Bye-bye burpees, hello (just a little) sugar and a pretty package from Arbonne

January is my least favorite month of the year. Short days, too much rain and the financial aftermath of the holidays always make me long for February.

This year there are two extra reasons to be happy that January is finally over; no more burpees (at least for a little while) and the end of the no sugar challenge!

Although both challenges went well, I’m looking forward to a little slice of something sweet come dessert night (always Friday and Sunday in my house). And my group fitness classes are certainly looking forward to more variety in their plyometrics training! (I’ve promised them that the entire month of February will be burpee-less and I’m certain they will hold me to my word!).

I’ve been taking my new GNC vitamins religiously and although it’s probably too soon to tell, I do feel like they’re giving me more energy. In fact, after Monday morning’s Step and Weights class, several of my participants wanted to know if I’d had an extra shot of coffee that morning (I believe the exact words were ‘did you take something before class?’). I’ll write a review post once I’ve finished my month’s supply.

And all my Tweeting about vitamins and energy did not go unnoticed by my friend Lyndsy, who happens to be a sales consultant for Arbonne. She asked me if I’d be interested in trying some of their supplements. Now you will pardon my ignorance, but I had NO IDEA that Arbonne sold health products. I always associated them with skin care and makeup (I probably need some help in that department too, but I digress). Of course, I said YES, and just look at what Lyndsy dropped off in the weight room for me (thanks so much Lyndsy!);

Protein powder, fibre supplements, energy fizz tablets, vitamin packs, tea and kids chewable vitamins. I’m planning to try the chocolate protein after my morning workout (it’s legs day, today), but will hold off on the vitamins and energy tablets until my current vitamin experiment is finished (otherwise, I won’t know which product is responsible for what; science experiments 101). In the mean time, I’ve given my 7-year old one of the kid’s vita-chews to try. Here’s his review!

P.S. Still haunted by that age old question, cardio before or after weights? Check out my take on it over at Bite Size Wellness!

Did you take your vitamins today?

What do you love about February?

Disclaimer: GNC vitamins were purchased by me. Arbonne samples were a gift. All comments and opinions are my own (and those of my son!).

WIP Wednesday; lots of irons in the fire

Ever have one of those days (or weeks or months, who am I kidding?), where things just seem to pile up no matter how much time you spend trying to clear the decks? Where every task you complete is met by two or three more that needed to be finished yesterday? Where you never get to feel a sense of accomplishment because there’s so darned much left to accomplish?

Today, I’m taking time to breathe and celebrate my works in progress (or WIP’s, as we knitters like to call them). Please click on the box below to hear me ramble for a few minutes (about 5). For those of you short on time, the highlights are listed below!

Happy WIP Wednesday!

  • I’ve started a new daily vitamin regime, GNC’s Ultra Mega Active Vitapak for Women (Canadian website here), to help boost my immune system and give my mid-winter energy a boost (I’ll let you know how it’s working in a few weeks).
  • I’m reading a great book, Working Out Sucks (which is a bit of a mis-leading title), written by Chuck Runyon, CEO and Founder of Anytime Fitness. Book review coming soon.
  • My quest for the unassisted pull up is progressing well; 10, 8 and 8 on my last attempt.
  • I’ve stalled a bit on my burpees challenge, due to a ‘twingy’ rear deltoid. I’m up to 33 (only 7 more days to go, thank goodness), and although I haven’t been doing them everyday, I keep adding one for every day that passes so I’ll be finishing off with 40 on January 31st.
  • The 30 Day No Sugar challenge is still going well. The first two weeks were ‘better’ than the last, but only because I decided that I wanted wine and dessert at a weekend dinner party (and then again, the following night out with family for dinner). Not really craving it the way I used to, so all in all, it’s been a good thing
  • I’m about a third of the way done knitting a sweater for myself; it’s knit top-down, so I can customize the fit as I go. The pattern is Irish Coffee and I’m knitting it in a luscious pink merino. Yum!
  • I’ve been busy writing fitness content for a couple other websites.
  • A few secret projects have been taking up any time I have left (I’ll tell you just as soon as I can).
  • And this Friday is yet ANOTHER Pro-D Day!

