30 April 2010

Things I'm Doing - Fit By Forty: Week 4

I really need to catch up on my Fit by Forty posts - looking through my calendar and notes over the last few weeks I'm amazed at how much things have changed in just a few short weeks! Week 4 was March 22-28.

For background on my Fit by Forty efforts, click here.

Week 4 - Stress, Not to Put Too Fine a Point On It, Sucks

This week started out well. My body was accustomed to the increased exercise & healthy eating, and I was feeling good! Making progress! By Thursday I was down 2.5 lbs! Then that night, The Imp came down with a case of croup, and the sleeplessness of Seizure Watch combined with having him home from daycare with me during the day meant all my newly-acquired self-care skills kind of went out the window. And we live on the 21st floor, so there was no going after them.

Started the week well but things fell apart when The Imp got sick. I basically didn't sleep for four days, which does not lead to good decision making - I don't recommend it. I sought the succor of caffeine and sugar, consuming more chocolate in those four days than I'd eaten in the previous four weeks. Sugar high, sugar crash, sugar coma. Bit of a zombie, I was. I also got my period for the first time in this process late in the week. Double whammy! I was helpless against chocolate's siren call.

A sampling of the chocolate truffles I make every Christmas. You totally want to be my friend now, don't you?

 Even with the increased sugar and fat intake, it's interesting to me how much less of everything I've been eating. I'd estimate that the volume of food I'm taking in daily is 1/2 to 1/3 what it was. And like I've said before, I'm far from starving myself - I'm eating minimum five times a day. Which just shows how much we, as a society, have grown accustomed to eating so much more than we need. We're bombarded with consumption messages all day long - it's hard to separate the desire (ooh, that looks yummy!) from the need (actually I'm not even hungry right now). Moderation is the key. I hate it when cliches are true. Sigh.

I did manage to get a solid amount of exercise, thanks to my trusty steed. (Thanks for your name suggestions! I've just christened him "King".) One of the folk remedies for croup is to get the sufferer out into fresh air, so The Imp spent a fair amount of time this week in King's child seat.

Getting out and biking was good for not just my physical health, but my emotional/psychological wellbeing too. There's nothing like caring for a sick child with a history of febrile seizures to send your stress levels through the roof. And the unaccustomed levels of sugar! and caffeine! in my bloodstream were making me a little manic. Then add having my period and all the joys of that whole process. I really do think I survived the week with sanity intact (as intact as it ever was, anyway) because of our daily bicycle outings.

And now, for the numbers:
Starting weight: 149 lbs
Week 1 weight loss: 3.5 lbs
Week 2 weight loss: 3 lbs
Week 3 weight loss: 2 lbs
Week 4 weight loss: .5 lbs
New weight: 140 lbs

How do you make sure to look after yourself when there's chaos all around? Or like me, does self-care come last in times of stress?

28 April 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Riding with the King

My trusty steed, my Fit by Forty champion, my main means of transportation these days. I shall call him King. King shall be his name.

As in "Don't you know you're riding with the King?"

Self-serving announcement: I've been lucky enough to be included on vancouvermom.ca's Favourite Vancouver Mom Bloggers shortlist, and would be honoured if you would consider voting for me here. You don't need to register to vote, just tick the box next to my name and click submit. You can vote once a day until May 6th. Thanks!

This post is part of A Lot of Loves' Wordless Wednesday linkup

23 April 2010

Food Revolution Fridays - Leftover Pizza Edition

There are some times when you just can't make stuff from scratch. Today as I was running late picking up The Imp at daycare, I was doing a mental tally of what was in the fridge. What on earth could I feed us - quickly?

Pizza's always a hit, but with a Canucks game on tonight, I imagined our local little pizza joint would be running around with their hair on fire - probably not a good idea to hope for timely delivery. And you do not want to see The Imp when he is low on blood sugar. Calories, stat!


I didn't want frozen pizza from the grocery store, but now I had pizza on the brain. So I improvised!

I know, you're shocked...

15 Minute Leftover Mini Pizzas

Large flour tortilla wraps (I like the flavoured ones - spinach or sundried tomato)
Leftovers from your fridge (I had some ham I cut into small cubes)
Veggies from your fridge (tonight I had zucchini, bell peppers, & mushrooms)
Tomato sauce (leftover spaghetti sauce)

Chop up leftovers/veggies
Grate cheese

Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce to cover a flour tortilla to within a 1/2 inch of the edge
Spread chopped veg/leftovers on tomato sauce
Sprinkle sparingly with grated cheese

Place mini pizza on a wire rack on a cookie sheet. The wire rack allows the pizza crust to crisp up around the edges. If you just put it right onto the cookie sheet, it might be kind of soggy. Pop into a hot oven (about 400F) or under the broiler for 10 minutes or until cheese starts to bubble.

Make at least one per person.

Cut each mini pizza into 4 or six slices and serve with panache.

 The Imp goes straight for the mushrooms, as is his wont. And yes, that is a Canucks plate.

