Saturday, 31 December 2011

Farewell 2011

It is that time of year again. The end. Today is the last day of 2011...and it has been year full of ups and downs, highs and lows, struggles, learning, growth, and changes. This year has been a year of discovery for me, but I won't be sad to say farewell to it.

Bye-bye 2011
It was this time last year that my Mom first told us about the discovery of the familial link to BRCA 1, and my latest and greatest genetic journey began. This has been a LONG process. VERY LONG. I must confess I had hoped to be recovering post-operatively at this point and starting to move forward, but that was not to be. Here I am a year later still waiting to iron out all the nitty gritty details - you know like what size I'll be and should I save the nipples or not" - the important stuff. And waiting (not so patiently) for an official surgery date to be confirmed by all 3 surgeons and my pacemaker team. I swear trying to coordinate all these people is like trying to herd cats (re: damn near impossible). Needless to say I am ready to complete this genetic adventure and focus my energy elsewhere.

But despite the frustration generated by this somewhat lengthy process, this drawn out endeavour has also done me a world of good. I am going into 2012 completely at peace my decision and the inevitable changes to my body. I have thought, written, and blabbed about this issue until I am blue in the face. And in doing so I have become more confident in my decision. While also working through some of my hang ups and recognising my problem areas. In other words I feel ready.

When our familial link to BRCA 1 was initially revealed I immediately made the decision to have go through with a preventative mastectomy if my genetic testing came back positive. All those feelings from my Long QT diagnosis came flooding back. That uncertainty. Those questions. That process. And that was enough to send me straight to the O.R. I was not going to do that again. I wasn't going to wait around and be some sort of genetic victim. My type-A personality and borderline OCD nature kicked into over drive. "I NEED TO BE IN CONTROL!" I could hear the hulked-out over-planner that lives in the space between my ears screaming, 

"Don't be a fool!". "Don't be a martyr!". "Don't let genetics F**k you over again!". "Stand up and Fight! Fight Damnit! Fight!"

And while this is still very much my decision, I must confess I was rash when I made these declarative statements. I underestimated the emotional toll this type of decision would take. I underestimated the hold vanity has over me. I initially tried to push all the feelings and emotions that bubble up during this journey aside. But the truth is my journey never really started until I opened myself up to fact that this journey SUCKS! As bizarre as it sounds I needed to face all the reasons I didn't want to go through with this treatment to recognise the strength of all the reasons I did.

But getting to a place where I could silence my inner critic and accept (REALLY ACCEPT) that Health Trumps Beauty has taken a lot of energy, a lot of hard work, and all of 2011. I realise I am still a work in progress, but I am proud to say I have made great strides. It has been a difficult year. It has been a long year. It has been a year of inner struggle, turmoil, and strength. And while I am happy to see the end of 2011 - it has been a year evolution. Take that Darwin!

Love your favourite Darwinian Fail,

Thursday, 29 December 2011

This Christmas Rush

Today has been my first day at home since the 23rd, and I am officially Christmas-ed out! Today has been about recouping, regrouping, and reorganizing! Clark pretty much sums up how I feel - happy, blessed, and very tired. Hope everyone had a safe, happy, and fabulous holiday!

Love your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Saturday, 24 December 2011

All I want for Christmas... world-wide universal health care!

Okay so generally I shy away from blogging about anything political, but this particular issue is one that comes up a lot in conversations, private message, tweets, and emails. I have also been giving this particular series a good deal of here goes...

Everyone wants to know how much my upcoming surgery and reconstruction will cost (even inquiring Canadian minds want to know). And my answer for all those who are curious is...drumroll please...while the surgery itself is likely very expensive it will cost me NOTHING! Except my boobs of course. And maybe the $5 not covered in my drug plan for the prescription painkillers I am sure to go home with. But from a monetary standpoint it will not be a personal finachial blow.

I live is Canada and the glorious land of universal health care which means despite being a Darwinian Fail all my medical misadventures have been covered. And don't think that I don't thank that giant red maple leaf every chance I get! Because I regularly kiss this frozen Canadian soil for giving me my health and my life. Despite being from the neighbouring country to the North, we Canadians have been bombarded with coverage of America's ongoing medicare debate. And obviously as a Darwinian Fail who thanks her lucky stars for universal health care - these debates get me fired up. I genuinely struggle to understand why so many citizens would oppose it.

Cyborg Hearts are Pricey
The system in the United States seems very complicated to me, because of the conditions and loopholes involved in medical coverage. So I recognize that I know very little. And I understand that this is a complex problem. There is a lot of criticism and concern surrounding the implementation of a universal system, but despite all the "red tape" we some how make it work here and in many other countries. The point is not whether universal medicine is possible. It is! And exists as such for good reason. Because health care in Canada is public, its purpose is to maintain and develop the good health of Canadians. In the US, this doesn't necessarily seem to be the case. There seems to be a contradiction between the the wellbeing of people and the bottom line. Health care for health versus health care for profit.

