Sunday, July 27, 2014

Lose It App: Review of Week Three - Down a Bit More!

Before I start, here are the two previous reviews of the Lose It App. Each contain important feedback and thoughts. Just click on the week - Week 1 - Week 2.

I also want to offer this interesting article for consideration - Forget dieting: Speeding up your metabolism is the key to slimness.  I have often said that postmenopausal women struggle with weight in a different way. Calories in, calories out isn't the whole picture. Over 3 weeks, I have only been over my caloric allowance a couple times - most days I am under and sometimes well under - and my weekly total has always been below my allowance.

I have also not missed a day of exercise and in week two and three, my bike ride have always been at least an hour long. A few days I have added in a late day 30 minute walk. Yet the weight loss has not been consistent. I lost 5 pounds the first week, circled up and down around the same weight the second week and then finally dropped another pound the third week. This puts me on track for two pounds a week, but now I need to firmly lose those two pounds each week to meet the date the app set.

However, all milestones are for celebrating. The 5 pounds lost from February to starting Lose it, combined with the 6 I have lost here make for 11 less pounds of fat to carry around.  Pick up 11 one pound blocks of butter next time you're in the grocery store and that will number will be more impressive. So the body may not yet look a lot different, but the changes are actually enormous.

For week four I am looking at the following.

Exercise - 

Bicycling is still my go to each day.  The weather in Vancouver is unpredictable, but this summer it's been unusually beautiful and I have been able to ride along the dike in Richmond every day for three weeks.  It's hard to burn the same number of calories in other activities and as a writer - I love how it gets me out of the house. Not sure what this will be replaced with when the weather changes. Driving to a gym just takes more effort.

Muscle development offers a bit of help in deal with that pesky postmenopausal metabolic slowdown. As a former dancer, the biking has a done a wonderful job of bringing back those long dormant calf and thigh muscles.  My goal for this week is to add a small focus on my core and upper body muscles as well.  Not sure what yet, but it will be simple and do-able. Hopefully I will have it figured it out by tomorrow.

Food - 

While food should be a basic calories in calories out, the picture seems to be a little more complex
for a woman at my age, something I have long suspected. I already offered three eating tips in Week 2 and don't want to repeat myself here. So another I tested over the last three weeks is the impact of eating in the evening.  I would say the cut-off time for consuming food is no later than 8 p.m. This is hard for me as I'm a night owl and it's sometimes a long time between dinner and bedtime, but after experimenting for a few days it does seem to make a difference.

While it is debated, I find myself agreeing with the concept of all calories are not equal. So try to make the bulk of your food consumption from healthier choices.You can have a little junk food or that glass of wine, but be careful to work it in earlier in the day.  The best time would be before you exercise as that kicks up your metabolism. In the evening is when you're winding down internally, so the body just doesn't burn it off as easily.

That's it for week three.  I am very anxious to see how my journey with Lose It progresses in week four. Hopefully part of the slowdown in weight loss is just one of those pesky plateaus and my body will start embracing a new low soon.  Guess I'll have a better idea by next Sunday.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Lose It App: Review of Week Two - A Stasis Week.

If you haven't read the week one review - I would check it out first as it gives my background to this weight loss journey as well as the basics of using the Lose It App. Just click HERE.

As anyone will tell you - weight loss/improving fitness is a frustrating journey.  You start off with a nice drop and then the body sort of rebels.  Week two was that way for me.  My weight went up a little bit and then back down, up and back down, rinse and repeat.  Even though I was under my caloric goals almost every day, even though I exercised every day - the scale ended up where I started at.

In the past this would have thrown me for a loop, but that little ADD quirk of mine is totally taken by the immediacy of goals and instant rewards of this APP. When I get up every morning, start the coffee and then step on the bathroom scale to record my weight. The App then gives me my caloric allowance for the day. It isn't long before I jump on my bike to ride for an hour out in the beautiful summer weather. Why? At the speed I ride I earn an extra 460 calories. That's a big difference in what I can eat and the kind of instant reward that keeps me going.

