Second Chances

As I’m sitting down to write this post I’m coming to the conclusion that my blog has become somewhat hike-centric – yet again the topic of this post is hiking – and more precisely why I haven’t yet taken to hiking, even though I’ve had plenty of opportunity to join in. If hike blogging is to continue I might have to change the tag-line in the description of the blog 😉 

The truth of the matter is that I am a whimp when it comes to physical exertion. I tire quickly and then become a whiner with an occasional outburst of “drunken giggles” – It had to be said to give you a true picture of me. I can lift weights all day, but when it comes down to endurance I falter very quickly. Having said that, I should also say that unbeknownst to anybody I’ve been on a quiet mission to change this state of affairs for some time. I’ve been secretly hopping on a bike first thing in the morning before I do my weight training. It’s not much but I have gradually been increasing the duration of my cardio sessions and I have been building up endurance. Now, don’t get me wrong, I realize that 60 minutes on a stationary bike in the gym does not compare to hiking in the woods with weight on your back and the force of nature. I understand that. However, I do believe my bike sessions are helping me to work on my endurance level more-so than not doing any cardiovascular exercise at all.

Why all of a sudden all this interest in hiking? Well, I do like a challenge and I’ve also come to realize how unfit I have become by sticking to weight training only. Training with weights shapes the body, develops muscle that look appealing to the eye, but it does not equal fit, unless one is engaging in another form of exercise… Weights are for the looks, which I don’t think is wrong –  but to be fit you need to do more. I want more, plus hiking will definitely help me to lean out (with proper nutrition that is) and what better way to make my hard earned muscles pop.

If you’ve been reading my blog or social media posts you might have noticed that I have tried to engage in hiking a while back and have failed miserably, so miserably that I have lost my hiking partner who tried to get me on board in the first place! As a result he has had to resort to hiking solo, because after trying the overnight hammock-hike I waved the white flag and finally said “You’re on your own, buddy.” And here I am starting over. So why am I hoping for a different outcome this time? For starters I won’t repeat the same mistakes, but let me tell you why I think I failed the first time…

There were 2 main reasons why I believe it didn’t work out for me the first time around :
1. Comfort level and,
2. Food

1. As I said earlier, I am a whimp and feeling uncomfortable makes for an even bigger whimp. When hiking in the past my biggest mistake was to go into it with a typical hiking pair of shoes. I know now that it was the wrong choice. A typical hiker shoe is bulky, heavy and tight on your foot. Your feet are doing most of the work when walking, so you should take care of them first and foremost. I don’t want to sound like I am an expert, because I am not, but I’ve been observing the shoe choice of a thru hiker at home and I can safely conclude that the less shoe you’re wearing, the better! It needs to be fast drying, so no waterproof material and it needs to be as light as possible. Of course, I’m assuming the grippness of the sole of your hiker is a no brainer. So after some research I’ve been gifted yet another pair, hopefully a successful one.

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The pictures don’t really give justice to the uniqueness of this trail-runner. At first sight the shape of this shoe is somewhat uneven – the big toe is protruding way to the side of the shoe. You can read more about the design on the manufacturer’s website. I picked them solely on the basis of comfort.

 

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Gaiter support that unfortunately won’t work so well with the gaiter I’ll be wearing, but it’s nice to see little details that the manufacturer has included.

 

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They came with regular laces, but of course me being a gadget girl I had to swap the laces for these fancy pully things. I fully realize I’m being taken, but the fit and the colour just screamed at me 😉

This weekend is a test for these before I set out on a crazy Outport 50k hike. They had better past the test is all I can say. So far I have worn them at home and they fit perfectly with plenty of room for swelling. They run very low so the mobility of my ankle shouldn’t be an issue. They do have a bit of a lip on the heel which I’m told might be an issue with hooking over branches or tree roots, but I am yet to experience it. The material the shoe is made out of feels very breathable and fast drying. Other than that I wish the colour was darker all around as I know they will not look as pretty as they do in the pictures for very long. Will report once tested. 

2. The second reason why hiking has not stuck with me in the past is the food related. Let me elaborate for those of you who might be confused. If one is to enjoy long distance hiking it is crucial that everything you take is as light as possible. Believe me, I’ve witnessed the joy  in the eyes of a hiker who was able to shave off a couple of ounces from the base weight – it’s unmistakable. And even though most times I roll my eyes when I see the scale coming out of the cupboard, I do realize it’s necessary to put in the effort to make your load light. So, now my shoes are 33% lighter than the pair I was wearing before, but food is not that easy to master. It’s fairly easy if you don’t care what you eat on the trail, but you know that this is not the case with me. I do care what I eat and I see no good in hiking if I am to put junk in my trunk.

In the past I found it exceedingly difficult to stick to my clean diet while hiking. I wanted to eat my regular yummy food while hiking only to realize that it weighs a tonne. When your shoes are heavy and uncomfortable and your pack is too heavy you are bound to be an unhappy hiker and the activity will not stick. You need to enjoy whatever it is that you’re doing. So, I know I can’t bring my regular food on the trail because of the weight – that is not going to change. And I am still not willing to eat whatever is most calorifically dense (read: sugar) regardless of the quality of its ingredients because it might fit the weight criteria – it simply makes no sense to me. A Snickers bar on the trail to me equals a bottle of vodka at an AA meeting – just simply wrong (I can hear all the hikers gasping at my criticism of the Holly Snickers Bar).

On top of that I’ve been told we’ll only be cooking 2 meals on the trail and the rest of the calories will have to come from snacks eaten while walking or on quick stops without pulling out all the cooking gear. So, I will resort to some bars that I deem least processed and containing the least number of ingredients (Lara Bars, Quest Bars and Yup Bars). But one can’t possibly just eat bars all day, so I set out on a quest to make some crackers. They are a work in progress, but my first batch came out rather well. I made the mistake of leaving them out on the counter and they did absorb some moisture and became chewy. Note to self: put next batch in a plastic resealable bag!

