Fitness Friday – Sometimes You Surprise Yourself

Today, I was feeling extra motivated. I’m not sure what rallied this in me because to be honest lately I’ve been having a hard time even doing the most basic workouts but something just clicked this morning. I threw on my workout gear, set up my little area, and I threw on one of Fitness Blender’s 1000 calorie workouts.

1,000 calories in one workout is quite the jump since my usual Fitness Blender routines range from 100-300 calories but I decided I wanted to give it a go. My original idea was to just see how far I could get. I figured I’d push through the HIIT portion and probably happy with just that considering it’s about 27 minutes with the warm-up included. My plan was to skip ahead to the cool down and call it a day but then I got through the HIIT portion with energy to spare. I decided to push forward just to see how far I could go.

I’m pleased (and heavily surprised) to say that I earned my workout complete!

Almost an hour and a half after I began my little endurance test I found myself in a pool of sweat but somehow I had made it! I’m incredibly proud of this accomplishment because when I started this workout I thought for sure there was no way in hell I’d get through even half of it. I did have to take a couple breaks here and there, and I was following along with the low-impact modifications so maybe I didn’t burn the full 1,000 calories but I’m still really proud of myself.

As Kelli and Daniel say themselves in the video this is not something you do every day. It’s an absolute burnout full body workout that deserves a rest day after it. For me, it’s simply too time consuming to work into my regular routine but even if this was a one-off, it was a moment that really proved to me that I can do anything I set my mind to.

Overall, I really liked the way this workout was set up because doing the strength portion after the HIIT workout in the beginning gives you some chance to slow down and recover. Despite this, it was still a challenge to get through the core and cardio section at the end because my body was completely depleted of energy. I pushed on, taking little breaks when I needed to, but never quitting completely. To me, that’s all that really matters. I pushed myself to my own limit and triumphed in the end.

If you’re interested in one of these marathon burnout workouts I highly suggest checking this one out but don’t be discouraged if you’re not quite there yet. To be quite honest, even getting through the HIIT section is an accomplishment and it feels like a full workout. Give it a try and if you don’t make it all the way through mark down where you stopped, the next times you give it a go you might be able to go further and further. As for me, the next time I do this I hope to have increased my strength and endurance enough to tackle at least half of the higher impact versions just to challenge myself. For now, this was more than enough.

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Tasty Tuesday – My 7 Step Program

I have an unhealthy relationship with food.

Reading that, I think the gut reaction is “No shit Casanda that’s why you’ve been overweight most of your life.” but that’s not exactly what I’m onto right now. Yes, I know my eating habits and my lack of physical activity are the reason I haven’t been a healthy weight since before puberty hit but I’m also realizing that my relationship with food is negatively impacting my mental state as well. And that’s just not something I can afford to let happen.

In therapy I learnt how to not let people’s opinions control me, which was hard for a girl who had been severely bullied by people she considered friends. I also learnt to not let my grades control me, which was difficult for a student who had taken pride in straight A’s throughout high school and had to face the reality of lower marks in university. With the help of my counsellor I learnt a number of important life lessons that have helped me manage all sorts of difficult situations but I never learnt how to not let food control me.

I don’t think I even realized that it did until now.

More than friends, more than grades, more than anything, food has a huge impact on my mood. A satisfying meal, no matter how unhealthy, leads to good feelings, even if a stomach ache or other adverse symptoms accompany it. Conversely, not getting to eat whatever I’m craving leads to feelings of sadness and anger. I’ve lashed out, I’ve cried, and it has all been over food.

Perhaps it would be easier to just eat whatever I want when I’m craving it but then I’ll never be healthy. And to be quite honest, I don’t need to eat that way.I don’t just eat because I’m hungry or I’m craving something. I eat because I’m bored, because I’m upset, because I’m happy. I just keep eating with absolutely no regard as to what that is doing to my body and my mind.

It has to stop somewhere.

When we talk about addictions we generally focus on drugs or alcohol but we don’t talk about food. Maybe it seems silly to since food is something we need to survive. But not all food is created equal. There are many studies that suggest that sugar is highly addictive and to be honest, that makes a lot of sense. Sugar releases large amounts of dopamine into your nervous system which plays a huge role in reward behaviour. Basically, the chemical is telling your brain that it wants more and that’s why high sugar foods can be so addictive. It’s also part of the reason why I lash out when I’m denying myself those foods because my brain has been conditioned to want more. Because of this conditioned response these unhealthy foods make me feel good, even if they aren’t good for me.

The thing is, for most of us who go on these healthy lifestyle journeys, this information isn’t new. It certainly isn’t new to me and yet knowing it hasn’t changed too much in the grand scheme of things. I still shovel chocolate into my mouth at every opportunity and I still wouldn’t hesitate in ordering the new Unicorn Frappuccino even though it has same amount of sugar as three snickers chocolate bars. Clearly I’m not taking the lesson to heart. Perhaps that is one of the hardest parts about weight loss and healthy living: knowing what you need to do and still not seeing yourself do it.

So what now? I’ve admitted I have this problem and I’ve begun to acknowledge some of the causes but what does that matter if I don’t have a plan moving forward? If I don’t make changes I will just keep going back to this; I’ll keep crying over food and getting frustrated when I give into it again and again. Knowing this, I decided I wanted something to work through to help try and beat this addiction. I’m already well on my way with my healthier lifestyle but now I’ve got to work through some of the mental roadblocks that are not only hindering my progress but also hurting me psychologically. I could lose all the weight I’d like to and still not have made it if this mindset sticks.

So I looked to the 12 step program that’s well known for drug and alcohol addiction just to see if I could apply it to myself since this is very much an addiction for me. Unfortunately, the spiritual component doesn’t really suit my mindset. In this instant, want to see myself as the creator of change, not some higher power. So I’ve come up with my own program to try and follow based on the general motivators the 12 step program uses.

