Thursday, 30 June 2011

Stirfry = Easy way to Eat Your Colours

Here is an easy recipe to make your long weekend more enjoyable! One of my rules when it comes to eating a well balanced diet to try and eat as many different colours as possible. The colours of many fruits/vegetables reflect the different antioxidant phytochemicals they contain. Many of these chemicals help protect against chronic diseases, but each in slightly different ways not yet understood, so the best protection comes from a diet rich in as many different phytochemicals as possible. (ie. Many Colours). The easiest way to eat lots of colours in a delicious meal is of course the veggie stirfry, and this just happens to be one of my favourite dinners! Here is my no-fail quick and easy stirfry recipe...
*serves 4 or 2 people for two meals (ie. dinner and lunch)*

Rainbow of Colours
Step One:
I always start with a variety of my favourite veggies, obviously in a wide range of colours. I always find the stirfry is a great way to get an extra dose of those dark leafy greens. It can be difficult to get excited about a big plate of bok choy or kale, but by throwing them in you stirfry the leaves will cook down giving you all the nutrients of a large serving without the boring presentation. For my stirfry today I choose onions, mushrooms, 2 different types of peppers (for the extra Vit. C), and spinach (lots of it).

Mushroom and Onions are in!
Step Two:
Timing is a very important part of the stirfry. Certain vegetables need more time to cook than others, and you need to time your rice with your sauce, so it can become a bit of a balancing act the first time you set out to make your own. I always start my onions and mushrooms first, because they require more time to cook down. Making this dish at home also allows you to monitor exactly what gets added to your dish, thus limiting unnecessary fats, heavy oils, and processed ingredients. I love to use coconut oil to grease my pan, because it enhances the flavour of the coconut milk in the sauce (and ladies it is supposed to be great for your hair and skin - so it probably doesn`t hurt to add it!).

Step Three:
I usually start cooking my rice shortly after my first set of veggie hit the pot. I choose to use basmati rice, because it cooks quickly, it has a light fluffy texture, and it is really easy to digest. I like to double my recipe so I can take stirfry for lunch the next day (it reheats well!), so I usually make 2 cups of rice. The cooking instructions for basmati are also really easy to remember 1 cup rice to 2 cups water, add a little salt and butter to taste and you are ready to go. Throw everything in a pot, bring the water to a boil, then turn down heat to let the rice simmer while you prepare the rest of the dish.

Key ingredients for sauce
Step Four:
It is time for the sauce which is the most important part! I love a spicy curry sauce, but if you don`t like a little heat with your dish than just leave out the chili powder. Start by adding 2 cups of coconut milk to the hot wok where your onions and mushrooms are cooking. Add chopped garlic (3 cloves), 1 tbsp of grated ginger, 2 tbsp of curry power, a few shakes of chili power, a splash of coriander, 3 tbsp fish sauce, and 1 tbsp of brown sugar and mix well. Everyone likes their curry to taste a little different so I recomend tasting part way through to decide if you more or less heat, or more or less curry. (remember as the chili heats up the spice will come through more so don`t go too crazy at the beginning). Bring sauce to a boil, and then allow pot to simmer. If you like a thicker sauce you can add flour gradually to thicken.

Final Stage
Step 5:
Once your sauce has boiled you can begin adding in your other veggies. Cooking time will vary depending on your preferences. I like my peppers to remain slightly crispy, so this part only take about 4 mins. Once the spinach (or other greens) have cooked down I remove the sauce from the heat. But this time your rice should be ready (it usually only take 15 min), so you are ready to serve. Spoon out your portions and ENJOY! HAPPY EATING!

Love your favourite Darwinian Fail,

Monday, 27 June 2011

I know I said NO Running this week but...

I couldn't resist!
I know I said NO running this week, but...I couldn't resist! This pre-rain weather is perfect and my sneakers were practically begging me to hit the trails. I just had to run a quick 5 km route through the park. And I must say it was FABULOUS! I'll get back to my week of yoga tomorrow...but now its time for a quick post-workout snack, a shower, and to snuggle up with a good book!

Love your favourite Darwinian Fail,

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Cleansing My Body, Mind, and Soul

In my last post I talked about my struggle to find a balance, I would love to say that I have accomplished this goal over the past week - but it is still definitely a work in progress. I have been on edge, and as always life is very busy, so setting aside time for me to decompress, reflect, and take care of myself (despite the best of intentions) has fallen by the way-side. As a result my body has paid the price.

