Monday, 30 November 2015

The Art of Surrender

This week was a quieter week for me.

I can admit that I have been struggling with grief, guilt, and a whole lot of self-doubt over the past few weeks. And I have been trying to find a peaceful place to breathe, to relax, and to hope.

The truth is that I am a little a broken.
This a difficult and vulnerable place for me.

I have spent the last four years struggling. I have lost. I have compromised. And I have tried to accept and embrace the changes that have been forced into my life.

With each battle I chose to look for light. I chose to quiet that negative voice and embrace the positive instead.

But that does not mean that the negative voice does not exist.
It does.
And some days it can be extremely loud. Saturday that voice was loud. I cried. A lot.

Life has been hard, the last few years have been dark, the universe has been cruel to me - and I am getting tired.

The way I feel has only a little to do with just this loss, and more to do with the fact that it has come after so many others. I truly believed that this battle was not meant for me. I thought that I was done fighting. So it is hard to face that I was so wrong.

Each new loss makes it harder for me to ignore that negative voice, as I do not have the strength and the resolve I once had.

It has been hard to find a peaceful place this time.

My knee jerk reaction when I am struggling is to do more. I look for places to put my nervous energy. I look for steps I can take to help ease my fears. It is a place of action.

This time is different.
This time is I am seeking stillness.

This is a lesson in the true art of surrender.
This is uncomfortable for me.
This is scary for me.
This is hard for me.

Going forward I will be doing less - less running, less training, and no racing.
I will be doing more yoga.
I will be doing more meditation to help combat that nervous energy.
I will be practicing better self-care, because despite what my negative voice may make me feel, I am worthy of that.

And I am going to surrender all my hope and my fears to the universe, because I have faith in something greater.
Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Friday, 27 November 2015

Friday Thoughts and Rambles

It Friday! And today's post has no real theme or serious objective. It is really just a hodgepodge of pictures from my iphone and a glimpse at life around here lately.

I got New Glasses this week. I went for a check up and my prescription has actually decreased...weird right?! I wear my contacts 70% of the time, but picking out new glasses is always fun!

I have spent the last couple of weeks decorating for Christmas. I know a lot of my American Friends feel it is too early because you are celebrating Thanksgiving this week. But we Canadians celebrated our Thanksgiving in October, Remembrance Day (aka our Vetrans Day) was November 11th, and the Toronto Santa Clause Parade was November 15th - so it is officially Christmas in Canada.

I tried to get a second projection light for the other side of the house, but they are sold out everywhere! I went to 4 different stores. So apparently I am not the only one who is eager to decorate for the holidays. I would say about 60% of our neighbours have their lights out now.
And while we are on the subject of the house, I have recently stumbled upon this little Rug Company - Rug and Weave. They have such gorgeous colours and designs, and they are having a Black Friday Sale...Tell me I need this one for my bedroom (*and tell my husband too*)
And lastly, a lot of people have been asking questions about my Acupuncture Treatments. And in hindsight I wish I took proper before pictures. But I am spent much of the last 11 years hiding my swollen left arm, so it didn't occur to me to document it. I was also skeptical about the effectiveness of acupuncture. It was something I wanted to try, but I didn't go in expecting the results that I have experienced.

I took a picture during my second appointment, mostly because my husband was curious what the treatment looked like. I had already noticed some changes in the colouring, but no real lasting results in terms of decreasing the inflammation. So while this isn't a true before shot - you get the idea. My left arms is pretty swollen here and kind looks like a blob.
This next photo is about 2 weeks later at treatment #4, and you can see there is a pretty drastic difference in size and it is starting to have more of a shape.

This photo is about where I am right now after 6 treatments, and after a 4 week break since my last. (I have had 1 more treatment since I took this photo) You can see that my left arm is slightly swollen through the bicep and tricep area. But there is no swelling through the chest or down through the lower half of my arm.
I will likely have to continue with regular treatments to manage the inflammation, but hopefully the frequency of my treatments will decrease as my body begins to adapt.

And that about sums up what has been happening around here.

What have your been up to lately? How has your week been?
Tell me something that made you smile this week?

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Balancing the Physical and Mental Effects of Diet

This is the post that I planned to post last week, but didn't. This is definitely still part of my journey, but last week I needed to be honest that "diet" wasn't exactly top of mind.

Recently I have been getting a lot of questions and comments about my new diet. And I wanted to talk a bit about balancing the physical and mental effects of diet.

I realize these are two different topics, but for me they are linked.

Admittedly, after my experience with me elimination diet a few years ago. I felt somewhat reluctant to head down a path of potential restriction again.

There was no doubt that following the diet the way I did provided relief for my acid reflux. I had more energy. And from a physical standpoint I felt great! I was going through a really difficult time in my life, but I was training hard and completely honed in on taking care of my body.

The problem for me is that as a type-A person I tend to easily embrace an All-or-Nothing approach.

