Here’s how I was going to start this blog entry:

I simply can’t believe it–it snowed yet again yesterday.  Will this accursed winter never end? The drifts on the driveway (oh, lord, another few hours of shoveling!) have already enveloped my car in a duvet of white, and little tempests are performing pirouettes in our back yard, propelled along by the wind. 

The newscast today said that we’ve already received 72 cm. of snow this season (that’s about 33 inches), when the average for a Toronto winter is around 20 cm.  That’s more than triple the snow we usually have–pretty much a new record!!  That’s more snow than I can remember in the last decade!  That’s more snow than any human should reasonably be asked to shovel or trudge through or brush off their coats or blink against as they stumble through the assault of bitter cold flakes!  That’s just TOO. . . MUCH.  . . . SNOW!!!!!!! 

 But since that would have sounded totally juvenile and excessively emotional over, well, snow, I decided not to start my entry that way.  And so, instead, I will start it like this:

One of the things I enjoy about blogging is the ongoing discovery of new blogs I like to read, and, of course, learning about the people behind the blogs. Comments are great for this (and I never cease to be delighted–and always a bit amazed–each time I receive a new comment on any post). Memes are also useful this way, as they provide more information about the authors as well. 

And so it was particularly rewarding (pun intended!) when I discovered that a blogger I’ve recently “met,” and one whose blog I regularly enjoy, presented me with an “Excellent Blogger” award.  Whoo-hoo! Thanks so much, Romina!  I’m very honored and extremely delighted.  What a great way to enter into the weekend. (“We are so proud of you, Mum!  Um, so is this a reward of food, Mum?“)

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Part of my responsibility as a recipient is to pass along the award to others.  I’ll take a few days to mull it over before posting about it (I take my duties very seriously!).  In the meantime, I’ve been thinking about some other weighty issues.

While driving to meet with my book club cohorts the other night, I heard an interesting interview on the radio, and one that got me thinking.

[Short pause for puerile rant:  the book we were discussing was Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I thoroughly enjoyed the book, even though I wasn’t entirely enamoured of the author’s own portrayal of her personality during the year she spent hedonistically chowing down, assiduously seeking spiritual nirvana, or unintentionally attaining true love.  I found her writing to be evocative and entirely engaging, frequently burning with a hard, gem-like flame of well-crafted prose, yet still highly accessible and firmly rooted in the world of the mundane.

And so, you can only imagine the depths of my dismay when, while surfing the net in preparation for our discussion, I came across this piece of information.  Can you imagine a better way to ruin a perfectly good book??  The irony is palpable. Ah, well, there goes another movie I’ll never see.  *SIGH*].

Ahem. Sorry about that.  Back to the radio interview:  the host was chatting with Rick Gallup, the man who popularized the concept of the Glycemic Index, in his book The GI Diet Now, rather than being just another diet guru, Gallup is extremely well equipped to discuss such issues as blood sugar levels, lipids and hormones, as he was the past president of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario.

Surprisingly quick-witted (not to imply that doctors can’t be funny, or anything), Gallup offered a wealth of information about the diet itself, and how to lose weight by eating whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and healthy protein sources.  Basically, he was advocating a NAG-friendly diet.  That much, I already knew.  It’s how to stick with that diet that I find inordinately difficult.

Well, the interview provided one more item in my endless search for weight loss motivation, which I thought I’d share here.  Gallup suggested to people in his diet clinic that they keep a bag, box, basket, or any other container in the bathroom alongside their scale.  Then, as they lost weight, he said, they should place an item of equal weight into the container.  In other words, if you lost a pound, put a one-pound can (or box, or bag) of something into the bag.  The following week, if you lost 3/4 pound, add something of equal weight to the bag.  Eventually, you’ll have a bag that weighs quite a bit–just as much as you’ve lost (just be sure the items are non-perishable, or you’ll end up with a compost bin in your bathroom).

