Why you should cancel your gym membership

Disclaimer: I am and always will be pro-exercise – everybody who knows me thinks I’m nuts for getting up at 3AM  to go get my dose of endorphins at the gym. So why would I be advising everybody else to ditch the gym? Read on…

 

With the New Year’s resolution time slowly approaching I thought I should put my word out to warn against rushing to sign up for gym memberships. Here is why I think you should at least hold off on dishing out the membership fees just yet:

  1. Exercise will not make you lose weight
  2. Exercise might make you gain weight 

Those two statements are true mostly because you are likely following one of the two dietary recommendations:

  1. Fitness community dieting prescription of low-fat and low-carb or;
  2. Mainstream government dietary recommendations of low-fat and high-carb.
  3. There is a third option and you are likely scared to death of it so let me try to sway you….

Do you know who perpetuates the idea that in order to lose weight you need to eat less and exercise more? – the pseudo-food companies who fund research that tells us so!

The big food corporations give money to scientists who then manipulate the data in such a way that it fits the expected results. ¹ The media then ends up being the vehicle for transmission of this mantra : “Losing weight is dependent on calories in and calories out – as long as calories out is higher than calories in you will lose weight. So what do people do? They try to exercise the hell out of their bodies and then deprive themselves of nutrition in order to stay thin. We all know how much success one can get on that type of approach : 9 times out of 10 people lose the battle with the bulge because when they exercise as vigorously as they are told to, they  are inadvertently fueling their hunger. They become ravenous, so they end up eating back all the calories they might have burnt during exercise and then some.

How many times have you heard people say “I exercise so that I can have that cake”? I dare say many a time.  And those who don’t subscribe to the idea of “having earned the cake by exercising” and resist the bad foods will eventually cave in as well – no matter how much will power they exert on their bodies eventually they, too, will have to give in. Just look at any bodybuilding competitor who has starved themselves silly to get to a very low bodyfat percentage – once they won the trophy (or not) they will likely inhale all the forbidden high-carb foods (cookies, ice cream, cakes etc) and within days will pack on everything back that they worked so hard to lose. I say this without a drop of judgement on my part – hell I have tons of respect for anybody who can deprive themselves to make their skin look paper thin! What happens next is beyond anybody’s control – when the body is starved for nutrition no amount of will power will keep a person away from food for long.

This happens because the fitness dieting mantra  goes something like this :

To lose weight – in addition to exercise – you should eat low-fat and low-carb.

In principle it makes sense, because if you deprive yourself of both energy sources – fat and carbs – your body will eventually tap into your stored body fat. However, in practice it is highly unsustainable and unhealthy. It’s impossible to maintain this type of regime even for the most committed diehards out there. You will eventually crack and chances are you will devour everything around you in search of nutrition and energy – high carb, high fat and everything in between. That’s why instead of focusing on exercise you should first focus on FOOD as your primary tool in losing the bulge not exercise.

There is, of course, a flipside to this and it’s called the food pyramid that will have you eating 65-75% of

your daily caloric intake in the form of starchy carbohydrates and a very low fat intake of 5%-10%. So you might think this is the better option since carbohydrates, being an energy source, will keep you feeling energized – as opposed to the fitness approach that cuts out both energy sources, fat and carbs. But you would be wrong. For most people eating such a large percentage of daily caloric intake in the form of carbs has an exactly opposite effect to that of losing weight – it makes you put on weight. On top of high carb intake the food pyramid recommends eating 5-6 small meals a day – if every meal is composed primarily of carbohydrates your body is producing insulin all day long to try to manage blood glucose by storing some of it as glycogen in the liver and muscle and any excess as fat on your body. Remember, your liver and muscle can store only a limited amount of glycogen and if you are constantly fueling your body with carbs you are bound to exceed those stores. And since most of us lead a very sedentary life we don’t need that much energy from food stored away. You might be thinking you need energy for that gym visit but trust me, you don’t need any extra than what’s already stored in your muscle. So eating a high-carb and low-fat diet is not the answer for most of us either because it’s counterintuitive to losing weight.

So what’s the solution? Are we all bound to be either miserable for the lack of fuel (low-carb and low-fat) if we follow the fitness industry’s guidelines or fat and sick (high-carbs and low-fat) if we follow the food pyramid? The answer of course is to flip the contents of the food pyramid on its head and get rid of the current, largest section of bread, cereals, potatoes and all starchy vegetables! The largest section would contain meats and fish followed by full fat dairy and oils (coconut, lard, butter, ghee, duck fat, etc), the next level will feature nuts, seeds and fibrous veggies and at the very top you’d have a choice of some berries that are low in sugar.

