Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Fall Reflection

Fall is in full swing.  It's actually my favourite season, along with Spring.  I love the colours of Fall, and that it's more comfortable outside than it was during the heat waves of Summer.  I also love knowing that hibernation time is near: cuddling under blankets with the one I love, and watching a movie, while it looks crisp and beautiful from our windows.  In the Winter, we watch the snow fall and cover our lovely street, which becomes a picture from a Christmas card.

Fall and Winter, I feel, are also times for self-reflection and improvement.  These seasons give you the quiet time at home needed to make changes, or get around to doing things you didn't have time to do all Summer, or take little courses, and try new things around the city.

This Fall and Winter, I'll hopefully get a chance to travel.  I'll be taking a sewing class in January and February.  I hope to finally get around to making my recipe book of the recipes I've collected and loved over the years.  I'd like to do some reorganizing of our house, and paint our bedroom.  I'd like to spend plenty of time with friends.  I'd like to take a little photography course, but that may not happen just yet.  I want to get to my healthiest and fittest ever, finally resolving my hormone imbalance.

Finally, I'd also like to figure out what my true passion is, and figure out a way to have that as my career.  I don't feel all that fulfilled in my career, but the idea of switching careers at this point is kind of daunting.  I've worked my way up to a decent salary over the past 5 years, and it would be very hard to start from the bottom again.  I kind of think my passion involves all this health stuff.  I would love to open a health food store in my area with organic produce - something that is lacking around here, and would do well.  I would love to get really good at baking, and have a bakery for paleo treats.  I would love to be a naturopathic doctor.  Those ideas aren't all that feasible.  A major career change is just not in the cards right now.

So I feel stuck.  And I'm looking forward to Fall and Winter, once things really quiet down, to do some soul searching, and figure out what I really want to be when I grow up.

Do you ever feel this way?  Have you made a daring career switch from something unfulfilling to something that gives you joy?  Please share your story :)

Monday, 24 October 2011

Recipe: Italian Sausage, Peppers, and Onions

It's Monday, and nothing wraps up a Monday like a delicious dinner.  Tonight's dinner was so good, I'm still wishing there was more!  We're still enjoying the meat sampler we got a week ago from Brooker's Meats.  One cut is somehow better than the next!  Tonight we cooked some hot Italian sausage - it was so flavourful and had some really nice heat without being overbearing.  They did an excellent job on the sausages.

I found this recipe on All Recipes, and it was just perfect exactly as I found it - except I did scale it down for 2 people.  I've put the ingredients for 6 people at the end.  I've never had a recipe come out so great!  Jer roasted some broccoli in the oven to complete the meal (broccoli tossed with olive oil and plenty of minced garlic, along with fresh black pepper, and a roasted red pepper and garlic seasoning).  Dinner was simple to make, and was ready within 45 minutes.  And it was the best thing I've eaten in ages!  Enjoy!  This recipe is a keeper :) 

Prep time: 10 - 15 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes

  • 2 links Italian sausage 
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter (we used coconut butter) 
  • 1/4 yellow onion, sliced 
  • 1/4 red onion, sliced 
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon white wine

  1. Place sausage in a large skillet over medium heat, and brown on all sides (you don't need to cook fully).  Remove from skillet, and slice.
  2. Melt butter in the skillet.  Stir in the yellow onion, red onion, and garlic, and cook 2 to 3 minutes.  Mix in red bell pepper.  Season with basil, and oregano.  Stir in white wine.  Continue to cook and stir until peppers and onions are tender.
  3. Return sausage slices to skillet with the vegetables.  Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 15 minutes, or until sausage is cooked.

 For 6 Servings:
  • 6 links Italian sausage
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup white wine

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    Friday, 21 October 2011

    Have an Ethical Halloween!

    Hello readers!  I hope you have had a wonderful week!  My week has actually been pretty stellar, but I'm glad it's the weekend now.  I have kind of a busy weekend ahead, with a Halloween costume that needs altering, an appointment, a friend coming over to plan our upcoming trip to Costa Rica (eeeee!!!!), some major cleaning, a new washing machine arriving, and some cooking for the week.  I'm really looking forward to a "nothing" weekend, when I can just sit around at home, do what I've gottta do, drink some wine and watch some movies.  Soon, please.

