Well, I hope everyone out there had a Happy New Year.  Ours would have been very pleasant and laid back–after all, we were guests at my friend’s 8000 square foot “cottage” (you read that right–were we lucky, or what??), we were in a pastoral wonderland of snow, lake, birch trees, rare birds and other wildlife prancing past the picture windows between the stone and wood walls, and we spent the time with two of my very favorite people in the world, Gemini I and Gemini II, as well as their families.  Could it get any better?

In our pre-Chaser days, we used to go up there fairly frequently, and have spent many a lovely Thanksgiving or Christmas with the Gemini I family. This time, however, we discovered a tiny, heretofore unseen quirk in our (post-Chaser) Elsie Girl, something we’d never witnessed before:  she has a newfound propensity to lunge at and–if permitted–eat any of the other dogs up there (Chaser excluded).  What the–?? 

My beloved fur baby, the one I’ve adored since we got her from the pound back in 2002, the one who is consistently docile and sweet and gentle?  The one I refer to variously as Sweet Face, Sweet Girl, Honey Girl, My Darling Girl, My Little Love, and innumerable other nausea-inducing, endearing sobriquets?  The one who timorously permits Chaser to nibble endlessly on her ears like popcorn at the movies, who hangs her head in submission when I see her even walking toward the open garbage can, who lies at my feet silently here at the computer and reminds me, with a barely perceptible, feathery whisper of a touch with her nose, that it’s dinnertime? 

Yes, that one.  What on earth has gotten into her?

As a result of this sudden possession by the Dog Satan, we spent most of the time hovering over Elsie to ensure that she didn’t consume Gemini I’s new cat, or bundling up in our snow suits to accompany Elsie on the leash to do her “business” outside.  How I wish Cesar Millan lived in Canada. Sniff.

I also realized, as soon as we were on the road and past the point where it would be feasible to turn back, that I’d forgotten my camera up north.  Granted, it’s a cheap little unit (I must be the only blogger on the face of the planet who takes pictures with a camera she got for free using Air Miles), and also I have no photographic ability, but I am inordinately fond of the thing and it feels like traipsing around the house naked to post without photos of any kind. 

The final rather unpleasant discovery to greet me after the weekend (well, actually, the last two weeks) is that it appears I have gained a couple of pounds (really?  pigging out on baked goods and chocolate can do that to you?).  As a result of all these events, I’ve been feeling pretty disheartened since we got back.  Boo hoo.

Well, as Cesar himself would say, it’s the owner, not the dog, that needs training whenever there’s a problem.  Don’t I know it: time to listen to The Great Emperor of Dog Training and get my ass in gear, literally and figuratively.  Also, a perfect opportunity for some goal setting (notice I didn’t say, “resolutions”). 

Every year around this time–sometimes right on the first of the year, sometimes not until April–I sit down and write out a “Five-Year Plan,” a set of goals to reach within 5 years, 2 years, one year, and the next six months.  This is something I learned about from the original study at Harvard (I didn’t participate, just read about it) that confirmed how those people who actually write down their goals are more inclined to someday achieve them.  Some years it works better, some years worse, but it always seems to help keep me on track and steer me toward my goals, even when I immediately put the list back in its desk drawer and promptly forget about it till the next year. 

I’m also always amazed at the goals that eventually come to fruition even when I’ve literally forgotten about them in the interim.  To wit, a couple of years ago one of the goals I wrote was “Work with a business coach for free.”  Through a series of serendipitous events, I ended up with three full months of terrific coaching. Similarly, “guest appearance on TV morning show.”  Or, “Adopt second dog.”  At the time I wrote that, my HH’s response was a definite “no.” As the months rolled by, for some reason, he ultimately changed his mind, and eventually he succumbed.  Now, he’s Chaser’s greatest fan, and the two of them are almost inseparable.(“Thanks for changing your mind, Dad!  You’re so much fun to wrestle with. . .but wait a sec, Mum, if you’re not also my greatest fan, then whose fan are you–?“). 

So, to that end, I am going to list my goals.  I will say straight up that this isn’t the complete list, as there are still some things that I’ll keep private (goals related to relationship, family, etc.), but given the name of the blog, I think I should at least include all the food-related and health-related ones here. 

Of course, everyone and their cousin is making resolutions about now, and to that end, there was a humorous send up of these kinds of lists in the Arts and Life section of the National Post today.  Near the top of the list was this goal:

“Shed those unwanted pounds, or, if that’s too hard, spend some quality time with those pounds at a Wendy’s and make them feel wanted again.” 

In that same spirit, I shall not berate myself for those “unwanted” two pounds, or the fairly unstable wagon off of which I’ve fallen. Instead, I’m going to set about outlining some goals for the next while.

And So:

Five Years Hence:

  • Post and Beam.  My lifelong (okay, adult-long) dream is to own a post and beam, slightly north of the city, with my two dogs and HH (and in it, I’ll still be writing this blog, of course).
  • maintain normal, healthy weight and eating habits (continued since year one), following the plan I outlined, below, in the 6-month goal. 
  • go swimming on a regular basis (something I used to love as a kid/teenager, and have been too embarrassed to do in public since the weight gain).
  • Have meditation as a daily part of my life, yoga (or other easy-on-the-joints, meditative exercise) as a weekly part of my life.
  • continue to have an easy, healthy relationship with dessert, able to enjoy with moderation without being thrown into binge mode, as outlined below in the one-year goal.
  • have a healthy, effective method in place for dealing with stress (hey, may as well reach high once I’m setting goals, right?).

Two Years Hence:

  • maintain normal, healthy lifestyle and eating habits since year one (as outlined below, in the 6 month section).
  • maintain a healthy, normal relationship to dessert, as outlined below in the one year goal.
  • have meditation as a daily part of my life, yoga or similar type of exercise as weekly.
  • go swimming again–take lessons if necessary.
  • have healthy, effective method for dealing with stress in place and almost perfected.