P.S. Did you see my pull up band picture on Shape’s website? Check out all the trainers and their favorite pieces of exercise equipment!

When you’re super busy with work, family and life, how do you de-stress?

High fiber, no sugar, no gluten cereal that tastes great! Holy Crap Cereal!

Once again, I’m participating in a no sugar challenge. That’s no ‘added’ sugar, by the way. The natural sugars found in fruit, vegetables, dairy and grains are fine. Otherwise, what would I eat?

Since this challenge is a 30 day one, I thought I’d spend a little time in the grocery store reading product labels and perhaps finding some new ‘no sugar’ items to add to my diet. Variety will be key to staying on track.

I love eating cereal at breakfast time. While I love me some oats, granola is a favourite, but even the organic, low sugar varieties contain honey or molasses or cane juice or Stevia; none of which are permitted on this challenge.

Imagine my delight when I stumbled upon this little gem;

gluten free cereal

Holy Crap! (Yes! That’s actually it’s name. My children are delighting in be allowed to repeat these two words ad nauseum; “But it’s not swearing mom, it’s the name of your cereal”)

Organic. No sugar or preservatives. Vegan and gluten free. And locally made, to boot! Ingredients include chia seeds (oh yeah, I’m on the chia bandwagon now too), hemp hearts, buck wheat, dried apples, raisins and cranberries and cinnamon. What’s not to love? You’ve got your heart-healthy fats, lots of dietary fibre and more protein per serving than most other cereals out there.

The package says you can sprinkle it on cereal, mix it in milk, stir it into yogurt and cook it with oats. I’ve added it to overnight oats

recipes for Holy Crap cereal

and green monster protein shakes. Yummy, filling and healthy feeling.

Serving size is small; just 2 tablespoons. While it’s tempting to eat more, let the cereal’s name be a warning. Holy Crap! (The first morning I tried it I made a few more than normal trips to the bathroom).

For those of you watching your carb intake, they also make a fruit-free version called Skinny B. I found it at my local IGA. Apparently Thrifty Foods carries it as well. And you can always buy it online here

What’s you favourite breakfast cereal?

Disclaimer: I received no compensation for this review. All opinions expressed here are my own. NB. Since publishing this post, I have become an Affiliate Marketer for Holy Crap Cereal. When you purchase this product through links on my site, I receive compensation. For my information, please see my Privacy and Disclosure Policy.

Time for a change and a January challenges update

You may have noticed a few recent changes to my blog.

Rest assured the content will remain the same. I just needed to switch things up a bit. Time for a change. Kind of like changing the paint color in your office or the wallpaper on your computer screen. A little change does a body good!

I was tired of the blue stability ball banner (a friend was too, and told me so!) and thought I would personalize it with some photos of my own. Photos that reflect the main themes of my blog; fitness, healthy eating and knitting! If you look carefully, you’ll see that the tagline has changed too. Blogs, like people, evolve over time.

[Really, I should make YOU guys find the changes, just to see if you've been paying attention (like those 'spot the differences' pictures my kids so love!).]

Source

There are also a couple of buttons in the right hand margin, representing other websites that I’m now affiliated with. I’ll be writing regularly for Bite Size Wellness and Skinny Ms. and thought I’d make it easy for you to find me there! I’m also an ambassador for FitFluential Inc.; their website is a veritable portal to who’s who in the fitness blogosphere.

But, the more things change, the more they stay the same. (Pretty amazing segue, don’t you think?).

I’ve been diligently sticking with my January challenges.

Today was 19-burpees-day. While I’m finding them less difficult to do, because I’ve chosen the pushup variation, I can’t seem to do more than about 15 in a row. My chest muscles get tired before my legs.

