Cooking for Someone With Ulcerative Colitis

Hi everybody!  Today, while I run around doing laundry, cleaning and buying groceries I thought I’d share some tips on how I try to cook healthy and tasty meals for J and myself keeping in mind that he has ulcerative colitis (UC) and therefore is on a very restrictive diet.  For those of you not familiar with the disease, you can read up on it here.  In a nut shell, UC causes inflammation of the large intestines, that inflammation can lead to sores on the intestinal walls which can lead to internal bleeding.  Fun times right?  So to avoid that loveliness, we try to stick as closely to the recommended diet that was given to him by a dietitian which I’ve outlined below:

Foods to Avoid

Okay, I’ll let all that sink in for a minute………….okay ready to move on?  Here is what is on the “okay to eat” list:

Allowed Foods

Most other items not listed in the “to be avoided” and “allowed” foods lists are okay too.  Everyone is different so this is only a guideline given to us to use, any foods on the “appropriate” list should be fine, but any of the not listed items are sort of trial and error.

Honestly with the exception of a few things, unless it’s on that “allowed foods” list, we don’t chance it.  J does eat chicken strips, french fries & ketchup (all things that are actually listed in the “to avoid” list) but he finds as long as he drinks a lot of water with them he is okay.  So it’s been a few years (4 I think?) since I’ve had to start being a ingredient list ninja (onion powder? no good.  Is there celery in that coup? Can’t have it. Coconut in those cookies?  put them back.  Seeds in the crackers? no good either…) and have found a number of items that we now consider staples around here that help to make eating regular meals a little bit easier.

For the first few years we used only tomato paste in pasta and pizza and to be honest, it’s a little tart.  Not so enjoyable.  Then I discovered Hunt’s Original Tomato Sauce.  This is the only pasta sauce we use (well we will get the Hunt’s Original Tomato Sauce that is salt free if this isn’t available) because it really has next to nothing in it.  The tricky bit is on the label one of the ingredients is “spice.”  Does that mean there is onion powder in it?  Possibly, but in this case I don’t think it does as it really tastes like straight up cooked tomato.  I would be surprised if their “spice” was much more than some salt.  There is no basil/oregano/parsley in it so you have to add that yourself, but it is real tomato sauce!  The day I found this in the store I did a happy dance!

I don’t always by the V8 juice, sometimes I get Ocean Spray or No Name, but I try to always get the blueberry pomegranate 100% fruit juice to help get the extra antioxidants & each glass contains 2 or 3 servings (depending on the brand) of fruits.  When you can’t eat raw fruit drinking some of your servings is really the only way you can get some of those flavours and nutrients.

Considering the guy isn’t a big yogurt fan, the creaminess of Activia makes it more palatable for him and the extra probiotics help keep things in check which is an added bonus.

Pre-packaged broths are another tricky one.  How was it made?  Does it have onion powder in it?  Probably.  But we’ve used it without any issues for a few years now so I’m going to say for us anyway, whatever “spices” are in there are in a small enough quantity that it is okay.  The good thing with broth whether it’s beef, chicken or veggie is the added flavour it gives.  It makes an otherwise dull meal have a little more of a yummy factor which is nice.

Apple sauce was listed in the “okay to eat” list, and while I like homemade best I don’t have time to make a batch every week to ensure there is enough for him to have a serving each day.  I find the pre-packaged cups are inexpensive and a really easy and conivenant way for him to get in yet another serving of fruit.  As an added bonus this type doesn’t have a bunch of weird ingredients in it:

These last three items are things we really attribute to his good health these past couple years.  While we have no scientific proof to show that they have helped keep him healthy and free of flair-ups, we really do believe that without them he would suffer more symptoms than his does.

#1 Water

and LOTS of it.  Especially if eating a more questionable food, J will drink hoards of water with it to help dilute the food and hopefully minimize any damage it may cause.  It just makes sense, the more liquid in your abdomen when food is being processed, the easier it will digest and move through the body.

