live it active


Polar bears, soda pop, and Diabetes

A typical combination, no?

My friend and blogger, Mr Epidemiology shared a video about polar bears, soda pop and Type II Diabetes on his blog recently and I liked it. A lot.

What did you think? Did it successfully convey the message its trying to? Did you get a better understanding of some of the risks associated with Diabetes? Let me know.

Happy Wednesday!

M

 


Appreciate Today

Over the last little while I’ve been reading and watching quite a bit about the lives of others, specifically children, in developing countries.

On Friday night we watched, Machine Gun Preacher, which chronicles the real life of a heroin addict turned preacher and LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) fighter in Northern Uganda and Southern Sudan. While Gerard Butler did a great job portraying this fire-breathing man, I encourage you to check out the real thing. He’s badass.

I participate in a monthly book club and we read Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. This non-fiction has become a sensation and is touted by the likes of George Clooney, Gloria Steinem, Meg Ryan, and Susan Sarandon. It has both a website (which I’ve linked above) and has been made in to a two-part documentary. I decided to watch the first half on Saturday morning.

If you watch either of these movies, which I hope you do, I encourage you not to watch them too close together. Machine Gun Preacher was a highly emotional movie for me and while I didn’t cry quite as much during Half the Sky, it’s a lot to take in.

I spent quite a bit of time thinking about what I had seen in both films and read in Half the Sky. I started thinking about what I complain about and what I take for granted. Don’t worry, I’m not going to go on a rant about the western world and how we have so much and appreciate so little. I promise I won’t because it’s annoying and tired.

I also thought about what I was doing to help others in my community and beyond. And while I may be somewhat helpful in my local community, I realized that I’ve done absolutely nothing for those in developing nations, those who have so very little and have had so much taken away. Those that have been raped, beaten, starved and mutilated who, amazingly, are still able to smile, heal, find joy, and help others once they themselves have been given a chance.

While I could have spent a lot of time feeling guilty (I did spend a lot of time feeling sad), I didn’t. Instead I came up with a plan of action for what I can do now and what I hope to do in the future. While I can’t donate my time right now, I can donate some money, albeit a little. But first and foremost, I must select a charity (a top-rated one in terms of financial records) that I believe in, one that I can actively participate in when I have the opportunity to go abroad. And no, I don’t want to go and just build something. While admirable and important, we should really be sending people to teach construction and trade skills to the people within that village or community, not taking those jobs away from them. So I guess I believe in education and empowerment. I guess I believe in the old saying,”give a man a fish, he eats for a day. teach a man to fish, and he eats for a lifetime” or something like that…

And during all this thinking and planning, I realized an important lesson. That I should appreciate today and the wonder that it brings. That I should appreciate the family and friends I have and not spend time ruminating (which I spend a lot of time doing) on the friends I’ve lost or don’t have. That I should appreciate my cozy condo and not wish for something bigger. That I should appreciate the food I have in my fridge and cupboards and not complain about not having enough.

No, it’s definitely not ground-breaking, but it’s important. We’re told to appreciate what we have all the time. It get’s annoying. It seems condescending. And thus, it often gets ignored.

I’m not trying to be condescending or patronizing. I will likely find something to complain about tomorrow, but I will try not to (if I complain about anything it will be cleaning…). I will try to remember the thoughts and feelings I had over this past weekend. I will remember my action plan. I will remember the young children who have been so brutally harmed, who still manage to smile and laugh.

Sometimes we need to see or read something to ground us – to remind us that there is unrest and injustice in the world and that we can do something to help. Sometimes we need a reminder to appreciate all that we have and yet to experience. Machine Gun Preacher was my reminder.

While this may not be your reminder, I hope you find something soon.

M


For those who experience anxiety

Feeling anxious is a natural part of being human . At some point in your life, you’ve experienced the feelings commonly associated with anxiety – tight chest, headache, fatigue, restlessness, feelings of worry/dread/concern, you get the picture. I know I’ve had my fare share of anxious moments, but in recent years I’ve learned more about techniques to help alleviate anxiety. The primary technique I’ve utilizes is mindfulness meditation, but I’m always interested in learning more about this particular mental illness.

Yesterday I read an interesting article by Deepak Chopra. He explains anxiety in a new light, framing it in a way I haven’t heard before. It resonated with me.

He talks about the split self – the strong self and the weak self. Perhaps weak isn’t the best as we don’t want to associate anxiety with weakness, but I encourage you to move past the language barrier as the message is important.

 

“When a situation arises that can be handled well, the strong part feels confident, competent, in charge and in control. When uncertainty crops up, the weak part feels afraid, helpless, and hopeless. Anxious people never settle this inner conflict. They are so divided that when they feel afraid, the weak part is “the real me.” When they are not afraid, the strong part is “the real me.” In fact, neither is the real self. The real self is beyond conflict; it is whole and at peace. So the long-term approach to anxiety is to rise above the inner war to find a self that is more whole.”

