Who's going to stop you?

July

Here it is!

A few of you were asking for it yesterday - I love your enthusiasm!!

If you're new to my blog, each month I post a calendar for you to print off and chart your activity goals and post a sticker for each day that you exercise.

Later this week I will be posting my results for the month of June as well as the results of some of my readers! If you would like to be included in the recap, please send me a picture of your (hopefully) sticker-filled June calendar, along with a little description of what you achieved this month to wwleaderashley@gmail.com by this Friday.

And if you didn't print off last month's calendar, July is a new opportunity to get moving!!

What are your activity goals this month?

Dance like no one's watching

I started taking belly dance last year after doing a belly dance inspired number in a production of Kismet. A friend has also been taking classes and she loved them so I thought it might be a fun way to be active without hitting the gym. Since then I've become obsessed!! I absolutely love my classes and really look forward to them each week.

Friday marked my first public dance recital since I was about 9 years old. (I was trying to find an old picture, but they all seem to be stored away at my dad's house) I took tap and jazz between the ages of 7 and 9 and the most fun part for me was always the recital. I loved being on stage, in the costumes and the make up, under the lights with an audience of people there to watch! I quit lessons in my third year because our teacher (Miss Carol) decided that we would do dance exams rather than a recital. No thanks!!

I later took tap, jazz and ballet when I was in musical theatre college. I started in "pre-beginner" jazz and ballet. Yes, pre-beginner. I was okay with this since I was predominantly a singer and an actor, but really, how can you be a pre-beginner anything?!?! I moved up over the two years but I never felt like a dancer. Belly dance has been the first type of dance that I feel I could actually be good at.

I wasn't too nervous heading into the recital on Friday night. We had been working on our choreography for quite awhile, and I felt that I had it down and was able to perform it well. It was a long night and we weren't on until the second half of act 2. I wish I could have taken pictures during the show because there were some absolutely stunning performances. My favourite performance of the night was my teacher's solo performance. She wore a beautiful green costume with matching Isis Wings. It was absolutely breathtaking. I am so blessed to have such a talented teacher with so much passion for the art of belly dance.

Everyone who I knew in the audience was clumped together on the right side directly in front of me. Thank you to Joey, Darryl, Avra, Lindsay, Jess & Andrew who all came to show their support. The performance was exhilarating. It was so fun to be on stage and the audience really appreciated our performance. We danced to a wonderful version of "Habibi Ya Aini" and they were clapping and it was so great to have the audience interaction and participation. I felt confident and beautiful performing our choreography. It was amazing.

I got some great feedback from everyone who attended including comments that "boot camp is really working!" Part of my intention for doing boot camp was so that I could feel an extra little bit of confidence on stage for this recital and it definitely provided me with that.


I look forward to more bellydancing in my future and more opportunities to perform!! This is only the beginning...

So cute!

Check out my lovely winners!!


Kate won the Laptop Lunch from Obentec. Look how adorable she is!!

And her lunch looks yummy!

Allie won the "Ashley gift pack".

Isn't she lovely?


Check out her review of "Banish Fat Boost Metabolism"

They actually both received their prizes on the same day - too funny!
So glad that you're enjoying your new goodies ladies!!

Who wears short shorts?

I haven't worn shorts in, oh I don't know, 8 years? Maybe even more. And even then it was a mandatory gym uniform. I wear skirts, capris or pants, but no shorts. Even after losing 33 lbs, I never wore shorts outside the house (and even inside was rare) I didn't like the way my legs looked in shorts so I didn't want to subject anyone else to having to look at them.

This all changed last week after Monday's Boot Camp session. It was hot and I started thinking that maybe I would be a little more comfortable in a pair of shorts over the next few weeks? But wearing shorts, would mean going into a change room and trying them on, which would lead to buying them and then taking the plunge and wearing them in public - could it be done?

The answer my friends, is yes.

I took a trip to the Nike store last week and purchased two pairs of shorts. I would be lying if I said that trying on 6 different pairs in the change room was easy. Not only was the lighting bad, but the negative self talk in my head started up as soon as I had dropped my pants.

"Your thighs are going to look fat"

"You have cellulite"

"You are going to feel self-conscious"

SHUT UP!!!

I pushed out the negative thoughts by reminding myself of how hard I was working at boot camp. All of those squats, lunges, and burpees aren't just for kicks - as a result of doing them I am changing my body. I had an objective look at my body (in the horribly lit, full length mirror) and felt proud of how far I had come from 3 years ago. I told myself that I looked great. I told myself that I feel awesome and healthy. And I finally reminded myself how much cooler I was going to feel in shorts when it's 30+ degrees outside. After all of this tug of war I decided on a grey pair and a pink pair and took them to the cash.

