An Enchanted Forest

I love walking through a fall forest, even when our west coast November rain is pouring down and the trees are shrouded in mist. Actually I sometimes love it even more because the forest leaves are glistening with dewy rain drops and transformed into a mysterious, enchanted forest.

It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon a persons heart, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.

Robert Louis Stevenson

 

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5 Amazing Reasons to Cut Down on Sugar

Sugar, in its many forms, is everywhere and letting it creep back into your diet can be an easy thing for even the staunchest anti-sugar peeps.

Also winter is around the corner and the change of season often means that we spend more time indoors and, as a result, are less active. And being less active can lead to, well, putting on our “winter coat”.

A great way to reduce the chance of this happening is by drastically reducing your sugar intake. Reducing refined sugar intake isn’t necessarily easy as it’s found in virtually all packaged foods, drinks and food at fast food restaurants are laden with it (a large Big Mac meal deal has 85 grams of sugar–236% of your daily allowance). Although it takes a little effort and planning to avoid sugar, it is very worth it in health and wellness rewards.

Here are 5 pretty amazing benefits of eating less sugar:

1. Improved sleep

Insulin levels are regulated when our blood sugar is balanced and one of the benefits of this is deep, restful sleep. Regulated insulin also has a balancing effect on the rest of our hormones as they all work together. This balance helps to improve our energy levels, brain function and, again, the quality of our sleep. A restful sleep gives us consistent and lasting energy throughout the day, increases our ability to focus and makes us less susceptible to sugary afternoon treats to get through the day, helping us to naturally cut down our sugar consumption.

2. Weight Loss 

Did you know that you can lose weight by cutting down on sugar without even reducing calories? This often happens because sugar spikes our blood sugar levels and insulin levels, as well as disrupting neurotransmitters in our brain. All of this increases fat storage. Eating more protein, fiber, fruit, and vegetables increases our metabolism, which then helps our bodies burn calories more efficiently. Losing or maintaining weight isn’t just about the daily calories consumed, but about the quality of foods we eat and the way our bodies process them.

3. Mental Clarity

Expect to feel more focused and clear-headed when giving up or cutting down on sugar. When our blood-sugar levels are consistent and healthy, our brain is more alert and we don’t feel as sleepy throughout the day. Also, too much fructose from foods containing high-fructose corn syrup (many processed, packaged foods) taxes our liver and pancreas. When this happens, these two organs have to work harder to manage all of the low quality sugar in our systems and remove it from our blood stream. While doing this, they exhaust energy reserves which otherwise should have been used for breaking down fat and converting it to usable energy. This can result in an unpleasant cocktail of moodiness, anxiety and even exhaustion.

4. Anti- Aging

Sugar is a primary contributor to the aging process, says Dr. Robert Lustig, a physician who has extensively researched sugar’s effect on the human body. He says fructose, the sweet molecule in sugar, is seven times more potent than the glucose portion of sugar. Fructose (ie. high fructose corn syrup) forms free radicals in our bodies, leading to higher rates of cell damage and death.

In a way, we “rust” as we age, he says. Oxidative stress turns our tissues brown. Overindulging in excess added sugar will speed up this browning process and speeds along the aging process in general.

5. Heart Health

It’s easy to imagine how having excess fat in our blood stream and arteries can lead to heart problems, but less people know about the role sugar plays in cardiac issues. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 100 calories per day from added sugars (6 teaspoons) for women, and 150 calories (9 teaspoons) for men for optimal heart health. Unfortunately people now consume 22 teaspoons per day, on average.

A study by the Journal of the American Medical Association has also shown that people who ate between 17 and 21 percent of their calories from added sugar had a 38 percent higher risk of dying from heart disease, compared with people who consumed 8 percent or less of their calories from added sugar. So less sugar, along with moderate exercise equals a healthy, happy heart.

So, there you have it, some excellent reasons to think about dialing back your sugar habit.

Next post will have a delicious, sugar free dessert to help make living without refined sugar easy and delicious.

Chocolate Hemp Energy Bites

I like to hike.

And on a long hiking trail, keeping my energy at an optimum level is important. I bring lots of water, in the summer I pack a hydrating watermelon smoothie and snacks. Lots of yummy snacks.

Here’s one packed full of carbohydrates for quick and easy energy. It also has hemp hearts for a clean protein, good-for-you omega 3 fats and a bit of dark chocolate for anti-oxidants and the yumminess factor.

