Sunday, November 29, 2009

Great Article in Men's Health Magazine About Pollution and Our Health

I know this may seem a little strange (being a woman and all), but one of my favorite magazines to read is Men's Health. The reason I love this magazine has nothing to do with the tips from "The Girl Next Door", or the info found in their "Tech Guide". No, the real reason I really enjoy this magazine is (the pictures of the hot guys....) the great articles by their writers.

This past month, their very talented writer Melody Petersen, composed a fantastic article about the health hazards of the various pollutants in our in environment. In this article, she visits an Indian Reserve in southern Ontario, Canada and exposes how two large industrial chemical plants have changed the lives of the residents living in that area. Although she focuses on how these chemicals are reducing the number of males being born, it also shares how these chemicals are influencing their pets and wildlife.

For example, check out this one passage:

"SHARREN FISHER IS FIGHTING her way through the thigh-high brush on a warm July afternoon, taking me to the water-filled ditch where Stella, her dog, would often stop for a drink. Fisher, a member of the tribe, says she's seen what looks like oil in the water. It's impossible to see where the water in the ditch comes from in the tangle of cattails and tall grass, but Fisher believes it drains from two industrial plants that are a quarter of a mile from her house, so close you can hear the roar of machinery.

"I used to take the dogs to the creek all the time," she says. But then Stella, a terrier-poodle mix, gave birth to three deformed pups. One stillborn pup, Fisher says, had no muzzle or fur. It also had webbed feet. That was in 2005, she says; Stella hasn't had any puppies since.

"We lost our ducks and geese," she says. "I couldn't keep them out of the water."

Her two ponies have had three stillborn foals. "We've never had a live baby from them," she says."

Disturbing? Isn't it?

To read more about what Melody has uncovered, visit the article online here. After reading it, you'll start to wonder just how companies are allowed to contribute this type of pollution to our world and how it influences the health of our children.

Beautiful Pregnancy Pictures by Heidi Taillefer

One of my blog readers sent me a link to some absolutely stunning paintings of pregnancy by an artist named, Heidi Taillefer. These can be found on the website Street Anatomy. Street Anatomy, created by Vanessa Ruiz, obsessively covers the use of human anatomy in medicine, art, and design.

I'm really enjoying this website, as I'm a slight anatomy geek. I hope you enjoy it too!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Inspiring Pregnancy Exercise Video

A friend of mine, Matt Pack, sent me the video above of his wife, Grace, going through her last "energy" workout right before the delivery of her baby. She had an easy labour and a healthy child and worked out like this all the way through her pregnancy.

If this doesn't inspire you to maintain your fitness (if you can, medically) throughout your pregnancy, I don't know what will.

NOTE: for those of you reading this post on Facebook, the video won't likely post, so if not, just visit my blog to see her in action.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Wonderous Womanhood

Not every woman is going to agree with the following post, and guys might not get it at all.

As a woman, there are those days that you think we were dealt the bad hand in the poker game, the short end of the stick, or the uncomfortable chair on the airplane.... whatever you may call it.

There are those horrid PMS days, those "fat" days, and those hot flash days that make us wonder why we're even here.

For example, most women experience almost all of the so-called "nasty" characteristics of womanhood listed below:

  • Breast development (and stretch marks)
  • PMS (cramps, bloating, mood swings)
  • Menstruation (stained clothing items)
  • Body fat gain... and more body fat gain
  • Pregnancy (and more stretch marks)
  • Labour (woah!)
  • Breast Feeding (super sore nipples)
  • Post-partum weight loss blues
  • Pre-menopause (the start of hot flashes and night sweats)
  • Menopause (IT'S HERE and the body fat keeps piling on)
  • Post-menopause (relief, but now a whole new hormonal challenge)

From this, the guys must think, "Thank Goodness I'm not a woman!" and some women wish they were men instead.

But, despite these unique female challenges, there are many wonderful aspects to being a woman that all women should embrace and cherish.

