#JanGoals: Final Recap!

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Well, January has come and gone, and putting aside the obvious roller coaster ride that has been the news lately, I want this last post on #JanGoals to focus on where I started and how I did with achieving my goals. (Maybe I’ll write something else on keeping your anxiety in check while the world descends into chaos another day).

Goal #1 – “Somewhat Sober January”

I held pretty faithful to this and only had around 14 drinks this month. I say “around” because I wasn’t doing a true count, or counting times I sampled some of the beers Sean would have. The whole point of this month wasn’t to go stone cold sober, or give up alcohol altogether, but it was a good exercise in restraint. It was also helpful to do this while I transition off my medication, as I don’t want the depressants in alcohol further confusing my brain.

Goal #2 – Exercise 5x a Week

Given that I injured my knee, I was unable to stick to this. But I did get the gym a lot, and stayed very active. Even when my knee was sore, I tried to keep walking around, or doing a few laps in the pool we have in our apartment building. I am glad I didn’t push myself too hard and recovered properly.

So how about my stats? Well, let’s put it this way – according to the scale, measurements, and body fat scale – I didn’t change all that much. I lost an inch off my natural waist, and half of an inch off my hips. My body fat actually went up by a 1%. I originally was really mad and disappointed by this. This is where setting goals like this can be tough for someone who struggles with forgiving themselves. I had this idea in my head that I’d drop like 5lbs of fat, or some sort of “drastic” reduction to show that this month was a total success. But as Sean reminded me, weight loss doesn’t happen that fast. What I am trying to focus on is how good I feel. I feel great completing circuits (well, exhausted but great), I am still running at a good pace despite only getting for a run about once a week, and I feel myself getting stronger. My upper body has always been something I’ve wanted to improve on – and slowly but surely I am getting better and better at something as simple as push-ups. So I am trying hard to focus solely on that, and not just the information on the page. It doesn’t tell the whole story.

Goal #3 – Practice more “Mindfulness” 

I’m slowly still reading through my new book and learning new techniques. I’ve definitely needed it at night, as this is when I tend to find my mind racing the most. I find it helpful even just reading about the activities before bed. Overall, I am happy that I am putting more of an effort into healing myself and taking proper time each day to unwind and unplug.

Goal #4 – Stop Taking Anti-Depressants. 

This one was easy at first, but as time goes on I am noticing some of the side effects. I am have times when I have been quite sad and overwhelmed – but once I have a good cry it seems to subside. It also seems to be tied to when I’ve gone two days without a dose. So we’ll see what happens when I come off the drug completely. The nausea seems to have gone away. I have been having vertigo from time to time, but it comes and goes. I still think I am quite lucky overall, as I know many others have had awful experiences.

What I learned, and what’s next

I took away from big lessons this month.

  • Forgive yourself. When I hurt my knee, I was really hard on myself. But the world didn’t end, I didn’t gain 20lbs, or ruin my progress. I confronted my discomfort and came out the other side. Time to be nicer to myself.
  • Cry when you need to. I sometimes hold in my emotions too much and resist the urge to be too upset. But as I go through withdrawal I think I just need to let it out when I need to, and then try to find ways to move on.
  • Winter running is still the best. It just is.
  • I need more protein in my diet. Using my nutrition tracker again is once again showing me how low I am. I gladly welcome any and all suggestions – especially for breakfast (keep in mind, I can’t eat eggs)
  • Drinking an electrolyte beverage each morning is exactly what my body needed. One side effect of my antidepressants is they make me sweat – a lot. I talked to my doctor about it, and some related symptoms I was having, and he suggested adding electrolytes to my diet more frequently. So now I start each day with a serving of Biosteel and I’ve noticed a big difference. I have more energy through the day, and my mind feels sharper. If you’re s sweaty person like me, maybe talk to your doctor if this is right for you too! (I swear I am not being paid by Biosteel!)

Now, rest easy – I won’t be spamming your social media pages through February with #FebGoals. But I do plan to try and keep putting these goals to use all year. I’m going to continue to try new recipes, new exercises, and keep the hangovers to a minimum.

The biggest goal I have for February is to have fun on vacation with my BFF, and not to worry too much about what I look like in a bathing suit. I know I am pressuring myself to look “perfect”. So I have to keep asking myself “what does that mean? Is it realistic? What will happen if I don’t look “perfect”?”

So to anyone who set resolutions or is trying to set new habits – keep believing in yourself and forgive yourself if you stumble a little. Trying is succeeding. Focus on what makes you feel good, what makes you happy. For me – it’s running outside on a January morning and seeing the fat squirrels run around. Maybe for you it’s something else. But find it, challenge yourself, and surprise yourself. And let’s support each other!!!!

Cheers to February being even more badass than January.

 

When You Can’t Trust Your Body

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This will now be my third Bell Let’s Talk Day posting. The first one, “When My Body Is My Worst Fear” was my honest admission that I have anxiety and have been dealing with some form of mental health issue since my teen years. Last year, I wrote “What Talking Taught Me” as a way to express my gratitude, as well as share lessons learned in my journey to good mental health. One thing is certain – the best decision I have ever made about my own mental wellness is speaking up. Last year with my article, I hoped to show others suffering in silence that things can change.

This year, I wanted to go back and talk about what it’s actually like to suffer from health anxiety in particular, and the way my mind works when it comes to my body. I find what helps most to break the stigma around mental illness is talking through our experiences. Through this, we can find common ground with people, and find common solutions. Supporting each other is key to recovery, and what better way to do that than through understanding.

One of the things I continue to struggle with most is trust. I don’t really know when to believe the “signals” my body is sending me. I’ve spent so many years terrified of every sneeze, ache, twinge, spasm, and headache, that it sometimes is impossible for me to tell the difference between a real symptom and a fake one brought on by my anxiety. How vigilant do you consider yourself of your own aches and pains? Do you know how many times a day you feel a pain in your side? How about a spasm somewhere? Do you regularly check your heart beat? Do you remember the last time you had a headache? Do you know exactly how many times you sneezed this morning? Usually, I know the exact answers to all of these questions. This over-monitoring has led me to be incredibly sensitive about any little thing that happens with my body.

