Fitness Friday – Walking a Different Path

I want to be completely honest here, even though I’ve remained positive and hopeful in my posting, my life hasn’t exactly reflected that on a day to day basis. It’s been a rough few weeks and my progress has definitely slowed. I could tell I wasn’t doing as well with my eating and some days I was hardly putting any effort into my workouts at all. Then, this past Sunday I tried 3 different videos before I finally crashed and gave up.

There were a couple reasons for this sudden spiral but overall I was feeling overwhelmed in my personal life, unaccomplished in my new job search, and just not so happy in general. Not to mention, PMS can be a real bitch and hit at all the wrong times. My hormones being out of whack only added to the misery I was already feeling. I felt defeated and to be honest I didn’t want to even bother trying again because every time I did try I just felt flat on my face. It’s hard to get back up from those moments, it often feels like it would just be easier to lay in bed and cry. Truth be told, I did do that for a while.

Then I got the hell back up.

There is one thing I know for certain: you can make yourself do just about anything, even if you hate it, even if you don’t want to. If it’s something you need but it doesn’t come naturally then you’re going to have to force yourself sometimes. I have to remember this going forward. I’m getting better at working out and some days I really enjoy it but it still isn’t something that comes naturally to me. Cooking? Writing? Binge watching tv shows in one sitting? Those things I can do without much effort. Working out isn’t like that and it might never be but I have to keep trying. I have to make this time different and continue working for this change. I want it now more than ever before and that has to mean something.

So instead of laying in bed crying about my situation I got back up. I gave myself some time, did some other things, and then I did five Fitness Marshall videos. Normally I would do eleven but since I was having an off day I decided to just dance until I didn’t feel like it anymore. Five videos is still over 15 minutes so it was a good start. It wasn’t great but it was something.

The next morning I got up and looked for a workout to do, hoping to get it out of the way. Then I realized I still wasn’t entirely motivated so I decided to switch things up. I’m glad I did because it helped me realize I’ve hit a bit of a wall. Despite doing different videos, I’ve almost exclusively been working out with The Fitness Blender for over a month now. While their videos are great and varied, I think I’ve gotten a little bored. So it was time to mix things up. My mom mentione that she was going to go for a walk so I decided to do the same, chatting with her on the phone to make it go by faster.

An hour and forty five minutes later and we both got home.

We walked over 7 kilometres each according to our phones and while I didn’t come home dripping in sweat like I would have through a much shorter workout I still felt accomplished. Plus, getting out into the fresh air (even if it was a little foggy and bleak) definitely helped my mental state.

So I pushed forward into the rest of the week, deciding I was going to walk for at least an hour on my workout days instead of unhappily pushing myself through workouts while I’m in this funk. I’ll get back to doing something more than walking eventually of course but these walks have been my stepping stones towards that. It definitely helped that my mom was in town Tuesday and Wednesday; on those two days we walked 14,000 and 17,000 steps respectively. We also saw some neat places in Toronto that I’ll be talking about in my Sunday post. For now, here’s a preview of one of the places we ended up: Graffiti Alley.

     

While walking might not make me sweat my ass off like a HIIT workout does, it is still a good way to get up and moving, especially when walking as much as I have over the past few days. I may have jumped into some of those big step counts a little too quickly but my 16 hour days at Walt Disney World have prepared me well for walking off my feet so to speak.

All activity has its own worth and you just have to do what works best for you. But I think the real lesson I’ve taken from this one is that sometimes it is important to not be so hard on yourself.

I hope your weeks have all been going well, I hope you’re making strides to whatever goal you’re working for but if you’re like me and you feel like you’re taking a step back, I just want to leave you with a little piece of wisdom I read at the One of a Kind Show:

“Don’t look back, that’s not where you’re going.”

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Tasty Tuesday – Ham & Egg Roll Ups

I think I’ve mentioned in a previous post that I’m not a big fan of eggs but unfortunately eggs are one of those great sources of protein that are pretty easy to work with and of course they’re a lot cheaper than most meats. Now, I love me some devilled eggs and dipping toast into the yolk of a freshly fried egg is absolute heaven but aside from that I’ve really struggled with this ingredient. Still, it pops up in interesting recipes a lot so I’ve mostly learned to get over my indifference and I’ve found ways to make eggs work for me. Today’s Tasty Tuesday is a feature of one of those Casandra-friendly egg recipes: Ham & Egg Roll Ups.

This is another Facebook video recipe that I watched upon scrolling down my dash and just like last time I did a Facebook recipe (Apple Stuffed Pork Loin featured here) I completely lost track of the video and kind of had to make these based on memory, making up my own recipe to go along with what I had in the fridge. So that is what I’m going to share with you!

Ingredients

  • 1 package of sliced ham
  • shredded cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • spinach
  • 1/2 bell pepper, chopped
  • salt, pepper, and whatever seasoning tickles your fancy

*I made these back in January so I’m not exactly sure on quantities

Directions

The first thing you’ll want to do is scramble your eggs. You can use a little bit of milk to make them extra fluffy but since I had none on hand I just went with it. After the eggs had cooked up a little bit I threw two handfuls of spinach on top to cook down with the eggs. Season as preferred. While the eggs were cooking I preheated the oven to 375, chopped up my bell pepper and shredded a little bit of cheese just to move the process along quicker.

