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The BIG “Pause” – A Frank Guest Blog from Fitness Client, Heather, on Menopause.

The other night at Erin’s Boot Camp I mentioned that I’m in the midst of perimenopause and asked if anyone was interested in learning more. There was an overwhelmingly positive request for info, so here it is.

Menopause is the normal change in women’s lives when we stop menstruating. It brings a lot of changes to our bodies, but we don’t all experience it in the same way, any more than we experienced the start of that part of our lives in the same way. Technically, menopause is said to have occurred when one has not had a period for 12 consecutive months. Perimenopause is the time leading up to that cessation, and it can last for almost no time to years. There isn’t really a typical duration, nor can one predict how it will be based on family history, personal health, menstrual history, etc. One of my friends used to say that because she had started menstruating early she would probably end late. But she didn’t. How your mother or sisters experienced it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be the same. There is no one way. Each of us is unique to ourselves.

I’m soon to be 54, and that’s a pretty normal age for this to be occurring. One of my girlfriends had the lucky experience in her early 40s of almost skipping over perimenopause—one month she had her normal period, and the next month she didn’t, and she never did again. Other friends have had different experiences, including one friend who said that her perimenopause lasted eight long years. There’s no one “normal” way.

Irregular periods are common, including ridiculously heavy bleeding for days (“flooding”), spotting in between periods, and so on. Hot flashes are also extremely common. Hot flashes are exactly what they sound like: Out of the blue, one suddenly gets very very hot, even dripping sweat. Night sweats, poor sleep and irritability are other hallmarks, and I’ve had them all. One of my friends said that she felt like she didn’t sleep at all for a year. Another lauds her husband because she has had to change sodden sheets in the middle of the night a number of times because of night sweats, and he doesn’t complain.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms, do whatever you need to do to deal with it. If you need the occasional sleeping pill (I find that a half-pill is easily sufficient), just take it and don’t worry about it. Don’t be a martyr! Fitness helps, but does not prevent entirely, by any stretch. Exercise helps with sleep, and reducing your alcohol intake can help with the hot flashes. On the other hand, if a glass of wine helps you get through that cranky moment, go for it! And don’t let anyone tell you that there is a right or wrong way to get through it. What works for one woman might be totally unhelpful for another. Do what is right for you.

There are a couple of cautions to all this. If you experience flooding that just doesn’t seem to want to stop, see your doctor. Similarly, if you seem to have finished with all of this and then you suddenly start spotting again, after a 12-month hiatus, see your doctor then, too. There could be other issues of cysts, etc., that you need to have looked at.

Poor Erin has had to read my whines for the past few months as I struggle through this, and she’s been great about accommodating my aches and pains. For me, the experience has been one of month-long periods, many sleepless or sleep-disturbed nights, and constant heat. Husband has blankets pulled up around his ears at night while I open the window and strip off pyjamas and sheets to get some cool air. I’ve also been experiencing extreme back ache and a lot of cramping of fingers, toes and legs. For the cramping, I’m trying to drink a lot of water and eat bananas to increase my potassium levels. My doctor also recommended that I take extra D and E vitamins along with my daily multi-vitamin.

There are, of course, many on-line resources about menopause. A useful, no-nonsense book is The Healthy Boomer by Peggy Edwards, Miroslava Lhotsky and Judy Turner (McClelland & Stewart, 1999—I happened to index this years ago for my long-time client Peggy).

Mostly, you just have to remember that every single woman on the planet goes through this, and so can you.

What Are the Best Oils for You and How Should You Eat Them…

I have had a few people ask me why it is important to be discerning when it comes to choosing oils for cooking with and eating in salads, etc.

Oils can be broken into cooking and room temperature eating oils, due to their flash-point.  If an oil has a high flash point, it can be heated to higher temperatures, without smoking and changing composition.

From here, oils can be chosen based on quality.  I recently posted grape seed oil as a good alternative to canola oil, because it has a higher flash point, but after consulting with a very educated colleague (an accomplished Strength & Conditioning I worked with at the Royal Military College), I realized that neither is high on the quality scale, here is why:

  • Grapeseed oil is extremely high on the Omega 6 : 3 ratio, which can cause inflammation in your body and competes with the healthy Omega 3’s.
  • Canola oil has been linked to health issues, as it’s been heated at extreme temperature and “bleached” in order to give you the final product.

