The Writing Detox

Writing Myself a Healthy Life

Day 2

Everyone knows that Day 2 is really when a new program starts.

Yesterday was Day 1 of our I Quit Sugar program. Unfortunately, I had a dinner meeting and half-way through the meal I completely forgot and had some lemonade. And then I ate some of the creme brulée offered at dessert, because I felt like it would be rude to refuse it. That was my first encounter with the pitfall of polite eating, and it reminded me of how so much of the time I eat what I eat because of where I am, or what someone else is eating. Food is such a communal and emotional thing. I will need to start practicing graceful ways to extricate myself from eating items that I don’t want to eat when in social situations. I’ll have lots of practice this week, as I have several events in the next few days and a brunch with my girlfriends (where we always eat pie!!).

So far, Day 2 has been right on track. I had eggs, cheese and toast with raw peanut butter for breakfast. I had a big salad with cottage cheese, avocado, egg, olives, and olive oil for lunch, and an afternoon snack of mixed raw nuts, coconut chips and cacao nibs, which actually really did the trick. It’s amazing how if you feel full, you don’t crave the sugar quite as hard. That’s lesson #2: eat lots of fat to feel full, thereby eating less overall and no sugar.

The things that are saving me this time around are the lack of restrictions on dairy (EAT ALL THE CHEESE!) and milk (DRINK ALL THE LATTES!) and other fats (nuts, avocados, etc.). The focus on healthy fat alternatives feeds my biological need for something rich and creamy and filling. Coffee is also a saving grace. I can give up the maple syrup in my latte, but don’t ask me to give up the latte itself quite yet. That’s just crazy-talk.


Third Time’s the Charm

This is the third time I’ve started this blog. I’m pretty sure somewhere in the archives is a post about how the key to success is to “never stop starting”, so here I am, back again.

Tyler and I have decided to undertake the I Quit Sugar 8-week detox program to see if we can reset our systems and get back to a healthy relationship with food. You see, 10 months ago we had a baby, and pregnancy and parenthood really set us back a bit. While I have technically lost all of my pregnancy weight, my body does not look the same, nor does it feel the same. Sleep deprivation and lack of exercise are big parts of this, but poor eating habits aren’t helping. We are both feeling sluggish and, well, round.

Tyler will tell me that it’s important to give myself credit for the good things because we have made some positive strides in life. I got the “Oh She Glows” cookbook for Christmas and we’ve been loving the recipes in there. We’ve done good things, but our overall relationship with food isn’t great still, and now we have a more pressing motivation: we have to teach another human how to eat.

There’s nothing like realizing that you are responsible for the health and well-being of another person to make you take a hard look at your life. And since we’ve had a few months of her sleeping through the night, I can start to do just that.

I’m back to blogging. My hope is to write regularly, and to use the blog as a tool to get through this next detox and life shift, and with any luck, the third time will be the one that sticks.

All encouragement and tips welcome.

Are we there yet?

I’m ready for March to be done. It’s not because I’m dying for spring to arrive, because I know by this point in life that Southern Ontario has a pro and a con to every season – we’ll just be trading the snow for the black flies, and frankly, the snow is less itchy. It’s not about the cold. It’s about the fiscal year.

In my line of work (like lots of people) March is hell-month because things gots to get dun by the end of the month and you over-commit, so you know the chaos will spill into April, but you’re going to pretend to the very last minute that it won’t. March is an overwhelming month and I always take on too many things: not too much, but too many. There’s a difference.

With too much, it’s not possible to get it all done. I actually, if I managed my time well, have more than enough time to accomplish what I’ve set out to do. Too many things though, is about the mental fatigue that kicks in when you try to switch one task to another and back again. Keeping track of what’s what and when each project is due is what drains me. And when I’m overwhelmed, the first thing I sacrifice is exercise because “I just don’t have time to go to the gym tonight”.

And then the eating starts, and the poor sleeping follows, and the depression is only a week behind.

Today, I have two projects that must be delivered (I’m presenting one of them at 4 o’clock). But, I am making a commitment here that I will go to the gym after my presentation, come hell or high water, even if it’s just to walk on the treadmill for ten minutes and then come home.

