Book: The Immune System Recovery Plan


I just finished reading a great book called The Immune System Recovery Plan, by Dr Susan Blum, that teaches you how to help prevent or treat any autoimmune disease – like celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis and inflammatory bowel disease – by fixing these foundations:

  1. Food
  2. Stress
  3. Gut
  4. Liver

The book also has over 40 delicious recipes that are free from gluten, dairy, corn and soy.

The Four Foundations of The Immune System Recovery Plan

  1. Use food as medicine – identify foods that trigger inflammation and remove them from your diet
    • “You will learn how to evaluate and understand what makes you biochemically unique, and then I’ll show you how to use this information to create your own personalized nutrition plan.”
  2. Understand the stress connection– stress hormones have a huge impact on your immune function
    • “To get healthy and stay that way, you must learn skills to keep your mind from dwelling on particular thoughts so that you don’t damage your body with chronically high levels of cortisol.”
  3. Heal your gut– fix your intestinal flora
    • “Seventy percent of your immune system is located in your digestive tract so it’s easy to see why it’s critical to keep this area healthy.”
  4. Support your liver – help it do a better job of clearing out toxins  
    • “Preventing and treating toxin-related illness involves a combination of identifying what you’re being exposed to and removing it, then helping the liver cope by giving it nutrients to support metabolic detoxification.”

Here’s a list of dietary changes I'm implementing after reading this book:

  1. Eat more cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and bok choy, as well as dark leafy greens like kale, chard, collards and spinach
  2. Get creative with salads – try adding different kinds of beans, nuts and seeds
  3. Get creative with porridge – add ground flax, chia, cinnamon, coconut oil, sunflower seeds, chopped Brazil nuts, and chopped apple
  4. Make dips, like hummus, to have with chopped vegetables for snacks
  5. Discover more tasty lentil, millet and buckwheat recipes
  6. Use coconut milk as an alternative to dairy in cereal, shakes and chocolate milk (made with organic cocoa powder)
  7. Add a probiotic to my daily supplement regime

Notice that I’m not denying myself anything – just adding lots of healthy choices to leave little room for unhealthy ones.

My dad has celiac disease so I'm trying to eat as little gluten as possible to reduce my risk of developing a sensitivity or the disease itself.

But I'm not quite ready to completely remove every source of gluten from my diet because I love to treat myself to a crusty baguette or gooey cinnamon bun every once in a while, and I haven't found any gluten-free varieties that do the trick.

I highly recommend this book if you regularly suffer from any of the following:

  • bloating or gassiness
  • exhaustion upon waking
  • fatigue during the day
  • irritability
  • brain fog
  • joint pain
  • nasal congestion
  • muscle stiffness

These symptoms could suggest an autoimmune disease or lead to one in the future.

For more information, visit the book’s companion website,

10 Books on Brain Chemistry

Books About Brain Chemistry | The Life Delicious | Catherine Roscoe Barr It’s no secret, I love talking about brain chemistry! Have you heard about my “Winning Trifecta of Wellness”? The trifecta includes stress management, exercise and nutrition, which are actions that produce optimal brain chemistry.

When you cultivate optimal brain chemistry, you feel good.

When you commit to consistently cultivate optimal brain chemistry, you look good.

If you strive for optimal brain chemistry, everything else will fall into place.

Isn’t it incredible how your thoughts and actions directly affect your health and happiness? Isn’t it empowering to know that you’re in control of what you think and how you act?

The following ten books have given me tangible new insight into improving my health and happiness.

They’ve helped me become more aware of the effects of my thoughts and actions – and more empowered to improve my health and happiness.

I hope you’ll find them interesting and insightful too!

1. Molecules of Emotion: The Science Behind Mind-body Medicine by Candace B. Pert

2. Must Have Been Something I Ate by Peggy Kotsopoulos

3. Your Brain on Nature: The Science of Natures Influence on Your Health, Happiness and Vitality by Alan C. Logan and Eva M. Selhub

4. The Mars and Venus Diet and Exercise Solution: Create the Brain Chemistry of Health, Happiness, and Lasting Romance by John Gray

5. Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom by Rick Hanson

6. The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can: Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer by Gretchen Reynolds

7. The Happiness Diet: A Nutritional Prescription for a Sharp Brain, Balanced Mood, and Lean, Energized Body by Drew Ramsey and Tyler G. Graham

8. Love 2.0: How our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become by Barbara Fredrickson

9. Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John J. Ratey

10. Super Brain by Deepak Chopra & Rudolph Tanzi


The Winning Trifecta of Wellness

Catherine Roscoe Barr, left, and Mana Mansour talk about multi-muscle exercises at Steve Nash Fitness World and Sports Club.