If you eat LCHF diet you will find that:

  1. You will regulate your hormones – you will end the perpetual cycle of insulin flooding your body every time you eat – this is very important because insulin is the fat-storing hormone. It’s released in your body when carbohydrates are consumed converting glucose from those carbohydrates into liver and muscle glycogen and directing all excess glucose into fat storage. This does not happen when dietary fat is used for energy – no insulin spikes occur.
  2. You will feel full quicker – since fat is the most calorically dense of all 3 macronutrients it satiates better than the other two (carbs and protein). So as a result you will feel content with your meal quicker and for a longer period of time. Moreover, you might even find that upon waking up you will not feel the need to eat. How liberating would that be to wake up and not have to fix yourself a breakfast because you are just not hungry?
  3. You will not experience hunger pangs the same way as when you try to restrict your food intake on a regular high-carb or low-carb-low-fat diet. Your hunger will not manifest itself as this sudden, painful, alarming fire in your belly that needs to be extinguished ASAP or else you might die. It will come on gently and gradually, as if to give you time to fix a meal.

Only now, if you still feel like you want to (and you will) would I recommend that you start some form of exercise. But not necessarily gym-centered – instead start slow. Go out for a walk or a hike that is not very strenuous – as a result you won’t come home starved. You can, of course, eventually sign up for a gym membership, but remember food comes first.

If you continue to subscribe to the mainstream mantra of deprivation (high-carb and low-fat) and excessive exercise you will always lose the battle – it’s inevitable. The insulin perpetually floating around in your system will not let you lose any weight no matter how much you exercise because that’s its principal role in your body – to get rid of the blood glucose – insulin will direct it to the muscle and liver glycogen to be used as energy later, but those can only store a limited amount of it, the rest will be converted into fat and deposited on your belly, thighs and butt. However if, on the other hand, you continue in the vain of low-carb and low-fat – the fitness industry’s quick fix for losing weight – you will sooner or later break and eat everything in sight because one can only starve their bodies for so long until it all goes to hell.

I leave you with this little 15 minute video to really peak your interest in starting with the right tools in the fight against the scale – food and use exercise for other purposes.

 


¹ I encourage you to read about this phoney research in a brilliant book by Nina Teicholz The Big Fat Surprise. (back to top)

Late Christmas Message – Thanks Trish!

It’s first day back to work, it was a slow day, but that’s not the point of this post. I am having a rest day from the gym, but that’s not the point either. So, why don’t I get to the point? Because I’m not sure how to put what I’m trying to convey for it to feel genuine and I really want this to come out the right way. You see, I’m a bit of a Scrooge when it comes to Christmas, just a bit. I admit. Christmas has become too commercialized and it hasn’t always been a happy time for me, but today even though I have not been visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future I have received an unexpected message from a fellow yogi that has made my day and brightened my outlook on the holiday season a bit. It was a simple Christmas card (Randy really appreciated the animal holiday gathering BTW), a business card and a lovely anklet.

IMG_20150105_162808~2 IMG_20150105_163721  

It arrived in the mail on January 5th due to an extra digit in my address, but somehow it got here. It was so unexpected! The effort put into making a piece of jewellery and a long hand written message (so very rare these days) makes me want to make some New Year’s Resolutions even though I initially was not going to make any!

So, here it comes:

1. Be a better person! – So generic, I know, but I often times feel somewhat misjudged because I come across standoffish (as Randy would say) until you get to know me better. So, to facilitate it I will smile more for no apparent reason, I will be more outgoing, so that people know me for me and not for my appearance and I will be less crooked in the mornings 🙂 

2. Snack less! – Since this is a food-fitness blog, I can’t not make a New Year’s Resolution that doesn’t involve food. Yes, I do have my food vices. They come in the healthy variety (sometimes not so much when paired with wine), but nonetheless they sometimes come when I’m not actually hungry and that’s a no-no in my books. So this year I will eliminate snacking when not hungry and eat when I’m hungry only. 

And BTW you should go and check out my friend Trish’s jewellery site! She has some gorgeous looking pieces for sale! 

Namaste. 

 

Something New like Octopus or 2015

I have been neglecting the savoury aspect of my cooking way too much. You’d think that all I cook is sweets and treats but it is not so. The bulk of my cooking is, in fact, savoury cooking, but most times it happens so quickly in the late afternoons when usually the lighting isn’t so great, so pictures rarely happen and no content is available. But when I do have something unusual to cook I make sure that I snap a picture for later blogging.