    Speaking of Halloween, by the way, it recently came to my attention that there are two sides to trick or treating.  We only see all the adorable ghosts, witches, princesses, and superheroes.  But half a world away are the other children of Halloween: the child labourers.  I recently came across an article on the Good webpage about Halloween chocolates most of us give out to  the trick or treaters.  Kristen Howerton writes:
    "I’m the mother of four children, age two to six. That means I’ve spent six Halloweens supervising my kids as they canvas our neighborhood, snapping up chocolates from our neighbors. I only discovered last year that my kids were collecting the products of child laborers, some of whom have been trafficked for the chocolate trade.
    Every October, American kids like mine are treated to a wide array of chocolates—Snickers, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Butterfingers—because hundreds of thousands of children in West Africa are enslaved harvesting cocoa beans. These children are performing this work for the benefit of most of the mainstream chocolate providers in the United States. A report from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture on cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast and other African countries estimated there were 284,000 children working on cocoa farms in hazardous conditions. Many of them have been taken from their families and sold as servants. U.S. chocolate manufacturers have claimed they are not responsible for the conditions on cocoa plantations, since they don't own them. This group includes Hershey, Mars, Nestle, and the U.S. division of Cadbury. Collectively, they are responsible for pretty much every snack-size candy bar available in stores this Halloween.
    The connection between major candy bar manufacturers and child slavery is one of the world’s best-kept secrets. I consider myself proactive about educating myself about social justice issues, and yet I only found out last year by way of a documentary produced by the BBC.  I was shocked to learn that the International Labor Rights Fund has sued the U.S. government for failing to enforce laws prohibiting the import of products made with child labor. And I was even more surprised to hear that the chocolate industry has blown by numerous deadlines set by Congress to begin regulating itself. A few major chocolate companies have mounted some smoke-and-mirror campaigns over the past year, either offering obscure fair-trade chocolate bars in addition to their slave-made materials or making a big show of donating to charities that support farmers. This does not change the fact that they refuse to be accountable for human rights abuses of children in their supply chains.  
    What concerns me even more is that we, as consumers, are not demanding that this be stopped. Some continue to buy chocolate even after learning about these human rights abuses. I’ve heard excuses from people in my own life, and they echo the rationalizations I’ve made myself in the past: "We can’t afford fair-trade." "We’re addicted to chocolate." "We can’t change everything." Secretly, we just don’t relate because these are kids in a far-off country instead of our own. It’s ok as long as we don’t have to see it happening right in front of us. We’ll take the candy bar.
    I’m here to ruin it for you. Now you know. We can’t look away. Our family has limited its chocolate purchases to free-trade, but Halloween poses a unique challenge. Kids are bombarded with big-brand marketing on Halloween, and may be looking forward to some of the candy bars that we know to be unethical. Fair-trade chocolate is not always presented in a way that appeals to young kids, but there are options out there packaged in kid-friendly, seasonal wrapping. Candy that doesn't contain chocolate is always an option, too.
    This Halloween, my family is breaking up with commercial chocolate and buying fair-trade. I hope you will, too.
    Now read about where to find ethical Halloween candy that doesn't suck."
    Pretty sad, though nothing surprises me when it comes to big companies like that.

    Now, our street is BIG on Halloween - we get about 750 kids.  There is apparently some kind of director that lives a few doors down from us, and he goes all out with decorating his house and yard with elaborate displays.  Many of the neighbours have followed in kind, so our street is quite a spectacle on Halloween night.  Last year we gave out 300 pieces of candy and were done by around 7:30pm.  The trick or treaters were still coming by until 9:00pm.

    Because of the volume of kids we get, we will have to find a more economical option than fair trade chocolate, like candy instead.  Also, we aren't in total control of our Halloween candy, as we don't own our house; our landlord buys a big box of those mini chocolate bars for us to give out.  I'm not exactly sure what to do about that.

    Anyway, just something for everyone to ponder this year when picking up Halloween candy.  It sure has made me think twice about our options.

    Have a fantastic weekend!