#2 Peppermint Tea

Peppermint is already known as a natural remedy for indigestion, but it also helps relieve many intestinal disturbances and is an excellent drink for anyone suffering from nausea, IBS, diarrhea, and aids in digestion.

#3 – Garlic

Garlic works not only as a natural antibiotic, but as a natural anti-inflammatory.  As UC causes inflammation of the intestinal wall doesn’t it make sense that eating food with anti-inflammitory properties (no matter how minimal they may be) is worth doing?  Besides the health aspect, garlic adds a lot of flavor to foods and often times if a recipe calls for onion I can easily swap it for garlic without jeopardizing the taste of the meal.

These are just a few of the things we have found that make life a little bit easier, as it is hard to have time to make everything from scratch, and making that which you do make rom scratch – taste good!

Please remember, these things have worked for our family, but every case is different so what my husband may be able to eat without problem may not hold true for all patients with UC. I particularly wanted to write this post as when he was diagnosed nobody told us anything he should or shouldn’t eat.  It wasn’t until a month later when he was admitted to hospital did we finally get some direction as to what he could and couldn’t eat.  Unfortunately, I think this happens more often than not so if you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed these guidelines should be a safe starting point but I beg and urge you to get an appointment with a dietitian to get a personalized evaluation of what you should and shouldn’t be eating. I truly believe that a large part of staying well with this disease is a result of your dietary habits.


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The Most Common Zumba Injury


Good evening everybody!  I decided tonight I would answer another question I get asked about a lot – Zumba injuries.

Before I begin, it’s important to note that I am talking about injures that occur in a well instructed, SAFE Zumba class.  Sadly, there are a lot of unsafe instructors out there causing injuries to people.  In a properly conducted class, this should be the number one complaint/injury.  If you are in a class where you or a number of other people are getting injured, you may want to think about giving up the class or finding another instructor who is perhaps better qualified to teach.  You only get one body – take care of it!

The Most Common Complaint

The biggest complaint or injury that people asked me about (normally when first starting Zumba) is pain in their knees.  How do you fix it?  Well, if you have no pre-existing conditions that have caused your knees to bother you in the past, the solution is almost always as easy as changing you sneakers.  So many people first starting Zumba will come wearing their regular workout sneakers which are often runners.  Sneakers with a whole lot of tread on the bottom for grip when you are running – forward.  In Zumba we spend a great deal of time moving from side to side as well as pivoting and swivelling on our toes.  Those thick treads on the bottom of running sneakers makes those movements harder because your feet want to stick to the floor.  When your feet stick to the floor while doing those types of movements it’s a recipe for torquing your knee.

What is Torquing?

Torquing of the knee occurs when your knee is pointing in a different direction than your toes are facing.  If you were to put your foot on the floor right now and just imagine moving your knee outwards without bringing your toes along with it you can get a good idea of how much pressure you would be putting on the tendons holding the knee in place.  No imagine doing that over and over for an entire hour without even realizing it.  No wonder it can make your knees hurt!

How Do I Avoid it?

The answer is pretty easy and two-fold.  The easiest remedy – new shoes.  Get a pair of sneakers made for cross training or even a dance sneaker.  Something that is pretty flat on the bottom with very few (if any) treads.  Sometimes you have to test drive a few pairs of sneakers before you find the pair that works for you.  Cross trainers and dance sneakers are also good because they are made for lateral (side to side) movement so your ankle is being supported when you move from side to side unlike most running sneakers which only provide support when moving forward.  Staff at any good shoe store should be able to help you find a pair of sneakers that will work for you.

I have a number of pairs of sneakers I wear for Zumba, and three of them have different sole patterns – and all work just fine for me.

I can’t tell you how many people who have complained of joint pain came back and told me what a world of different the right pair of shoes made.  And they don’t have to be expensive at all.  I have a number of participants that got a good pair of Champion sneakers at Payless for around $30 that work perfect for Zumba (in fact I keep a pair in my trunk in case I get somewhere and realize I’ve forgotten my sneakers).

