Pack your bags, we’re going on a gray hair adventure.

grayselfie The white hairs on my head have been popping up consistently since Thanksgiving in 2010. My first reaction to those first white hairs was to pull them out and pretend as though they never existed. I was committed to my bottled hair colour at that time and I didn’t give it a second thought. As a person living with an auto-immune dis-ease, I’ve taken a greater interest in the products I use and how they affect my health now and in the future, I decided to stop colouring my hair. If you are committed to to your colour routine, keep on truckin! My full disclosure is that I did colour my hair for 25 years. Clearly I’m not against hair dye. It may or may not be hazardous to your health, I can’t say for sure. But it’s just not for me anymore and I’m committed to doing what I can to be and to manage my condition without medication. And another thing to note; from the picture, you can’t even see my natural hightlights. They are there – at least 15% of my head is white amoung the light brown strands. That out of the way, if you are gray-curious, then read on!

When I first chopped off all the dyed hair, it  wasn’t such a big deal when it was GI Jane short. But as I started to grow it, they started coming in rebelliously wild and without regard for the order my hair has maintained for 42 years. Even though there aren’t really noticeable at this point, I started worrying about the impact on my career. In an industry like mine, looking “youthful” is important as I’m my own business card. I started researching the topic. Not surprisingly, the world seems to be against women ditching dye. From companies making billions of dollars on artificial hair colour to our own conditioning about looking a certain way, it was pretty abysmal.

And then I discovered Susan Paget’s Gray Hair Adventure. This is where she chronicles her process of growing out her natural hair with humour. compassion and optimism. From there I discovered a few groups on Facebook that were gray positive, though I never posted because as you can see, I haven’t attained silver fox status yet!

During these first steps of my own gray hair adventure, here is what I’ve learned so far:

Change is good, especially when it comes to style. I’m not wearing the same clothes as I did when I was 20, so why sport the same hairstyle? Having silver streaks means a haircut that suits the look. That doesn’t mean I currently have to get my grandmother’s haircut.

Gray hairs need love. The days of using the cheap conditioner are over. Gray hair needs quality products, a weekly mask and Moroccan Oil slathered on every day. Those hairs are wild and wiry because they are moisture starved. Those of us who coloured in the past had a layer of silicon coating each strand which also helped keep them slippery and compliant thanks to the little packet of conditioner in each box of hair dye.

I’m the only person who notices [or cares about] my hair. Everyone I’ve lamented to about this change my hair is going through normally looks at my head and then gives me a confused look as to what I’m so worried about.

My hair is just one aspect of my overall look. I forget this sometimes. Getting in those workouts and maintain a fit body, having a good haircut, having eyebrows groomed, these are all things that are way more important than a hair colour. In fact, many women colour their hair with the ideas that it’s “good enough” for self- care. If you’re out of shape and are wearing tattered clothes, who cares if you’ve got perfectly coloured hair.

I’m going to avoid maintaining gray roots. I had that moment when you see that first centimeter of regrowth. I was always extremely meticulous about roots, mostly because in my younger days I favoured jet black hair and my light brown roots were very noticeable. From what I’ve read, the gray hair seems to come in faster and more furious and getting to the salon or having my head in a sink every 2-3 weeks is something I refuse to do. Even worse, is the two-tone hair that people sport when growing out the gray. No thank you. I’ll just let it all come in naturally.

I won’t regret it. Everyone who writes about their decision to stop dying has the single and shared regret of “I wish I’d done this sooner”. I won’t have that regret because sooner is now.

If I colour my hair again,  I’d hope it’s to enhance what I’ve currently got going on. One product I like is Surya which is a natural henna product that has a “Silver Fox” colour. I’m not sure what it’ll look like in 10 years – maybe I won’t have pearly white or stunning silver. I take things day by day and for now, I’m having fun seeing my natural hair for  the first time in over two decades before it’s gone for good!