It might seem that being acutely aware of your body is a GOOD thing, but anxiety takes advantage of this. Just Google a phrase like “anxiety causing fake symptoms” and see what comes up. Pages and pages of studies, patient questions, etc, of people dealing with symptoms brought on solely because of anxiety. YES – Your body is actually capable of tricking you into thinking you are truly experiencing something! The flip side is, of course, that when my body produces real symptoms – back pain, sore knee, fever, my brain begins to work in overdrive thinking of the WORST.POSSIBLE.OUTCOMES.

Speaking of Google – fellow health anxiety sufferers please STOP asking the internet to diagnose your symptoms. Take it from me – I have convinced myself I have everything from MS to a brain tumour just based on what some sites tells me. It’s a habit that took years to break, but I am so thankful I have (to an extent…). Also – know when to stop reading an article if it’s going to trigger you. I have lost count of how many stories I’ve read about people dying of cancer that have led me on furious Internet searches looking for what symptoms the person had, how they had it diagnosed, etc. I sometimes now have to force myself to stop reading, so I don’t get caught in the cycle.

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But getting back to trusting in my own body, I want to walk through an example and in this case it’s something I have dealt with since being a teenager – heart palpitations. I still remember the first time I ever had one. I was in the movie theatre, eating nachos with gooey cheese when suddenly I had this bizarre flutter in my chest. It scared the hell out of me. It felt like my heart had stopped beating for a split second and then suddenly kick-started itself. I actually stopped eating my nachos entirely because I was scared THE NACHOS were causing my heart to beat irregularly (because you know… somehow nachos can instantly impact my organs like that). I told my parents about it when I got home, and my mom told me that is what her palpitations felt like. Years later, in 2013, I had them tested. That was when I was in a very hypersensitive state, and I was having a lot of severe anxiety symptoms. My palpitations were increasing in frequency and I was terrified that I was on the verge of a heart attack.

The doctor sent me home with a monitor, and anytime I felt a palpitation I was to hit a button, and the monitor would record the event. I had to wear electrode pads on two places on my chest, and somehow had to disguise all the wires every day because I was so embarrassed that I was walking around hooked up to a machine. The results all eventually came back clear – my palpitations are benign. Both my family doctor and therapist at the time explained to me that palpitations are often caused by stress and anxiety. Even just THINKING about palpitations can trigger them. If I calmed down, they would start to become less and less frequent. Easier said than done when at the time I was spending most of my day paying close attention to my pulse, heart beat, and any sensations that could possibly be a palpitation. Breathing exercises to calm myself down rarely worked because I actually got SCARED as I performed them. I became so focused on what my breathing sounded like, and how hard my heart was pumping that I actually was getting MORE anxious as I tried them.

But your heart is important – quite literally without it, you die. So when it has fooled you in the past, how do you really know when it needs real attention? And then begins the next struggle – deciding when to go to the doctor. It’s a real fine line for people with health anxiety. Some, and this once included myself, go to the doctor for every symptom they feel. But you eventually wear out your welcome and the doctor can begin to tune you out and dismiss your fears. Which of course, only fuels your unrelenting suspicions that something is SERIOUSLY wrong with you. So, I set “standards” for going to the doctor (outside of obvious emergencies, like a possibly broken limb or a high fever).

  • Have my symptoms been going on for more than a week? 
  • Are they getting progressively worse and worse as the days/hours go by?
  • Have I had this before? What did the doctor say then? 
  • Can this be explained by anything I have recently done? 
  • Do I have this symptom even when I am not thinking about it? 

See that last question – how often have you had to ask yourself that? For many of you, the answer is probably never. That’s the luxury of trusting your body. You KNOW it isn’t tricking you, because it’s never done it before. For me – I have to be certain “it’s not just all in my head” before going to the doctor. Because I’m always afraid that when I do go to the doctor, I’ll be dismissed because I can’t actually prove the symptom is real.

And getting dismissed is the hardest part. Because at the end of the day – all of this boils down to a fear of dying. More specifically – dying at the result of something I could have stopped. I always think – well what if this stomach ache is actually the beginning of stomach cancer, and if I catch it now I will survive? Or – what if this headache is actually a stroke and if I don’t get to the hospital in the next hour I will die? And even – if I don’t ask the doctor about my heart TODAY, what if I die in my sleep tonight? As I’ve said over and over, anxiety is a control freak. Anxiety makes you think you need to control EVERYTHING so you can stop worrying about EVERYTHING. By controlling my health, I will control what kills me.

So while I have improved over the years, it is still an ongoing battle with myself about when to raise alarm bells and questions about various symptoms and experiences I have with my body. I wish I knew definitively when my body was lying. I wish there was an app I could open that would say “Just your anxiety. You’re 100% fine today” or “You’ve just got a slight cold. You’re operating at about 75% today”. But until then, I’ll stick to my plans of regular physicals, working on calming my anxiety, and avoiding asking the Internet what my symptoms mean. I also have to work on forgiveness – because if I do get really sick, I have to be able to remind myself that it isn’t my fault. As badly as I want to, I can’t control everything – especially  how I’ll die. And then, I just have to hold onto the hope that things will slowly get better, and I’ll slowly stop being afraid.

Thank you for reading! If you are just reading my blog for the first time – welcome! I hope you will all join me on Twitter today to raise money, and awareness, for Mental Health. Remember to use #BellLetsTalk so Bell will donate money towards initiatives in this country to help those in need. 