My incredibly inspiring friend, reporter Mana Mansour, recently spoke to me on an episode of go! Vancouver about wellness resolutions for 2013.

I was so happy to share a little of what I’ve learned along the way through my work as a fitness professional and wellness writer, as well as my voracious appetite for new books and information on how to live your best life.

Everyone talks about fat loss and dieting and this pill and that exercise. But being well is simple.

I shared with Mana what I call The Winning Trifecta of Wellness: actions that produce optimal brain chemistry.

If you strive for optimal brain chemistry, everything else will fall into place.

The Winning Trifecta of Wellness includes stress management, exercise and nutrition.

The effects of stress management, exercise and nutrition on the mind are more powerful than their effects on the body – think of fat loss, muscle tone, flexibility, strength and endurance as pleasant side effects.

The effects on the mind are immediate. You feel happy, alert, positive, creative, vibrant, energetic and confident when you take time to rejuvenate your mind, move your body and provide it with the right fuel.

Once you discover the immediate effects of the Trifecta on your brain chemistry – how you feel – you’ll be more motivated to regularly take time for stress management, exercise and nutrition, much more motivated than working towards long term goals like losing 6 inches or dropping 15 pounds.

See the go! Vancouver segment below. 

Stress Management

You can’t control what’s going on in the world around you but you can control how you react to it. Thoughts and feelings are chemical communication in your mind and body so do as much as you can to create a healthy environment, not a toxic stew.

  1. Take 10 deep breaths
  2. Smile
  3. Meditate
  4. Start a gratitude journal
  5. Get out in nature
  6. Take time to pursue a hobby
  7. Build community – get together with friends and family, perform random acts of kindness, volunteer your time or money to help others


  1. Move. Period. Look at housework in a whole new light. Be thankful you have to walk your dog. Dance more. Take a quick stretch break. Do 20 jumping jacks. Walk to as many errands and meetings as possible. Have sex! Anything is better than nothing – just 10 minutes a day will produce positive changes.
  2. Move as many muscles as possible in as many different ways as possible. Choosing multi-muscle exercises will give you the most bang for your buck, by revving up your metabolism and moving oxygen and nutrients throughout your body.
  3. Have a contingency plan. Listen to your body and be flexible with your schedule. Some days a vigorous workout, where you break a sweat and get your heart pumping, will feel great. Some days you need gentle movements like a bike ride along the seawall or a restorative yoga class. Sometimes, if I can’t be bothered to drag myself to the gym, I workout in my living room. If I’m too tired or running too late for a morning workout, I’ll workout right before I eat lunch, and if that fails, I’ll workout right before I eat dinner.


  1. Choose fresh and un-processed products – if you do this, you can’t go wrong
    • Shopping local, sustainable and seasonal may cost you a little more in the short term but the long term benefits to your health and wellbeing are priceless, not to mention the deposits into your karmic bank account by supporting your planet and community.
    • Every time you make a purchase, you’re voting with your money. When you purchase local, sustainable, seasonal, free-range, organic, un-processed foods, you're voting for the humane treatment of animals and products that aren’t pumped full of hormones or sprayed with chemicals.
    • Also, by knowing where your ingredients come from and preparing most meals from scratch you can control what you’re putting in your body and eliminate as many chemicals, fillers and junk as possible.
  2. Hydrate with water! Drink a glass when you first wake up because you’re likely dehydrated and keep drinking throughout the day. If you’re not keen, try making it more fun by adding citrus, cucumber or frozen berries or have a mug of hot water with a squeeze of lemon.
  3. Fuel your body throughout the day, especially after a workout and after fasting overnight – going to bed on an empty stomach improves sleep quality because your body is able to focus on repair and rejuvenation, not digestion.
    • Ideal day of eating: 7AM, 10AM, 1PM, 4PM, 7PM = 12 hour fast
    • Eating every 3 hours ensures that your blood sugar levels stay steady
    • Spreading calorie intake throughout the day increases metabolism and also helps you to avoid binge eating and poor choices because you’re starving

Mana Mansour, left, and Catherine Roscoe Barr check out the fresh produce, sustainable seafood and animal products that meet the 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating Standards at Whole Foods Market.

So, forget about the long-term goals and focus on the now. Focus on how you feel. Don’t make weight loss your new year’s resolution – resolve to feel good by creating optimal brain chemistry through stress management, exercise and nutrition.

By making optimal brain chemistry your new year’s resolution, you can immediately feel energized, positive, creative, happy and vibrant – and fat loss, muscle tone, flexibility, strength and endurance will be icing on the cake of health and happiness!