 

 

 

 



T

Advertisements

Resistance is not futile – here are eleven ways to fight colds and flu.

Autumn and winter is when I fanatically pursue ways to keep from getting sick.

Here are some of the things I’ve tried, many of which are part of my regular routine. You can resist the cold and flu bugs being passed around this winter.

Get enough rest – this is the number one way to stay healthy. You’re body needs to repair and recover from the day and to fight anything you may have been exposed to. Getting run down by burning the candle at both ends is one way that weakens you and prevents your immune system from working. If you don’t have the option of getting sufficient sleep every night, focus on getting more sleep at the first sniffle. And at this time of the year, being in cozy in your bed isn’t a hardship!

Wash your hands with soap – apparently your biggest risk is hands being infected from surfaces and then touching your eyes and your nose. Wash your hands thoroughly in the washroom and get into the habit of not touching your nose and eyes. I know for myself, every time I get on a crowded subway car I immediately want to touch my nose. But I resist so that I avoid giving viruses and easy in [and avoid looking gross!]

Drink a lot of water – this will not only help keep you hydrated and healthy, allowing waste to be carried out of your cells, but if you do happen to be getting sick and there is mucous developing, you won’t feel as awful and stuffed up. For women, the average intake is about 2L and for men, it’s about 3L.

Eat a healthy diet – getting the right nutrients though brightly coloured veggies, good quality starches and grains as well as ample protein is going to give your immune system the building blocks to fight infections and illness. Exposing yourself to the highs and lows of sugar or caffeine crashes can put your body under stress and open you up to attack.

Get your C – there’s no conclusive scientific evidence that vitamin C works to prevent or reduce colds but millions of people take it and find it works. There are a number of ways you can take it. The fizzy liquid form: Emergen-C or EnerC are two brands with 1000 mg of vitamin C. The EsterC is more readily absorbed and usually easier on the stomach. Of course it  comes with a bigger price tag but with supplements, you get what you pay for.

Garlic – this one people shy away from but a crushed clove of garlic will blast anything away. My favorite and least challenging way to take it is to crush the garlic, spoon it in and chase it with Pyramid Ferments Gut Shots which is a sauerkraut brine. It seems to neutralize the garlic aftertaste. You’ll want to do this before bed so that you don’t stink up your workplace.

Oil of Oregano – another super effective cold blaster. It very strong tasting and takes some time to get used to.

Echinacea and/or ginseng – I put these together because it’s the combo sold in Cold F/X. It’s not a cheap product but it’s effective. If you’re looking to save a couple of dollars, you can buy a bottle of Siberian Ginseng from the health store as well.

Zinc lozenges – great to dealing with a cough. Another supplement that is not scientifically proven but it couldn’t hurt.

Nasal irrigation – you can use saline spray in your nose or sniff in some warm salt water out of your hand. It clears your nasal passages of dried mucous and keeps your sinuses moist – which is key in keeping viruses from invading. You can also use medicated nasal spray which is a steroid that constricts you’re the blood vessels in your nasal passages. There was a research study that suggested that using medicated nasal spray is effective in preventing colds from flourishing. But it’s one study. And my in my personal experiment, I got a nosebleed after the third spray and tossed it.

Drink chicken broth – why wait to get sick to enjoy the benefits of chicken broth when you are sick? Chicken broth sipped with your lunch or as the main course in a soup can give you the immune boost that you need when fighting the cold.

Even if you end up succumbing to your cold or flu, by taking some of these can help minimize your symptoms so that you’re back on the squat rack quicker.

Continue reading “Resistance is not futile – here are eleven ways to fight colds and flu.”

Embrace your inner earth mama with natural deos.

If there is one thing most people aren’t willing to take a chance on, it’s being funky under the arms. Nothing kills your appeal faster than smelling badly. I have long wanted to get rid of the heavy aluminum antiperspirant that I’ve been slathering on since my teens. But after a few failed attempts at finding a natural deodorant that works, I had given up.