 

 

#JanGoals: Week Three Recap

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So I faced my first real hurdle this week – I injured my knee! It happens to me usually once or twice a year. My knees have caused me issues off and on since high school. (And yes, in true health anxiety fashion I’ve had the issues diagnosed/treated repeatedly). Usually what happens is I do “something” to it, and BOOM, my knee begins to feel tight, it sometimes swells, and becomes painful to bend. Sitting at my desk becomes awkward, stairs are now the enemy, and it just sucks. So cue me being incredibly frustrated because I’ve been off to such an awesome start this January.

And this is the thing – I don’t like being forced to rest. I am terrible at it. On Wednesday morning I spent the first couple of hours that I was awake practically screaming at myself (in my head) “YOU HAVE TO REST TONIGHT. IT WILL BE OKAY IF YOU DON’T WORKOUT. YOU MIGHT MAKE THE INJURY WORSE IF YOU PUSH TOO HARD”. You can ask my mom – even as a kid I hated staying home from school if I was sick. I hate thinking I’ll fall behind. I like to be in control and on top of things. (Classic OCD/anxiety, I know). And it’s also because I hold myself to incredibly high standards. If I tell myself I am working out 5x a week, and I don’t meet that – I consider it a failure. Doesn’t matter the reason.

Obviously – there are ways I can make up for taking a night off. I can double up a workout later this week, for example. And I also know I need to take this as a sign from my body that I am pushing it too hard, too fast. I am definitely the type to run the risk of burning out because I often don’t know when to allow myself to relax and take a break. It’s also difficult to shake the thought that “I failed”. My obsessive thinking goes in all kinds of directions. I start to berate myself  “people with similar injuries still work out!” or “you’re just making an excuse not to workout!” or “you’ll get fat! It’ll ruin everything!!”

Withdrawal 

So this week I started taking Pristiq every third day, and I can honestly say I think I am finally starting to feel the side effects of coming off the drug. On Tuesday I felt nauseous, had a pounding headache, and had moments of feeling “off” all throughout the day. I wasn’t sure though, at the time, if it was the drugs or because the weather was terrible. (When it rains, I feel like crap usually).

And further to the above with my knee – I became incredibly emotional this week. I woke up Saturday morning and immediately starting crying because my knee was still sore. I had been so hopeful that I’d be back to the gym, crushing HIIT workouts. I was a mess. I cried off and on for the better part of a couple hours.

I felt at a loss with what to do with myself Saturday and it largely relates to what I’ve already touched on – I do not like being forced to rest. If I set out to do 5 workouts, then I MUST achieve that. To put it in OCD terms – I need to complete the goal in order to be “perfect”. And so I cried because I knew I wouldn’t be “perfect” this week. I also took the advice of Sean and my BFF Marie-Claude, and rested on Saturday. I did what my therapist often challenges me to do – and I confronted my discomfort. I challenged the idea that I needed to do the workout in order to be “perfect”. I knew deep down that resting was the best option because it’s clear I put my body through too much too soon this month. I also needed to prove to myself that not working out as much this week wouldn’t result in me suddenly gaining 10lbs, or not having any results by the end of the month. I have to show myself that being so hard on myself is a detriment – not a motivator.

I am trying to view this week as a time for learning and reflection, rather than a failure. However, it’s going to take time for that to sink in.

A Note on Rewards 

I was thinking a lot this week too about how to “reward” myself for a job well done this month, and I thought back to some advice I received several years ago when I did a fitness bootcamp. The instructor encouraged everyone not to set goals that included buying new clothing. She was primarily concerned that if someone didn’t quite meet their goal, that they’d become discouraged and stop trying to improve themselves. I think this is a valid reason and I want to throw another reason why you shouldn’t set “size” goals. I tried on some skirts at the mall on Saturday and it is hilarious how wildly sizes can vary from store to store and style to style. I realized I was trying on a size 10 pencil skirt and then looked at my jacket and realized it was a size 2. Riddle me that. So ladies, don’t hold yourself to a size – I am convinced each store just makes it up as they go along anyways.

Mindfulness 

So I bought the book “The Little Pocket Book of Mindfulness” and so far I love it. My favourite new mindfulness technique is an activity the book recommends you try in the shower; but I am finding myself trying it out while getting ready for bed. It’s called “Who are you showering with?” and essentially it forces you to pause your thought cycle, and think about “who” is in the room with you. I use it at night when I find myself going over the events of the day, or what’s going to possibly happen tomorrow. I stop, think about the people I am worrying about – and then in my mind, kick them out of my room! And so far its helped! So I am already happy I spent $20 on this little book.

Booze Count: 3 drinks and I am totally fine with that.

We’re in the home stretch of January! I hope you all are forgiving yourself if you stumble, and sticking to your new goals as best you can! What have you learned about yourself so far?

 

#JanGoals: Week Two Recap

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This week, I feel I stuck to my goals with only one stumbling point. I had 3 glasses of wine on Saturday night! I know- The horror!!! Sean & I hosted some friends over for dinner, and they brought along some really nice red wine for us to have. My original plan for the night was to only have 2 glasses, but in the end I had 3. And I have really mixed emotions about it. On one hand – I didn’t get drunk, so I didn’t wake up with any sort of hangover. I spaced out all of the wine with lots of water & club soda. The impact on my diet will probably not be that bad. (I did have chocolate cake Saturday night, which is theoretically WAY worse for me! But come on, it’s chocolate!!) AND, I did go to a Raptors game on Tuesday night and ignored beer entirely! Usually when I go to a sporting event, I’ll have a beer since they go hand in hand so well. But on Tuesday, I decided to avoid beer and use my “booze allowance” for the week on Saturday night.