And this diet was full on. Combine that with marathon training, striving for a half ironman, while needing something to control when my life felt completely adrift - it's safe to say I loved it. I loved it a little too much.

And I started to see it as a bit of a slippery slope.

Despite eating really well and training really hard I was constantly thinking of other things I could do to be EVEN healthier. Maybe I should go full vegan? (* I tried for a month*) I should definitely try to add more mileage? I should also do yoga 2x a week too?

And that's when I knew the balance had shifted too far in other direction. Physically those dietary changes were working for me. But mentally it was starting to have a negative impact.

You have probably read the articles floating around online about the Blonde Vegan (now the Balanced Blonde) and Othorexia. And if you have spent anytime in the online health and fitness world than you know it is a Very Real Thing and it is around us. There is this constant pressure to be our "healthiest selves" - often at the expense of just that.
I saw myself caving to that pressure.

So I pulled back. I walked away from my half ironman. I seriously relaxed my feelings about food. And I spent a lot less time on my blog and social media.

Walking away from all that pressure was necessary for me. And it has given me some time to reflect on what I want from my life and what I truly value.

I have been willing to make changes to my diet because these changes are for my health. It is something I am doing to combat my hypothyroidism and my Hashimoto's diagnosis.

There are more extreme elimination diets out there. Many people have suggested I look at the AI Paleo approach (including my naturopath because medically it has a lot of valid points). Others have commented that I should also cut out hummus. Some of suggested that I be careful about nightshade vegetables (*which I had to google by the way here's a list if you are curious too*). And while I am always interested in hearing what has worked well for people, I am also only willing to modify my diet so far.

There certainly are more aggressive plans available. And perhaps as I settle into these initial changes, I may become more willing to look at other aspects of my diet. But I want to ease into these changes and make sure that I am making them for the right reasons.

I am truly seeking the idea of Health and Balance.

And that for me means striking that elusive balance with diet that allows me to make lasting and sustainable changes to improve my health physically, while not becoming so restrictive that it begins to impact me negatively mentally.

So I am working with my Naturopath to make the right changes for me.

The internet is often a world of extremes and that is not really the kind of life I am interested in living.
Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Monday, 23 November 2015

Meal Planning + Weekly Workouts + Grief

Last week was a tough week for me, but necessary as part of my grieving process. In the past, I have been really good about meeting my grief head on. I have always been able to own it, to accept it, to feel it, and to move forward.

I didn't do that this time.

I tried to put it away. I didn't want to face it. I didn't want to talk about. I simply didn't want it to be part of the story. I was tired of being the tragic misfit who overcomes. I just wanted this joy. So I didn't want to face my grief and allow it become of my journey.

But it is.
And I have to feel it to let it go. Last week was part of that.

And I may have eaten some of my feelings along the way. I remained gluten-free. But I definitely had more than my fair share of gluten-free cookies. And I definitely had a burger (with veggies so I wasn't completely out of control) on Tuesday Night. This week's meals definitely reflect a stressful week.

But I spent the weekend with family, and felt myself relax (mostly, it is still a work in progress).
I hosted the family Friday Night for my Mother-In-Laws Birthday, something I actually really enjoy doing. I put on my apron, I baked, I used my fancy china, and everyone left full.

My husband and I ran together. We went to spinning on Sunday. We went hiking. We decompressed with Jessica Jones on Netflix. I even let myself have a glass of wine on Sunday without guilt.

So now I feel ready to start the week. And better able to greet life with my plan for "life without a plan". (*that Type-A stuff is deeply rooted, so this is as relaxed as I get. There is no timeline, but there is always a plan*)

This week's dinners included...

Monday - Gluten Free Veggie Pizza
Tuesday - Gluten-Free Beef Burger from The Works with Veggies
Wednesday - Baked White Fish with Salad and Rice
Thursday - Gluten-Free Pasta with Garbanzo Beans and Pesto
Friday - Chicken, Quinoa Salad, and Green Salad (with a slice of gluten-free Carrot Cake)
Saturday - Prime Rib and Salad
Sunday - Coq Au Vin

This week I opted to scale back from my endurance training. Admittedly I tend to gravitate towards distance, because I am not a speed demon, but I want to work on lowering my body's cortisol levels. So while I am still doing tough workouts, they are going to be shorter. My runs are now no longer than 45 min. And I opted out of the last 30 min of Sundays Spin class and relaxed with a series of Sun Salutations instead.

I have also decided to sign up for the Santa Shuffle. It is December 5th, and it feels like a good way to ring in my 31st Birthday. Jamie and I are going to run it together, and because I have been feeling strong on the run lately I am going to try for a PB. My speed demon husband is going to pace me, so fingers crossed.

This Week's Workouts...
Monday - 10km Run
Tuesday - Rest
Wednesday - 60min Spin
Thursday - 60min Hot Yoga
Friday - Rest
Saturday - 8km Tempo Run
Sunday - 60min Spin + 15min Sun Salutations

I hope you all have a great week.
Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,


Thursday, 19 November 2015

Some Reflection after spewing my guts on the Internet

Thanks for letting me spew my guts out to you all earlier this week. For me, my blog is a place where I try to be brutally honest (both with myself and with you), and that post was reflection of my open heart Wednesday.