And now, for the variations:
Instead of tortillas, you could use a boboli, pita bread, or some other flatbread.
Instead of tomato sauce, you could use chopped tomatoes, or skip the sauce altogether and spread refried beans or your favourite dip.

Gourmet? Maybe not, but healthier and tastier than grocery store freezer pizza. And you use up leftovers, so that's good. And what isn't yummy covered in melted cheese?

And you can skip the wire rack and cookie sheet and just stick the mini pizzas straight onto your oven rack. But you'll probably end up with melted cheese dripping off the pizza onto the bottom of your oven. Since mine is still covered in blueberries, I thought a cookie sheet was prudent.

Go Canucks!

Himself, post-pizza. 
It's never too early to learn about disappointment; we have encouraged The Imp's love of the Canucks.

This post is part of Scattered Mom's Notes From the Cookie Jar Food Revolution Fridays linkup and contest. Head on over there to see what others are up to in their adventures with food!

22 April 2010

Things I've Learned - The Big Boy Bed

The past two weeks of parenting have been the most challenging since The Imp was newborn, fresh out of the womb, and I was completely overwhelmed with the not-knowing newness of it all.

I blame the Big Boy Bed.

Looks fairly innocuous, doesn't it? His crib mattress on the floor, the same blankets and bedtime pals...


And we thought the electrical outlet would be our biggest headache... such optimism! We safetied it beyond all reasonable measures; not only is there a child-proof cover on it, beneath the cover is electrical tape covering the outlets as well. All our work notwithstanding, this corner of The Imp's bedroom is a lurking pit of evil.

It has turned my complacent crib-sleeping toddler into the most magnificently maleficent perpetrator of angst-causing, sleep-depriving NAUGHTY LITTLE BOY behaviour, including but not limited to: bedtime escape attempts by the dozen nightly, jumping on the bed instead of sleeping, attempting to climb the pulled-out dresser drawers, thereby dragging the entire dresser and all its contents down on himself, dumping out his giant container of mega-blocks in the middle of the night leaving parental foot arch slaying land mines in our path, slamming doors at 3am just for fun, and running to the kitchen to open the fridge, spill the milk, and eat unwashed strawberries (stems and all) at 5am.

Two weeks ago, on Good Friday (good! ha!) The Imp managed to climb out of his crib for the first time and blew his dismount, falling on his head. Being the fearless little daredevil that he is, he is not one to view a mere bruise in the middle of his forehead as any kind of deterrent.


No, The Imp of the Perverse views anything less than losing a limb as a challenge.

We dismantled the crib immediately to forestall the concussion/brain injury that was sure to follow. Little did we know that our little monkey was only a "good sleeper" because he'd been held CAPTIVE in his crib all this time.

The lure of freedom has proven to be too much for him. He cannot avoid its siren call.

I am exhausted.

And apparently it's not appropriate to put your child in a dog cage, no matter how large or lavishly appointed. I asked on twitter and the response was not positive.

I have a lovely sheepskin deal we could put in there...



Any hints or suggestions on how to ease this transition? Or even just an I've-been-there-too story from the trenches?


21 April 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Dental Hygiene

Because you can never have too many pictures of The Cutest Boy Who Ever Lived. Okay, maybe the Cutest Boy I Ever Gave Birth To. At any rate: cute!

This post is part of A Lot of Loves' Wednesday of Few Words linkup.

19 April 2010

Things I'm Proud Of - Vancouver's 30 Ultimate Mom Blogs

I'm working on a bunch of posts: Weeks 4-7 of Fit by Forty and a recap of the fun that was VMNO on Saturday among them, but I thought I'd just pause for a second to toot my own horn a tiny little bit.


Wave The Stick has been named one of Vancouver's 30 Ultimate Mom Blogs by Vancouver Mom!

I'm in pretty humbling company - women I admire and want to emulate, who write truthfully and eloquently about their own experiences struggling to adjust to life after becoming a parent, sharing their triumphs, and recognizing the common thread that ties us all together: being able to laugh with one another through the good and the bad. I heartily recommend you check out the other wonderful blogs on the list if you're not familiar with them already. There's a life-enriching wealth of viewpoints and experience there.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

18 April 2010

Food Revolution Fridays - Blueberry Pie Redux

I know it's not Friday, but the blueberry pie post I wrote last week got some enthusiastic response! As such, I thought it deserved an update once the actual pie-making took place. Which happened today.

Hence, this little photo-essay:
First, have your toddler stir together the ingredients.

Make sure he has a beverage handy.

Keep him at it until it looks more or less like this.

Spread waxed paper on a damp surface.

Place pastry dough in the middle of the waxed paper.

Prepare for rolling out.

Unorthodox rolling pin technique or salute to the pastry gods? You be the judge!

Expire of the cuteness.

Remove top sheet of waxed paper,

and transfer rolled out dough to pie plate.

This is what the flour/sugar/lemon juice looked like, proportion wise, this time.

Pour the filling into the pie plate and set aside. Somewhere out of your toddler's reach, preferably, because if you don't...