My inspiration
I like to think that I very rarely shows any outward signs of stress. But because I keep things bottled up, stress tends to manifest in all sorts of weird aliments (ie. hives, migraines, swollen joints, etc.). So needless to say in the past two weeks I have experienced all of the above...all of which actually end up making you more stressed! Its a bit of an self-perpetuating cycle - your stressed so you get hives, you have hives which makes you more stressed, and you continue to be stressed so you continue to have see how this goes. Anyways, I finally have a weekend at home and to myself so I am regaining control of this situation and attempting to bring a sense of calm and tranquility back into my life and my body.

I have been reading Suzanne Somer's Knockout, on and off for the past few months. Suzanne Somer's has long championed a natural approach to health, and garnered a great deal of attention by treating her own breast cancer diagnosis through alternative means and deviated from the standard practice of care. Knockout shares interviews Suzanne's personal interviews with several doctors who are treating cancer through alternative means along side glowing testimonials from their patients. Obviously given my current circumstances I was curious to see what all the fuss was about, especially because there has been a great deal of controversy surrounding the publication of this book.

I greatly admire Suzanne's approach to health. She only eats organic, and from what I understand she grows most of her food herself. She practices yoga daily, and generally avoids allowing any type of unnatural substance or drug in her body. That type of clean living is something I would love to strive for, but as a girl with a cyborg heart and soon-to-be fake breasts I can't really swear off "Big Medicine", and nor am I entirely sure that I want to.

Suzanne's approach to medicine admittedly comes off a bit fanatical, but I do think there is validity to what she is saying. The information in her books tackles the experiences of the American Medical System, which I would happily agree is not exactly up to snuff in terms of the standard of care from the patients' perspective. From what I know about the American system and experience; I can see how a patient would feel very alienated from their treatment. And as a serious Darwinian fail I thank my luckily stars almost daily that I was born in a country that values the importance of universal health care. Canadian medicine is very different, and in my experience the treatment is amazing and very patient driven. I think there is room for both conventional and alternative medicine in our approach to treatment, and based on my experience they are becoming more closely related as time progresses.

Many of the doctors interviewed by Suzanne discuss the important role played by diet, exercise, and general lifestyle. Several of these doctors are using modifications made to these areas to treat and for all intensive purposes cure patients with cancer. The testimonials are amazing, and the my jaw-dropped several times when reading about some of the patients` experiences. This is something that I believe will become more and more important as research continues to advance, and one of the reasons I am choosing to make these changes in my own life. Many of the doctors here in Canada are very aware of the protective role played by these factors, and are attempting to establish a clear link between these elements in hopes of eventually finding a cure. My own family is part of a study to help discover the role played by these environmental factors vs genetic factors - so ``Big Medicine`` is experimenting with alternative means. But more than anything Knockout reminded me of the power and strength that can be harnessed within our own body if we treat it properly and approach our health mindfully.
My new suppplment routine

So I have been inspired to begin my first liver cleanse. The use of liver cleansing is discussed a great deal in Knockout as an essential to restoring proper body function within patients struggling with cancer.The liver plays a key role in maintaining your body`s balance through its function in digestion and the cleansing your blood of toxins, all of which is very important when battling this type of disease. The liver cleanse can be used by anyone hoping to improve their bodies overall function. My cleanse will take 3 weeks to complete, and I am hoping it will help make my body more effective against stress and restore my bodies natural symmetry.
The Plan...
* Supplements...
I will be taking natural supplements to gently cleanse my body of any unnecessary toxins that have built up over these past few weeks as a result of stress and improper diet. I will also be taking vitamin supplements to help my body restore its essential nutrients (including vitamin B, Omega-3, and Co Q10).
                    - Vit. B is supposed to help maintain/promote a healthy metabolism and immune system
                    - Omega 3 is thought to promote a healthy cardiovascular system (an area this Darwinian fail is always looking to improve), cancer prevention (also a must), and improve circulation
                    - Co Q10 is also thought to promote a healthy cardiovascular system , decrease migraine symptoms, and generally increase lifespan
* Diet - I will be eating whole, organic foods, consisting primarily of fruits, vegetables, and protein. I will be limiting processed sugars and refined carbs, and I will also be drinking 3 litres of water daily. Limiting my coffee intake (a serious struggle for this caffeine addict) and cutting out all alcohol are also a must.
* Exercise...
Week 1: will consist of a daily yoga practice (90 min. Bikram Yoga)
Week 2 + 3: will introduce cardio (mostly running for me) 3 days/week, 2 strength training sessions/ week, and 2 yoga practices/week
I will be exercising daily to ensure that I set that important time aside for myself (despite my schedule) and to garner those important health benefits.