However – I feel like in a way I let myself down by having the third glass. I didn’t need it. And this is where I want to touch on the downside of setting goals – the anger you can put on yourself when you don’t live up to your own expectations of yourself. I am trying not to be upset with myself. It could have been different – if I hadn’t told myself to keep it at 2 drinks, maybe I would have had 4 or 5! I’d be spending Sunday with a pounding headache! What I need to tell myself to focus on, is that overall, I’ve stuck to my goals and stayed “somewhat sober”. The point of reducing my alcohol intake isn’t to deprive myself; it’s to re-teach myself moderation after the overindulgence of Christmas. So I just need to relax, forgive myself and remember that a new week is about to begin with new goals.

Staying Motivated

To keep up my enthusiasm for exercising, I decided to ramp up my workout “journalling” and instead of just keeping a day to day log, I’d start a full workout binder. I went to the dollar store and bought some basic supplies: a binder (obviously..), and some dividers. Next I Googled like a maniac until I found some free templates to use to log my workouts. (My favourite being this one). For now I plan to keep the binder simple – weekly logs, goals, and a yearly calendar template to mark off days when I’ve worked out. The goal being it will allow me to keep track like I did last year. From there, I may add in workouts I’ve found online, measurement info, weight loss stats, etc. I don’t plan to keep a written food journal – I can use the MyFitnessPal app for that (since it does all the calorie counting/nutrient info for me).

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Fitness Binder!!

I am also happy to report I stuck to 5 workouts again this week! I also went to my first spin class in months and performed a lot better than I thought I would! I guess when I catch myself feeling disappointed about the alcohol, I also need to remind myself I was a badass this week at the gym and focus on the positive.

Little Things

I’ve been feeling really inspired for Bell Let’s Talk Day – and it all started because I booked an appointment with my family doctor. I wanted to ask some nagging questions I’ve had about some symptoms. Everything, of course, turned out to be fine, explainable and solvable, but it got me thinking about how my health anxiety has impacted my ability to trust my body and the signals it sends me. So stayed tuned for  more on that on January 25th!

Also, I have a confession to make. I think I have become a full blown Starbucks addict. They have introduced almond milk to their menu and I am in love. And I kind of hate myself for this because it’s an extra 70 cents to get it, and their drinks are already SO EXPENSIVE. But OHMYGOD it is so delicious. So that made me really happy this week…. my bank account less happy.

Withdrawing from Pristiq has still been going well. I feel ready to take the next step and start taking it every third day, and see what happens. I feel that perhaps this is when I will start to see more withdrawal symptoms, so I am a little nervous.

The biggest “ah-ha” moment that I have had so far this month is realizing that no matter what happens this month – if I have a couple drinks, eat cake, miss a workout, or have a panic attack, I am still starting ahead of where I was a year ago, and that’s important. It would take a lot of sabotaging myself to end up where I was in January 2016, and that feels good to know. And when I feel down about things, I feel this is what I am going to focus on. The steps may be small, but it’s forward progress nonetheless!

Thanks for following along! How is your month going so far?

If you missed my earlier posts in the #JanGoals series, go here & here!

#JanGoals: Week One Recap

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Sweaty Selfie!

To start off my #JanGoals, one fun thing I did this week was sit down and calculate my “stats” from 2016. Last year, I used a pocket calendar to mark off and track which days I exercised, and wrote down what type of workout I did. It was part of my attempt to get to 3 – 4 workouts a week. In the end, I worked out a total of 197 times last year, roughly; 54% of the year! My best month was July 2016, where I worked out 20 times. My least productive month was December, where I only worked out 12 times. I found this tracking habit really helpful during the year, so I plan to pick up another calendar to use for 2017. It’s a great visual planner to help me look ahead at the week and plan out when to workout and when I can relax and kick back.

Also, it would be nice to improve upon this number in 2017 and go above 200 workouts!

One thing I am a firm believer in when it comes to weight loss is avoiding the scale. It is incredibly misleading. First of all, your weight fluctuates an incredible amount throughout the day – and ladies, it can REALLY fluctuate depending where you are in your cycle. Also, this past year really affirmed how little it actually tells you. With just the scale you have no idea what % fat you are, and what % muscle you are. My weight has remained nearly the same as 2016’s starting weight, but yet I’ve lost about 8% of my body fat. (How do I know my fat %? There’s a fancy scale at the gym I go to that tells you your body fat %, water weight, etc).

So what do I measure my “success” by? Measurements! Once a month I take my measurements. I do it first thing in the morning before I have anything to eat. To me, this is the best way to track your results. It seems fitting to start tracking these January goals by looking back at what I did in 2016. So, for all the world to see, here are my measurements from January 2016 compared to how I am starting in 2017.

January 2016 

  • Weight: 146 lbs
  • Chest: 35.5″
  • Waist (Natural): 31″
  • Waist (Belly Button): 34″
  • Hips: 41
  • Body Fat: **
  • BMI: 25.1 (considered “overweight”)

January 2017: 

  • Weight: 139.5 lbs
  • Chest: 34.5″
  • Waist (Natural): 28″
  • Waist (Belly Button): 33″
  • Hips: 39.5″
  • Body Fat: 33%
  • BMI: 23.9 (considered “normal” but just barely)

** I don’t have my body fat statistic from January 2016 when I first signed up at Goodlife, but I do know that in late November I was at 31% body fat, which was down 4% from when we took that information in September.

I love comparative stats like this, which is funny because I hate math and numbers. But I love progress that can be measured, literally! Which again, is why I hate the scale. I’m including my weight because my hope is that by the end of the month I can prove my point that it’s crap, and that measurements are going to boost your ego way more.

Oh – and another stat I am not a huge fan of – BMI. It just takes into account your weight and height. But it doesn’t take into account how much of your weight is fat vs. muscle – just like a scale. So I take that information with a grain of salt as well.

So how did Week One go?

