“Exceeds Fair Trade Standards.”

This week I’m running a giveaway which you can read more about here or go straight to the bottom of the page to add your ballots. You can get another entry every day for tweeting or sharing on Facebook

fair for lifeYou wont find the ‘traditional’ FairTrade logo on this chocolate. Giddy YoYo is certified through Fair For Life, a different certification system that claims to go above and beyond typical FairTrade standards. This is a summary of what Fair For Life is about (found here by clicking on the Fair For Life image):

“Unlike traditional Fair Trade programs that merely certify products, the Fair For Life program is much more thorough in that it reviews our suppliers products from the top to the bottom; and it evaluates and audits all their working conditions, labour practices, environmental programs, social benefits, and their company’s transparency. The Fair For Life program also reviews and monitors the origins of these products to ensure complete compliance with the program.

“Good Trade Guidelines Include:

  • Fair price – Democratically organized farmer groups receive a guaranteed minimum floor price and an additional premium for certified organic products. Farmer organizations are also eligible for pre-harvested credit.
  • Fair labour conditions – Workers on Fair Trade farms enjoy freedom of association, safe working conditions, and living wages. Forced child labour is strictly prohibited.
  • Direct trade – With Fair Trade, importers purchase from Fair Trade producer groups as directly as possible, eliminating unnecessary middlemen and empowering farmers to develop the business capacity necessary to compete in the global marketplace.
  • Democratic and transparent organizations – Fair Trade farmers and farm workers decide democratically how to invest Fair Trade revenues.
  • Community development – Fair Trade and farm workers invest Fair Trade premiums in social and business development projects like scholarship programs, quality improvement training, and organic certification.
  • Environmental sustainability – Harmful agrochemicals and GMOs are strictly prohibited in favour of environmentally sustainable farming methods that protect farmers’ health and preserve valuable ecosystems for future generations.”

If you want more information, go check out the Fair For Life website and then get in on the giveaway.

giddy-yoyo-md

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It’s food, not candy: FREE CHOCOLATE!

Giddy-Yo-Yo-2So there I was at EXPO Manger Santé in Montreal a month or so ago and I find myself at this booth that’s giving out free chocolate. So obviously I’m right up in that getting a free tester of all of these different kinds of chocolate. Dark chocolate, spicy cinnamon, sprulina, coffee etc. It was amazing. As I talked to the guy (I later learned his name is Jake) wearing this white shirt that HEAT across his chest, he told me about their chocolate. He dared me to try a 100% cacao nib and promised it would be gross.

I’ve eaten unsweetened Baker’s chocolate before. It was revolting. A few months prior I had tried a 90% chocolate bar by Lindt and also found it inedible. My problem is: refined sugar messes with my system. I get dizzy and light headed if I eat it frequently. So I don’t. But how do I live without chocolate? I keep to small doses of As Dark As Possible Chocolate.

I took Jake’s word for it and Willy and I tried the cacao nib. It wasn’t revolting. The 70% chocolate was smooth, like a mousse. It was strong and dark. It was totally different.

I noticed it was sweetened with their own Cane Sugar and so I asked about the glycemic index, which is usually what matters the most to me (I need things with a lower glycemic index than even honey, more on par with agave or even lower). He said they were getting this tested now to be sure but believe the GI is on par with a handful of blueberries. SOLD.

I used to prefer Camino chocolate (which I now find has a bizarre sweet taste, even the dark stuff – but like because its Fair Trade) or Lindt. I had a Lindt square the other day and it was waxy in my mouth. I (snobbishly) gave my second square back because it felt awful in my mouth. I was shocked.giddy-yoyo-md

So there you have it. LOVE this stuff. Their motto: “It’s food, not candy.” It’s raw, gluten free, dairy free/vegan, organic, “better than fair trade”, low glycemic impact etc. I have no sweet clue why they named their chocolate “Giddy YoYo” — clearly they’ve never heard of Yo Gabba Gabba or they would have chosen otherwise.