My program is only 7 steps:

  1. Accept that your relationship with food is a problem that creates negativity in your day to day functioning by promoting feelings of self-loathing, doubt, and overall unhappiness.
  2. Acknowledge when cravings and bad eating decisions affect your mental state and the decisions that you make.
  3. Observe and note any experiences, feelings, and situations that trigger emotional trauma over food.
  4. Seek ways to rework these experiences, feelings, and situations in order to stop food cravings and desires from controlling your emotions.
  5. Find alternative experiences to avoid relying on food for fun, pleasure, and happiness.
  6. Begin to see treats as they should be: an occasional indulgence that you should enjoy and not something that should control your actions, mindset, or mood.
  7. Continue to acknowledge when food impacts your mental state, applying the new strategies you have come up with to control the situation instead of  letting it control you.

I’m not sure how well this will work or if it’s really in the most productive order but I find that having something to reference can’t hurt. If anything, this will be a good reminder. I know I’m stronger than my cravings and I know I can be happy without eating chocolate or some sort of other sweet every single day. Will I ever give it up entirely? Of course not. That’s not a life I’m interested in living. However, I can create a better relationship between me and what I put into my body. Plus, changing the way I view indulgences will hopefully allow me to enjoy them more. It’s all a part of the journey.

And as is the hope with the 12 step program, I hope that maybe this post will inspire others to acknowledge the negative relationship they have with food, not just physically but mentally as well. As always, If you have any thoughts or questions please share in the comments below.

Sources

Physical Craving and Food Addiction: Here
Sugar Can Be Addictive: Here
12 Step Program: Here

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Stuck on a Bus with People I Don’t Know – Group Travel as an Introvert

I have been fortunate enough to have had plenty of opportunities to travel in my own country and around the globe. I’ve now been to nine different countries, ten if you count being in harbour in the Bahamas (I really should have got off the ship). I consider myself very lucky and even though I know many have travelled a lot more, I know there are others who have travelled a lot less. Every trip is a gift and I’m thankful for all of them.

But that’s not exactly what I’m here to talk about. While managing this blog I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on myself and the aspects of who I am that I’m eager to share. Part of that is the fact that I’m an introvert. I believe my comfort with being on my own stems from being an only child. I’ve never minded being on my own, especially as a kid where I was much more comfortable with the adults in my life than any other children. Some degree of bullying would play into that later but that’s a topic for another day.

When I say I consider myself an introvert some people who have known me for a long time are surprised or they try to argue because they’ve seen me in group settings where I’ve flourished. There’s two reasons for that: first, usually I’m with a group of people I’m comfortable with and second, I’m really good at faking it. My dramatic arts background has definitely helped with that second one but mostly the matter has to do with my first point. I’m usually fairly outgoing and talkative around people I know well but stick me in a room full of strangers and I tend to shrink.

That’s why group travel is something I had always thought about avoiding but I’m glad I changed my mind. In the fall of 2015, Matt an I took our first solo trip as a couple all the way over to Europe. However, it wasn’t just the two of us. When we got to Rome we met up with a busload of other travellers from all over the world and I was immediately thrust into a widely social situation with a bunch of people I didn’t know. Thankfully, the experience was entirely positive, and the group we were with were a big part of that. And because I had such a great time with people I was afraid to meet, I want to share my tips for participating in group travel as an introvert. I hope to encourage any of you who might be reluctant to give it a go. So lets jump right in!

Bring a buddy

Lately, a couple different versions of the this joke have been popping up on my social media and it was really what got me thinking about my experiences as an introvert in group situations and group travel. I think one of the first things you can do to prime any group adventure with strangers is to have someone there that you know. Bring a partner, a sibling, a friend, whoever. Chances are that one person will be your island in the sea of strangers. Sure, it’s possible that the two of you could just put your heads down and talk to no one else the whole trip but it’s not likely to happen, especially if your travel buddy is an extrovert.

Having a more extroverted person alongside can help bridge some space between you and the other passengers. On our trip, what would often happen was Matt would start chatting with one of the other boyfriends on the trip and that kind of gave me the opportunities to speak to their girlfriends. He provided a stepping stone that made those first interactions a bit easier.

Pick a trip where you stay in a hostel

I’ve never actually done this because it was Matt and I on the last trip and staying in hostels would’ve meant not sticking together. However, I have heard a lot of positive things about hostel rooming situations making it easier to bond with the people you’re with. You get up with them in the morning and that makes it likely, especially as a solo traveller, that you might get invited out to do whatever else your roomies are doing. Take the opportunity to tag along, even if you’re just quietly roaming around, it gives you the time to adapt to that group. This one works whether or not you have a buddy with you, the buddy could definitely bolster the effects of common sleeping arrangements but overall hostels help facilitate bonding a little more than being shut away in your own hotel room like we were.

Sit with everyone at dinner

This one is a big one for me. Meal times make conversation easier, especially since I sleep a lot on the bus so chit chatting there rarely happens. Grabbing a seat at the larger tables where most of the group are during group dinners gives you a chance to interact with people on a large scale. It can seem intimidating at first but I promise not tucking yourself away in a little corner will actually make everything more enjoyable. You don’t have to lead the conversation, often times you can just listen and chime in whenever you’re comfortable. In fact, dinner conversation with a large group means you don’t have to talk at all if you don’t want to, there will always be someone else to carry the conversation.

For me, dinner is where I found things in common with other travellers and that made it easier to chat one on one later on. Even just broaching the topics of what tv shows everyone liked allowed me to become more comfortable. Soon enough I was raving on about One Tree Hill and Arrow with another passenger, and Matt and one of the others had fun pointing out all the places in Florence that they’d already seen in Assassin’s Creed. Dinner helped facilitate all that and it was the place where I felt the least pressure to make sure there were no lulls in the conversation because the others handled that for me.