1) Breasts: When we first developed our little "breast buds" almost every young woman out there probably did their best to hide them. When I first "blossomed" I remember being in ballet practice and not letting my hands down from my chest because I didn't want to let anyone see my little "boobies" showing under my tight pink bodysuit.

Now, women's breasts are sometimes one of their most prized possessions. But yet, women still like to complain: "I wish they were bigger", "I want them smaller", "I want them perkier", etc, etc. And many women take the initiative to enhance their breasts to make them larger, more round, or whatever augmentation you can think of. Blame it on our society that a woman has a hard time loving what is uniquely hers.

I do understand (don't get me wrong) that there are times when breast surgery may be necessary such as very different breast sizes, extremely large breasts or extremely small breasts, but all-in-all, most of those cases are the minority in today's surgery line-up.

One of the women in my boot camp class recently lost both her breasts to breast cancer. But, she still walks around proud and tall showing the world that she beat breast cancer, and still loves her body. She's one of the strongest women I know, and tells all of us to appreciate our breasts no matter what the shape or size, because you never know if you might be without them.

2) Menstruation, "the curse":
There were times in my life that I thought menstruation was a "curse" - a horrid time of agony and discomfort. Also, at one point in time, women were told menstruating women could spoil meat and turn milk, and they should stay away from others for fear of "contaminating" them.

However, when I "lost" my period for over 5 years, I'll honestly say I missed it and knew something wasn't right. Despite countless doctors visits, MRIs, CTs and hormone tests, we still couldn't figure out why it left. Doctors wanted me to go on "the pill" to make it come back, but that wasn't the answer, it was only a cover-up for the true underlying issue.

There are also women out there, due to hormonal alterations such as PCOS, who also can not menstruate and do everything they can to make their periods return. Some are successful, some unfortunately are not.

And now, there is a new birth control pill advertised on T.V. and in magazines telling women that "there's no reason a woman needs to have her period every month". So, she should take this wonder pill and not worry about it anymore. Every time I see this commercial I want to find the makers of this drug (probably men), kick them VERY hard and tell them they're morons.

In truth, menstruation IS a normal healthy process every woman should experience monthly. True, there are reasons why it shouldn't be absolutely agonizing and are natural ways to minimize the pain and suffering, but overall, suppressing your period or losing it on purpose is NOT a good thing.

You don't have to necessarily LOVE your period, but love that it means that you're healthy and not having it could mean that you're not. Having your period allows you to be all that is woman, and in today's world, being a woman is a powerful thing.

3) Pregnancy: When I first found out I was pregnant this past July, I thought my world was over. All I could think about was no time for "me", weight gain, stretch marks, and never looking good again..... how stupid and selfish was I?

Now, I'm ecstatic to be pregnant - I'm pumped to prove that many women CAN stay active throughout their pregnancies, and that they're not "delicate little flowers" or, "poor unfortunate souls". Rather, pregnancy is a strong and empowering time for women and it brings much joy and love into their lives. And, following pregnancy comes many new highs and accomplishments.

I realize more and more every day that it's an amazing gift to be able to create another human being inside of you. Every time I feel my baby girl move within me, I'm amazed that there's actually someone in there growing and becoming stronger every minute. My husband tries to feel the baby move, and does sometimes catch a flutter or a kick, but he really never gets to feel what I feel all day long, and for that I feel incredibly blessed. Especially considering I never thought I'd ever have children or even be able to have children. It's so special.

The other amazing thing about being pregnant is the ability to provide the best nutrition for your baby - you have total control over what goes in your mouth and hence, what your baby receives. For that, your baby is one lucky being, especially if you do all that you can to give him or her the best nutrition possible.

4) Labour: Yes, it can be painful. Yes, it can be uncomfortable, BUT, if you're used to pain (such as kicking your own butt in the gym, on the road, or on the field), you'll realize you can take any type of pain to help your child come into this world. And, you don't need any drugs to do so.

5) Post-partum weight loss blues: Sure, your body isn't going to immediately return to pre-pregnancy state after your baby is born, but, if you know how to eat right and exercise with a purpose even with baby around, you can join the hot mommies club very soon.