This seemed a brilliant idea to me, and I’m determined to try it out.  Imagine, if you lost 10 pounds, how heavy that bag would be!  In my case, if I were to lose my desired 40 pounds, the bag would actually be too heavy for me to lift!  Quite a sobering thought, as I am obviously already carrying that much weight around with me right now.

I’d love to add this tip to my (far too short) list of “What Actually Works,” but will wait until I’ve tried it out for a while. Of course, this presupposes that one actually loses weight.  Another sigh.

The Habit of Exercise

January 27, 2008

I hate winter.  For someone who was born and grew up in Montreal, that is a heretical statement.  But I’ve never been athletic, I get cold easily, I don’t have the greatest sense of balance (not exactly a plus when you’re navigating ice-laden sidewalks while holding the leash of a frisky, determined dog in each hand), and so winter makes me grumpy.  Grumpy, and lazy.

During the snowy months, I have to be vigilant not to let my exercise routine slide somewhat.  I mean, who wants to take the extra twenty minutes to pile on an additional pair of wooly socks, long underwear, scarf, insulated hat, dexterity-diminishing gloves, earmuffs and galoshes, drive through snow and sleet at 15 km./hour to unwrap for another twenty minutes on the other side before changing into workout gear, just to push some weights around for 40 minutes or so? Not I. 

And so, I often end up missing my otherwise quite enjoyable workouts during this cold season (“So long, Septuagenarian Couple with the Matching T-Shirts!  Sorry to miss ya, Burly Guy Who Stares at Women’s Breasts Between Sets!  Catch you next time, Personal Trainer with the Gigantoid Biceps!).  Feeling compelled to make it there this morning, however, (after all, how could I let down the legions of fans interested in my Progress Tracker?), I forced myself to go.  And then, had a very lovely time. And was truly glad I went. 

 Keeping motivated can be problematic at any time of the year, but winter presents its own unique challenges.  For me, a change in routine tends to help (as starting a new set of machines, for example, or a different activity entirely), but it’s still difficult to keep up that kind of momentum. 

I recently came across an interesting article from Lifehack.org that provided some help in this area.  The article is actually about tricks for making new habits stick, but I think many of these apply to the habit of exercise as well.  One that struck a chord with me in particular was using a “but” statement.  As in, “I’m no good at sewing, but if I work at it, I might get better.”  There are seventeen other tips as well, including items such as “commit to 30 days” or “form a trigger” (something else you do right before the desired habit, to create a pattern). 

For me, changes might include setting out my workout gear the night before I plan to go to the club (the trigger) or asking a friend to commit along with me so that we can be accountable to each other. 

I may be having trouble keeping up with my workouts during the winter, BUT I’m working at it.  And I guess that means it can only get easier.  (And I think moving to Florida might help, too.)

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(“Mum, we love the winter.  It must be that Scottish heritage in us.  So why not make walking US your trigger??”)

Lifting Weights

November 4, 2007

People are usually surprised (okay, flabbergasted) to find out that I go to the gym and press weights at least 3 times a week.  Their wide-eyed stares and gaping maws would suggest their silent response to this piece of information is something like, “But how can a fat pig like YOU actually do any exercise, let alone lift weights???”  Their polite, public personas instead say something like, “Oh? Really?  Well, good for you!”

Another one of those bizarre paradoxes of my life is that I enjoy going to the gym and lifting weights, yet there seems to be no discernible effect (ie no taut, bulging muscles, no weight loss whatsoever) from what I do. 

True, when the alarm sounds at 6:30 and I’ve only crawled into bed at 11:38 the night before, it can be difficult to haul myself out from under the blankets.  Many mornings, I end up sleeping another 30 minutes or so while C. takes The Girls for their morning exercise, after which I finally throw back the covers and get into my gym clothes to head out as he hops in the shower.  Other days, I don’t manage it at all, and end up rebuking myself for being so lazy.

But when I do get there, I’m always happy.  Years ago, I established a good routine with a personal trainer, and have followed it since (I suspect it’s time for a change–maybe this new Plan will be the catalyst). 