I wore my pink pair to Booty Camp on Monday night.



Joey even told me that my butt looked good!!

I have to say that I felt a little self conscious after seeing that picture and stepping outside the comfort of my own home, but then I decided that I was going to rock my shorts. It felt really great to be kicking my issues to the curb and doing what made me feel good.

I reminded myself of all the things I've accomplished in the last three years and told myself that I looked great. I also thought about how silly it was to be obsessing over something like an article of clothing. Other girls in the class wear shorts. Heck, millions of people in the WORLD wear shorts! There was no real reason for me not to be wearing shorts.

The power of positive thinking is an incredible thing and I really encourage you all to rid yourself of those negative words and thoughts that have been swirling around your head.

The first step is to recognize those negative thoughts. Think about the words that you are using. I heard myself using terms like "self-conscious", "fat", and "cellulite" and realized how horrible I was sounding. Negative thoughts often have words like can't, never, only, but, or won't. Once you realize that you're thinking negatively you need to...

Challenge those negative thoughts! Just like I did with my own comments about my shorts, ask yourself if what you're saying is realistic or grounded in any sort of reality. Would you make these comments to a family member, friend or loved one? Then...

Replace the negatives with positives. Rather than focusing on the negative, find positive things about the experience. Maybe you're frustrated because you overate at dinner. Instead of thinking negatively, go through the situation in your head and see what you did do to help and think about what you learned from the experience. When my negative short thoughts crept in, I thought about all the weight that I have lost and the work I'm doing at Boot Camp and kicked my negative thoughts out the door with my much more positive thoughts.

Don't beat yourself up over negative thoughts - they do happen and it can take time to change your thinking and your habits. You can do it!

There have been a few posts in the blog world in the last week or so about loving your body and they've really hit home for me. Check out Leslie's post on her experience in the fashion industry. It is really brave writing and I really applaud Leslie for putting herself out there like that. You can also check out Operation Beautiful. Caitlin's initiative has really taken the idea of positive thinking to a new level. I think it's absolutely wonderful.

How do you get past negative thoughts? How has positive thinking improved your quality of life and/or your weight loss journey?

Meal Plan - Week of June 21 & goodies

I realized that I've never shown you what I buy when I get groceries!


From the bulk store - Whole O's (I'm addicted to this cereal), bran flakes (Joey is addicted to these), unsweetened vanilla Almond Breeze, organic balsamic vinegar, coconut milk, pineapple, oats, amaranth and various spices.

At the fruit market - bananas, cauliflower, butternut squash, peppers, ginger, blueberries (3/$5 - and they're organic!), kiwis, and pears.

Put it all together and you get our meal plan for this week:

Sunday
BBQ'd veggie burgers, balsamic brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes and ginger pear amaranth crumble (We've decided that making dessert on Sundays is a really nice treat!)

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday (Joey's birthday!)
Polynesian slow cooker chicken (UFUH)

Thursday
Pork chops with roasted spiced cauliflower & quinoa

Friday
Leftover something or dining out because it's my belly dancing RECITAL

Saturday
Taking my honey out for his birthday!

Pssssssstt... check out what I received in the mail today!

Thanks to Alisa who sent Go Dairy Free & My Sweet Vegan after I won them in Ange's Shop 4 a Cause! The lovely folks at POM also sent me some coupons for free POM Wonderful juice. Reviews coming your way very soon!! (And more books to add to the Summer Reading List!)

I love getting things in the mail!!

WMR + Boot Camp Update - Week of June 14

Lots of yummy things this week + some great Boot Camp progress!! Let's go with food pics first:

What week is complete without my protein salad from reFresh? This salad makes me so happy time and time again.

On Tuesday we had taco night:

Lean pork with cumin and chili powder with salsa, avocado and cucumbers in a brown rice tortilla with yummy brown rice salad (with lentils instead of black beans). I loved the variety in the textures and flavors.

I made stuffed peppers in the slow cooker on Tuesday night - so yummy and pretty!

I don't have a picture of them on my plate because of the 6, I only had one and forgot to take a picture of it. Joey is a pepper monster. He can't get enough!!

I saw Elana's recipe for breakfast bars and I knew I had to try them. They were super easy to make and they turned out so well.


This is my first time using almond flour and it was lovely!! I'm looking forward to using it in more recipes and also making these bars again. They can be incorporated into a yummy breakfast and they're also a nice on-the-go snack.