So, let’s cut to the chase, considering quality, what are the best oils for cooking & eating… and what is the best way to cook with them/eat them?

Best Oils for Cooking:

  1. Red Palm Oil: not refined (which makes regular Palm oil a very unhealthy oil) and very high in beta-carotene (reportedly 76 times more than tomatoes), vitamin E (great for the skin) and tocotrienols. It remains stable when used for cooking and it is not hydrogenated, nor processed with solvents, or contain any trans-fatty acids.  Keep in mind, it has a smoke point of 400° F and had a bit of a reputation as a “trendy product”, but so far most of the literature is pro red palm oil.
  2. Coconut Oil: The benefits of coconut oil (another trendy oil these days) seem to be very lengthy.  I will list a few: cardio-protective, anti-fungal, fat-burning/weight management (because of the way it is absorbed) and detox reactions in the body.  I cook with this quite frequently.  It is solid at room temperature (but ruuuny on a hot day!), so it ideal for sautéing with, but hard to bake with, if a recipe requires a liquid oil.
  3. Macadamia Oil: If you like cooking with live Oil (and are disappointed to learn it is not ideal to do so), you may really enjoy replacing it with macadamia nut oil, because of it’s nutty flavor.  It is said to be one of the most heart healthy oils available, is great for the skin and (like I said) is good for cooking with, because of it’s high flash/smoke point (425° F)
  4. Ghee (clarified butter): Ghee is often used in Indian cooking and is considered far superior product to butter.  It has a high flash/smoke point (upwards of 500° F), compared to regular butter (325-375° F°).  The following site is great for explaining the difference between butter, clarified butter & ghee, as well as listing cooking recommendations and references  Ghee is a good alternative to butter, but if you don’t use ghee try to at least reach for organic.

* keep in mind, advice on use of these oils are for conventional cooking (frying pan, boiling, or baking), not microwaving.  That’s not to say don’t microwave with them, but some studies suggest microwaving can alter oils, and other foods)

Best Oils for Eating (at room temperature):

  1. Fish Oil: Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are vital to your health. Fish oil helps keep up your metabolism for weight loss, improves memory and concentration and can lower your cholesterol levels.  It typically comes lemon, or orange flavoured (to offset the fish flavour and it really does!), so pick your preferred flavour and add it to a smoothy, or mix it with plain Greek or regular organic yogurt & a couple drops of stevia (good quality fish oil = Carlson @ Granary & Natural Food Pantry, or Ascenta @ Independent)
  2. High quality flax oil: Another oil high in awesome Omega 3’s!  The natural form can have a nutty flavour (or you can buy flavoured), so use like Fish Oil, or Extra Virgin Olive oil (see points 1 & 3)… I do not normally buy it (I love Fish & Extra Virgin Olive Oil), so I do not know the best qualities, but the staff at the Granary will know!!!
  3. Extra Virgin Olive Oil: drizzle on vegetables, mix 3:1 with balsamic vinegar & a dash of mustard for salad dressing, or dip fresh bread OR tomato slices into it and vinegar.

There are some others that are decent (from a health controversy stand point), such as avocado oil and certain nut oils, but that’s pretty much the top quality oils for your body.

… all these “caution signs” on foods and other household products are frustrating, I know.  Everything seems to be controversial these days, which is why at the end of the day, we need to just try to make informed decisions and then relax and enjoy life)

For sure, skip these ones:

  • Plam Oil
  • Soybean Oil
  • Margarine
  • Vegetable Oil

When in doubt… go organic and hopefully you will avoid eating foods laced with pesticides and/or highly genetically modified (GMO).


One Week with Erin

Erin! I can’t believe it’s already been a whole week since you starting kicking my butt at camps.

The soreness that I felt a week ago has subsided and I’m quickly starting to feel like a fit person.

To get metaphorical on you for a minute here, a week ago when I was psyching myself up about getting started on this fitness journey (there’s that word again, blech!) I couldn’t help but liken the experience to what it feels like to roll something really heavy, a boulder, downhill. That first workout, that first push, was a challenge.

The boulder hadn’t moved for months. It just sat there carving itself a nice little divot (not unlike a bum on the couch) and getting increasingly immovable. Something that couldn’t only be moved with a running start.