Because of my back and knee problems, my workout is limited, but I do cover all the machines I’m able to.  I love the feeling of pushing those muscles to the limit and lubricating those joints as my blood starts to circulate more quickly and efficiently.  Despite all the overeating and the erratic aerobic exercise, I seem to be able to persist with the weights on a relatively regular basis (except when my back decides to snap and I’m out of commission for a week or so–but I’ll save that for another post).

 As someone who’s relatively shy and inner-directed, I am quite focused when I follow my routine and rarely speak to anyone else there (which also helps me keep to a schedule,  so that I can get home in good time–meaning before Chaser has to be put back in a cage–and get started with my day).

But I do certainly recognize the “regulars” and we tend to acknowledge each other with curt smiles and nods.  Most of the regulars I see are older than me (and my hats go off to them–cudos to you, Bald Man in Your Seventies! My admiration, Little 60-Something with the Spiky Black Hair! You are my inspiration, Septuagenarian Italian Couple with the Matching T-Shirts! And hope I’m as flexible as you at that age, Elderly Gentleman Who Wears Black Knee Socks!).  A few are my age, and some are younger.  There’s one couple who work out together every time I’m there (which leads me to believe they actually go every day, as my own schedule can change day to day), and they look almost exactly like the Canadian couple from the old “Participaction” commercials.  There’s also a rotund girl who’s no more than 18 at best, who dutifully arrives every morning to meet her trainer and strain through a series of exercises on the machines, with hand weights, and on the oversize exercise balls.  I hear her laughing even as she grunts to finish a set, sweat blossoming on her T-shirt, and I feel recharged.

So I like my routine.  I feel guilty when I don’t do it for more than two days.  And I feel energized when I’m done, a bit more lithe and flexible, a bit more awake and ready to start the day.  The fact that it seems to have no impact whatsoever on my physical appearance is secondary, I suppose.  But as I say to C. on occasion, man, I must have fabulous muscles under all this fat.

Today was also my day to update the Progress Tracker–go see how I did!

Two Constants in My Life

October 28, 2007

For a long time now, I’ve wanted to start a blog about food.  Being an organic baker and a Natural Nutritionist, I’ve learned a lot in the past few years about which foods are healthy, which aren’t, and how to bake terrific desserts that won’t harm your health.  And while I’ve enjoyed a modest amount of success at my business, there’s always been the nagging feeling behind it all that I’m a. . . . fraud.  How can I purport to be a holistic nutritionist when I’m (quite) overweight, and can’t seem to stop myself from eating foods that aren’t good for me? How can I tell others how to “eat healthy” when I can’t manage it all the time myself?

 Paired with my lifelong food issues has been a love of dogs.  I was born in the Year of the Dog,  and my honey tells me I have “dog-like qualities” (I didn’t take offense, as I think that’s a compliment!).  girlsonstoop.jpg About five years ago, we got our first furry kid, Elsie (black Lab-Border Collie cross).  Then, seven months ago, we got 6 week-old Chaser, a Lab-Border Collie-Shepherd cross.  See pix of both of them attached to this post.

When trying to decide what to blog, I realized I had to somehow combine both those things–dogs and diet.  Most of my waking hours are pretty much consumed by one or the other (not to disregard my actual job, or anything!).   I thought that writing about these two things in tandem might help me to gain a bit more personal insight, to learn why I can’t seem to stay on a healthy eating plan these days (I used to be about 40 pounds lighter–and even then, I thought I needed to lose weight!), and to figure out how to develop the emotional or psychological fortitude to get healthy again. 

I don’t know why, but I’m sure my dogs will have something to do with it.

So this blog is devoted to my quest for physical health and ideal weight, my love of food and recipes that will move me in that direction, and, of course, my two dogs.  Along the way, I’m sure I’ll mention my honey of ten years, my friends, my family. . . .but really, what it boils down to in the end is diet and dogs.

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