Generally, I do feel okay about things most days. But because I was able to get pregnant so quickly the first time, I just expected it to be much the same the next time. Especially because I felt like I had been working hard to do all the "right things" - acupuncture, supplements, diet, working with my naturopath, the list goes on.

It wasn't until I saw that negative pregnancy test that all the stress I had been carrying around came tumbling out.

As many people rightfully commented, I need to let go of some of my guilt and try to relax.

I had acupuncture Wednesday which did help calm me down.

We talked about doing some things help decrease stress where I can. We joked that I tend to be all Yang energy - very direct, very type-A, very driven. But I need to focus on being more Yin - calm, passive, relaxed. This is not my natural state.

I am a planner, and while life has certainly made me more flexible than I used to be. I tend to prefer a more rational linear approach. Life is not always so linear, and I should know this, life certainly has not always gone according to plan. But it is still hard for me. Things are a work in progress, and as I mentioned I am still working towards finding my balance.

I had a conversation with my friend Michelle yesterday, and something she said really stuck with me. She reminded me that I have already done the hard stuff. I have had my surgeries and worked to rebuild my health. I have bought my house and started to create a home. I got that promotion at work I was striving for and created the career I wanted. I have planned. I have already put in the work. And now I just need to relax and embrace the life I have fought for.

Again, this isn't my natural state.

I am used to fighting. I am used to the struggle at this point. But this doesn't have to be one of those things. This is just one of those things that I cannot control. So I need to let life take care of the details.

I am going to try to surrender my fears. Embrace a life with no set plan. And work on letting go of the guilt and negative thoughts that do not serve me. Moving forward I am just going to work on taking care of myself, while remembering that this is enough and I am worthy of that.

So My Self Care Plan includes...

1. Yoga 1-2x a Week
I went to a hot yoga class on my lunch break Thursday and it felt amazing. I don't know why I always wait so long to go, but my mat is always a healing place to be and I think I need more of that right now.

2. Acupuncture
I am starting acupuncture for fertility this month. And while there is obviously no guarantee that it will change anything, I always feel good knowing that I am doing what I can to work towards something.

I have also had a lot success using it to de-stress. And to help with the inflammation I often experience on my left side. So if that is all it continues to do, I am okay with that.

3. No more endurance training
This is a conservative approach to things, but endurance training raises the cortisol levels in your blood. You are stressing your body in a good way, but your hormones don't know the difference. So in effort to lower the stress levels in my body I am going to be shortening my workouts.

I will be limiting my runs to no more than 45min at a time. And I will be limiting my time on the bike to an hour, rather than the 90min-2hrs I usually do on the weekend.

4. Nightly Meditation and Sleep Monitoring
I have long been a bad sleeper. I wake up on and off throughout the night and often struggle to fall back asleep. Lately, that has been improving. I think in large part to eliminating gluten and reducing my acid reflux. So this is something I want to continue to work on.

I am going to use My Muse before bed each night for 3-10 min of meditation. And I will be tracking my sleep via my Polar A360 to strive for 7 hours of "restful" sleep each night.

5. Enjoy the little things
I have been living in the future a lot lately, and I have not been embracing where I am right now. This is actually my favourite time of the year, so I need to focus on being present.

I have been decorating the house for the holidays. I am planning on experimenting in the kitchen and searching for the best Gluten-free Christmas Cookie recipe. I want to enjoy my birthday with my family and friends in a few weeks. I am looking forward to entertaining over the holidays. And just generally enjoying some downtime with my husband.

Sometime you just need to stop, reassess, and recognize that you need to make some changes.
And I know what I have been doing hasn't been what I needed to do to take care of me. But I will get there.

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Right Now...

I had every intention to publish I post I had written about the dietary changes I made over the last few weeks. But as I stared at that scheduled post, it just didn't feel right.

It wasn't honest about where I am now.

Over the past few days I have been struggling. I want very much to be pregnant again, but I am not. And the waiting and wondering is hard. Really hard.

We were supposed to have a baby in March. And as I watch other people announce their happy news, share photos of their bumps, and new babies I feel like a failure. And I find myself worrying that it will never happen for me.

 After my miscarriage I envisioned all these alternative timelines. I will get pregnant again before my girlfriend's wedding. I will get pregnant again before my Mom's birthday, so I can surprise her and tell her. I will get pregnant again for my 31st birthday, so I can celebrate with my family at Christmas. I will get pregnant again before the end of 2015.

Several of my imaginary timelines have passed. And I don't know if I will accomplish any of the other ones.

I am struggling because while I wait and wonder, I feel so unlike myself.
So many of my feelings have been summed up in this article that I shared earlier today on Facebook. The tissues were necessary as I read it this morning.