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    Tuesday, 18 October 2011

    Convenience Food

    With all this healthier eating and preparing all food at home, we are going through a lot of produce lately, and with the end of bicycling season (as far as I'm concerned), we have a hard time getting all the organic produce we like.  I/we spent all summer biking all over town buying produce, and hitting all the farmers markets, as the grocery store near our house doesn't carry much.  Pretty surprising, considering it's a Metro, considering the area, and the size of the store.  As the summer was ending, I wasn't too sure what we would do.  I heard of these organic produce delivery services a long time ago, and started to think about perhaps joining once Fall came.  A couple weeks ago we decided we should just do it.

    I did my research, and checked out a few websites of different companies.  In the end, I went with Mama Earth Organics.  I found their online ordering system to be the easiest, and most flexible.  The premise behind most produce delivery services, is that you can select a size of bin (usually small, couple, larger family) which contains pre-selected fruits and vegetables for a fixed price.  You are permitted to make substitutions for items you don't want.  That bin will be delivered to you weekly, or bi-weekly, or once a month, if you choose.  It's a great idea!  On your doorstep when you get home will be your bin of fresh, local, organic produce.  Instead of the pre-selected bins, I chose to simply select everything I wanted from their entire list of produce and create my own bin.  You can choose how many of an item you would like - 4 apples, 2 onions, etc.  Other items like carrots and apples also come in 2 or 3 lb bags.  They also have dairy items, coffees and teas, oils, spreads and syrups, breads, snacks, and much more.  

    We have been getting this service for 3 weeks now and it's just fantastic!  It saves us so much time running all over the place to buy produce.  The produce is excellent!  Most of it is local in Ontario, and some is from BC or Mexico (in the case of avocados).  We are able to have an entire weeks' produce brought to our home for the same prices at the grocery store.  We couldn't be happier with this service.

    I've also been searching for a while for an "affordable" source of good quality, healthy meat.  I use the word "affordable" very loosely, because organic meat is insanely expensive.  We bought 2 organic bone-in chicken breasts once from The Healthy Butcher for $23.00!  We had been buying a 4 pack of frozen chicken breasts from Rowe Farms for $15.99, so The Healthy Butcher's prices were pretty painful.  The problem with Rowe Farms though, is that their feed is not organic, so the animals there are getting GM corn and soy.  This is the answer I received from Rowe Farms with respect to the feed:
    "The GMO issue is a real concern for us as well.  The problem we face is that with cross pollination and cross contamination the most confident determination of GMO content is a DNA profile.  An expensive test that is very rarely performed.  Today, we cannot make any claims regarding GMO free food for our animals.  As a policy, we try to minimize the exposure our animals have to highly GM crops, such as corn and soya.  This issue is on our radar and we are working on a solution.  I wish I had better news to share with you.

    I would recommend products such as our lamb and 100% grass fed beef as great alternatives if you are trying to avoid animals that have been fed GM feeds.  The Tamworth pork that we sell in our stores (you could speak with one of our store managers for details) is another item where we are working with feed companies to produce a proprietary blend of forage and thus minimizing GMO exposure such as corn."
    Also, the chickens aren't really living a true free-range life in a pasture, picking at grass and insects, and eating grains only if they so choose (though their lives are certainly miles better than grocery store factory farmed chicken).  According to the Rowe Farms website:
    "Our chicken and turkeys are free-run in well-protected barns in order to keep them safe (which means they do not live in cramped cages).  Although our chickens live indoors, we provide them with advanced lighting, which replicates the natural cycles of an outdoor environment.  A temperature and air quality system ensures they are raised in a stress-free environment."
    At least the meat from Rowe Farms is antibiotic and hormone free, which is a huge priority for me.  I think that Rowe Farms has done something fantastic for consumers: making healthier meat financially possible for lots of people.  The price point for that 4-pack of chicken breasts I mentioned is hugely competitive with the grocery store. 

    So, the goal has been to find "affordable" meat, preferably grass-fed beef and pastured chicken, that isn't necessarily organic, but naturally raised.  Raised with no antibiotics or hormones, on land not sprayed with pesticides and chemicals, and raised with no GMO grains.

    I've checked out several options.  Beretta Farms has excellent meat, including grass-fed beef in the Fall and Winter.  But they too are insanely expensive.  I have been working with my gym to find a local farm to order meat from (Jeremy thinks it's hilarious that I can get meat at the gym).  I've also been doing my own research.

    I have finally found a source of meat that meets all my criteria:  Brooker's Natural Meats.  This evening they delivered a $200 sampler pack to us, and we have now filled our freezer with some really excellent looking, good quality meat.

