspire me to move.  I am sure everyone has songs like this.  My latest is Happy by Pharrell Williams – it makes me smile, makes me happy and inspires me to dance.  I love Cyndi Lauper, The Divinyls, KT Tunstall, Men Without Hats, The Beach Boys and on and on.  I add music to my list all the time. I always do lots of sun salutations and smile on each one.  This is the way to start to the day.  When I was in Provence last month, I found myself outside dancing and kept going for an hour!!!  I also have a couple of yoga workouts that I have been using (also on youtube).  I discovered “Yoga with Adrienne”.  I like her routines especially the one for beginners and another one for weight loss.  I also intend to add swimming this summer (once it really warms up) at the outdoor pool on the Beach near Woodbine.  I am told these pools are free….what a bonus that is and I am excited to get started a few days a week. The pool opened last weekend.  Check out a pool near you on the Toronto Parks and Recreation website or call 311 for information.

 

I love swimming in the lake near Leuty Lighthouse on a very hot summer day

My Healing Journey

This is my healing story.  For many, many years I have been uncomfortable with the model of Western medicine.  Each year for the past five years, my doctor has added another medication and increased the doses as well.  I am now stiff in all my joints, my knees hurt, and my digestive system is often upset.  I have high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.  Since the diagnosis of diabetes last August, I have lost over 20 pounds.  For the past few months I have been exercising regularly.  I walk a few kilometres each day because I do not have car.  I have just returned from a 22 vacation which was key in reducing stress.  I arrived in Greece on Day 10 almost completely pain free.  Was it the hot and sunny weather or the pleasant and relaxing days in France? I am going to explore it all in my journey for health.

best of chinese medicine

A few months ago I started seeing Emily Babaris, a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine.   She is located on the Danforth near Chester Subway Station in Toronto.  For the first 6 weeks I had an acupuncture treatment every week and I have been taking herbs twice a day as well.  My intention is to stop taking the medications prescribed by my doctor and rely solely on the Chinese medicine.  This will mean continuing to lose weight through health eating, exercising at least a half hour every day, and reducing my caffeine intact to one cup of coffee from the two I have been enjoying each morning.

I love the Weight Watcher model for weight loss.  It has always been successful for me.  In 2003, I lost 35 pounds following their plan.  I have to admit I have never attended a meeting or paid a cent in fees.  I obtained their books and calculators from friends and family.  The point is I ate a healthy well balanced diet and I counted my points.  I maintained that lower weight until now.  Once in a while, I find that eating out a lot will cause a weight gain of as much as 10 pounds but returning to my own cooking and reduction of salt will reduce that within 14 days.  My goal is to lose another 50 pounds.

On Tuesday next week, I will meet with my family doctor to ask for her support in reducing my medications.  I hope she will agree and continue to monitor my health through regular blood tests.

I have read about the side effects of the medications I am taking – one is said to cause diabetes and another leads to high cholesterol.  That is the next medication she is expecting to add to my arsenal very soon.  All of them cause joint and body stiffness.

I became a Reflexologist in 1995 when I was in my thirties.  I became a Doula assisting women while birthing.   I was committed to alternative medicine and had my own practise in London, Ontario.  I worked in many modalities with Reflexology including flower essence remedies such as Bach Flower, Homeopathy, Aromatherapy, Touch for Health, Healing Touch and Reiki.

I started on this path when my oldest daughter was 12 years old in 1993.  She was catching one virus after another and missing 5 to 10 days of school each month.  It was a stressful year for her with her Bat Mitzfah scheduled in the spring and her personal commitment to school work, family and friends.  Every time she was sick, I called the doctor who prescribed cough syrups and decongestants, Tylenol and often antibiotics.  One day I just said this is enough!  I took a course in healing foods.  The next time she was ill I made a healing broth and had her drink it.  NO medications.  She got well and was not sick the next month.  From then on, she and her sister caught a cold once year at the most.  The cycle was broken. I shared this recipe with many others and always had very positive feedback from those who took it for colds and viruses, digestive problems and other mild illnesses.

Healing Broth Recipe

 

 

3 cloves of garlic

1 medium onion

Half a head of broccoli

½ medium size cabbage

2 carrots

1 potato

4 stalks of celery

Season with a little soy or tamari sauce

Ground black pepper

12 cups of water

 

  1. Bring the water and all the ingredients to a boil and simmer for 90 -120 minutes.  During simmering check the water level and add more if it looks low.

 

  1.  Drain the broth and keep the vegetables for adding to stews, soups or casseroles.  I often puree them and add a little broth for a yummy cream of vegetable soup.

 

  1. Serve immediately.  Drink a cup of broth 3 -4 times a day for healing and cleansing.

 

I don’t believe the broth is the answer to my current health issues but I am committed to a new regiment of healthy eating, exercise, and Traditional Chinese medicine.  I invite you to follow my journey.