...this is what happens.

I did mention that I like to overfill my pies, right? And you're not suffering double-vision from the length of this post. We had to make two pies for dinner tonight - 11 people.

Dot with butter. Mmmm, butter.

Not my best lattice top, but it'll do.

Have your toddler tidy up a little while pie's in the oven.

Finished product.

However, the possibility does exist that I may have used one or two (hundred) too many blueberries. You should see the bottom of my oven.

Off for dinner, pies in hand. Happy Sunday, everyone!

16 April 2010

Food Revolution Fridays - Of Waffles, and Smoothies, and Grocery Carts, and Yams

Every morning, The Imp crawls into bed with us for a cuddle before we start the day. Last Tuesday was no different - he appeared at our bedside and doggedly clambered up, worked his way in between us, and tenderly rested his head on my chest for a moment. Bliss.

Then he raised his head, looked at me very seriously, as only an almost-two-year old can, and said, "Waffles." Still half asleep, I said something super-intelligent.

Me: Huh?
Imp: (with purpose) Waffles.
Me: You want waffles?
Imp: (a hint of exasperation) Waffles. Help Mummy waffles kitchen.
Me: What?
Imp: (for fuck's sake, Mummy) WAFFLES. Help Mummy waffles chair kitchen.
Me: You want to help Mummy make waffles standing on the chair in the kitchen?
Imp: YEAH!!
Me: We don't have time to make waffles from scratch this morning, sweetie. But we froze some of the waffles we made last time, so we can heat them up in the toaster if you'd like.
Imp: Waffles!!


Imp: Smoothie too!
Me: Okay honey, smoothie too.

Thoughtful pause.

Imp: (determined) All done cuddle. Waffles, smoothie too.

After which Very Serious Pronouncement he bailed off the bed and headed straight for the kitchen chair to pull it up to the counter to help make waffles! and smoothie too! I could barely keep up with him.

 The Imp helps Mummy in the kitchen

As we dug out breakfast stuff and put it together, I had visions of the future: The Imp being the most popular kid in his dorm at university because he knows how to throw together waffles from scratch at the drop of a hat, wowing friends with his delicious from-scratch cakes, travelling the world seeking out fantastic new foods... And I smiled as I looked at him and said "May you never know the taste of an eggo, my darling boy."

Yesterday we stopped at the grocery store on our way home from daycare. I can't get over his excitement about all things food. He threw his hands in the air as we pulled into the parking lot and shouted "Hurray grocery store!" As we walked through the produce section he pointed at different fruits and vegetables, naming them as we went. The yams, however, stumped him. "Whassat?" he said as he pointed. So I picked one up and handed it to him.

Me: Yam.
Imp: Yam. Yam?
Me: Yes, yam. You've had yam before when you were little and mummy made mushy yam for you.
Imp: (turning it over in his hands, looking at it very seriously) Yam!

And then he threw it with somewhat surprising vigor into our shopping cart.

This is why Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution is so important. I know it's a tv show. I know it's pop culture. I know there are those who dismiss it. But as I strolled through the grocery! store! with The Imp and saw his unabashed toddler delight in all the varieties of food, I was keenly reminded of the first grade kids in Huntington who couldn't identify even a potato or a tomato in their raw form, despite the fact that they ate fries and ketchup every single day. I was at once sad for those kids and elated for my own.

Real food matters.

So yam it is for dinner tonight, in the form of oven baked fries:

Peel & slice yams into french fries.
Toss them in a small amount of olive oil (garlic infused is lovely) and some dried or fresh herbs. I rely heavily on dried herbes de provence. I can't imagine cooking without them.
Squeeze some lemon juice over them too, if you'd like.
Place them in a single layer on a baking sheet in a 400F oven for 20-30 minutes, turning them over once halfway through.
Salt & pepper to taste, serve hot.


Some of them got a little singed when I got distracted by The Imp's antics. 
Given the sweetness of yams, it gives them a caramelized flavour, so it's not necessarily a bad thing.

There's really (again, me with the intuitive cooking) no rules. Use whatever spices you prefer. Curried yam fries! Mexican yam fries with cumin, chilies & cilantro! Rosemary & orange juice! Whatever suits your palate. Go!

Note: these do not get as crunchy as regular old potato fries. I think the not deep frying combined with yam's higher water content is to blame. But they're way tastier than generic potato fries, so.

This post is part of Food Revolution Fridays at Scattered Mom's Notes From the Cookie Jar. Be sure to head over there and see what other people are saying about great food!

14 April 2010

Wordless Wednesday - King of the World

At the Aquarium (thank gawd for the Aquarium, 5 minutes away by bicycle and saver of sanity on rainy days), The Imp channels his inner James Cameron in front of the dolphin tank.

This post is part of A Lot of Loves' linkup for Wordless Wednesday.  Head on over there and see what others are posting today!