6) Women's body fat: It's no secret that women naturally have more body fat than men, and for most women, it's a lot harder to keep that body fat in an "attractive" range. But, IT CAN BE DONE. Look to those women around you that make it happen and learn what you need to do. It takes a bit of effort including being dedicated to healthy nutrition and exercise plan, but remember, eating and exercising in this way (as long as it's not in a disordered kind of way...) is a good thing for your entire life.

7) Pre-menopause/Menopause: I'll admit, this is something I'm not well-experienced in, but I do attend a lot of conferences on the topic and listen to those that know how to manage it. From what I've learned, menopause (like menstruation) is NOT a disease, and can be managed in a natural way.

There are certain environmental factors today (xenoestrogens, toxins, stresses) that make menopause happen much earlier than it's supposed to. But, there are many natural ways to make the transition to menopause happen at the right time, and happen without too many unnecessary side effects. For an example of how this can happen, have read of the article by Dr Desmond Ebanks, entitled, "The Essence of Estrogen"


Overall, women are a unique and special gender. Yes, we have our challenges and pains, but I hope you see that they're all worth it and make us who we are. Embrace your women-power and realize that with every day that passes, being a woman is the best thing that ever happened to you.

In health,


Friday, November 20, 2009

Slow Harvest Protein Oatmeal Recipe

I'll be honest and admit that it's been awhile since I've eaten oatmeal in the morning. Usually, I have eggs, egg whites and Ezekiel bread because it takes less time to prepare. But, this week I had a few mornings where I had enough time to cook oatmeal and enjoyed it on a cool Fall day.

I don't use a microwave, and also only use slow-cooking oats, hence why cooking oatmeal takes a bit of time. But, when you have time to cook it on the stove slowly, it's worth every minute.

Pictured above is my new oatmeal creation. It's all-natural, high protein (32 grams!), high fiber (11 grams!) and keeps me full for hours. I also incorporated local apples from the farmer just up the road, which was a fantastic addition. The whey protein I use is also all-natural with no artificial flavors or sweeteners (I use Bipro USA whey protein which mixes very well) . To give the oatmeal a bit of a sweeter flavor, you can use a small drop of maple syrup or a sprinkle of Truvia sweetener.

When you have a chance to cook your oatmeal on the stove one morning, give this recipe a try:

Slow Harvest Protein Oatmeal

1/3 cup slow oats
1 Tbsp Salba (ground Chia seeds)
1 Tbsp ground flax seeds
1 scoop unsweetened vanilla whey protein
1/6 fresh apple
1 tsp cinnamon
Truvia sweetener (optional)

Cook oatmeal on stove according to package directions. Add Salba and ground flax while cooking.

Once cooking is complete, remove from stove and let cool for a few minutes.

Once slightly cooled, add 1 scoop whey protein, cinnamon, and natural sweetener if desired.

Mix everything together and enjoy!

Nutrition facts:
342 calories, 32 g protein, 33 g carb (11 g fiber), 11 g fat (4 g omega-3 polyunsaturated fat)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

New low-carb book for you to read

I'm pleased to share with you a new book by an experienced veteran of the low-carb nutrition world: Jimmy Moore.

Jimmy has published one book already on low-carb dieting and has now come out with his second book titled, "21 LIFE LESSONS FROM LIVIN' LA VIDA LOW-CARB: How The Healthy Low-Carb Lifestyle Changed Everything I Thought I Knew".

If you're interested in low-carb nutrition or just want to find out what the popularity is all about, I highly recommend you check Jimmy's new book. Or, if you're someone following low-carb, but are thinking you might give it up, first hear what Jimmy has learned in his journey and why he still commits to this lifestyle (and you might too).