I signed up for a Spring 10km race! I signed up for the Goodlife Marathon 10km race on May 7th. I used to run the Yonge St 10km, but Canada Running Series have moved that race to June, and it now is too close to the Ride to Conquer Cancer. I’ve debated doing the Spring Run off 8km in April, and may still sign up for that! So I am feeling motivated! (But also very terrified… it’s been two years since running that distance in full, and the perfectionist in me is going to want to be a sub-60 minute time, set a PB and all that jazz…)

I also ordered a new book to help with my anxiety – The Little Pocket Book of Mindfullness which was recommended to me by my therapist before Christmas. I am excited to check it out and try out the exercises! I have also tried to be more diligent with my daily journal, and taking time throughout the day to appreciate small moments.

I started the withdrawal from Pristiq and taking my doctor’s advice to take a pill every other day. I’ve read mixed views online about whether this is the correct way to ween off this drug, but I am going to trust my doctor. So far the symptoms have been minor. I get weird dizzy sensations, but so far nothing major. My mood doesn’t seem to have changed drastically. But we’ll see. It is early in the process.

BUT WHAT ABOUT DA BOOZE?

Total drinks consumed: 1.5

Sean made homemade pizza on Saturday night, and so we split a large bottle of some Trinity Bellwoods beer that we had purchased prior to New Year’s Eve. It was hard to turn down a fancy beer, especially when I knew we wouldn’t be dining out this past weekend. The “.5” portion of the number is from the small portion of coffee & Bailey’s I had at a friend’s brunch, before I decided I didn’t care for Bailey’s in Tim Horton’s coffee…

But this 1.5 is a lot less than what I would have “normally” consumed. I was out and about this week, and between some mid-week plans, and relaxing at home I could have easily had 5 – 6 drinks this week. So even though I still had 1, I’m really happy that I resisted alcohol elsewhere.

I will admit, I officially started going “somewhat sober” on January 2nd – so this doesn’t count what I consumed on January 1st!

I also feel the need to admit I have still been eating crap food in the form of leftover dip, chips, cupcakes, and cookies from the holidays! It hasn’t all been salads and oatmeal.

Now let’s hope Week Two turns out as well as Week One!

Yeah – It’s a Resolution Post. Sorry.

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New Year, New Me! Let the memes begin! As Christmas wound down, we began to see all those memes either proclaiming inspirational quotes about the year to come – or jokes about how quickly you’ll break your resolution. To me, the idea of resolution is a double edged sword. After all, there is nothing wrong with wanting to improve your life, your health, or just expanding your horizons. However, the downside being you either set yourself up for failure, or just don’t apply yourself and wind up making the same promises next year – and possibly, start a cycle of guilt year over year.

I try not to make resolutions. I try to pick up new hobbies, make goals, or eat healthier all year. But there is something cathartic about starting over along with the year; especially after the overindulgence that is the holiday season. The winter months can be devastating for a lot of people, myself included at times. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a real thing, and can have a very drastic impact on people’s lives. (If you suspect someone you care about suffers from this, I highly recommend reaching out. Take them for coffee, a walk through a path, or out skating on an outdoor rink. Outside activities are often best, as our bodies need the extra Vitamin D to help regulate our moods. Take advantage of the limited sun we get here in Canada during the winter). Resolutions are in some way meant to help ease our trudge through January, February, and March. They get us through the dark times, so we can relax, kick back, and enjoy the warmer weather, proud of ourselves for “being good” all winter.

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So while I would love to sit here and ramble about the psychology of resolutions and weigh their pros and cons, quite frankly, I think it would be hypocritical to sit here and denounce them, when I myself have a plan for January. But – in my defence, the key word here is “plan”. It’s not a resolution for the entire year, but rather, some specific goals I have for the month of January. Maybe I’ll try to start new goals each month; or most likely, I’ll just aim to do a little better all the time. Either way, rather than trying to sit here and say “NEW ME!”, I’m trying to think of it as “Me just less lazy”.

Goal #1 – “Somewhat” Sober January

Going completely alcohol-free is, admittedly, difficult for me. Not in a “OMG I NEED MY BOOZE” type of way, but more in a realistic way. I firmly believe in not depriving yourself, and so the idea of being out for dinner and not having a glass of wine, or trying a new beer just doesn’t seem fair on myself. What I am promising myself is to do the following as a comprise: 1) No drinking at home. 2) If I am out or we are hosting guests, observe a strict 1 drink limit.

The reason I want to do this is three-fold. I wanted to refresh my body after having a lot of alcohol over the holiday season. The second reason is I am curious to see how much weight I can lose within a month if I really cut back on alcohol, especially beer. The third reason will be explained later.

Goal #2 – Exercise 5x a Week

I am pretty good at working out at least 4 times a week, but I’d love to try and do a month where I workout at least 5 times a week. For a lot of people this is an easier goal to manage – twice on the weekends, and just three times during the week. One disadvantage I have is that I get up early on weekdays, and I have no appetite for getting up earlier to work out. Also, because I tend to workout at night more often, I like giving my body a full 24 hours rest. Combine that with a busy social life at night, and I sometimes have weeks where it’s tough to get 4 workouts in. But maybe I need to ditch that “excuse” and drag myself out of bed at 5am instead of 6am to squeeze in a run, quick HIIT session, or even just riding the indoor bike. Again, this is highly motivated by curiosity to see if the combination of dropping booze, and ramping up the exercise is enough to kickstart even more weight loss. It also ties into Goal #4….

Goal #3 – Practice More Mindfulness Exercises

This is something I have really begun to neglect over the past year or so, and it’s starting to show. My negative thoughts run away, and sometimes I have a hard time calming myself down. Once a week I’d like to try a new exercise, and see how it works for me, and then try to practice it a few more times. By the end of month, that means I’ll have five new exercises in my toolbox for fixing my anxiety.

It also means if I am setting aside time to do these exercises, it’s less time on social media, idling flipping by photos and memes. I can then spend the time to do more journal writing, and relax more.