Not Your Average Treadmill Workout Followed By a Tasty Vegan Recovery Snack

Image: Flickr / sashawolff It’s impossible to work in the fitness industry without some knowledge of or interest in nutrition. Not a day goes by without someone asking about what they should eat. What to eat for breakfast? What to eat for snack? What to eat before a workout? What to eat after a workout?

Shortly before or after a workout it’s best to eat something that’s easily assimilated – before a workout so you have energy to exert but your blood isn’t diverted to your stomach for digestion, and after a workout so your body can quickly regain energy and nutrients.

I recently had a fabulously intense workout on the treadmill and finished it off by trying a post-workout snack recipe from Brendan Brazier’s book, Thrive: A Guide to Optimal Health and Performance Through Plant-based Whole Foods.

The Workout: 30 Minutes of Cardio, 15 Minutes of Abs and Stretching

I like to shake things up so this workout was a thrilling collage of different things. Warming up is hugely important so I take at least 5 minutes to do so. I started by walking at 3.3km/hr and increased my speed by 0.2km/hr every minute until the 5 minute mark. Then I sped up to a slow jog at 4.5km/hr for 3 minutes and then alternated 30 seconds of side shuffling on the right, 30 seconds of side shuffling on the left, and 30 seconds of jogging, which I repeated four times. That got me to the 14 minute mark.

I got the idea of side shuffling a few years ago after seeing a video of Tracy Anderson doing it. I couldn’t find the same video but here’s a video of Tracy and Molly Sims doing a whole workout routine on the treadmill. Looks fun. I’m definitely going to add some skipping to my workout next time! See the side shuffles at 2:18 on the video. Be careful and hold on if you try them!

At the 14 minute mark I sped up to 5.5km/hr and then the fun began. If you’ve seen me, you know I’m built for speed, and my generous glutes and quads make sprinting fun. I like to alternate a minute of jogging at 5.5km/hr with a minute of something faster that increases in speed each time around, so it looked like this:

  • Minute 14: 5.5km/hr
  • Minute 15: 6.5km/hr
  • Minute 16: 5.5km/hr
  • Minute 17: 7.5km/hr
  • Minute 18: 5.5km/hr
  • Minute 19: 8.5km/hr
  • Minute 20: 5.5km/hr
  • Minute 21: 9.5km/hr
  • Minute 22: 5.5km/hr

I kept jogging at 5.5km/hr until minute 27 and then walked at 3.5km/hr until minute 30, and then I was done!

I always bring my own yoga mat to the gym because a) I like it better than the puffy gym mats, b) the puffy gym mats are most likely crawling with germs, and c) I like to take my shoes off and do some yoga stretches.

What you feel needs stretching is a very personal thing but since I spend a lot of time sitting at a computer, I mostly focus on stretching the muscles that take the biggest beating: hip flexors, core and chest.

Before stretching, I did some core work, 2 sets of 20 reps. I'll show you how to do them in great detail in an upcoming video, but for now I'll just tell you what I did:

  • Crunch with leg tuck and extend – this is a really challenging crunch from Tracy Anderson's 30- Day Method book. As you crunch up, bring your knees towards your chest and as you lower your torso, extend your legs out straight. I extend mine out at about a 45 degree angle because it's currently too much of a challenge for my lower back to extend my legs any lower. Repeat 20 times and then move straight on to the next exercise.
  • Medicine ball twists – sit so that your torso and bent legs form a V, and slightly lean back with abs fully engaged (the further you lean back the more difficult it is). With a medicine ball or weight in your hands, slowly twist from side to side, tapping the ball or weight to the floor behind and beside your hip. Repeat 20 times on each side and then move straight on to the next exercise.
  • Back extensions – lie face down on the mat (see, aren't you glad you brought your own mat?!) with legs straight and arms bent, like the floor is telling you to "stick 'em up". Focusing on using the lower back muscles to power the lift, slowly lift your legs and torso off the floor, pausing at the top, and slowly lowering back to the floor. Repeat 20 times and then rest for 30 to 60 seconds before repeating the cycle.

The Recipe: Chocolate Recovery Pudding

I’m trying to incorporate more plant-based proteins into my diet so I decided to make this recipe from Brendan Brazier because it contains tofu as the protein source. I didn’t have all the ingredients so I had to improvise a little. I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out but it was actually quite delicious and I’m excited to have a quick and easy post-workout snack that is vegan and healthy (especially once I buy some organic cocoa powder instead of using hot chocolate powder mix).


  • ¼ pound medium-firm tofu
  • 1 banana
  • ½ pear (I didn’t add this)
  • ½ tbsp hemp oil (I used flax oil instead)
  • ½ tbsp cocoa powder (I didn’t have any so I used hot chocolate powder mix, better than nothing!)
  • Sprinkle sea salt (I didn’t add this)


Blend all ingredients together until the mixture is smooth.