For the last few days, I’ve been splitting them into two sets, giving myself some rest or another exercise to do between sets. My group fitness classes have been helping me out ;) Not sure that they’re as excited about the challenge as I am. Today, I told them ‘we’d’ be at 40 by the end of the month.

The 30-Day No Sugar Challenge has also been going well. Although I must admit to having a moment of weakness, late on Tuesday afternoon. I was out all day and didn’t pack enough food in my cooler (always a big mistake). When I got home I was ravenous and the Cub Scout caramel corn was calling my name (I only bought it because my daughter had to sell a minimum number of bags to get her Popcorn badge and win a $10 Walmart gift card). I stopped myself at a handful (and rationalized it by telling myself’ it had nuts in it and nuts are healthy’). Of course I felt poorly later on. And I’m telling you here to make sure it doesn’t happen again! One of the best things about public challenges is how accountable they make you feel!

While my pullups experiment isn’t part of an organized challenges, it is one of the goals I’m chasing this winter. I’ve been making good progress, increasing the total number of reps each time I include them in a workout. In fact, I was feeling so confident, that I changed the way I attached the band to the bar to make it more difficult.

You’ll notice that there’s less of the band looped over the bar, meaning that it hangs lower and gives me less of an upwards push. Clearly, I wasn’t ready for this progression. I barely managed 5 on my first set and stalled out at 3 and 2 on the 2nd and 3rd sets. I’m thinking that I’ll go back to the ‘easier’ version until I’m able to complete 3 sets of 12 good form reps before I revisit this progression!

You never know if you don’t try!

How are you January challenges (or goals or resolutions) coming along?

Which one are you finding it difficult to stick to?

Drop me a line if you’d like some friendly encouragement!

Challenges for January; say ‘no’ to sugar and ‘yes’ to burpees!

Last month I blogged about being ‘all challenged out’.

Unable to keep myself from saying YES to every challenge that I read about on Facebook and Ravelry, I enthusiastically over-committed and failed miserably. I didn’t manage to knit 11 shawls in 2011. Stalled out on plank a day after only a week. A month without chocolate? More like a couple of days!

But alas, I cannot stay away. I love a good challenge. Even better when there’s a whole on-line community motivating, encouraging and supporting each another to stick it out. To not give up.

This month, I’m restraining my enthusiasm and joining two challenges (just two!). One nutrition and one fitness. Both will be a great kick start to 2012, my fittest year yet!

  • The No Sugar Challenge; eliminate all added sugars from my diet for the month of January. I’ve done this one before, but only in two week increments. I’m not gonna lie; a whole month is going to be really tough. Good thing the Christmas baking is nearly gone and there are no family birthdays in January!

  • The 30 Day Burpees Challenge; increase the number of burpees you can do (ideally in a row) by adding one more each day. I’ll be starting with 10 of the pushup variety (check out the link above for descriptions and a video demonstrating the various burpee options available) and aiming to be able to do 40 in a row by the end of the month.

From www.yourinnerskinny.ca

You can follow my progress here and on Facebook. I’ll be posting my daily burpee numbers and times as well as any new no sugar recipes that you simply must try.

Will you join me? No to sugar? Yes to burpees?

High fructose corn syrup, obesity and metabolic disease: the 55% solution

Today is the first day of the latest installment of the  No Sugar Challenge, hosted my Skinny Ms. and the Gracious Pantry. Once again, I’ll be joining in, aiming to kick the old sugar habit that snuck up on me over the holidays. (Sound familiar? You should join in and be sure to follow along on Facebook for  motivation and accountability).

Today’s blog post is timely and relevant and important to all of us seeking to understand the relationships between sugar intake, obesity and metabolic syndrome (diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease to name just a few of the representative afflictions).

No trans fats, but high fructose corn syrup is at the top of the ingredient list

Sugar, in general, and high fructose corn syrup, in particular has recently come under fire in the media. While I’ve been working hard to get through and understand the latest scientific research, the cross-disciplinary nature of the work (as well as all the jargon!) has made my head spin. My hubby, good egg that he is, offered to summarize the research for me and even went as far as to write this post! Enjoy (and thanks, sweetie)!