Turns out there is a side benefit - stress reduction. I am nearing my publisher's deadline to finish my rough draft and the stress can be debilitating some mornings.  An hour outside riding fast as I can with the wind in my face helps.  I feel better and lighter even though the numbers didn't change this week. I have no idea what I will replace this with when the weather changes as it's becoming an addiction.

There are a few things I want to share about this week and about eating in general -

1.  When you eat can make a difference.  You need to eat regularly throughout the day. Think of a fire that is being stoked.  You can't dump all the wood on it and walk away. It will go out. Fuel needs to be added at regular intervals to keep it burning steadily.

2. Exercise after eating can help.  I had a mild case of gestational diabetes two of my three pregnancies that was controlled completely through diet and exercise. Every meal had to be followed by 15 minutes of movement. It didn't have to be strenuous, it could just be a walk around the block, but moving after eating kicked my metabolism into gear to help my body use the nutrients. The same holds truly now.

3.  Be as accurate as possible.  Last week I mentioned being honest about serving sizes.  This week I realized I wasn't recording my exercise accurately.  The biking icon actually has a drop down menu to record the speed you're riding that changes the calories you get as a reward.  I was actually riding faster then I was recording. When I went back through and changed my log - it made a big difference. The walking icon also has this option.

4. Don't know your speed? You can register for a free account at Map My Ride and then mark the route you walk/ride. It will give you the distance in kilometers or miles.  Take the distance, divide by the number of minutes, then multiply by 60. Voila!

5. Don't forget to build some muscle. Muscle burns more calories, so building muscle is a great way to boost your metabolism.

6. My one major disappointment this week was Costco's Kirkland Signature brand fresh entrees and salads. Their bar code does not pull up the calories and serving size which is such an amazing feature of Lose It. Unfortunately this information is also not on the label. Shame!  All you can do is find something comparable in the search and pick the option with the most calories to be safe.

One reminder, Lose It isn't a diet in the regular sense.  It's about keeping track of calories in - calories out.  But there is more to health than numbers. Along the way, better food choices need to become a habit. Most healthier foods have less calories, so help you to maintain that daily goal. But you also want a healthy heart and body on the inside and that involves more than just the number of the scale.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Wild Onion and Pumpkin Seed Pesto with New Potatoes

I love summer recipes, especially ones that are a little forgiving and don't have to be served steaming hot. Let's face it - you are hot already unless your space has air conditioning - so a steaming hot meal is not top of the list at dinner time. Finding potato recipes that work well just warm or around room temperature on a hot day are a real find. Wild Onion and Pumpkin Seed Pesto is going in my keeper's file. It might find it's way onto other veggies instead of just roasted potatoes.

I get a lot of my recipes by perusing the Vancouver Sun newspaper's food section. In the end I usually only like about half of them, but everyone's tastes differ, so that is no surprise. I've never had any just fail, but have occasionally tasted a few that made me go, "HUH?" Of those that I end up liking, my family can veto up to another 50%. It doesn't take long to whittle them down. When everyone at least eats without complaint I am happy.

The recipe below is from author/cook Michele Genest - The Boreal Gourmet - who loves to find unique ways to cook interesting Northern ingredients as well as explore the ingredients and techniques found in other cultures. She has a new cookbook out called The Boreal Feast: A Culinary Journey Through the North. It covers feasts for groups from small to large. I love this excerpt from publisher's write-up:
"Genest takes the reader on a journey to Norway, Finland and Sweden to discover what other northern peoples do with the same wild ingredients that live and grow in the North American boreal forest. Part travelogue, the book includes stories of hunting for cloudberries on the Dempster Highway, throwing a birthday party on the Kaskawulsh Glacier, and harvesting trumpet chanterelles in Nordland. Featuring prized northern ingredients, like morel mushrooms, birch syrup, coho salmon, spruce tips and blueberries, The Boreal Feast is a celebration of boreal food and forest. With creations like Solstice-Cured Lake Trout Gravlad Lax and Birch Syrup Panna Cotta with Rhubarb Compote, northern and southern dwellers alike will be inspired."
Michele Genest -The Boreal GourmetI tried this potato recipe one uber hot day. To keep from heating up the kitchen late afternoon, I threw the windows and doors open first thing in the morning, pre-heated the oven, cut the potatoes, drizzled them with oil, sprinkled them with salt and tossed them in to roast. Then I dumped all ingredients for pesto into my waiting Cuisinart (I had set it out the night before along with the pesto ingredients) and pulsed until done. The one change I did make was I added the feta to the cuisinart at the very end and pulsed briefly until it was combined.
The pesto went into a lidded casserole on the counter. Then when the potatoes were finished, I added them hot from the oven right into the pesto and gently tossed everything combined.  On went the lid and it sat on the counter for the rest of the day. At dinner time I heated them to just barely warm in the microwave, but not not too warm as the day was smoking.  Add in a chilled tossed or fruit salad, something seared on the barbeque and some fresh bread from your local bakery. There you have it - a not too hot summer supper.