As a runner who is typically always training for something and someone who's career is centered around sport, trying to conceive and my initial pregnancy was a difficult transition for me. Every day people ask, "what are you training for?" and "when's your next race?". And since May I have been lying. "Nothing planned right now", "Work is just too busy for me to focus on training seriously", "I am taking some time to focus more on my base training". I am a horrible liar and being dishonest about my intentions was hard.

As I started to gain weight with my pregnancy, I felt insecure about publically representing my role with a fitness company, without being able to explain why my body was changing. I just wanted to be able to share my news, so people would look at the way things had changed over the past 6 months and say, "yes, that makes so much sense."

And I would be lying if I said that I haven't thought about conceiving, pregnancy, the baby, and motherhood everyday since we first decided to start trying. I keep telling myself that I need to just do my best to carry on and that I can't let this consume me, but it does.

I find myself googling a million different things about miscarriage and fertility every week. I almost burst into tears every time someone knowingly smiles at me and asks me why I am not having wine with dinner. Instead I have this lengthy inner-dialogue about how I want to be pregnant, so I just want to make sure that I do everything right, so there are no lingering questions about anything I did or didn't do, because part of me blames myself for my miscarriage in August. I was too relaxed. I had a sandwich with cold cuts one day without thinking. I raced before I knew I was pregnant. So I know I must have done something wrong.

This is where I am right now.

I am trying really hard to focus on being present and to hold on to hope. But a big part of me feels a little worn down.

There is no real purpose to this post, just really more of an honest account of where I am today. While hoping that spewing it out will be some how cathartic, and I can leave some of these negative feelings behind.

I know I need to patient. And I hope one day soon I will that happy news that I am longing for to share with you all.

Fingers crossed.
Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Weekly Workouts + Meal Planning

Admittedly, this week is not exactly any special training-wise. I managed 4 workouts this week. But what is note worthy, is the shift I noticed in my attitude about it.

When I started this blog, about 4 years ago now, I was looking for a creative way to share my journey. But I was also looking for a place to share my training and be held accountable. The original goal was to strive for hard training, clean eating, the "perfect" blog, while continuing to give my all to my career, family and friends. I was wrapped up with faux idea of perfection. Being able to Do-All and Be-All at All times.

In the past, a week like this would have stressed me out. I would have beat myself up. Because although I planned to write a 3rd blog post, I never managed to find time for it. I was fighting a bit of a cold and I only ended up doing 4 workouts. I would have felt like I didn't do enough. I would have looked at everyone else running 100s of miles and qualifying for Boston, and felt like I didn't measure up.

But as I get older (*yep, I can't avoid the fact that I am getting older*), the idea of Balance is something I strive for a whole lot more than perfection.

More and more, mostly because I have made mistakes and burnt myself out plenty of times before, I recognize that the are only so many hours in the day. And while, I still strive to train hard and generally eat clean, I realize that I am balancing all of that with my other priorities. And my priorities are always first and foremost my family and friends, my career, and then my athletic endeavors. I love sport and fitness. I want to take care of health and body. But a lot of what that really means for me involves embracing balance.

This week I went easy on my training, so I could shake my cold. I spent a lot of extra time planning the holidays with my family and coordinating birthdays. I chatted with a few of my out-of-town friends (**Hi Sarah! Hi Amber**). I made a care package for a blogging friend who recently lost her daughter. I started decorating for Christmas. I experimented with a gluten-free cookie recipe. And I went to visit my Mom for her birthday in Niagara.

I did 4 workouts. I stayed on track with my meal plan. I took my supplements daily. I got 8 hours of sleep each night. I felt rested come Saturday. I felt happy. And I felt balanced.

For me, a lot of what I have discovered since I started this blog is that All-or-Nothing can only work for so long. And that what I have really been striving for is the ability to create a sustainable, healthy, happy life - Not a Perfect One.

And I think I am finally finding my stride.

This week's dinners included...
Monday - Gluten-free Mediterranean Pizza with Feta
Tuesday - Shrimp Tacos (gluten-free tortillas)
Wednesday - Gluten-free Pancakes
Thursday - Chicken, Salad, and Acorn Squash
Friday - White Fish Curry Soup with Rice Noodles
Saturday - Dinner with Mom at Peller Estates
               - Squash Soup, Strip Loin Steak, and Yogurt Panna Cotta 
Sunday - Chicken Salad

My Dinner at Peller with Mom deserves better documentation, so it gets it's own little section

This week's workouts included...
Monday - Rest
Tuesday - 5km Run
Wednesday - 60min Spin at 3Sports
Thursday - 3km Run to Goodlife Fitness, 15min Stairmaster, and Arms
Friday - Rest
Saturday - Rest
Sunday - 5km Run

I hope you all had a great week too!
Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Guest Speaking at the Toronto Tri Club