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These are Spicy Chickpea Flour Crackers that are literally made with chickpea flour, water and spices (anything you might have in your pantry). I mix the batter in a food processor to a very watery consistency and pour it out in batches onto a greased non-stick frying pan, form a thin pancake, flip and then cut into square pieces and lay out on a baking sheet. Pop in the oven at 350F for as long as it takes for them to become crisp. You have to make sure your initial pancake is very thin or else they will not be crispy.

 

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I enjoyed them nonetheless. They did become a little bit bready, so hopefully thinning out the batter on the frying pan and storing them in an air tight bag will prevent them from absorbing moisture.

 

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I am not a picky snacker and I believe that anybody who exerts themselves on a trail would welcome these even past their crispy state 😉

 

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These are another type of cracker I made. I can’t quite take the credit for the recipe, though. I had some almond flour kicking around so I simply googled “almond flour crackers” and right off the bat different versions of these started popping up right, left and centre. I started with the most basic version that can be traced to Elana’s Pantry. It’s a simple enough recipe but the making is somewhat time consuming.

 

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These are the opposite of what most hikers would reach for because it’s predominantly made out of fat (almonds and egg). Most hikers are most interested in having access to carbohydrates, so they would not be interested in a cracker that was mostly fat. However, carbs make me sluggish, so I like to derive my energy from fat. Yes, not everybody realizes that we can run on carbs or fat (never on protein). If you are keto adapted you can quite successfully get energy from fat. I digress of course.

 

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Here is an interesting bit about these: my lovely tester did not take to these right away. He found them bland (look who’s talking 😉 ) and he preferred the Spicy Chickpea Flour Crackers better at first. He said those had a little kick and he enjoyed that. However, once the former became soggy, he changed his tune and said the Almond Flour Crackers were way better. They were crispy and you could actually crack them in half quite easily. They were mild but that’s because I opted for the basic recipe with salt and pepper only, but you could play with different flavours for sure – I found one recipe that called for raisins.

 

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I made the same mistake with those as I did with the Spicy Chickpea Flour Crackers, which was to leave them out on the counter, so they also absorbed some moisture and are no longer snappable 🙁 Lesson learned. I do like them a lot, but I think I might have to modify the recipe because when I run the macro calculator it turned out that because of the high level of fat 10g of these crackers (about 3-4 crackers) were 63 calories and that’s a lot for not much volume to eat.

And there you have it, this is how I am dealing with the food issue – I’m making it as trail friendly (light) and diet friendly (clean) as possible. It’s a work in progress, but I am most positive the second time around hiking will stick. I have a better appreciation of this activity than I did in the past and a different kind of motivation to make it succeed. 

Please stay tuned for the next episode of trail food entry in which I will show you my cooked meals. I have already figured out complete, nutritious meals that are light – therefore suitable for hiking – and I didn’t resort to questionable ingredients. 

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She is on about the food prep again, or is she?

Let me start by saying that if you want something bad enough you will do what needs to be done because anything worth having is worth your effort. Forgive the cliché laden intro, but it’s true that nothing worth having is easy. If you don’t care you will not feel inclined to make the effort. It’s when you care that things will start working out for you.

I think I would not be wrong in saying that we all want good health, we all want to feel good in our bodies, many of us want to look good naked, some of us want to have shredded abs. Whatever your goal you will need to make an effort in the kitchen, because your health, your looks and your well-being all start in the kitchen. 

I’m exhausted today after a pretty much full day of prepping food, but I did it and here is proof: 

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This is not even all of the food I cooked today. I also made a dill yogurt dressing for my salads and pancakes for breakfast.

I woke up at 5:30AM, just couldn’t sleep. By 6AM I was brewing my coffee and – as usually is the case on a Sunday – I started contemplating going to the gym or taking a rest day. Somehow, it always makes me feel guilty to take a rest day – I feel like I should be doing more to get my butt in shape. The verdict was that I needed to take a day off for several reasons: 1. I had a pile of things to catch up on and 2. I’ve had quite a leg workout the day before (but more on that in a minute). 

So I had my ritual pancake and coffee with cream and started devising a plan of action for my food prep. I started hauling all the groceries out of the fridge that were purchsed Friday night and quickly realized that the fridge could use a quick scrub. I don’t know about you, but when I open the fridge and it’s clean and tidy I am more likely to stick to my food plan and be on top of my game. When the fridge is tidy I know what’s what and what needs to be used when. That’s just how my brain functions. So I gave it a quick scrub and proceeded to cook the food. Sometime in the middle of my prep it was time to eat again so I whipped up some scrambled eggs and broccoli and then fished off my cooking which brought me to about 3PM.

So, yes, it was a full day of dancing around in the kitchen – I have to say that’s unusually long, though. And yes, at 3PM I was exhausted. But do I regret any of it? No. It’s pouring cats and dogs today, so as far as I’m concerned if I didn’t do my ritual in the kitchen, I would have been sitting on my derrière and probably stuffing my face with crap. Instead, I have a fridge full of cooked food that will take minutes to assemble and a peace of mind that I don’t need to resort to food served in a work cafeteria or have to pop out to Mary Brown’s for lunch.

Now, let me tell you why I think I was so exhausted at 3PM – food prepping is not by definition an activity that raises my heart rate very high. Walking through the woods does, though! The day before some quality time was needed and so I agreed to do a little road trip to Terra Nova National Park to check out the Outport trail.

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You know it’s not a good sign when you have to take off your hikers even before setting foot on the trail! I will have to try a lighter pair of trail runners. Yes, this is a first for me to be taking about the weight of my footwear! I will talk you to death about the weight of my food, I own couple of food scales, but you would have never – up until last night – heard me complaining about the weight of my shoes. Well, things change. It turned out this pair is 33% heavier as another pair that I will be trying out the next hike.

 

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This trip was for informational purposes only and the 25k (plus return hike) will happen for some on Labour Day Weekend. I’ve been asked to go, heck I was the first choice, but I am not sure yet if I’m up to it. I will practice before the labour day weekend and see how I feel about it. You might not know this about me, but I am a very poor co-hiker. I do, however have a special motivator – my legs. I have set out to bring my legs’ conditioning up a notch or two and I believe hiking is a great way to get them to where I want them to be. I’m doing a heck of a lot of leg work at the gym, but nothing beats walking in the woods. You get so much more out of it than working out for 1h or 2 at the gym.