But with all these questions regarding cost, and the with the increased publicity surrounding ObamaCare, I found myself wondering...really wondering...what I would cost?! Let's break it down shall we... (note: I got quotes from several different online resources and did my best to average the cost. I am also writing this as though I am one of the 52 million Americans who do not have health insurance).

1. Stress Test - $3800 each
This is a diagnostic method I used a lot. Its been 8 years since my original diagnosis, so this is a ballpark figure, but let's be conservative and say I had 6 of these. Remember I am not even diagnosed yet...
$22 800 
2. EKG - $1950 each
This is another diagnostic method I use all the time, and still use regularly to check in on how everything is going. I can pretty much guarantee I have had 2x this number, but let's just say during the last 8 years I have had 30.
$58 500
3. ICD (metronic) Device + Implantation Surgery 
$75 000 - $100 000 each
So if you have been following my story you know that I got my first ICD at 18 years old. That has since been replaced with an updated model 2 years ago. And in between those two implantation surgeries I had to have a lead (one of the sensing wires) replaced (average cost $12 000). These surgeries represent general maintenance along with a set of unforeseen circumstances. So if you lost track that is 3 surgeries in a 6 year time frame.These are the average stats I found for Metronic devices, which happens to be the type of device I have now. They say their devices alone average anywhere between $15 000-$50 000 depending on the model.
$187 000
4. Bilateral Mastectomy + Reconstruction
So this particular stat was hard to come by. Mostly because there was not a lot of information out there about the cost of doing this surgery as a preventative measure, which is obviously why I am choosing to take this step. "Angela" who had a bilateral mastectomy (no reconstruction) at Northwestern Hospital, Chicago after a positive cancer diagnosis sent me her information (*Thank you!*). The orignial bill sent to her was for $100 000 before insurance (thats all in - diagnosis, surgery, drugs, the full work up). After insurance "Angela" was still left a $40 000 bill for the things that were not covered and items that were considered "non-essential"...for her CANCER DIAGNOSIS! What?! Let's just contemplate those numbers for a minute please...yep...
$100 000 (bilateral mastectomy)
$50 000 (reconstruction)
TOTAL: $418 300

That is a staggering number! And what is even more awe-inspiring is what this number doesn't reflect.

  • This number does not include my countless doctor's appointments. When I was in my early diagnosis stage with my heart condition I was visiting my cardiologist every week as we tried to iron out a treatment plan. 
  • This number does not reflect the 6 different types of drugs I took to try to treat my Long QT syndrome, and the top-notch allergy specialists I visited to try to figure out why my body would not tolerate them. 
  • This number does not reflect all the other types of tests and methods used to diagnose my condition.
  • This number does not reflect the 2 types of very expensive genetic screening I have done. 
  • This number does not reflect my maintenance appointments at the pacemaker clinic every 3-6 months for the last 8 years. 

That staggering number does not reflect a lot of things.

And despite my best attempts at leading a balanced healthy life I still suffer setbacks and complications. My heart condition specifically is something that I will have to treat and monitor for the rest of my life. There will be more appointments, more surgeries, and more questions as I age, and my life changes. The impact that Long QT syndrome has had on my life is still overwhelming. But despite all of this and my many misadventures, I have never had to question if I could afford to be healthy. I have always been given the most effective treatments and opportunities.

It is pretty obvious at this point that I sort of drew the short end of the stick genetically. My heart condition, how I have had to treat it, the BRCA 1 gene - none of this could have been predicted or prevented. I know that my circumstance sounds rare, because here I am tackling all this before the age of 30. But don't be fooled. Don't think that these struggle only belong to Krysten, or Lindsey, or James. It so easy to say this is someone else's story. It is someone else's struggle. It is someone else's problem. But the truth is Heart Disease is the #1 killer in America. And according to CDC's 2007 stats 27 million American's are diagnosed with heart disease annually. Not to mention that there will be 178 thousand new cases of cancer diagnosed this year in Canada. And Breast Cancer is the most prevelant type of cancer among women of all ethnicities. The reality is that my situation is not that uncommon. My battle is a battle that is fought every single day by millions of people. What is unfair is that some people are not given access to proper resources, nor do they have the opportunity to stand up and fight back without having to question how they will pay for it later.

I know that this post is unlikely to change the world over night. But hopefully this long winded rant made you think or even just gave you a moment's pause. So that's my Christmas wish this year - here's hoping!

Love your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Thursday, 22 December 2011

The story of my trusty Heart Rate Monitor

So I mentioned in my last post that the Christmas hustle is hitting me hard this week. And I guess I am not the only one to notice - since my pup decided to show me that he felt neglected by destroying my beloved heart rate monitor! Nooo! (but you can't be mad at that face...sigh..)

I rule with an iron fist...clearly
You guys know I am a little obsessed with my HR monitor, and never exercise without it. My little timex monitor has been through many fitness ups and downs with me. And it is my always faithful workout partner. But this wasn't always the case. I didn't even know I needed it, until one fateful day in September shorty after I began my fitness transformation.