    Brooker's is located in Schomberg, Ontario, not too far from Toronto, and they deliver to various areas on different days - Toronto is every Tuesday.  I get the impression that Brooker's deals with several local area farms and distributes their meat (based on this, from their website: "Our meats are selected from only premium local Ontario farms").  I find their prices are excellent, and the sampler we bought is just a great deal, allowing us to try a huge variety of their meats!  Their cows are 100% grass-fed, and the chickens are pastured, where they eat alfalfa and insects, having access to a grain feeder with non-GMO grain, only if they choose to eat it.

    To my dear friend Jordan, who loves piglets, and whose heart is understandably breaking over this ChooseVeg campaign:

    this is what I found on Brooker's website:
    "We are proud that the focus of our stringent protocols is on the well-being of animals and the sustainability of independent local Ontario farms.  Not only is it the humane alternative to confinement and cages, it is our belief the result of this care produces pork that is unequalled in taste."
    I am seeking further information from the pig farmer directly regarding the treatment of the pigs and piglets, and I will post an update in the Comments section at the end of this post.  That said, I completely support her in her journey to rediscover a vegetarian lifestyle, if she so chooses.  For those of you who don't know, the pork that you get in the grocery store is the result of a pretty terrible life.  Pigs are treated like absolute garbage.  This is from the Canadian Coalition for Farm Animals:
    "Sow stalls are metal barred cages about 2 feet wide by 7 feet long. Female breeding pigs (called “sows”) are confined to these tiny stalls for their entire life. The stalls are so small the sow cannot turn around. Instead, her movement is limited to one step forward or one step back. She must eat, sleep, urinate and defecate in this tiny space. The waste falls through slatted concrete floors to a pool of raw sewage underneath her.

    Over 1,440,000 sows are raised in Canada – the vast majority in stalls. Almost 320,000 sows are kept in Manitoba, which has Canada’s fastest growing hog industry. The problem is getting worse. Canada’s hog industry continues to expand and most new sow barns are equipped with sow stalls.

    The 1997 Report of the European Union’s Scientific Veterinary Committee, The Welfare of Intensively Kept Pigs, pulled no punches in its condemnation of sow stalls. It stated that sow stalls presented “serious welfare problems” and “Sows prefer not to be confined in a small space.” Furthermore, the report added that “(the committee) find(s) the confinement offensive.”

    Just before the sow is due to give birth, she is moved to another restraining device – the farrowing crate – where she gives birth and nurses her young through metal bars. After anywhere from 10 to 21 days of nursing, her piglets are removed and the process is repeated all over again, pregnancy after pregnancy.

    An alternative to sow stalls is group housing. Group housing, where groups of pregnant sows can roam around barns with suitable bedding material, such as straw, is a good alternative. The agriculture industry argues that keeping pigs together results in problems, such as fighting and aggression, and mother pigs crushing their piglets, but these problems only result when animals are overcrowded. With proper management and animal care, group housing is easily possible. This type of housing is being used successfully by hog producers in Canada and elsewhere around the world.

    Typically, a sow has about 2.2 pregnancies a year, producing 19 to 22 pigs annually. A sow has an average of only three litters before her productivity wanes and she is sent to slaughter at an age of 24 to 30 months. Sows that are no longer productive are termed “cull sows.” Due to prolonged confinement, lack of exercise and the fact that pigs have been bred for large size, culls sows often experience lameness, foot injuries, weakened bones and painful abrasions. When sent to slaughter, pigs that have difficulty walking or navigating the transport ramps are too often roughly handled and outright abused. Electric prods, despite being discouraged by animal welfare scientists, are over-used, causing pigs to go down (“downers” are animals that are unable to stand or walk)."
    Another great thing about getting meat from local farms is that they would not have to be transported for tremendous distances to be slaughtered.  See this page, again from the Canadian Coalition for Farm Animals.

    Please also see this page from CCFR regarding battery cages for egg-laying hens. 