Joey and I had taken the day off on Friday to head to Canada's Wonderland. We started off the morning with a tasty breakfast of blueberry pancakes (with a breakfast bar for good measure).

Okay, so they were a little "well done", but they tasted AMAZING. I didn't even need to put anything on them because the sweetness from the blueberries, agave & vanilla was perfect. Joey really liked them too.

We had a fantastic day at Wonderland. Of course I packed a lunch for us:

Wraps (not pictured - mine was cashew butter with banana and Joey's was rice, lentils, cheese, and salsa), brown rice salad, & veggies with hummus. I was really happy to have yummy food that didn't cost a billion dollars.

We went on a lot of rides, but did not brave the Bohemoth. (I'll use the excuse that the line was too long. While the line was long, dropping at an 80 some odd degree angle didn't appeal to me) I think my favourite ride was Dragon Fire - so classic!

We grabbed a quick bite in the food court on our way home. I had the 3 salad plate from Cultures.

Spinach salad, lentil salad & mango salad - what a great combo!!! It was quite satisfying and I didn't feel like I was eating "food court food".

I did two more sessions of Booty Camp this week and I have to say that it's still tough!!

It was super sunny and hot on Monday so I found myself sweating more and guzzling more water than the previous week. Our instructor is adding things on and I'm already starting to feel myself improving in some areas. I was not hurting as much on Tuesday!! I have to attribute some of this success to Polly over at Yoga is Yummy. I've been doing her Yoga for Upper Thighs video after I come home from my sessions and I have found it to be incredibly helpful.

I am really proud of myself for going to my class on Wednesday because it was definitely RAINING!! We do boot camp outside, and usually I'm a total suck about getting wet. I toughed it out and it felt incredible. About 2/3 of my class showed up and we were soggy and wet and sore when the hour was over, but I think it was a fabulous test for us and I'm really proud!

I'm also really proud that I've been doing my At-Home workout. When you register for Boot Camp you receive a DVD with a 3-level at home workout which I have done twice now. I figure I might as well try to get the most out of this experience! So far I've done the Beginner workout and it's great - lots of squats, lunges, arms, push ups and abs. I've been logging my progress in my journal and have seen improvements over just two weeks! Next week I am going to try the Intermediate session.

There are various activities to complete throughout the Booty Camp Guide and one of them is to create a Compelling Vision Board. The idea is that you create a poster to help you visualize your goal by incorporating pictures and positive words/phrasing that represent your goal and why you want to get there and how it's going to make you feel physically and emotionally. I'm going to hang mine in my closet so that I see it every morning.

It was a great activity and something that I highly recommend, especially if you're a visual person. It really helps you to see your goal and making it easier to get there because you've got your eye on the prize. Whether you are trying to lose weight, working on maintaining your weight or just trying to better yourself in any way, I really recommend having a specific, attainable, realistic, goal in mind.

Here's a quote from my board that I gave to my members this morning that I really think sums up my feelings on Booty Camp.

"I can do this and the end result will be great. Quitting is not an option"

Early this morning I signed up for another four weeks of classes, so I will be doing this for a total of 8 weeks. I am really proud of all of the activity that I've been doing lately and Boot Camp has really pushed me to step out of my comfort zone with activity and push my fitness levels to new heights. I'm really looking forward to continuing over the next 6 weeks.

WMR - First two weeks of June

I am behind again!! I have food pictures just piling up on my camera... but first a review!

Magic Oven has 6 location is Toronto offering a wide selection of pizza, pasta and sandwiches. They use a lot of organic and locally grown ingredients and they also have a variety of options for vegetarians, vegans and people who are gluten or wheat intolerant. I've been wanting to try it out for awhile now so Joey and I decided to give it a shot on Friday night.

We opted to share a couple of things so we got the gluten free penne with tofu, mushroom, zucchini in a spicy tomato sauce and the Super Magic pizza (tomato sauce, pepperoni, portabellos, and organic mozzarella) with cheese only on half and a gluten free crust.


I have to say that I was underwhelmed. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't awesome either. It was nice to be eating tomatoes for the first time in three months(!) and I liked the spiciness of the tomato sauce on the pasta. There was no wow factor with the pasta, but it was nice to have the gluten free option. The pizza was also pretty lacklustre. Our waitress initially forgot that we only wanted cheese on half, so Joey tried it first. He said that it definitely "tasted gluten free" and was disappointed in the lack of toppings. My other comment is that it's a little bit expensive for what you get. I think in the future when I'm craving pizza or pasta, I will just head to Vi Vetha or Il Fornello or just make it myself, like I did on Sunday night.