I had been running, biking, yoga-ing and was down 55 lbs. I had the girlie pop blaring and I was feeling good. I was feeling fit and fabulous! And I was pumped and ready to tackle that hill on my 8 km loop with gusto. So off I went, rocking out to No Doubt's "Just a Girl", feeling strong as I chugged up that hill. My legs were moving and I was feeling powerful...until BAM! I felt something hit me hard right in between the shoulder blades. I stumbled forward a little bit, feeling confused as I looked around to see what had hit me. I slowed down, looking for the someone or something that had just stopped me dead in my tracks. But the only people remotely nearby were across the street and waiting for the bus (note: I often wonder what they were thinking as the watched the next few minutes of my bizarre antics). I walked a few more steps and BAM! It hit me again, and this time it hit so hard I fell down. That when the lightbulb went off - it was my defibrillator firing.

"Well now I had gone and done it, hadn't I? I got a little to cocky thinking I was some sort of athlete or something and not the Darwinian Fail  with a heart condition. DAMNIT!"

I said several other explitives in my head because a) it hurt like a mother-F**cker and b) I thought I was sure to pass out alone in the street at any minute. So there I was, sitting on the sidewalk, waiting to see what would happen next...and nothing did...So I got up and walked my dejected and confused self back home to call my cardiologist.

This was the first time that had ever happened to me (note: not the last I am afraid - a story for another post), so I was a little shaken up to say the least. I had always been told that if the defib ever fired then my ticker was in serious distress and I would also not likely be conscious (hence why I was waiting to pass out on the sidewalk). This made total sense since it felt like someone had just beat me the back with a 2x4. It is not really a sensation you want to be conscious for. Once returning home I immediately made an emergency appointment at the pacemaker clinic to figure out what went wrong. They had me in and under observation in approximately 15 minutes flat.

Oh the horror!!
As it turns out most people who have heart condition and ICDs are typically elderly and inactive, so being a 20-something runner wasn't exactly the norm around the clinic. They had made my threshold (aka the heart rate when the defib will fire) 200 bpm. Which is usually pretty standard, but given my new active lifestyle - just wasn't going to cut it anymore. They gave me 2 options that day... 
Option 1. give up running - to which I quickly responded "NEVER" Or...
Option 2. allow them to change my threshold to 230 bpm and wear a heart rate monitor everytime I laced up my sneaks - to which responded equally as quickly "DEAL".
And with that my love of my heart rate monitor was born. I went to the local Running Room and bought my trusty timex that day and haven't exercised without it since.

So I definitely felt a a pang of grief when I saw the destruction. We had a good run old friend. You served me well. But since I plan on sticking to my normal routine this holiday season I wasn't able to grieve for long. So just like I had done that day 7 years ago (man time flies), I went to the Running Room and bought myself a new workout buddy. This time in the form of a Polar Heart Rate monitor - which is supposed to be the best and is regularly endorsed by my Fitfluential friends. So I guess it is a New Year and a New Heart Rate Monitor!

Happy Holidays!
Love your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The Art of Layering and the Battle of the Holiday Bloat

My present to myself (re: my unlimited week at SPYNGA) was a rip roaring success! I ended up going to 6 classes last week - including a double header on Sunday (which totally kicked my butt by the way - I can still feel it in my legs and abs 2 days later). Spin and Body Conditioning classes were a great way to shake up my fitness routine and give myself a mental break from my chilly runs...but it is back to business as usual this week and that means braving the elements.

Yep its cold out there
The Christmas hustle has hit me hard and from here on out life is going to start to get a little crazy. I feel like I have a different event every day until the new year - all of which include LOTS of food, and travel to several cities and locations. In other words in order to maintain some sort of balance over the next 2-3 weeks I am going to need to squeeze in exercise where I can and where ever I end up. Thus, RUNNING is my activity of choice during this busy holiday season!

Luckily so far (knock on wood, cross my fingers, pray to the weather gods) this winter has been unseasonably warm here in Toronto. So running outside isn't a complete nightmare. We are averaging a whopping 1 degree celsius (or 34 degrees Fahrenheit) so while I don't turn into an icicle after 30 minutes - bundling up is still a pre-requisite. Layering is a must, but also a fine art!

All my gear!
You want to feel cool when you first venture out into the winter conditions (i.e., cool not cold, and definitely not freezing). I always feel chilly when I first start out (<--- see photo to your left), especially because typically the only time I have to squeeze my runs in is either before the sun comes up or after it has already set. My run is always in the dark and thus when the day's temperature is at its coldest. That damn daylight savings gets me every time!

3 top layers
I tend to layer up more on my top half. I typically use the 3 layer method - a tight base layer (I have this awesome fleece-y Nike base layer which is extra cozy), a light-ish mid-layer, and a water resistant outer layer (for those snowy runs). I don't really like to wear as much on the bottom because it starts to get restrictive and a bit cumbersome. So this year for my birthday my parents bought me these great cold weather Lululemon running tights - to help block the wind while also being completely functional. I obviously always don a toque (we are in Canada after all), gloves, and of course my trusty heart monitor. And by the end of my 5-10km loop I am usually warm and a little sweaty (aka just right). But a warm shower and a cup of tea are always welcome post-run!