He goes on to discuss that when the self is divided and in conflict, there is always a hidden aspect of judgement against the self. I think many anxious people will relate to this comment. The majority of anxious people I have connected with explain that they are in a constant state of self doubt, berating themselves for not doing x,y, or z. We all sometimes spend time feeling guilty, upset, or disappointed with our actions, but we don’t tend to hold on to it for an extended period of time. We try to rationalize and explain the situation, coming to a logical ‘end’. Finding an ‘end’ or a solution allows us to move forward. The anxious person is constantly in the “beating themselves up or feeling disappointed stage” rarely coming to an ‘end’. And let me tell you, it’s not a nice place to be.

This article is hopeful. Chopra provides a few, fairly straightforward techniques to begin implementing to alleviate feelings of anxiety. For those who do not regularly meditate or spend time on their own, the recommendation to meditate will be a tough one. It’s important to realize, however, that meditation does not require you to sit in a candle lit room, in the lotus position, waiting for enlightenment. I do most of my meditation lying down. I pull a blanket over me and turn the lights off (but the room is never pitch black). I also use a guided meditation (typically the voice of Jon Kabat-Zinn) as it helps me to keep focus. Even trying a three minute breathing exercise will be of benefit if used at different time points throughout the day on a regular basis. It doesn’t have to be complex or profound to be impactful.

And you’re not likely going to have any “ah-ha” moments when you first start or perhaps for a long time. Don’t set any expectations for meditation, just engage in the activity. Freeing yourself from expectation will reduce the likelihood of judgement and thus, the feeling that one has either succeeded or failed. Meditation is not about being right or wrong, good or bad, it simply just is. It’s a time to be alone with one’s self.

I encourage you to read the article and then read it again. It says a lot in a short space. Every so often, I read something that I know will stick with me for a lifetime and this is one such piece.

Happy reading and happy meditating or whatever you choose to do for yourself.

M


Delicious Red Lentil Coconut Soup Recipe

Good morning!

Every once and a while I share a delicious recipe and I’ve got a real treat for you today. On Wednesday night I made red lentil coconut soup and it was a resounding success.

(I did not take this amazing picture, Tina the creator of the blog Scaling Back and the chef behind the recipe did)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups red split lentils
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 1 fresh jalapeno or serrano chili, finely chopped, including seeds
  • 1 tablespoon fresh peeled and minced ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 7 cups water
  • 1 can unsweetened light coconut milk
  • 1 15-ounce can of chickpeas
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • fresh cilantro and lime wedges for serving

Interested how they all mix together? Here you go:

Saute the onion, red pepper and jalapeno pepper in oil (I used coconut oil) for 5 minutes or so until onion gets a nice light brown colour (on medium heat). Add the garlic, ginger (I substituted with ground ginger as the store had moldy stuff…gross), curry powder (did not put 1 tbsp, but 2 teaspoons – totally up to you), cinnamon, and salt. Mix together. Add the tomato paste. Finally add the water (I used 5 cups of chicken broth and 2 cups of water), chickpeas, and lentils. I brought the mixture to a boil and then allowed to simmer for 25 minutes. When close to done, add the lime juice. Dish out, add cilantro and serve.

I hope you enjoy this yummy recipe as much as we did!

Happy weekend!

M

P.S. Thanks to Tina from Scaling Back for sharing this recipe.


Hip Pain from Running

I am training for the upcoming half-marathon in Calgary and recently have been experiencing some discomfort in my left hip joint. It’s likely because I went too far too soon. I did a 14 km run a weekend ago (jumping a few weeks ahead of my training plan) thinking I was ready, obviously my body wasn’t. Word to the wise – follow your training plan.

While hip pain isn’t new to me, this particular pain is different so I’ve decided to do something about it.

I did a quick Google search and have come up with a couple of strengthening activities. Check out the post here. I hate resistance bands with a passion, but I’m willing to give it a try if it will help my hip pain (or injury) to recover more quickly.

I’m also going to get back to yoga and regular massage. A large majority of us have benefits  (myself included) that cover massage if prescribed by a physician and yet, we don’t utilize those benefits. I’m changing that this week and booking my first appointment in almost a year.

It’s hard to remember to take care of yourself when you’re already taking the necessary time to squeeze in the run. Self-care is an ongoing and often time-consuming process that a large majority of us push aside. Perhaps we feel selfish for taking any more time for our health. Perhaps time is the primary issue. Perhaps we don’t see a need for further self care (on top of exercising). Perhaps we simply aren’t aware of the added benefit of taking the extra time to stretch, get a massage, have a bath, drink water, sleep well, eat more fruits and veggies, reduce sugar intake, go to yoga, do strengthening exercises.

If you are currently training for some event and feeling the pang of an injury, take it easy. Do some research to determine the severity of the injury and then, if necessary, make an appointment with your doc. During that period, be sure to engage in some self-care. The benefits of taking care of your body, on top of exercising and eating well, will help you to feel better and, in turn, help you to become faster and stronger for whatever exercise goal you want to accomplish. Trust me.

M



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