Goal #4 – Stop taking Anti-Depressants

January 2017 will mark two years since beginning Pristiq. I feel I am ready to come off the drugs and attempt to deal with my anxiety through therapy, mindfulness, and other at-home exercises. This goal scares me the most. I am so worried about the side effects of withdrawal, and how my body is going to behave. This is also one of the primary motivators behind avoiding alcohol as much as possible. I figure my body will be going through enough changes without me adding alcohol to the mix. Same with the exercise – I am hoping the positive effects of working out will help balance the chemicals in my brain.

But I am really unsure if I will even go for Goal #4. My fear of coming off these drugs is just that real. All I know is prepare for more blog articles if I do start to come off the drugs, as I am likely going to be needing a lot of support, reassurance, and have A LOT on my mind.

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Keep Me Honest

Okay, so I am lame and am going to use a #hashtag to track any social media posts I make about my attempt to have a ridiculously healthy and productive January. So, follow my #JanGoals! Also look for my equally “basic” Instagram posts to match the blog.

As of right now, I plan to blog a lot during January. Not only is Bell Let’s Talk coming up on January 25th, but I plan to use this blog as a way to keep myself accountable for completing, or attempting these goals. I want to document my ups and downs with all of them. I am hoping that by doing this, I will motivate myself to keep improving, and maybe we can start a conversation where we support each other through the twists and turns of starting new habits, or breaking old ones.

So look, love them or hate them, you can’t argue against trying to better yourself through a resolution. I guess the thing I want myself, and others, to remember is – it’s not about changing me entirely. I don’t need to start from scratch. I am good person, who tries hard, and attempts to do my best. It’s more so that there’s smaller things I can do better, to make a larger impact on my life.

And PS – for the record, I didn’t start this until January 2nd, so don’t go too mad at yourself if you’ve already “broken” your resolution.

Stay tuned a little later for a recap of my first week attempting my goals!

2016 Concert Rankings! Part Two!

This is it, the moment you’ve all been patiently waiting for! The creme de la creme of this year’s live bands! The Top 25 Live Bands of 2016!!!!

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25) The Naked & Famous – April 1st (Mod Club) & November 8th (Danforth Music Hall)

Seeing this band wasn’t a straight forward venture this year! For the show at the Mod Club, we only caught the last twenty minutes or so. Sean & I went to dinner with Val & John beforehand, and things went long. We figured since it was a Friday night concert it would start late – and boy were we wrong! TNAF were off stage by about 10:30. So lesson learned; get to Friday night Mod Club shows early!! The second time I saw TNAF, well, was Election Night in the US, and I think you can imagine how distracting that was. All of that being said – they put on a helluva show. I absolutely adore Alisa Xayalith’s voice and wish I had her singing chops. And she nailed it live – both nights. They’re a high energy band and it really comes across onstage as well.

24) MisterWives – July 30th (Osheaga)

These guys make such infectious pop tunes!! And WOW, they blew me away. I would call them one of my surprises of Osheaga – alongside another artist you’ll see later on this list. So much energy! And Mandy Lee is a great frontwoman. I was so impressed, especially when they admitted they hadn’t played a live show in awhile. Usually, I would expect some rust and bumps – but nothing like that appeared here. I think the energy of the crowd really helped elevate their concert in order to give us all a great performance. So happy I was there early enough to see them! Would definitely check them out again.

23) BØRNS– July 31st (Osheaga)

BØRNS has literally stepped out of the 1970s and it’s awesome. He did an amazing cover of “Benny & The Jets” (naturally), along with a Zeppelin cover (again, naturally). While his hit “Electric Love” has been heavily overplayed – I highly recommend his album, or at least the title track “Dopamine” – which I’ve linked to. I have to say, his afternoon set filled with swagger was perfect for the summer and sun at Osheaga! As much as I hate to compare modern music festivals to the likes of Woodstock – his set gave you a little sense of what it might have been like back then.

22) Basia Bulat – June 5th (Field Trip)

I had seen Basia Bulat a couple of years ago as an opener, and she was excellent. She has a beautiful voice, and it was great to see her wooing over the crowd at Field Trip. She was captivating, and was the perfect soundtrack for a summer night.

21) Boy & Bear – June 4th (Field Trip)

These Aussies put on a great show in the summer sun. Their music is perfectly suited for an outdoor show, and a relaxing, chill afternoon. They sounded excellent, and didn’t disappoint. If you like a mix of folk and rock – these guys are for you.

20) Death Cab for Cutie – March 23rd (ACC) & July 30th (Osheaga)

March was my first time seeing this group and being a fan of their latest album I was pretty excited! I caught about half of their set at Osheaga as well. What I appreciate about them is they bring more energy and power to their songs live, than what you’d expect if you have just heard their albums. They were a great compliment to Metric in March, and like so many other openers on this list, set the tone for the night and got you excited for more.

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Daughter @ Massey Hall

19) Daughter – November 16th (Massey Hall) 

Elena Tonra not only has a beautiful name, she has one of the most beautiful voices, and hearing it at Massey Hall really put her talents on display. It’s a voice that is simultaneously haunting and wonderful. She will give you goosebumps. The band is also excellent, and hold their own. She has this adorable modesty on stage that draws you in, rather than push you away. I am so happy I was able to experience this band at probably one of the best venues in the world.

18) Aurora – July 31st (Osheaga)

This Norwegian singer was one of my “surprises” of the Osheaga weekend. I knew her song, “Under Stars” and was curious to hear her live. I wasn’t sure how her voice would be live, as her music is quite electronic. But like Elena Tonra, she has this gorgeous tone. Watching her, literally perform under the stars and trees at Osheaga was perfect. Side story not related to her as an artist – I had the weirdest moment during this show. A couple in front of my kept making out/groping each other, and eventually I moved in front of them so I could see a little better (they were taller than me). Suddenly, during one of the songs, someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned, and the guy from the couple was laughing away because he did the “made you look” trick. Ok. He tried it again, and eventually I had to move to the other side of the stage. I hate people sometimes.