13 April 2010

Things I'm Doing - Fit By Forty: Week 3

If you're new here and want to know more about my Fit by Forty efforts, you can go here and here for some background and also check out Week 1 and Week 2

Week 3 - The New Normal

They say it takes three weeks to form new habits. They, the mysterious they that seem to be not only experts on everything that ever existed anywhere in the universe, but also have been behind every cabal, plot, scheme and conspiracy with new ones being hatched daily. They are very busy people. Whoever they are.

By the end of Week 3 I no longer had cravings for The Bad Food, unless I watched TV. (Because those ads for too-sweet, over-salted frankenfood will simultaneously repulse you and make you want to eat that crap Right! Now!) My body had grown more accustomed to the exercise; I felt stronger, I had more energy, I was (when The teething Imp would let me) sleeping better longer. We didn't have to buy the Costco-sized Advil container this week.

Portion control: what a negative way of phrasing it. The word "control" implies restriction, policing of food intake. Like "crowd control" it doesn't have any fun connotations. It also sounds far too clinical to describe the joyful act of eating. Food is such a primal thing. Feeding yourself, feeding your family is one of the greatest sensual experiences in life. And by sensual, I refer to "of the senses", not "in the bedroom". Although breakfast in bed has its joys too.

Rather than the dietician sounding, desensitized phrase "portion control" I prefer to make it simpler. I'm not measuring my food. I'm not counting calories or calculating grams of fat. I prefer to say I eat only when I'm hungry and I stop eating when I'm no longer hungry. I make healthy choices ninety percent of the time. I'm not depriving myself, after all, this was the week of The Awesome Chocolate Birthday Cake of Doom. And yes, I enjoyed a slice of it, without apology and without regret.

Side note: maybe "Without apology and without regret" is what should go on my non-tombstone bench memorial thing. Must tell HWSNBN.

Eating is enjoyable. It's family time as often as possible with HWSNBN's long hours. It's one of those most basic things in life that bring us happiness. I will not let a get-fit-lose-weight plan take the focus off the fun, the joy, or the chocolate. But not hoovering back everything The Imp leaves behind on his plate does help with the goal-achieving.

More of the same, except better, faster, stronger. Made it up a couple of hills I'd been struggling with - when I shifted down into the granny gears on my bike, but still. Added more stair climbing this week to up the cardio challenge. But for the most part, my trusty bicycle remained my go-to exercise choice. I also was fortunate enough, this week, to meet and have dinner with the awe-inspiring four time winter Olympian Sharon Firth. Listening to her speak about the work she now does in the small communities of the Northwest Territories to inspire youth to achieve excellence was incredibly humbling, and made me even more determined to model healthy, active living for The Imp.

Don't fix what ain't broken. I like the bicycle, the bicycle is easy to implement into my daily life. And The Imp likes the bicycle too. If it ever starts to feel stale, I'll find something else. Right now, it's exactly the right thing.

And now, for the numbers:
Starting weight: 149 lbs
Week 1 weight loss: 3.5 lbs
Week 2 weight loss: 3 lbs
Week 3 weight loss: 2 lbs
New weight: 140.5 lbs

Also, I need to find a trusty-steed type name for my bicycle. Any suggestions?

12 April 2010

Things I'm Doing: Fit by Forty - Week 2

Week 2 - Settling Into a Routine

During Week 2, I started to get used to the new regime. I wasn't hungry all the time, and actually started to feel physically stronger already. After just a week, I was able to get further up hills before I had to hop off my bike. The muscles still ached, the ibuprofen was still regularly ingested, but things were noticeably improving.


My body started to adjust to the lower levels of food intake, and the healthier meals. I only felt hungry at regular meal times. For the record, I'm far from starving myself, I'm eating at least five times a day:  breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, mid-afternoon snack, and dinner.

As far as eating goes, I've realized I'm more or less following the Weight Watchers points system model. (I'm not actually following Weight Watchers, but after hearing a friend describe it I realized I'd sort of stumbled onto their model in my efforts to find a way of eating that made sense.) A good variety of foods, nothing forbidden, but an awareness of how much I eat each time affects my intake for the rest of the day's meals. I eat as much as I want of vegetables, eat some, but not as much fruit, try to get some protein at each meal, small servings of carbs like bread or pasta, and minimal fats and processed sugar. And drink lots of water.

Portion control: not just buzzwords.

Like everything else that gets repeated ad nauseum in the lose-weight-get-fit canon, it actually works. I don't hesitate to put mayo on my sandwich. (Actually I hate mayo, I use Miracle Whip.) But it's a smaller sandwich than the giant servings you get in a restaurant. I put butter on my toast in the morning, but I only have one slice. Like almost all North Americans, I was eating far more than was necessary. When I cut my intake down to reasonable levels I very quickly started to feel a lot better, physically, and saw instant results in weight loss.

