Upcycle Me

I read a blog post the other day (here) that blew my mind. In it, the blogger, Sophie, give a couple of examples of objects she has ‘upcycled’. Upcycling, according to Wikipedia, is the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new products or products of better quality. I really like the thought of this, but ever since I read the blog I’ve wondered, how can I make this a reality in my life.

I asked my wife on our ride home from our jobs what she thought of upcycling.  She thought it would be something neat to try, but that we needed to be careful to only create things that had a use or that looked amazing.  We didn’t want to just have a house full of upcycled junk.  This would mostly defeat the purpose of upcycling in the first place.

She also reminded me of the barbeque that is at my parent’s cottage on Lake Manitoba.  My grandpa, the previous owner of the cottage, had joined the barbeque to an old lawnmower.  This gave it a base that also happened to have wheels making it easy to move.

Looks Cool + Functionality = Worthwhile Upcycling Project.

Another example I can think of is a set of garden lights that my sister-in-law made for us.  They are housed in old, glass jars and have a solar light in the middle.  I pretty sure she got the idea from Pinterest. The look great, serve a purpose and prevented one more glass jar from going to the dump or needing to be processed in a recycling plant.

When I was in elementary school, they pounded the ‘3 R’s’ into my brain on a regular basis.  They are:  Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.  Though there are three ‘R’s’, the majority of time was spend on recycling and very little was spent on reusing and reducing.  Maybe this was because our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents never thought they would need to teach reusing.  Think about it.  How much old stuff  was repurposed for another use?  I think we have lost this in modern society.  We have been told that it is easier to throw our old stuff away and buy something new than to repair or repurpose it.   And it is.  I just wonder what happens to all the garbage I have thrown out that could have been reused. How much of it is in the landfill here in Regina, SK?  How much has polluted the streets of the city of live in?  How much has made its way into the streams and rivers of the natural environment I love?

So… what can I make? Where do I start? I’m not especially handy. I’m also not a craft-making type of person. Handiness and craftiness would make me an excellent upcycler, but since I don’t have either of those skills in any abundance, I will rely on my creativity and passion for making the world just a little bit better. I think my plan is to take a second glance at everything I throw out. Maybe that egg-carton could have been used to, oh I don’t know, grow some indoor plants. Wait a second… I think I just did something there. See? It’s not that hard.  If I happen to come across a worthwhile upcycling project, I’ll be sure to take some pictures and post what I have done.

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Dieting Sucks

“I went on a diet, swore off drinking and heavy eating, and in fourteen days I lost two weeks.”

– Joe E. Lewis

Corporations, doctor’s, fitness trainers, and scientists advertise products and programs that, they say, will change our lives forever. In just “4 short weeks” or “with just minutes a day”, they will be able to take our fat bodies and turn them into something majestic. These claims are attractive because they are quick, easy, and seemingly painless. In my opinion, dieting sucks. Diets seem to all suggest that you do activity ‘x’ for ‘y’ number of days and then you will be healthy. Very few of them advise how to live after the diet is over and do very little to treat the reasons why a person may have become obese in the first place.

I was obese because I didn’t understand food and because I had a very negative self-image. Diets have the potential to teach you something about food like how many grams of carbs a healthy diet requires or what an appropriate portion size is, but it is the fact that they are making such rapid changes to have you live that concerns me. Every time I’ve dieted, I’ve craved the foods that I have cut out and would eventually crack and binge on them. This would lead to an eventual meltdown of the entire diet and I would usually end up heavier then when I had started.

What I think makes more sense is to make small, subtle changes that you are OK maintaining for the rest of your life. Making sustainable changes will lead to an overall healthier lifestyle and overtime can lead to massive weightloss that STAYS OFF. When changes do start to occur (and they will… it took one month of simply walking for me to see some), you begin to believe that you might actually succeed at losing weight. Once your mind is in, you’re set. I have seen no diet do what healthy living has done for me. I have been slowly losing weight over the past four years and I know that it will never come back. Diets suck because they are not sustainable. So, lose the diet, decide to make some small changes and cut the string of that yo-yo life you’ve been living.

Happy Weightloss!!

My Favorite Healthy Recipes: Taco Soup

*** I HIGHLY recommend pressing play on the above video before checking out this recipe ***

Nothing warms my stomach more than a bowl of this tasty Taco Soup.  It one of my absolute favorites (I’d eat it everyday if offered) and is also SUPER healthy.  You won’t even believe that it’s good for you though.  Love.

