Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A response to Maria Kang

Maria Kang has come under a lot of scrutiny for a post she made on her Facebook page. Posting a picture of her stunning, ripped body and her three young children with the caption, "What's your excuse?"

Some of her followers found this to be motivating, and I can see why. However, I can also understand the criticism she received even more that called her out for "fat-shaming" (body-shaming, etc). After many flagged her picture as "hate speech" Facebook had it removed.

Good for her to have that body! Honestly. I'm amazed that she has three young children and has such an awesome body. She's like those mythical Victoria Secret models that walk the runway eight weeks after giving birth. It is a little unrealistic, though. Here are the problems I see that Kang fails to acknowledge in her posts that defend her picture against critics:

(Please remember that I, myself, advocate for a healthy lifestyle that includes a balance between exercise and eating well).

My problem is not with her advocating for a healthy lifestyle. I'm a half-marathon runner, yoga enthusiast, participate in strength training, and I eat (mostly) well, yet I don't have abs that show. My problem is that her picture is just as bad as any magazine editorial or advertisement that we use to typically blame the media for creating a society of young girls (and boys!) with eating disorders. The different is that her blatant caption is more direct in creating a message that can easily translate that I should look just like her and that if I don't, I have a problem. Why can't I be happy with my own healthy body?

I don't necessarily agree that her post should have been taken down by Facebook. It promotes a discussion and I think that criticism towards her post would be beneficial to teach her that she is being (or at least portraying herself as) extremely arrogant. Her entire job is to look the way she does, and I get that. But some of the people that see that picture are struggling, single parents, or students that work while going to school full time. Yeah, you can find the time but you may also be sacrificing your mental health for what Kang says is the ideal body type.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Why I'm a vegetarian

I read an article on the Huffington Post this week called, "The 17 Dumbest Things Vegetarians Have to Deal With." As much as I had to laugh I could really relate to it. It also made me think about the personal decision I made to become a vegetarian.

By defining myself as a vegetarian I mean that I do not eat meat. No, not even fish (which, contrary to the popular belief of half of the people I come into contact with, is truly meat). I do eat by-products. This means I'm lacto-ovo (dairy and eggs), eat honey, and wear products like wool and silk (I'm not a fan of real leather or fur, but this has nothing to do with my decisions to be a vegetarian).

I became a vegetarian mainly for health reasons. I used to suffer through extreme nausea and other digestive issues, including blood in vomit. It was especially bad during times of stress and you could find me curled up in the fetal position, in my bed, with a heating pad. Sometimes I was in so much pain I couldn't eat.

I've also been a vegetarian twice. The first time I quit it was because I was a lazy and unhealthy vegetarian. I wasn't getting enough protein and iron in my diet, and it was becoming extremely apparent when I began to get into running. I started eating meat again in under a year of this lifestyle. In August 2012, after months of plaguing stomach issues, I cut meat out of my life for a second time. I haven't turned back since.

After already choosing to become a vegetarian (again) for health reasons I read the book, "Eating Animals" by Jonathan Safran Foer. This changed my outlook on vegetarianism from reasons of health, to reasons of personal morals and values. Now, don't get this confused. This does not mean I am against people eating meat for food. I am against the cruelties of factory farming that effect animals, the environment, and overall societal health. I'm not going to preach but factory farming does have some serious issues. I support local meat and dairy farming as practices are less cruel and more natural.

As a vegetarian I used to be a fan of "fake meat". I go through phases of missing meat and craving it in my diet. Usually this is because I need to up my fat, iron, or protein intake in an alternative form. Either way, I used to eat soy products such as fake taco meat, fake chicken, veggies burgers, etc. I've tried to cut this down. I eat veggie burgers on occasion, and soy only in form of the actual bean (such as edamame). Soy is not for everyone. Personally, I bloat until the point where it is uncomfortable and look like I'm pregnant.

What don't I eat? Beef, pork, chicken, fish, or, in short, meat. I also don't eat soups that have been made in a meat broth, and other such products. I try to stay away from soy. I also try not to drink beverages that are high in caffeine and alcohol, and I try to stay away from sugar. These ones are harder for me to give up than meat was, but they also affect my body in the same way that meat does.

What do I eat? Many things! I love vegetables, fruits, nuts, and beans. I also love cheese and yogurt, but in moderation. I like eggs, too. I try and eat food that is local and in season. I use my Sunday afternoons to bake, cook, and prepare my food for the week. It becomes much easier to eat well and healthy so I can keep up with my running and busy academic life.

I understand that people don't want to be forced into vegetarianism or have it thrown in their faces, and I completely understand. I do not look down on people that meat eat and I eat around my friends and family while they eat meat. It doesn't bother me and I support your diet/lifestyle of choice. Most of all, I understand that being a vegetarian is not the answer for everyone. It just so happened it was the answer for me.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Off balance

Last night I had the worst yoga session of my life. It started off fine as I worked through some sun salutations, stretched my hips in frog pose, and practiced some warrior variations. When I moved into more of my balancing poses my practice went downhill from there. Even as I was practicing my king pigeon I could feel something was... off.