That’s all I’m promising to do for today, but it’s going to be enough.

Dancing Through Life

My partner and I signed up for ballroom/latin dance classes and last night was our second night. There is nothing so emotionally and mentally exhausting than learning how to dance with someone who is the love of your life. Half way through the cha-cha, I was sure we were going to kill each other, but we both left tired and elated when we finally “got it”. It’s been a really fun adventure and we are learning so much about communicating and working together to separately learn the same skill. It’s been really fun. We’re building a date night into our week. It’s also a surprising workout, mostly because you’re on your toes so much of the night. The first week I made the mistake of not stretching afterwards and I felt it.

We also went on a bit of a cleanse together for a week. It was just for a week, but we’d been on a road trip together and gorged ourselves on rich food. We took a week off from all irritating or heavy food. It was so hard to think ahead – we’re both busy people, and while we love to cook, we often eat late because we don’t plan ahead. When your options for food are so restricted, there’s no such thing as a last minute bowl of pasta or ordering in. It was tough, but we both felt quite…cleansed?…by the end of it. I’m not sure I love cleansing, but sometimes it’s a nice way to reset your eating habits. For me, I was already avoiding junk food, so cleansing wasn’t a big shift. For my partner, it was really hard.

However, now we are both in the habit of thinking of healthy things to eat together instead of just grabbing a quick snack. In that way, it helped us to think of alternatives to junk food and we have a huge tub of trail mix in our truck now that is there for emergencies instead of grabbing a coke and chips.

I’m not sure that I’m doing enough activity to see a huge physical change yet, but I have two structured weekly activities built into my life and as they become more solidified habits, I can only build. It’s nice to add habits one at a time, instead of trying to change everything over night. I find that it gives me a feeling of success that I can build from, instead of failure because I haven’t completely shifted my behaviour overnight. This way, it’s gradual, but sustainable.

It feels good.

I formed a habit!!

My partner and I resolved six weeks ago to take up hiking every Sunday. We were babysitting my sister’s dogs, and they needed to be exhausted every night, and we were tired of going to the same three parks to run them. We decided that for ourselves, we would go hiking every Sunday, and if we were going to be busy on Sunday we’d go Thursday, so long as we went every week.

Six weeks later, we haven’t missed a week! We won’t have the dogs next week to come with us, but we’ve really enjoyed getting out and going for a hike through this incredible Canadian landscape. I’m always shocked how few people we meet along our way – it’s just us, in the bush, enjoying the perfection of lakes and forests and the feel of roots and rocks underfoot. Heaven.

I think, slowly, alongside this new commitment to one physical activity every week, I’m starting to lose weight and feel fit. It keeps me thinking about health and good things, rather than getting bogged down in the unhealthy lifestyle that comes with vegging in front of a computer screen.

We’ve decided that since this one goal has become a habit that we both enjoy and will continue throughout the winter, we are going to compound our good decisions by adding a few new ones. He’s agreed to take a Latin/Ballroom class with me this fall, so I’m signing us up for one in the “big” city nearby. I suspect that we’ll turn that night into a date night – maybe appetizers and drinks before or after our lesson. Nothing wrong with building romance into your week!

And finally, I’m going to work on two separate goals for myself. I want to start taking a yoga class every week somewhere – preferrably on Mondays so that I can work the kinks out after my hike – and I’m also going to start going to a spin class at the Y near our place. I want to do a lot of skiing this winter, and it’s so much easier if your legs are conditioned ahead of time. Spinning is such a great way to get those muscles – and my knees – ready for the BC slopes.

Four planned physical activities every week should be a nice switch from none. I’m expecting to feel really sore, and then really good. I’m signing up for the dance class and the yoga class ahead of time so that it comes as a pre-planned activity, which will help incorporate it into a routine.

Finally, I’ve decided to give myself one other modest goal. All of the goals I’ve ever made to eliminate sugar forever and becoming instantly healthier have failed. However, when I give myself a specific and limited scope to the goal, such as doing a cleanse, I’m more successful. And the long-term effects seem positive because I discover new things to cook and new ways to make sure I eat well when I’m out and about.