Go on the group excursions

If your tour is anything like ours, your guide will often plan group outings that are completely optional. You can choose to wander off on your own or you can tagalong with the group. Whether it was dinner or some sort of tour, we ended up jumping on a lot of these not only because they were convenient but because it also gave us more time to get to know everyone.

For us, this led to a group opportunity that the guide didn’t already have planned. A group of us ended up organizing our own little excursion out to Disneyland Paris at the end of the trip. I had had the park in the back of my mind but I’d pretty much written it off until I found out others were going. It was out last day with many of the travellers and at that point I’d come to enjoy being with everyone so much that it seemed like a good opportunity to hang out more. We ventured off through the Paris subway system and made our way out to meet Mickey and the gang.

   

What’s nice about group travel is that it does a lot of the work for you. Planned dinners, long hours on the bus, and shared space make it a bit easier to get to know others even when you’re quieter like I am. Even if you spent the day apart you often come back to people who are happy to hear what you did and to tell you what they were up to. It’s one of the reasons we sacrificed seeing the fireworks at Disney in order to make it back in time for the last group dinner that Topdeck had planned for us. We didn’t want to miss out on seeing everyone, and that’s really saying something because I’ve wanted to see those fireworks for years.

Know that you don’t have to do everything with everyone

After reading this you might be thinking that I’m not really an introvert at all but just shy around new people. Maybe that is partially true but this is the point that kind of sets me back to a more introverted status. While getting to know new people ended up being a positive part of the trip as opposed to a real challenge that threatened my happiness, it wasn’t something that I needed to immerse myself in the whole time. As always, I was still happy being on my own. Or in this case, alone with a beanstalk.

On our second day in Rome, Matt and I joined the group in the morning on the excursion through the Vatican but as the tour ended we set off on our own for the day, taking the chance to wander and to enjoy the city by ourselves. This was how we approached much of the trip: we would start with the group and then we’d venture off for a while which gave me some time to not be on socially. It was a nice break that helped keep me from getting anxious and exhausted. Even at Disney we started the day with the group and then took off to explore the parks our own way. It was a good way to mix things up and it allowed for some quieter moments where I was able to recharge.

I think that it is important to remember to take the time for yourself when you are feeling a little drained or overwhelmed, it will allow you to come back to the group in a more positive light.

So those are a few tips from me, a fellow introvert, on making the most out of group travel. In that week, we made some great friends from all over the world, and while we haven’t had the chance to meet up with any of them since then, I do still enjoy seeing what they’re up to on Facebook. On occasion our group’s page lights up again as passengers share inside jokes and post pictures of their reunions. It all brings a smile onto my face, and it reminds me of the wondrous seven days I spent with a group of complete strangers. I strongly encourage all the introverts like me to not be afraid of group travel, you never know what kind of lasting impact it will have on you.

 

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Fitness Friday – The Best Laid Plans

If Plan A doesn’t work, the alphabet has 25 more letters
– 204 if you’re in Japan” – Claire Cook

Well, I’m not in Japan but Plan A this week got a little mixed up on day two of the week but for a good reason! I found out on Tuesday that I won tickets to see an advanced screening of The Lost City of Z. I don’t particularly remember entering this contest to begin with (it was another like and comment Facebook contest) but I’m always down for a free night. With the free tickets in mind I invited my friend Keeragh down for an evening and a sleepover which inevitably led to board games and Call of Duty shenanigans.

The movie was good, and as always I was thrilled to have a night out with my best friend. Still, this change of plans created a little mixup in my health goals for the week. Not only did we go see the screening, we also ate out. Which means one of the rules in Tuesday’s post went right out the window.

But here’s the thing: I knew that this change was going to put a wrench in my original plans so I decided to process it. I went through three steps to turn what could have been another stretch of bad days into something more positive.

Accept and embrace the change

First of all, I knew I wanted to go to the movie, even if it was going to mess with my diet-related plans a bit. I could have passed up the experience and just focused on what I had planned but then I would have been giving up a perfectly good and practically free night out for no reasons. So instead of fighting against the change or refusing to let it take place I accepted that I was going to this movie and that that came with new challenges and changes for how Thursday and Friday were going to play out. So what I did was I took the new information I had about what was going on with this week and laid it all out so I could work with it. Here’s what I knew:

  1. Movie theatres come with all sorts of temptation snack wise.
  2. Given the time constraint on the evening it made more sense to eat near the theatre.
  3. I’d need a new meal plan for Friday if my friend stays the night.
  4. I probably won’t work out on Friday as planned if my friend stays the night.

With this information in hand, I knew that the plan I had made on Monday for how the week was going to go wasn’t going to cut it anymore. I could have just said “well, whatever, I’ll do better next week” but I decided that wasn’t going to cut it either. After all, I want to created new habits, ones that don’t begin with well, whatever. So it was time to do some more work.

Formulate a new plan

I took a look at the information I had just laid out for myself and I decided to tackle each obstacle one at a time. My original plan at the beginning of the week had been to get back on track after Easter, now my new plan had to focus on how to stay on track with this new event happening during the week. I looked at each piece of information I had laid out and I created ways to overcome the challenges they had present.

  1. Eating dinner before the movies will help me resist popcorn temptation. Plus, we already have our tickets so there is no reason to go up to the counter at all.
  2. A quick google search allowed me to find Picnic Food, a local company with health conscious items that is located right across from the theatre.
  3. I’m not the only one who enjoys eating healthy food: a quick menu change and I came up with a way to keep things healthy while hanging out.
  4. No need to completely miss a workout: I can switch my rest day from Saturday to Friday and make the workout up Saturday.

By laying everything out beforehand I found a way to make it work. I suggest trying this whenever you’re faced with a daunting obstacle that might threaten your progress. Don’t miss out on life just because you’re trying to be healthy: you can still experience everything you were before you made this change, just be mindful.