With D-day scheduled for any time in the new year (so frustrating to not have a date yet) I want to come away from this holiday season feeling fit, strong, and ready for battle. And if that wasn't enough I have made myself a dinner date with two other Toronto based Fitfluential-ers Robyn Baldwin and Morgan Shuker who are both seriously fit and fabulous chicks. did I end up in the same category as these girls again?! I know I have no idea either...did you see those abs??! So needless to say I feel like gotta bring my A-game if I am gonna roll with these ladies. (**thanks for that extra holiday motivation push chickies!**) With all this fun, exciting, and slightly daunting things scheduled for the new year my motivation is high, my plan is laid out, and all my running gear (layers and all) can easily fit in my overnight bag - so this holiday season I got this!

I promise to keep you guys posted on my holiday running progress! Wish me luck!
How are you guys planning to battle the holiday bloat?
Love your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Silent Sunday

This week was all about eating clean and spin spin spinning! As you can see I am sweaty and happy as this week comes to a close! Happy (pseudo) Silent Sunday!

Love your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Holiday Conundrum

Just a small sample of the sparkle
 In case you guys missed it! This post was featured on Fitblogger today!

I recently wrote a guest post for the my lovely and fabulous friend at The Orange Mask about the Holidays and creating a fool-proof Holly Jolly Battleplan, and ever since I have been giving the holidays some serious thought. With D-day planned for the New Year, I feel like I need to stay much more focused on my health and fitness routine during this slippery dietary slope, that is Christmas

My tree is up and decorated. And there is Christmas sparkle overload going on in my little (but very festive) apartment. And in preperation of this joyous season I have been reading all my favouirte fitness magazines for advice and fresh ideas on the subject. It seems like it all depends on who you talk to - some say the copious amounts of food we ingest is to blame, and others say its the sedentary lifestyle we end up embracing during this season. And as for me, well...I say its both! Christmas is all about cuddling up inside, surrounding by friends and family, and showing each other how much we care by sharing an endless array of food.(at least that is how I spend my Christmas)

So this year I am trying to be honest with myself about my festive pitfalls. I HATE the typical Christmas meal (I know, I know...but I do!). Turkey - blah! Stuffing - ummm no thanks! Gravy and Cranberries - just not my thing. In other words I know the problem is not the actual meal itself. My problem is all the "other stuff". You know what I am talking about! The good stuff! The cookies, the cheeseballs, the wine, the eggnog, the big Christmas breakfast - all that stuff! All the treats I justify by saying "I only get them once a year, and because I only get them once a year I had better eat enough to make my stomach burst"! Yep...I am pretty sure that is a big part of the problem. So I started doing some googling to investigate the caloric-ramafications of these holiday treats during my 3 days of Christmas (yep you read that right). Here are my top 5...

Peanut butter balls!!
Peanut Butter Balls
Oh how I adore these! I pop a couple of these in my mouth everytime I walk past a plate. Or at least I did until I discovered that one measely ball is responsible for 103 calories and 8 grams of fat! NOOOOOO! That means when I stuff my face with the usual 15 during the course of our holiday extravaganza I have ingested 1545 extra calories - approximately an extra day's worth of calories! WHAT?! Oh and not too mention the 120 extra grams of fat!

Christmas Cinnamon Buns
We have Cinnamon Bun on Christmas morning and Boxing Day. They are a family tradition. They are sweet and make the whole house smell amazing. They are also 400-600 calories per bun! ARGH! So we'll call that an extra 1000 calories for good measure.

Confession: Mine have more icing!
Gingerbread Cookies
No holiday season is complete with out them! And I love those silly little men smothered in icing. If you feel the same than you may not want to know that these delicious cookies will set you back 160 calories each. I would guess I eat 5 over the 3 days I am at home, so only an extra 800 calories there! EEK! Things are really adding up, aren't they?!?

The Cheeseball
I am a self-proclaimed cheese snob and lover. I can eat cheese any time and any place, so when the cheeseballs are in season I have a field day. The googling I did says that a proper serving size from an herb and garlic cheeseball weighs in at 110 calories and 8 grams of fat. I can tell you I do not stick to the serving probably another 770 calories in cheese alone!!

Spider Cookies
Last but not least, these perfectly crunchy and chocolately creations always make me weak in willpower. Luckily these little treats are probably the best of the bunch at only 86 calories per cookie. YES! FINALLY! But I also probably end up eating half a dozen, so that still 516 extra cals!

So in total my top 5 treats add up to...drum-roll please... (remember this number does not reflect any real meals or wine)...4631 calories! in other words 3 full days of extra calories! BLAH! That is one seriously depressing calorie tabulation! Not to mention that to burn it all off would require doing 14 hours of jazzercise...which I won't be fitting in over the holidays. Or 9 hours of vigorous running...also probably not very likely to happen. So what to do? How do you solve this dreaded holiday conundrum??!!