 

Ingredients

1 large jar of Salsa (I prefer ‘Hot’)

1 can mixed beans

1 can of stewed tomatoes

1 large onion

1 red pepper

5 cloves of garlic

1 liter of chicken broth

2 large chicken breasts

2 tsp olive oil

Salt, chili powder, and cayenne pepper powder to taste.

Directions

–          Have chicken breasts defrosted prior to starting.

–          Chop onion, red pepper, and garlic into small pieces and put in a large soup pot with olive oil and some salt.

–          Allow 5 mins for onions to caramelize. (be sure to stir occasionally to make sure they don’t burn to the bottom of the pot)

–          Chop chicken into small, bite-size pieces.

–          Add chicken to soup pot and allow time to cook.

–          Once chicken is cooked, add chicken broth, salsa, tomatoes, and beans.

–          Add water until all the ingredients are submerged.

–          Bring to a boil. Add salt, chili powder, and cayenne pepper powder to taste.

–          Serve.

If you want to add some extra flavor, you can add sour cream, tortilla chips, and cheese.  Just keep in mind that everything you add adds extra calories to your dish.  This usually makes about 5-6 bowls.

This is the first recipe I’ve ever written out, so if you have suggestions for improvement, please feel free to add them in the comments below.  Enjoy!

5 Miniscule Changes that Can Lead to BIG Weightloss

Photo By: porshelinn

The first couple of times I attempted weightloss, I focused on big changes I could make to live a healthier lifestyle.   This was usually something drastic like “I’m going to wake up at 5:00 AM every day and work out for 2 hours before work”  or “I am going to ONLY eat healthy foods for this point on.”   As I discovered, making drastic changes did lead to weightloss, but did not keep the weight off for very long.   In fact, I ended up much worse off than I had originally been.   My most recent attempt at weightloss, which started almost 4 years ago, has focused primarily on sustainability.  Whatever change I decide to make must be something that I am prepared to do for the rest of my life.  As an example, I am NOT prepared to give up chocolate.  I AM prepared to only have chocolate on special occasions.  Make sense?  With that said, I decided today to post the 5 smallest changes I have made that have helped me lose weight and keep it off.

Drink Water – Drinking water instead of high-calorie, high-sugar drinks (pop, juice, etc.) will greatly decrease the amount of calories you consume in a day.   If drinking water is not something do, I’d recommend diet soda, no-sugar drinks, or black coffee.  Liquid calories go down far to fast, not allowing you to enjoy the extra calories you are consuming.

Walk – I think my favourite outdoor activity is walking.  Not only is it good for my body, I also find it is good for my mind as well.  After a walk (no matter how short or long), I come home feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.

Eat Breakfast – I am not a scientist or a dietitian or anything fancy like that.  All I can say is what has worked for me.  Eating breakfast every day helps to awaken my body and leads to less brainless eating throughout the day. I find that when I don’t eat breakfast, I snack more and am more likely to pig-out at lunch or supper time (often using my lack of breakfast as an excuse for my eat-fest).   It doesn’t take much time (contrary to what some would suggest) and starts your day right.

Pay Attention – Be aware of what you are putting into your mouth and if the calories that are coming with are really worthwhile. Pay attention to how much food you are eating at meals and to whether or not you are still hungry before you finish every last morsel of food.   Being aware of what you are eating will go along way to lessening the amount of bad food you are eating and increasing the number of good food.

Sleep – What could be easier than sleeping? Sleep isn’t just the time when you get to relax and shut off your mind.  While your consciousness rests, your mind is active, performing maintenance and service to your body, both mental and physical.  To deprive yourself of regular maintenance will lead to more frequent mental and physical breakdowns.   It’s recommended that adults get between 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep every night.

That wasn’t so hard, was it?  I never suggest cutting something completely out of your diet, but making modifications that make the diet you already have healthier. Happy Weightloss!

