Category Archives: Health & Fitness

25 km bike ride…yikes!

Last year at the finish line.

Last year at the finish line.

I’m participating in the 25km Ride for Heart on June 2nd to raise money for the Heart & Stroke Foundation. We all know someone who has been affected by heart disease or stroke. Whether it’s an immediate family, someone we are close with, or a distant friend or relative, it’s never pleasant to hear the news of someone suffering or passing from this disease.

This year, I’m riding in honour of several people, one of them my dad. Why my dad? 20 years ago, my dad was on his death bed from a kidney failure. When I say death bed, it’s literal. He died for a split moment. Today, if you knew my dad, you would never think that there’s anything wrong with him. Well, except for the days when his blood vessels pop, which could be anywhere on his body from his leg to his eyes. When this happens, it ain’t a pleasant sight.

Even though my dad only has 1 functioning kidney that originally belonged to his older sister and has to take 11+ medications daily, he’s a very upbeat, positive guy. A true inspiration to me. Over the years, his health condition continuous to deteriorate. He now has insulin-dependent diabetes, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and most dangerously in my opinion, angina. He has been in an out of the hospital countless times because of his angina.

My dad is actually 100% dependent on a pace maker. That’s right, not 80%, not 95%, but 100%. This means that should his pace maker ever stop working, so will his ability to live. Several years ago, his pace maker ran out of juice. He was rushed to the hospital and they had to do an emergency switch. After the new pace maker was put in, he got an infection, so they had to take it out and planned to put it in on the opposite side. After taking it out, they couldn’t do another operation right away as they needed at least 1 full day to let the wounds heal. He was put on an external pace maker. That night, his pace maker got unplugged and he flat-lined once again. They managed to revive him with a defibrillator.

I’m so thankful every day that he’s with us today. He gave up a lot, including status and financial wealth, both of which cannot replace his health and the fact that we still have a dad.

So this Ride event is a very important one for me, for my family. If you are reading this, I’m asking for your kind support to please support me by donating to this very worthy cause.

Here’s the link to donate: http://www.kintera.org/faf/donorReg/donorPledge.asp?ievent=1024199&supId=359039249

Thank you for your support!

Zantac: my life saver

Okay, maybe not my “life” saver but more like “lifestyle”. I first reacted to alcohol on my 5th anniversary dinner date with hubby. I took a couple sips of my Riesling while waiting for our main course to be served, and not long after my ears started to feel hot. Then I felt the heat move slowly towards my face and hubby told me to go look at myself in the mirror. What I saw totally freaked me out. I had blotches of red spots on my face, neck and ears and the redness kept spreading.

It just kept getting hotter. We were at Milestones by YD Square and there’s a Shoppers Drug Mart at the lower level. So I left hubby in the restaurant while I ran downstairs to talk to the pharmacist. “What the hell is wrong with me?” I asked her, completely freaking out. I told her I had wine and some white sauce that came with my scallop appetizers. She said, “It looks like you’re allergic to alcohol. You’ve got hives. Take 2 Benadryls now.” Darn, I was hoping it was the white sauce.

So I bought Benadryl, ran back up to Milestones and took 2. Within 5 minutes I felt better. I was so thankful at that very moment for the life we have in downtown Toronto. Thankful that there’s an SDM on the lower level of where we were having dinner. I was able to continue our anniversary date like nothing had happened.

I mentioned this to a friend of mine and she said this is common amongst Asians. It’s called Asian Flush. Seriously, how did I just suddenly develop Asian Flush? Through Google, I found out that the reason Asians get this reaction to alcohol is that we lack an enzyme called ALDH2, which helps break down the poisonous byproduct of alcohol. As for why I just got it now, is still unknown. I must have had this enzyme once upon a time, but somehow lost it.

My friend told me to take Zantac. Yup, zantac, the antacid. I figured, why not, it doesn’t hurt to try. And oh what a miracle zantac is. When I got that reaction the first time I was so upset. I thought it meant I could never drink alcohol ever again! How horrible would that be? That’s like almost as bad as being allergic to chocolates, which I’m not, thank god!

A couple of weeks ago, I was cooking with wine and decided to have a glass. I forgot to take my zantac and only after 2 sips, I started to get really hot. I felt the heat spread from my ears to my face and it seriously felt like my face was on fire. I immediately took 2 Benadryls and splashed my face with cold water. The cold water didn’t help and the Benadryl took longer to kick in this time around. I ended up with an icepack on my face. That’s how hot it got.