Jimmy is truly passionate about low-carb eating as it has made a profound difference in his life. Here is a clip about him from his website:

In January 2004, Jimmy Moore made a decision to get rid of the weight that was literally killing him. At 32 years of age and 410 pounds, the time had come for a radical change of lifestyle. A year later, he had shed 180 pounds, shrunk his waist by 20 inches, and dropped his shirt size from 5XL to XL. After his dramatic weight loss, Jimmy was inundated with requests from friends, neighbors and complete strangers seeking information and help. Jimmy is dedicated to helping as many people as possible find the information they need to make the kind of lifestyle change he has made.

If that's not enough to convince you that Jimmy can truly show you more about low-carb nutrition than ever possible, then I don't know what can. He's truly a gem.

So, what are you waiting for? Check out his book today!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Manitoba Harvest November 2009 Newsletter

It's that time of the month again! (not that time ladies and gents...LOL) It's time to have a quick read of Manitoba Harvest's monthly newsletter!

In this issue, find out how hemp foods are helping fight the war against diabetes, and check out two great recipes for Chocolate Rawcoons and Hemp Seed Noghurt Cream Sauce. Yum!

Speaking of recipes, Manitoba Harvest has a ton of great ideas you can use for your upcoming Thanksgiving feast. Check out the recipe page here.

To check out this great November newsletter, click the link below. Enjoy!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Assess and Correct - Fix yourself before you break

As many of my readers know, I have one really bad back. Not a bad back as in, "Back, you've been bad.... go to your room!", but as in, "Wowza, my back hates me."

I also have the pleasure of being hypermobile, with a lot of joint laxity. Now, some people may think it's cool to be able to go "Gumby-like" tricks with your body, but, in truth, it's not that fabulous.

Thankfully, over the years, I've had the opportunity to see many knowledgeable physical therapists and coaches. I've learned in these visits how to correct my posture, why I should avoid certain exercises and stretches, and what to do if I encounter significant pain.

And, even though I've thought I knew all there is to know to keep my body healthy and strong, I always end up learning something new and beneficial along the way. Or, I'm reminded of something that I formerly knew, but just forgot.

My whole point here is that to prevent injury, and be the best we can in the gym without coming home in oodles of unnecessary pain, we need to know how to assess our current performance and mechanics and correct issues before they become a real problem.

And, I don't know about you, but I'd rather not depend on acetaminophen or ibuprofen for the rest of my life. My liver wouldn't like that very much.

So, I'm here to tell you about a new DVD by THE movement and correction experts, Eric Cressey MA CSCS, Bill Hartman PT CSCS, and Mike Robertson MS CSCS.

In this DVD, Assess and Correct, you'll learn how to evaluate your own posture and how to determine your imbalances and weaknesses. Then, you're given over 70 exercises and stretches to correct these issues and return your body to optimal health. This is all so you can perform at your best, and avoid hundreds of dollars paid out to your local physical therapy clinic.

Also, when you get the DVD, you also get these awesome free bonuses:

  • The Assess and Correct Assessment E-manual. This is the corresponding manual to DVD #1 that you can refer to regularly to keep your program focused on your needs.
  • The Assess and Correct E-manual. This is the corresponding manual to DVD #2 that includes photos and descriptions of each exercise that you can take to practice or the gym.
  • “The Great Eight Static Stretches” E-manual. These are our favorite 8 static stretches you can use daily to complement your Assess and Correct program.
  • The “Optimal Self Myofascial Release” E-manual. These are the same techniques we use with our athletes and clients to allow you to work on your own soft-tissue issues.
  • The “Warm-ups for Everybody” E-manual. This manual provides 38 different warm-up programs for 19 different sports and conditions.
All of this, for one low price of just $127. And, just to put this into perspective, one of the physical therapists I've seen in the past charges $90 for just ONE hour with her. Yes, she's worth it, but, you can only learn so much from her in that short period of time.

So, if you're looking to correct issues in your own body and learn how to perform even better, I highly recommend you pick up a copy of Assess and Correct today. It's totally worth it and has made a huge difference for me and my back health.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Business of Being Born

This weekend, my husband and I watched the movie, "The Business of Being Born", a documentary of birth by Ricki Lake and filmmaker Abby Epstein.