Once the eggs are cooked take 1 or 2 slices of ham (depending on the thickness of the cut) and lay them out. Place two spoonfuls of the scrambled eggs and spinach onto one side of the ham in a line, leaving a bit of an edge to use for rolling. Sprinkled a bit of cheese and throw some of the chopped bell peppers in and then roll away. Place the roll up into a small pan and then continue the process until you run out of ham or eggs.

With the roll ups squished together in a pan they’re ready for the oven! Throw them in and bake for approximately 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and serve!

These little roll ups are of course low-carb and high-protein which is what most of my recipes tend to be. You could pair these with some chopped up vegetables or a fresh salad and you’d have a complete meal. We had these for breakfast and since my breakfasts tend to be smaller I didn’t worry about adding sides. This was a quick recipe and while I haven’t yet made it again I definitely would. If you decide to try it let me know what you think!

What have you been making this week? Feel free to share any recipes in the comments below!

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History at your Fingertips – A Book Haul

Hello my lovely readers! So typically I never buy enough of anything at once to consider it a ‘haul’. When I go to LUSH I typically buy a bath bomb or two and run out of there before I can spend more than $20 dollars. I’m the same way with make-up so it’s usually pretty bland to show any sort of shopping for those items either. Sometimes I get carried away in Bath & Body Works but considering it’s all I seem to get gifted from extended family these days I don’t think I have to walk into that store for another two years with the stash I currently have. The point I’m trying to make is that I don’t often have any sort of spectacular item hauls to share and recommend. Today is an exception!

Last weekend after my mom so kindly shared yet another BlogTO post onto my Facebook wall I decided to go check out the clearance book sale that was being put on by Toronto’s Public Library. I almost didn’t go because after hearing about long lineups (over an hour) on Thursday  I figured it wouldn’t be worth my time on Saturday (the last day of the sale). I’m quite happy that I changed my mind and decided to go exploring because even though the sale was very much depleted I came out with four new to me books, all for the price of $1.50. Yep, you read that right one dollar and fifty cents! The three soft covers cost me a dollar combined and the hard cover made up the last fifty cents.

By complete happenstance and my own personal taste, all four of these books have a common thread: there’s mention of the first or second world war in their descriptions. I’m a bit of a history fanatic in general but WWI and WWII are my personal top interests of study. This mostly comes from the exceptional educational trip I took to Europe in my senior year of high school where I got to visit graveyards, battle sites, and other historic monuments from the two wars, while also joining in local celebrations in Holland to celebrate the 65th anniversary of VE Day in Europe. We heard from holocaust survivors, veterans, and many locals who were liberated by ally soldiers (including our Canadian boys). A one point I even spoke to a man whose village had been liberated by the Nova Scotia which is the regiment my great uncle Curtis was a part of. That trip is an experience that has really stuck with me over the years and it only drove my long existing love of history forward further.

Now onto the books!

The book I’m most excited about is A Train in Winter by Caroline Moorehead. It follows the stories of the 230 French women that were taken to Auschwitz in 1943 for their rebellion against Nazi occupation. After spending so much of my education hearing about men’s involvement in history, I’m always thrilled to read the stories of women. I swear I’ve had this book in my hands at Chapters at least three times and I’ve always put it down and went with something else for whatever reason. When I was at the book sale I did a second sweep through of the tables just to make sure I hadn’t missed anything and sure enough someone had set this one back down and I quickly snatched it up. The book retails for $19.62 at Chapters so to grab this gently read copy for less than 40 cents was a steal. I flipped through the book a little to find there are pictures included amongst the narrative and they’re really quite lovely.

The second World War II book I picked up was actually a translation. Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky is a remarkably unique novel which comes in in two parts. There were supposed to be five parts but Némirovsky was a Jewish woman who had been arrested and deported to Auschwitz in 1942 so the works remained unfinished. The first part, which I have just begun reading, follows the evacuation of Paris and an abundance of families and individuals who all become intertwined during this exit. The second part shifts to an occupied village in which new characters navigate their new and difficult situation amongst the Nazi soldiers. What intrigues me most about this book is that Némirovsky clearly had the lived experience so this is not just a historical fiction crafted from history books, it’s one from the eyes of a woman who was there.

The most beat up of the four books and another World War II feature is The Far Side of the Sky by Daniel Kalia. It’s a bit rough around the edges and there’s a few minor tears but nothing to cry about. This one is a historical fiction that follows Franz Adler, an Austrian Jew, and his family as they escape Nazi occupation and make their way to Shanghai. I have read other books and heard various stories of individuals fleeing Nazi occupation but I’ve never come across one that talks about going East to Asia. In fact, I wasn’t really aware that this had even happened until I picked up and read the synopsis of this novel. I’m excited to see how this story plays out differently than the others I have read.

Finally, the last of the four books is the one hard cover and it is the only book to feature World War I instead of WWII. I picked up Villa America by Liza Klaussmann after reading the line “They packed up their children and moved to the South of France, where they immediately fell in with a group of expats, including Hemingway, Picasso, and Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald” in the summary.It reminded me of the film Midnight in Paris which I thoroughly enjoyed so why not?

Maybe down the line I’ll get back to you all on what I actually thought of these finds. I’ve only just begun reading Suite Française and I’m sort of overwhelmed by the cast of characters but I’m going to keep pushing through. I’ve hit a rather sporadic moment in my reading this month where I have many books on the go (this is unusual for me) so who knows when I’ll get around to picking up the others. I did just finish reading Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard which I thought was fantastic so if you’re looking for a young adult series to pick up I sincerely recommend it, it’s a step up on Hunger Games in terms of teenage dystopian heroines in my opinion. What about you? What are you reading? Pick up any new books lately? I’m always looking for recommendations (as I am with most things) so throw them my way!