Well, lesson learned. I’ll never forget my zantac again. Zantac, zantac, my life saver. Because of it I can still drink my wine. Oh what would I do without my wine?  I mean, I’d be okay if my face just turns red. But it’s not the redness I’m worried about. It’s the fact that my face feels like it’s on fire.

Zantac apparently has H2 blockers and this is what helps alleviate the symptoms of Asian Flush. I don’t know what these H2 blockers do and I don’t know what the long-term side effects are for taking zantac, but I don’t drink enough to worry about it too much. For now, I’m just grateful there’s something to prevent me from getting that awful reaction when I drink alcohol.

Nutrition Label explained

My company has a Health & Wellness Committee and occassionally they hold seminars or educational booths. A while ago, they held a seminar on “Guide to Grocery Shopping” and I finally learned how to read the ever so confusing Nutrition Label.

Nutrition Label

Courtesy of Health Canada, Food & Nutrition section

So here’s the deal.

  1. Reference Portion. This section refers to the amount that the nutrition label refers to. In the image above, it’s “per 3/4 cup (175 g)”. Compare this to the amount you actually eat. If you eat 1.5 cups, then you need to double the amounts listed on the label.
  2. % Daily Value. This is the proportion by which your daily needs are met by consuming a reference portion of the food.

You can make healthy choices by looking for the following nutrients:

  1. Fibre – more than 15% of daily value.
  2. Vitamins – more than 15% of daily value.
  3. Fat – less than 5% of daily value.
  4. Sodium – less than 5% of daily value.

When looking at the Nutrition Label, you should also look at the Ingredients list. They go hand in hand, especially when trying to determine if the amount of sugar listed is okay or not.

For example, the nutrition label states 24 g of sugar. Is that good or bad? It really depends on where that sugar is coming from. 24 g does seem high, but if it’s coming from 100% real fruits vs. added sugar, then it’s sugar that is better to consume. That’s why it’s important to check the ingredients list.

Another tip is to know that ingredients are listed in decreasing order quantity, with the most used ingredient listed first. So if added sugar is listed as the first 3 ingredients, you might want to avoid this.

I used to think that nutrition labels are super confusing. I mean, how do you know what the numbers even mean, right? Well, the tips I got from the seminar, which I’ve shared with you above, is a good start.

Try it! Pick up anything in your pantry or fridge – canned tomatoes, canned tuna, granola bar, apple juice – and see if you can decipher the label.

I had a weak moment

I had a weak moment today. I was at Rexall with 10 minutes to kill, waiting for my prescription. So I walked around just looking at stuff and came across a bag of BBQ chips on sale for $0.99. My mouth started watering. But I knew I shouldn’t buy it so I walked away.

But having gone straight to Rexall after work, I was hungry and my stomach was growling. The chips were calling my name and so I walked back to the chips aisle, quickly grabbed it and paid for it before I could change my mind.

After dinner while catching up on the bachelorette, hubby and I decided to crack the bag of chips open. We ate about 3/4 of the bag (it was a medium size bag) and by the end of it, I just wanted to rinse my mouth with water. Those chips had way too much sodium that my mouth felt like it shriveled up and my brain was dehydrated.

After months of not eating chips, I can’t believe I broke our streak. This is what happens when I go to the store on an empty stomach. Never again.

So…because of my moment of weakness, hubby and I now need to go on a cleanse.

25km bike ride vs. bikram yoga

After missing two weeks of Bikram classes (well, really only 2 days since I only go once a week), I finally got a chance to go this past Saturday. The problem with missing classes is that every time I think I’ve taken a step forward, I end up taking 2 steps back. This 1 step forward 2 steps back is driving me absolutely crazy. Believe me, I try not to miss any classes but sometimes, life gets in the way.

I’m one of those odd balls who welcomes challenges. I think it has to do with having something to focus on, something other than watching the many TV shows I’m addicted to. So that’s why I’m killing myself with Bikram yoga, and that’s why two Sundays ago on June 3rd, I participated in Ride for Heart even though the last time I actually went bike riding was 6 years ago in 2006. Of course the main reason I chose to participate wasn’t necessarily for the challenge, but to show support for all the people in my life who have been affected by heart disease in one way or another.