** Some people have been asking what I talked about at my Guest Speaking gig at the Toronto Tri Club AGM. Which is a great question, since I still consider myself a relative Triathlon Newbie. So I decided I would share my speech from Sunday Night. It is hard to condense my misadventures into a short somewhat coherent speech, but I tried...**

So that introduction gave you some insight into the past few years, and as you can see it has been an interesting adventure for me. Genetically speaking, I am a bit of a hot mess. So it should come as no surprise that I am not here to regale you with tales of my podium finish at worlds. I am a solid middle of the packer, always have been, and likely always will be. Instead I am here to talk about how sport is truly for everyone. And hopefully remind you to thank your body for another amazing race season, while I am at it.
I was diagnosed with my heart condition, long QT syndrome, when I was just 17 years old. After months of seeking the right treatment plan, I was eventually outfitted with my first pacemaker/defibrillator. And shortly after that, I decided to take up running.
But my journey to get to that place actually started well before I even knew I had a heart condition.
I was 9, my father had his first heart attack. And the truth about the precarious edge between life and death on which we dwell became ever present in my mind. A long happy life was no longer a guarantee. Health was something earned – and almost never given. And the events that followed left a lasting impression on me.
The thing I remember most about my Dad’s cardiac rehab, and that time in my life, is that while there are aspects of your health you cannot control, there are many parts that are decided by the choices you make every day. And that is a lesson that has always stuck with me.
So at 19, as I a set out my first of what would become many short little walk/runs around the neighbourhood, I knew that despite being really angry at my body for letting me down,  I was ultimately responsible for creating that healthy balanced life I was striving for.

And I found myself grateful to be given that chance at all. 

Arrhythmias are notoriously difficult to diagnose. They often only strike once -  and once can be deadly.
Instead I was given a chance to lead this life and to do it in a healthy way. So I promised myself that if I was given a choice, I would always try to practice that gratitude and put my health first.
In 2012, that promise was really put to the test.

Because after my Mom’s battle with breast cancer, I went through genetic screening for the second time, to discover that I was BRCA 1 positive. Making my chance of developing breast cancer somewhere between the range of 60-80%. And while there are options, none of them are really great.
You can chose to start screening, and screen every 6 months, hoping that you are the lucky 20-40% who do not get breast cancer. And treat the cancer, if and when it is discovered. Or you can act preventatively, and undergo a double mastectomy.

I ultimately decided that health trumps beauty, and acted preventatively with a double mastectomy.  (and since you are now all looking – yes, these are fake)
Surprisingly, this was around the exact same time I started to delve deeper in to racing. I signed up for my first half marathon, and ran it the day before I stepped into the OR.
I was struggling with the idea of changing my body, in this drastic way. And running was my way of making peace with my decision. It taught me to love my body for all the amazing things that it could do, rather than for what it looked like.

And just like that. I was hooked.

I started signing up for races regularly. I got myself a bike, and a wetsuit, and I started to dabble in triathlon.
For me, racing has become a part of my genetic battle plan, but also a huge part of my life.
Since I had my double mastectomy in 2012, I have had 3 more surgeries, primarily it deal with my robot heart. (It is not always so glamorous to be bionic). I also lost my Dad in 2013. But all the while I ran, I raced, and I trained. I completed 33 races – everything from 5km, marathons, to triathlons - and I found my peaceful place.
Each time I crossed the finish line felt like a victory, because I was here, I was healthy, and I did it.
There have been moments over the past few years where I have found myself questioning my strength, even questioning my sanity. There were moments where I felt beaten. There were days when burying my head under the covers seemed like the only action I could muster. But I kept training.
Even your worst run is better than no run at all. And I made a promise to myself, that even though things were hard, I would keep going. Even your worst day (and I have had a few of those) is a blessing, so I would keep moving forward. And each run was a reminder, that even when life was hard – I was bigger, badder, and strong than whatever it decided to throw at me.
Some days I run to decompress after work with my husband. Other days I train to part of a community full of amazing and supportive people like you. Sometimes I suffer on the indoor trainer just so I can have dessert guilt-free. But every time I train, it is simply to remind myself, that I can. And I will be forever grateful for that.

Hope to you see at the races.
Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Monday, 9 November 2015

Workout Recap + Meal Prep and Making Progress

Well I am a little late to the Workout Recap + Meal Planning fun again this week. This weekend ended up getting a little hectic. I had to work on and off this weekend. And then in between workouts, the Remembrance Day celebration with Grandad, and speaking at the Toronto Tri Club AGM, the weekend got away from me.

I was nervous speaking to the Toronto Tri Club on Sunday. I am not part of the club, so I felt a little intimidated walking in and sharing my story. This is a group of pretty impressive athletes, many qualifying for Kona, competing at Worlds, and regularly wining their AG. I, obviously, have no advice to give these people from a performance standpoint. In fact I definitely still consider myself a triathlon newbie. So instead I opted to talk about how I believe sport is for everyone. And was hopefully able to remind them to be grateful for their bodies and their season. Fingers crossed I managed to somehow express those thoughts in a somewhat articulate fashion.