Note - in later versions I started using nutritional yeast for guests who were dairy intolerant. Guess what, I liked it better. So I have included this option in the notes below.
= = = = = =
Wild Onion and Pumpkin Seed Pesto with New Potatoes
Makes about ¾ cup (180 mL).
Pesto - 
1 cup (250 mL)       chopped green or wild onions
1 clove                    garlic peeled and cut into small pieces
1/4 cup (60 mL)      pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted
1/4 cup (60 mL)      canola
1 tsp (5 mL) apple   cider vinegar
1 tbsp (15 mL)        hot water (optional)
1/4 cup (60 mL)      crumbled feta cheese (I prefer using 1/4 - 1/2 cup nutritional yeast)
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine onions, garlic and pumpkin seeds in food processor and whiz to a rough paste. Pour oil through the spout as machine is running. Add vinegar and, if necessary, hot water to loosen the pesto. Pour into bowl and stir in crumbled feta. Add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate overnight.
Potatoes -

2 lbs (910 g) small new potatoes
Olive oil
Sea salt to taste

NOTE: I personally used 2-1/4 pounds of the super small new potatoes and could have used more. The pesto had lots of flavour. Next time I will try it with 2-1/2 pounds or even a bit more.
Preheat oven to 375F (190C) and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Wash potatoes, pat dry and cut larger ones in half - very small new potatoes can be left whole. Toss with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt to taste and spread out on baking sheet, skin-side down. Bake until surfaces are slightly browned and insides are soft, about 30 to 35 minutes. Toss with Wild Onion and Pumpkin Seed Pesto and keep warm until you’re ready to serve.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

SWC Bid To Benefit: A Dress For Every Story

By guest writer, Liz Dungate - Art director, Make-up Artist, Photographer

What’s the most meaningful dress you will ever wear?

The grad dress your aunt painstaking sewed by hand in your favourite shade of blue? Wearing your mother’s wedding dress, carefully preserved for years, because it carries with it all the love that made you who you are today? Or maybe that smart little black dress, bold enough to carry you across the stage to be recognized for a special achievement? Each of these dresses is so special, telling a story of celebration, of potential... of a life-changing event.

What if your next special dress meant something to someone else, too?

A short while ago I volunteered to help the Surrey Women’s Centre prepare images for their upcoming Bid to Benefit online auction. A high end dress shop had closed, leaving SWC a huge bequest of dresses perfect for formal, wedding, cocktail, and casual events. Initially unsure what to do, the Centre decided to auction the dresses, so they put the call out for volunteers to help with a photoshoot to document the lot for an online auction.

Coincidentally, I have been working with SWC/SMART for a couple of years now, through my work with Tugboat Group, designing their identity, marketing and communications materials to help them reach women in need, as well as other businesses and organizations who can help or partner with them. I can’t tell you how passionate I am about their work, how highly I think of them, and how lucky I am that my employer is so generous with my time for this client. I feel really good doing this work.

But this time I wanted to help them “on my own dime”, so to speak, so when they appealed for help, I volunteered to do make-up and hairstyling, and photography, to help create images to successfully promote the event.