    Anyway, the meat from Brooker's Natural Meats arrived in soft cooler bags, frozen in packages, ready to go in the freezer.  We were blown away by the amazing quality, and sheer amount of meat.  Included in the order were several different cuts of giant, expensive steaks and huge chicken breasts, real quality sausages (chicken and pork), chicken burgers, top sirloin burgers, stewing beef, ground beef, pork chops, and bacon and beef hot dogs with no added nitrates (I upgraded each of these at a cost of $1.00, from the ones that did have nitrates).  There's enough variety in our freezer to keep us eating happily for weeks.  I totally didn't think it would fit in the freezer well, but it did, with room to spare.  I can't believe how excited I am about this meat!

    Our lives have really become much easier with these two delivery services.  We barely have to step foot in a grocery store anymore, and we're getting excellent quality organic produce and healthy, natural meat at a phenomenal price, brought right to our doorstep.

    Convenience food doesn't have to look like this:

    It can look like this instead:

    and this:

    Yup, I'm pretty happy with our choices! :D  If you are interested in these services and have any questions, please feel free to ask.


    Sunday, 16 October 2011

    Eating Paleo

    Hello friends!  I hope you are well!  I'm sorry for the less frequent posts lately.  I am going to the gym after work a few times a week, and a lot of my time lately is also spent preparing food.  As I briefly touched on recently, I have joined CrossFit, and have adopted a paleo diet lifestyle for the past few weeks.  For those who aren't familiar with either of those things, I'll explain them both for you.  This post will deal with paleo.

    Eating "paleo" refers to the diet of our Paleolithic ancestors who lived around 2.5 million years ago up until 10,000 years ago, with the development of agriculture.  Their diet would have consisted of only things they could hunt and gather.  The diet is also referred to as the caveman diet, or hunter-gatherer diet.  I would like to think it's not so much a diet as it is a lifestyle.  The paleolithic diet consists mainly of grass-fed pasture raised meats, fish, vegetables, fruit, nuts, and seeds, and excludes grains, legumes, dairy products, salt, refined sugar, and processed oils.

    The premise behind this lifestyle involves the fact that modern humans are genetically adapted to the diet of their Paleolithic ancestors and that human genetics have barely changed since the dawn of agriculture, and therefore that an ideal diet for human health and well-being is one that resembles this ancestral diet.  The agricultural revolution lead to a dramatic change in human nutrition.  Cereal grains, legumes, dairy, vegetable oils, salt, alcohol, and refined sugars make up a huge portion of our Standard American Diet (how SAD).  These foods contain harmful substances associated to many "diseases of civilization", such as diabetes, celiac disease and other autoimmune diseases, obesity, hypertension, certain cancers, acne, poly cystic ovarian syndrome, myopia, dyslipidemia, cardiovascular disease, etc.

    The human body is a fairly complicated machine.  I recently read The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf, which fully explains the many biochemical processes in our bodies in relation to the food we eat.  I really encourage anyone to read this book - you will understand your body the way you really should.  Our body processes different kinds of foods in different ways.  The fact is, our bodies do not process grains, dairy, and legumes well.  We weren't built to process them.

    Grains contain a protein that does us no good: gluten.  Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, oats, and barley.  I found an article by Rudy Silva (the "Natural Remedies that Work" guy), called Grains That Cause Illness, and I'm just going to quote this:
    "As gluten moves into the intestine, it is digested and broken down into small protein molecules - peptides (which consist of 2-3 amino acids bound together) and free amino acids. Amino acids are the basic building blocks the make up protein. Once digestion is complete, peptides and free amino acids easily move into the intestinal wall cell structure and then into your blood stream. This is what happens in a healthy person.

    Over many years of eating gluten, the intestinal cell structure deteriorates. Digested protein no longer passes through the cells walls but passes between cells and into the blood. These holes in the intestinal walls is what is know as "leaky gut syndrome" 

    Because of the existence of these tiny holes in the intestinal wall, harmful substances can pass into the blood and settle into your organs and cells causing irritations and damage. Your intestinal wall is no longer a barrier keeping out unwanted substances from your blood and body.

    Undigested foods can now enter your body creating food allergies. Toxins from various foods - dyes, preservatives, food additives, artificial flavors - can now enter you blood stream. Pathogens such as bacteria, worms, fungus and viruses can also enter your body and invade your organs. When this happens, you will slowly come down with a variety of symptoms and illnesses that you cannot attribute to anything specific.  Absorption of undigested proteins is a major threat to the health of your organs and to your immune system.

    It is estimated that up to 40% of all people have some intestinal damage from eating gluten and are passing undigested proteins into their blood stream.