I got home from my Toronto Tri talk feeling under the weather. The hubby was fighting a sore throat last week, and I think it may have caught up with me. So today will be rest day, in hopes of feeling better tomorrow.

Despite this little bug I am currently battling, I have noticed a huge difference in how I have been feeling overall since going gluten-free. I also met with my doctor and have started my thyroid medication and changes have been drastic.

I doubt many people who know me, would ever say that I was lacking in energy. And it is not that I am all of sudden doing so much more than I did before. So I am not quite sure how to describe the changes. Maybe, that I am just more "clear". My busy days would leave me feeling wiped out. And mornings were definitely a struggle to get going - hence my over dependence on coffee. Since I have have started implementing these changes, I wake up feeling rested. And I just generally feel better throughout the day. So I am officially a convert to this whole new meal plan.

This week's dinners included...
Monday - General Tao Tofu Stirfry
Tuesday - Vegan Cauliflower Mac & Cheese
Wednesday - Quinoa Crusted Zucchini Quiche
Thursday - Polenta with Lean Ground Beef
Friday - Sushi out with Friends
Saturday - Quinoa Salad 
Sunday - Chicken, Rice, and Salad at the Tri Club AGM

And my workouts were pretty awesome this week too. I went running Saturday with Jamie. My legs were feeling pretty tired from training this week. And I had been up early for work that morning, so I was just aiming for a easy run. Jamie's IT band started to tighten up towards the end of the run, and he decided to drop the pace to wrap things up. I had to hang on or be left behind. We did our final 3km in between a 5:00/km-4:30/km pace (or an 8:00/mile-7:15/mile for my American friends). That is fast in my books. But I was able to keep up, and not completely keel over and die at the end. Which was a pretty big confidence boost for me.

I even upgraded my Running Index this week. Polar offers this running feature that looks at your Performance, your VO2 Max, and your training economy to give you a running measurement. Mine is typically in the 40s. But this week I cracked the 50s and Elite status! This is no small task for me and my robot heart. In fact it has been close to 2 years since I have seen this number. So needless to say, it has been a good week.

This week's workouts...
Monday - 60 min Spin at 3sports
Tuesday - REST
Wednesday - 20min Stairmaster, 30min HIIT Pyramid Workout, and 15min cool down on the Bike
                   - 60 min Spin at 3sports
Thursday - 5km Run
Friday - 30min Tone It Up Girls Workout - Arms and HIIT
Saturday - 8km Run
Sunday - 90 min Spin at 3Sports

Well that about sums up my week last week. I hope you all are having a great Monday.
Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Whoa, 3 posts this week...

Whoa, look at me posting 3 times in one week. That has not happened in quite probably a year. But perhaps it is my new meal plan, because I have had a lot more energy this past week, freeing up some extra for a little more blogging.

Today' post has no real theme or purpose. It basically just some random stuff that has been going on around here lately and an assortment of pictures from my iphone.

Last Friday, Clark turned 6! Which actually kind of makes me sad. It always distresses me to think that he is any older than 2 years old. I still like to think of him as just a wee pup. But the truth is he has been my trusty little sidekick for quite some time now. We took him to the pet store to get him a couple special treats and this new mouse/teddy thing fit for a sassy gentleman.

I am not a big Makeup girl. In fact I spend about 70% of my life bare face (*one of the perks of working in fitness is that makeup isn't really a requirement*). But let's face it, I am getting older *cringe* and makeup is starting to become a necessary evil. It is necessary to make me actually look somewhat pulled together from time to time. So I asked one of my Makeup Savvy instagram friends @amtosaysso for a pink eye-platte suggestion and made a few purchases.
I was inspired by one of the latest episodes of the Kardashins. I confess, its a guilty pleasure. I don't exactly enjoy the Kardashins as people, but the makeup and the fashion is always on point, so I can't resist.

Speaking of Instagram, there have been a couple of accounts that have been rocking my socks lately - @AssholeParents and @ByeFilipe.
@AssholeParents includes hilarious pictures of children having meltdowns because of only the type of silly things that children can - like not being allowed to have chocolate before dinner or having to wear a jacket. As a former child with the flair for the dramatics, I find these posts priceless.

And @ByeFilipe is shocking reminder why I am feminist. It is 2015, but there are still plenty of men out there who didn't get the memo. Admittedly, some of the posts can be tough to read but it is certainly a wakeup call that the objectification of women is still very much alive and well. And needs changing.