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One Lovely Blog Award

So it’s not my usual posting day but I had to jump in an extra time this week because I’ve been nominated for the One Lovely Blog Award. I figured this nomination would be a good way t I’d like to thank Bobby of Beauty Knows No Flaws for this unexpected nomination, and I sincerely suggest if you’re not following her you go and click that button right now. Her posts always put a smile on my face and make me feel inspired. Not to mention, her make-up looks are goals.

Now about this award…

Rules:

  • Each nominee must THANK the person who nominated them and link their blog in post
  • They must include the rules and add the blog award badge as an image
  • Must add 7 facts about them
  • Then nominate 15 people

7 Facts About Me

  1. My name only has one “S” in it because I was named after Casey, a puppet on the Canadian children’s show Mr. Dressup.
  2. I can more or less tell you all about a past episode of Criminal Minds after just listening (not even watching) the pre-title scene.
  3. I am left-handed.
  4. I am on what feels like my 100th attempt of writing a novel. I’m currently 45,000 words into my first draft (I’m hoping putting this here will motivate me to keep writing).
  5. I was a drama kid; Lord Farquad in Shrek, Mr. Beauregard in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Merlin in Sword in the Stone were some of my more notable roles…. clearly we were always short male actors.
  6. I have a hard time picking a favourite movie because I see so many but if pressed I’ll likely say Casablanca because I love Humphrey Bogart but if I dig a little deeper (no this is not going to be a lead in to Princess and the Frog but it should be) it would probably be National Treasure.
  7. I love all things Harry Potter (I’m a Slytherclaw), especially Fantastic Beasts which combines my love for history with my love for wizardry. What more could a girl ask for?

Now onto my nominations! I chose the following 15 blogs because they are women on their own journeys who have inspired me regularly with their posts. Reading their blogs has encouraged me to keep going and my journey has become easier because of them. I strongly suggest checking them out, they’re funny, honest, and incredibly awesome.

The Nominees

So that’s the One Lovely Blog Award! I just hit my three month anniversary of starting this thing and this seems like a good way to mark that occasion. I have to say I’ve been really overwhelmed by all the support and love I’ve received so thank you. I’ll be back again tomorrow with my regular post!

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Fitness Friday – What Motivates Me

As I mentioned in this week’s Tasty Tuesday post, last week was a rough one for me. I fell off of my good habits for a couple of days and it really dragged me down. In general I find it pretty easy to bounce back after a day away from working out or a single cheat meal but several days off made things a lot trickier. With this in mind, as I continued to struggle through my workouts this week, I wanted to reflect on what is keeping me going. Sure, slimming down and getting healthy are the obvious goals but what is actually motivating me to keep going?

“The difference between the ordinary and the extraordinary is that little extra.” – Jimmy Johnson

It would be easy to just write that I want to be skinny for the first time since puberty hit but if that was the only reason I would not still be pushing through after three months. I’ve tried to lost weight before with the sole motivation of being skinnier and it has never worked. This time I’ve had to look past that, not to mention I’ve had to come to accept that I may never be skinny (whatever that means these days) but I can be a whole lot healthier and I can learn to love my body a whole lot more.

My motivations this time around really range and I will admit some of them are shallow while others are more meaningful. I think having both is important and realistic, by acknowledging your goals and motivations, no matter what they are, you can really empower yourself to keep going. Some days the external motivations are what I need to get me through the way, and the rest of the time it’s those bigger internal ones that keep me powering through. With that in mind, lets begin.

#1. Feeling Strong – When I was going to the gym last time around I gained a lot of confidence from seeing the amount of weight I could handle increase as the weeks went on. There were some machines where Matt and I were nearly evenly matched and that gave me a huge confidence boost. While I might not be able to track strength quite so easily by working out at home I can feel my body getting stronger. I can do certain strength moves (like pushups) that I couldn’t before, I can handle a HIIT workout without feeling sick or dizzy, and I am becoming much more flexible. All of this is empowering because I feel stronger and I know that that can only increase with more training. It’s the thought that I’m going to get better if I keep going that motivates me to complete those five workouts a week.

#2. Cute (and cheap) Clothing – I have been an XL or a 1XL for as long as I can remember. While sizing is inconsistent and ridiculous in general, being at the top end of most stores has always made shopping difficult and unenjoyable. There’s also the issue that plus sized clothing usually doesn’t do me any favours either because I’m short and most pieces end up being big and long. It’s a real shame too because in the past few years I’ve really grown into my style and become more comfortable in clothing that isn’t just a graphic t-shirt and jeans (still love those though). Slimming down will give me more options in terms of where I can shop and what I can fit into. When losing weight before I tried on new cuts of dresses that I never thought I’d feel comfortable in and was surprised by how good I felt. Being able to update my wardrobe at the end of this all is definitely something that keeps me going. And yes, I am also motivated by the hope that I’ll eventually feel comfortable in a bikini or crop top. Can bigger girls rock these? Of course! It’s funny that I know that and truly support that in others but I just haven’t gained enough body positivity and confidence to be there myself. I truly envy those who have.