    There are some of you that do not have the enzymes to digest gluten. Those of you have what is called "gluten sensitivity." Those of you that have the enzymes to digest gluten are not as prone to celiac disease and have less damage to your intestinal wall."
    Lectin is a protein found in grains and legumes, dairy, and plants in the nightshade family.  Lectins are problematic because they are sticky molecules that can bind to the linings of human tissue, especially intestinal cells.   In so doing, they disable cells in the GI tract, keeping them from repairing and rebuilding. Therefore, lectins can contribute to eroding your intestinal barrier (leaky gut).

    Because the lectins also circulate throughout the bloodstream they can bind to any tissue in the body ­— thyroid, pancreas, collagen in joints, etc. This binding can disrupt the function of that tissue and cause white blood cells to attack the lectin-bound tissue, destroying it. This is an autoimmune response.  The lectins in wheat for example, are specifically known to be involved in rheumatoid arthritis.

    The behind the scenes of eating carbohydrates and sugars is quite interesting.  I will include information directly from here, as I think Jason Seib tells the story really well.
    "Be forewarned, I’m going to get a little scientific, but I promise I will do my best to make it all make sense in the end.
    Today I’m going to attempt to help you understand the basic biochemistry involved in fat storage and loss.  I said attempt because I am a geek and this stuff gets pretty geeky, and I said basic because nearly everything I type from here forward will be a huge oversimplification of the amazing biochemical symphony taking place in these processes.
    Let’s pretend you have not heard of Everyday Paleo yet.  You are still “doing” diets instead of eating like a human.  Your head is still full of myth and fable grounded in anything but actual science.  Your typical day might have looked like this:
    Oatmeal for breakfast.
    Fat Free/Sugar Free Coffee-like Substance at your mid morning slump.
    Subway sandwich for lunch because you want to be like Jared.
    Bagel, granola, or other such processed carbs (or maybe another sugar-laden caffeinated beverage) to fight the afternoon slump.
    Pasta or rice at dinner.
    Something crunchy or sweet between 8 and 10 pm.
    Carbohydrate is converted to glucose (blood sugar), so each one of these meals causes a nice bolus of glucose to enter your blood stream very quickly.  Your body closely regulates glucose to keep it within a safe range – not too high and not too low.  After you consume easily digestible carbohydrates like the ones on your daily menu above, your pancreas must secrete insulin to mitigate the resulting elevated glucose.  Insulin’s job is primarily to feed the glucose in your blood stream to hungry cells and then send the leftovers to the liver to be turned into triglycerides for storage in your fat cells.  Are you still with me?  Take a deep breath.  Maybe do a few squats.  Okay, let’s keep moving.  We need to dig deeper.
    The story so far:  carbs are eaten and broken down to glucose, insulin sends glucose to your cells to be used as energy or to the liver for a quick composition change so it can be stored as fat.
    Moving on.  Since your Standard American Diet (SAD) is nowhere near natural because of all those processed carbs, glucose and insulin remain high throughout your day.  This can eventually lead to insulin resistance in those cells that use glucose as energy.  Insulin resistance is when insulin is ever present and its “I come bearing food” signal to the cells is reduced to a whisper and then finally ignored.  This means your pancreas must produce more insulin to get the same job done, and this in turn means that insulin is ever present in greater quantities.  If you have managed to make sense of all this so far, you can see that you are amassing more and more insulin in your blood stream.  I’m about to explain why this is a problem, but you might want to do a few more squats first.
    Hyperinsulinemia, this state of elevated insulin you have created by this point, is bad.  Very bad.  Robb Wolf once suggested that you can Google hyperinsulinemia and any noninfectious disease that comes to mind and you will at least find strong correlations in more links than you would ever take the time to read.  When insulin hangs around too often, it also means you store a lot of fat and have trouble using fat as energy.  This is because insulin is your body’s primary storage hormone.  Here’s how it works (take another deep breath):
    High levels of glucose in the blood stream are toxic, just ask a type 1 diabetic.  As I said above, your body devotes a lot of energy to keeping glucose within a fairly tight range.  This means glucose is used for energy before fatty acids because it can’t be allowed to hang out and cause problems.  You can only store a small amount of glucose (as glycogen), but a nearly unlimited amount of fat can be stored, much to the dismay of your buns and thighs.  This is why the liver converts the extra glucose to triglycerides and ships it off to be stored in the fat cells.
    Okay, we have finally come to the point of this whole sermon.  At the fat cell, an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase (LPL) acts as the doorman, ushering fatty acids into the fat cells.  Inside the fat cell, another enzyme, hormone sensitive lipase (HSL), has the job of cleaving the first sulfide bond on the triglycerides and releasing fatty acids to be used as energy.  So LPL is working when you are storing fat and HSL is working when you are “burning” fat.  Here’s the rub – both of these enzymes are sensitive to the presence of insulin.  When insulin  is present, LPL is on duty and you are storing fat.  When insulin is gone, HSL is on duty and you are using your stored fat as energy.  If you understand the story so far, this process makes perfect sense.  Since we know that glucose can’t be allowed to hang out and it must be used first, we also know that there is no reason to access stored fat in the presence of glucose and, therefore, insulin.  When insulin is in the blood stream, the message is clear – you have glucose to take care of before you use your stored fat.  Now it’s easy to see why hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance are a problem.  They keep you in fat storage mode, without the ability to access your stored fat for energy, for plenty of time to make you plump and squishy.
    Please don’t misunderstand, I am not trying to paint carbohydrates and insulin as villains.  They are a normal and natural part of human nutrition and biochemistry.  What is not normal is our mass consumption of processed carbohydrates, both in unnatural forms and in never ending supply regardless of season.  A solid paleo diet, along with proper exercise, will make you healthier and leaner by giving you back insulin sensitivity and helping you re-adapt to using your stored fat as energy so your fat cells can go back to being the batteries they are suppose to be instead of the warehouses they have become."
    Soooooo, yeah.  This is why North Americans are so damn fat!  Our diets are laden with processed carbage and sugar galore, causing our bodies to use sugar for energy in an attempt to get rid of it, and store the rest as fat, as opposed to actually using stored fat for energy, which is actually the ideal and best energy source we have.  Humans were designed not to be fat, yet so many are.  They are not eating the optimal way to allow them to burn their fat and stay lean.  After reading the Paleo Solution, where I initially learned about this, there was no way I could keep eating the SAD way.  I decided that paleo was for me, and so I just started eating that way.  It's been 3 weeks now, and I feel really great.  It has enhanced my working out and allowed me to lose body fat, replacing it with lean muscle.  I'm on my way to being the fittest I've ever been.