Chocolate Hemp Energy Bites

2 cups of rolled oats – organic
1 cup organic peanut butter
1/2 cup 80% dark chocolate chips
1/3 cup raw organic honey or maple syrup
3 tbsp chia seeds
1 cup ground flax
2 tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup organic pumpkin seeds

Combine ingredients in bowl. Let sit in fridge for 25 minutes. Roll into balls. Coat in hemp hearts.

Enjoy.

Hiking Adventures 

A friend and I were trekking along a trail on Cypress Mountain yesterday and all of a sudden a blur of shiny black fur lept across the trail, about 25 feet away. “Is that a huge German Shepherd? Where are his owners?” I thought. Then I saw s cute, little, round beach ball of a baby black bear scurrying behind. My brain took a quick second to compute. Bears!!!

My friend and I looked at each other, then hung on to each other, then slowly backed up and finally turned and “calmly” walked away, with our hearts pounding almost out of our chests. We did not want to threaten Mama Bear in any way, shape or form.

Eventually mama and her baby went deep into the forest and we guardedly continued up the mountain. 15 minutes or so later we heard a splashing sound and peeked through the branches to see another big black bear hanging out in a stream.  I didn’t stick around to get any photos but this was turning into a bear~y exciting, adrenaline rush of a hike.

I don’t have a lot of one on one experience with bears (we used to drive to the dump when I was growing up in Ontario to watch black bears go through the garbage and I saw a grizzly in Alberta but I was safely locked in my friend’s vehicle) but I remembered a hiker telling me about his close encounter with a grizzly in Alberta and how, after that solo experience, he would only go hiking in groups of six or more as bears won’t bother that many people grouped together. I don’t know if this is true but I believed him and when I spotted a family hiking on the trail just ahead of us. I called to them and we formed a bear-proof pack (there were 6 of us including my dog) and hiked safely together up to the view point and back.

There were no more bear sightings that day. Maybe our little group scared them off or maybe the bears had better things to do deeper in the forest. Either way, we had an awesome day in nature, made a few new hiking  friends and walked off the mountain with a good story to tell.

Beach Yoga & Energy Balls

 

The feeling of freedom I get from doing yoga and meditating in nature keeps me balanced, happy and somewhat sane.

I practice yoga in a studio over the winter but when spring hits and I can do a few Sun Salutions gazing at the Pacific Ocean and the mountain range behind it, well nothing indoors can really compare to that. Going barefoot in the sand and letting my feet, usually imprisoned in some sort of high heel, sink into the cool, grains of dark sand feels better than the most luxurious spa treatment. And if you believe in earthing, it is better than the most luxurious foot treatment.

The beautiful ocean air, the sweet sound of the waves lapping the shore and my own little yoga practice on a deserted beach is my recipe for re-balancing and relaxation.

Then I like to go home, chilled out and stress free, to work on some other recipes.

This week I have a raw energy ball recipe that’s full of nutritious ingredients and easy to pack in your bag when you’re in the run. Clean eating approved and delicious, here it is:

Almond Oatmeal Energy Balls

 

  • One cup oatmeal
  • One cup almond butter
  • 1 T honey or maple syrup
  • 1 T flax seeds
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Mix all ingredients together. Form into balls. Refrigerate.

 

The perfect yoga pose

A friend and I took a break in our Sunday beach run to do a few yoga stretches today. Here is one of the pics.

When I look at this photo I see a woman being goofy, maybe dancing in the rain, but what I’m actually doing is falling out of a yoga pose. A pose that I couldn’t quite master, no matter how hard or how many times I tried. I remember thinking, after failing again and again, that I had two options, get angry with myself or laugh at the situation. Clearly I chose the latter.

Thinking back to when I started practicing yoga about 15 years ago, I approached my practice with a humourless quest for perfection ~ hyper-extending my legs and frequently checking my neighbors with a sideways glance to see if I was doing better than them. I couldn’t have been more misguided if I tried. It took years for me to realize that yoga wasn’t at all about perfection or even form sometimes. It was about showing up regularly and making a commitment to starting a journey with myself. It was about relaxing into and accepting myself ~ my body, my limitations ~ and even laughing at and learning to love myself. And when I realized this, that is when my yoga practice finally opened up and became a source of joy for me. So here’s to falling out of crooked, imperfect yoga poses and loving it because every stumble is an important part of the journey. Your journey. Namaste.