Therefore, I’ve decided that three months of the year will be my “clean” months. I’ve chosen the most common months to want to start a new routine – September, January, and May. In these months, I’m generally giving myself the rule “Don’t eat junk food”. If I know it to be “junk food”, I won’t eat it. This includes pretty much all refined sugar and flour, chips, fries, fast food, candy, pop, ice cream, processed meat, and processed cheese. No more Cracker Barrel for me. We’re all stocked up on good quality locally-produced aged cheddar, and healthy meats from the local organic food store. I went out to my garden this morning and pulled up a huge handful of carrots, cherry tomatoes, and beans. I’m sitting here eating them like candy. Carrots straight out of the ground are nothing like carrots in the grocery store. They are so much sweeter.

I feel good about these changes because while they are strong changes, they aren’t drastic or unsustainable. I know that I’m never going to eat clean in December, so I will make sure January is a nice cleanse-based month with lots of restorative winter vegetables on menu. September is so easy to eat clean because it’s harvest month and the vegetables taste better than junk anyway. And May is all about rolling into summer and starting to crave clean, summer foods. I’m pleased with this plan. It’s do-able. 20130819-162931.jpg

I’m also really expecting the positive habits developed in these months to spill over into the other months. And I will work on my plan for that toward the end of September. For now, I’m excited about our new activities. I’m excited about my firm thigh muscles developing under my hiking pants. And I’m excited about the 5 lbs that slid off the scale this week even as it’s that time of the month where I’m usually the heaviest.

I’m excited, and prepared.

And I friggin’ love these carrots! Seriously, next year, you should plant carrots. They’re so good.



Waiting for my real life to begin

I was listening to this interview with my heroine, Caitlin Moran, who is fabulousness incarnate and if you haven’t read all her books, stalked her on the internet stopping just short of paying an obscene amount for online access to the London Times, and sighed in jealousy over the hilarity of her tweets, then you haven’t lived. Do it now.

This interview was with NPR, and it was about her book “How to Be a Woman”. Brilliant book. Read that.

At one point, toward the end of the interview, I think, Caitlin talks about how she went through so much of her life thinking that at some point she would wake up – slim, smooth, stylish – slip on a dress, drink half a cup of coffee and waltz out the door to do some fabulous thing with her life looking perfect in every way. Most importantly, she talks about how she realized, somewhere just before she turned thirty, that she was waiting for that moment – that perfect moment where she would look like a magazine cover and everything would come easy – for her real life to begin.

Until that point, she wasn’t a woman. She was failing somehow. And then she says she realized that she was never going to have ten minutes of her life that were like that and she got on with being a person and things are sort of normal and sometimes crappy and hard but also at least she has some agency and knows that she’s living her life. She talks about how she meets women in their forties and fifties though, who are still waiting for things to be perfect – waiting in fact to be perfect – before they start living.

Intellectually, this is a concept I’ve been aware of for a while. In high school, I had “Life is not a rehearsal” written on the back of my door. I was aware that this was my life. But I don’t really live like I’m aware of that.

It’s very similar to how I’m aware that eating Sour Patch Kids in my pj’s while writing a blog at 10:30 am is not a good life choice, but subconsciously I think that I still have ten and a half months before I turn thirty to lose sixty pounds, take up marathon running and become wildly enthusiastic about green smoothies.

That’s enough time right?

Because I think subconsciously, I’ve assumed that things will be fucked up until I turn thirty, and then I will have everything figured out. I will be fit, healthy, motivated, stable, financially organized, and ready to be a Mom. And when I’m a Mom, it won’t matter so much about me and I can stop spending all of my time and energy being so unproductively introspective. I will be thirty, selfless and organized: it will come naturally and my children will grow up to be perfect.


The intellect knows better, but there is some greater force than my intellect at play here.

I am a Feminist. Capital F. I love men and women and equality and healthy relationships based on respect and mutually beneficial sharing of ideas and love. I think people, in general, should have equal rights, so that we can all get on with being awesome.

Moran knows what’s what though. She explains it all. She explains why I’m so wrapped up in worrying about the size of my jeans versus my accomplishments and experiences. It’s basically the whole book.

