I was a little outdoorsy when I arrived in BC from Ontario in the late 90’s but…only a little. Living in this beautiful province has, slowly but surely, turned me into a devoted, treehugging hiker and nature lover. And becoming these things has transformed both my physical fitness and emotional health. I cannot even imagine what my life would be like if I hadn’t moved to BC and experienced the breathtaking beauty of this province’s mountain and forest trails.
I’m also forever grateful to this stunning province for teaching me a few lessons in peace, happiness and what life is all about.
Here they are:
1. Getting outside and working up a sweat makes you healthy and happy. Hello endorphins!
2. Taking the time to question the craziness of our stressed out society. And, when you do, you’ll probably reach the conclusion that the slow pace of the natural world is where to find true contentment.
3. And, last but not least, that hugging and old growth tree in the middle of a forest makes everything better.
Loving and thanking you today British Columbia ❤
Is there a better way to start the day than tumbling out of bed, having a good, long stretch, opening a bag of dark, organic coffee beans? I don’t think there is.
The only problem with the above scenario, though, is that coffee just isn’t that good for us. It can irritate sensitive stomachs, make us anxious, push our adrenals over the edge and disturb our sleep, to name just a few downsides of loving coffee a little too much.
Personally, I’ve tried to give up my daily turbo charged cup of coffee but I can’t. life becomes dull and gray and it’s just not worth the sacrifice of leaving a morning ritual that I love behind.
So, then, my question becomes “How do I make my morning coffee a bit healthier?” and my answer is Bullet Proof it.
What is bullet proof coffee you’re wondering? My version is a cup of fresh organic beans with a dollop of coconut oil melted in it. Traditional recipes use butter but I’m a coconut oil kinda gal. And the health benefits? Here they are:
- Provides energy
- Long term feeling of fullness
- Great way to work healthy fats into your diet every day
If you google Bullet Proof coffee you will find a plethora of health claims about boosting brain power and promoting weight loss. Some of these sound a little far-fetched to me but I do know that a little coconut oil is great for your body and if I can get my daily dose in my cup of coffee, it’s all good.
Time to go pour myself a cup of delicious, and maybe even healthy-ish, coffee.
Standing on the bus today, stopped at a red light, I noticed a man in a red car idling beside us. He was wearing a suit and tie on a beautiful, hot and sunny day, looked incredibly stressed and was gulping down a salt, fat and msg laden burrito held in one hand while he drove with the other. I stared at him thinking “that food is not doing his body any good”. Next I thought about how he was gulping it down and what that would do to his digestive system. Yuck. Then I thought about how much better people look and feel when they eat a natural, un-processed, alkaline based diet. That thought led me to the question of food manufacturers and the gazillion dollar beauty industry possibly being in bed together. Think about it. If we are all addicted to junky fast food full of chemicals and preservatives, bad fats, sugar, high fructose corn syrup and msg (the last three being highly addictive), we are going to look and feel pretty bad. Then we’re probably going to go out and spend a ton of money on lotions and creams, botox and fillers in a vain attempt to look good again, and spend some really big bucks in the process. It’s not such a far-fetched idea after all. If we all started eating fresh fruit and veggies as the base for our diets (and started moving our bodies more) we would transform our health and our physiques and no longer get sucked in by the outlandish claims of the beauty industry. Sounds like freedom to me.
So what exactly are the benefits of a greens based diet?
Here they are:
- Skin more elastic and youthful
- Deeper more restful sleep
- More physical energy
- Fewer colds, headaches, flu viruses
- Good digestion
- Less arthritis and joint pain
- Reduction of candida (yeast) overgrowth
- Better bone density
- Increased mental alertness
Definitely food for thought.
And to help you jump on the green bandwagon, here’s a recipe for easy sautéed spinach side dish:
Green Goodness Spinach
- 2 large bunches of spinach, about 1 lb
- Olive oil, extra virgin
- 3 cloves garlic, sliced
- Sea salt to taste
Even my rascally little Terrier knows how good greens are for you. Here he is dining at his grassy, all-you-can-eat salad bar..
Ever wanted to slow your life down to a simpler, sweeter pace? Whenever I’m feeling a little frazzled and need to get my Zen back, I beeline to Deep Cove.
Deep Cove is a little hamlet in North Vancouver. Its main street is home to an old fashioned general store, an ice cream shoppe and an always overflowing restaurant that specializes in home-made, honey-glazed donuts.
Leave the main drag to wander along the water and you’ll be lucky enough to see vistas like this..
Then walk a little further to the edge of the forest and you’re on the trail to Quarry Rock. The hike is about two hours round trip and will get you huffing & puffing and sweating several times over those two hours. But, its saving grace is that is has a lot of flat areas to catch your breath as well. And while you’re catching your breath you can’t help but notice that you are in the middle of an enchanted forest with mossy branches, oversize ferns and beautiful, tall trees.
And then, when you reach the clearing at the end of the trail, this will be waiting for you…
Not too shabby.
What to bring:
- One or two bottles of water
- Lunch to eat on the rock overlooking Indian Arm
- Your camera
- Your dog
What to wear:
- Layers – it can be cool in the forest and hot on the rock
- Hiking boots – the trail is super rooty
There. You’re all set. Happy Hiking.
The Grind is taking up a fair amount of my spare time right now so it’s going to be the subject of another blog post. This one to be exact.
The stairmaster-esque climb, the intense sweating, the checking of the heart rate every few minutes and the unbelievably long time it takes to get to the first quarter mark can make this hike feel like a special form of torture. But, that said, it’s the best and quickest way for me to achieve my summer fitness goals. And, for this reason, in spite of all of my complaining, I kinda love it.