#3. My Health – My family doesn’t exactly have the healthiest history and knowing that being overweight has played into that is something that motivates me to make this change for myself. I’m really not a big fan of being a patient and I’m petrified of needles so the more I can avoid these things, the better. Not to mention, working out and eating better improves my daily health and well being. I feel less exhausted, my back and muscles hurt less (except after one hell of a workout) and overall I just feel a lot better. This one motivates me in a unique way: I’m usually reminded of it after I’ve not stayed on track for a bit because I start to feel rough again. I don’t like feeling that way so it motivates me to jump back in and to work hard again.

#3. My Parents – Motivation from my parents comes in two ways: their encouragement and their own success. The support I receive from my parents when struggling with a certain meal plan or a workout usually kicks me in the ass to keep trying, even when it is difficult. They are great reminders that change isn’t going to come overnight and that I just have to keep pushing. My mom remarks on how great I’m looking every time she sees me and even though she’s my mom and she’s supposed to say these things it still empowers me. Secondly, my parents joining Planet Fitness and heading to the gym all the time has kept me on track with my own workouts. If they can go to the gym for an hour or so after working 6 days a week, I can get off my couch and do a home workout.

#7. Food – May as well admit it, the promise of being able to have a treat or a cheat meal is something that gets me through plates of veggies and some sweaty 30 minute workouts. I’ve learned to love a lot of healthier foods but I still love chocolate more than anyone I know, and trying new restaurants usually involves not eating so great. Food is one of those motivations and rewards that could definitely work against me but in careful moderation it’s something that empowers me to keep going.

#6. The Success of Others – Whether it’s my parents, my friends, or those of you who are on journeys yourselves and blogging about it, I have found that this is the motivator that sticks out this time around. On previous attempts to lose weight I have let myself be discouraged by the success of those around me, feeling like I wasn’t losing as much or looking as good. The last time around everyone remarked on how much weight my mom lost (and he deserved that recognition because she kicked ass) and no one ever noticed that there were changes in me as well. I was frustrated and it made it feel like it wasn’t worth it. But my mindset has changed and now when I see others succeeding I see it as a reminder that I can get there too. Everyone is on their own timeline and knowing that has helped keep me on track.

I am finding new motivations almost every day, most are small and are just becoming part of every day life but others have really given me the push I needed to stick with it, even when change is so slow.

What motivates you? Is there something in particular that keeps you focused on your goals? Feel free to share in the comments below! They don’t have to be weight loss related, it could be about something else all entirely. Whatever it is, I hope you stay motivated and stick with it. We can do anything we set our minds to, we just have to keep focused!

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Tasty Tuesday – Test of Temptation

So far my Tasty Tuesday posts have been mostly recipes and reviews of new restaurants I’ve checked out but after having a near meltdown over movie theatre popcorn on the weekend, I wanted to use this day to talk about the biggest opponent to many weight loss and health journeys: food.

If you’re like me, great food is one of the best parts of the day. I love eating, though I don’t always do it for the right reasons. I eat when I’m hungry (good) but I also eat when I’m sad, mad, bored, celebrating, tired, etc. (bad). Throughout this journey I’ve been getting better at finding ways to stop myself from needlessly eating and from eating things that are no good for my body. Through meal planning and tracking I’ve gotten much better at eating healthy throughout the week with minimal slip ups but that does not mean everything is perfect, nor does it mean it is easy.

Last week was a train wreck in terms of healthy eating. It started on Saturday after indulging at Bareburger and it continued on until I left my parents house on Wednesday. There was Chinese food, treats from my family from PEI, chicken wings and mac and cheese, doughnuts, and a few pastries I should have stayed away from.

By the time I got home Wednesday evening I knew I should be eating nothing but chicken and greens for the next few days but that didn’t happen. I was good on Thursday and Friday but Saturday rolled around and I had dinner plans with Matt and his dad. To make matters worse I stopped at Starbucks and grabbed a White Chocolate Mocha (340 calories for a tall, wtf!?). At dinner I ordered “Basket Bites” which were essentially little appetizer portions of fried foods. Nacho cheese sticks, potato pancakes, and tempura green beans were definitely not the healthiest choice on the menu but none of their salads struck me as interesting and being a pub, most of the food was fried. Then, to top it all off we went home and did a junk food run because I couldn’t seem to get over the fact that we didn’t get dessert at dinner. A bag of kettle chips and some Mrs. Fields cookies later and I was back to feeling like crap.

I could have let this keep going, went right back into eating whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. I could have said “Well, I’ll start fresh again tomorrow” but I might’ve kept saying that for weeks and then I’d be right back to where I was three months ago. So I stood in the lobby of our movie theatre and stared at the three different concession locations with a burning desire in my stomach and an angry voice in my head. I went back and forth, trying to decide, knowing that Matt would agree to whatever decision I made. He couldn’t make it for me, I had to make the call.

I walked away.

It wasn’t easy but skipping my favourite treat was a good lesson for me in willpower and it got me thinking about some things I can do next time to make the ordeal a bit easier. That is what I’m here to share with you. These are my four tips to dealing with those everyday temptations of delicious but unhealthy foods.

#1 Avoid temptation: This one is obvious, if you’re bound to get tempted by something don’t have it around. I have lots of friends and family who have a junk drawer in their house and I commend them for their self control. I can’t do it. If the food is in my house I will eat it, not just when it’s time for a treat but when I’m bored. However, I’m lucky in the sense that I can actually keep junk in the house, it’s just out of reach. No, not hidden (I’d find it) but physically out of reach. Our cupboard above the fridge is too deep and too far to get to. We only have high top chairs that aren’t any good for standing on so Matt is the only one who can access this cupboard. We keep a bunch of small chocolates and sweets up there for “emergencies” so they aren’t accessible all the time. I’ve only managed to get something down from that cupboard once and now Matt has made it impossible so bam, temptation gone.