I’m really not a fan of conventional deoderants and antiperspirants. I don’t want to soak up aluminum into my under arms every day. I don’t believe that we should prevent sweating. It’s a natural way of ridding our body of toxins. Blocking those sweat glands can’t be good for us.

Because of this, I decided to give it another go. I started out with a Naturally Fresh salt crystal. It’s like magic. You just get it a bit wet and rub it under your arms. There’s no heavy stickiness or yuk. It’s not an antiperspirant, it’s a salt the neutralizes the odor produced when you sweat. And to be honest, I find that I’m pretty dry when I use it. It also lasts forever. I’ve been using it for about 6 months and it’s still as new when I got it. Not bad for a $5 investment.

But that said, the salt crystal does not survive my punishing workouts. I don’t need to smell fresh as a flower at the gym, but gym etiquette does dictate that measures are taken so that the person on the neighbouring treadmill can breathe comfortably. But again, when facing the natural deodorant section at the health store, it’s really hard to know what will work and what won’t. I almost wonder why these people even bother making deodorant.

I discovered Garden City Essentials which had the ingredients I was looking for. Coconut oil, arrowroot powder, baking soda, tea tree oil, essential oils. All the good stuff you’d want in a natural deo. And it works exceptionally well. It comes in a jar and you just smooth about a pea sized amount on. It smells absolutely great. I use it in addition to the salt crystal during my workout and it’s awesome. I found it at Whole Foods in Yorkville [Toronto, Ontario] and it’s a Canadian product, made by a holistic nutritionist in St. Catherines. They have an online shop as  well.

One thing I want to note is that I eat a healthy and balanced diet and I don’t drink a lot of alcohol. I have already taken care of the internal factors affecting odor as well.

But if you are willing to part ways with the drug store brand you are using, these two together or on their own are great options!

Continue reading “Embrace your inner earth mama with natural deos.”

Beautiful Balanced Bites – my week of meal prep.

Balance is really key when you are meal prepping. I tend to favour high flavour foods, especially because we have a lot of repeated meals to keep it interesting and it usually includes chili powder or curry. It’s important to plan everything out so that you aren’t heavy in one thing. I follow recipes for most dishes because I like trying new things and by the time I’ve memorized a dish, I’ve made it so many times I’m sick of it and ready to try something new.

This week I tried out Yummly for a recipe which is pretty cool. The site asks a number of questions in order to target the best options. The Yellow Thai Curry I’m making is from that site, which linked to another site included the recipe. What appealed to me about this one was that it was for the slow cooker. If I can get my appliances to do the work for me, it’s a bonus! I doubled the amount of garam masala after I read comments about it being a little bland. Continue reading “Beautiful Balanced Bites – my week of meal prep.”

From black to green – making the switch to a better morning drink.

Everyone with a mouth has an opinion about coffee. Some call it unicorn blood and others think it tastes like death. There are a lot of benefits to guzzling double doubles. It helps people survive crushing workouts in the weight room, gives your brain a boost while studying and ups your performance at work. Plus it tastes damn good, imo. What got me eyeballing my morning coffee is that I’m currently staring down perimenopause in my 40s.

As we all know, hot flashes are the bane of menopausal women and according to most of the research I’ve done like this site here, touts the caffeine in coffee as a culprit for this special kind of torture during menopause. I talk to enough women dealing with sleepless nights that result in crummy mood and low energy affecting their nutrition, relationships and workouts. No thank you!

I was and ardent coffee lover, easily sailing over the recommended 400mg of caffeine per day with my giant coffees in hand throughout the workday. What started me thinking was how much earlier and earlier my cut off for having coffee was becoming. Pretty soon, a cup after lunch would have me tossing and turning. I was definitely becoming more sensitive to the caffeine in coffee.

This led me to start reducing my caffeine by having my usual stop at Aroma with a “half cafe”. Eventually the decaf portion got larger and larger while I suffered through withdrawl headaches until I was drinking decaf and to any coffee lovers – it’s a pretty terrible substitute. Add to that, as I travel through life my teeth have become increasingly prone to staining.

