My Love Affair With Coffee

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There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t have a coffee. I can give up a lot of things in the pursuit of health. I even gave up Starbucks (and I was the biggest addict around for years), but I can’t give up coffee. In fact, I have one on my desk right beside me as we speak.

When I was younger, my parents and peers always talked about coffee as if it was this terrible thing, and I supposed their words weren’t entirely untrue. I am now well past the *growing stage* in a human’s development, and I am still shorter than both my parents. You can thank coffee for that. I started drinking it right at the peak of my growth spurt- at age 14- and effectively stunted my growth.

14 years old, or ninth grade, was when I started staying up very late, and so I compensated for it by drinking massive amounts of caffeine. Genetically speaking, I could have grown at least another 2-3 inches, but I stupidly undermined myself without even realizing it. So if I could go back in time, I would stop myself from drinking coffee until senior year, because girls typically stop growing or slow down at that age.

For years, I was a caffeine fiend. I’d have 2-3 coffees a day when it was crunch time (or even when it wasn’t). I’d drop tons of money feeding my Starbucks addiction with pumpkin spice lattes or caramel macchiatos (while simultaneously setting myself up for diabetes, probably- I had no idea how much sugar was in those drinks). I soon became dependent on caffeine to stay awake/alert past regular school hours (ie: tutoring after school), and even when I got enough sleep, I still felt the need to grab a coffee. This continued on for a long time, from the time I started drinking coffee and into university.

In the Fall of my second year in university, I knew that I had to improve my health because my diet was terrible, I did little exercise, and I always felt tired and sluggish. So my cutting out of Starbucks and excess caffeine came with my promise to live a more healthy life. I’ll save the extra details for another time, but I had to slowly wean off of it because I was so used to having 2+ caffeinated drinks a day (ie: a latte in the morning, a small coffee in the afternoon).

Eventually, I cut out all drinks that were not coffee, plain tea, or water (which meant no more lattes). I got my intake down to one morning coffee a day, and it’s stayed that way ever since. Because while I do want to live a healthy and balanced life, life is too short for me to not enjoy the things I love most in moderation. A coffee a day never hurt anyone, and for those that didn’t know, coffee actually provides health benefits when taken in moderation. Coffee itself has almost zero calories- it’s just the cream and sugar that makes it ‘bad’.

  • Coffee may be good for your liver –  regular coffee consumption may reduce a person’s risk of certain liver disorders, lowering the risk of liver cancer by 40% and cirrhosis by as much as 80%.
  • Coffee can help you burn fat and and boost your metabolism – this is the reason why caffeine is usually the primary ingredient in most over-the-counter diet supplements. While drinking coffee will not make you lose weight, it can help raise the metabolic rate and boost your athletic performance.
  • Coffee is an all-around performance booster – both physically and mentally. Best of all, it’s legal.
  • Coffee can lower your risk of diabetes – research has found that having 3-4 cups of coffee a day is correlated with a 25% lower risk in type II diabetes.
  • Coffee is associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s – as you age, coffee can slow down “the onset of neurodegenerative disease,” and can lower your risk of Alzheimer’s by up to 60%, and Parkinson’s of 32-60%.

So despite these health benefits, too much of a good thing can be harmful, especially if you are just starting to drink coffee and haven’t yet developed a tolerance for caffeine- even one cup can have you up half the night. Do enjoy this wondrous beverage, but enjoy in moderation, and adjust according to your body’s needs.

(Information taken from here and here.)

My Top 5 Ways to Destress and Relax

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Like most of the population, I am often prone to stress and anxiety, and suffer long days (and worse, nights) in front of a computer working or studying. As a working student, I completely understand how it feels like to be completely exhausted and drained after a long day, and never seeing the light of day because you’re always at work or school.

However, I do my best to carve out some time to relax and destress, even when I am in the midst of a crunch time. I know that it’s hard to give up even a minute or try to relax when you have deadlines coming up, but it’s crucial to keep a sound and clear mind so you can actually accomplish and do a good job at whatever you’re doing, and avoid completely burning out. Trust me, crashing from overworking yourself is so brutal, and always happens at the worst possible times (like in the middle of an exam! Yes it’s happened before).

Here are my 5 personal favourite ways to destress and unwind. They range from a few minutes to a few hours, depending on how much time I have.