When I first signed up for the 25km ride, hubby thought I was nuts. Others might think that 25kms is short and easy but considering I had not been on a bike for the past 6 years, I thought I’d better be safe than sorry. Plus, my 10 year-old nephew, 5 year-old niece and 2 year-old nephew came along for the ride and I’m not sure that anything more than 25kms was doable with them in tow.

Hubby and my mom kept telling me that I needed to practice. So I did. I went bike riding with my mom twice in preparation for the ride – the first time for 30 minutes and the second time for 10 minutes. That was practice enough for me. The bike ride, however, turned out to be easier than I had expected. At no point during the bike ride did I question what I was doing or if I was going to make it to the end or feel the need to collapse.

When I went to Bikram however, I was only in my fourth pose when I started wishing that I was near the end instead of the beginning. I felt like collapsing and I questioned why I keep coming back. Temptations of leaving the room filled my head throughout the entire practice. It was truly one tough battle just trying to convince myself to stay. But I did end up staying to the very end.

I know this might be hard to believe, but a 3-hour 25km bike ride is peanuts compared to 90 minutes in Bikram’s hot torture chamber. I’d rather do the ride again then have to go back to Bikram. But yet, I go back anyway, week after week. Really, I have no one to blame for the exhaustion and soreness I feel after every Bikram class but myself.

It’s not a cold, it’s just allergies!

20120321-191027.jpg
Ever since the SARS outbreak, people have become super paranoid about germs. At the sound of caughing or sneezing, we cringe and we look around to make sure that person caughing or sneezing isn’t anywhere near us.

The other day, I was at the Dundas subway station and I sneezed. And of course I just happen to be one of those people who sneeze really loud. I try to keep it down but I just can’t. I’m always amazed at people, like my sister, who can sneeze so quietly, so subtly. I always tell my sister she sneezes like a cat and I secretly wish I could sneeze like her. But I can’t.

So this guy who was walking in front of me turned around and gave me a nasty look. Like I just did something horribly wrong. I mean, I didn’t sneeze on him or anything and I used my germ pocket. And he wasn’t even close to me. If I had sneezed like a cat I bet he wouldn’t even have noticed. Oh why do I always have to sneeze so loud?

I felt like telling him, “Buddy, chill out. It’s just allergies!

Damn allergies are causing people to be scared of me, like I’m going to give them kudies. These allergies are new, I recently developed them about a year ago and I haven’t got a clue what I’m allergic to. I sneeze constantly – at home, at work, in the car…everywhere. And I’m congested 24/7. It sucks not being able to breathe properly.

So yeah, I already have to cope with my new found nuisance, so please stop giving me the “I hate you” look every time I sneeze. Trust me, I don’t want to sneeze as much as you don’t want me to sneeze.

And I swear, it’s not a cold, it’s just allergies!

Super Bowl Sunday makes me fat

20120205-174351.jpg
Every year, Super Bowl Sunday calls for a party. Whether it’s a party with friends or a party of 2, one thing is for sure: there’s always drinking and lots of junk food involved.

This year is no different. Last week hubby already put in his request for hor d’oeuvres and other junk food. So on Friday I went to Food Basics and bought all kinds of food for this special day today: chicken wings, fries, popcorn chicken, jalapeño poppers, mushroom pastries, cranberry and goat cheese phyllo pastries, samosas, apple blossoms, Oreo ice cream, and Cheetos. Yup. All for today.

Welcome fat. Welcome.

It’s been like this for years. The difference is, I never had to worry about weight gain. I was always one of those girls other girls envied. No matter how much I ate, I never gained weight.

But now things are different. I guess being in my early thirties has sent my metabolism tumbling down. So late last year hubby and I decided, enough is enough. We’re going to start exercising and eating healthy. So I stopped shopping for our snack cabinet, started doing cardio every other day and started practicing Bikram yoga regularly, much to my body’s kicking and screaming.

You might remember from my new year’s resolutions that I have to lose 8 lbs. so I can fit into my beloved skirt. Well I’ve lost 2 so far. But guess what? All that hard work is going down to hell today. I’m probably going to gain that back and more all in one day. All because of our Super Bowl Sunday tradition.

I think maybe it’s time to change that, starting with next year’s Super Bowl. I’ll be buying a tray of veggies and fruits instead.

So…what’s in your Super Bowl?

You know you’re a Bikram newbie when…

20120204-191214.jpg
A friend sent me a link to a blog post titled, “Are you a Bikram yoga addict?” a couple of weeks ago as food for thought for my practice.

