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Gone Vegetarian

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Fact: I spent eight years as a vegetarian.

Fact: Bacon and hamburgers are now two favourite foods.

If you’d like to know more about how this exactly happened, you can read about it here. Even though I love my meat now, I was still pumped for Toronto’s Vegetarian Food Fair. 

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There were a lot of veggies…

…and Simply Bars!

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…and blogger friends!!

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But first, we start at the beginning.

The fair runs all weekend and kicked off early Friday evening with an event I absolutely could not miss.

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Brendan Brazier is the author of The Thrive Diet, the man behind Vega food products and one of the world’s only Ironman triathletes who follows a plant-based diet. I’ve read a couple of his books now. Even though I could never follow his diet exactly, I really love his reasoning behind why he does what he does. He mostly talked about the key ideas in The Thrive Diet. It was neat to hear it come from Brendan himself and a welcome reminder that food is so important to how our bodies function! Here some points to remember I wrote down:

 

  • Many people look to food for energy, but it’s just as important to conserve energy as it is to consume it. Try not to eat foods that require extra energy to digest (ie highly processed foods)
  • We are a generation and nation of people who are both obese and malnourished. Many people overeat because they think they feel hungry. However, oftentimes it’s a chemical in our brain that is signalling that it wants nutrients, not just any old food.
  • 48% of stress is attributed to diet. Yes, our food is causing us stress. Cortisol is a hormone released when we are stressed, causing weight gain and the body to retain fat (adipose tissue).
  • Reducing stress (and eating well) will help you go into the delta phase when sleeping. You will go into a deeper sleep, thus needing fewer hours of sleep as opposed to more hours of lighter sleep. This deep sleep also allows your body to repair more quickly from exercise and training.
  • The increase in osteoporosis is not necessarily linked to a lack of calcium in our diets, but rather losing calcium in our bones. Today’s typical diet is high in acidic foods which take calcium from our skeleton. Dairy being one of the most acidic of foods (go figure). It’s important to get plenty of alkaline foods like green vegetables to counterbalance that.
  • In terms of athletic performance, it is really important to eat foods that reduce inflammation caused by training. Processed foods, such as protein isolates, don’t actually help muscle inflammation. Better quality and whole proteins (he used hemp as an example) are better for muscle repair.
  • Studies have shown that cheese triggers a chemical reaction in the brain when you eat it. So yes, it’s possible to be addicted to cheese ;)

Neat, eh? I’m particularly interested in this now both because I’m doing a nutrition course, but also because I have vegetarian/vegan/raw clients. I want to know how they can get the most out of their diets!

After seeing Brendan speak, I wandered around the fair for a bit. I got my posture checked by the network spinal analysis booth. I would best describe it as a hippie chiropractor without the cracking ;) My sister swears by this method as a means to realign your spine, so I was already interested!

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They took my photo and analyzed it for me. Apparently my left shoulder droops and my hips pop out too much in the front. Verrrry interesting.

I went back to the fair today and met up with Morgan, Miranda and Kristin to see Meghan Telpner’s cooking demonstration.

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Meghan is a Toronto-based nutritionist who I know from her blog Making Love in the Kitchen. Her demo was so fun! Not to mention, we got to try some of the goodies ;)

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Homemade granola (delicious).

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A healthy “cookie.”

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Homemade hummus. I think it had walnuts in it? It was pretty good. Meghan also demonstrated how to make your own nut/seed milk and it was so easy! I want to try it!

More wandering ensued. You know that saying “like a kid in a candy store?”

It should be changed to “like food bloggers at a food fair” ;)

Samples included but were not limited to…

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Hemp seed butter. I was shocked by how much I liked this!

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Kale chips and veggie crackers. Big thumbs up to the ketchup kale chips. Gotta love Canadian health food companies.

Best sample of both Friday and Saturday was Coconut Bliss ice cream.

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Made with coconut milk instead of cow’s cream. I have an aversion to heavy creams and loved the coconut flavour in these!

After much sampling, we decided it was time for a real meal. It was off to the food tent chock full of vegetarian and vegan fare.

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A lot of the food was Mexican, Indian or Chinese, which while meat-free, isn’t necessarily light on the tummy. I instead opted for a Garden Salad Roll. 

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Eaten on the lawn in front of the music stage.

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With a side of overpriced melon.

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Do not be fooled, we were not in a grassy field like the above photos suggest. But on a sprawl of fake green turf in the middle of a city.

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It was somewhere around here where I said goodbye to my bloggie friends and got to work!

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Above photo stolen from Kristin As most of you know, I’m an ambassador for The Simply Bar. I lovelovelove these bars, so I help them out at events and get reimbursed with free bars. Winwin!

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The next three hours consisted of me chopping up millions of little samples to hand out to the eager fair-goers.

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We also sampled the new Simply Protein Oatmeal. I got a bag today and I am pumped to try it!!

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As well as a peanut butter coconut pea protein bar for those who can’t eat soy. It’s good. A lot heartier than the regular soy bar, which is very light and crispy.