I cannot give up all my holiday just wouldn't be Christmas without them! Admittedly I am generally of the opinion that food is awesome and I like to eat it! I also feel like for the most part my diet is pretty balanced, so when there is a special occasion I should be allowed to relax, indulge, and enjoy without feeling much guilt. But since I generally eat the way we just discussed and throw my exercise routine out the window, I am beginning to think that this might not necessarily be a great plan this year.There will need to be a balance. So I have promised myself that I will squeeze in 1 hour of running daily (despite the fact that my family will look at me like I have 4 heads) so then I can justify enjoying 560 calories worth of treats, but not start the new year with a few extra LBS! YEAH! Everybody wins!

So let's find a balance this holiday season! Be healthy and enjoy!
Love your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Monday, 12 December 2011

Meatless Monday - Veggie Pizza

So I am very well aware that going Meatless is not for everyone. I am from a meat and potatoes family, and during my 5 years as a vegetarian my family spent every (I mean EVERY) family dinner trying to convince me to stray from my new found love for all things green. In fact shortly after I went veggie my parents showed up at my door with giant paper bag full of fresh peperoni from the local market -a well known personal weakness of mine. As you can imagine there were cheers of absolute pleasure when I came back to the dark side a year or so ago now. 

But while they spent those 5 years trying to convince me that join them over a juicy steak, I spent equally as much time trying to show them that there are dishes out there that are just as DELICIOUS without meat. One of my great successes has always been my Veggie Pizza. It is a well-loved dish, and a tasty way to take the Meatless plunge.

My love of pizza has recently been restored following our trip to pizza heaven (aka Italy ), and I have found myself making this dish more and more often. If it is made right it will taste amazing and will also pack a mean veggie punch!

Step 1:
Roll out the dough! I wish I could say I make my own dough...but...There is a great Italian speciality store up the street from my apartment where I get my dough and it is Fabulous! But it can also be found in most grocery stores. I have found that the portions are often too big though, so I only use half and freeze the rest. I recommend putting parchment paper down on baking sheet first to ensure the dough doesn't stick. I also put a tbsp of olive oil on top with an assortment of herbs (basil, red chilies, oregano, and salt + pepper) to jazz it up a little bit. Then pre-bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes to allow the dough to crisp up while you prepare the other ingredients.

Step 2:
Choose your ingredients! You can't really go wrong, just pick an assortment of vegetables you enjoy. But keep in mind that some vegetable release more water than others when they are cooked (ie. onions, mushroom, tomatoes, and spinach). If you are using any of those vegetables then I recommend you cook them off first. (note: I have made this mistake before, if you don't your pizza will turn out soggy). For this pizza I chose spinach and onion (cooked down before), sundried tomatoes, hot green pepper, sweet red pepper, artichoke hearts, and olives. Chop and get ready to top

Step 3:
Lightly cover the dough with tomato sauce and the toppings of your choice. And don't forget to add the cheese! But also remember that this is the ingredient that can take your dish from light and nutritious to heavy and unhealthy, so be mindful of the cheese quota. Once the pizza has been topped, bake on high heat (450 degrees) for approximately 15 minutes. And Serve!

Hope you guys enjoy!
Happy Meatless Monday!
Love your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Dangerous December

Cupcakes + Cider! YUM!
December is my favourite month. Along with the constant flow of Christmas cheer, it also happens to be birthday central among my friends and family - my own birthday included. It feels like there is a reason to celebrate every other day, and all this celebrating is one of the reasons I adore this month. The steadily stream of birthdays plus all the usual holiday parties and events means that I get to spend lots of time with all the people I love. Its FABULOUS for my soul, but less than fabulous for my fitness routine.

I have said time and time again that life is too short not to enjoy it. Life can be full of challenges - a reality I am all too aware of. So I believe in loving every minute of it and cherishing these little moments of happiness when they present themselves. And in my opinion nothing beats sharing a nice meal, or a tasty treat, or a glass of wine with your favourite people. I always come away from these celebrations feeling restored, relaxed, and just plain happy! So in that sense I can't fault myself for easily falling prey to December's appeal.

But December can also become a slippery slope, which is what I have discovered this past week. My descent starting last weekend when celebrating my own birthday. While I managed to make health a focus by spending it running my birthday race. I then followed that healthy act up by getting easily carried away with celebratory glasses (note: more like a few bottles) of wine and birthday treats. I indulged by telling myself I earned it and that this meal and this glass would be an exception to the rule. But my descent continued as the week progressed with more family birthdays, my first Christmas party, and an out of town trip to visit great friends this weekend. There was lots more food, more wine, more cocktails, and less time to focus on maintaining my fitness routine.

Needless to say I am kind of starting to notice a trend here. And I could see how this less than stellar week could very easily turn into a less than stellar month. And then there I will be on January 1st feeling bloated, yucky, and probably a couple lbs am putting a stop to this NOW!

I have purchased myself an early Christmas present - a 1 week unlimited pass to my favourite hybrid spin/yoga/body conditioning studio - SPYNGA. This little treat is to help me re-focus on my health and to make daily exercise a priority. This week I am getting back to basics; clean eating, lots of aqua, and early AM workouts to ensure I set aside time during this crazy holiday schedule. This December will be different! PROMISE!