Brown rice pasta with tomatoes, herbs & chicken.

Now for the rest...


Highlights included lots of yummy cereals bowls at the new table, cashew ginger tofu, orange-maple tempeh (note to self - Joey does not like tempeh), sweet potato fries and yummy veggies!

Here's a preview of what you'll be seeing this weekend in my proper (on time) recap:

My favourite tofu salad
Taco night!
and much more!

I'll also be posting an update on Booty Camp! (The good news is that it hurts less this week, the bad news is that the classes are still tougher than anything I've ever done before!!)


Sunday in the park with Crohn's

On Sunday I took part in my first Crohn's & Colitis Heel n Wheel a Thon in stunning Sunnybrook park. What an amazing day!



I have to say a big thank you to everyone who donated money (or bought cupcakes) because with your help I was able to raise $1,724.75!!! For someone who set their goal at $500, I think I did pretty well! I really can't thank everyone enough.


On Friday they had been calling for rain on Sunday, but I woke up to see nothing but blue skies and sunshine - hooray!
Lori offered to do the walk with me, and I was excited to have some company. (Joey was going to come along but it turned out that his band was playing in Sudbury on Saturday night). Lori has a personal connection with Crohn's & Colitis after being diagnosed quite a few years ago. She has been an amazing resource and support for me throughout my diagnosis and journey so it was quite special that she accompany me on the walk. .



Sunnybrook Park is absolutely beautiful! It was a really nice place for a walk. Since it's the Heel N Wheel a Thon, there were people walking, running, biking, and rollerblading. There weren't as many people as I thought there would be so it wasn't too crowded along the path (although I have to say that some of the people on bikes were a little grouchy...)


We were greeted with volunteers cheering as well as yummy watermelon & water along the way.



Here I am at the finish line!

Vitamin Water was handing out samples so I enjoyed the lemon version.




It was yummy and cold although rather sugary, so I'm not sure I would ever buy it. There was pizza and burgers as well, but I couldn't take part in those. Perhaps next year they would consider having some salad and fresh veggies available for those of us who can't have wheat or gluten? I stuck with a pecan larabar instead.


Lori and I decided that next year we are going to get a team together and I think that next year I will run it. It felt amazing to be taking part in this event and I look forward to doing it in years to come. Thanks again to everyone for their donations!! Watch out... next year I'm going to be setting an even bigger goal!!

The new and improved, healthier Ashley

At the beginning of March I changed the way I was eating as a result of some food sensitivity testing that I had done with my naturopath. At the time, it seemed like a daunting challenge, but I wanted to see what I could do with food to help my body.

I have learned that there is life after gluten, dairy and the other 20 or so foods I cut out. I had to rethink my meals and the choices that I was making, but I believe that I started eating healthier as a result. There are tonnes of resources out there for people with food issues and I loved reading and learning and embracing the options.

I found a lot of great recipes in vegan cookbooks and have made a ton of amazing recipes. My favourites include Eat Drink & Be Vegan, Veganomican, Get it Ripe and Refresh, among others. While I haven't cut out meat entirely, I found that many vegan cookbooks were cognizant of other food issues and labelled recipes as gluten/wheat free as well as provided ideas for substitutions.

The blog world has also been an amazing resource to me. Not only has it provided me with recipe and meal ideas, information on new products, but it has also provided me with a sense of community. There are so many amazing bloggers who are passionate about food and they have really helped me to stay positive! I especially want to say thank you to Coconut Girl, Polly,and Meghan as they have continued to inspire and motivate me as well as answer my questions and be great friends and supporters of my journey.

I also want to say a big thank you to Joey. Joey and I met the first week I joined Weight Watchers, and he has always been supportive of me changing the way I eat. I never have to worry about cooking a separate meal for Joey because he likes pretty much everything! He always thanks me for the meals I cook and the lunches I pack and has often told me how proud he is of me for the changes that I've made, and for that I am truly grateful.

I learned to focus on the foods that I could eat, rather than the ones that I couldn't. In the beginning I picked up some gluten free bread, but it really wasn't the same. Soy cheese or yogurt weren't like my usual standbys, so I found new foods to enjoy instead. Almond milk has become one of my refrigerator staples and I now don't know how I could do without it! I have distanced myself from a lot of more processed foods and tend to stick with fruits and veggies, lean sources of protein, nuts, healthy oils and gluten free grains. I'm really happy that I signed up for Meghan's cooking classes because it introduced me to a ton of new recipes that were all Ashley-friendly!