Work the new plan

“Plan the work, work the plan”

I’m pretty sure the first time I heard a variation of this quote it was on Criminal Minds and it had to do with a serial killer planning out his murders but that’s besides the point. The message rings true: it doesn’t matter how well thought out your plan is, it won’t matter if you don’t put it in action.

  1. Eating dinner beforehand was an easy one to accomplish. Keeragh and I left my place once she got off work and headed right downtown with time to spare before the movie to grab a quick bite of eat.
  2. Picnic Food for dinner unfortunately did not work out. By the time we got to Picnic it was almost closing and it was slim pickings on what menu items were available. Neither one of us saw anything we really wanted so we went across the hall to Druxy’s. I ordered a turkey sandwich but somehow ended up with roast beef. It was still tasty and with the bag of chips I splurged on the whole meal came to about 550-600 calories. This was nothing considering both my breakfast and lunch had been very light.
  3. Switching my meal plan for Friday went smoothly as well; for breakfast we had toaster strudels with a bunch of fruit and for lunch we had squash lasagna. This is pretty much the kind of food I would eat on a regular basis so there was no compromise there.
  4. Since it’s still Friday I won’t really know until tomorrow if I managed to handle switching my break day but I don’t foresee there being a problem. My plan is to get up early tomorrow morning an power through that HIIT kickboxing routine that I’ve worked into my goals (you can check it out in this post).

As you can see, even my new plan didn’t go perfectly but I still managed to make it work. I don’t feel like my rules from earlier this week were broken at all, I just made a minor compromise without debasing the main goal of those rules. It’s all about being flexible.

The reason I’m sharing this all with you is I think looking at things from a flexible and adaptable perspective can be really helpful on any sort of health journey. I know this one didn’t really have a lot to do with fitness specifically but it still comes into play when planning workouts. Sometimes you’ll have to push a workout to a later time or a different day, you’ve just got to find the drive to only push it and not write it off altogether. Changing plans doesn’t have to mean calling the whole effort a wash, you just have to find new ways to do things.

Sometimes going all in works and other times you have to take baby steps. I think it’s important to have a plan and goals but you also have to be willing to shift your plans around when life gets in the way. Just remember that that is perfectly normal; things come up out of the blue and you have to work with them. That’s what I did this week, and I’m pleased to say it went pretty well.

 

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Tasty Tuesday – Coming Back From the Easter Disaster of 2017

When I started planning for this week’s blog posts I had initially intended on just sharing the recipe for the Carrot Cake Trifle I made this weekend for Easter lunch at my parents because it was delicious but after some reflection I’ve decided to just show it off and point you towards a similar recipe while we focus on something different.

As you can probably venture a guess from the title of this post, Easter didn’t go too well for me. I mean, I had a good time spending a couple days at home with friends and family but I kind of got out of control with what I was eating. Once again, over-indulging was a real problem. I had not one but four bad days and I have almost immediately felt the consequences: my face is covered in breakouts, my stomach is aching, and overall I’m not feeling very good about myself.

Don’t worry, I’m not here to whine about it: I’m here to do something.

Before leaving my hometown, my mom and I made a pact that we were going to be good for the next two weeks so we could indulge a bit on her week off in May. I have decided to take it one week at a time and so I’m focusing on this first week in order to put myself right back on track. I’ve decided to go a little hard since I really want to push myself after my disastrous four day weekend.

I picked the following quote for my journal and then I went about coming up with the rules below:

“Be the girl who decided to go for it”

  1. No chocolate / treats – I ate more than enough on Saturday and Sunday and so now my Easter gifts are stored away out of reach. I have no doubt that all that chocolate and sugar caused the plethora of breakouts on my face so stepping back from it again will hopefully clear up my skin.
  2. Increase water intake – I struggled with this at home, mainly because I didn’t bring one of my water bottles with me and therefore I wasn’t tracking things properly. Instead of striving for my normal 3 bottles (2.25 litres) I decided to aim for 4 full bottles (3 litres) a day in hopes to help flush my system of all the crap I ate.
  3. Stick to meal plan – not planning ahead was where I went really wrong this weekend. It wasn’t entirely my fault since I didn’t know what was going on in terms of meals until they were just about to happen but I could have prepared better. This week I’ve drafted out all my meals and calculated the calories I have leftover for healthy snacks in order to remain on track.
  4. Write everything down – this goes along with my meal plan and it is the way I will remain accountable. Sometimes I don’t track everything but this week I will write every last bit of food I put into my body down on my meal plan that way I can see if and where I’m struggling.
  5. No eating out – I do not regret the cheese stuffed cheese sticks that we ordered Thursday night but I could have went without a lot of the other food I shovelled into my mouth this weekend. Since I ate out twice last week, in addition to having a snack from KFC and popcorn and junk at the movies, I figured I can make it the week without going out. All those wonderful restaurants will still be there next week.

I know this may seem a little extreme, especially for me who is all about treats and enjoying myself but it’s just a challenge for the week. It’s not like I’m swearing off chocolate or eating out for good, I’m just using this tough week to motivate myself once more, and to stop myself from giving up altogether. Besides, just because I’m eating healthy doesn’t mean I’m not enjoying my meals. Yesterday’s finger foods dinner was particularly delicious.

Monday went well and I obeyed all five of my rules. I went a little over my regular calorie count but I also put in one hell of a workout in the morning and my energy needed boosting. Overall, increasing my water intake definitely helped make me feel better and it stopped me from feeling so hungry. Now I’ve just got to push forward into the week. I’m tackling my workouts in the same organized way so we’ll see how that goes. I’ll let you know on Friday.

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My Slim Down Reward

While reevaluating my fitness performance this week, I have begun to think abut things outside of myself that might motivate me once more. I know I need to get back to where I really want this more than anything but to get there I think I need to take small steps, using those outside forces to drag me back. I looked over my past Fitness Friday post on what motivates me and I decided to focus on my point about cute clothing.