17) Red Hot Chili Peppers – July 29th (Osheaga)

I had seen RHCP at the ACC back when I worked there as an usher, and I have to be honest – I was totally underwhelmed. The show lacked emotion, and I hate to use this phrase – but it lacked “heart”. However, Friday night at Osheaga I thought was way better. They seemed energetic (despite Anthony Kiedis’ recent illness earlier in the summer), and giving a full performance. Flea was entertaining as always. The one note I’d say is that I wasn’t a fan of Josh Klinghoffer’s backing vocals, however his guitar work was excellent. Great way to open the festival, and they ended up one of the highlights of the weekend.

16)  – July 31st (Osheaga)

You know Mo, and may not even realize it. She’s the voice behind Major Lazer’s hit “Lean On” (which she performed). She’s also a total badass and deserved a way better placement on the Osheaga lineup. She was an early performer, but so worth getting there early for. She has energy, pipes, and captures your attention. You can also dance your face off with her. The linked song is one of my favourites of hers. I was sad to miss her recent show in Toronto but I am sure she nailed it. So check out her music and discover that there is so much more to her than the overplayed single she’s known for now.

15) Phantogram – October 19th (Phoenix Concert Theatre)

Probably one of the shows I was most looking forward to seeing, and they lived up to my expectations. It was a visually engaging show – using a large screen to enhance their light show and transform The Phoenix from small club to arena. My only knock on the show, is I felt there were times when singer Sarah Barthel was relying on her vocal track too much. However, it didn’t fully detract from her actual talents. There was also an especially poignant moment where they paid tribute to Sarah’s sister who commited suicide, and inspired the song “Barking Dog“. The moment was enhanced by what I can only assume is home video footage of Sarah and her sister. Overall the duo put on a fantastic show (their new album is also one of the best of 2016).

14) July Talk – June 4th (Field Trip) & July 30th (Osheaga)

There was probably no other band that I saw this summer that had more hype about their live performances than July Talk. I had heard numerous stories about their intense performances that include anything from duct tape, slaps, and everything in between. And usually, when you hear so many crazy stories you inevitably end up disappointed when you actually DO see the band because your expectations are just set so high. However, July Talk brought it. Their sets at both Field Trip and Osheaga knocked it out of the park. The chemistry between Leah Fay and Peter Dreimanis is second to none. They play off each other, and I love that Leah isn’t afraid to call out the crowd and modern day sexism declaring “It’s 2016 – keep your hands to your fucking self!” Their new album is also their best yet, with a mature sound that shows their progress as a band. And then you also can’t beat absolutely rocking out to “Summer Dress” during you know, the summer.

13) Leon Bridges – July 31st (Osheaga)

Gentlemen, ladies – do you need an artist to woo the object of your desires with? Do you enjoy smooth, soulful blues and southern rock? Do you want to feel transported back to a time when Motown was king? If you answered yes to any of these – let me introduce you to Leon Bridges. This kid is exceptional. (Also, shout out to his backup vocalist who may also be the coolest woman I’ve ever seen onstage). Hearing his voice live was a real treat, and just a beautiful way to spend a summer evening. He also did an incredible cover of “Pony” which, again, if you need something to make out to – this cover might just seal any deal. What Sean & I love most about Bridges is that despite his youth, his voice is so mature and so beautiful. He honestly sounds like he just stepped out of the 1960s, and it’s actually so refreshing to hear someone recording this style of music today. I really hope we get to see him somewhere like Massey Hall one day.

12) Jack Garratt – July 29th (Osheaga) & October 15th (Phoenix) 

Sean bought Jack Garratt’s debut album “Phase” on a whim after hearing so many rave reviews about him. I caught him at Osheaga with friends, and was blown away. He plays all of the instruments, sings, and is adorably modest. He seemed absolutely shocked that so many people came out to watch his set. He had the same love for his fans at The Phoenix in Toronto. At The Phoenix especially, I really felt as though we were watching an artist on the verge of making it big. It reminded me a lot of when I saw Ed Sheeran open for Snow Patrol just a mere months before Ed Sheeran exploded into mainstream music. He is incredibly talented, and it’s exciting now to see where his career will take him next. If you want something new to listen to – and love something pop with a bit of a rock edge, give Jack Garratt a listen.

11) Metric – March 23rd (ACC)

I’ve seen Emily Haines perform before – and she is one of the best frontmen (frontpeople?) in music. She has this ethereal energy, and a surprisingly powerful live voice. She can delicately balance the softer tones of some songs, and ramp up the edge in others. Their shows are always visually entertaining, but it’s Emily Haines who controls the show. One of the best bands to come out of the city of Toronto.

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Metric, nailing it

10) Robyn – June 4th (Field Trip)

Another badass female, and what an incredible performance she put on! She was dancing up a storm, and her vocals never seemed tired or dragged down by her incredible moves. She was dancing from start to finish. If you aren’t familiar with her more recent music, which is more electronic and “experimental” than the hits you know her for from the 90s and frankly, I love her new work more than her old. So I loved the set. If you were expecting to just hear the hits, you would have been disappointed. However if you wanted to see an artist, fully embracing being on stage and giving it their all – you would have been like me and absolutely enthralled with her.

9) M83 – July 31st (Osheaga)

I never know what to expect from electronic acts, because I never know how engaging the actual show will be. Will it essentially just be someone singing along to a track? Will there be live instruments? Will the female vocalists also be playing? And M83 was so much more than I expected. It had incredible energy, power, and everyone nailed it. I still think about some of the guitar solos!! This was one of my favourite performances of the entire weekend. Also with “Midnight City” being one of my favourite songs it was amazing to hear that live. M83’s music deserves to be heard live, and loud.