  1. A face mask is my favourite quick fix way of unwinding after a long week. It feels refreshing, refines your skin, and it feels like you’re getting a spa treatment but for a fraction of the price. It takes 10-15 minutes tops, and helps to reset my mind and wind down for the night.Some of my favourites include:
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    Freeman Anti-Stress Dead Sea Minerals Mask, $4.99 at London Drugs
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    skoah aha mask, $35.00 at skoah.com

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  2. Exercise. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but a good workout actually takes the tension out of my body and puts me in an instant feel-good, relaxed state post-workout, shower, and meal. It’s literally the best feeling ever as I’m relaxing in my chair after I’ve done all three. Staying active helps to keep you healthy and in shape, sharpens your cognitive abilities, and improves the quality of your sleep. all of which are especially important during crunch times.

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  3. Retail therapy. And I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. Go ahead, treat yourself after you’ve pulled through a particularly difficult or busy period. You deserve it! I actually feel my worries melt away after a successful shopping trip. Just don’t go too crazy with that credit card!

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  4. A good book. As a bookworm, I love to read and spend time in Chapters/Indigo, but I rarely have time to do so nowadays. So when I do get the chance, say post-finals, I will curl up with a novel and escape from the real world for a couple of hours. There’s nothing like getting lost in a good book and forgetting about your own troubles for a while. If you don’t like books, watching a few episodes of your favourite TV show also helps to take your mind off things.

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  5. Music and sleep. If I’m really pressed for time and can’t do any of the above, I will at least give myself a break when I’m on my commute home or before I go to bed, put in my headphones, close my eyes, and let the tension melt away from my body. I love chatting with friends while commuting, but it’s important for me to get in some me-time and just listen to my iPod, and music helps to calm me down and lull me to sleep. No studying. No texting. Just me and my music.

These are my favourite ways to destress- there are more, but the list would go on forever. I hope that I’ve at least helped remind you that it’s okay to take a break sometimes, and that stopping what you’re doing for a few minutes to rejuvenate won’t kill you. Happy relaxing!

5 Reasons to Exercise!

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“God, Joyce,” you mutter as you click the link and read the title of this post, rolling your eyes. “Everyone knows its good to exercise, whether you do or not. Why write about this?”

Why yes. You are right about that. But most people think that you should exercise to be skinnier; lose weight; look attractive. Purely physical reasons. And those may be good enough reasons to do so, but are they good enough intrinsic motivators for everyone?

I’m not gonna lie, it took me a really long time to commit to working out on a regular basis. I tried all sorts of methods. But once I got into the groove of things and made it a habit, it really did change my life, and not just in terms of appearances.

My 5 personal reasons to exercise:

  1. A good workout makes you feel more energized. You may think ‘Oh I’m really tired, I’m not gonna work out’. But truth is, working out gives you more energy to accomplish those other tasks. It makes your brain more sharp and acute, and you can think more clearly. Oftentimes I’ll come home from work and feel absolutely exhausted, but after a good workout I feel re-energized and ready to tackle my to-do list in the evening.
  2. You get physically and mentally stronger. You are no longer out of breath when making a dash for the bus or walking up a few flights of stairs. You don’t feel like such a slob. You actually have a desire to take on challenges like the Grouse Grind (which I’m doing tomorrow! I’m so excited) and other hikes, and enjoy recreational physical activities. Realizing what you are physically capable of, transcends into other aspects of your life and empowers you on a deeper level.
  3. Sweating on a regular basis removes the toxins from your body and helps you maintain a strong immune system, which translates to less sick days! And nobody likes to be sick. It gets in the way of life.
  4. You see physical body changes. Here are where the physical changes kick in. Your body slims down. You drop a couple of pant sizes. You see muscles developing, and your body just feels less flabby and more toned. The number on the scale decreases slowly but surely. It’s very encouraging and satisfying to see. And the best part is, when you lose weight in a healthy, steady manner and not from crash dieting (in which you inevitably gain the weight back as soon as you resume eating normally), it stays off.
  5. It helps you stay sane and manage stress. You may be in the midst of exams as a student, a crunch time at work, or have your hands full dealing with your children. Whatever it is, carving out a bit of time to work out will make the biggest world of difference, even just 20-30 minutes a day. It really to helps lower your stress  and anxiety levels as exercise causes your body to release endorphins, which are feel-good, “happy” neurotransmitters, giving you a sort of natural high. This will also help you perform better in your other tasks, sleep more soundly, and approach the other aspects of your life with a clearer, calmer mind.

I hope this helps anyone out there who needs motivation or encouragement to commit to exercising. I understand 100% how difficult it is, and how much self-control and discipline it takes, but I promise you, it is so worth it in the end. Just take the plunge, and thank me later 😉