Now, I already have a piece of clothing that is my first goal to get back into. The pale pink dress I wore to my university graduation is something I just fit into when I bought it. The waist is pretty small, even for a size 14, and I remember sitting at the ceremony eager for the moment I would be zipped out of the thing. Still, I love that dress and I’m desperate to get to wear it again. I’ve almost gotten to the point where it will zip up once more but it’s definitely still uncomfortable and the light fabric is not flattering when you’re bulged in there. I’m on my way though, and I’m hoping in the next month or two I’ll be sporting it around town with my favourite pair of oxfords.

While the pink dress is a good first goal, it’s not really long term. It’s something I hope will push me to the next step on my journey but it definitely won’t be the end. I’ve never really been thin or even average, not since I was a child, so I don’t have any articles of clothing that I can really use as a success piece. With all this in mind, I knew I had to look outside of my closet to find clothing motivation and over the past few days I have made my decision.

I recently have begun to get very interested in the pin-up style community by seeing a friend I met during my brief employment at Walt Disney World get into it herself. She and her friends have the most gorgeous collections of pin-up clothing and I have major closet envy. You can check out her blog here if you’re interested; I promise you, you won’t be disappointed. She’s on a hiatus right now but you can always scroll through her old posts.

This initial look into the pin-up world sent me looking for other bloggers and the community at large. While I’m still struggling to find my starting place, I know this style of fashion is something I’d like to get into. I’ve always been interested in vintage clothing and a lot of the styles are similar to what I already like to wear. This brings me to the article of clothing I’ve decided is going to be the reward for my big slim down. It’s a custom made skirt by a lovely designer who goes by Vintage Inspired by Jackie.

Jackie creates the most beautiful vintage inspired skirts and dresses that I’ve ever seen. Much of her products are Disney inspired which is one of the things that really drew me into her stuff. I’ve seen her dresses on all shapes and sizes now and they always look gorgeous. I could very well order one right this instant and I’m sure I’d feel like heaven in it but I’ve decided I want to save this one for my big accomplishment.

I found Jackie through Lady Damfino, one of the vintage fashion bloggers I found along my travels. If you’re into Disney you’ve got to check her out because her vintage Disney creations are some of the most gorgeous things I’ve ever seen. She also looks stunning in Jackie’s dresses as you can see below.

A post shared by Lady Damfino (@damfino) on

To make matters even more exciting, Jackie just teamed up with Brian Rechenmacher, an artist I stumbled on last week due to his Disney collections. His Walt’s In The Park set is on my bucket list as it’s quite possible one of the cutest artworks with Walt I’ve ever seen.

Now, one of Brian’s custom fabric designs is now going to be on Jackie’s skirts and dresses, and of course it features one of my all time favourite Disney rides: The Haunted Mansion. This was a match that was just made for me.


I’m hopeful that this fabric will still be available by the time I’m ready to buy my first skirt but if not I’m sure there will be something in her store that catches my eye. Honestly, right now I kind of want them all.

The hard part was deciding how I would know it was time to buy the skirt. I’m still not weighing myself and with my muscle gains I’m not sure it would be the best reflection of the changes in my body. I’m reluctant to use when I’m happy with how I look because it’s so subjective and I’m honestly hoping to get there well before I reach any final goal since it’s more of a self-confidence thing than a body fat thing. I’ve decided to go with a measure that isn’t the greatest but will give me a certain goal to work towards: clothing size.

Before you jump on me about this, let me tell you that I’m going into this with the knowledge that women’s clothing sizes are completely bogus and not based on any sort of standard. I have jeans from Old Navy where the 16 fits but the 18 is too tight. I know it is flawed but it’s the only concrete thing I have to work with so I have decided that my goal post is to be able to zip up and feel comfortable in a size 10 in Tommy Hilfiger pants. I picked Tommy because I have three different pairs of pants that are all a size 14 that fit me about the same (aka a little too tightly).

On another note, I’ve never been a size 10 and I’m not sure what that will look like on me, whether it’ll be enough or if I’ll still be on the bigger size given my weight distribution and my height. There may still be more progress to go from there but for me it’s about seeing a size that I never have before so that’s why I picked it.

What kind of rewards have you set up for yourself now or in the past? Do you find they helped motivate you on the difficult days? As always, I love reading your stories and taking in your advice so even if this is your first time reading, don’t be shy!

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Fitness Friday – Re-eval·u·ate

“reevaluate – to consider again especially with the possibility of change or reversal” – Merriam Webster

Stagnation. Defeat. Failure.

I could have titled this post any of those words but I believe starting from that point would have made this post come out in a very different tone, and that tone would have been very negative. Those words would be suggesting that I’m not enough, that I’m not doing enough, and that I’m failing. I don’t believe I am. I’m just struggling with where I am at this point, and that is okay.

From my understanding, this happens to almost everyone embarking on a big lifestyle change. It is hard to change how you do things, especially if you’ve been doing things a certain way your whole life. The enthusiasm and the drive that exists in the beginning can fade with time, and that’s sort of where I’m at. For two whole months I did not struggle getting five workouts in a week. Some weeks I even managed six. But now I dread the moment in the morning where I should be changing into my gear and throwing a video up on my computer. It doesn’t matter what workout I put on, I don’t want to do it.

Rather than wait until the end of the month to tell you all that I had failed my HIIT goal once again, I figured there had to be a more useful and progressive way to work with this speed bump. I’d failed my goal already in the first week, only getting in one HIIT workout instead of two. This past Monday I tried to power through but ended up cutting the video short at the halfway point. I could have kept going, I know that, but I didn’t. So I decided to reevaluate. I decided to step back from myself and ask why I wasn’t making progress on this goal. Here’s what I came up with:

Are the workouts I’m choosing too long?