(The following article was written by Bernard Crespi, Professor of Evolutionary Biology, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada. For more information about his research program, please visit his university website.)

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Everyone loves a good mystery – unless we are the victim.

Our modern world harbors billions of victims, of obesity, adult-onset diabetes, high blood pressure, and resulting heart disease.  The crime? Slow, early death.

Who, then, is the criminal?  There is a host of usual suspects – most of them either personal (sloth, gluttony) or corporate (greed, envy, pride). But few solid clues.

Let us zero in, and deduce.

The ‘epidemic’ of obesity and metabolic disease is now about thirty or forty years old, and has been getting worse.   Over that time, the USDA – who keeps general track of what Americans eat – reports that total calorie intake has very slowly increased, as have the proportions of food from fats, flour and sugar.  But whether these increases in calorie count and composition can solve our mystery is unclear – bodies are normally reasonably good at keeping body weight within a narrow zone, and links of food intake alone with metabolic diseases remain weak. So the evidence for this obvious culprit remains circumstantial.

We need another clue.

What else has changed in the past 30-40 years? Until the 1970s, most all of our sugar intake came from sucrose – table sugar – which is made up of one glucose molecule stuck onto a molecule of fructose.  Then clever chemists found a way to convert corn starches into a new compound – high-fructose corn syrup, comprised of 55% fructose, 42% glucose, and 3% other forms of sugar.  Since then, high-fructose corn syrup has been steadily replacing sucrose in our diets, and creeping into myriad formerly-unsweetened foods, such as salad dressing, low-fat yogurt and barbeque sauce.
Sounds innocent, you say?  One sugar (50% fructose and 50% glucose) just being superseded by another slightly-different one (55% fructose and 42% glucose)?

But a sugar by another name does not metabolize so sweet.

Glucose is the body and brain’s usual main fuel, for everyday activities like moving and thinking.  It is trafficked into all our cells by insulin, using an elegant physiological system with built-in feedbacks to keep levels of blood and brain glucose just about right.  This glucose-insulin system dovetails with our system for ‘feeling full’ – satiation – nicely avoiding the twin perils of slow starvation and runaway caloric excess.

Fructose does none of these things.  It does not stimulate the insulin system to take sugars out of the blood.  It does not serve as fuel for the brain, or the pancreas. It is preferentially converted by the liver into fats.  It raises your blood pressure. Eating it does not make you feel full, as other foods do – instead, it may make you want to eat more.   How can a simple sugar be so bad?  By itself, in small amounts relative to other foods, and balanced with glucose, it is not.  But up the amount and proportion, and your metabolism enters an altered state.  Guilty, guilty, guilty? Not quite yet.

Our final clue comes from experiments in the lab, where rodents and monkeys fed diets relatively high in fructose develop obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure – just the suite of inter-related ills that have been increasing in humans since high-fructose corn syrup came along.  Is the increase in amount and percent fructose in our diet over the past 30-40 years master-minding the obesity and disease epidemic? Shadows of doubt will remain, until new studies provide additional clues. Until this mystery is solved, no one’s metabolism is safe.

Do you try to watch your sugar intake?

How many products do you have in your pantry that contain HFCS?

My newest challenge? To accept no new challenges

If you know me at all, you know that I love a challenge! Having a fairly competitive nature (just ask my younger sisters), I thrive on tackling difficult tasks. Tasks that others might find impossible? Bring ‘em on! Don’t think I can do it? Watch me! I love to push myself more, further, faster, higher.

This past year I’ve been involved in many, many challenges. Some knitting, some fitness, some nutrition, some professional. Most have been on-line (it’s so much harder to resist a Facebook challenge than one issued face to face) where the support and encouragement of the other participants makes it easier to get to the end.

Some I’ve successfully completed.