How on earth did I get my hands on an Octopus? It is true that I am a creature of habit. Take, for example, this week long holiday vacation. I no longer know what day of the week it is. I switched up my bags to go to the gym (don’t need the huge bag when I don’t need to shower and change clothes after my workout) and forgot to transfer half the things I needed in my smaller bag. I like routine, I like predictable, I like a schedule. That’s just me. I guess it makes me feel secure. When things change unexpectedly I get confused and worried. Now, I’m realizing that New does not always have to be this way. New can mean positive and good. We tend to assume that if it’s something we have not tried before it must be bad tasting and awful. You often see people twist their faces in disgust before trying some unknown foods. They assume that since they have never tasted it before it must be awful. It’s especially true when travelling to distant countries where it’s most likely that you might encounter new foods. But these days we can pretty much experience any food here at home, no need to hop on a plane. And when those foods get discounted at the grocery store is when I grab them and with no regrets put my culinary powers to action. That’s how I got my hands on these beauties.

Since my motto as of late has been “I’ll try any food at least once in my life” here is my latest new food adventure: Lemon and Sriracha Octopus.
wpid-LemonSrirachaOctopus-2015-01-1-08-38.jpg

This was my first time with the Octopus in the kitchen and I have to say not the last one 🙂

For this one I did a simple quick marinade of salt, pepper, smoked paprika, lemon juice, sriracha, splash and grated lemon peel and seared it in a drizzle of coconut oil until lightly caramelized. The ideal treatment of this sea creature would have been to leave it marinating for at least a couple of hours, but time was of the essence, as it is every supper-time, so I had to do with minimal marinating time.

How was it? To me it was perfectly unexpected, which translates to: I will make it again and I will perfect my technique. This will, I think, become my New Year’s Resolution. There is no other option, unless, of course, it’s a total inedible flop. Then my motto will turn into: “I tried it, didn’t like it, let’s not waste anymore precious time on it”. And with that thought I invite you to try something new every once in a while, you might be pleasantly surprised.

Happy New Year!

Hazelnut Cheesecake – Christmas Indulgence Dilemma Part 2

So here we are. It’s Christmas Day and it’s slightly different this year because I haven’t been thinking of Christmas gorging from November onwards. Don’t get me wrong, I like a treat. In fact, I have a very big sweet tooth, and salty tooth too 😉 But I also realize that it won’t do me any good if I constantly “treat myself”. This would, in the end, lead to feelings of guilt and regret since I spend so much time at the gym. And I don’t want to sabotage my workouts by hiding the hard earned muscles under an unnecessary layer of fat. Because, yes, all excess food will turn into fat. Regardless of what it is that we eat, if we eat more than our bodies need to function properly it will be deposited as excess fat.

Now it is Christmas so I have made a special treat to enjoy. I have seen various pictures of enticing cheesecakes floating around so I decided to pull my resources together to come up with my own recipe. As everything that I cook, bake and turn into edible meals, this one is no exception in that it’s not made with traditional ingredients for a cheesecake. But don’t be too quick to dismiss it as “a healthy version” therefore “a no good version” or “a tasteless version”! This cheesecake could easily stand up against the hardest critic of cheesecakes, it’s that yummy!

Hazelnut Cheesecake
wpid-slice2-2014-12-25-16-57.jpg

Recipe By: Angelika Thomas
Serving Size: 16
Yield: 16 slices

Ingredients:

Cheese mass:

400 g Fat free cream cheese
900 g Fat Free Greek Yogurt
100 g Casein Protein Powder ( I use this one)
6 Egg Whites
48 g PB2 Chocolate (the best tasting powdered peanut butter)
10 drops Liquid Stevia
1 tsp. Hazelnut Extract
50 g Hazelnut Butter
20 g Chunks of Baker’s dark chocolate

Crust:

3 cups Almond Flour
4 tbsp. Peanut Butter
8 tbsp. Unsweetened Coconut milk

Directions:

1. Crust: Combine the almond flour with peanut butter, coconut milk and any extracts you want to add. Simply put all the ingredients in a bowl and start kneading with your hands until all combined

  1. into a dough. Put in a round cake form and press down with your fingers to cover the entire surface of the form. Set aside.

wpid-Crust-2014-12-25-16-571.jpg

2. Cheesecake: In a large food processor combine all the cheesecake ingredients: cream cheese, Greek Yogurt, Casein Protein Powder, PB2, stevia, extract. Adjust any ingredient to your liking. Once combined transfer half of the batter into the cake form. Spread evenly with a spoon so that the batter covers the entire surface of the crust. Next sprinkle half of the chocolate chunks on this first layer of cheese mass. Spread some of the hazelnut butter on this layer of the cheese mass. I did it by dropping pea sized drops of the butter onto this layer. Pour the rest of the cheese mass on top and again make sure it covers evenly the entire surface. Take a small plastic baggie, cut a small whole in one of the corners of the bag and fill it with the remainder of the hazelnut butter. Make a pattern on top of your cheesecake by squeezing out the hazelnut butter through the whole you created (you can let your imagination run wild). Sprinkle the rest of your chocolate chunks on top.
wpid-readyfortheoven-2014-12-25-16-571.jpg