However, my fitness level is at a point where I definitely have to sit and take a break part way up. I stare into space for a while, gulp down some water and text a few friends the exact same message “I’m in actual hell right now”. Then I usually hear my stomach grumble angrily. The last time this happened I devoured a sugary granola bar but…no more. I’m eating clean and sugar free now. So for my grumbly, half way up the mountain hunger pains I’ve made a yummy, no-sugar alternative. I tried these snacks for the first time a few days ago and my verdict is YUM.
Disclaimer: this recipe is only delicious after you’ve been sugar free for a while and have reset your taste buds.
Here’s my easy as (sugar free) pie recipe:
2 ripe, mashed bananas
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1 tbsp natural peanut butter
a dash of cinnamon
Mix all ingredients, drop by spoonfuls on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes.
There you have it. Take these on your next trek into the woods and your body with thank you.
I’m a lazy smoothie maker. All of my smoothies are quick, easy, delicious and contain only a few ingredients. With the mountains and forest calling my name every weekend, I just don’t have the time or patience to collect a bunch of ingredients. So my smoothies guarantee that you won’t have to either.
Apple Pie Smoothie
- one cup plain almond milk (recipe here)
- one scoop vegan vanilla protein powder
- two apples, diced
- one banana (for sweetness and richness)
- one teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Blend. It’s that easy.
Recently I was thinking about why I started this blog. It began a couple of years ago as a way of chronicling my attempt to cut sugar out of my diet. I actually did cut it out for quite a while, and it felt really, really good. Then, slowly but surely, I started to take feeling good for granted and sugar quietly crept back into my diet. It started with ketchup (I’m an addict), next it was the odd sugary cocktail and then, before I knew it, I was back to square one. The white stuff found its way back into my coffee, dark chocolate rested on my kitchen counter, a big bottle of maple syrup resided in my cupboard and I found myself chowing down on a few cookies at work almost every day. Blechhh. Let me tell you, it’s a slippery slope into a big, sugary…hmm, I’m not sure where the slippery slope leads to but it’s somewhere unhealthy with too much sugar.
Now it’s time to get back on track. I’m planning a bunch of difficult and epic hikes this summer and to do this, I need to be on my game. And being on my game doesn’t include spiking my blood sugar, messing with my hormones and aging my skin with sugary treats.
It’s been a little over a week since I’ve been back on the bandwagon and I feel great. I’ve been here before and I know how amazing it feels to live sugar free.
What I’ve been giving up:
- Refined sugar in all forms
- Maple syrup
- White bread, rice and pasta
- All desserts (obviously)
- Condiments with added sugar
- All alcohol except vodka/soda and dry wine
What I’ll be gaining:
- Clearer skin
- More energy
- Tighter body
- Healthier teeth
- More vitamins in my system (sugar is an anti-nutrient that sucks up vitamins, most notably the b’s)
Whenever I start to get a craving for something sweet, I whip up a sugar-free, fruit sweetened smoothie or make myself a big bowl of fresh berries or mixed fruit. Then the craving’s gone and I’ve had a big helping of anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals.
I’ll be posting some yummy, naturally sweetened recipes soon, so stay tuned!
Have you ever heard of forest bathing? And did you know that hanging out in a forest can help detoxify you, de-stress you and boost your immune system?
When we breathe in fresh, forest air, we also breathe in things called phytoncides. What exactly are phytoncides? They’re essential oils that trees give off to protect themselves from insects. They’re also full of antibacterial particles that help trees fight disease. How amazing is nature?
Breathing in these essential oils help our bodies fight disease too. They increase the number of white blood cells called natural killer cells (NK for short). And the main job of NK is helping us to destroy unhealthy virus-infected cells in our bodies. Studies in Japan have shown that increased NK activity from a three day hiking trip lasted for more than 30 days! This stat blows me away and makes me question why exactly I’m living in a city sometimes.
So spending time around trees lowers blood pressure, stress hormones and, in a nutshell, makes you happier. People who regularly hike or walk in the forest also have decreased levels of anxiety, depression, anger, confusion and fatigue.
Amazing benefits from getting out of town and into the woods. I’m gonna go now and hug some trees.
Well, not really heaven, maybe just climbing the stairs out of work out Hell.
I’m Grouse Grinding again next weekend and I’m determined to improve my time. Okay, only by five minutes but, still, it’ll be an improvement. How am I going to do this you’re wondering? By climbing the stairs to Wreck Beach as fast as I can and as much as I can before my climb.
Wreck is Vancouver’s “clothing optional” beach and has one wickedly long and steep staircase leading down to it.
Doing two sets of stairs takes about 20 minutes and will have your heart rate up in no time. The other sweet thing about Wreck is the beach at the bottom of the stairs.
I bet you thought I was going to say something about naked men but, nope, I’m not. If you going early enough in the morning, say 8am, you will find this:
A beach that is so far removed from the city you’ll feel like you’ve left town. Waves are crashing, herons are resting and the beach is deserted. It’s a place to do a little yoga, play fetch with your dog and run barefoot in the sand.
An early morning work out spot that’s good for your body and your soul. That will remind you how lucky you are to be right here, right now.
Every time I go adventuring in the forest, I am surprised at how quickly my problems and worries seem to disappear. I also notice that when I think of my life in the city, it seems less like my real life than trekking through the forest does.
“How can I get out of the city and into my happy place on a more regular basis?” I pondered this as I stood, packed like a stressed out sardine, on the bus home from the office last week.
“Start a hiking group” my inner voice whispered. It hits all of the important prerequisites for happiness: friendship, camaraderie and time spent in nature. Hiking is also a great way to stay fit. I couldn’t think of a downside to this.
That evening The Happy Hiker Club was born. Every hike we do will be chronicled in the blog this summer. Tips, highlights, things to watch out for and any inspiration nature gives me will be shared here.