Grocery List for Sustainable Healthy Living

Photo By: Polycart

So, you’ve made the decision that you want to make an earnest attempt at weightloss.  Good for you! I’m really excited for the journey that you’ve decided to embark on and wish you success.  You might now be thinking “I want to lose weight, but HOW do I actually do it?”  A lot of us know the basics (eat fewer calories than you burn in day), but what about the nuts and bolts of healthy living?   One of the biggest changes I had to make when I decided to live a more healthy lifestyle was my grocery list. For me, I find that if I have less-than-healthy food in the cupboard, I am going to eat it. Keep in mind that my philosophy of healthy living focuses primarily on sustainability and a big part of that is allowing yourself to eat foods that you love (pizza, burgers, whatever), but to do so in moderation and in appropriate portions.  If I do decide to eat something less-than-healthy, I typically purchase it on the same day that I’m going to eat it.  OK, let’s get on with it; my grocery list for sustainable healthy living…  (oh, and just keep in mind that this is MY grocery list for what works for ME.  YOU need to figure out what works for YOU… so feel free to make substitution where YOU think they are needed… own your own health.)

Dairy

Yogurt – I like to get yogurt from time to time.  Just check the labels to make sure you’re getting the healthiest possible option.  It can be tricky, but you’re looking for lowest calories AND lowest fat.  Sometimes products listed as ‘Fat-Free’ have substituted the fat with higher sugar content, so just keep your eyes open.   I also like to get yogurt tubes and freeze them quick, healthy snack.  Also, Greek yogurt is higher in protein, so keep an eye out for that as well.

Almond Milk – I switched from milk to almond milk a couple of months ago.  The main reason for this that it contains less sugar than skim milk (usually 7g compared to 12g per serving).  I realize that you may not get as much calcium or protein from almond milk, but more than enough both of these can be obtained through a balanced diet.

Parmesan Cheese – I get parmesan cheese to help flavour some of the dishes I make… and I love cheese.  Parmesan cheese allows the taste of cheese to come through, without having to pile on a lot of it.

Margarine – As with yogurt, I try to find the healthiest possible choice.  I haven’t really done enough research on the whole ‘butter v.s. margarine’ debate, but I buy maragine and it has worked for me.

Drinks

Coffee – For me, this one is a must.  I think one of the key’s to being able to maintain a healthy lifestyle is finding something that you allow yourself to indulge in that you can have as much as you want of without seriously affecting your weightloss.  For me, that something is coffee.  I drink my coffee black, but try to find flavoured beans to help improve the taste.

Diet Soda – I am fully aware of the ‘aspartame in diet soda will kill you’ debate, but I have decided that it is something I need to maintain my weight.  It helps soften that sweet tooth I have and gives me something to have while I watch T.V. or relax.   It also doesn’t hurt  that it contains ZERO calories per serving.

Fruits and Vegetables

Spaghetti Squash – This is one of my favourite vegetables.  Usually I substitute pasta for spaghetti squash and highly recommend that you try it.  When cooked, it has a texture similar to spaghetti, but without all the carbohydrates.

Onions –  Onions are the backbone of everything I cook.  I usually saute them in a bit of olive oil and then build the rest of my meal around them.  I usually buy yellow onions to cook with, red onions to put in wraps/sandwiches, green onions for soup or as a topping for stir-fry.

Garlic – I don’t know if I could maintain a healthy diet without garlic.  Garlic makes takes most food from good to great. I usually saute garlic with my onions.

Cucumber –  I’m not a huge fan of the actual taste of cucumbers, but they are a good substitute for crackers when eating dips.  They are also a good lunch combo for tuna, substituting for bread.

Lettuce/Spinach –  I’m more likely to buy lettuce, but can go for spinach from time to time.  Used for making salads… duh.

Tomatoes – I usually buy canned tomatoes for putting in chili or meat sauce, but will also buy fresh to put in wraps or on sandwich.

Mushrooms – Mushrooms go great with a lot of meals.  I usually saute them along with onions and garlic.

Peppers – Peppers (red, green, orange, or whatever) go great in wraps, on sandwiches or sauted with onions and garlic.  Another stable in the majority of food I cook.

Carrots –  Carrots are another good food to dip with, but are also great roasted and sauted.  They also go great in soups.

Celery – I really like putting celery in soup, especially its leaves. so tasty.  Also good in stirfry.

Cabbage -This one is another favourite as it is filling and really taste when cooked with some onions and garlic.

Berries – I love eating berries for snacks as they take care of my sweet tooth

Pineapple – Another great snack food

Apples –  Also great for snacks.  I will sometimes pair with cinnamon and Splenda for a little variation.

Banana’s –  Good snack again.  For a little twist, you can freeze banana’s, blend them up and add a little syrup to make a pretty delightful substitute for ice cream.