The Imp on one of our water-proofed outings


Bicycling became more a part of daily life, especially when The Imp began to insist on it to get to daycare. One morning it was pouring down rain, and I thought, "Well, I'll show him how miserable it is to be out there in the rain." We bundled up into more or less water-proofness and headed out into it. The Imp, of course, loved it. And honestly, it wasn't as bad as I'd thought it might be. (Note to self: add fenders to wishlist. And by fenders, for once, I do not mean guitars.)  So there went any excuse not to get on my bike at least once a day. The return trip to daycare and back is just shy of 5kms. Looking for some exercise to do not in the rain,  I downloaded a yoga workout from iTunes and have added it to the mix. I have to say, The Imp, who imitates me as I work on my poses, has a far more vigorous yoga practice than I do, which somehow involves a lot more climbing on the coffee table.

My decision to try and build exercise into my daily routine and not place it on some rarified pedestal requiring Time, and Money, and Commitment was the best choice I could have made. And using the bicycle more is the best way imaginable for me to do this.

And now, for the numbers:
Starting weight: 149 lbs
Week 1 weight loss: 3.5 lbs
Week 2 weight loss: 3 lbs
New weight: 142.5 lbs

Thanks so much for your comments, suggestions, and words of encouragement, both here and on twitter! I wanted to hold myself accountable, so I made this public. What I hadn't counted on was how much inspiration and motivation I would draw from your feedback. Thank you, thank you, thank you! (And the bicycling Imp thanks you too.)

09 April 2010

Food Revolution Fridays - Blueberry Pie Edition

I don't talk a lot about my husband on this blog. In fact, I think of him as He Who Shall Not Be Named when I'm writing posts. He's a far more private person than I am. I've always been an open book, freely sharing my hopes, fears, triumphs (and the many moments I fall on my face) with friends. To me, this blog is just an extension of that. By HWSNBN is much more guarded than I am. Out of respect for that, I don't write about him except in passing. I think even he would be okay with me saying that today he's celebrating a birthday, because the snippet I'm about to reveal involves possibly his favourite thing in the entire world: blueberry pie.

My husband married me because of my blueberry pie. It's true.

When we were first dating, he mentioned that he loved blueberries.

HWSNBN: I love blueberries, especially in blueberry pie. 
Me: Well then, I'll make you blueberry pie some day. I make really good pie.
HWSNBN: Every other woman I've ever dated has said she would make me blueberry pie. Not one of them has ever done it.
Me: Good thing I'm not every other woman you've ever dated then.

Time went by. Suddenly it was Christmas. We'd only been dating a couple of months. I surprised him with a home made, from scratch, delicious blueberry pie I'd made specifically for him. He was agog.

By Easter we were looking at engagement rings. Behold the power of a good flaky crust!

Today is his birthday. When I asked him a few weeks ago what he wanted as a birthday gift, he didn't hesitate: blueberry pie, please!

So here it is, the secret to my successful marriage:

I've seen a few versions of this basic pastry recipe over the years in various cookbooks. This one comes from a newspaper clipping my mom had tucked into our family cookbook when I was a kid. I'm typing this out from memory, so forgive me if I don't use the right culinary terminology!

1 3/4 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3-5 tbsp cold water

Mix flour & salt in a large bowl.  Add vegetable oil and mix with flour and salt until the mixture looks like pea sized crumbs. Add cold water 1 tbsp at a time and mix until you get the consistency you want and the dough forms a ball. Roll out the pastry out to the desired size between two sheets of waxed paper. (Wipe the rolling out surface with a damp cloth before laying down the first sheet of waxed paper to prevent it from sliding around while rolling.)

For an unfilled crust, heat oven to 475F. Flute the edge, prick bottom and sides of the pastry thoroughly with a fork. Bake 8-10 minutes or until it reaches the desired golden light brown colour. Cool & fill.

For a filled crust, bake as directed in your pie recipe.

I like a good solid crust since I tend to overload my pies with filling, so for a single crust pie I make one recipe's worth, and for a lattice top or two crust pie I make the recipe twice. I change it up by varying the kind of oil I use. If I'm not being fancy I use canola oil, but I've also used peanut oil and macadamia nut oil with great results. (I've never tried olive oil, it just seems like it would be too heavy.) For other subtle differences in flavour, I'll throw in a tbsp or so of brown sugar to the dry ingredients for a sweet pie, and for a savoury pie I'll substitute smoked salt for the regular salt or throw in some dried herbs as well. It's a pretty fool-proof pastry recipe, so I take all kinds of liberties.


I tend to fly by the seat of my pants a bit on fruit filled pies. My vagueness irritates people who ask for the recipe, but I honestly don't have one. I tend to let the fruit tell me what it wants, if that's not too flaky. (Flaky! Ha! See what I did there?) So for the purposes of this post, I'll say:

Use enough blueberries
toss in a couple of handfuls of flour
add sugar to taste
add cinnamon if you like it
and about a tbsp of lemon juice
and mix together in a bowl. 

I don't like super-sweet pies - I usually let the fruit flavour speak for itself as much as possible. Your mileage may vary.

Pour berry mixture into the pie crust.
Dot with small pieces of butter.
Cover with 2nd crust and pierce it, or make a lattice top.
Flute the edge, bake at 425F for 35-45 minutes.
Or until done.