It was an amazing, fun, chaotic day... from prepping the volunteer models and the flurry of them racing in and out of dresses (over 150 in one day!), to me trying to capture some “moments” in between another volunteer photographer cataloguing three views of every dress for the auction. Not to mention (although I will) another three volunteer make-up artists who responded to my call, a fine group of SWC staff and volunteers bustling about steaming and styling, and finally, our videographer, generously volunteered by Tugboat Group, to create this short heart-warming video (and a helpful social media “toolkit) to help them get the word out:

Each winning bid on a donated dress provides the opportunity to change someone’s life... for the better. 

As little as $25 can provide mobile emergency help to a woman or girl who has been assaulted, by a stranger, or by someone she knows. The 24/7 Surrey Mobile Assault Response Team (SMART) is available throughout the lower mainland, all the way to Boston Bar, providing a wide range of crisis, court and counselling services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse and other forms of family violence. Last year they responded to hundreds of local women. But they could always use a little more help*.

A dress for every story

Some of the women helped by SWC in the past have come forward to share their Stories of Courage, which you can read here (warning, potential triggers). Every new dress sold has the potential to help another woman or girl tell a story of courage and fresh beginnings. 

So, if you - or someone you know - is looking for a dress, please check out the Bid to Benefit Auction, July 18th-28th... 

I guarantee it will be a very meaningful dress.

* You don’t have to bid on a dress to make a difference, there are so many ways to help!

Note -  Behind-the-scenes video captures courtesy Scott Valentine

= = = = = = = = = 

Guest blogger Liz Dungate is an art director by trade and a make-up artist and sometimes photographer by passion. You can see her work on her: website or her Tumblr, or follow her on Instagram.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Lose It App: Review of Week One - Down 5 Lbs.

When I was visiting family in South Dakota this 4th of July, my daughter drove down from Kingston, Ontario to be a part. It was so great to see her.  At six feet tall, she always looks amazing and it's actually very hard to tell if her weight is up or down. This time was different. She was obviously thinner and looked great.

In talking with her there were a few factors in her weight loss. She works on her feet all day and was playing on an Ultimate team - a sport that involves a lot of running. But top of her list was an APP on her phone called Lose It. When I returned to Vancouver, I downloaded it immediately and after a week and found myself extremely impressed.

A bit of history first. I had always been thin regardless of exercise and could eat whatever I wanted.  Then I hit 5 extremely stressful years where I had young children, was running a demanding business from home, just quit eating some days and only ate after 8 p.m. others. Each year my Set Point went up 5 pounds. I kept thinking it would come off.  Not so. When I finally closed the business after 5 years, I was up 25 pounds. Then I went through menopause early. Add in natural age related weight gain (for women this is particularly true) and it got scary. There is a pattern when naturally thin people gain weight - it wraps in a band around their middle. Research shows this is the highest risk way to carry extra fat.

Losing weight has proved difficult. I would work out for up to 6 weeks, watch what I ate and either gain or lose 2 pounds. Hard. I did a lot of research on current theories and realized there were other factors - thyroid, adrenal glands and food sensitivities that cause can cause inflammation (which adds weight), etc. I tried a basic elimination diet and didn't pinpoint anything specific although there seemed to be something. What I needed to do was separate out food/exercise from the equation. Once I achieved this goal, then I could explore other possible health issues. Lose It was perfect.

There is a Lose It version for Android and a Lose It version for iPhones as well as an online version for your home computer. When you set it up on your phone, you have the computer account as well. I returned home from holiday on Sunday, downloaded the app and by Monday was ready to fly.  First you start by entering your sex, age, current weight and goal weight. Then you select how fast you want to lose - 1, 1-1/2 or 2 pounds a week. I threw caution to the wind and selected 2. It gives you a daily caloric allowance to meet that can look a bit scary at first (mine was only 1237) - no problem. Want to eat more or have that glass of wine, there is a solution. It also keeps a weekly record in case you are over one day and under the next. Did your week balance out?