  1. 3. Put the cheesecake in a preheated oven for 35-45 minutes depending on your oven. I set mine to 385F. Enjoy!

wpid-cheesecake-2014-12-25-16-571.jpg

Macros per slice out of 16:
Calories: 242 Fat:15.99g Carbs:8.59g Dietary Fiber: 3.63g Sugars: 2.29g Protein: 13.11g

Christmas indulgence dilemma part 1

Every year around of end of October early November most people start thinking and planning for Christmas.  Our minds start being preoccupied with gifts for loved ones, with decorations and cleaning of houses and of course with food. For any Polish person Christmas means abundance of food that begins on Christmas Eve when we have our most important supper of the holiday season. Traditionally, this supper is supposed to comprise of 12 different dishes (representing the twelve Apostles), including various meats, carp in jelly, bigos, borscht, uszka (ravioli) and of course various sweets like popyseed cake following the supper. The feast of 12 dishes is never consumed in full on this single day. You get a sampling of most things and the rest usually lasts well into New Year’s Eve. A little bit like North American Turkeys from Thanksgivings or Christmas that are being transformed into various other dishes like soups and sandwich meats etc.  

I have never maintained this tradition myself. Mostly because it would have taken me well into my birthday to consume the amount of food that is prepared in polish households. In a way, though, when I prep my food on the weekends it sort of feels like when my mother used to prep food for Christmas. Only I don’t prep traditional Christmas dishes, I just cook my veggies 🙂

So what’s this dilemma I’m referring to? Well, for me the dilemma has to do with wanting to indulge and have foods that I don’t usually have any other time of year. You’d think that this is quite normal and harmless, but until this year it’s been the most dangerous time of year food-wise for me and I imagine it’s the case for many people. That’s why all the gyms in town have so much uptake with all the New Year’s Resolutioners who are all resolved to lose the Christmas inches from their waists come January. So, in November I used to start thinking how nice it was going to be to have some of *fill in the blank badness* during the holidays since I’ve been so good up until now. For example, I have a weakness for liquor filled chocolates. You name it, I like it : kahlua chocolates, bailey’s chocolates, fancy bottle shaped chocolates and the list goes on. There is supposedly nothing wrong with wanting to indulge over the holidays. The problem is when the holidays (or occasions to celebrate) seem to pop up too often or I start thinking about my choice of vice too early. Let me explain.

These days holidays such as Christmas have a different start date than back in my childhood. Today you start feeling “the pressure” of the holidays pretty much the first week of November. How so? Well,  grocery stores change their decorations from Halloween to Christmas theme, they start paying Christmas carols wherever you go (even at the gym), Christmas decorations start popping up everywhere, tea shops start selling traditional christmas flavour tea (pumpkin pie, eggnog, gingerbread) etc. etc. Simply put you feel the spirit way too early. So I give in and get a treat or two. I especially like Winners this time of ear for all Christmas related items (I like Winners, period. But they seem to have very unusual Christmas treats, things you can’t get at Dominion or Sobeys).  Once my treat of choice ends up at home, it starts taunting me, calling my name and generally speaking won’t let me sleep at night. So, as you might have guessed, most times the treats don’t really make it to Christmas and I have to go out again and again to replenish the Christmas stash of treats. And there is also the excuse of having a child, because there must be Christmas cheer for the child. But does it have to be in form of sugar? Probably yes. I, did too, as a child enjoy a special chocolate bar, an orange (yes, oranges were typically associated with Christmas and not easily available outside of holiday season), and other forms of sweets, but Christmas for me only came once a year and Santa came on December 24th and not a day earlier. Today, Christmas is no longer special, because how can you say it’s special if whenever you have a hankering for something you just go and get it, Christmas or no Christmas? So, all this to say that this year is different for me.

I can’t hide from all the hype and commercialization of this season, but I can say NO to early stocking up with goodies. And I have! After all, it’s a week before Christmas and I have not stocked up on anything! I will buy my regular food that I always buy, I might convince Randy for a special mystery item on our grocery list this weekend (it might be quail! Definitely not a turkey). And when it comes to treats, I might make it to Winners for something, but from experience I know that there will be at least 1 bottle of wine gifted, so voilà my treat. As for the rest, I opt this year to make my own treats. I know they are not loaded with all forms of sugar and fat and I’ll feel good about having them.

So today I’d like to share with you 2 of such treats that I absolutely love. My Coffee Hazelnut Crepes and Coffee Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Bar. 

 

[yumprint-recipe id=’12’] 

[yumprint-recipe id=’14’]