 

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Yup, we were on the right track, apparently.

 

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This was a suspension bridge and I didn’t realize it until I stepped on it which made for a pretty rude awakening 😉

 

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And this is the view from the bridge. I forget how beautiful Newfoundland can be and how I enjoy the post-processing of my photos. I don’t necessary like to edit my pictures, especially if I had taken a lot. But these days I no longer use heavy duty PS or Lightroom applications – that’s what turned me off from photography in the first place. I dreaded having to upload my photos and then spend hours editing them. But, today this has become much more user friendly.

 

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And that’s as far as I was willing to walk that day – all in all about 6km wasn’t too shabby for somebody who was expecting to maybe do a total of 2km.

 

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These pictures were taken on the way to the trail.

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And here is my food link! You know I have food on my mind when I see cauliflower in this picture 🙂 I couldn’t resist – it screamed cauliflower to me.

 

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And this is what my cauliflower looked like from afar.

 

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What do they say..? What goes down ….

 

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… must come up! Yes, food on my mind at all times. I think this is actually a reference to the result of binge drinking… But you get my drift. I must find some sort of food reference in a hike to be able to include it in my food blog 🙂

 

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And one more “cauliflower” picture for good measure 🙂

 

 

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And the Best Energy-Protein Bar is…..

A while ago I was covertly encouraged by a certain thru-hiker to do a review and recommend the best energy-protein bar to take on the trail. I’ve been dragging my feet to write this post mostly because to do a review would entail actually trying the bars in question and to be perfectly honest I am not too keen on that – I’d be eating thousands of extra calories! Also, as I am trying to promote wholesome and minimally processed foods it goes against my beliefs to recommend any of these mass manufactured bars. However, as I do understand the convenience of an energy bar while hiking (or at any point during a busy workday) I decided to make my version of a bar that will not only be good for you but it most certainly taste delicious – and I can vouch for the taste-test myself 🙂

Energy Protein Bar
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 8.6
  • Serving size: 100g
  • Calories: 153
  • Fat: 3.5
  • Saturated fat: 1.8
  • Carbohydrates: 26.4
  • Sugar: 16
  • Fiber: 3.5
  • Protein: 2.9
Recipe type: Snack
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Packs an enormous amount of goodness!
Ingredients
  • 100g Medjool Dates
  • 100g Dried Figs
  • 100g Dried Apricots
  • 200g Oats
  • 2Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 5tsp Yacon Gold Syrup (can substitute for honey or maple syrup)
  • 28g Unsweetened Baker's chocolate
  • 2Tbsp Raw Coconut Butter
  • 100g walnuts
  • 60g Protein Powder
Instructions
  1. Chop dried fruit and walnuts
  2. Add all ingredients together and mix well.
  3. Add water as desired to bind all the ingredients.
  4. Line a pyrex dish with aluminum foil and spread out the mixture from edge to edge.
  5. Pop in the oven at 350 degrees and bake for 30-45 minutes.

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These came out so delicious that I am having a hard time keeping my hands off them! I did not use any sugar in these, all the sweetness comes from the dried fruits (that also did not contain any added sugar) and a bit from the Yukon Syrup which is a low-glycemic sweetener. I think these would go very well with some natural nut butter, like cashew butter, but they are also perfectly fine on their own.

Now, I know hikers (or most of the serious ones, anyway) are always concerned with the weight of their hiking gear. It makes sense to minimize it as much as possible so that one can hike most comfortably with all the necessary conveniences of daily life – or at least enough to get by. Keeping this in mind I will say that these are not light by any means – I don’t know how they compare to any commercially made bars – however one serving of my bar is 100g. The whole batch weighed at about 860g, so I don’t think you’d be taking the whole batch with you, but with a day hike in mind I don’t think it would be extremely inconvenient to take 2 servings.

 

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This was so easy and not time-consuming at all to make that I keep getting puzzled any time I hear people say it is so difficult for them to find time to cook.

 

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I love the different textures of this bar when you sink your teeth into it. The gooiness of the dried fruit combined with crunchiness of the walnuts and the bitterness of the baker’s chocolate just make me want to keep going for more.

 

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Of course I had to take my bar for a photoshoot on my back porch! How could I recommend this bar and not take it outdoors with me. I doubt these will last long enough to test them out in the woods, but who knows, they are so easy to make I might have to make them a staple.

 

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Forgive my food processor in the background! Now that I can use it again, it seems to have inserted itself in one of the best pictures of the bar!

 

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PS. If you absolutely have to get a store bought bar I would go for Larabar. Having briefly looked at the ingredients of most readily available bars in a Canadian grocery store (as in no fancy, specialty bars) I can say with utmost certainty that it’s the most minimally processed bar that I would be willing to eat with pretty much the same ingredients as my bar. The weight of a Larabar is 48g, so half the size as my bar, however much denser in terms of caloric value: 190 calories, 10g fat, 24g carbs and 4g protein. Now, from a hiker’s perspective this might be a good thing since it weighs less but packs in more nutritional value. From my perspective, I’d rather have more to chew on, so to me smaller size means I’m chewing less 😉 To each their own!

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Don’t be afraid of change

When you are carrying some extra weight there might come a point in time when you finally decide enough is enough. It might be when you see yourself in a photograph from a friend’s wedding, it might be when you have to make another whole in your belt to make it fit around your waist again, or it might be in clothes store, in  a change room realizing that the sizes you pick out no longer fit. Whenever that moment happens you will decide right then and there that change is needed, because you no longer feel like yourself. At that moment you will feel like you have just stepped out of your body and started looking at yourself from the side and not recognizing what you see. I know, I have been there.

At that particular moment your will is going to be so strong that nothing will be able to break it until you feel like yourself again. When you get to that breaking point you somehow are going to be able to find it in yourself to change. You will turn bad habits into good ones. You will ditch the bad foods and replace them healthy choices. Your plate will look more colourful and you will move more. You will start to see your body change. Eventually, though, you might want to indulge again. After all, you don’t want to have to say good-bye to all the yummy foods forever. You want to feel like they are available to you in moderation. The good news is, they are and better yet, if you can truly change your thinking about food, they might be available every day! Here is how.  