What if you don’t have time to go get a new pair of sneakers, or can’t afford a second pair?  Well, you can still participate in Zumba, you just need to make a couple of modifications to protect your knees.  THe first thing you need to do is cut out any excessive pivot or swivelling movements.  Make sure you are always keeping your knees pointing in the same direction as your toes.  If you do need to pivot or swivel, made sure you are unloading the joint (taking the weight of that foot) prior to completing the movement.  That way once again, the knee will stay in line with the toes.

Other Injury Concerns

Another less common complaint that I sometimes hear is that the participants toes are going numb or burning during class.  This is almost always because they are spending too much time up on their toes while in like a merengue march, but sometimes can happen if your shoes don’t fit you properly.  Either way it’s because the circulation is being cut off to the toes (the same as when any other body part falls asleep) and if you find this is happening to you, take a short break and march on the spot for a while until the feeling comes back.  If you are wearing proper fitting shoes and insoles, this issue should go away on its own as you become more accustom to being on your toes, but if it doesn’t you may want to speak to a professional to see if there is another underlying issue.

One Last Thing…

A lot of people have a misconception that if you have any type of knee or back problem that you can’t take a Zumba class or that it will make it worse.  For most people, this simply isn’t true.  Of course there are those that depending on their type of injury could find that Zumba makes it worse, but they are the minority and not the majority.  In fact, in the thousand or so people who have taken classes from me in the past year or so, I would say I have encountered maybe 5 who really were unable to do it because of injuries – and maybe of those were due to acute injuries and not long-term injuries.  There are also a number of people who take my Zumba classes because it is the only form of exercise that doesn’t bother their torn minicus, or the bursitis in the knee, or their slipped disc (which was repaired but still gives the individual problems when participating in other classes), etc.  The awesome thing about Zumba is you can do the class high impact or low impact, and you work at your own level.  The person next to you might be doing the low impact option while you are busting out the high impact option – but as long as you are both working at the pace that is appropriate for you everyone is getting the workout they need and can handle.  Obviously if you do have a pre-existing condition you need to get approval from your doctor before beginning Zumba (or any other exercise regime), but in many cases they will tell you to try it out.  Often time the worse thing you can do for an injury is nothing.

P.S. I know of a few people who have been told by their massage therapist or chiropractor after starting Zumba, “I don’t know what you’ve been doing but keep doing it – I’ve never seen your back so loose!”

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East Peanut Butter Brownies


What’s the point of having a warm brownie if you’re not going to put a little iced cream on top??

I had every intention of sharing my homemade pita chip recipe tonight but alas, when I went to get the pitas out – we only had one.  ONE! Honestly, who’s going to take the time to make a batch of pita chips out of one stinking pita.  After I had a little temper tantrum (I really wanted some salty chips) I settled myself on the idea of brownies.  Ah yes, brownies.  My old friend.  So while they are baking away in the oven I popped over to the computer to share another not-so healthy recipe with you (I swear, after this I’ll post some healthy recipes – just so we don’t all die of chocolate related seizures or something ;) ).



Enjoy!  Let me know if you try them, they are super fast to make and super yummy to eat.

P.S. Do you like the crunchier “side” pieces of brownies or the softer inside pieces?  I always like the soft inside pieces best but when that special brownie pan came out a few years ago that made each brownie have crunchy edges I decided I must be a part of the minority?  Please tell me there a few more “softies” out there!?

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Overcoming Insecurities

Hi Bloggies!  I hope you’ve been having a spectacular day :D

Today I decided I’d write a post about something we all deal with – insecurities.  No matter who you are, regardless of size, status or beauty insecurities are something we all have in common.  Normally we try to hide that which make us insecure, even though for the most part what thing that bothers us so much means very little – or even nothing – to everyone else.  I can’t tell you how many times people have told me they’d like to wear sleeveless shirts or shorts in exercise class but don’t like the way their arms look because they think they’re flabby, or their legs are too white – whatever the reason, nobody else is thinking about it, especially at an exercise class!  They are much too worried about what they are doing, and their own insecurities to be worried about yours. ;)

I certainly have my own share of insecurities.  One of mine is my nose.  It use to bother me much more than it does now.  It looks fine from the front, but from the side you can see I’ve got a bump in my nose from when I got hit in the nose by a hockey puck as a teenager.  So I always try to have my photo taken head on so you don’t notice the bump.  I used to spend so much time worrying about it, I would see other people with similar noses and I would think theirs looked fine – but not mine.  I am still a bit insecure about it, but nothing compared to how it used to be.  Another of mine is my teeth.  One of my front teeth overlaps the other and is slightly crooked.  This bothers me to no end.  It affects the way I smile in photos, and is one thing I am still very insecure about.