The 2 Week No Sugar Challenge (liked it so much I did it three times; two successfully, the last time, not so much)

Source

Eleven shawls in 2011 (I’ve finished 10 and I’m pretty sure number 11 will be done by January 1st)

Some were just okay attempts. Maybe I didn’t finish, but I learned something along the way.

30 Days without Chocolate? Maybe I managed 5 in a row. (Thank goodness that one’s over on Thursday!).

One hundred pushups? After a valiant attempt, I got stuck at week 4, day 3 (my total number of full, on toe pushups was 120 over 5 sets; I was impressed, but my shoulder said ‘no more’).

Some were epic fails. Why I even agreed to them I cannot say. Bravado? Lack of planning?  Sheer folly?

Tour de Sock. What was I thinking? I mean, 6 pairs of hand knit socks in 60 days? (My all-time record was 1 pair in 12 days and this was on holiday). On a positive note, the entry fee of $7.50 went to a good cause, Doctors without Borders, and I did get 6 new sock patterns (that I’ll probably never knit up…).

Looking back, I realize that although these types of challenges are fun and help to keep you on track with your goals, sometimes life gets in the way and makes it impossible to finish them.

Sometimes life is challenge enough.

(If you haven’t been reading this blog for very long, read this post and this post and this post to get an idea of the particular challenges I’ve encountered over the past year; no worse than yours I’m sure, just unique to me!).

Come January 1st, I’m resolving to just say ‘no’ to any online challenges that find themselves staring at me when I check in with my Facebook (follow me at fitknitchick) and Twitter (@fitknitchick_1) friends. Not because I’m done with challenges. Not at all. Just because I need to focus my attention on new endeavors (see how I’m not even calling them challenges?).

Stay tuned for some exciting news…

Do you participate in online challenges?

Which one/ones were your favorites?

No sugar, no chocolate, no cancer!

Yesterday, after a long and difficult wait, my husband got the final pathology report from his surgeon; no cancer!

With this milestone behind us, it now feels ‘safe’ to write about the experience (a bit superstitious, no?) and it’s surprising effects on my fitness and nutrition.

A quick recap, since I haven’t really blogged about what’s been going on.

In early August, hubby was admitted to the hospital, diagnosed with severe anemia and received several blood transfusions. Tests were ordered to determine from where the blood was being lost. Both endoscopy and colonoscopy (‘top’ and ‘bottom’ of the digestive tract, respectively) were normal but a CT scan revealed a suspicious looking mass somewhere in the small bowel.

A subsequent biopsy was inconclusive and we were told that the tumor had to come out regardless of what it was. The surgery would be ‘exploratory’ with possible outcomes including ‘gastrointestinal stromal carcinoma’, some other lesser known bowel cancers and ‘duodenal polyp’ (go ahead, Google them; I did). The pancreas may or may not be affected and the bowel may need to be re-sectioned. Estimated time in hospital, eight to 10 days, with another six to eight weeks recovery at home.

Despite the urgent sound of the potential diagnosis, surgery was not scheduled until the 7th of October (and we live in Canada, home of excellent access to medical care…).

We did our best to fill the rest of the summer with holidays and fun activities with the children, but the possibility that life might change dramatically for our family was never far from our thoughts.

With the help of friends and family (thank you all!), I did what I, and all moms, do best; take care of everybody, everybody else that is. All through the countdown to the surgery date, the operation itself and the seven-day hospital stay. Concerned with staying positive for my husband and children and trying to maintain some semblance of normalcy, I failed to take care of myself.

I missed my workouts, even though a quick visit to the gym (or even better, the yoga studio) would have certainly made me feel more energetic. I gave in to convenience foods, serving frozen pizza and takeout for dinner when I was too rushed to cook. I soothed my worries with baked goods, chocolate and wine.

I love my Miss Me's

I fell off my health and fitness wagon (tight jeans don’t lie; by the way, that’s not me in the picture, it’s the model at on the Miss Me site).