Definitely not. HIIT workouts are the shortest workouts I’ve ever tackled and yet I’m still struggling getting through them. I made it through all over 7 minutes before turning off the video on Monday so length is definitely not an issue. I’ve worked through a lot longer.

Am I eating / drinking enough before my workout?

Probably not. Some days I just ate a piece of fruit before I worked out and for the most part I could feel that my stomach needed more. I tried to ignore it but clearly that didn’t work. I also used to make sure I drank at least 750ml of water well before I got into my workout and I’ve been slacking on that as well. Lack of proper nutrition could explain why I’ve been expiring quicker.

Resolution: Plan ahead. I’m going to figure out what I’m eating pre and post workout every day so I’m not skipping any meals. I’m also not going to work out until at least one of my water bottles is in my system.

Are the workouts I’m choosing too hard?

Tricky question. For the most part, no, I can handle the workouts, even if they have me breathing heavy. However, there are some moves within HIIT that I haven’t really worked myself up to. Jumping still causes me a lot of pain and it wears me out really quickly. I’ve noticed that it is the videos that don’t have lower impact or beginner modifications are typically the ones I quit out of.

Resolution: Find videos with low impact modifications or learn them beforehand. There’s no shame in switching to the easier moves since they’ll help me work up to the bigger ones. All that matters is that I’m still moving.

Why am I not motivated?

Here’s the hardest question of them all. Why are things different now than they were a month or two ago? I think the main reason has to do with the fact that I haven’t seen much progress lately. My personal progress pictures from March and February look almost identical to me. My clothes are still fitting the same way, and I’m not feeling any better overall. It’s hard to stay motivated when all my hard work isn’t paying off, at least not in a way that is visible. Of course, I know if I give up now I’m never going to see any changes.

Resolution: Start treating workouts and meal plans (since I’ve been slacking here too) more like a meeting or a date. I’m going to block out a certain time of day for workouts to get them done with or without motivation. If I can’t power through a video I will put a different one on. I have to hit the thirty minute mark no matter what, even if that takes 3 minutes of 10 different videos.

Overall, I still like the idea of doing HIIT, and I’ll probably continue to do some of the videos I’ve found with the low impact modifications, but at this current point in my journey I’m not so sure it’s the right type of workout for me to do so frequently. And that’s okay. I’ll get there. For now, I have to continue trying new things and finding the ones that motivate me to keep going.

Old Goal
: Complete two HIIT workouts a week.

Revised Goal: Complete Fitness Blender’s “Intense HIIT Cardio Kickboxing and Upper Body Strength Workout” once per week.

Since I don’t want to cut out HIIT altogether I figured I’d pick a workout that I can get through. The video above was the workout I did on the first week of the month, I got through the whole thing and then went for a 30 minute swim afterwards. If I can do the same once every week this month I will be happy. I already knocked this week’s out yesterday so things are looking good. Hopefully working towards (and eventually accomplishing) this revised goal will help me motivate myself again and push forward over this bump in the road.

Don’t forget that a speed bump is not a full on roadblock. You can get over it, with time and practice. It may stop you for a while but you can power through. Take the time to step back and reevaluate things from the outside. Ask yourself questions like I did and adjust your plan and your goals as needed. This type of journey is rarely linear, you may fall behind before you move ahead again. It’s okay. Be gentle with yourself and just keep going.

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Tasty Tuesday – Pork Tenderloin Salad

For Christmas, Matt’s sister Rae gave us a lovely cookbook with some pretty straightforward meals. The book is really neat and even comes with a corresponding application that will upload the ingredient list of each recipe in the book to your phone just by scanning the image of the dish. It’s not necessarily something I needed but I appreciate innovation so this little add-on amused me.

This is another recipe I’m sharing several weeks down the road so I’m sorry if it’s not the most cohesive but other Tasty Tuesday posts kept getting in the way so this one got put on hold for a little while. But here it is: Pork Tenderloin Salad with “Grilled” Nectarines and a Maple Vinaigrette. That’s definitely a different title than what is in the book but we’re doing my version so just go with it.

This was another one of those recipes where I looked at the ingredient list and went hmmm, probably not. As per usual, it was time to improvise. If you do pick up the book for yourself, you can always follow the straight recipe, I’m going to share what I actually did since the flavour might differ. I’d estimate that this serves 3-4 people.

Ingredients

  • 1 piece of pork tenderloin
  • 5 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons of maple syrup (I used table syrup, it was fine)
  • 1 large nectarine, halved and pitted
  • Enough salad greens to make a full salad (How much is that?!)
  • 1/4 large red onion, sliced

Directions

So the first thing you’re going to do for this recipe is create the glaze. This glaze actually doubles as salad dressing but if you’re like me, you’ll end up using the whole thing on the tenderloin and then having to make a little bit more later (Oops). Combine the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, minced garlic, and the maple syrup, stirring it all together until it is mixed in. Bam! Glaze. Reserve half of this mixture for your dressing!

Now, lets cook the meat!

While the original recipe calls for a grill, I decided to use our standalone electric skillet mainly because we only have a little George Foreman panini style grill and it just wasn’t big enough for these pieces of pork. Preheat the skillet to medium heat, greasing the bottom of the pan with a little bit of olive oil and then put in your tenderloins. Pour half of the glaze over the one side of the meat, leaving it to cook for about 2-3 minutes. Flip the meat and pour the rest of the dressing on. Cover and leave for 10 minutes or until the meat is cooked thoroughly.

These times are mostly guesstimates so just keep an eye on your pork!


You’ll notice I have two pork tenderloins in the picture above but that’s just because I was meal prepping that day. The other tenderloin (and some of the one of the salad to be honest) went into meals with roasted veggies (not a bad idea if you’re looking to get multiple meals done at once).

With your pork all glazed and cooked up, you can start to cut it up into bite sized pieces for your salad but before you do this, cut up your nectarines into slices and place them into the warm skillet. They’ll cook up and take on some of the leftover flavours from the pork which makes them d-licious.