    I have always been on one "diet" after another.  I've even turned to anorexia habits to lose weight in the past.  With paleo, you can actually eat all the food you want, as long as your plate basically looks like this:

     It's actually a very simple way to eat.  My typical day now looks like this:
    • Breakfast: 2 eggs, sauteed rapini and onion - all cooked in coconut oil
    • Snack: fruit or veggies, olives
    • Lunch: 3 pieces turkey deli meat, a pile of greens (arugula, spinach), 1/2 avocado, a whole tomato cut up
    • Snack: hard boiled egg, veggies, olives
    • Dinner: meat, veggies

    I'm still working my way into this -- and I'm actually not getting quite enough protein.  For the type of exercise I'm doing at CrossFit, I should be aiming for 1g of protein per pound of body weight.  I have to learn some tricks, like cooking up a whole bunch of meat on Sunday, to have as snacks during the week.

    There is also the issue of fat.  North Americans with a SAD lifestyle have been told for decades to eat a low fat diet.  Fat is the bogey man, don't eat it.  You'll get fat.  Your arteries will get clogged.  And you'll die.  This simply isn't true.  There are good fats, and bad fats, and our bodies actually NEED fat to thrive.  I will do a post on fat soon, as it's a whole subject unto itself.  For now, just hear this: Fat does not make you fat.

    I will be doing a paleo challenge starting on Thursday, through my gym.  This is going to be a very strict 30-day period which will hopefully put my body in ketosis, a state where the body uses nothing but stored fat for energy.  During this 30 days, I expect that I'll be able to drop a lot of fat and lean up.  I've been pretty good with my paleo lifestyle for the past few weeks, but I've still been eating fruit, and the occasional 90% dark chocolate as a treat.  I've also had a "cheat day" here and there.  There will be no more of that :\  Through the gym, there will be restaurant nights, where the participants will go out for paleo dinners, there will be seminars, and there will be a contest with great prizes!  Jeremy has just told me that he will be doing the challenge with me!  That should make things much easier.