How you keep track of the food is super easy.  For fresh foods you just search their data bank, pick your serving size and click. The item also gets saved in your My Foods tab for future reference. The computer version allows you to input home recipes and it figures out the calories for you. Just be sure you put the right serving size. If your recipe says it serves 8, but you eat 1/3 of it - you need to be honest. Then on the phone version you can scan bar codes. Most modern bar codes will give you the calories and other information. Again, it's very important to be truthful about servings if you want to see results. And you need to record everything - surprisingly even coffee has calories. This is not a diet per se. What foods you chose are up to you. But remember not all calories are created equal, so choosing healthier foods makes this a much easier process. This system is so easy, it takes virtually no time after the first week or so to keep track of everything.

What I found was my normal daily eating really didn't need too much adjusting. Family or restaurant dinners were challenging, but an average day wasn't too far off - IF AND ONLY IF - I started working in some daily exercise. The beauty of this program is it firmly connects exercise to the equation. Click on your form of exercise, enter the number of minutes you participated and it adds those calories back into the daily allowance of what you can consume.  If I want a beer, that's about 1 hour of biking or walking, 30 minutes of circuit training, etc. Want to eat more calories that day, get more exercise. Weight loss can be slow and I am a bit ADD, so this instant reward for working out - more daily calories I could consume - was just the motivation I needed.

My first 7 days are over.  I had days I was over and days I was under, but over the week I stayed pretty much on track with my calorie count and didn't miss a day of exercise. Sometimes I did extra. I have discovered a long lost love of bicycling and with such a beautiful summer, I indulge in it every day. I will be sorry to see winter come. What will I replace this with? No idea, but important to figure out early. I am also down 5 pounds. This is pretty typical of weight loss - a quick drop followed by slower progress and occasional plateaus. For now, I'll embrace this loss as it is and use it to keep me on track for another week. One step at a time.

Lose It can also help you set goals for body fat, hydration, sleep, nutrients, measurements, macronutrient intake, blood pressure, sleep, etc. - but most are not available on the free app.  You can also connect with friends in the community, share foods and more. And they offer short-term challenges to help keep you focused.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Letting Go

by Guest Writer Christa Leigh Meister

“We need to let go of the brick walls that form a prison around our mind.”

This is something I read recently which led me to write this article, as it’s something that seems to be coming up a lot lately in my everyday conversations. People appear to be so afraid of letting go due to fearing the loss of a future they don't even know exists, nor can be seen from where they're standing.

Freedom is defined as the power or right to act, speak or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint, emancipating yourself from burdens opens up possibilities that are better serving to your life. Holding on to the past and regrets prevents us from recognizing and capturing the golden opportunities that present themselves to us everyday. Your past does not predict your future, nor should it control your present moments. When we fail to clear away the chains holding us back from the magic that is meant to unfold, we are keeping true happiness, love and purpose at bay. Identifying the things that are holding you back from letting go will allow you to really see the possibilities that lay before you. You’ll find you will start attracting the right people, opportunities and situations conducive to living a fuller life and personally transforming.

Freedom is about acknowledging our shortcomings, accepting ourselves in spite of them and focusing on that which brings us peace. Don't ever forget that you deserve to be happy, and that comes from loving yourself first. Embrace the unknown and step confidently into that place without fear. Don’t dwell in guilt and make sure to do things that feel good. How we evolve and bloom is about how healthy our insides are…cut out any cancers that are bringing toxic energy into your life: thoughts, people, situations. Don’t tolerate these things; they only breed insecurities.

Remember: always be moving forward - never back. Feed your soul with people and experiences that energize and esteem you and be sure to surround yourself with love, laughter, support and positive energy. Make the time to spend quality time with family and friends, but be sure to also spend time alone. Reflection and meditation are important pieces of the freedom puzzle.

Letting go is about releasing yourself from the metaphorical ties that keep you from moving forward. The only thing never let go of are your dreams, for they are that which helps move us closer to our divine purpose.