#2 Plan ahead: It’s impossible to avoid temptation all the time unless you plan on locking yourself up in your home with nothing but kale chips and avocados. You’re bound to make plans to go out sometime so the best solution I’ve found is to plan ahead. If you’re choosing the restaurant you can pick somewhere that has a healthy option you know you enjoy. If you aren’t choosing the restaurant take a look at their menu before you go. I try to pick a few options that are healthier and keep them in mind for the night of. Choosing a few options helps in case you’re just not in the mood for the spinach and goat cheese salad again. Additionally, planning ahead may involve eating much healthier throughout the day to make room for that slightly unhealthy meal. This does not mean skipping meals or starving yourself. It means loading up on veggies and fruits as well as some good proteins to get you through.

#3 Pick a healthier alternative: This one is probably my favourite of the options and it’s the one I use the most. Since I eat most of my meals at home, having a healthy alternative of some of the foods I love helps me stay on track. I do spaghetti squash instead of actual spaghetti, bun-less burgers, healthy cracker chips, pizza made on tortilla shells, and my personal favourite is light popcorn. My love of popcorn is what brought about this whole reflection so it makes sense that it is one of the things I have found a way to keep into my diet. The Orville Redenbacher’s SmartPop! is my personal favourite but I also enjoy Skinny Pop and Angie’s BOOMCHICKAPOP which are all tasty and low in calories.

#4 Indulge in moderation: Finally, if you cannot avoid temptation, plan ahead, or pick a healthier alternative and there’s no way to walk away, then indulge, just do it carefully. Don’t do what I did and have 5-6 days off where nothing counted, go out, enjoy yourself, and just be mindful to get back at it the next day. You can also consider packing away half of your meal (ask for a takeout container right away) to cut down the calories or substituting out your fries for something healthier. Those little decisions go a long way and can really add up over time. Yes, there will still be days when a burger and fries is just what you needed, just don’t make it every day.

I’m sure there are other ways to help curb cravings. I know there are lists of what healthy food you should eat when you’re craving something bad which is never a bad idea to check out. The key is to find what helps motivate you. For instance, when I find myself about to eat out of boredom I try to change whatever I’m doing to something that involves using my hands. As long as my hands are busy I don’t have as much of an urge to stuff my face as I do when I’m just sitting watching tv. Bullet journalling and board games have been my top two distractions that keep me from needlessly eating.

I hope some of you found these tips useful, even if some of them are pretty much common sense. If you have any tips you’d like to share please drop them in the comments below!

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Learning to Love the Woman I Was

In the process of sharing my experiences with you all over the last three months I have really focused on the changes I am making and seeing in myself both physically and mentally. This was the original purpose of the blog of course, but through reading other journeys and exploring a wider community I have been inspired to look back with positivity instead of just looking forward. As you can probably see, my blog tag says “A girl learning to love herself and the world around her” but that doesn’t just have to be about the girl I am going forward. It would be too easy for me to look at the changes in my body and shame my past self for being chubbier and not active enough but there’s really no point in shaming the girl I was. After all, she’s still very much a part of me.

With all this in mind, I’ve decided to use this Sunday post as an exercise in body positivity. It’s definitely something I’m still in the process of gaining but I figured this is a good step towards that. I’ve been really inspired by Megan Jayne Crabbe (bodyposipanda on Instagram) and all the stories she shares about women embracing what society would deem as their flaws (i.e., stretch marks, tummy rolls, cellulite, etc.). I’ve read a lot of great stories in general about others learning to love themselves throughout their whole journey and not just once they’ve reached their end goal. Conversely I’ve read the warning stories about how others have reached that goal and still not felt happy or fulfilled because they didn’t change their mindset alongside their body. Given how critical I can be on myself, I’m terrified I will do the same.

Work to stop that from happening starts now.

So this post is a little exploration of pictures of me that at some point I looked at and cringed. With the proliferation of social media it’s pretty easy to have that experience if you’re looking through old pictures that no longer reflect who you believe yourself to be. Admittedly, I have been known to untag or delete unflattering images of myself, trying to tailor the images people see of me online. It’s ridiculous really and I’m pledging now to stop that: pictures are memories and while the memories may start to fade, the pictures will help me hold onto them even if I have a double chin or flabby arms. Getting rid of them will only give me a moment’s security but it’ll take more from me in the long run.

I’ve picked four pictures from my facebook that I initially cringed at and now I’m going to find the good in them and say goodbye to the negative. Here we go!

The Ponytail

So, I have never liked the way I look with my hair up and I know a lot of girls with weight and image issues who feel the same. My hair helps ‘frame my face’ or whatever and makes my face look slimmer in my opinion. But when it’s 30+ degrees out and you’re stuck in the Florida sun for hours at a time, the hair is just bound to go up. Normally I shy away from pictures at these times but over the years I’ve gotten better about it. For me, the courage to do this came from my love and admiration for a fictional character who rocks ponytails and glasses all the time: Arrow’s Felicity Smoak. Still, while Felicity looks amazing in ponytails every single episode, I don’t feel like I look the same way at all.