More than anything else I hope this cleanse will serve as a catalyse to be more mindful of my health, and my approach to my body every day. I will keep you posted as the cleanse progresses! Wish me luck!

Love your favourite Darwinian Fail,

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Finding a Balance and Relinquishing Control

Working on finding a balance!
This week has been a struggle. My type A personality has kicked into over-drive, and my stress levels have been high. I kicked off this week with the first of many visits to the oncologists' office and my first appointment with the plastic surgeon. say that things did not start off on a high note would probably be categorized as an understatement.

I am being treated at Princess Margaret (PMH), which is world renowned for its cutting-edge cancer research, amazing facilities, brilliant doctors, and top-notch treatment. Obviously, all of which is fabulous. But just walking in the front door is enough to send even the most balanced person reeling. If you are entering PMH then you are probably there because you or someone you love is dealing with cancer. Shit is about to get real, and it has been a battle to find my center ever since.

Upon entering the building I am directed to the Breast Ward, which despite their attempts to spruce it up with modern decorating and the complimentary juice boxes, is probably one of the most depressing places I have ever been. The Breast Ward consists of a large waiting room filled with women in various stages of a breast cancer diagnosis. Some are like me - we are the lucky ones - and we are there to act preventatively so we don't have to come to this place for "real" treatment. Others are clearly waiting anxiously for results, and other still have already received that faithful diagnosis and are hopeful that the action taken with their treatment has been enough. The tension, the sadness, the anxiety, and the hopefulness that belongs to these women permeates the whole room and is something I can all too easily relate to. This is not a place I am ready to be, and this is not a battle I want to fight. The reality of the situation is heart-breaking. And as I sit on the examination table in my thin blue hospital gown it has struck me that I am not in control, and that life is going to messy, and that this is going to be long road.

The sunshine-filled optimism inspired by my run has faded all too easily as the painful jolt of reality has begun to set in. I have spent the last week inside my own head, which has never actually fully left the Breast Ward. Every scenario has played out in my mind, in terms of timing, complications, and how all of that will fit with the regular life-things I have going on. I feel tired (exhausted actually) and sad, but the truth is I can't spend the next however many months in this place - in this state. Grief is normal, and perfectly understandable, but it is also a transitional state. We grieve so we can accept the changes that occurred in our life and move forward. So this week of grief is really a week of transformation for me. The journey ahead will not be easy, and while this decision is tough, and the circumstances less than ideal I know I am making the right decision me for me. I am making a choice to treat my health proactively, and being proactive also means taking care of myself in the interim and accepting these impending changes.

Amazing what a little purple paint can do for the spirit

So, naturally the first step to accepting these changes is a pedicure (of course)...Well, actually the first step is probably learning to take a deep breath and allowing life to take me where it may (but the pedicure does play an integral role in finding this inner peace). As a self-professed uber type A personality, this is not my natural reaction - it is in fact the farthest thing from it - but this is not something I have control over and the sooner I come to terms with that the better. Every minute we spend angry and upset is 60 seconds of happiness we will never get back, so today is about balance, about growth, and about relinquishing control.

Love your favourite Darwinian Fail,

Monday, 13 June 2011

Race #2 is Complete - Screw You Breast Cancer

10 km done! 1 hour 3 minutes and 24 seconds
Well Race #2 is COMPLETE!! It went pretty well - I ran my 10 km in 1 hour 3 minutes and 24 seconds. It wasn't exactly the time I had hoped for. I was aiming for under 1 hour, but I ended up being relatively close. The humidity on Saturday held me back a bit. The weather man had been calling for rain on race day (which I probably would have preferred) but instead the rain held out and the humidity set in. My performance is really heavily influenced by the conditions, heat and humidity tend to elevate my heart rate, which means I need to slow my pace down to compensate. I am still pretty happy with my performance over-all, and hopefully with more training this summer I will be able to reach my goal pace for my half marathon in the fall.

