Monday, April 25, 2011

Skinny Nish

We're starting to see the first signs of spring in the Odawa area. The snow has melted, the grass is greening, and I can hear bullfrogs mating outside of my window (lovely, I know). When R.J. and I wake up every morning we greet the family of shishib (ducks) living in the pond in the backyard of our condo complex.

Medicine wheel teachings tell us that spring--represented by the east, the colour yellow and many other manifestations--is a time of birth or rebirth. As a self-professed "starter" (I have a bag full of beads and vehemently refuse to concede that I may not be crafty) it's one of my favourite times of year. I love the hope that fills me when I set goals, look for opportunities and imagine the future.

Inevitably, one of the areas I want to rejuvenate this spring is my physical health.

I started working out at the gym when I was about 17. My peak of physical fitness (thus far!) happened when I was about 21 and I ran 10k for the Terry Fox run - my first and only run, race, whatever you want to call it. About two years later it all started to go downhill when I began grad school and effectively had no time to do anything but read and write.

And to cut a long story short, I haven't been able to climb back on the horse since then. There was a gym in our last apartment building, and I had mild success there. We bought a treadmill last summer, and I tried the barefoot running fad recommended by a colleague who's a runner, but only ended up betraying my ankles with lack of support.

Worst of all, over the past 6 months I've been stuffing my mouth with wild abandon, not caring where it ends up in the end. I'm talking all-you-can-eat wings at Kelsey's and three plates of pad Thai in a week. Enough said.

So now, I am releasing into the universe...

3 Steps to a Healthy Mal

1. Skinny Chicks
I am presently on day 6 of the Skinny Chicks Kick Start meal plan. What's this, you might ask? Well, it is the one and only meal plan/diet/eating lifestyle I have ever been on and I love it.

I honestly think this book found me. I was just browsing through Chapters, not looking to make any huge changes to my eating habits at that time, when I came across it. I gave it a quick scan, and everything just seemed to make sense. The basic premise is to keep your blood sugar levels steady. It's not restrictive--all meals contain healthy portions of protein, carbs and fat--and it's designed for real women living in the real world. Today is day 6 and I feel AWESOME.

2. Running
Of course, I have to return to my one tried and true cardio workout. I have all the equipment I need--sneakers, the fact that I live on a road and a treadmill--so there really is no excuse. Although it might be a little steep, my goal is to participate in the Terry Fox run again this September. That leaves me...4 months. Better get a move on!

3. Yoga

Yoga is the one practice that has stuck in the face of bad eating habits and cardio falling to the wayside. And I think there's something to that. Could it be the fact that I truly enjoy it? What a novel idea! I first encountered yoga in Goodlife's "BodyFlow" class, which mixed yoga, tai chi and pilates. I now practice weekly for free at the Odawa Native Friendship Centre and I plan to keep going - maybe even increase my visits!

So, that's my commitment to my health. Now to think of a rewards system...

Sunday, April 17, 2011

One-Minute Book Review: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Junot Diaz)

'The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao' would have been perfect for my now defunct book club. As soon as I finished it, I found myself wishing I had a friend with whom to discuss it. I didn't, so I resorted to the next best thing: Googling New York Times book reviews and book club questions.

Always one to root for the underdog, I wanted to discuss what I hoped would be a mutual affection for Oscar, the deeply flawed protagonist who turned stereotypes of Dominican men on their heads with his superbly nerdy vocabulary and hopeless romanticism.

As an aspiring writer, I often turn to other writers' "Top 5" or "Top 10" writing tips. One that sticks with me is to read the works of non-English authors. This was a tip I struggled with because probably 75% of my library these days is filled with Native fiction and non-fiction written in English. Although the majority of Junot Diaz's writing is in English, he integrated Spanish (sans translation or italics) and, at times, his use of Dominican-Jersey slang read a world away.

And lastly, this book is worth a read if only for its strong female characters. Although Oscar and the novel's narrator are male, at times their stories fall to the wayside as we meet Oscar's sister, mother, and great-aunt, whose equally powerful characters are what make Oscar, Oscar.