That’s what the first workout felt like. A running start followed by hitting a wall of exhaustion and soreness. In a good way.

The second was a little better, the boulder started to rock, and now a week (and 5 workouts!) later I feel like it’s beginning to roll. It’s getting easier! I’m starting to believe I can do this. Regularly!

So thanks for that.


After all of our shrink sessions (lets call them what they really are shall we?), I’m sure we can agree that changing my lifestyle is going to be two fold (hey! like my tummy! cute!) and that nutrition is going to play an equally, if not more important role in reaching my goals.

I’m trying to simplify the thought process and focus on consuming only foods I know have either “come from the earth”, “once eaten off the earth” or “will go bad on the counter within the week”. Good tips those.

That makes it pretty easy. Except it doesn’t work so well for wine. That remains a grey area don’t you think? Came from the earth, goes bad within the week uncorked.

Maybe we need to add “can’t be used to clean wounds” to the list. Or “won’t make you say things you don’t mean”. Just a thought.


See you tonight!




Emily, As You Head-out to the Grocery Store, Keep This in Mind…

Don’t let the grocery store fool you up (kind of a bad start to your self-promise):

  • Head to the grocery store after a meal (so you are not hungry) and with a list
  • Shop on the perimeter of the grocery store (this is where all the nutrient rich/fat loss food is)
  • When you can buy organic & local (CP Farmer’s market Saturdays 8am-12pm)
  • Limit the interior of the grocery store to only 10% of your purchases (this is where all the nutrient void food is… you know, all the food which makes us afraid of carbohydrates, because 90% of the grocery store is filled with this crap and it’s false marketing claims… the optimal form of fibre does NOT come from a Fibre 1 box and you do NOT get 2 servings of vegetables in V8 juice and Nutella is NOT a healthy way to start to the day)…rant :)
  • Consider what your food does for YOU!  If you look at a food/drink item and decide it does nothing more than taste good (ie. no protein, vitamins, minerals) … leave it at the store
  • When in doubt if something is good for you, use the rot test: If a piece of food will sit on the counter and rot in a week, it is probably good for you (ie. crackers = bad for you, homemade hummus & veggie sticks = good for you; wonderbread = bad for you, fresh homemade bread & muffins = good for you).  The only exception is raw (unsalted, unroasted, unseasoned nuts & seeds

Send me your questions & good luck!


Tips to Make a Meal Plan STICK!

Here are the Notes to Make Emily’s Meal Plan successful…

  • Make your weekly grocery list based on your Weekly Meal Plan (if it’s not in the plan, don’t buy it, so that it is not in the house!)
  • Proper Portion Sizes: dinner plate ( ½ veg & fruit, ¼ protein, ¼ complex carb), fruit or complex carb (size of fist), protein (deck of cards… can be more, if you make complex carb smaller)
  • Skip junk… Do not skip meals (think of eating as a necessity, not entertainment, so change your poor habits to healthy meals)
  • Soak nuts to remove phytic acid (peanuts are the poorest nut option, so limit these)
  •             – Good nut options resource:,,20585485,00.html
  • Soak canned food overnight to remove harmful chemicals
  • Eat full fat dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt) to improve energy levels and feel full longer
  • Good nut spreads: unsalted almond, pumpkin seed and cashew
  • Veggie & Legume Stir Fry link:
  • Drink water continually between meals & snacks: add lemon to your water to improve your body’s alkalinity and improve immune function (also tastes great and will encourage you to drink more of it!)
  • To aid digestion and reduce stomach discomfort, do not consume liquids sooner that 20min after eating
  • Choose organic, when possible (especially: thin skinned fruits, eggs, dairy & peanuts*** refer to the Dirty Dozen & Clean 16 resource)
  • Choose grass fed (not grain fed) beef, when possible
  • Choose wild seafood (not farm raised), when possible
  • Notice the missing gluten & other carbs? Often, the most efficient way to increase energy levels and trim the waistline is to cut back on gluten and foods which can spike your blood insulin levels (ie. Pasta, bread, white rice, white potato, higher sugar fruits, all sweets/junk food!)