Love your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Transformation Part 2 - How I got started

Wowza! All you amazing readers turned out in abundance for my last post! So thank you for checking out my little blog and for all your positive feedback! It seriously means a lot. That last post was a difficult one to share - especially my dreaded “Before” picture (*cringe*) - so I really appreciate all the LOVE!
I also wanted to start off this post by saying that while I pride myself in making great strides towards health, wellness, and fitness I am in NO WAY perfect (and still very much on my own journey). My weight has fluctuated during the 7ish years since my initial weight loss. My resolve and motivation has definitely wavered from time to time. I still forego exercise to spend the occasional Saturday simply lying on the couch. And I will be the first to admit that food made with lots of fat, or sugar, or a combination of both tastes the BEST! I am certainly no expert, but the following are my top 6 tips and they have worked well for me. They are the bare bones I always go back to if I notice that the needle on the scale is beginning to creep up.
1.       Accept that this is a Process and Needs to be a Lifestyle
Okay so this sounds a bit like an afterschool weight loss special, but…If you are looking to make some changes, then the first thing you need to do is accept that this is a process. You will not become fit and fabulous overnight. It took time to put the weight on, so its gonna take time to take it back off. To make your changes in a healthy way give yourself time and acceptance. I do not believe in adopting extremes - they are unhealthy and unrealistic! Embrace a balanced lifestyle and make your changes stick!
Move More and Often
2.       Get Moving
So there are usually two camps in the healthy lifestyle world; Nutrition and Exercise. Some people think it is the foods and calories you take in that have the greatest impact – aka the Nutrition camp. And others think a healthy lifestyle is all about the calories burned – aka the Exercise camp. Because I like food, and some of the foods I like would not exactly be considered “nutritious”, and I would probably lean more towards the Exercise Camp. (Note: yes I know food is important too, but I will get to that) Exercise allows you some flexibility in terms of your food choices, and moving more allows me to indulge in those tasty treats without the guilt or the lbs. And I personally notice a way bigger difference in my body shape and muscle tone when I focus more heavily on my fitness routine.
3. Find Something You Love

This is why I suggest you find some form of exercise that you LOVE! To stick to any fitness routine requires a certain level of discipline and motivation, and you are much more likely to stick to something you enjoy. I am generally willing to give any type of exercise a whirl to keep things fresh and interesting. I started my exercise journey with Bikram’s hot yoga, because I sweat like crazy and loved the way it made me feel. I then moved to running, circuit training, and I have most recently been heading to weekly spin classes. The point is you won’t like everything. And even if you really like something, you might not want to do it all the time – variety is the spice of life after all!
4. Start a Food Log
Log Goals and Meals to stay Accountable
See I told you I would get to food...
A food journal is a good educational tool. When I first got started I had absolutely no food knowledge – how many calories should I have in a day, what was in my typical meals and snacks, nothing. So while this project can be somewhat time consuming it did help me gain an understanding of the nutrition basics. It also helped me recognize my problem areas – like late night snacking and drinking too many of my calories (aka my lattes and glasses of wine).
You need to start with a basic understanding of your ideal daily caloric intake. I recommend using Self’s handy Caloric Needs Calculator to help figure out a starting point. To lose weight in a healthy way cut 500 calories from this total. You should honestly log your meals for a week or so and review before you even get started though. What days were you more likely to go over? Were there certain times you ended up snacking more? Do you skip breakfast? Was something a lot more calories than you expected? It helps you recognize all that stuff. I still do this from time to time when I have been slacking and need a wake up call.
 5.       Get Rid of the Excuses
Post-Run + Happy
In theory this seems easy-peasy. But dragging your butt to the gym or for a run always seems less simple when you start thinking about all your other obligations. You know like work, school, family, friends, for some of you kids…LIFE! And in the past LIFE has always personally been my fitness downfall. Certain parts of life you can’t exactly reschedule. And I would pick spending the precious few hours I have left with my family and friends over any workout. To keep myself from getting stuck in this “hard-done-by people-pleasing” type of thinking I started thinking of exercise as something that I do just for me. My workout is my "Me Time". My runs are my time to clear my head, think things through, and reset. My spin classes are the time I use to rock out to all my favourite girlie pop anthems and really push myself. My yoga classes are my time set aside to really thank my body for its strength and working well for me each day. The moral of the story is that I am a happier person if I get my workout in. I am better able to handle all the challenges LIFE throws at me. (and goodness know there has been a few this year)

6. Start Loving Yourself

Remember that a number on the scale, or the size of your pants does not define you as a person. Do not tie your love for yourself to achieving these goals. I will confess that this is something I have struggled with in the past and am still working on. Despite being a smaller size I probably grapple more with the Body Conscious Monster than I ever did when I was bigger. So remember health trumps beauty everytime. And having a bangin' body does not make you beautiful on the inside. Your beauty shines from within!

So that's it! Those are my top 6 tips! There is no magic way to lose weight or to get fit. You have to simply eat less and move more. Boring and probably not the answer you were hoping for - but it is tried and tested and oh so true!

Love your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

My Now and Then Transformation

Now: At my healthiest weight to date
Guys I have SUPER, SUPER, SUPER exciting news!