Frozen Mixed Fruit – I like to get frozen fruit to mix into smoothies.  Just make sure to check the label as some frozen fruits have added syrup and those extra calories can add up quickly.

Proteins

Chicken – I buy frozen chicken breasts.  Very versatile and can be used in A LOT of different meals.  I will also buy seasoned cooked chicken to add to salads or wraps.   I avoid chicken wings, as they are usually really high in fat.

Fish – I’m still getting used to eating a lot of fish, but because it is so healthy (high protein, low-fat) I do my best to eat fish at least once a week.   My favourite is tilapia as I find it has a really mild ‘fishy’ taste.

Shrimp – Similar to fish and very versatile like chicken.

Wild Game – I try to avoid eating beef in favour of meat that is lower in fat and less processed.  I actually get deer meat from my father-in-law and wife, who hunt, but if that is not an option, I would seek out a butcher near you who sells wild game.  Once it’s cooked, the differences are subtle and who knows… you might like the taste of wild meat more.

Carbohydrates

Wraps – I buy whole-wheat wraps and eat them maybe 2 times a week for lunch.  They are good because you can stuff so many veggies into them.

Bread – If I buy bread, which is pretty rare, it is white rye bread.  At only 70 calories a slice, it is the lowest calorie bread I have found.  For me, this is more of a treat to have around than something I buy on a regular shop.

Cereal –  I eat cereal every morning for breakfast.  I usually try to label compare to make sure I am getting the healthiest option.  What I look for is high fibre and low sugar.

Yams –  I really like yams, or sweet potatoes as they are sometimes called.  A good treat, but just make sure it is a treat and not a regular occurence as they can be really high in carbohydrates.

Quinoa – I like to have quinoa from time to time.  It is a grain that is as easy to cook as rice, but much higher in protein.

Spices and Other’s

The key to delicious food, in my opinion, is the type of spices you use when cooking.  You need to figure out what flavours you like, and use them to make the food you cook taste how you want it to.  The seasonings I most commonly use are salt, garlic powder, chili powder, lemon/dill flavour, steak spice, and ginger.  You need to find what works for you. Other things I buy at the grocery store are salsa, hot sauce, olive oil, and humus.

Phew. That’s quite the list.  Well… now you have all the food and ingredients to make some pretty tasty AND healthy food.  In the coming days/weeks I will post some of my favourite recipe’s.  Don’t be scared to try cooking these foods and if you have other foods that you love to eat that are healthy, please feel free to provide them in the comments.    Happy weightloss everyone!  Dan

My 4 Weakest Justifications for Not Attempting Weightloss

We all make excuses for why we can’t or won’t do certain things.  Weightloss is no different.  Below are four of my weakest justifications for not attempting weightloss and what I did to overcome them.

Photo By: elcamino73

“I don’t have time to exercise” – I get this.  Trying to lose weight within busy lives is challenging.  But… WE ALL HAVE BUSY LIVES.  You must ask yourself “how is ‘person A’ able to have so much free time to exercise?”   They have the time because they make the time.  When I first started losing weight, I would spend 30 mins every day doing something physical.  This usually manifested itself in walking, but later evolved into my rigorous physical training.  As I began to see results, I started to ‘workout’ for longer periods of time.  You don’t need a lot of time to exercise.  If you watch an hour of T.V. a day, that’s an hour you could have spent on a treadmill watching T.V.   This justification is weak and should not stop you from attempting weightloss.

“I don’t have enough money” – This statement would usually be followed by “to buy the healthy food”, “to afford the equipment”, “to go to the gym”.   Ok, let’s start with the myth of health food being more expensive.  This blog post I found goes into much more detail then I will here, but to sum up, basically it classifies food into three categories;  normal food, pseudo-healthy food and actually healthy food.  Normal foods would be things like pizza, bread, mustard, etc. You know, the types of food people would normally eat.  Then there are the pseudo-healthy foods which are versions for normal foods that have been processed slightly differently to make them ‘healthy.’  These foods are typically priced more expensively than normal foods, which I’m sure has led to some believing that healthy foods are more expensive.  I believe this is more of a marketing ploy to get people who want to be health conscious to buy ‘quick, easy, and processed’ foods.  Then there is actual healthy foods.  Foods that are homemade and not processed fall into this category.  They are usually cheap to buy, but people don’t favour them because, as the post says “you can’t slice open a package and munch.”    We have all been led to believe that in order to get healthy, we NEED to go to the gym and we NEED to buy expensive fancy equipment.   Just type ‘Street Workout’ into YouTube.