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Overall, I had a blast hanging out at the fair and then working at one of the booths. It’s so wonderful to be surrounded by people who are as into food, and healthy food, as I am! Even if they’re…uh…a little more enthusiastic.

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Morgan, Me, Mr. Pea, Miranda and Kristin.

Just don’t tell him I came home from the veggie fair and ate a chicken sandwich ;)

Goodies & Answers

I got some woooonderful feedback on my last post about maintaining healthy lifestyles and dealing with food cravings. I loved reading through the responses on my my new handy-dandy phone while on my break at work today :)

So I know today is Waffle Wednesday and all. But in the spirit of cravings – I just had to give in to mine today!

Molasses custard oats.

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  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 1 egg (stirred in while cooking)
  • cinnamon, pumpkin spice, ground ginger
  • 2 tsp molasses (one in the oats, one drizzled on top)
  • 1 tbsp almond butter
  • 2 tbsp coconut chia granola

I swear there was oatmeal under there!!!

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This was a crazy delicious bowl. One of my best in a while!! I owe it all to Bekah, who sent me a Christmas care package full of food blogger friendly goodies :)

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Thank you SO much Bekah!! Included is the coconut chia granola, maple cumin almonds and two pumpkin cookies. I’ve nibbled on the almonds and omgtheyaregood. Cumin is one of my favourite spices ever.

While on the topic of fun gifts, I also received a boatload of bar samples from the fine folks at Vega!

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All the flavours of the new Vibrancy Bar. I’m really excited to try these. I’ve been eyeing the Vega bars at the grocery store for a while now. Thank you so much Kelly and Sequel Naturals! I have to say, Vega is one company I really like. Even though I’m not a vegan, I love their healthy approach to nutrition for athletes and active people. I’ll be reviewing the bars as I devour them ;)

I’d actually brought a Clif bar as a morning snack to work today. But while in the stock room, my lovely coworkers baked an extra blueberry muffin for me as a morning treat. It was a nice gesture, and to be honest, the muffin sounded fabulous!! Knowing they’re giant and mega calorie dense, I cut it in half and partook in our muffin feast. It was fun and delicious. Nothing beats muffins fresh out of the oven. Being around all those treats at work can sometimes be hard. But I’m learning to turn down the ones I don’t really want, and having little pieces of the ones I know I’ll enjoy. So far, I feel okay about it :)

Cake disguised as muffins isn’t really filling though, I was starving come lunchtime!

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Turkey n’ hummus pita. Probably my favourite pita combo of all time. Chased down with an uber ripe pear.

I had to run a bunch of errands after work, which resulted in me walking in the door ready to eat my arm off again. Dinner needed to be quick. Enter lunch, revised. 

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Smoked tofurkey slices, jarlsberg, mustard, pickles, mushrooms, onions, tomato and spinach on lavish bread. With sweet potato cheetahs.

Followed by a candy cane from Santa for dessert.
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My Starbucks kiosk is directly beside the Santa’s workshop set-up in the mall where the kiddies go to sit on his lap. Today’s Santa was particularly jolly and came over to give us candy canes :)

 

Answers Round 3

Today’s question comes from Lauren, who asked:

The question is what’s been the hardest part of your journey to health so far? What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself?

I’d say the hardest part has been learning not to alienate myself or those around me in my quest to be healthy. Socially, it can be hard to always take the “healthy” route when everyone else around you isn’t. This happens a lot when I’m out at bars, at work, or even at home with my family. Today’s muffin feast is an example of that. I didn’t want to blow off my coworkers by making them think I was too good for them and their treats. But at the same time, I wanted to make a wise food choice. So I compromised, and in the end was happy with my decision.

Additionally, trying to be healthy is a time commitment. Going to the gym, preparing healthy meals, and even yoga, all take time away from what I could be spending with friends and family. I often don’t get to hang out with Chris much in the evenings because I’ve committed to waking up early to workout the next day. Or I want to prepare a whack of healthy food to bring with me to work. I haven’t always succeeded at this, but I’m thankful to have people in my life that are so understanding about it.

In that vein, I have definitely learned that it’s important to be up front and honest about my health goals. I can confidently say that everyone in my life now knows there’s a “New Susan” in town, and life is infinitely more easy with them knowing that. When I go home, my mom makes sure there’s oatmeal and gym access for me. And people don’t push beer on me nearly as much as they used to ;)

Most importantly though, I think I’ve learned that I’ll always be a work in progress. There is no “end date” to this journey, because the quest to being healthy never ends. I am learning more about myself and what I can achieve every single day. I no longer have a “goal” in mind as to what I want to be or look like some day. The best I can do is just that – do my best every day. So far I’ve been really happy with the results from that :)

 

Tomorrow wraps up Q&A week! You can still get any last minute questions in. Just leave a comment or pop me an e-mail at thegreatbalancingact@gmail.com :)

 

Question of the Day: What’s one thing you’ve recently learned about yourself? I’ve learned that I can’t survive without coffee in the morning. I had to go 90 minutes today between waking up and making an Americano when I got to work. It was brutal!!!

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