Even more so than being just about birth, it was about ways to approach birth other than through a traditional hospital, such as home births and water births. Now, I'm not against hospitals, but the movie did show some pretty disturbing clips about how birth in American hospitals has become more of a "business" than a service.

It showed several home births, some in the water, some not. And, I don't know about you, but watching a woman push through labor and then hold her baby in her arms did more than just choke me up (even hubby was a bit emotional). After watching all of these very wonderful home births, my husband was very passionate about us having our baby here at home.

Although a home birth would be a great idea and I've heard nothing but fabulous stories from women around me that have had home births, I unfortunately do not have the option to do so at home (no one in my area that can do it). I've currently been seeing an OB who delivers out of a hospital. My first OB and I did NOT click at all. Every time I waited HOURS for her to see me for an appointment, I felt like she didn't even care at all if I was there or not. She was quite cold. I've recently switched to a new practice (one of the OBs there is in my Boot Camp Class) who has a midwife, but this midwife can not deliver, only the OBs can. Also, there are seven OBs in this practice, and I have to meet with all of them (one I know well) because they're never sure who will be there when I deliver. That's a little unnerving.

I do have some faith in our medical establishment, and the doctors in this new practice, but know now that sometimes, procedures like c-sections and medications can be pushed on women when they really don't want them (or need them). If possible, I also do not want either (I already have enough scars on my abdomen from a colorectomy and appendectomy and don't want any more).

So, I'm feeling that a Doula, someone to hold my standards of care and beliefs up when I might be at my weakest, will be the best option for me right now. Thankfully I do have those around me and am meeting with a few this week. Who knows, maybe I'll be able to have both a midwife and Doula, but for now, this is what I've got going on.

Anyhow, back to the movie: I highly recommend that women who are interested in the best delivery possible should watch this. There's also the book version if you'd rather read.

True, I'll admit that some of the movie is a bit sensationalized - they show some crazy clips of hospital deliveries - but take that with a grain of salt and just use the information to learn more about where you'll be having your baby and what options you may or may not have.

Awhile back I posted a study that correlated low blood vitamin D levels with increased rates of c-sections. Now, I'm highly doubtful that this is true (the writers of the paper had a really good statistician...) and the increased rate may be more to do with what this movie has exposed.

To read more about this movie, visit the website, or read a review from the Giving Birth Naturally website. Both have great information.

I wish all the women around me (there's about ten in my immediate circle of friends pregnant right now) a happy, healthy and natural pregnancy. With knowledge comes freedom. Learn as much as you can, if you desire, and do whatever you feel is best for you and your child.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Kettlebell Boot Camp Videos.. while pregnant!

Two videos for you all from one of the Kettlebell boot camp classes I teach. This one was from this past Tuesday.

Here, you can also see the pregnancy belly at work. Who says you have to stop working out if you're pregnant? This was a great workout and baby loved it too!

You'll see in the KB floor presses that I am in a supine position, which is said to be avoided. Well, I've been reading research showing that during exercise, it's not dangerous to be in a supine position. And, I'll attest that I do feel fine. However, sleeping is another story. I can no longer lay on my back at night or I get really (really) nauseous.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Video of Saturday Women's Boot Camp

Hey Everyone!

Here's two videos for you to see what we do at Saturday morning women's boot camp at Lightning Fitness in South Windsor, CT.

In the first circuit, the ladies did 45 seconds on and 20 seconds rest of the following circuit:
1) Inverted Rows
2) Ball Weighted Supine Hip Extensions (SHE)
3) Bar Pushups
4) Squat to Cable Row
5) Mini-band Side Steppers
6) Landmine Rock Stars
7) Ab Wheel Roll-outs
We did these for four rounds following our Dynamic Warm-up. This video was taken at round three, so some of the ladies were getting a bit tired.

You can also see here my growth as a mommy... the belly is starting to get harder to hide :)

For the second round, we did the following circuit, 20 seconds on, 5 seconds off:
1) Battle Rope Drills (Slams, Alternates and Ins-Outs)
2) Kettle-bell Swings

After all that, we cooled down with easy stretching.