They have kindly given me 6 different flavours of chocolate that usually retail at $5 a pop (pricey, but worth it on so many levels) and a T-shirt. One winner will get the T-shirt and 3 chocolate bars. Another winner will get 3 chocolate bars. As the week (and the giveaway) goes on, I’ll post more info regarding their fair trade certification and other helpful tidbits.

T-chocolate

The flavours are (not all pictured) Ginger, Orange, Mint, Original, Mocha,  Spicy, Banana,  Spirulina (1G per bar!), Vanilla Pink Salt 85%, 89% Dark, Maca, and Sweet.

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I still love lamp!

lovelamp

A few weeks ago a friend asked me how things were going with my lamp since I blogged about it. Well, let me tell you: I’m a fool. I started feeling bad as early as the first week of October this year which is earlier than usual. So I started using it regularly in November. That went well. And then December came.

I stopped wanting to. My motivation went through the floor. Every morning I thought to myself, “I don’t really want to…” Then I didn’t. POOR CHOICES.

Here’s the thing: there are one of two mistakes we make when we’re feeling the winter blues (or for any other mental health related things).

  1. I’m feeling good so I don’t need it. Wrong. We’re feeling good because the treatment is working. That doesn’t mean STOP, it means CONTINUE.
  2. I don’t feel like it/I don’t want to. It means the treatment isn’t yet working because motivation is low. At least that’s how it is for my personal experience.

Learn to trust the data

I need to learn to trust data in front of me rather than my feelings. The data of the last few years says: you’re not yourself at Christmas and your family thinks you’re this bump on a log who doesn’t like being with people and doing basically anything but eat and play Dutch Blitz. That’s not who I am normally (though, let’s be serious, I’ll eat and play Dutch Blitz any time). This experience this past winter tells me I need to ask my husband to help me not listen to my feelings or my own head because it isn’t trustworthy.

This past year I tried to do better than the previous year. I did! Sort of!

So here’s to learning about how to function optimally, healthily and to asking for help in doing that.

Do you have a hard time reading or accepting the data that you see about your health? How can you fix that? If you’d like to share, leave a comment or leave some feedback here in the comments.

No Bake Sugar-free Chocolate Cheesecake

cheesecakeMy husband and I are away from home so frequently that I have learned to become pretty adaptable wherever I am. I’m rarely home-sick for our apartment or even Montreal, anymore. When we were in the US this summer for four weeks, I did get home sick for Canada. As soon as we were across the border, I was fine. Four weeks seems to be the max I can endure away from my country.

The one thing that happens every time I’m away from home, is that I get home-sick for the food we love. The wheat-free and sugar-free food we love. Both our sets of parents are always very accommodating when they cook for us, but finding sugar-free things is not easy, which is why I always end up making things from scratch.

While we were visiting my in-laws for Christmas my mother-in-law made a No-Bake Chocolate Cheesecake that looked so yummy. I’ve been looking for a good no-bake cheesecake recipe, so I gave this one a shot. It calls for bitter-sweet Bakers chocolate squares, so I knew it would be easy to sub in unsweetened chocolate and then add more natural sweeteners.

bakers

Last night I gave it a try. I’m very glad I did! It was glorious. I haven’t had a cheesecake in 10 months?

So if one of your goals for the new year was to eat healthier or you’ve finally resolved to go sugar-free, then here’s a recipe to try. I use NuNaturals powdered stevia, xylitol and agave (you can use honey instead, but if you’re concerned about glycemic index impact, then use more xylitol or stevia).

Ingredients

  • 1/3c chopped almonds, toasted, or use a graham cracker/butter crust like I did.
  • 2 packages (250g each) cream cheese softened,
  • 1t powdered stevia
  • 1/4c and 2T agave nectar
  • 1/4c and 1T xylitol
  • 6 squares unsweetened bakers chocolate
  • 1 envelop unflavoured gelatin, or 1/4t tapioca starch
  • 1c whipping cream, whipped