8) The Tragically Hip – August 14th (ACC)

I’ve already written pretty extensively about The Hip this year, and I have to admit, it was difficult to decide where to place this concert in the context of the rest of the year. For pure emotional value, this was the best show of the year. However, I didn’t want to rank them based on that reaction. I wanted to base it on the performance, the setlist, everything. (And if somehow I ever was able to discuss this with Gord Downie, I feel he’d be insulted if I basically ranked them based on sadness or pity). As awesome as this show was, I do have to say I wish the setlist had contained fewer new songs, and that we’d gotten to hear more songs from their earlier work. However, hearing “Gift Shop” and “Grace, Too” live is such an amazing experience. The energy that this bands pours into each show – and the love they have for their fans is so incredible. And they are just a damn good band, and Gord Downie’s voice will never be duplicated. I am so thankful we got to see them this year, and I truly hope that by some miracle we’ll get to see them again.

7) St. Lucia – February 15th (Phoenix)

Another show earlier in the year that managed to stay near the top as one of the best. I often say to Sean that one reason I know it was an incredible concert is by how badly I wanted to be onstage with them. St. Lucia came out to one of my favourite opening songs of the year, and basically put on a clinic for the entire night of how to put on a badass, high energy, no holds barred show. Their infectious synth-rock makes it nearly impossible to have a boring time while watching or listening to them. Plus, they dance around, engage the crowd, and basically take you on an adventure during their shows. MAN, I love them!

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6) Muse – January 16th (ACC)

It’s always tough to be the first concert of the year – you can so easily end up forgotten. Having seen Muse before, though, I knew this would be a hard show to forget. They are one of the best arena rock bands out there, and always put on an incredible show. Everything from their performance as a band, to visual aids, and even DRONES. Sean & Justin also found their inner kids and chased around giant balloons that eventually popped and dropped confetti everywhere. This was an overall fantastic night with friends, belting out some of Muse’s biggest hits together and eventually having a streamer fight. Even if you aren’t a huge fan of this band, you have to see them live. I guarantee it will be one of the best concert experiences you have.

5) Noel Gallagher‘s High Flying Birds – July 10th (Echo Beach)

Ah yes, The Chief came back to town. Again, someone whose music I have admired since I was a kid. He’s crass, he doesn’t give a flying **** that you want to hear Oasis songs. He hates most of those songs now anyways. His new materials, though, is fantastic and still great rock music. It was also special getting to watch him perform outdoors, because it meant listening to “Champagne Supernova” while a beautiful red sunset exploded around us. One of the great rock legends, and yes he knows it. At least despite all the ego he still puts on a fantastic show and knows how to entertain a crowd.

4) Mumford & Sons – June 13th (Molson Canadian Amphitheatre)

One of the best live bands on the planet, hands down. I saw M&S just a day after completing the RTCC, and so I was still riding an incredible high from completing that event. I am actually amazed I had the energy to be at the concert. Mumford, are just so passionate and captivating. I dare you not to dance, stomp, clap, and sing along with them at a live show. This being my third time seeing M&S, I have to say this was the best of the three. This band is so much more than some banjos. They are a bonafide rock band and will blow you away in concert.

3) Radiohead – July 31st (Osheaga)

What.a.night. I mean, we were lucky enough to hear some truly classic songs live and in the flesh. “Let Down” is one of my all-time favourite songs, and to hear Thom Yorke sing it gave me chills. AND THEY PLAYED CREEP. They didn’t even perform that at Lollapalooza!!! Yes, you can make the case that this is why Radiohead is a frustrating band to see live. You have to listen to their newer, less accessible music before you get to hear the hits, and even then, they may not even play the ones you want to hear. I don’t have a huge issue with how they organize their live shows, because in the end you get to watch some incredible talents. And it’s worth the wait when you get to sing along to “Karma Police“. A generational band that I am so happy I was able to check off my “concert bucket list”.

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2) Sam Roberts – December 17th (Corona Theatre)

Oh Sam. I’ve said it a thousand times, but I could never get sick of watching this band perform live. Now, throw in that I’ve been lucky enough to see him perform in Montreal twice and I feel really spoiled. His hometown shows are simply the best. He was only SLIGHTLY edged out of the top spot by the next band. The setlist on this night was heavy on the new tunes – but that isn’t a complaint from me. I am really enjoying his latest album Terraform, and his previous record Lo-Fantasy is his best. Also, anytime I get to dance my face off to “Fixed To Ruin” is a great night. Even if you haven’t listened to Sam Roberts since the early 2000s, you must check him out live. I promise you a fantastic night of rock, energy, and passion.

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1) Arkells – November 5th (Massey Hall)

If you had asked me at the start of the year who would finish number 1 on this list – I can guarantee it wouldn’t have been Arkells. But we witnessed something special at Massey Hall. Sean & I knew these guys would be good – we saw them at Osheaga last year, and have friends who love this band. But I didn’t expect to be truly blown away. There are literally zero complaints from this concert. Everything was exceptional – the setlist, the horn section, the backing vocalists, the crowd at Massey Hall, and the band themselves. Their opener, “Drake’s Dad” ended up being the best opening song of the year too. Completely set the tone for the night, and got everyone to their feet. My personal favourite song of the night was “Whistleblower” – which started as an acoustic rendition until BANG, the whole band re-joins in! I forget who said it of our group; but we had a moment after leaving the show where I was discussing how the hell I was going to rank the bands this year and we started talking about The Tragically Hip. Someone made the excellent point that as we witnessed one band give perhaps their final bow, that night at Massey Hall we watched the next great Canadian band. You forget how many hits these guys have written, and they are still early in their careers. These guys will be remembered as the next Tragically Hip, Guess Who, The Band, etc. I feel so lucky to have seen them on one of their best nights. I hope it only continues to get better for them.

Thanks everyone!! Have a Merry Christmas and wonderful 2017! Can’t wait to see what shows end up on this list next year. 

If you’re interested – here are the previous years’ lists:

2014 – Part One

2014 – Part Two

2014 – Part Three

2015 – Part One

2015 – Part Two