Probably my biggest insecurity is my stomach.  Not because of the size of it or anything like that, but because of what is on it.  A 7 inch scar.  When I was 17 I had an ovarian cyst (which is a story for another day), but to make a long story short I had to have abdominal surgery in order to have it removed.  It was big – 10 lbs.  The surgeon said it was like delivering a c-section, except there was no baby, just a big cyst of ickiness.  Because of the size, and the fact that it took up my entire abdominal cavity the incision had to be vertical going right up the centre of my stomach and taking a detour around my belly button.  The scar has faded considerable over the years, but it is still a pretty wide scar, and very evident when you see my stomach.  I guess it’s not even the scar itself that bothers me, but having to always explain the scar (people know I don’t have any kids), and the way the scar make my stomach look from my point of view (looking downward the scar itself is quite taught so it makes the skin on either side bulge out a bit and always make me look like I have more fat on my stomach than I really do).  I don’t at all thing my stomach looks fat or gross but when I see other people who I know are heavier than me, I still think their stomach looks better than mine simply because of that scar.

In the grand scheme of things this scar means nothing.  It, my nose and tooth – they are really are just vanity issues, which shouldn’t have any effect on my life – just as the bulk of your insecurities shouldn’t have any effect on your life either.  So what if you have stretch marks on your legs (I have those too), cellulite (who doesn’t!?), a bit of extra skin here or there, etc.  Don’t let that run your life.  I promise you years from now when you look back on your life you won’t say, “Man, I really wish I would have worried more about my stretch marks and kept them covered up,” chances are you’ll say, “May, I looked good! What did I ever worry about those stupid stretch marks!?”

So, to help you come to terms and overcome your insecurities, I am going to embrace mine and post a photo of my scar for the whole world to see.  The thing I try to keep covered from most everyone I am posting for literally anyone with an internet connection to look at.

excuse the crazy pants – this was taken last week after a Zumba class

So if I can do that, surely you can find the courage to wear a sleeveless shirt, a pair of shorts, and show whatever you’ve been hiding all this time.  It will be difficult at first, but before you know it you’ll wonder why you ever worried about it in the first place.

Join Me

I’d absolutely love it if you joined me in overcoming insecurities by commenting below or blogging about one of your own (you can choose if you want to add a photo or not – but I say go for it!!), once you put it out there I think you’ll find that you feel a better about it!

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Frequently Asked Zumba Questions

Good afternoon!  Are you having a nice relaxing Sunday?  I sure hope so! <3

I often get asked questions about Zumba through the blog, and in everyday life so I thought today I’d write a little Q&A post answering some of the most asked questions I am asked.

Frequently Asked Zumba Questions answered by a Zumba Fitness Instructor

1.  What is Zumba?

Zumba is a dance based type fitness class that originated in Columbia.  It takes rhythms from all over the world including (but not limited to): salsa, merengue, cumbia, raggaeton, belly dance, Arabian, African, Bollywood, hip hop, samba, axe, swing, cha cha, flamenco … you get the idea.  For each rhythm, a number of the most common steps for that type of dance are simplified down into a form that is quick to learn, and easy to follow.  During a traditional 60 minute Zumba class you will learn 13-15 songs (including your warm-up and cool down).  The steps are not broken down for you beforehand, it’s more of a “monkey see monkey do” type of class.  Most songs repeat the same move quite a few times so you can follow into the dance quite easily.  The songs are set up so that you’ll do a higher intensity song followed by a lower intensity song to provide you with an interval workout which torches tonnes of calories – and the best part?  You forget you’re even exercising!