HAVING A SWEET CRAVING? Try one of the following:

  • A piece of fruit (apple, or pear) with nut spread
  • Or Greek yogurt with stevia & ½ – 1c fresh berries
  • Banana, halved and rolled in ¼ – ½ c crushed nuts, or granola

still craving sweet stuff… GET OUT!  You need a distraction (possibly a hug!), so try going for a 10-20min walk, or reading a book, or anything else that can distract you and/or lift your spirits J


  • Often when we eat late at night, we are bored, stressed, sad, or anxious.  Most people have extremely valid concerns & fears in life… food will not fix these things (remember; eat for necessity, not entertainment).
  • You will actually be taking steps to improve your life if you replace the bad habits (poor food & beverage choices, and/or eating at the wrong time of day) with good habits/distractions.
Instead Try…
  • Going for a walk
  • Reading a book
  • Reconnecting with a spouse, or friend (talk, write a letter)
  • Doing a craft, or hobby

Often times weightloss, and other health goals are 75% about replacing your bad/unhealthy habits with good/healthy habits… No one else can change these for you, but I promise to give you as many tools and ideas as you need!

Let me know know your comments/questions/concerns!


Meals and Measurements with Emily

I met with Emily yesterday to do her initial measurements, goal setting and meal planing. (I would have posted this yesterday, but I was too tired after spinning everyone’s butts off last night!)

I invited Em to lunch and basically met her at the door with my measuring tape in hand. (How’s that for a warm greeting?) 

Initial measurements:

  • Circumferences were taken of her upper arms, chest, waist, hips, and each of her upper thighs.  The best way to do this yourself at home is take an outfit which is snug (i.e. don’t breathe in deeply or the button might pop!), but not stretchy.  Put it on, take a photo of yourself and then throw the outfit in the back of the closet for 4-6 weeks.  After that time, revisit the trying it on and retake a photo… your clothes don’t lie (unless they have hit a hot wash ;)
  • Then the dreaded “before” pictures were taken. And, since she’s committed to getting fit, Emily agreed to bravely have them posted here. (Fortunately for her, I let her keep her clothes on…because that’s a whole other website). For motivation purposes, I’d encourage you to take your own at home. You don’t have to post them on the Internet, but they might be a real motivator later on in the process.
After that messy business was shored up, we sat down to talk about her goals. I wrote them down on her behalf, but for those following at home, go treat yourself to a pretty new journal and write them down with your measurements. They can be simple, or complex. The only thing that’s important is that they’re yours.

Emily’s Goals:

  • lose weight & feel fit… shocker, eh?!
Meal Planning:
After discussing goals, it was on to meal planning. I had made Em a healthy lunch of mixed greens, avocado, with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic, a grain and quinoa salad with broccoli and cauliflower, and a “dessert” of greek yogourt with vanilla extract, cantelope and bananas.
I know what you’re thinking. Cantelope and bananas is an interesting combination… a far better combo would be berries!
The truth is, I don’t sweat these things. If it’s not in the house, it’s not in the recipe. So long as you’re using the right combination of foods, you’re good. Simple as that.
I gave Emily a sample menu guide to make it easy for her this first week, and I’m currently putting together additional ideas to help her get into the habit of healthier, cleaner eating.
You can find it at the bottom of this post. Please feel free to print a copy for yourself!
Next up for Emily (and you!) is to put together a fitness plan (ie: what’s she going to do to stay active, how often is she going to commit to doing it, and how is she going to make it work with her schedule), head to the grocery store with a meal plan, and try out some new recipes.


Healthy Homemade Fries!

Hey, Em! You know how you told me today that you want quick and easy healthy meal options, well… Have you got an oven + potatoes + knife + salt and pepper (to taste)? Well then heat to 425f and cook for  20min (I did not even need to flip them!)

PS – I used parchment paper to speed-up clean-up and grapeseed oil for some extra good oil

Emily’s Experience @ the Free Work Your Butt Off – Almonte Session

So last night, Emily and 10 other brave souls attended the free pilot Work Your Butt Off in Almonte. Emily told me it was her first workout in a few months and I followed up with her this morning to see how she’s feeling about launching our little fitness mission.

Emily: I was excited to go last night! The workout was definitely challenging (I’m sore today! Like a little “probably-not-a-good-idea-to-carry-the-baby-while-walking-downstairs” sore ) but the group setting made it go by so quickly. Loved that you had music pumping outside, the weather was perfect, and I’m really looking forward to the launch of the Almonte camp September 3rd!