= = = = = =
Christa Leigh Meister is an advocate for health, wellness and personal development while continuously pushing herself towards constant evolution. She is an Academic Instructor with Lasalle College International, her freelance projects have included Co Publishing the 2012 CRAVE Vancouver Guide, and re-branding the Langara Holistic Image Consulting Program, she currently has multiple writing projects in development! Christa believes in building solid long-term partnerships that effectively enrich the lives of those involved and the way to her heart is coffee, cookies and clothing!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Hats Off to the Hastings Hattery!

photography and article by guest blogger Helen Siwak

In Vancouver, the revitalization of Hastings Street has been an ongoing and oftentimes arduous process, but with the addition of The Hastings Hattery, past and the present are meeting at a beautiful architectural crossroads. The Flack Block was built in 1898 and underwent an intensive two-year renovation before re-opening in 2008. The interiors of the Hastings Hattery are exposed brick and warm woods and filled to the proverbial brim with head coverings of all shapes, sizes and colours for women and men.

Owner Rachelle Cashato grew up on the East Coast and moved toVancouver in 2005. She believes that fashion should be beautiful, empowering, and ethical. She is passionate about working with many local designers and fellow business owners to bring back the classic retail experience where service is king andthe products are specialty. This new space will be providing full service restoration, custom work, and quality Canadian brands in a neighbourhood built on the backs of Canadian production. With authentic age old hatting equipment and new custom made brands, work benches, hat blocks, and boxes.

The promise of great party on opening night, led me to the decision to upcycle some headgear for myself and Alison, one of our summer interns at Kitsilano Kitty’s Closet. I started with two vintage wool berets (generously donated by the vivacious Vancouver socialite Randi Winter) that matched our respective skintones, a $20 bag of costume and junk jewellery from the local thrift store, my trusty sewing kit and a folding table. An impromptu work station was set-up and with Neko Case singing like an angel in the background, I started breaking down the jewellery.

The emerald green beret for Alison was to be dramatic to match her fashion flair, while my cream one would be much simpler as I have much more of a ‘black on black’ wardrobe. With three pairs of earrings, a long sparkling bling ring, some peacock feathers, a spool of strong thread, the fair-skinned Alison had a Celtic inspired upcycled beret that complemented her outfit of a ribbed Catherine Malandrino cashmere cowl neck dress, taupe sandals and a bright clutch.

Alison and I moved from one carefully crafted display to the next unable to decide which was our favourite! Each tableau was greeted with an ‘OMG’ and a ‘here hold my drink!’ squeal as she tried one after another on. Methinks my intern has a bit of a headwear fixation! Before we found her crowning glory, she even scouted the men’s’ hats for a perfect straw bowler. The Aha Moment came as she lifted a wide brimmed straw hat adorned with black netting and silk flowers off the rest. A $368 creation by Toronto designer Lilliput that made her eyes sparkle with a certain kind of madness!

Prices of the Hastings Hattery local will run your card anywhere between $48 and $1400 depending on what it is you are looking for. Definitely something for everyone whether it is local made, Canadian sourced or brought in from legendary names such as Borsalino and Stetson.

Alongside the stylish staff was a bevy of hat fans, well-wishers, friends and family. The gorgeous new hattery was filled to the rafters with the boisterous jazzy sounds and throaty vocals of East Van’s ‘The Carlo Rossi Gang’. Canapes were aplenty with vegetarian and vegan treats provided by Savoury City Catering and tasty beverages were poured by Marc and Andrew of Liberty Wine / Liberty Distillery Granville Island.

Rachelle’s goal is to encourage clients to add the final touch to a favourite look with a great hat. She firmly believes a hat can add depth to a look and confidence to the wearer and is definitely willing to put her money where her mouth with this ambitious new undertaking. Shop for hats online at or in person at the Hastings Hattery located at 157 West Hastings Street in Vancouver, BC.

“Hats don’t have to be for special occasions only. When people ask me when they would wear a hat, I always say, right now!” Rachelle Cashato

= = = = = = = == 

Guest blogger Helen Siwak is all about food, fashion and furry friends. She is the president and co-founder of eco-friendly local luxury fashion re-seller (offering shoppers classic designers like Armani, Versace, Dior to modern trendsetters such as Jeremy Scott, Kate Spade and Stella McCartney) and a plant-based healthy food advocate with food service. She and her partner Vlassis have three rescue pets, four interns, a fridge full of veggies and a shiny motorcycle. Life is good.