I am been chosen to be a FitFluential Ambassador! EEEK! (*insert high pitched squeals of delight*). So this week I have been prepping my profile to go live and generally floating around on an endorphin high about this amazing honour.I have also spent way more time than I probably should, on the Internet checking out all my fellow ambassadors. And WHOA! I am in amazing company; marathoners, ultra runners, yogis, fitness-gurus, dietary specialists. I can't believe I am even in the same category. Talk about pressure!

But all these hard-core marathoners and fitness enthusiasts had to start somewhere right? And while I still consider myself in the infancy of my fitness evolution I started to reflect on the beginning of my own journey toward health and wellness...

I started this little blog after my initial fitness-intervention, major weight-loss, and following a lot of my early health struggles. So for those of you that have met me in the last 6 years or have just joined me for my Latest and Greatest Genetic Journey I have generally glossed over the details of the years I spent coming to terms with my heart condition, gaining an understanding of my new life with an ICD, and as a FATTY! Yep, its true. I was seriously fat! I am not gonna sugar-coat and call myself anything cute like "chubby" or "pudgy". I was just FAT! Between then and now I have lost exactly 60 lbs and 6 dress-sizes, so it was a pretty big transformation.

Then: At my Top weight
It took me awhile to realise that reality. At first it was just a couple of LBS and a bag of chips to ease the stress of my fresh diagnosis. Then a few more. My clothes were no longer fitting, but I was busy trying to find a treatment that worked for my condition so... There was some more stress eating and that had some how added up to 50 extra lbs. And then it was even more...It took me awhile to accept that I was in fact FAT. To accept that I had let myself get to this point and that there wasn't going to be a quick fix. I kept telling myself it wasn't that bad, and I could start fresh  Monday. Always Monday. Always the next week. But the straw that broke the camel's back for me was seeing this photo ------>
(*I sort of can't believe I am posting this, since I have spent the last 6 years deleting any photographic evidence of this stage of my life!*)

Um yep! That is probably one of the only photos I have kept from that 2 year time period, and I am pretty confident I was at my heaviest here. So many people say that they can't remember me looking like that. And all I have to say is "THANK GOODNESS", because I cannot forget! Looking at that photo I have no idea how I didn't realise how unhealthy I had become, but I really didn't. I think I chose not to notice. Because eating my feeling away was easier than saying I am having a hard time accepting my diagnosis. Because food didn't judge me and made me feel good. Because I was also in a place where I hated my body (a place I still go sometimes). So taking care of it and putting effort into it - just wasn't something I was about to do.

My thought process was that I had bigger problems than being fat. And to be fair to myself; I did! The first few years of my diagnosis were very uncertain. There were a lot of questions of how we were going to treat my condition and how well I would inevitably respond. But what I neglected to realise that I wasn't doing my health any favours by participating in this unhealthy lifestyle. I was angry about being unhealthy. I hated the idea that I was "sick". I looked in the mirror and hated what I saw. This new bigger body was a reminder of the all the negative things that had happened over the past 2 years; the car accident that led to my initial diagnosis (a story for another time), several severe allergic reactions to various meds, 2 surgeries, the list was lengthy . Those 60 lbs meant I had lost this battle. I had chosen to let my genetics define me. I had given up.  

I wanted to be fit. I wanted to be happy. I wanted more than anything to be healthy again. It took me a long time to realise that despite my genetic defects I was the only person who could truly take charge of my life and my health. If those were the things I wanted, then I had to make some changes to my lifestyle - and more than anything else - to my ATTITUDE

I was determined that this time I was going to do this. So I started making small changes. I started a food diary. I started writing down my goals and telling people that I wanted to lose weight to keep me accountable. I took my first ever yoga class. I starting drinking 1-2 litres of water daily. I gave up meat and embraced veggies. I started to love myself again. I started going to the gym. I rode my bike to work. And eventually I started running. I started to see what I could accomplish. I started to realise that I was stronger than my diagnosis. And by the end up summer break, before beginning my third year of university I had lost 55 lbs in 5 months.

I still occasionally catch glimpses of my former self. The girl who has a weakness for salt and vinegar chips, enjoys a good stress-binge from time to time, and who would rather sit and watch a trashy reality TV marathon than actually try to train for one. But this year as I face another genetic battle I know I am stronger and MUCH wiser. I know that you cannot always choose the challenges you will face and where life will take you, but you can choose how you will react to it. I am choosing to use this challenge as a catalyses to create the healthiest version of me! This year I will even more fit and fabulous! I will never go back to that place! And this year I will officially make heart disease, breast cancer, and genetics my BITCH!