I was feeling super motivated this morning…but I still had a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios. I’m sure there’s probably something better I could be eating for breakfast. You know, since I’m an athlete now and everything. I can wait until we meet for our nutrition session, but if you have a quick breakfast solution for me in the meantime, throw it at me! I’m feeling sleepy and it’s only 10am. I blame the bee.

Also, I told a few more people about our little fitness mission, and a couple of them said that the idea of a bootcamp was terrifying to them. I explained that your workouts are more like “personal training in a group setting” (new tagline?!) but maybe it’d be a good idea to put something on the blog that breaks down what Work Your Butt Off is all about? Food for thought anyway. (Mmmm…food) See you at Spin on Wed! – Em

Breakfast, as we’ve all heard a million times is “the most important meal of the day” whether you live an active lifestyle or not.  Think about it for a minute… it is what you do for your body to set the pace on your energy and mood (you would never send your child out the door without breakfast, or with a coffee and a Danish), so don’t skip it and make it of high quality!  Some of my best breakfast suggestions are:

  • Eggs!!! Scramble two, or three organic eggs with a tone of diced veggies and throw them into a hot skillet (use organic butter, grapeseed oil, or  coconut oil to heat the pan… avid non-stick pans, as there is too much controversy about health effects).  Don’t over think 3 whole eggs!  1 large egg has 75 cal and a tone of great protein & nutrients.  One slice of white toast has an average of 110cal and will leave you hungry in 20min… eat the extra energy & health filled egg!
  • Greek Yogurt: mix a 1/2 a cup of plain greek yogurt with 1 Tbsp of lemon flavor fish oil (the quality matters!  buy Carlson Fish Oil from Independent, Granary, or Natural Food Pantry) and 3 drops of liquid stevia (you get about 18grams of protein in a serving of greek yogurt and only 6 grams in regular yogurt) + a grapefruit and handful of almonds (approx 1/4 cup)
  • Sprouted grain toast (2 slices are ok), or English muffin (try Ezekiel products in the frozen food section of the health foods) with 2 Tbsp almond butter.

As for what happens at a Work Your Butt Off fitness sessions? It’s really not scary, I modify to fit each individual.  Here is an overview…

Warm Up: I take you progressively through movements which mimic what we will do in the work-out.  The purpose is to prevent injury (there is no way to prevent muscle soreness… you actually want to accomplish this ;) and to put an optimistic outlook on the work-out (I’ll make you smile before I make you sweat)

Work Out: I put you through full body exercises (the more muscles activated at one time the more calories burned) and I do 3-4 different circuits during the hour work-out.  This way it keeps the work-out interesting for everyone and allows a bit of rest between circuits.  Rest time between circuits allows you to push hard again: this is called high intensity interval training (aka HIIT) and it is what efficiently achieves weightloss and prevents overuse injury.

Cool Down: I bring the intensity down gradually (so your brain does not get ticked-off and tell you to laydown ASAP :) and recap the importance of what we have achieved in our hour of training.

NEW Post Work-out Nutrition & Exercise Sessions: for the month of September, I will meet with my clients for 30min after our work-outs to go over nutrition questions, meal planning, goal setting, exercise routine outside of camp, etc questions (pretty cool, eh?!)

Consider, the Perks of Training with Erin O’Reilly: 

  • NEW: Your choice of training at any of my September work-outs, for only $119 + hst (that’s a possibility of 20 sessions in 4 weeks)!!!
  • New: 30min exercise & nutrition guidance session following every work-out in September (* note: 30min prior to the Monday work-out)
  • Accountability (I’ll follow-up with you, if you miss a session)
  • Motivation, music and morale support
  • Optional pre and post camp measurements (so you can see centimetres lost)


The next time I see Emily we’ll be taking her measurements, “before” photos, setting goals and working on her meal plan. If you’d like to come along with Emily on her transformation, follow along! I’ll walk you through it.

In the meantime, the next FREE workout is Wednesday August 29th at 7:30pm at Heritage Fitness Centre.  Try out my Spin Your Butt Off Camp. $10 gym for non-members (call the gym to reserve a bike 253-2112, there are only a couple of spots left).

Have a happy & healthy day,