Despite my want to immitae Felicity’s style, I still am not fully comfortable in my high ponytail and the way it makes me look. But this is exactly why I sought out a picture with my hair up, so I could try to appreciate it a bit more. When my dad first posted this picture of me playing with the skeleton of my devoured whole fried fish at Walt Disney World, I wasn’t a big fan. I picked myself apart but now I look at this picture and see the memory. It was our first time at Skipper’s Canteen and I was so excited because Jungle Cruise is one of my favourite Disney attractions. Our waiter told excellent puns the entire meal, the food was awesome (not my favourite place for dessert but I’d go back for just this fish) and as always I had an awesome trip with my parents. Because of all that I am looking at myself now and not picking apart all the little things that originally made me want to ask my dad to take the picture down, instead I see a happy young woman who is still beautiful with her hair up.

The Side Profile

The next picture is another one from Disney World and it’s a real love-hate sort of picture for me. I love it because after over 10 years of going to WDW I finally got to meet Jack Skellington from A Nightmare Before Christmas. I waited over an hour for this meet which is something I never do. Mostly I was thrilled by the pictures the awesome cast members got with my camera but this one picture gave me a hard time because it wasn’t a straight on shot. I’ve always had issues with my profile. I get frustrated because straight on I can look and feel good and I turn to the side and it falls apart.

Now I’m looking at this picture and I’m actually kind of fond of it. This was taken at the height of my weight, a few months before I went on my first weight loss journey. There are pictures from this trip that I have deemed as unrecognizable and there are pictures that actually serve as my warning to not let it get that bad again. But now I’m looking at this and realizing that this isn’t bad. It’s just different. This was a good moment in my life and I’m not going to let my weight make me feel like it is not worth sharing. It’s a unique shot and it’s one I couldn’t have manufactured myself with dozens of selfie attempts so I’m happy to have it.

The Full Body (Kind of)

It’s typically pretty rare for me to let other people take full body shots of me because I am so self conscious about my body shape. My mom and I have always told people to crop from the waist up. I’ve also gone so far as to put my zoom lens on my camera just so anyone else using it to capture a picture of me couldn’t actually get a wide shot and had to do a closeup. It’s ridiculous really and a part of me is pretty glad my dad doesn’t always listen to my cropping demands, specifically because of this picture from the Aviation museum in Ottawa.

This one was taken sometime after I had lost my first chunk of weight (before I gained most of it back) so you would think I would have been comfortable with this photo in comparison to the others. Well, nope, that’s not how it worked at all because I really hadn’t gained any body positivity the first time around. I just needed to lose more and more weight, that’s what I told myself. It didn’t happen and I think my mindset was part of the reason. I hated this photo when it first went up on Facebook… now I love it. My outfit is my favourite, it’s actually an outfit I’m very proud to fit back into now that I’ve been slimming down again. But once again, the memories trump it all. My parents and I went to Ottawa for a few days, explored all the museums, and ate a whole bunch of wonderful food. It was a good trip, thick thighs and all.

The More Recent

Finally, we have the picture that really kicked my ass into gear this second time around. I’ve mentioned before when I decided to do my selfie challenge that the pictures from New Years made me realize just how much weight I’ve gained. I think the fact that Matt has gone the opposite way and lost weight made this picture stick out even more for me. I saw the slimness of his face in comparison to the puffiness of mine and I almost didn’t even process this picture of us because of the way I looked. Thankfully, I managed to get over myself a little before I ended up permanently deleting it or something. Still, every time I posted it somewhere I hesitated, tried to colour it differently or switch it our for another picture when really it was just fine.

First of all, my hair colour in this picture is fantastic and even though you can’t see the whole outfit (you can see it here) I’m in the Ted Baker skirt / shirt combo that I look fabulous in. But more than that, my smile is genuine and it really is a nice picture of us, even if I’m on the heavier side. I’m usually the person behind the camera so we don’t always have pictures of the two of us outside of good ole selfies so this one is nice to have.

Well, that was a lot of talking about myself which I guess is really what a blog is but I’m still feeling a little strange. It was an interesting exercise and while I’m far from being incredibly body positive for myself I do believe this is a good step forward. It’s so easy to promote body positivity in others but it’s important to have it for yourself too and that’s something I’m really working on. If you’re in the same boat, I encourage you to try and do this exercise for yourself, even if you don’t blog about it. You never know how much you might come to love yourself in the process.

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Fitness Friday – So I Went to the Gym

But Casandra, you don’t have a gym membership and you said you weren’t getting one! Isn’t the gym in your building opening soon? What happened to just doing workout videos from home? I know, I know, but before we jump ahead, I should say that I didn’t join a gym, I just went to one. My mom has a membership at Planet Fitness and since I went home for a couple days I decided to join her as a guest. A couple eye opening things about my journey came about because of this venture so I decided I may as well share them with you.

As I’ve mentioned in past posts, my last big weight loss journey involved joining a gym for the first time ever and I stuck with it for almost ten months so this is hardly a new experience for me. I wasn’t nervous about going into the gym aside from wondering whether or not I would be able to navigate the machines just as well as before. In all honesty, this was just a way to hang out with my mom while still making sure I got my workouts in for the week but in the process I learnt a couple things:

#1. I can still run without dying! The first thing we did was get on the treadmill. I haven’t been on one since this time last year so I started off slow, walking at a brisk pace and just chit chatting. After getting warmed up I decided to test myself. I upped the speed until I had to jog to keep up. I managed to make it through two minutes straight on 4.5 before I went back to speed walking at 3. I gave myself a few more minutes and tried it again. Still didn’t die. The next day when we went back I did four minutes on 5.0 followed by a lofty one minute run on 5.5. I starting hacking up a lung a little bit (still not fully well) but I made it. This might not seem like long for those of you who jog for fitness but to me it’s a big deal. I still remember the day I did 10 minutes straight running on the treadmill, it was a huge accomplishment for the girl who couldn’t do track and field day without feeling like she was going to die.