We also recently got Netflix (yes, I realize I am extremely late to this party) and I have become obsessed with the documentary options. So if you are a docu-nerd like me, then let me recommend a couple of my recent favourites for you...
  • Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom
  • The Armstrong Lie
  • The Drop Box
  • Fat, Sick, & Nearly Dead
And lastly, I posted about a Gluten-Free Vegan Cauliflower Mac & Cheese dinner on instagram and several people asked for the recipe. I have made a couple versions of this - trying to perfect it. The Veggie-Friendly option that includes eggs is the superior recipe, which is the one I am posting below. But if you want to adjust it to make it vegan - just use 2 flax-seed replacement eggs and add an extra half cup of almond milk.
Make 2 cups of your favourite gluten-free pasta and set aside in a casserole dish.
For the Sauce...
1. Sautee 1 grated cauliflower head, 2 carrots (grated), half an onion (diced), and 3 knobs of garlic (finely chopped). Season with garlic powder, chili powder, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Cook until soft.
2. Add 3 eggs to the cooked veggie mixture and toss together, cooking through.
3. Place cooked veggie mixture in food processor and add 1/4 cup pine nuts, 1/4 cup cashews, 1/2 cup of nutritional yeast, 1 tbsp. of spicy mustard, 1 cup almond milk. Blend until smooth.
4. Toss the gluten free pasta in the sauce and top with your favourite dairy-free cheese (*I have been loving Follow Your Heart Cheddar*) and Paprika.
5. Bake for 15 minutes at 350 and enjoy.

If you give the recipe a try, let me know what you think. I think the spicy mustard makes it!
Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Hashimoto's Treatment Plan

I mentioned earlier this week that I was recently diagnosed with Hashimoto's Syndrome and Hypothyroid. Admittedly, this diagnosis sounds somewhat dramatic because it is an auto-immune disease (*just put it on my tab at this point*). But I really want to stress that the reason I was surprised by this diagnosis, was because I have been feeling just fine.

I had my first wonky thyroid reading almost 3 years ago. And if you look at the list of symptoms.
- Fatigue
- Cold Intolerance
- Dry Skin (in my case eczema), and
- Muscle Aches
a lot of them apply. But for me, they were pretty easy to explain away with other things. Between working full-time, finishing up my psychology degree, and training regularly for marathons/half marathons/triathlon it is not that surprising that I have felt tired. And then add to that a lot of major life stress - Medical Setbacks, losing my Dad, buying our first house, and my recent miscarriage - I think feeling worn down from time to time only seems natural.

I started exploring several different holistic health options this past month, not because I have been feeling bad. But really, because after my miscarriage in August, I wanted to make sure that I was doing everything I could to have a healthy body for a future pregnancy.

I realize that my miscarriage likely had nothing to do with me, or anything I did or didn't eat, but I think most women who experience this kind of loss have these questions in the back of their head. So for me, starting acupuncture and working with a Naturopath was just a way for me to feel proactive moving forward.

My amazing Naturopath Cara is the one who immediately discovered my hypothyroid issue. I went and spoke to my GP about it as well to decide how I wanted to move forward.

After giving all of the treatment options some thought and doing plenty of my own research I have ultimately decided that I want to start taking a lose dose synthroid. It will balance out my TSH levels a little bit faster than potentially some other natural options. And it is a medication that has been well tested and is safe for pregnancy if/when that time comes. I have an appointment on Thursday to get my prescription and get started with this more traditional form of treatment.

Cara and I have discussed several things I can do from a diet perspective to help treat and manage Hashimoto's. The number one dietary change being going Gluten-Free. With Hashimoto's when immune antibodies tag gluten for removal from the bloodstream, where it landed thanks to a leaky gut, this stimulates production of antibodies against the thyroid gland as well. In other words, every time you eat gluten, your immune system launches an attack not only against gluten but also against the thyroid gland.

We did briefly talk about the AutoImmune Paleo Diet, and while I definitely agree there is a strong case for it, I don't think I am ready to go there yet. I have done elimination diets in the past, and while I saw great health benefits from it, from a life-enjoyment perspective it was a STRUGGLE.

I will be the first to admit that diet has always been my downfall.

I love working out, I love to sweat - so that part of a healthy lifestyle has never been hard for me. But I like food. Specifically, food that tastes amazing, but is not necessarily ideal fuel. I like bread. I like sugar. I like cheese. And while I strive to eat a relatively healthy diet the majority of the time, there are times where it is nice to just enjoy some chicken wings/candy/donuts/burgers/etc. And I don't like feeling restricted. I like having the option to be flexible when I am out with friends and want to indulge. So making dietary changes are always hard for me.

This is why I want to ease into these changes and be realistic about what will work for me.

I started limiting Gluten 2 weeks ago, but have now fully transitioned to being 100% Gluten-Free. I am also focusing on a few other key dietary changes.

1. Including Protein in Every Meal and Snack
This has been a big change for me. I am not a big meat-eater and never have been. I tend to gravitate towards a plant-based lifestyle. But I am also a lazy plant-based eater and tend to center my diet more heavily around carbs than plant-based protein. So over the past few weeks I have been concentrating on having protein make up 30% my daily diet. This is a transition, especially when fueling for training. And there has been a bit of learning curve involved, but I am getting there.

2. No Dairy
Pretty self-explanatory, and not all that difficult day-to-day. I have had issues with dairy in the past, so I only tend to indulge with cheese in social situations. This will be a struggle come Christmas, but it is manageable.