“I will just gain the weight back” – This is a legitimate concern.  I myself have been a weightloss yo-yo and have been discouraged by trying so hard to lose weight, only to put it all (and more in some cases) back on. I think the key here is finding something that works for you that is sustainable.  I really don’t like ‘diets’, I like having a healthy diet.  When I lost weight (detailed here), it took three years.  It was a long process and that may sound like forever, but I know I will NEVER gain the weight back.  My slow weightloss was the result of making changes to how I behaved over a long period of time.  This allowed those changes to become a part of my life… not just something I was doing for 4 months.  Make changes that are manageable and sustainable, and you will be on the road to successful, lasting weightloss.

“I love good food too much” – Well now.  I too LOVE good food.  I’ve heard some people say that they don’t like to eat healthy because it tastes bad.  I used to believe this also.  To be honest, I hated ALL vegetables up until I was 21 years old. Why did I hate them?  Mostly because I hadn’t tried them yet… or tried them once and had a bad experience.  I have made it a life rule to try everything not once, but twice.  It also doesn’t hurt to find some new ways to cook foods you once thought were gross.   I really don’t like raw vegetables, so I take those vegetables, roast them, saute them, and add a little salt and viola, they are delicious.  Stopping your addiction to salty, fat filled, processed food may be tough, but once it’s broken, I think you will be hard pressed to go back.  Some of the best food I’ve ever tasted, also happens to be some of the healthiest.

So, there you have it.  My reasons for not attempting weightloss and what I did to overcome them.  If you anything to add, please post it in the comments below.  Happy Weightloss everyone!  Dan.

Living in a ‘Free’ World

Photo by: Delwin Stephen Campbell

Last night, I went to a Holocaust Remembrance Service or Yom HaShoah at the local synagogue here in Regina.  Yom HaShoah is held annually to remember the estimated 6 million Jews that we systematically persecuted and destroyed by Nazi Germany.  The main part of the service included an address from investigate journalist, Edwin Black.  Black is best known for his writing on how the corporations of America profited from the Holocaust, specifically IBM.  I encourage you to follow the links here and to read for yourself what Black has uncovered.  To summarize, Blacks message was that corporate greed made this injustice possible.  Desire for MONEY about PEOPLE made the Holocaust a reality and led to the deaths of 6 million Jews, along with homosexuals, gypsy’s, Jehovah Witnesses and more, at the hands of the Nazis.

If we do not understand our past, we are doomed to repeat it.”  This phrase was stated a couple of times last night and it makes sense to me.  If we forget the atrocities that occurred, we may very well repeat them… but what are we supposed to do if these atrocities are STILL occurring?  If you knew to Holocaust was happening right now, what would you do about it?  If you knew that corporate greed was still marginalizing people for profit, choosing MONEY over PEOPLE, would you do what you could to stop it?

The very sad, but true, fact is… this is still happening in our world.   I am so blessed to live in Canada and living here, it is easy to forget that there are people in the world who do not have things so well off.  It is estimated that between 12 to 27 million slaves exist worldwide. I recently took an online quiz which told me that because of the things I own (clothes, smartphones, laptops, T.V’s, jewellery) it is likely I had 43 slaves working for me.  You can find the quiz here.  Corporate greed is having the corporations I buy things from finding the cheapest possible way to purchase the raw materials needs to create their goods for me to consume.

I get to live the way I live (with all of my fancy toys, clothes, etc.) because somebody else is being marginalized. I am not OK with this. In a recent conversation with peers, I was told that we ‘cannot care about everything that happens in the world’ and that ‘that’s just how things are.’  These answers are not good enough for me.  If I knew that the Holocaust was happening right now, I would do what I could to stop it.   I KNOW that corporations are causing slavery and I am doing NOTHING.

 And to be honest, I’m not even sure where to start.  What can I do to stop slavery? I have tried looking into the companies I purchase goods from and have yet be able to find any links to slavery.   I have found many accusations, and many defenses, but no actual facts.  It would appear that companies would rather you not know that their raw materials are purchased from supplies who have forced or unpaid labour.  Awareness is something… but awareness without action is useless.

If you know of ways I can help to end slavery, please send me a message.