Now that things are back to normal (or what passes for normal in my house), I need to get back on track. Be more mindful of what I put in my mouth. Be more diligent about my workout schedule (last week was awesome!). My timing couldn’t be more perfect.

Tiffany and Gale have a new round of their ‘2 week no added sugar challenge’ starting today, November 1st. Coincidentally, Kirri announced a ’30 days without chocolate challenge’ that starts today as well.

I’m in and I’m in! Both are exactly what I need to jumpstart my nutrition salvage. What better way to get over Halloween and start preparing for the upcoming holiday season.  I figure that the first two weeks will be a cinch; since chocolate has sugar in it, I won’t even be tempted (ha!). Double dipping, as it were, without the nut butter and chocolate chip calories.

Unsure whether it’s for you? Check out this and this and this post about my last round of ‘no sugar’ and I bet you’ll change your mind! Feel free to leave your comments below!

Are you up for a challenge or two? 

‘Like’ fitknitchick on Facebook for moral support and to join the discussion.

The end of the No Sugar Challenge; lessons learned

Yesterday marked the end of week four of the No Sugar Challenge. It wasn’t nearly as difficult to get through as I had initially thought it would be. Really. There were occasions when it would have been nice to indulge (a retirement party luncheon, a birthday party, coffee with friends), but it didn’t kill me not to and the urge for something sweet passed quickly each time.

Now that the Challenge is over, will I continue my (almost) sugar-free ways? Perhaps and maybe and most of the time.

I will continue to be vigilant in the grocery store, reading labels and looking for no-sugar alternatives, particularly in the cereal and pre-packaged food aisles. One of the most important things the Challenge has taught me is how frequently some form of sugar or other (see Fit. Fabulous. Forever. for a list of the most common ones; scroll down, it’s there) appears on the ingredient list of prepared foods. Mom was right; home cooked is best!

I plan to keep experimenting with cleaner, less sweet snack options for myself and my family. I have been amazed at the number of websites devoted to clean eating and have downloaded dozens of delicious sounding (and looking!; the photography on many of these sites is mouth watering) recipes.

Dessert will still be served on Friday and Sunday nights (we eat dinner at 5 sharp if you’re planning on stopping by!). As the children’s palates are slower to evolve than mine, I won’t abandon their favourites completely (I make a killer, full sugar brownie!), but will pay closer attention to portion control and make less in general so as not to have leftovers tempting us the day after. Don’t even think of asking for seconds.

The chocolate syrup in my coffee? Totally unnecessary. My taste buds are completely used to a skinny latte; my ‘non-fat, no-whip, half-sweet mocha’ days are gone for good (although I’ve been ordering my coffee that way for so long I now have to stop and think for a moment before telling the barista what I’d like!).

An apple and some nuts do a way better job of getting me through the after-school-before-dinner low energy doldrums than a cookie or a muffin. An added bonus has been the realization that I don’t need another cup of coffee to get through the afternoon when I’m eating healthier snacks.

Several times during the Challenge I gave in to temptation (we had three family birthdays in just 10 days and birthday cake was eaten on each occasion; I have been told that even Tosca eats cake on her birthday!). After having been sugar-free for three or four days at a time, I had the chance to observe it’s full effects. Not pretty.

Sugar changes my mood. At first, it makes me feel good. Happy and full of energy. Encouraging me to have a little more (“just one more cookie”, “how about a scoop of ice cream with those berries?”, “but dark chocolate is good for you”). Sugar wants company. More. And more. And more again.

Within an hour of consuming it, my hands get shaky, my brain moves at warp speed and I have a hard time focusing on mental tasks. The coming down feels almost like a hang over. Draggy, lethargic, sad. I’m short tempered and irritable. Sugar is a feel-good drug, but unlike other white, crystalline, mood-altering substances, it’s legal.

Making the mental connection between the tempting treat and it’s after-effects before indulging is a powerful way to change old habits. Just another example of how being mindful can help us make good choices when it comes to fuelling our bodies.

Good night and sweet dreams!