3. Limit/Eliminate Processed Sugar
This was hard for me. While I don't regularly indulge in sweets, sugar is in a lot of things. And it creeps into your diet pretty easily. I have talked my sneaky sugar habit in the past, so I did experience some sugar withdrawal.

The first time I cut sugar I felt horrible! My energy was extremely low and I generally just felt kind of miserable. This time it was not too bad, but I did have a dull headache for about 10 days. My withdrawal symptoms were completely gone by last Thursday and I can now say that do feel really good on this new meal plan. The changes are working.

4. Take My Supplements
I have never been a big supplement person, for a couple of reasons...
1.) I often forget to take them
2.) There are a lot of supplement options out there, and they aren't all good. And just because someone takes a certain supplement and loves it, doesn't mean that it what you and your body needs.
3.) I have always preferred to try to get the right nutrition from food rather than a supplement.
But Cara has started me on a full supplement routine to tackle my specific needs. This is also why I had blood work done, to see if there where any key nutrients my body was missing. In this particular scenario I am game to get on the supplement bandwagon, because there is a method to the madness. The supplements I am taking are prescribed in a thoughtful way and make sense to treat my body and my goals. (*Cara also made me a supplement schedule for the fridge so I don't forget*)

So that is where I am currently, slowly easing into these new dietary changes. And trying my best to do the right things for my health and for my body.

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Hashimoto's, Meal Planning, + Weekly Workouts

Well friends, it is Sunday! And that means it is time for another edition of Meal Planning + Weekly Workouts.

I mentioned a few weeks back that I recently started working with a Naturopath for a variety of reasons, but mostly just to help improve my overall health. We started by making some changes to my diet and having some initial blood work done.

Well my blood work came back this week, and it turns out I have Low Thyroid as a result of Hashimoto's Syndrome. It sounds dramatic - and I think depending on the severity of your symptoms it can be - but honestly I have felt pretty good. So I was surprised by the diagnosis.

I had my first wonky thyroid reading almost 3 years ago. But it balanced back out and I didn't give it much thought. The symptoms for low thyroid - fatigue, cold intolerance, dry skin, muscle aches - were pretty easily explained away by other things. I was working full-time, training for marathons, and dealing with quite a few major things including medical set-backs and losing my Dad.

It just made sense to me that I was feeling worn down.

I will talk more about the diagnosis and my treatment plan in full detail later this week. But one of the key pieces to my Holistic Treatment Plan is to go Gluten-Free. (*you can read about the reasoning behind that ---> HERE*). It definitely requires more thought and planning, especially when on the road, but it really is quite doable with today's many gluten-free options.

The one place where I do not plan on following this rule is on our upcoming vacation to London and Paris in February. I just know it is not realistic for me. And while I do think I should avoid gluten given my diagnosis, I do not have an allergy as my scope confirmed. So I don't think it is possible to expect me to resist those lovely French pastries. They are just part of life's simple pleasures, and you have to be able enjoy those once in awhile right?

This week I have eased into my new fully gluten free routine. Including cleaning out my cupboards - since I accidently ate Bulgar on Tuesday thinking it was an approved grain. And I have finally acclimatized to my sugar-withdrawal. So I can now officially say that I am feeling great on my new meal plan.

This week's dinners included...

Monday - Coconut Crusted Pickerel with Spinach and Rice
Tuesday - Pineapple Fried Bulgar (oops!)
Wednesday - Curry Carrot Soup with Hummus and Rudi's Gluten-Free Spinach Tortilla (*Rudi's is a new GF brand I happened upon in Loblaws and I recommend - their tortillas are really good*)
Thursday - That Clean Life Fish Taco Pizza Recipe
Friday - That Clean Life Egg and Edamame Burrito
Saturday - Chicken and Rice with Peas
Sunday - Turkey Sausage with Squash and Kale

I think as a result of the changes in my diet over the last few weeks, I have also been feeling great during my training sessions. I had been working on increasing my mileage, but I haven't felt very strong over the past month.

My paces have been slower, and I was beating myself up in my inner dialogue. On Saturday I had a great 10km workout. I did a progression speed session. And my final speed interval (1km) was done at a 4:20/km pace (7:00/mile for my American friends). That is about as fast as I have ever been and it felt great to gut it out and push hard. I feel like my old self again! And brought my monthly mileage to 115km, more than double what I did in September!

This week's training...

Monday - 5km Run (to and from the gym) 30min BodyShred Class + 15min Awesome Abs at Goodlife
Tuesday - Rest
Wednesday - Rest
Thursday - 5km Run
Friday - 60min Cycle on the Indoor Training
Saturday - 10km Progression Speed Session
Sunday - 90min Cycle with 3Sports (my husband is joining in the fun this winter too!)

I hope you are all having a great week!

Do you have any great Gluten-Free Recipes for me? If so please pass them on! I am looking for some good ones!

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,