While your nectarines cook up, cut up the pork and the red onion, put it together with your salad greens and then finally top the salad with the warm nectarines and the reserved of the maple vinaigrette. Simple as can be, and now it’s time to eat!

I will be straightforward with you all: I don’t typically like salads as a meal. I wish I was more into them. There are some tasty salad recipes out there but for the most part in my opinion leafy greens, no matter what is amongst them, should be reserved for side dishes. Or dumped in the trash altogether.

This was a nice exception.

The pork made the salad completely filling as a full meal (even for Matt) but it was the nectarines that actually stole the show. They mixed well with the maple syrup flavours in the dressing and they were particularly delicious warmed up. I would make this recipe again, and not just as a side dish. Good job salad, you did alright for yoursef.

So there you have it, another Tasty Tuesday under our belts which leaves me with just one question: what are you cooking this week?

Original Recipe Credit: MYRECIPES EASY MEAL MAKER by MYRECIPES

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Remembering Vimy

I’m sorry this one’s coming a little late in the day but I’ve been out all weekend and the timing on this one kind of had to be last minute because of the content. I know this blog is generally focused on looking at the transformations I am making in my life through health and wellness but despite all the changes I’m making there are bits and pieces of who I am that I hope never change. I hope I will never lose my hard work ethic, my love of new experiences, and my passion for helping others.

I also hope I will never lose interest in learning about history.

I remember enjoying history lessons at a young age. I think when it really stuck with me was my first elementary school lessons on Medieval Europe. I was fascinated with story about kings, queens, knights, and everything in between. While that era still intrigues me, my interest in history has definitely shifted over the years. I don’t remember what class, film, or whatever else drew me into learning about World War One and World War Two but whatever it was, I was hooked.

In my senior year of high school I had the wonderful opportunity to go on an educational tour of Europe. We went from France to Germany, taking in a wide range of different educational activities that centred primarily around WWI and WWII. We met survivors of the holocaust, talked to veterans of both conflicts, and experienced history where it had been lived. One of the most memorable experiences was a moment touring Vimy Ridge and going to the Goliath of a monument that had been erected there.

I don’t know how much Vimy is talked about in history classes outside of Canada but for us it’s a feature that I think most classes at least mention. The Battle of Vimy Ridge was a triumph led by Canadian forces in World War One. We were taught that the ridge was widely remarked as impossible to breach, and yet the Canadians took it full force.

The Canadian National Vimy Memorial now stands proudly on a portion of that ridge, along with preserved trenches and tunnel that had been recreated with stone. This was one of the first experiences we had on the trip walking in the footsteps of those who had come before. As we travelled, we wore names of soldiers on our jackets: one of the two names on my jacket belonged to my great-uncle Curtis who was fought in World War Two. It was a surreal experience and the overall trip was one I don’t think I’ll ever be able to replicate.

The Canadian National Vimy Memorial is absolutely massive and while my crappy point and click camera of the time did me no favours, I’m not sure I’d be able to capture its glory even today with more knowledge of photography and a much better camera. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen and it’s absolutely breathtaking. Inscribed on this massive monument are the names of the soldiers who fought in the battle and had no known resting place.

Now, you may be wondering what spurred this lengthy post on history and some of my experiences with it. Today, April 9, 2017 is the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. To commemorate this anniversary, a local historic fort in Toronto, Fork York, hosted a free weekend event featuring demonstrations, reenactments, and commemorative activities.

History related and free? Count me in.

On Saturday I got to Fort York early, right around when they opened. Immediately, I was overwhelmed by the feeling I got walking in to find that for the most part I was surrounded by just re-enactors. Their uniforms were pristine, detailed in every way. One of the actors I spoke to even had period appropriate eyewear. Despite the fact that the fort is surrounded by skyscrapers it almost all faded away as I watched them act their way around the fort as if they were at an actual functioning camp.

They had set up some medical tents and a few booths with replica weapons and tools. I learned about the WWI machine gun teams and the different types of gas masks. Every corner had an opportunity for learning from men and women who had clearly done their research with passion and enthusiasm.

One thing I really loved was how many people had brought along their children. I listened in as a boy who looked to be about ten asked endless questions to test his own knowledge. I saw a grandfather telling his grandchildren about the different bits and pieces of the soldiers’ uniform. I love seeing things like this; while teaching at my university I had students who didn’t know what the holocaust was so seeing much younger kids getting a hands on education in history makes me feel a bit better inside.

As the day went on I watched several different drills: they raised the union jack on the flagpole in the centre of the fort, a line of men went through an assault drill, and the artillery gun was fired off with two blank rounds.

As part of the celebration, Fort York had set up a little dining hall with warm lunches, coffee, tea, and some unique little desserts. The fort is dedicated to providing historical based goodies; from brownies to butter tarts, they had a number of scrumptious options to pick up. I grabbed Canada’s First Butter Tart (the recipe for which comes from my hometown) and War Cake. Both were delicious and just a little bit more special than a regular treat.

Additionally, they had some free items to commemorate the event that I picked up. One was a lovely little book of post cards, including one with In Flanders Fields The temporary tattoo was kind of funny but hey, anything to get kids interested.

I enjoyed myself so much on Saturday that I decided to invite my parents down and go back out today.

Since today was the actual anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, the events at Fort York were slightly different. They still had a lot of the displays, some of the re-enactors who continued to provide fun details about the war (i.e. some soldiers purposefully got STDs just for the medical leave), and the cafe was open once again for more war cakes and butter tarts. The main events were different though; instead of a bunch of re-enactment demonstrations, the day was centred around a commemorative service with a march from the Queen’s Rangers and speeches from local and foreign dignitaries.

A particularly special moment happened before the ceremony where some replica vintage airplanes did a fly-by over the fort. I am fascinated by old aircraft and this kind of thing always makes me smile. They did the same thing this past Remembrance Day at Toronto’s old city hall and it was all sorts of memorable.