Pasta is one of those foods that we all love to hate. We love it for its yummy, starchy qualities, but we really hate what too much pasta can do to our love-handles. Let’s face it, it’s not pretty and most of us women want to have  slender backs that are a pleasure to look at. Pasta won’t get you there. However, if you are willing to change your understanding and appreciation for pasta there is another way to enjoy it. It’s called NuPasta! 

Yes, its name implies that it’s pasta we are taking about but you really need an open mind and a willingness to try NU-kind-of-PASTA to be able to enjoy it. So, what’s so special about it and why should you swap the regular stuff for NuPasta? What’s special is that a package of this pasta is 210g and will fill you up to the brim and only worth 25 calories! Let’s compare a standard wheat pasta to NuPasta:

NuPasta Wheat Pasta
210g serving 100g serving
25 calories 130 calories
1g fat 1.7g fat
6g carbs 24g carbs
1g protein 5g protein

The problem with regular pasta is that it is very carb dense and we all know if you want to lose weight you will need to get those starchy carbs under control. So, even though it’s tasty, regular wheat pasta will not make your love handles go away. NuPasta, at double the cooked weight can be enjoyed daily at no harm to your slender physique, because it is very low in carbs, only 6g.

Now, here is where your open-mind needs to open real wide, because if you are expecting the texture, taste and palatability of regular wheat pasta, you will be very disappointed and will most definitely get turned off and not like NuPasta. This product only resembles wheat pasta in its appearance and name. It does not taste like regular pasta and it does not behave like regular pasta. First of all, when you buy it, you will notice that it is already cooked and is sitting in a liquid. All you need to do is remove it from the liquid and rinse it and of course dress it however you want to dress it. If you are used to cooking pasta in heavy cream sauces you will be disappointed because this pasta does not absorb liquids well. I would say that it has zero absorbability. So what can you do with it? I keep it very simple. Usually use some hot sauce and spices and of course add protein to it. Sometimes I use it as a “volumizer” for my high carb day when I add rice to it.

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This is my typical lunch during workday. This particular one features 1 package of Nupasta, 100g rice, 3oz of baked chicken and some mushrooms and onions. You might be asking yourself why am I using a low carb product on a high carb day… Well, 100g of rice is not very much food in terms of volume, but already packs 23g of carbohydrates and – depending on your goals – this might be as much as you can afford per meal. However, I like to eat big, so by adding 210g of NuPasta I’m creating quite a bit of volume at only 6g of carbs.

 

Because I favour my baked chicken with all sorts of spices I feel that this meal does not require any type of heavy cream sauces to make it palatable. In fact, all I did with the rice and the pasta is added some smoked paprika, pepper, salt and a good splash of hot sauce. The secret here is to enjoy the natural flavours of food and nothing makes a meal taste like a million bucks the way caramelized onions and mushrooms!  

Here is another use of NuPasta in a lunch of 2 sunny-side-ups:

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I believe this dish actually got some low-fat cream cheese as a coating for the pasta. Just a tiny bit, probably 10-20g of cream cheese is all that it took to make it slightly different and a bit creamy. I also used some cherry tomatoes to give it tartness. Once you dig into those egg yolks and let them coat the pasta you might decide this is heaven and you no longer need any wheat pasta in your life!

Here is another take, more of a traditional use of NuPasta:
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As you can see, still no sauce! Tons of herbs, as always and radish for healthy crunch.

If I was to describe the taste and texture of NuPasta I would have to say it’s one of a kind. It has a springy quality. You can’t overcook it and I usually don’t cook it, per say. I might reheat it by tossing it in some coconut oil in a frying pan , but it does not require any amount of cooking. 

Even though a package of this pasta is not very light – the actual pasta weighs 210g and it is immersed in liquid, so I would say between 300 and 400g for one meal –  I have taken it with me hiking. Now, granted it was car camping, so weight was not of big concern, but still I immensely enjoyed it in its most basic, simple form accompanied by smoked salmon, cashews, coleslaw and generous squeeze of ketchup and mustard :

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The feeling of being able to eat a homemade real food while camping was very comforting to me. This meal could have been as easily prepared at home, on a ceramic plate instead of a plastic bowl. However, eating it at a campsite made it so much more delicious!

Granted, if you are undertaking long distance, thru-hiking where lightness of your load is of the essence you probably will be better off with dry wheat pasta or any of the Uncle Ben’s type of pasta dishes. For one, they will be light and two you will need all the carbs you can get 🙂 However, if I ever decide to join in a hike again, I am sure going to pack at least one of these babies with me, even if I have to smuggle it in! Or I might finally break down and order a dry version of this pasta from Candra International – their site is still under construction and currently only taking orders over the phone (I know, I can’t wait either!)

So, that’s a wrap for a New type of pasta that’s here to stay on my menu!

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Queen of the Pancake Factory

I honestly can say that I wake up for pancakes. I literally go to sleep with the taste of my evening pancake still in my mouth just to wake up, work my ass off at the gym and head to work to have my morning pancake for breakfast. This has been my routine now for quite some time. No, I don’t get bored or tired of it because if something is good there is no reason to get bored of it. I actually genuinely don’t understand when people say they have to eat something different every single day – that would truly be physically and mentally tiring to me. I stick to what I know works for my kind of goals and what I like. Sure, I change it around a bit when I feel like it, but for me it’s about consistency and keeping it simple helps with staying consistent. Life is complicated as it is, why make it more so with food – is my motto.

Growing up pancakes were a staple on the weekends – mom would whip up some goodness once in a while. Of course, back then they were quite a bit different than what I make these days. They were called “placki ziemiaczane” which literally translates as “potato cakes”. And yes the main ingredient was a grated potato along with an egg, some flour and a lot of oil for frying – you could make them savoury or sweet. Were they ever greasy, though! So, just judging by the ingredients you could safely assume that I have never made them myself since coming to North America. Today, I make Coconut Pancakes because they fit in with my diet much better than Placki Zmiemiaczane, just look for yourself 🙂

4.0 from 1 reviews
Coconut Pancakes
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 1
  • Serving size: 1 pancake
  • Calories: 324
  • Fat: 13
  • Carbohydrates: 18
  • Protein: 34
Recipe type: Snack, Breakfast
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • 250g liquid egg whites
  • 10 drops of stevia
  • 15g coconut flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Flavour extract of your choice
  • 20g cashew butter
Instructions
  1. Pour egg whites and stevia into a food processor and set on high for as long as it takes for the egg whites to form stiff peaks.
  2. Add coconut flour, baking powder and extracts and pulse to incorporate. If you just letting go on high again the mixture becomes watery. If you gently pulse you will retain the airiness of your egg whites and I find that a better batter and a much nicer, fluffier pancake.
  3. Transfer into a heated non-stick pan that you gently sprayed with coconut oil.
  4. Cook for 5 minutes on medium on each side.
  5. Transfer into a plate and drizzle some nut butter on top. I like to sprinkle with some cinnamon and BCAAs for a little icing sugar like taste without the actual sugar 🙂

 

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The blobs is my “drizzled” cashew butter – the home made stuff does not drizzle very well when taken straight out of the fridge, you have to “blob it” rather than drizzle… But that’s ok, because once the heat of the pancake softens the butter you will be able to smudge it all over. You could, of course, leave the cashew butter out on the counter in anticipation of your pancake, for it to soften up a bit. One of the thing I love about this pancake is that it’s huge – it just barely fits on my largest plate. Size doesn’t always matter but in the pancake world the bigger the better 🙂 You see I eat with my eyes just as much as with my mouth – I think it’s true for many, so filling the entire pan with the batter to make a big ass pancake makes more sense to me than frigging around with multiple small pancakes 😉

 

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This is what it looks like in my large frying pan. When I pour in the batter in the pan it only forms a small pancake so I’ll tip and turn the pan as to spread the batter from edge to edge. The most important thing to remember is that you have to let it cook – not because you don’t want to eat a raw pancake but because as anything in the pan you need to keep it undisturbed so that it’s ready for the flip. If you move it too early it is going to be very difficult to flip and have an even pancake. Oh, and you need a good spatula – one that is quite long. And I don’t mean one that has a long handle, I mean one with a long flipping part, for a lack of a better word. When you gently insert the spatula under the pancake (when it’s ready) the tip of your spatula should be reaching the middle of your pancake. You then gently lift the pancake and direct the opposite end towards the area where you inserted the spatula on the pan and gently lay the pancake down on the uncooked side. While you are flipping keep the opposite end of the pancake slightly touching the pan throughout the flipping process. I think this procedure deserves a tutorial, so I might be putting my cinematography skills to work one day to show you exactly how I do it.

 

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The pink colour comes from Strawberry Kiwi Extend BCAAs and the brown is just some cinnamon. I’ve been keeping this recipe very simple without any added syrups or sweeteners. The only sweetener is in the pancake, in the form of liquid stevia.

 

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This one almost looks like a crêpe, but it’s not quite a crêpe. The thickness of this beauty really depends on how much you pulse in the food processor once the coconut flour is added. If you pulse too much the pancake comes out flatter, but if you manage to retain the fluffiness by pulsing only minimally, but still incorporating the coconut flour, the pancake comes out thicker. It really is a skill! In any case, as you can see I eat it with just as much enjoyment – thin or thick. I savour every bite and very morsel as if though it was the last one, because eventually it’s all gone from my plate and then I have to wait to have another one 😉

 

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And this is what it looks like all undressed 😉 It’s quite large! Of course, you can dress it however you want, but your macros will change depending what toppings you choose. You can use berries, syrup, jam, real icing sugar – the possibilities are endless.

 

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A close-up of the pancake getting cooked – as you can see it is quite airy and fluffy sitting there in the pan.

Bon Appétit! 

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Healthy Snacks – review

It’s hip to be on the healthy eating band wagon these days, but what it often times means is buying products that really are just junk disguised as healthy alternatives. Let me explain if you don’t already know what I am about to say. You have surely heard of everybody going on about protein bars, as opposed to candy bars. It has become widely accepted that protein bars are better for you than regular candy bars because of all this protein they contain. Protein – good for you, sugar – no good for you. In principle, yes I would tend to agree, but sticking the word protein on a bar and a bunch of cheaply made whey protein in the bar is not going to make it any more healthy than a candy bar. Heck, many times they are even worse than a regular candy bar. You don’t believe me? Watch!

In my most recent order from SVN I was offered a free gift – they always have this option and mostly there isn’t anything I am particularly interested in, but this time I thought, what the heck it’s free, so I picked a protein bar. Well, let me tell you something, there is a reason why it’s free, it’s because nobody is buying it and why is it that nobody is buying it? Keep reading…

So the protein bar in question is the Muscle MaXX White Chocolate Peanut Butter – sounds delicious, doesn’t it? I picked it thinking I might have it for a cheat meal sometimes, but when it got here and I actually looked at the macros and the ingredient list and I thought to myself : “Sure as hell I will never put this garbage in my mouth!” And I tucked it away. Big, big mistake. I should have ditched it in the garbage and never looked back. But I kept it. I guess the fat kid in me did not want to let go of it that quick. So, what is wrong with the ingredients in this thing? They are not any different or better than the ingredients on a Snickers bar, I would go as far as to say that they are worse. Let me present to you the comparison of the 2 bars in terms of their nutritional value and the things they are made out of. First Muscle MaXX:

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So in the spirit of transparency and not assuming any knowledge on the part of the reader, here is what’s wrong with the ingredients of this bar: 

  1. It contains Hydrogenated Cottonseed and Rapeseed Oil – the word hydrogenated refers to the fat that is man made that is extremely bad for you (now they don’t list it as trans fat which I am not sure how they get around that). When you look at the labels and you see oils that have been hydrogenated, put it away. 
  2. TBHQ is a preservative, meh – stuff that extends the shelf life of packaged foods – you won’t need to consume it if you make your own, because home made stuff does not need to sit on a shelf, you’ll eat it before it goes bad. 
  3. Graham Crackers get their own parenthesized list of ingredients and oh boy is it reminiscent of a cookie! That’s because it is a type of cookie. Here you get all the sugars your heart desires starting at sugar itself, high-fructose corn syrup and molasses, as if just sugar wasn’t enough, LOL. You also get a good dose of the hydrogenated stuff, this time only partially hydrogenated, but don’t let this fool you, it’s just as bad.  
  4. Coating is composed of some more sugar, some more hydrogenated stuff, some synthetic wax by the name of Sorbitan Monostearate (I’m not going to argue its harmful effects, but if you are following me you understand that I’m advocating minimally processed foods and this bar went through hell to be manufactured) and Polysorbate 60 which is another type of emulsifier that I’d rather not eat, but did I? 