Me and my survivor Mom (and genetic predecessor)
The race itself was smaller than my last one, in terms of turn-out. I would guess that approximately 100 people participated in the 2 races (5 km and 10 km). It was held in Bronte Provincial Park, so the course navigated a 5 km route of trails, and those running the 10 km race needed to do a double loop. I personally am not a fan of the double loop - I definitely find it messes with your head a bit, but the trails made for nice scenic run. My only other complaint was a serious lack of water stations. There was only one water station in the entire loop, and hydration is a must for me, especially when my body is battling overheating. So I would definitely request more water stations, and maybe a few more volunteers to make that possible.

This race was less of a charity event, and much more of a Running Room event - so the whole "breast cancer spirit thing" was not as strong as I hoped. But our crew was definitely representing in our pink, even Clark got in on the action. This run did draw in some amazing runners, which for an amateur like myself was amazing to see. For some reason a professional runner from Zimbabwe was doing a tour of the Hamilton/Burlington area and he ran his 10 km 3 min slower than I run my 5 km! CRAZY FAST!! He obviously won. So overall the experience was great, I ran a good race and I was able to do some fundraising along the way. I ended up raising $565.00 for an amazing local non-for-profit - Breast Cancer Support Services. This agency plays a very important role for women who have been diagnosed Breast Cancer by offering vital counselling services and mentoring programs provided by survivors. Breast Cancer Support Services spreads the valuable message that there is life after cancer, so I am extremely happy I was able to support them this weekend. Thanks so much to everyone who sponsored me in this run - the money is going to a great cause!

Both sides of my genetic makeup
More than anything else this race was just important for me to do for me. My body and I have a bit of a love/hate relationship - and these days I have been leaning a little more towards the hate-side of things. With all my various genetic pitfalls it is easy to feel like my body has let me down. I feel like it is just always something. At times over the last 8 years it has felt like I have been fighting an uphill battle - and it to be honest it would be nice to just coast for a little while. I appreciate my health and my body so much when I am healthy, but when I hit these snags I feel like I can't get ahead. By accomplishing my 10 km and moving towards my goal of a half marathon, I am reminded to be thankful everyday for the way my body serves me. I have a healthy body, and as much as my latest genetic setback can be frustrating, by dealing with it today I will be able to have my health for years to come. This race has reminded me to be grateful for the strength and power that my body possesses, and to express my gratitude everyday by nurturing the body I have been given (genetic failures and all) through healthy habits and a healthy lifestyle.

So on that note...Screw you Breast Cancer! You are definitely messing with the wrong girl!
Love your favourite Darwinian Failure,

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Getting Crafty 1 Week Before Race Day

I have been doing a lot of running lately, and I am really trying to up my distances. Today I ran my first 15 km - which is my longest distance to date! As my distances increase I find the struggle tends to be more with my mind than with my body. You have to convince yourself that you are not tired, and that you are just as excited to run at kilometer 14 as you were during the first kilometer. So my latest and greatest running mantra is "F You Genetics!". This may seem kind of harsh, but it really helps me kick it up a notch! When my body starts to fatigue I just keep thinking that by running hard and long I am beating genetics. I treat every workout like a battle, and it is a battle I plan to WIN!

My next race is only 1 week away - the 10 km Healing Run for Breast Cancer on Saturday June 11th. This is a very literal interpretation of my current battle. I plan to beat that 10 km with an amazing time and a fabulous run. And I plan to beat Breast Cancer by keeping my body healthy and turning a negative situation in a positive by fundraising for the local Breast Cancer Support Services organization. (if you want to join the fight, please sponsor me at its a great cause!)
Supplies are prepped

To prepare for next weekend - along with lots of training and proper nutrition I wanted to do something fun and crafty! So I took a trip to the local craft supply stores, and channeled my inner Martha Stewart!

Let's get started!
With all my supplies at hand I wanted to share my message with all the other runners at next week's race. Sharing my new running mantra is meant to help keep my own energy up during the race and hopefully inspire others to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I just didn't feel the mass produced breast cancer T's evoked my sassy message. I am stronger than my genetic predisposition and I refuse to sit back allow my health to be dictated. So with a pink T-shirt and a few iron-on fuzzy letters I decided that I would not allow this latest genetic set back to destroy my health or my spirit. My message will be displayed loud and proud next weekend. "Cancer I am stronger than you!" "Genetics I am mightier than you!" And "I am tougher than this situation". So Bring It!

Enough Said...