That, to me, is the beauty of making real food. Based around a rock solid base recipe, you can try new things: experiment with ingredients, improve, and refine to fit your individual taste. It's a bit like haiku - rigid as to form, but endless variation in the subject matter or ingredients.

I don't have any pictures of the pie. My husband has to work late tonight, so the pie making will occur tomorrow. Since The Imp cannot resist helping me in the kitchen, I'm very much looking forward to showing him how to make his first blueberry pie! I'll try and update with photos tomorrow.

This post is part of Food Revolution Fridays at Scattered Mom. Head over there and check out what other people are doing with real food!

08 April 2010

Things I'm Doing - Fit By Forty: Week 1

This space is where I hold myself accountable in my Fit by Forty efforts. I originally intended to post here weekly when I first started on March 1st, but... Well, it kind of got away from me. So I'll do a few posts to catch up in the next few days and then carry on with a weekly update.

For background on my Fit by Forty quest, click here.  And here is where I spelled out the ground rules.

Week 1 - The Unkindest Week of All

The first week was definitely the hardest. Although I was resolved to take real action to get healthy, my weight was at its highest while my morale was at its lowest. My clothing was all fitting too small, my cardiovascular condition was so bad that exercise was a struggle, and my muscles, unused to the exertion, screamed in agony for days after every workout. And for the first few days, as I cut my food intake back to healthy levels (fear not - no starvation diet for me; I love food way too much) I was hungry all the time, even though I was getting more than adequate calories.

I think we all know what healthy eating is. It's no secret that fresh vegetables, whole grains, and food that doesn't come in a crinkly package are healthier than frozen pizza, fast food, and consuming your own body weight in ice cream daily. So I filled the fridge with salad greens and fresh vegetables, and really started to opt for healthier choices every time I had something to eat. For the first time in a long time, I started really paying attention to what I ate, and most importantly: how much. 

I had been eating a lot. A lot more than I thought. Working from home, I got into the habit of snacking all day long without realizing it. I'd been eating too large portions at meals, and having seconds (and thirds - hey, I'm a good cook!), and finishing whatever was left on The Imp's plate too. And eating ice cream almost every night before bed. No wonder I was feeling unhealthy.

I eat as much as I want - I've just made some changes to what I'm eating. Way more vegetables, less protein, less processed sugar, less fat. I'm not depriving myself; I have real butter on my toast every morning. (I hate margarine.) I did cut out the daily giant hot chocolate to start the day and instead drink a fruit smoothie. And I've eliminated all the pop and juice I'd been drinking all day and drink water and unsweetened herbal tea instead.

Best change:
Limiting portions to reasonable amounts. Within a couple of days, my body adjusted to the new intake levels, and I had way more energy than I'd had before.

Fuck me, but that first week was hard.

Aching muscles, joints unused to exercise... I ate Advil every eight hours. I coughed up unlovely chunks of phlegm. I did the 30 Day Shred by Jillian Michaels - for one day. I got on the bike and had to hop off to push it up hills. I took the stairs up to the 21st floor and collapsed wheezing in the living room. But I got some exercise every day.

I know me. I am the master procrastinator and I can justify anything. (Being an alcoholic makes you really really good at the justification game.) Every night for the last year or more, I've thought to myself, "Tomorrow I should get up early and do a workout before The Imp wakes up." Every morning I found a reason not to. But I also have an iron will when I choose to use it, so I knew that if I could just get through this first week, I'd be on my way. I reverted back to the "one day at a time" mentality that got me through when I stopped drinking all those years ago, and just made it happen.

Best change:
Using my bicycle more and more as my main mode of transportation. Biking with The Imp to daycare in the mornings allows me to build exercise into my daily routine. I don't have to "find time" to exercise. I just use the bicycle instead of the car. Time from the apartment to daycare in a car: about 6 minutes. Time on a bicycle: was about 12 minutes, what with all the hopping off & pushing up hills. Six weeks in, it's down to about 8 minutes.

And now, for the numbers:
Starting weight: 149 lbs
Week 1 weight loss: 3.5 lbs (!!!)
New weight: 145.5 lbs

Anyone else out there working to get into shape? What were some of the changes you first made? How did you feel about them?

07 April 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Speed Racer

I am completely smitten with the Hipstamatic app* for the iPhone. That is all.

*Okay, not quite all. Full disclosure: I was neither asked nor paid to write anything about Hipstamatic. I heard about it from Sarah Funk at Silver Lamb Studios, paid for the download, and have been obsessively playing with it ever since.

06 April 2010

What I'm Doing - Fit by Forty: Rules

Yesterday I wrote a little about the reason I started my quest to get into better shape physically. It was my most visited post since I started this blog - clearly reclaiming your physical self post-baby resonates for a lot of us. Amber over at Strocel.com wrote a great post today about making peace with your mama body, and Gwen at Left Coast Mama wrote a heartfelt piece about having an ugly day.