I couldn’t stop laughing throughout the entire post. First, I could totally see truth in everything that was listed. Second, I’m so far from it I actually do the exact opposite of what an addict does.

So I thought it might be appropriate to post what it’s like to be a Bikram newbie.

  1. You bring 2 bottles of iced water to class.
  2. You can’t wait until the first four poses are done so you can take your first water break.
  3. You take large gulps of water in between every posture.
  4. You use words like ‘brutal’, ‘torturous’, ‘killer’ and ‘painful’ to describe Bikram yoga.
  5. You miss Moksha yoga.
  6. You swear under your breath every time you lose balance or can’t hold your pose anymore.
  7. Instead of feeling good after your practice you feel completely drained and unable to move or do anything else.
  8. You need to eat a chocolate – just one small piece – to get your energy back after your practice.
  9. You have a love-hate relationship with Bikram yoga.
  10. You dread your next class already even though it’s one week away.

Now you’re probably wondering why I even torture myself with Bikram yoga. Well, I believe in the health benefits it claims to have. I believe that this initial phase of “newbieness” will pass and that I will eventually start to feel pleasure instead of pain after each and every practice.

I do this because I refuse to give up. Every pose is a challenge that I have to overcome. The feelings of mastering a pose is truly indescribable. I do this because it teaches me patience. And it teaches me to push myself but also to know what my limits are so I don’t get hurt.

I do this because it’s good for me. I do this because I have to lose 8 lbs. so I can fit into my skirt.

Namaste.

Intentions

When I went to Moksha yesterday, the teacher told us to set our intention for our practice. What do we want out of it?

I thought this was such a wonderful idea. But it caught me by surprise. What did I want from it? To get through the class alive in one piece and not fall flat on my face? Well yes, that might be what I wanted, but all kidding aside, setting our intention for our practice has a much deeper purpose.

During the practice, I directed my energy to my intention, which, for that particular moment, was to experience a calmness that my hectic days seem to lack. When the class ended and I was in my favourite pose, savasana, I felt a renewed energy that I haven’t felt, even though I have been practicing weekly for the past month and a half.

I wonder if it had anything to do with setting an intention for the practice and focusing my energy on it? Or if it was simply because I went to a different studio?

In any case, I believe that intentions can go a long way. The mind is powerful and how and what we think can affect our days and essentially, our entire life. Setting an intention doesn’t have to be confined to yoga classes.

So whether it’s about getting through a hot yoga class without falling, or getting through rush hour traffic without irritation, or getting through the day with contagious enthusiasm, I’m going to consciously remember to set my intention for the day. What do I want out of my day? How do I envision it to be?

And perhaps the amazing energy I felt during savasana could be extended beyond the Moksha studio.

Namaste

Okay, this is really really hard. I’m so lightheaded I think I’m going to faint. Why do I insist on torturing myself like this? I can’t hold my pose anymore. I’m going to fall. You can do it Astrid. Focus. Breathe.

Then, just as I get a grip on the situation, the teacher and pretty much everyone else around me move into the “toe stand” pose (pictured below taken from Bikram Yoga East York) and here I am thinking, “Seriously? You want me to do that? How in the world…?”
20111229-205522.jpg
Many hot classes and failed attempts after, I finally did it. With sweat dripping profusely, I balanced myself on my right toes. The feeling of satisfaction, indescribable by words, was worth every torturous effort.

The more I practice the easier it gets. I guess it’s just like anything else – playing sports, painting, singing, etc. I was introduced to hot yoga a couple of years ago but it was only recently that I started going weekly. My goal is to make this a part of my weekly routine and hopefully overtime, it will become a part of my daily activities.

The one thing that hot yoga has taught me is perseverance along with patience and focus. When I feel challenged, whether during practice, at home or at work, all I have to do is:

Focus. Breathe. Focus. Breathe. Focus. Breathe.

And I keep moving.

A Moksha instructor once mentioned that no matter how many years you’ve been practicing or teaching yoga, you can still have off days. This is what keeps me going during my bad days. Knowing that even the experienced aren’t always perfect.

But what really motivates me to go these days? My pink non-slip lululemon yoga towel that I got as a Christmas gift from Edgar. I love love love this towel! I get excited just thinking about using it.

20111229-210220.jpg

Now, before you move on to another blog, I will leave you with this:

The divine in me recognizes and honours the divine in you.

Namaste.

%d bloggers like this: