The Writing Detox

Writing Myself a Healthy Life

Archive for the tag “healthy-living”

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.

Right?

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?

Dinner Parties

Recently, I moved back to the area where I grew up. As a result, I’ve been spending a lot of time with people I knew in my childhood, especially friends of my parents. Many of my parents’ friends became my friends as I grew older and whenever I visited the area I would stop in to see them all. Now, living here again, they are some of our best friends.

Several times we’ve had dinner with them, and for the most part it’s a lot like having dinner with any of our friends. We talk about beer and food, and travel, and other people, and the politics of the day. I’ve noticed lately though, that often we talk about nutrition. Everyone has their own ideas about nutrition and weight loss and healthy eating. Everyone is on some plan or another and is very proud of how well it’s going. Everyone thinks you should try it.

I, of course, am very proud of how well I’ve been doing at slowly changing my lifestyle. It hasn’t be a quick change with immediate results, but I am developing new habits and I feel good about it. However, I would never tell someone that I thought they should go gluten free just because it is working for me. I’m sure I’m just as guilty as the next person of sharing health and lifestyle advice that I think is valuable, and perhaps it is not always welcome.

Maybe this is just me feeling sensitive about how much weight I’ve gained since high school, but I often feel like these conversations are born from my older friends trying to “mother” me into a healthier lifestyle. Since I have a mother who has always been very good at encouraging me to eat better, I often leave these dinner parties trying feeling like I’ve failed the whole neighbourhood by not adhering to a strictly organic, vegan, high-protein, low-carb, glycemic-index-based, Mediterranean, regularly-spaced mini-meal, no fat-with-carbs, no-fruit-or-any-kind-of-sugar, vitamin-supplemented diet.

You can’t please all of the people, all of the time.

I can make small changes, adopt new habits, find my own inner motivations and sustainability plans, and see what works for me. I may not be losing 2 lbs per week like clockwork, but I feel like I am doing something good for myself and I feel like I have made it sustainable.

I no longer think in terms of a timeline (e.g. I will not eat sugar for one week). Now I think in terms of forever (e.g. I will cut refined sugars from my diet entirely except on special occasions). Eventually, I will add new habits, like cutting all refined and non-refined sugars from my every-day life, or reducing the amount of cheese I eat, or increasing my legumes and protein.

I can make small changes, adopt new habits, find my own inner motivations and sustainability plans, and see what works for me.

 

Sweet Slips

Yesterday I kept my word and counted calories. I ate 1500 more than I was supposed to. The stupid thing was that I forgot to eat lunch, so most of those calories were guacamole and chips when I realized how hungry I was, and then we had bison  burgers with goat cheese for dinner, which was delicious, but the cheese was too many calories again. The thing is, I’m a bigger fan of eating less of the good-for-you things that are high in calories than of cutting them out entirely. Things that are bad for you, it’s easier to cut those out, or at least restrict them to cheat days.

Today I took a friend to an event called Empty Bowls, where you pick a bowl made by a local potter and then you have soup (donated by local restaurants). The soup was fantastic. My friend has some mobility problems, so I got up to get her some desserts and tea at one point, and when I got back she offered me the meringue on her plate. I thought to myself “Oh! I can eat that – it doesn’t have any gluten in it!” I was half way through it before I remembered I also wasn’t eating sugar. Luckily it was a very small meringue so there wasn’t any major harm done, but the funny thing was how easily I completely forgot my own rules. This isn’t the first time that’s happened. A few weeks ago I stopped with a bite of a biscuit in my mouth and had to spit it out because I’d forgotten I wasn’t eating gluten.

Apparently reducing gluten and sugar intake will improve my memory. I wonder how long it will take for that to kick in!

 

 

Constant Vigilance!

It turns out that even your tools can become excuses. I haven’t been writing in the blog because I didn’t want to make excuses for any failures – so of course, I had no accountability to myself or anyone else (real or hypothetical).

I was tracking everything I ate, and I lost five pounds. I only ate sugar once in March on the boyfriend’s birthday, and I have been gluten free since the beginning of March. It’s been good. Gluten free hasn’t been too hard. My family is used to accommodating it because my Mom doesn’t eat gluten. Sugar free was harder, but I’ve been managing. I ate sugar at Easter because…well…there were jelly beans. I’m hopeless before jelly beans.

Other than that, I haven’t done too bad. But the thing was that I lost five pounds. And once I started to have some success, I stopped keeping track of my food. I decided that I must have the hang of it, and I gave up writing and tracking – the two things that will really make the difference in longevity on this project. Mad-Eye Moody was right – “Constant vigilance!” is the only way to succeed in life. With a few treat days.

I did go for a run yesterday. It felt amazing. I ran for a full 15 minutes – almost 2 km – and then turned around and walk/ran home. Today the boy and I headed out for a walk and I wanted to run. My muscles were aching to get back into it. Walking ended up being a good switch though. It felt like there were different muscles at play. I will run again tomorrow. I will start keeping track of my food again. I will write here again. I will keep going because this is a long-term investment in my own longevity, nothing less.

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