Happy Saturday!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

One way to make exercise more appealing?

I love this. One of my colleagues posted this video awhile ago, but then again today my husband sent it to me too - he told me to blog about it (and that never happens...)

It's called "The Fun Theory"
The site who makes these videos has the following motto:

"This site is dedicated to the thought that something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better. Be it for yourself, for the environment, or for something entirely different, the only thing that matters is that it’s change for the better."

The video above is called The Piano Staircase and says,

"”Take the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator and feel better” is something we often hear or read in the Sunday papers. Few people actually follow that advice. Can we get more people to take the stairs over the escalator by making it fun to do? See the results here"

I'd love to see this happen. I love taking the stairs even though everyone thinks escalators are so much better. I'd be one way to help people become more active.

Visit The Fun Theory website to learn other fun ideas to make our world a better place.

Monday, November 2, 2009

She's not crazy, she's pregnant....

Pregnancy can be a very stressful time in a woman's life. Not only is her body about to go through an amazing transformation (Hello, Stretch Marks), but her mind is racing with a million and one questions.

Just think about it: For most other big events in our lives, we're taught how to do the task at hand. Take reading for example, no one just hands you a book and says, "Read". No, you're taught over the course of several months and have someone helping you along the way. Then, swimming, no one just throws in you a pool and says, "Swim". No way. For most big events, we're taught, or we have time to learn so that we finally really get it (or have time to make mistakes). It's not like we have Pregnancy 101 in school or anything...

For some women, pregnancy happens when they least expect it, or potentially when they're not even ready. Even for those who try for a long time and finally do get pregnant, they're still left with many unanswered questions.

Questions like:
1) What pre-natal vitamin is really good for me? Are the blue-colored ones from the pharmacy really all that great? Or, is it better to avoid those artificial colors and go with one free of those ingredients?
2) I have a milk intolerance: are my bones or my baby's bones going to suffer because I just can't do dairy?
3) What can/ can't I do for exercise? If I'm a runner, is it ok to keep going? What about keeping my heart rate or body temperature low? Is that still valid? I'm I'm a lifter, can I still lift heavy?
4) What can I do about these food cravings? I feel like I'm going crazy! What do I do?
5) How much weight gain is ok for me? I've heard some women gain only 20 lbs while other gained 40 and both had healthy babies?
6) Who should choose to help me with my medical care? An OBGYN? A midwife? What about a Doula?
7) When I have the baby, can I go back to work right away? Or, will that compromise my baby's development?

Then, there are other topics that come up along the way that you never thought you'd even have to think about. In reality, all you really want to do is just have a healthy, comfortable pregnancy and birth, then raise a child without excessive fear of disease, death or disability to him or her.

Some women don't have much support around them in terms of other women who have gone through the same thing. They may be able to ask a few of their friends with children, but since every pregnancy and every woman is different, it's hard to know what is best for you and your growing child.

Sure, there are guidelines from your doctor, but with the way the medical establishement is moving (pressures on doctors to take more and more patients just to keep their practices running), it's unlikely you'll get more that 20 minutes with him or her if you have other things to ponder. Also, if and when you do find a good midwife, will she be able to answer all your questions either?

Then, you want to help your husband/partner understand the rollercoaster of emotions you're going through, but sometimes, even though they try, they may not fully be able to comprehend (and that's understandable).

Overall, people may label pregnant women as "crazy", but one just needs to consider all the thoughts going through their heads at any one time. It's more than just themselves they need to think about now, it's another human life. So be kind if it seems like some woman close to you is a little nutty. They're only trying to determine what is good for themselves and their child in a very short time.

I'm learning that pregnancy is really such a wonderful time in life even despite all the thoughts racing through my head. Women have been having babies since the dawn of time and it's a process our bodies are built to do. We just need to trust that we can do the right thing, and with a little investigation, come up with credible answers to our nagging questions.

My thoughts are with all my pregnant friends right now as we enter this fabulous phase in our lives. Motherhood is next with all the joys and excitement it too will bring.

Best, Cass