So here you have it, a pretty nasty list of ingredients that should not be in anything that bears any claims of health and wellness benefits. Now, the bar does not imply that it is good for you, but it is sold by a company whose website is plastered with ripped bodies so it implies this stuff is OK to eat if you want a six pack – after all it is a MUSCLE MAXX bar, so muscles are in your future if you eat it, right? Well, all that’s in your future is fat from eating this bar. It is a candy bar, not a protein bar – now that I think of it I’m not even sure where all this 13g of protein is coming from. After all, peanuts are predominantly a fat source. Muscle Maxx also claims that the bar is highly addictive and that part I thought they actually got right, after all it is full of sugar. 

On to show you ingredients of a popular brand of candy bars, namely Snickers bar:

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These were taken straight from the Snickers website and my first thought when I saw the macronutrient breakdown was that it is so extremely hard to read! So I found a better picture from the website that presents the macros.

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What you will notice right away is that the macros are very similar to those of the Muscle Maxx (MM). Calories are higher for MM by 40, fat is higher for MM by 4g, carbs are higher for Snickers by 8g and Protein, which is the good stuff is higher for MM by 9g. So, all in all pretty similar. 

Now, for ingredients, also very similar: tons of sugar (but we would not be surprised by that, this is a candy bar after all), corn syrup and also a good dose of hydrogenated stuff. So right to the point with the bad stuff as much as the Healthy version. I do have to say though the list seems somewhat shorter than the MM which is always a good sign, however in this case not so much – pretty much everything on the list is bad.  

Now back to MM and why I should have ditched it in the garbage – yes, you probably guessed by now I did consume part of it. Why only part of it? Because it was truly the worst thing I have ever put in my mouth. The graham cracker, which contained in the middle a softer mushier part, was just that, nothing wrong with the taste of a graham cracker, the coating though really tasted like wax. The really bad part was in between the two crackers – it tasted like mushy cardboard. It was not even that sweet, so I’m sort of wondering about all the different sugars… All in all I understand why SVN is giving them away – anybody who has ever tried them will never pay a cent for these bars and people who haven’t tried them know better by looking at what’s in the bar and are also not buying them. So SVN needs to get rid of them before the expiration date, so they are giving them away for free! Don’t get fooled. Might as well get a Snickers Bar, at least you won’t feel like you are eating cardboard, you won’t be pretending you are doing something good for your body and on top of that you will actually enjoy the bloody candy bar 🙂 

 

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Chocolate Almond Butter

I absolutely love nut butters – they are versatile, they are creamy, they are the boom! When I say they are versatile I mean you don’t have to limit yourself just to p&j toast. I put nut butters on slices of apples sprinkled with cinnamon, on sweet potatoes in any form (don’t knock it till you try it!), on broccoli, in my cream of rice and in my oats, in my chai coffee shake, in home-made muffins and of course, let’s not forget my pancakes!! You can put it on and in virtually anything and it will work, I promise!

So in light of rising almond butter prices and shrinking jars I have started making my own almond butter – other nut butters quickly followed – my favourite after almond is cashew butter. So creamy and silky! But be careful because it is predominantly a fat source so a little will cost you a lot. I always measure my nut butters, but let’s be honest, who doesn’t lick the spoon 😉 Here is my very simple recipe I made today. I’m not even sure if it deserves to be called a recipe, there is really not much to it. It’s more time consuming than anything else. Oh yes, it takes a while, but if you have a good food processor you are set.

 
Chocolate Almond Butter
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serving size: 10g
  • Calories: 62
  • Fat: 5.4
  • Saturated fat: 0.9
  • Unsaturated fat: 4.2
  • Carbohydrates: 2.2
  • Sugar: 0.4
  • Sodium: 0.1
  • Fiber: 1.2
  • Protein: 2.1
Recipe type: Snack, spread, nut butter
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Always handy to have in the fridge and keeps you at peace knowing there is no added hydrogenated oils in it, yuck.
Ingredients
  • 437g Raw Almonds
  • 30g Coconut Oil
  • 5g Unsweetened Cocoa
  • 10 drops of plain stevia
Instructions
  1. Process almonds in a food processor for a good 20-30 minutes stirring occasionally until smooth consistency.
  2. Add coconut oil, cocoa and stevia and process until incorporated well.
  3. Voilà!

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This is what your almonds are going to look like after a 2 minute spin in the food processor. It’s a long way away from the final product, but it is so worth it.
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After a while you’ll notice the almonds getting finer and finer. At this stage they almost remind me of almond meal. You’ll notice that the mixture will start sticking to the walls of your food processor, this is when you need to scrape the walls every so often and stir.
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I thought this was a cool shot to be able to get with a cellphone camera! And it demonstrates perfectly what is happening with your almond mass, the middle is getting much more action and therefore is getting smoother by the minute.
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Nope, still very much grainy after giving it a stir, so the top goes on for more grinding.
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But see how the different layers keep changing? The bottom, closer to the blade is getting lumpy, whereas on the sides it is still very grainy.
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We’re getting close, really close! At this point you will find the mixture very hard and lumpy. It sticks together making the impression that you have less than what you have started with.
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There is the lump, nice and shiny and moldable. This is on the right track – worry not! You might be thinking something is wrong, but this is all good.
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See! I told ya! Now we’re talking. If you dip your spoon in it now you will know for sure that all along it was slowly getting to this point.
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And time for weighing and putting away. I didn’t have a fancy jar on hand so I just used a glass container – same one I put my lunch in 🙂
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Who needs commercially made protein peanut butter when you can have Chocolate Almond Butter made with 3 ingredients!
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Even though it is smooth almond butter there is plenty of crunch in it! Just the right amount !
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Couldn’t resist taking it out in the sun after we have had some chilly, rainy, foggy days.
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And for some beautiful blue skies trying desperately to grace us with their presence.
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The truth is out there, but you won’t find it on social media – part 1

Disclaimer: this is a cautionary tale about the fact that not all that glitters is gold.