    Well, I hope you've learned a lot about this paleo stuff.  I know it's kind of complicated and sciency, but if you have any questions, please ask and I'll do my best to answer them, or refer you to good source.

    I'm sitting here finishing up my post while Jeremy cooks me a paleo breakfast.  Then we're off to Kensington Market for some Halloween costume shopping.  I'll do my best to get another post up soon!

    Have a great day!


    Wednesday, 5 October 2011

    Bottled Water: What a Waste of Everything!

    When we think of bottled water, we think of beautiful pristine mountain springs and lush green meadows with gently rolling streams.  We think of purity, health, and the cleanest, healthiest water we can drink.  We think we are doing the right thing for our health and the health of our loved ones when we pick up a case of bottled water at the store and drink it day after day.  After all, tap water is not safe to drink.

    This is biggest scam going since the Food Guide was introduced (but that's a whole other story).  The truth is, our tap water is clean and safe to drink (with obvious rare exceptions: for example, the water contamination tragedy in Walkerton, Ontario, where incidentally, I grew up).  The bottled water industry has been taking us all for a ride for the past couple decades.  Two of the biggest water brands, Dasani, and Aquafina, are made by Coca Cola and PepsiCo, respectively.  We all should've been wise to them from the start.  I mean, really, would huge conglomerates like Coca Cola and PepsiCo be doing anything good for us, when their purpose is to create addiction to their sugary products to keep all the addicts coming back for more?  Water isn't exactly addictive.  But buying into the illusion is.  When we're told our water isn't safe, we're going to seek out safe alternatives.

    Please watch this little video:  I promise you'll find the constant hand gesturing more than a little annoying, but it's a great video, and she means well.

    Here are some further little facts about bottled water:
    • Plastic bottles take 700 years to begin composting
    • 90% of the cost of bottled water is due to the bottle itself
    • 80% of plastic bottles are not recycled
    • 38 million plastic bottles go to the dump per year in America from bottled water (not including soda drinks)
    • 24 million gallons of oil are needed to produce a billion plastic bottles
    • The average American consumes 167 bottles of water a year
    • Bottling and shipping water is the least energy efficient method ever used to supply water
    • Bottled water is the second most popular beverage in the United States
    One thing not even mentioned in this video is the danger of drinking water out of plastic bottles.  The vast majority of plastic bottles are manufactured from petroleum, some of which comes from deposits as much as three billion years old.  Most plastic bottles are made from polyethylene terephtalate (PET) plastic, and almost all water bottles come from virgin plastic; an estimated 30% of the world's PET goes into plastic bottles.  The plastic used in plastic bottles is made by mixing hydrocarbons extracted from crude oil with chemical catalysts, triggering polymerization. Next, manufacturers produce plastic pellets, which are melted down into “preforms,” which look like small test tubes; the preforms, in turn, can be heated, causing them to expand and turn into conventional water bottles. Typically bottling companies order preforms, expanding the water bottles at their own facilities as needed.

    Plastic water bottles are supposed to be safe.  They are #1 plastic, which is "not known to leach any chemicals that are suspected of causing cancer or disrupting hormones." Personally, I don't buy it.  I can't prove that it's not safe, but I just don't consider something that was made with petroleum to be safe to drink out of, under any circumstances, no matter what I read.

    I really encourage you to check out the trailer for the documentary called "Tapped." I have yet to see the movie, but I know it will confirm many things we already know, and will likely shed even more light on this situation.

    Considering the one time cost of a stainless steel water bottle that can last for years and years while creating absolutely no waste, I see no reason to ever buy a bottle of water.  It is rather inexcusable to waste so much plastic, just for convenience.  I think the way we have all bought into the bottled water craze shows, frankly, a real sense of entitlement in our culture.  It's hard to understand how we can justify the resources and energy used, the pollution caused, and the waste in landfills resulting from our need to make plastic bottles to fill with glorified tap water that pours freely from a tap in our kitchen.  The prevalence of bottled water is such a huge shame, and I can only hope that restrictions will come down, to cut off this industry so we can keep millions and billions of plastic water bottles out of  landfills and out of the oceans.  I don't know what will happen to the billions already there.


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