She sums up this idea about how we focus on all the wrong things so well:

“As it turned out, almost every notion I had on my 13th birthday about my future turned out to be a total waste of my time. When i thought of myself as an adult, all I could imagine was someone thing, and smooth, and calm, to whom things…happened. Some kind of souped-up princess with a credit card. I didn’t have any notion about self-development, or following my interests, or learning big life lessons, or, most important, finding out what I was good at and trying to earn a living from it. I presumed that these were all things that some grown-ups would come along and basically tell me what to do about at some point, and that I shouldn’t really worry about them. i didn’t worry about what I was going to do.

“What I did worry about, and thought I should work hard at, was what I should be, instead. I thought all my efforts should be concentrated on being fabulous, rather than doing fabulous things.

“I presumed that once I’d cracked being thin, beautiful, stylishly dressed, poised, and gracious, everything else would fall into place. That my real life’s work was not a career – by myself. That if I worked on being pleasing, the world would adore and then reward me.”


This is so important to me to remember, because while I’m worrying about the Sour Patch Kids (which I do understand are not a healthy, nourishing thing to eat), I’m not focusing on the work I need to get done today so that I can go for a hike tonight. And if I were to focus my energies on the things I want to “do”, rather than what I want to “be”, I may actually become the person I want to be while I’m doing what I want to do. Because all of the things I want to do involve being active and engaged and curious and productive and appreciative.

And after all, we learn best by doing, right?

Elizabeth surfing

The last time I went surfing. Maybe it’s time to try it again?

Setting Goals, and Jam

I revisited the My Goals part of this blog last week after “revitalizing” the blog itself. Originally, my goals had included a huge detox and cutting out a lot of things from my diet. I’d still like to find a way to phase sugar down and out, but I’ve definitely come to the conclusion that healthy living has very little to do with sweeping restriction.

I started working from home again a few months ago after working in an office for nine months. I really enjoyed my office job and the people I worked with, but sitting at a desk for eight hours, with no windows or fresh air was making me quite sick. Now that I work at home, I can go for walks around the field, grab snacks regularly that are healthy and homemade, and I move more. I’m losing weight as a result. Not a lot, but enough to know that it was a good decision.

One of my favourite things to do growing up was to bake. My sisters and my Mom and I used to bake regularly. It’s therapeutic and social and homey and creative. The other thing about baking is that you know exactly what is going into it, so you know how much butter and sugar and flour you are ingesting, and you also know that you are not ingesting preservatives or food dyes or “natural flavours” (which usually just means MSG), or other chemicals.

I love sugar. It’s clearly one of my biggest addictions and challenges. But when I’m baking things at home and eating home baking, I feel a lot less worried about my future than when I’m grabbing a cardboard, empty-calorie treat from Tim Hortons or Starbucks. When I’m eating a real, home baked chocolate chip cookies (my ultimate kryptonite), then I at least take time to really appreciate the phenomenal experience that is a real, home-baked chocolate chip cookie.

photo (27)

The peach jam we made – more sugar than fruit, but at least it set!

This weekend I had friends and family visiting and we made peach jam. There are five cups of sugar to the four cups of peaches in jam. It’s obscene. And it’s way too sweet. Sometimes, even homemade is hard to justify. But knowing exactly what was in it meant that I only ate a small spoonful and I really tasted it, so I’ll call that a victory toward my overall goal of a healthier life, even as I think about what my specific goals are going to be in and around this blog.

What I’m sure about today? Health includes enjoyment, not just restriction.


Is it a Coffee or Death Situation?

My favourite coffee mug from Girls Inc.

My favourite coffee mug from Girls Inc.

Every morning I wake up and I feel sluggish. Hung over. Everything feels heavy and weighted, like I can’t quite get the blood moving. And then I drink coffee and start to feel alright again.

I have this growing suspicion that I’m addicted to more than one substance right now.

But coffee! Coffee is such a good one to be addicted to! Other than the sluggish morning aches, the caffeine withdrawal headaches if I sleep too long, the bad breath, and the need to add sugar to make it palatable…it is good for me, right? It will keep me from killing myself, getting Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, although it seems that the optimal amount to drink varies. Honestly, I drink about half a mug a day, which probably isn’t enough to have any health benefits at all. I used to drink lattes, and then my espresso machine broke, so now I drink coffee but I usually quit half way through the cup when the caffeine kicks in and the coffee gets cold.