Directions

  1. Grease an 8 1/2″ springform pan.
  2. Sprinkle with almonds or press your graham base in the bottom
  3. Beat the cream cheese in your mixer until smooth. Add 1/2t of the stevia, 1/4c of agave and 1/4 xylitol.
  4. Melt chocolate in a microwave safe bowl in the microwave starting with 1 minute, then reduce to 30 seconds. Once there are smaller chunks, just stir until it is smooth. Add the 2T agave, 1T xylitol, and 1/2t stevia. If the chocolate isn’t sweet enough for you, keep adding sweetener until it is in small amounts.
  5. Sprinkle the tapioca starch in 1/4c cold water in a microwave safe dish. Let sit 5 minutes, stir a few times to incorporate.
  6. Put tapioca water into the microwave. Cook for 10 seconds, stir, then 10 seconds again, stir, then 5 seconds. Mixture should turn clear and glue-like. Let sit to cool.
  7. Mix chocolate with cream cheese until fully incorporated.
  8. When tapioca is warm, mix thoroughly into the cream cheese mixture.
  9. Whip the whip cream, then fold into the cream cheese until fully incorporated. Pour into the pan and put in the fridge for 2-3 hours.

Tip: if you use the gelatin instead of the tapioca, it will be less firm.

Can journaling help your health?

Apparently it can. Both PsychCentral.com and Psychology Today agree that journaling can help your health.

Reduce stress, be more productive

According to PsychCentral, the benefits might be as minimal as reduced stress or help you manage your emotions. The article indicates journaling can help:

  • Clarify your thoughts and feelings. Do you ever seem all jumbled up inside, unsure of what you want or feel? Taking a few minutes to jot down your thoughts and emotions (no editing!) will quickly get you in touch with your internal world.
  • Know yourself better. By writing routinely you will get to know what makes you feel happy and confident. You will also become clear about situations and people who are toxic for you — important information for your emotional well-being.
  • Reduce stress. Writing about anger, sadness and other painful emotions helps to release the intensity of these feelings. By doing so you will feel calmer and better able to stay in the present.
  • Solve problems more effectively. Typically we problem solve from a left-brained, analytical perspective. But sometimes the answer can only be found by engaging right-brained creativity and intuition. Writing unlocks these other capabilities, and affords the opportunity for unexpected solutions to seemingly unsolvable problems.
  • Resolve disagreements with others. Writing about misunderstandings rather than stewing over them will help you to understand another’s point of view. And you just may come up with a sensible resolution to the conflict. (article).

Write out difficult experiences

Whereas Psychology Today goes much deeper. They spoke with Dr. James W. Pennebaker who is a social psychologist at the University of Texas at Austin. He talks about how writing can be tremendous therapy for people who have experienced traumatic events.

“When people are given the opportunity to write about emotional upheavals, they often experienced improved health. They go to the doctor less. They have changes in immune function. If they are first-year college students, their grades tend to go up,” he says.

I have definitely experienced all of the bullet points listed above from Psych Central. What about you? Have you been able to keep a journal long enough to find benefit in it? Leave a comment by clicking here

I LOVE LAMP!

The last four years I’ve noticed a marked difference in my happiness levels starting as early as September 1.  While I may have had it in years prior, I only clued in to the “winter blues” in the last few years. The pattern is the same every year, peaking in the last week of November. The question I’ve been trying to answer every fall is “how do I stay productive while feeling the blues?”

I once heard that during a Canadian winter, one must sunbathe naked at high noon for an hour to naturally get enough Vitamin D. Since I don’t do that (!), the last few years I’ve faithfully taken 1000 IUs of Vitamin D (coupled with Vitamin C) every day. Last year my friend lent me a DayLight which I wasn’t very consistent in using. This past week I started using it again for 15 minutes every morning right when I wake up.

Can I tell you how amazing that was even the first day I used it? The first day! It was like the sun had risen in my heart! I’m confident that this will help throughout this upcoming cold, light-less Montreal winter.

So this winter:

  • vitamin D
  • at least 15 minutes of light therapy a day
  • regular exercise

What about you? Do you get the winter blues? How do you manage? What helps you stay on your game?

UPDATE:

People have been asking me what I recommend. Like I mentioned in the comments, the Philips brand lights are good as well as the DayLight that I use. To be honest, the Philips lights are way more normal sized compared to what I have and probably more reasonable in price, as well as more easily accessible. You can get them at Amazon and Costco.

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