I needed another option.

I started drinking green tea. Having tossed out many Tim Hortons cups of green tea, I decided to invest in a good bag of tea and it made a world of difference. That and my Cuisinart Perfect Temperature Kettle (a must for all tea lovers!). No longer did my hot beverage taste like dirt. But I admitedly missed the effects of coffee during the morning – namely the alerness provided and the extra punch at the gym during my morning workouts. Green tea only has a third of the caffeine kick of coffee and so it doesn’t have the same kick as a cup of coffee. I also missed the mouthfeel of a full bodied cup of coffee.

One of my colleagues was telling me about matcha. I decided to try it. Normally what you’d do is heat water to 175 degrees and froth it up with a bamboo whisk which sell for $15-$20 at most tea shops. Because I wasn’t committed yet to drinking matcha, I decided to whip it up in my Vitamix after making my shakes. From the first sip I was in love. It’s a very intense tasting green tea. If you like an earthy, grassy flavour, you’ll really enjoy matcha. It’s also a little creamy because it’s made from powdered high quality green tea leaves. So essentially it’s like an instant coffee, but tea form. It’s about 70mg of caffeine in a cup and the average made-at-home drip coffee in a regular mug (so not a Venti Starbucks Bold) is 100mgs of caffeine. Roughly. I’m not a scientist so don’t quote me on it.

Green tea is said to be great for women going through menopause according to many articles including this one. The way the caffeine in green teas affects us is different than coffee because while coffee blocks receptors that makes us feel tired and is easy to knock back eay too many cups which can leave us jittery, green tea’s L-Theanine content helps delay the caffeine effect a little longer and can help you perform better mentally. There are a number of great benefits for matcha, a quick google search will bring up pages of websites mentioning everything from cancer prevention and weight loss. Regardless of these claims, it tastes good and provides the boost I was looking for and that you may be as well.

Most importantly to me, I don’t find green tea “addictive”. If I sleep in and have to run out the door, I am okay if I don’t have a matcha. I’m okay if I don’t have green tea. When I was a coffee drinker – watch out if I missed a cup of coffee! I like not “having” to have something. Once it becomes something I’m compelled to do, it’s no fun anymore.

The only downside for many people is that matcha is a little expensive. I have tried the high priced $50 a 50g tin ceremonial matcha and the $26 for a $100g you could use it in a shake matcha. I personally like the grassy taste and I use a blender and it breaks up a lot of grit. So I’m down with saving a few dollars on my matcha habit. In fact, Costco recently started selling matcha for $20 for a 250g tin. Worst case if I don’t like it, I can cook with it or make a shake. Other great brands or Organic Traditions and Matcha Ninja which is so fine, you can mix it with cold water. But I don’t think it tastes as good lukewarm or cold.

Hit up your local health store or Costco to get yourself a mug of matcha.

 

A tamari soaked week of healthy food goodness.

 

I have a great love for all things fermented. A couple of weeks ago Anthony and I went to Picton, Ontario for the second annual fermented food festival. I walked away with jars of fermented treasures, despite the lack of samples the vendors were providing. Amoung my finds was a jar of real lacto-fermented pickles and fermented turnips. My belly is happy! I usually enjoy fermented foods as a snack or included in my salad bowls.

Here’s our lineup this week, much of which included tamari which is similar to soy sauce but it’s thicker, more fermented [usually] and is wheat free. It’s also more expensive than soy sauce, but that’s the price for being unable to have wheat. For those that can’t have soy, there are coconut aminos.

Chicken Pad Thai using Thug Kitchen‘s vegan recipe with chicken swapped for tofu. Anthony won’t touch tofu or soy protein which I respect, so  I baked 4 chicken breasts and chopped them up to add to the pad thai.