I miss the lattes, but I have to admit that the calories on the coffee with milk and sugar added are still a lot better than a latte with honey. I’d like to argue that the calcium in my latte was vital, but really, I get a lot of calcium in my diet. When I stop eating that block of cheese daily, then we’ll talk about calcium intake.

I’ve always drank a lot of milk. When I was a little kid, I’d drink a whole bag of milk by myself at dinner. My best friend’s mom used to joke that she would need to buy a cow if I was going to keep visiting. I’ve since cut back, and I’ve always preferred skim milk, so I think we can safely say it’s not milk that’s keeping me from reaching my goals. (It might be cheese, however…)

My big dilemma right this second is that I’m not sure whether to keep on the coffee train – the one with the unpleasant side effects, but the delicious taste and potential, theoretical health benefits that seem to include improved mental health – or whether I should abandon the coffee train and drink green tea.

My coffee is glaring at me now, scorning me for thinking such a thought and ordering me to drink more so that my arms don’t feel so heavy on the keyboard.

But what do you say? Coffee addiction great, okay or pure evil? And what are your favourite morning boosts?

The Productivity Problem

There is a part of me – the creative part – that is okay with spending the day staring at the ceiling and letting my brain empty of all the noise. There is another part of me – the part that likes to eat – that needs to pay the bills and so must actually produce some work for my contracts once in a while.

I work for myself, from home, doing contract work. It’s heaven. Except when it’s hard.

It can be very hard when I’m struggling to be productive, and I know the only thing that will push me into the zone where I will get things done is if I go drink a big glass of coke and eat a huge block of cheese. The boost will push me along far enough until I can get into the zone and get shit done.

But in the meantime, I’ve just digested 10 tsps of sugar and a whomping 500 + calories of cheese (estimation because I’ve never been able to figure out what a 1 inch cube of cheese really looks like, but I’m pretty sure I just ate five times that amount).

I’m reading Salt, Sugar, Fat by Michael Moss and I just spent the whole morning reading about how Coca Cola is engineered to make me drink it. I resolved to be stronger. I resolved to use my educated understanding of the chemicals and how they interplay with my brain to stop drinking coke. And then I went downstairs, poured myself a glass, and sat down to do some work.


Is there a 12 step program for sugar addiction? I imagine there is. If they included a workshop on productivity without chemical enhancements, it would be gold.

I think I could overcome any addiction as long as I didn’t have to use my brain at all during the withdrawal period.


The Only Guaranteed Guest

The only guaranteed guest at my funeral is me.

In a sick twist of fate, if I die young, for example of cancer, a heart attack or stroke (which are the three leading causes of death in Canada and therefore my biggest threats), there may be lots of people at my funeral. Probably my partner, who is in considerably better shape than me, and my siblings, all of whom exercise and eat well. Depending on how badly I treat my body in the next thirty to forty years, even my parents could be at that party drinking watery tea and eating lemon squares that someone brought because they remembered they were my favourites.

I’d have friends – healthy, fit friends – who might come to talk about how sad my fight against the disease was, or how tragic my heart attack was.

But here’s the thing.

If I clean up my act, exercise regularly, eat lots of leafy green things and whole foods and healthy, delicious things, then maybe the only person at my funeral who is alive today would be me. I could outlive everyone. Or possibly it would be attended by a whole whack of healthy, happy great-grandbabies, robust grandchildren, and well-aged children. Maybe I would be so healthy, I’d live to 105 and I wouldn’t have Alzheimer’s and I wouldn’t have diabetes, and I would just live a long, healthy life until everyone I knew in the whole world would be younger than me.

Or maybe I’ll keep doing what I’m doing until I have a heart attack, or get cancer, or have a stroke. At this rate, I’m likely to live until 70 if I’m lucky. That’s only 40 more years. That’s bullshit.

I wear a seatbelt. Why can’t I just eat some kale now and then?

It’s time to start again. For reals this time.

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