Let me be clear - as I wrote yesterday in response to some great comments, this is more about improving physical fitness than losing weight. Don't get me wrong, losing the extra padding I'm carrying around feels great, and I won't pretend my vanity wasn't thrilled when my mother-in-law asked me, "Have you lost weight?" at a family dinner a couple of weeks ago. But my primary goals are to a) feel better and stronger and b) model healthy active living for the almost-two-year-old Imp. I hesitated to include numbers in my post, for fear of placing inadvertent labels on people who weigh more or less than I do, or who want to weigh more or less than I do. In the end I did include them, because numbers are simply the easiest and most tangible way I can think of to measure progress.

On to today's post:

So, I knew I wanted to lose weight. Like everyone else with these first-world problems, I resolved to get into better shape starting January 1st. Like an idiot, I went crazy and managed to injure myself, introducing my left shoulder to the fun factory of bursitis. That was an interesting visit to the doctor.

Dr: You have bursitis in your left shoulder.
Me: Wha? Isn't that something your eighty five year old grandmother has?

Apparently it's just as common in overzealous yet seriously out of shape 39 year olds too. Damn.

So I fell off the exercise wagon, and reverted to my ice cream eating, television watching ways. Again.

I knew this time I'd have to be more strategic, think things through. Have a plan. So I came up with some ground rules for my Fit by Forty efforts:

1) It has to be realistic.

Rule: No extremes, in terms of means or ends. No crash diets, no skipping meals, no denying myself everything that tastes good. No exercise until I puke. No trying to fit into a size 4 in six weeks. Nothing ridiculous. If it's not realistic, it's not realistically achievable.

Implementation: I set myself the goal of eating mindfully, making healthier choices, and adding exercise to my daily routine. You know, the stuff that actually works. In terms of those dreaded numbers, I set the weight loss goal of 1 pound per week.

2) It has to be financially viable.

Rule: There's no money for gym memberships, personal trainers, fancy pre-portioned food, or loading up on the latest equipment. These changes have to be on the cheap, using what I already have at my disposal or can buy inexpensively.

Implementation: I already own a yoga mat, some 5 lb weights, and a couple of workout DVDs. I have a bicycle, which I took in for a tune-up and bought new tires. I spent $8.99 on iTunes and downloaded some yoga workouts. And living on the 21st floor affords me ample opportunity for stair-climbing any time I can convince myself it's a good idea.

3) It has to be easy to do, time-wise.

Rule: I run my own home-based business. I parent a very busy almost 2 year old little boy. There's no time for me to go to classes on any kind of regular basis. Or maybe I should say that I'm not willing to take time away from other things in order to go out for instruction. Either way, time's at a premium. Exercise and healthy eating need to fit into my daily routine, or I know, despite the best of intentions, I won't do it.

(Aside: I used to think I wanted, on my gravestone, "She had the best of intentions." Now I've decided cremation is the way to go, so no gravestone. But maybe a nice park bench somewhere with "She always did everything the hard way.")

Implementation: I've started using the bicycle instead of the car as much as my loathing of rainy weather will let me. For short trips in the downtown core it's almost as fast as taking the car, and no looking for (or paying for) parking (or gas, come to think of it). Having 30 pounds of Imp (who loves the bicycle so much he wears his helmet at breakfast most mornings) in the child seat does wonders for increasing resistance levels too. I've also been using the bicycle to get around and take pictures for my new Vancouver Daily Photo blog, which guarantees I get out for a ride several times a week. I take the stairs up to the apartment any time I'm not dressed up, carrying a ton of stuff, or with The Imp. All 21 floors of them. I try and fit in video workouts a couple of times a week. Given that I used to exercise, uh, not at all, this is progress!

4) It has to be flexible.

Rule: We all lead busy lives. Plans change, children get sick, or climb out of their cribs and fall on their heads and then refuse to sleep in their new bed. (Imp, I'm looking at you.) I need to be able to adapt my efforts as I dodge the sucker-punches that get thrown in my general direction.

Implementation: One of the benefits of not relying on scheduled classes or appointments with a trainer is that when my plans go all askew, I can still take the stairs and get in a workout. Although I discovered that my self-care takes a nose-dive when The Imp gets sick. Gotta work on that.

5) I have to somehow be accountable.

Rule: In the past, I've let deadlines slip and not met fitness goals, and nobody knew so I could pretend it didn't matter. I need to do this in a public way.

Implementation: And here we are. I've been on twitter with #fitbyforty updates at least once a week, and this week I've put it out there in this very public space. I've meant to write about it here since the process started five weeks ago, but something always got in the way. (*cough* fear *cough*)

So here it is:

I started at 149 pounds on March 1st, 2010 and I turn 40 on August 24th. I want to lose a pound a week.

Goal, measurable: 25 weeks from A to B means a goal weight of 124 by the time I hit the big four oh.

Goal, intangible: As much as I've talked about numbers so far (it's hard not to get fixated on them) the name I've given this process is Fit by Forty. What's most important to me is fitness, which as a subjective term is much less measurable. When will I consider myself fit? When I no longer have to get off my bike and push it up the hills close to my apartment. (Downtown Vancouver has more hills than you'd think!) When I can run across the playground with my son and not feel too tired to keep chasing him. When I can see an improvement in my posture because my core is stronger. When I can go on an hour-long bike ride and not feel too sore to move for days afterward.