History is important, especially in a time like now where the future can look bleak for so many people. It is important to look at the dim times we managed through in order to provide hope in the darkness we currently trudge through. Today’s battlefield may not be through muddy trenches or clouds of gas but it can still be brutal and bloody. We fight on, despite the injustice and cruelty around us. And hopefully, sometimes we look back and we learn.

To the brave men who fought at Vimy, who I’ve been told may have included my Great Grandfather, we will never forget the sacrifices you made to make sure this world would remain free. It is far from perfect but it is certainly better because of the risks you took and the sacrifices you made. I’d like to dedicate this post to every man, woman, and beast who has served or is currently serving, who sacrificed so much for the rest of us. Thank you for your service.

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Fitness Friday – March Review

How are we already three months into 2017? I feel like the year just started. There’s just been so much going on this year (good, bad, and worse) and it’s done some weird things with how I’m processing time. Some weeks speed by, others drag on and on, still, I can hardly believe it’s now April. Of course, if you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know what that means: it’s time for a monthly review.

Before I jump into this one, I will say one thing: it wasn’t a great month for me overall. This review is really going to focus on the things I need to work on to make next month better since there were not as many triumphs to celebrate as I would have liked. I had a really good start to the year but I clearly hit a bit of a speed bump. That’s okay, as long as I don’t let myself get stuck there. This review is going to be my proactive start to making April better.

Working Out

Lets start with the positive! I had some unique accomplishments this month: I got back on a treadmill and proved to myself I could still run at a decent pace, I got to try out some strength machines for the first time in over a year and I’m proud to say I can still lift pretty heavy, and I pushed through some pretty exhausting HIIT workouts including this quick but challenging one from Fitness Blender:

While those accomplishments are definitely still meaningful they were also short lived. I didn’t manage to get through two HIIT workouts a week as I had planned to do and there were actually two weeks in a row where I did not hit my 5 workouts a week in general. I’m disappointed in myself for not pushing through but since I already beat myself up about it there’s really no point doing it again. Time to move forward!

I used last week to recuperate by taking long walks instead of doing heavy workouts. This past week I’ve done a mix to try and get myself back into the groove. What is nice is the gym and the pool in my building are finally open so I have some new fitness options ready for me. I think swimming is going to be good for both my mental and physical health so I’m challenging myself to get to the pool 3 times a week. I’ve been swimming laps, treading water, and trying out some water aerobic moves so this can count as both cardio and strength training. We’ll see how it goes.

I’ve also decided that I’m going to give my HIIT goal a try again. I was really looking forward to challenging myself with HIIT last month and I am disappointed I didn’t go through with it but that’s no reason to totally give up. Try, try again, try harder. That’s what I’m going to do.

Healthy Eating

Oh boy, where do I begin. A trip home to hang out with my parents, see family who were visiting from out of province, and just get a change of scenery turned into a real disaster for me diet wise. I’ve already talked in some of my previous posts about how I got a little off track and unfortunately it wasn’t just for the five days I was ‘up north’. There were definitely a few too many cheat days this month, not just meals but days. That was something I was trying to cut out of my life but this past month I faltered. It’s okay to indulge but I really don’t need to do so all day. I have to remember this.

With that in mind, my goal this month is to stick to my cheat meal / cheat treat goal: once per week and never more than just one meal. I’m also going to try to focus back in on my meal prepping this month. I have the time to do it and it does actually save us a lot of money so it only makes sense to make sure there are enough meals to go around. This, plus some more intense meal tracking in my bullet journal should help me push through.

As a complete side note, my water intake is still good, if anything it’s up. Matt brought home new 750ml water bottles from work and I’m finding I drink a lot more just because of the straw. It’s funny how the little things make a difference.

Living Better

So my actual challenge this month was to get back into reading. I did alright but I didn’t accomplish the goal I set to read four books. I did actually pick up four different books and began reading them but I only finished two. Both of these books were a decent size (~400 pages) so I don’t feel incredibly unaccomplished. I think as long as I keep reading I’ll be happy, I’m well on my way to reading 30 books this year like I promised for my GoodReads challenge. This is a big step up from last year where I read maybe 5 books total.

On a much deeper level, this month was not a success when it came to self-care. It wasn’t all bad but there were a couple days when I found myself in a rough state. My unhealthy eating, lack of motivation, and the overall stagnation of my progress really took a tole on me. It wasn’t just about weight loss or health either, it was just life weighing down on me. My mom coming here for an adventure (which you can check out here) was a good way to get back on my feet, now I’ve just got to stay there.

Mental wellness for me involves being overly proactive. I have to kind of plan ahead for my bad days so they aren’t so bad. There’s a couple things I’m going to be doing this month (aside from enjoying our pool) that I’m hoping will help with that: I’m doing some volunteering, I’m planning some outings and date nights, and I’m going to try and be more open about what I’m feeling, whether that means talking to someone or just writing about it here. This journey is about so much more than losing weight and looking good, it’s about loving myself inside and out.

To make this a little more tangible I’m going to mimic what I did in February with my selfie challenge and do a self-care challenge. Every day I’ll do something for self-care whether it’s just taking some time to read or going for a walk. I imagine the activities will really range but that’s kind of the point. The more ways I can look after myself and my mental health, the better off I’ll be. Of course, long warm baths are a fallback for me and so I’ve already treated myself to my first LUSH bath bomb (I might’ve had a little too much fun with the glitter).

So that’s March for you; not the best month but I think my new goals are pretty good and I’m ready to move forward. I’ve recognized the bad which is always the first step, now it’s time to deal with it. How was this month for you? Any big accomplishments? Feel free to share in the comments below! As always, drop me a link to any content you think I’d find interesting. Your stories are pushing me forward and you are all inspiring me every day!

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