I remember the time when one needed credentials to make their knowledge available to the public. Back in the day it also required a fair bit of effort on the researcher’s side to acquire this information. Today, all this is very much simplified, in that anybody can get published, look at me – typing away – and finding information is also at the tip of your fingertips. This is great, right? Not so much, because anybody can spew their knowledge and opinions right, left and centre and we all do it. This makes the researcher feel overwhelmed with contradicting information and you will find it so much more confusing to sieve through all of it and decipher what actually has any credence. Low-fat better than low-carb? How about Paleo and Atkins? WeightWatchers anybody? Or IIFYM? As a matter of fact, the truth is in the pudding and you have to be able to see through the bull. Moreover, you need to be extra critical on social media when you read claims of this or that. I’ve learned this a long time ago, but there are still people believing everything they see – jumping from wagon to wagon. Most times when I see misinformation, I just walk away without saying a word, but let me tell you a story about most recent example of misrepresentation and fraud that I couldn’t watch in silence.

A friend of mine is a sales rep for a multi-level marketing company that sells dietary supplements – food replacement shakes (I will not name this company because I don’t feel like dealing with the implications of such an act, but look around, those companies are sprouting everywhere and chances are you have been offered their products). She innocently shared a post on FB made by another rep of that company that made claims that were untrue. The post revealed a before-and-after picture of a young woman. A typical, very common collage of a person’s picture from couple of years ago when they were not doing so well in terms of their appearance and a current picture showing her very fit and healthy – I’ve just recently made my own. Now, this is not an uncommon thing to see when promoting a product or services. IG is plastered with such pictures and so is FB. This one was a bit different because the before picture was her anorectic self – very thin, with bones protruding, hollow cheeks – and the after picture had her looking a lot healthier with some muscle mass built up.

When I saw the post I had to stop and look a bit closer. Normally, I would not have paid any attention to such claims, because:

  1. 9 times out of 10 I am not interested in the product. 
  2. As far as I am concerned anybody who is trying to sell you something to make you feel or look better is only after your money. And…. 
  3. I know how to use PhotoShop to enhance pictures.

This one, though, was different. It was different in that I was convinced I knew the person in the picture. So I headed to my IG account to find the person I thought this was and lo and behold I found her. I even found the exact same picture collage posted to her IG feed. I knew exactly what this person was all about and let me tell you, she was not about the supplements in question, but yet her transformation was being used as proof that using those supplements made you regain your health and fit physique….

 

Here is a screenshot that I took of the post before it was deleted. May I just add that's not the girl's real name, that would have been too easy to identify as fraud.
Here is a screenshot that I took of the post before it was deleted. May I just add that’s not the girl’s real name, that would have been too easy to identify as fraud. 

 

Here is how far it got with the comments, I am sure had the post stayed this thread would have gotten much longer.
Here is how far it got with the comments, I am sure had the post stayed this thread would have gotten much longer.

Of course, I made a racket about it. The post disappeared along with about a dozen comments (you can see in a screenshot above that I took prior to the deletion) that were made under the picture oohing and aahing about how great the supplements are because they helped this poor girl look healthy and happy. And everything came back to “normal” as if nothing had happened. Only something did happen. Somebody made false claims and showed them publicly for all to see in order to sell a product of very questionable quality and usefulness – a fake, man-made product to make money. That fact boils my blood because even if we all consider ourselves intelligent human beings, we are all being duped everyday without even knowing. So, next time you see pretty little pictures trying to convince you to jump on the wagon to bliss and happiness, think twice before you open your wallet. Instead, just go to a farmer’s market and buy some lettuce – there is no magic product (shake, pill, powder etc) that can do what real food can and will do and of course a ton of hard work. 

PS. BTW the girl uses some type of supplementation, like most lifters – minimally processed protein powders with natural ingredients and sweeteners, however her main focus is proper nutrition and heavy lifting. She advocates not being afraid of food and making it nourishing rather than being afraid of it.  

 

 

 

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Why I love food-prepping

The main argument against preparing home made meals is lack of time – I hear it all the time : “I just don’t have the kind of time it takes to cook all these meals!” One of the arguments I make for home cooking is that it will save you time in the long run. Just think about it, if you devote 2-3 hours to batch cook your meals over the weekend, say Saturday morning, you won’t have to do it every day Monday to Friday 🙂 But my main argument for prepping food is that it makes you take care of you (granted you do it the right way) and it keeps you busy! What’s the deal with that, you ask? I don’t know about you, but I tend to eat out of boredom. If I’m sitting around doing nothing I feel like I want to have something do. And instead of getting up to actually do something I reach for snack foods. So, if you are busy making your food for the week you wont be snacking now or later during the week, because you’ll have all the food you’ll need to nourish yourself! Simple. Once you have some sides prepped, suppers during the week also take minutes to put together. Let me show you:

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These were made over the weekend and put in a container, because I find caramelizing mushroom and onions takes a bit of time I throw them in the pan with some coconut oil when I’m prepping on the weekend, stir occasionally and boom, they are done and ready to be used at my fingertips during the week as a side.

 

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I like broccoli freshly prepared because otherwise they get all soggy and mushy and I like my broccoli with a little crunch. So, the night of the meal, I chop them like so and throw them in a non-stick pan to brown a bit while I’m working on my salmon. It will take as long as the salmon so both go in at the same time.