#2. I’m still strong! The only real reason I miss the gym is because of all the strength machines. I know I can get a good strength workout in with body weight but for me the machines really made me feel strong. I was determined to get an upper body workout in since I would finally have access to more than four pound weights so that was where my focus was the first day. I was surprised to find I can still move a lot of weight albeit being out of practice. I struggled the most with triceps but biceps, shoulders, and chest were fine. A laughable moment was trying to move the weight my dad (he’s an ex-football player) moves on a chest row (170 pounds): I managed to move the weight once but they had to drop it by over 100 pounds. He’s crazy.

#3. I’m under 200 pounds! Right in the change room there is one of those dreaded medical office scales and while I’ve made the pact not to track my weight (you can read why here) I decided to get on it just to see where we’re at. Neither mom nor I are any good at really using them but I’m somewhere around 195 pounds. It’s definitely not a weight I’m proud to be sharing but I know it means I’ve shed some major pounds in the last three months which is nice to learn.

Bonus: My mom is amazing. When I went to the gym last year there was no talking my mom into coming, even though I thought it would be good for her. This time she didn’t have me around and she signed herself up. I’ve been impressed to hear she’s been going so much and to see her there myself was awesome, even if I think she likes the funky water massage loungers more than the actual gym part.

Are you keeping up with your workouts? I’ve been struggling a little bit but I love to read what you guys are all up to, it keeps me motivated to keep going. Post a link in the comment if you like and I’ll be sure to give you a read!

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Tasty Tuesday – Bareburger

So I didn’t want to taint the message of my International Women’s Day March post with talks of food so I left the day’s lunch out of the post but now I absolutely have to share another new restaurant experience with you guys. So this week’s Tasty Tuesday is another restaurant review and this time I’m talking about Bareburger.


(Credit: bareburger.com)

I will warn you all right now, this definitely isn’t a healthy food post so if you’re shying away from being triggered into binge eating or anything else I totally understand you ditching this post before you get to the goods. I promise I’ll be back with another healthy recipe next week!

Anyway, Bareburger is another one of those speciality burger joints that try to shy away from your regular beef patty with a slice of processed cheese and some ketchup. They apparently have 44 locations in 5 different countries and one of them just happens to be right downtown Toronto on Dundas street. We checked the menu before heading downtown and after reading some unique burger names like “Falafelwraptor” and the “Wiki Wiki” (neither of which we actually ordered) we decided to check it out.

It was barely a five minute walk from the subway station but the wind was bitter so the moment we got inside and were seated by the window Keeragh and I both opted for hot beverages. I haven’t really drank coffee since high school (early addiction) so I ordered a hot chocolate and it came in this cute little yellow campfire mug which seemed suiting for the kind of rustic vibe the place gave off.

After some deliberation, Keeragh ordered the “Fire Quacker” which is a duck burger topped with pepper jack, pickled jalapeños, red onions, spinach, tomatoes, and habanero mayo on a brioche bun. It was actually the item on the menu that drew me into Bareburger to begin with but after seeing a piece of fried chicken on a nearby table I decided to check out one of their sandwiches instead. I ordered the “Pickle Fried Chicken” which was a buttermilk fried chicken sandwich on a brioche bun with sweet pickles, green leaf, and horseradish remoulade. Then, since the slightly pricey burgers and sandwiches don’t come with sides and it was about $4-5 dollars each to add a side order we decided to just get the share place of rings and fries which came with four unique and equally delicious dipping sauces.

The chicken and the duck were both cooked perfectly, the brioche buns were a nice touch, and I still can’t get over the onion rings. It’s a lot of batter but they don’t seem heavy at all. The sauces were a nice touch (I’m a sucker for dipping sauces) and even the fries were nicely salted, golden on the outside, and nice and soft on the inside.

The basket of rings and fries itself was about my normal daily intake of calories plus the sandwich which was just under half my intake so this place was definitely a cheat. But you could probably be a bit more mindful at this place if you ordered a small salad (crops/greens as they call them) or ditched the sides and perhaps at least half the bun off your burger. Overall though, this isn’t about to become one of my healthy eating out options.

As far as speciality burgers go I enjoyed this place more than I do The Works and Kenzington Burger Bar. There was a bit more flavour in the meat and the toppings were more unique without just being plain whacky (like the Reese’s Peanut Butter burgers The Works boasts from time to time). You do have the option of building your own burger and there is also a weekend brunch menu that I’d like to go back and check out. We’re pretty sure the girl next to us had their fried chicken on french toast and it looked spectacular (still not diet friendly, I know).

Bareburger also has a social side to it that other fancy burger joints don’t seem to have: they boast organic and clean food that is sourced as locally close as possible. You can taste the quality in their ingredients and that is definitely something I like. If I’m going to try bison or elk, I want to actually be eating 100% bison or elk.