Split Pea Soup from the How it all Vegan cookbook.  In my slowcooker I put a cup of green split peas, 1.5 litres of chicken broth, a tsp of cumin, 2 bay leaves, 1 potato, 2 carrots, TBSP tamari and chopped smoked ham. Again, added meat to the soup so that it’s tastier and more filling. You can also add turkey kielbassa as a substitute if you can’t find decent ham.

Baked Portabello Mushrooms from the How it all Vegan cookbook. I destemmed and cleaned about 7 portabello mushrooms and sliced onion and layed the mushrooms in a baking dish with the onions on top. I put 1/2 cup almonds in my mini food processer and ground them to a powder [you could also use ground almonds]. I mixed these with 1/4 cup tamari, 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 TBSP balsamic vinegar, tsp italian seasoning, 1/2 cup water, 2 garlic cloves. I then poured the sauce on and baked for 40 minutes on 350. I am going to serve this on top of quinoa with some goat cheese and the sauce drizzed over top.

Quinoa – I use the Instant Pot and I mix 1.5 cups chicken broth with 1 cup quinoa, 2 bay leaves and a bit of salt. I set the IP to 1 minute and let it cook. After 10 minutes of decompressing I can take it out. It’s fluffy and flavourful.

Dill and Lemon Baked Trout. It’s a staple – either trout or salmon. I eat fish at least once per day because with my Lupus, having omega 3s helps my skin heal if I’ve had a flare up affecting my skin. Plus it tastes really good!

Sweet Dijon Turkey Meat Balls – I’ve still got some the current flavour of my Kozlik’s mustard left. I think everyone should have a jar of this in their fridge. Great for smearing on meat for quick flavour, making dressing or brightening up a sauce.

Slow Cooked Sweet Potatoes – I’m a huge fan of sweet potatoes. They are so good for you, inexpensive and very easy to prepare and eat. I love to make them in the slow cooker. It’s not messy and I’m not worried about having something baking wrapped in aluminum foil as sweet potatoes are often prepared. To make, you rinse them in water, don’t dry and place in the slow cooker for cook for about 8 hours. This length of time is good and they come out fairly firm. I just peel and slice and put them in the fridge.

I’m also making an endless supply of chaga tea. I’ve been reading that it helps the immune system by boosting when needed or backing off when too active. I hope it’s true, because that would be awesome. My immune system is my main problem. But at any rate, mushrooms are good for us and I’m down for anything healthy and tasty. Half a bag of chaga chunks makes about a week’s worth of tea [the way I drink it which is one mug every day]. I just steep 1/2 a bag for 2 hours and then pour into a large bottle from Ikea and refridgerate. I heat it up when needed. I dry out the chaga chunks on a plate and I repeat this about 4 times.

Happy eating and drinking this week!

 

 

How to be an iron maiden – get to know and love weights.

weightThe misconception about strong women needs to die. Women who lift weights don’t look like a man, they don’t get bulky and lose their femininity. The reality is that women over 30 need to lift weights. We start losing lean muscle tissue when we turn 30 and that continues for the rest of our lives. The only way to combat that is by lifting weights and challenging ourselves. That helps with the diminishing lean muscle tissue and to help stave off osteoporosis.

I can tell you from my own experience, I don’t look like a man but I sure lift like one. The problem with typical resistance training material out there, is that it’s usually geared towards male bodybuilders. Women don’t train like men do and most of us don’t have the same goals. Over the years of training myself and clients, I’ve found a framework that is pretty effective for most women, especially over 40.

There are a number of different types of resistance training and I cycle through three of them in order to gain lean muscle tissue, gain strength and to ensure I have functional strength long term. I like to do five weeks at each phase. For the first two weeks, I lift enough that I’m feeling like I’m working and challenged. For the next two weeks, I kick it up a big notch, keeping in mind safety but pushing myself that much more. On the final week, I lower the weights slightly lower than the first week to “de-load” which helps me recover from the more demanding previous weeks. This is linear periodization and works well for beginners or novices who consistently hit the weights 2-3x per week. In order to stay interested and get results, it’s best to  have a Workout A and a Workout B and alternate between the two every workout. The guidelines and samples I’ve listed below are good for someone new to resistance training.