 

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Salmon gets spices and nutritional yeast sprinkled on top for an added crunch and cheesy taste. Depending on my fat macros (since salmon is pretty fatty as is) I either pop it in the oven with no added fat wrapped in aluminum foil or fry in coconut oil. Yes, I weigh all my food, so that I know approximately what I’m eating – there is no way to know exactly, but I’m happy with the estimation macronutrient counting gives me.  

 

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And voilà meal ready in 15 minutes tops!

So here you have it, 15 minutes out of your day for a lifetime of health and happiness 🙂 To me it’s worth it, after all, what else am I gonna do? 

 

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It was me all along – book review

Ever since I said good bye to my student life I hadn’t been reading as much as I used to – back then reading was a means of getting a university degree. It was an obligation. An obligation that made left me longing to read for pleasure – books that really interested me, not just the ones from a class syllabus. So many times I’d hear myself say : “I can’t wait to create my own reading list comprised of books I want to read, not just the ones that a professor deemed necessary to read to further my knowledge.” Since I’ve finished university 8 years ago I’ve only gone as far as creating my new and improved reading list and acquiring the books, but reading was yet to happen. There was always something else to do, I would get sucked in by the social media, there would be house chores waiting to be completed or I would be too tired to keep my eyes open. It’s truly been aggravating how I am not able to find the time to read! So I’ve rejiggered my priorities and bumped up “the need to read” way above other daily hurdles. What’s more, I’ve made reading doubly beneficial by incorporating it into my gym routine :  reading + biking = learning and losing fat! What can be better!?  I’ve always liked biking, so every morning for a warm up I hop on the stationary bike at the gym for 30 minutes. For the past couple of visits, when I had unlimited amount of time, my 30 minutes turned into 50 minutes! Why? Because I have gotten so engrossed in my reading that I forgot I was actually working! So, what was the book that kept me peddling for the past week? – It was me all along by Andie Mitchell.

It was me all along
This is a screenshot of the cover of the book taken from my electronic copy of the book.

I tend to try to read books that I can learn from, so several weeks ago I went on a hunt to find some educational reading. It’s not like I didn’t have anything to read on my kindle, there is plenty there. Most things that I have started reading and never finished because the books just didn’t grab my attention that much. And honestly, I find it hard to find well written books  in the subject area that I am interested in, namely fitness and nutrition. Those books are either written by non-writers and are incoherent and full of spelling and grammar mistakes – hence are hard to follow. When I do come across a well written book on fitness and nutrition they tend to be academically heavy and don’t make for a good read to take with me on the bike. Those books, even though they are full of good information, are better read with a notepad and a pen right beside – not at all bike friendly. So I kept searching for something new and exciting until I came across “It was me all along”. I immediately thought to myself  that I didn’t want to read about somebody losing weight, so I dismissed it right of the bat. But somehow the little chubby girl from the cover of the book kept reappearing in my search results. After an umpteenth time I have given in – I read the description on the cover and I have looked up the author. It turned out she blogs about food and her dishes looked quite fetching. I still felt highly sceptical, thinking to myself that I didn’t want to spend any time reading about somebody struggling with weight and telling me what to do to lose weight. But I figured I can always just get the sample and decide later if I wanted to actually keep reading. Needless to say, I’ve devoured the sample and purchased the book. I have just finished the last few chapters on my 50 minute bike warm up before weights!

Andie Mitchell
This is a screenshot of the cover of the book taken from my electronic copy of the book. – Andie’s transformation is more than just skin deep.

Weather you are trying to lose weight or not or you are a foodie or a food blogger or even if you don’t care about all this talk about fitness, food and nutrition – this book is worth your time! It is well written with beautiful simplicity, yet does not make you feel like you are reading an amateur writer. It is simply very accessible without an amateurish air about it. It is an autobiographical account of Andie’s struggle with weight and what she did to develop heathy relationship with food and exercise. What I like the most about this book is that it is NOT preachy. Andie does not prescribe anything to her reader, she understands that we are all different and we all have different goals and what works for one person might not work for somebody else. She is very brutally honest about her own story, she is very open and raw and you never ever get the feeling like she is putting anybody down. If anything she’s hard on herself and her own actions. Reading her words feels like talking to your best friend – she is warm and charming. And I still can’t believe I enjoyed reading her story so very much – mostly because that’s not what I was searching for. I was more interested in something gym related, but boy am I glad I gave this book a try! Even though, I didn’t learn much related to building muscles from this book, I have learned so much more about the feelings of somebody who was so utterly unhappy in her own skin, the struggles she has gone through to come out on top and develop a healthy relationship with food. I don’t regret a single minute spent reading this book! And I could not recommend it more even if I was paid to do it 🙂 (which I wasn’t).

Andie does point out very valuable observations about unhealthy relationship with food and exercise that I think many of us tend to ignore or even not know about:

  • The amount of food that you eat matters most – wether it be “good” or “bad” food you still have to watch out that you don’t overeat. I have heard it way too many times – people discounting the amount of food eaten just because the food appears to be “a health food”. Just because you are eating coconut oil sautéed broccoli doesn’t mean it has no caloric value. Calories are calories, whether they come from a donut or broccoli – you can overeat on both with just as much harm done to your metabolism. Another side of this coin is that you’d have a hard time overeating on broccoli, but you get the gist.
  • Just because your friend is eating seemingly the same food doesn’t mean that you will both have the same end result. She might actually not be eating as much as you and you don’t even realize it.  
  • Your exercise of choice must be something you enjoy otherwise you will quit it sooner or later.
  • Too much and too vigorous of an exercise will make you want to eat back all the burned calories – this is a topic for a whole new post. 
  • Dieters are generally not good at eyeballing the amount of food they are eating – hence should use a scale at least at the beginning to learn portion size.
  • We tend to eat for company rather than because we are hungry. 
  • We know the how to get healthy and fit, but we are still not doing it – and that one just keeps baffling me.

So if you haven’t already I urge you to give this book a try – don’t expect any revelations, though. The only revelation in this book is that it can be done, but a 180 is needed in your attitude to food and your relationship with it. 

 

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