2.  Do I have to be in good shape to do Zumba?

Not at all.  I have all ages (6-70) in the same class with every ability level possible.  The neat thing about Zumba is you only work as hard as you want to.  Two people in the same class could do the same steps and one may not even break a sweat, while the other is drenched.  You only get out of it want you want to put into it.  Can’t handle high impact? No problem, your instructor should always demonstrate a low impact option.  Need a break?  That’s cool too- just march on the spot or do your own thing until you’re ready to get back at it.

3.  But I’m not coordinated – I don’t want to look silly.

Forget about that!  Everyone is too busy worrying about what they are doing to notice what you are up to!  Besides, coordination is simply one aspect of fitness – something that needs to be trained just like strength and flexibility.  The good news?  Coordination trains very quickly – give Zumba (or any other workout like Step or Kickboxing) a try for 10 classes and I promise your coordination will improve substantially.

4.  Why don’t Zumba Instructors verbally cue or talk more during the class?

Some instructors talk more than others, I tend not to say too much while teaching unless it’s to get people pumped up, or if everyone has their back to me and can’t see my visual cues.  I will also do more variable cueing in a small class – it just seemed odd not to talk in a class of less than 15 or so.

The reason is really two fold, number one – with the music as loud as it is during a Zumba class, even with a microphone most people simply would be able to hear or understand what we are saying (especially in large classes), and number two – it kills the party vibe.  We want you too feel like you’re at a dance party and if we are telling you what to do every couple seconds it kills that vibe.  Your instructor should {hopefully} be able to cue most everything for you non verbally.  Most instructors have their own cueing style so once you become used to your instructors style and know their visual cues you won’t even miss the verbal cueing.  It does make it a little harder your first couple classes, but it shouldn’t take any more than that to really fall into it.

5.  Why do Zumba Instructors wear one pant leg up and one pant leg down?

Because it we think it makes us look cool 😉  Honestly, if there is any other reason for it besides that, I don’t know what it is.  I think it’s a hip hop dance thing.  Additional I will wear one pant leg up and one down when I’m a bit warm and want to cool off but still want to give myself the option to put the second pant leg up if I get even warmer during the class – but mostly it’s to look cool…

6.  Why do you wear tassels on your pants?

Again, I don’t know the history behind this, but I believe it’s to draw attention during dances.  Also, it’s to make me feel like a complete fool when I have to go to a store before or after a class wearing the pants…

7.  What is the difference between Zumba and Zumba Toning?

Zumba is a cardiovascular based interval workout that has some light resistance training built into the class.  Zumba Toning is a interval class with a focus on light resistance training with some straight up dance built into the class.  A regular Zumba class will really help to increase your aerobic capacity and endurance, while a Zumba toning class will help to increase your muscular endurance.  Zumba toning classes are meant as a primarily cardiovascular workout, but you will get some mild cardiovascular training during the  interval and dance portions of the class.

8.  Will Zumba help me lose weight?

The short answer – yes.  The long answer – as with any weight lose plan you will need to pair exercise with healthy eating in over to achieve long term weight loss.  I know many, many people who have lost a considerable amount of weight doing Zumba, and I know lots who don’t lose weight at all.  Like I said above, you only get out of it what you put into it.

9.  How many calories does Zumba burn/hour?

This of course depends on your height, weight, age, and workout intensity level.  I would say most people burn somewhere in the ball park of 400-900 calories/class (I personally have burned up to 800 in a single class).

10. How often should I do Zumba if I’m just starting out?

If you haven’t been doing any regular exercise prior to starting Zumba, I would suggest no more than 1x/week for the first month or two, after that you should be able to safely move up to 2x/week and then add a 3x if you want to once you have built up some cardiovascular strength and endurance.

If you already exercise regularly you can certainly start out with 2 classes/week – just make sure you take your other activities into consideration so that you are not over-training.

I hope that answers some of your Zumba related questions!  If you still have a question about Zumba please leave me a comment below and I’ll be happy to answer it for ya!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!