I fell out of my king pigeon. I fell out of my tree pose. I fell out of my dancer's pose. I fell out of my warrior III. It was extremely disheartening, especially when I've been so excited lately for the progress I've made.

I flipped over into savasana and tried to figure out where I went wrong. I realized it was a couple of things:

1) My mind was not focused. Even in savasana my mind was running as I stressed about my lack of balance. A clear mind makes for a better practice. I had had a long day at school, had just finished writing a couple of online quizzes for one of my classes, and was already thinking about what I had to tackle next on my list of assignments.

2) It's called a practice for a reason. I'm going to have bad days, it's inevitable. However, if I can push through I'll find that I have days where my practice will go better than I ever could have hoped. One bad day does not mean that you give up. It means that you take a break, roll up your mat, have a cup of tea, and reflect.

3) Trust your mat. Trust yourself. There's nothing wrong with trying again but don't let yourself get frustrated. Know your limitations, use your instincts. I listened to my body and was careful of my movements, but I also put trust in my faithful mat and knew how much support it would give me in return.

4) Support yourself. There's nothing wrong with holding onto a wall or the arm of your couch. My boyfriend even offered to lend me his arm so I could complete some of my poses. By doing this you are not failing or taking an easier road. I see it as being humble by admitting that you need help.

In short, this is the advice I have: Having a bad practice? Don't get down on yourself. 
You can do it. You are improving. You are a bad-ass yogi and next time those poses will be yours.

Monday, November 4, 2013

This week's eats

It's only the beginning of November and the winter blues have got me feeling down. I'm lethargic, lazy, and have no desire to do much else but binge-watch the entire Bones series. I also have to admit that I could not stop myself from diving into the multiple boxes of Halloween chocolate I had around my house. However, some good things came from my laziness. 

The first is my new found love for baked eggs. So simple! I've seen mini-quiche recipes all around Pinterest and found a few usable ingredients. Baby spinach, goat cheese, and an egg, baked at 350 degrees until I was satisfied with how they looked. Simple, clean, and perfect for feeling lazy.

The next was my extremely simple snack. I mean, this is does not even warrant a recipe. Steamed broccoli and goat cheese. Clearly I'm on a goat cheese kick. I devoured a whole head of broccoli and it made me feel better to get something fairly clean and green into my system while I sat among a scattering of chocolate bar wrappers.

However, when I decided not to be lazy, I did bake this absolutely delicious pumpkin bread (recipe found here). Instead of sour cream I used Greek yogurt, which I prefer to switch in most recipes I find. I also devoured most of two loaves while my boyfriend fell in love with the very simple, whipped cinnamon-sugar butter.

Now I'm trying to stay away from the sugary treats and eat a little cleaner. Hopefully cleaning up my eating will fix my lethargy. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Prep work

I might only have classes three days a week, but I feel so busy all of the time! I try my best to eat right but when you're on the go or wrapped up in assignments I really don't want to cook. That's why I set my Sunday afternoons or nights aside for prepping meals during the week or, at least, for my days at school. 

Being a vegetarian can be difficult because I start eating the same things over and over again, and become more likely to ditch my pre-made lunch and buy something. I usually look to Pinterest to mix it up, trying something new and something relatively simple to make.

This week I prepped some salads. I like to add strawberry or orange, fresh goat cheese, and nuts on the day of so I made the salad base of baby spinach, grape tomatoes, and yellow pepper. 

I also found a recipe on Pinterest (here) for a vegetarian, quinoa chili. I made a pot to share with my family and set aside three containers for my lunch.

I've also been in the fall mood, crazy about produce like apples and squash, so I made some applesauce that I store in small mason jars. It's a crock-pot recipe so it's really simple to make, with few ingredients, and you can leave it for most of the day. Also, found on Pinterest (here).

Monday, October 21, 2013

Completed my first half!

I completed my first half-marathon yesterday Sunday, October 20, 2013. I've been training since June of this year and it was tougher than I ever imagined. Before I started I felt very emotional. It washed over me like a wave, saying, "I can't believe I'm finally here." I ran 21 hard kilometres and today my legs are still aching.

My final time was two hours and 41 minutes. Despite how hard it was I am going to run one again and hopefully finish in under two and half hours. Around kilometre 15 I felt my energy starting to wane. It took everything in me to push to the end and I will admit I had to take couple of walking breaks. Today I'm using a heating pad and my favourite yoga poses to stretch myself out -- I've been limping everywhere I go.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Preparing for the first

Tomorrow I run my first half-marathon.

I've been training since June and I hope the time, the effort, and the cramps will pay off. I'm not looking to create a PR, all I want to do is finish... and preferably not be the last person to cross the finish line.