Love your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

PS With the Holidays and the New Year there will be many folks making that trusty resolution so stay tuned to Transformation Part 2 where I outline the steps I took to get started and the tools I still use!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Meatless Monday: Mushroom Risotto

Yummy Mushroom Risotto
My Mushroom Risotto
2 cups of Carnaroli Rice
1 tbsp of olive oil
1 clove of garlic (minced)
4 oz of fresh mushroom (whatever your type or pleasure - I like cremini)
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 cup of spinach 
1/2 an onion (minced)
1 oz porcini mushrooms
3/4 cup of dry white wine
2.5 cups of stock
1/3 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
salt + pepper to taste

It's Monday, so that means it is time to go meatless! YAY! For me some of the easiest and tastiest veggie-friendly recipes are rice dishes. It is easy to mix and match multiple veggies into this recipe to up your vitamin count, so feel free to jazz it up with as many vegetables as your heart desires. In this application the veggies stand alone, and the mushrooms are the filling and delicious stars. The idea of risotto always sounded decadent and over the top to me. But as long as you limit the amount of cheese you use and up the veggie content - it makes an easy, delicious, and nutritious meal! So I hope you guys enjoy!

Step 1: Soak the dried porcini in 1 cup of boiling hot water. Strain and set aside. Save the water.
Step 2: Cook the garlic, onions, and fresh mushroom in a medium skillet until they are golden. Stir in fresh spinach and parley and allow the greens to cook down. Add porcini mushrooms and set veggie mixture aside.
Step 3: Add the olive oil and rice into pot, stir over medium heat coating the rice and allowing the oil to absorb. Then add the wine and stir continuously until all liquid has been absorbed
Step 4: Add the stock and remaining "mushroom water", stir, and let rice simmer and absorb the liquid. (**note: I always find this part a little fussy, so when the liquid has been absorbed I do the taste test to check how well the rice is cooked. If its not quite cooked enough just add a little extra stock, let it absorb, and test. Keep adding liquid until you get the grains to the tenderness you desire**)
Step 5: Stir in the veggie and grated Parmesan cheese, allow cheese to melt and veggie to heat back up. Plate and Serve!

There you have it! 5 easy steps to a delicious and vegie friendly risotto!
Hope you guys like it and ENJOY!
Love your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Santa Shuffle Recap

What a great day! What a great race! And what a great way to spend my 27th birthday!

Allie and I Pre-Race
Yesterday I ran the 5km Santa Shuffle (aka my Birthday Race) and I had an amazing time doing it! I convinced my girlfriend Allie and race newbie to join me. And we both ended up totally rocking it out.

The atmosphere was festive, fun, and fabulous! This is the kind of race I LOVE LOVE LOVE! Everyone came dressed in their Christmas attire. There were Santa hats galore, a few ugly Christmas sweaters, not to mention the several people who took the full blown Christmas plunge in elf outfits, Santa suits, and even a Christmas Tu-tu. Everyone was clearly in the holiday spirit! They even had the Christmas carols blaring while Jack Frost and Santa led a pre-race warm up session. And the race wrapped up with cookies, a cup of hot chocolate, and candy canes. This self-professed Christmas junkie could not have picked a better way to kick off 27.
The weather was clear, cool, and perfect for running. There was a little ice on the course to start, but the sun had melted most of it by the time the race was wrapping up. I definitely wore too many layers and under-estimated the effects of the glaring sun. I was carrying my hat, gloves, and scarf as I crossed the finish-line.

Despite my fashion faux pas I still managed to run a great race. I had made myself a silent promise that I wanted to PR my birthday 5k. In the past I have always run a 5k's within the 30-35 minute range, but this race was going to be different. This race had special significance and was just that much more important to me. I promised myself I would run this race in under 30 minutes. And I did just that! I finished in 29:31! YEAH!

This Happy Santa PR'd!
This race was my birthday present to myself. 27 is not going to be an easy year. It is going to be full of big changes and major challenges. But I am making these choices to lead the healthiest and happiest life I can. I am only just beginning this next chapter, but I have already accomplished so much. And running my birthday race at the time I promised myself was my way of proving that my will is stronger and bigger than all my  Darwinian Failures combined. And that despite having to come to terms with this year's upcoming trials and tribulations; I will only come out of this tougher, more tenacious, and having gained a greater appreciation for myself and my journey towards health and wellness. Its a new year and a new me! Nothing is going to hold me back!

Love your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Friday, 2 December 2011

Pre-Race Prep

I am home from work - after a rather long and dreary week - ready to rest up, hydrate, and carbo-load for the Santa Shuffle tomorrow. My pre-race dinner is a veggie pasta concoction that consists of all the left-over ingredients still inside my fridge at the end of this week. Onions, Olives, Garlic, Sun-dried Tomatoes, Green Pepper, and Spinach, add a dash of olive, and little seasoning, and Viola! You have my pre-race meal.
Yummy Pre-Race Dinner!
  Doing one last weather check so I know how to dress, and it looks like they are calling for clear skies, sun, and whopping 1 degrees C (or 33 degrees for my American friends). So it is definitely going to be chilly, but my winter layers, race bib, and essential Santa Gear is prepped and in place! I am also hopeful that the cool temps will help with my time! Fingers crossed!
I said I would be there with bells on ha!

I am officially getting really excited for tomorrow morning! YAY! I am ready to start 27 off right! This year is all about health, wellness, balance, and creating the fit and fabulous life I want. 
See you all at the starting line tomorrow!

Love your Favourite Darwinian Fail,