I have also learned that I need to do what is best for me and that there is no one-size-fits-all option out there. In the last couple weeks I became more lenient with myself and my food choices. With the candida, I was supposed to be cutting out all sugar and yeast, but I started to realize that with everything else I had cut out that total-sugar free living was just unrealistic for me. I didn't want to run out and have a Snickers bar, rather I just wanted to stop feeling guilty for eating a banana. So I brought all fruits back in over the last couple weeks and I couldn't be happier. I'm continuing to stay away from refined sugar because it makes me feel so much better and has eased some of my symptoms (as well as reduced my period cramps to almost nothing - true story!)

I have also made the decision to continue eating meat once in awhile. For a little while, I was thinking that high-raw vegan was going to be the answer in order for me to feel well. But as I wrote in my post about Sleeping Naked is Green, I've come to realize that my body doesn't mind a little bit of meat once in awhile. I usually only have it once, maybe twice a week and that works for me. I realized that getting caught up with what other people were doing wasn't going to work and instead I worked to discover what was going to be the best for me.

I have also found a place for the Points-counting Weight Watcher in me! The Momentum plan places a lot of emphasis on the Filling Foods and I've found that many of the Filling Foods are Ashley-friendly. I'm still counting Points, but I'm just spending them differently than I used to and I'm still successfully maintaining my weight - yay!

After being diagnosed with Crohn's I had been put on 2 medications: an anti-inflammatory and an antibiotic. That seemed to work fairly well and a lot of my symptoms improved. After awhile my doctor decided to take me off the antibiotic because I had been experiencing terrible night sweats (which could have been a sign of fever, which could have been a sign of inflammation) When I came off the antibiotic I was back in pain on a daily basis and that was pretty disheartening. I didn't want to go back on the antibiotic and I also didn't want to have to resort to the next level of medication (my doctor had mentioned Remicade as a next step if things didn't improve) Since changing my eating, I feel incredible. My tummy doesn't hurt. It no longer hurts when I go to the washroom. My hair and my skin are thriving. I don't feel bloated, gross or lethargic. My body is quite happy with what is going in and as a result I am feeling 100 times better.

Those good feelings have motivated me to stick with this new eating regime over the last three months and has encouraged me to continue many of the changes that I've made. Gluten and dairy are out for good and that's okay with me. As for the other things on the list, I've been experimenting and trying to bring in a new food every week. So far quinoa, tomatoes and mung beans are all okay - hooray!! I had some pineapple on the weekend and I found it a little too intense for me so I think I'll stay away from that.

It's so amazing to feel good and healthier as a result of food and not more medication. I love feeling in tune with my body and look forward to these good feelings in the days and weeks to come!

Food Fun with Fabulous Friends

On the weekend I hosted a pot luck for some of the girls on the Weight Watchers message boards. Some of them had met, some had not, but we had all talked to one another online - so I wanted to bring everyone together for a pot luck at my house!

The weather held up so we were able to hang out in the backyard for dinner. The lovely ladies who were able to come were Avra (for a little while!!), Lindsay, Becki, Jess, Kate, Sarah, and Sherri. It was so nice to have them all in one place!!

Jess brought me some beautiful Gerber daisies...
And Kate brought me a stunning baby orchid!

The food was AMAZING. The girls were so amazing in trying to accommodate my food issues as well as bring things that were super Points friendly. I got so caught up in hosting that I forgot to take pictures BEFORE we ate, so here are some pictures after we had all dug in. 

Dishes included raw taco wraps (me), salmon cakes (Sherri), tortilla/english muffin pizzas (Becki), quinoa salad (Sarah), pasta salad (Avra), and beet and lentil salad (Lindsay) Everyone had so many options - me included!! 

(that would be a half eaten english muffin pizza, a half eaten raw taco wrap with some quinoa salad and the sad remains of the beet & lentil salad all on a super cute Target plate)

I have to say that my favourite thing was probably the beet salad the Lindz had made (with lots of goodies from her local farmer's market) and the super cute tortilla (or gluten free english muffin) pizzas that Becki had made. 

For dessert the gals enjoyed some 1 Point chocolate chip cookies (yay for Hungry Girl!) that Jess had made
a cake that Kate had baked 

(which her cat had stepped on while covered in plastic wrap) Kate also brought along some amazing berries 
which I enjoyed with a little bit of coconut ice cream. 

It was such a lovely afternoon and I'm really looking forward to the next one!!