And most importantly, I want to model a healthy, active lifestyle for The Imp. I'm mounting a pre-emptive counter-offensive for the years of junk food advertising, and the sedentary nature of spending hours a day in front of a screen (TV, computer, video game, any kind of screen) that are sure to come.

Anyone care to join me on my quest? Any advice? What are your fitness goals, and how are you working toward them?

05 April 2010

What I'm Doing - Fit by Forty: Background

In August I will turn forty.

I'm not freaked out about the number. Forty. Four-tee. 40. Four-oh. Whatever. Doesn't faze me.

Thirty was much harder. Somehow leaving my twenties behind had far more emotional impact on me - in terms of the milestones by which we measure our lives, it was a much bigger deal. There was a lot more taking stock, comparing where I was with where I thought I'd be, thinking about what I'd accomplished and what I'd let slip by. But my thirties have been great. Better than great: I got married, I had a baby, I started writing again. (I have a half-completed BFA in Creative Writing I really must finish one of these days.) In the last year, I started my own business.

As I creep up on forty, I have a much stronger identification of who I am, and what I am about than I ever have before. I am much stronger in my convictions. I feel more confident that the life experiences that have shaped me - the difficult: overcoming alcoholism, recovering from a abusive relationship, and the wonderful: meeting my soulmate, becoming a parent - have made me who I am, and that what I've learned, what I have to share is of value to others. After the insecurities of my twenties and the whirlwind of my thirties, this is a good way to feel. So forty, in and of itself, is not scary; it's just what comes next.

What IS freaking me out, however, is the physical aspect of being firmly ensconced in the land of middle age. (The first person who says the word "cougar" gets a punch to the throat. Just sayin'.) I am 5' 5". When I was thirty, soaking wet I weighed 120 pounds. When I got married, I weighed 115. I looked like this:

And now, well now I don't. Let's just leave it at that.

Let me be clear: this is not just about how I look, although it certainly plays a big role. I haven't been in very good shape for quite a while now. I get winded going up a simple flight of stairs. I don't like that I struggle with the physical demands of parenting a very busy little boy, that my back hurts after carrying him any real distance, and that other minor aches and pains prevent me from being the kind of parent I want to be.

Granted, I'm ten years older. Granted, I had a baby. And my work now is nowhere near as physically demanding as being on my feet on a film set for 90 hours a week. Still, I'm not pleased with my physical condition. I've crept up from a size 2-4, to a 4-6, then an 8. And then into the double digits: a 10. And I can't blame it all on having a baby. I started to gain weight long before The Imp was born. Just a few pounds a year, but it added up. By the time I got pregnant at 37, I was hovering around 135-140. I was the cliche - get married, gain weight. I was literally the person sitting in front of the tv watching The Biggest Loser with a bowl of ice cream on my lap.

The weight I gained during the pregnancy was right in the middle of the healthy range. I stopped looking at the scale the week my weight was higher than the winning female contestant on The Biggest Loser (I was eight months along), but my doctor assured me she would let me know if there was any cause for concern. I struggled a bit with gestational diabetes toward the end of my pregnancy, but easily controlled it with careful eating. And when I was breastfeeding, the weight melted away pretty quickly. My husband said, "Wow, that little boy is LITERALLY sucking the fat right out of you!" By the time The Imp weaned at 13 months, I was down to 140 pounds, right around my pre-pregnancy weight.

But I wasn't very physically active, and I kept eating as if I was still breastfeeding, and slowly over the next eight months I started to put on weight. Five weeks ago, I stepped on the scale and was 149 pounds.

That was just a little too close to 150 for me. I know numbers are supposed to mean nothing, but let's be honest. We all have an ideal number in our heads, and a number that horrifies us. Or spurs us into action. And 150, combined with the upcoming 40, is that number for me.

So Fit by Forty (or for those of you who'd like to follow along on twitter, #fitbyforty) was born.

That's some of the background. Tomorrow I'll post more about the process so far.

02 April 2010

Things That Are Surprising - Happiness

Happiness is....

...a stack of blueberry waffles enthusiastically mixed up from scratch by your almost two year old. Whenever I make noises about doing some work in the kitchen, he runs to move a kitchen chair up against the counter to help me.  I never would have guessed that helping Mummy cook would be the thing that The Imp loves the most; not because he's a boy, but because it never occurred to me that he'd be so excited about it at such a young age. I'm also ecstatic because he's learning as a matter of course that quality food, made from scratch is an easy, every day occurrence, not a once-in-a-while special occasions only ordeal.

Again, a moment to quietly allow a speck of sentiment to run down my cheek. It's funny, I used to be quite cynical.Yet another way I did not realize becoming a mother would fundamentally change the way I look at the world.

Edited to add: This post is a part of Notes From the Cookie Jar's Food Revolution Fridays blog challenge.