Hypertrophy Phase – this is when lean muscle tissue is increased. The sets and reps for someone starting out would be around 3-4 sets and 8-12 reps. During this phase, you’ll be hungrier and protein will be very important while you are building muscle. You’d be looking at having protein (about the size of a deck of cards) with every meal and at least one snack. A hard boiled egg would be perfect for this. You might find that you gain a bit of weight during this phase. When we are in “building mode” we will gain both fat and muscle. We don’t gain muscle and lose fat. We’re either gaining or losing. The good news is that during subsequent training phases, this weight will be lost, as long as you are eating moderately.

Here is an idea of what this kind of routine would look like. The exercises I selected are very basic ideas of what you’d want to be working/doing. Before you’d attempt a Deadlift, having someone coaching you can be valuable or even watching a good video like this one. Same goes for Squats – here is a good video on proper form. You’re going to select a weight that is heavy and you have to work to lift, but you can, with effort, lift about 10 times or so.

Workout A
Circuit #1: do all these exercises 3-4 times in succession, having a 1-2 minutes break between each circuit. Squat [bodyweight, dumbell or barbell], Pushup, One Arm Dumbbell Row
Circuit #2: Lats Pulldown, Step Ups, Hammer Curls
Circuit #3: Plank, Side Plank

Workout B:
Circuit #1:
 Deadlift, Chest Press, Barbell Row
Circuit #2: Lateral Lunge, Overhead Press, Reverse Lunge
Circuit #3: Back Extensions, Stability Ball Jackknife

Strength Phase – The main adaptation during this phase is on your central nervous system. It teaches the brain to fire the correct muscles and to work together. At the end of a strength phase the muscles that you made bigger now have the oomph to back them up. When putting together a routine at this phase, include 2-3 sets for and about 5 reps. You’ll likely be less hungry and would find yourself snacking less or loading up your plate less. Listen to your hunger cues! For weight selection, heavy is best. You’re only moving this weight five times and you want to be working hard each repetition. You want to be able to maintain correct form but still push yourself.

I’ve put together a basic routine with some very fundamental exercises as an example.

Workout A – do them one at a time with 2-5 minutes break in between exercises:
Deadlift, Chest Press, Assisted Pullups, Front Squat [I don’t recommend heavy Back Squats the same day as Deadlifting], Medicine Ball Crunches

Workout B – Back Squat, Incline Pushups [or regular ones if they are hard enough], One Arm Dumbbell Row, Hip Thrusters, Lats Pulldown

Endurance Phase – most women are very familiar with this phase. Many fitness classes and workout videos include muscular endurance. I like including an endurance phase in programs because it provides a good recovery physically from the challenging prior phases and offers a chance to do different exercises like Kettle Bell Swings, Squat Thrusts, Pushup Rows, Jump Squats and Stability Ball exercises which are less technical and fatiguing. This is when you can use a video, like Fitness Blender [which is a free, online fitness streaming service] or just a combination of the above exercises but much lighter. In addition, during this phase, if body composition goals are something you’re working on, this would be an ideal “cutting” time which is when you’d be losing the weight you gained in the first stage. Your set and rep range would be 2-3 sets and 12+ (try about 15) reps. You’ll pick weights where your muscles feel tired at the end of the workout but something you can do a bit longer. In addition to weights, you could also do cardio moves like Burpies or Mountain Climbers during breaks between sets or you could include a cardio finisher which would be 10 minutes of HIIT training at the end. You won’t be smashing the same meals and snacks that you would have in the past. This is when you’d practice moderation because you’re body isn’t going to be screaming for food.

So now that you are armed and dangerous, it’s time to get fierce in the weight room!