So now it’s back to more healthy eating. My sandwich and those onion rings definitely felt justified after the 10,000+ steps we took during the march but since I’m not likely to be making that march every day it’s time to hunker down again and save my next cheat for popcorn at the movies.

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International Women’s Day – Why I March…

I march for the women who raised me.

I march for the women I love.

I march for the women who can’t march.

This one is coming a few days late because I wanted to share my experience at Toronto’s International Women’s Day March which took place downtown yesterday afternoon, just a few days after actual International Women’s Day on March 8th. I was away for the Women’s March in January but after watching the swell and excitement of solidarity on social media and the broader internet I wished I had been there. When I heard about this march I knew I couldn’t miss out so Keeragh and I headed downtown yesterday to join the rally and march the streets.

Immediately as we came up from the subway and looked across the street we could see crowds of people heading onto the university campus towards where the rally was supposed to be so we followed suit. Moving through the buildings we soon found ourselves amongst a throng of people congregating, waiting to march. What we didn’t know then was how many more would join.

Shortly after 1PM, calls for organization were made. Groups marching under the larger banners were brought to the front and the rest of us remained congregated just behind. We marched up to the back of Queen’s Park and it was as we came up the hill that I looked back to see how many of us there were. Thousands, a thick crowd spreading all the way back towards our starting point. All sexes, all genders, all races, all ages… diversities of all types, marching together, creating a mass that could not be ignored. We marched down the major streets of downtown with the help of some exceptional Toronto Police Officers who moved up and blocked off traffic from the route as we pushed forward. We marched for just under two hours in the wind and the cold, taking up space and demanding to be seen.

There wasn’t a thing that could take the smile off of my face. The surge of energy I had felt just looking at the women’s march footage from January was now tripled from being there myself and my heart raced as drums beat out from behind us and marchers called out their fight into the air. Every time you turned your head there was a new sign to read:

“Equal pay for equal work.”

“I’m with her.”

“Accessible childcare now.”

“Harry would have died without Hermione.”

It went on and on, the words of every sign empowering us to march further, to ignore the bitter cold and keep our heads up high. Workers watched from store windows, cars blared their horns in solidarity, a woman on the sidewalk stopped and held her fist in the air. We were seen. We were heard.

The biggest thing I took from this experience is the wide range of issues represented in a march like this. At any given point we found ourselves amongst different groups of marchers, marching for a different reason. Chants came from each of the groups, never overlapping each other but respectively existing in their own space. One followed the other, calls for justice and equality rang through the air.

Whose streets? Our streets!

Whose bodies? Our bodies!

Whose rights? Our rights!

At one point we found ourselves amongst a large group of Spanish speaking individuals who stood together marching in memory of the 39 girls killed in a fire at an overcrowded youth shelter in Guatemala. I don’t speak any Spanish but the moment their voices called out in pained passion the visceral reaction I felt shattered that language barrier. One of the women in particular called out without a megaphone, her voice, thunderous over the crowd and her passion present in every foreign syllable we listened to. In that moment we marched for the girls who had been killed.

Calls for equal pay came next, union and non-union workers marching in solidarity, demanding a living wage and pay equity. We echoed their shouts, crying out for the women who have to work twice as hard as men for lesser pay and recognition. In that moment I was every woman who deserves more for their work, whose sex has been used to determine her worth.

After some time, rainbow signs soon floated overhead, a new colourful wave of emotion spreading around us. One woman’s sign boldly stated “Bisexuals are just confused about your bigotry.” and another’s “Women love women”. In that moment I marched for the women who do not fit the heteronormative role placed upon them, drilled into them from a young age, the women who are seen as less because of who they are and who they love.

The diversity of the ones we stood in solidarity with brought a smile to my lips the whole time, my cheeks ached and not just from the cold. Women and men, old and young, of every colour and creed imaginable, standing together not just for one cause but for many.

I watched men stand beside the women in their lives: fathers, brothers, boyfriends, husbands, sons, and friends. I watched them march with us, their voices never booming over, their bodies never pushing us out of this space. I was reminded of my boyfriend who couldn’t join us because he had to work. I was reminded of how far he’s come, how much he’s learned. He has carried us for the past few months while I’ve struggled to find work but he’s never tried to hold it over my head, he puts the work in both in and out of the home, he supports me and lifts me up rather than putting me down. I marched for him.

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I watched as friends united during the march, finding each other amongst the crowd. I personally marched beside my best friend, a woman who I haven’t always seen eye to eye with but has become my sister. We’ve been friends for over ten years and knowing her has made me stronger, it’s helped shape me into the woman I am today. I’ve learned so much from being friends with other women whom I share as many differences with as I share similarities. I wish they could have all been there with us but I had them in my heart, thankful for all the lessons I’ve learned just from knowing them, from loving them. I marched for them.

I listened to parents teach their young children, not just their daughters but their sons too. I was reminded of my mother who would have marched with us as well. From a young age she taught me I could do anything. There were no limits. There was not one right path because I was a girl. She taught me to be open and understanding, she gave me a safe place to speak and to explore in many ways that others can’t. She opened her heart to the other girls I surrounded myself with, she taught them too. I knew she would have been there with us had she not had to work. I marched for her.

I hope you had a wonderful International Women’s Day. I hope you get to spend your days with women you love and women who inspire you. I’ve found a lot of inspiration in so many of you from reading your stories so I want to take this moment to thank you too, for enriching my life and giving me even more women to look up to. You are strong. You are powerful. You are everything.

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