One Year Hence:

  • reach normal, healthy weight (about 50 pounds from now) 
  •  achieve a sense of control around desserts–that is, the ability to eat them within reason, without breaking into a binge because of one chocolate bar, or brownie, or piece of cake
  • continue to create healthy, delicious desserts for fun and profit
  • continue to eat a balanced, NAG-friendly diet.
  • complete an intro to yoga course, and continue throughout the year.
  • improve work on weights, to previous levels, working with trainer if necessary.
  • continue with regular exercise at least 6 days a week, as outlined below.

Six Months Hence:

  • down 25 pounds from now
  • eat a balanced, NAG-friendly diet.  (I know from past experience that this will help me with the dessert goal, above, as I seem so much less inclined toward unhealthy foods when I regularly consume veggies, whole grains, and the like).
  • exercise regularly:  weights/club at least 3x per week; treadmill at least 4x per week (I know this can be done, as I’ve done it before, for years at a time)
  • take intro to yoga or similar exercise course; begin meditation, with the help of a course if necessary.

I think these are realistic goals, especially since I know I’ve mastered some of them in the past.  I’m also giving myself a fairly lengthy period to establish new habits (I’ve read that it takes about 6 weeks of repetition to establish a new habit, but have never found that to be true for me; even after 2 years of eating no sweeteners whatsoever, it didn’t take long to return to old habits once I allowed sugar back into my life).

Now, of course there are many other goals on the piece of paper written out here at home, such as those related to my writing career or travelling (basically, I’d like to do some).  But for now, if I can focus on the physical health and psychological wellness, I think I’d have a great head start toward everything else. 

(“You go for it, Mum!  My goal this year is to earn more treats.  Oh, and I suppose not to attempt ripping apart other dogs would be good, too.’)

The Diet: NAG

October 30, 2007

 DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS has moved! 

If you’re reading this page, you’ve landed on the old site.  Please visit the new location by clicking here–and don’t forget to update your readers and blogrolls!

As always, thanks for reading.  I look forward to seeing you at the shiny new Diet, Dessert and Dogs!

“Um, Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we? Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans than you do on this blog.”]  

* * *

Today’s post will outline the diet plan I intend to follow for the next year and the rest of my life. 

1) NAG Diet.  As I mentioned, at school they called it “NAG”: natural, alive, good quality.  So what does this mean?

Natural:  foods that are not processed or are minimally processed.  So nothing packaged, no frozen dinners, no prepared cakes, cookies, buns, muffins, breads, nothing with preservatives, colorings, additives, chemicals, or anything like that.  Does this sound hard?  Actually, it’s the way I usually eat anyway, ever since my diagnosis with candida in 1999.  What’s great about this category is that everything is just what you see when you buy it:  an apple is an apple, quinoa is quinoa, eggs are always eggs.  Nothing added, nothing taken away. 

If you can eat this way (at least some of the time) you’ll find two things:  first, your groceries are cheaper.  When you buy brown rice and cook it yourself along with onion, peppers, and herbs, you are paying waaaaay less than buying pre-packaged rice pilaf mix.  Second, everything you eat is more filling, more substantial, and, eventually, more satisfying.  You’re getting real food, with real nutrition.  Oh, and a third, one worth mentioning:  everything takes much longer to cook.  I’ll deal with this issue throughout the blog, as I list what I’ve cooked and how long it takes.

Alive: for optimum health, “live” or raw foods are recommended.  This is not to say I’m advocating following a raw diet. No, just raw some of the time (I’m aiming for something raw with each meal, 30-50% raw each day).  This could mean a fresh apple cut up into cereal, a salad with lunch, baby carrots for a snack, cucumber slices with dinner. Or it could mean a raw almond-veggie pate as a lunch option (recipe to follow–promise!). As raw foodists know, raw foods contain health-enhancing enzymes that also help us to digest food better.  You digest faster and more efficiently with raw. . . it only makes sense to include it.

Good quality:  this trait refers to many things, but generally I think, “organic.”  I try to include as much organic food as possible in my diet.  One thing that’s absolutely essential to me is that any animal product be organic.  After learning what’s done to milk, meat, eggs, cheese, etc., I wouldn’t even give my dogs non-organic in these areas!  (Lucky for Elsie and Chaser, they get lots of organic veggies with their organic dog food for dinner.) (“We do appreciate that, Mum, really!”)

I guess I’m lucky in that I do love healthy foods, so it’s no hardship to eat this way.  The problem is that I also love unhealthy food.  So I can eat a perfectly healthy meal of my favorite almond-curry stir-fry with tofu and mixed veggies, then 30 minutes later eat 6 cookies.  Granted, the cookies are my own creations, made with spelt flour and Sucanat or maple syrup. . . but it ‘s the quantity, man, the quantity! 

Which leads me to. . . the rest of the diet. 

2) PORTION CONTROL. Ideally, if I follow the diet I see in my head, I’ll be able to eat moderate amounts of very healthy foods, with small amounts of less healthy foods (such as my beloved desserts or a glass of wine occasionally).  For me, this is probably the biggest challenge:  I don’t feel I’ve “eaten” unless I feel full (sometimes, almost to the point of bursting). So being able to eat a regular-sized meal followed by a regluar-sized dessert would be an amazing accomplishment for me.

3) EXERCISE. Technically, not part of the diet, but an integral part of the plan related to it.  The mission is to alternate my weights with aerobic exercise, 6 days a week.  This means treadmill for me, as bad knees prohibit either running or cycling.

Interestingly, I do already walk every day by virtue of my furry girls (“No problem, mum, we’re happy to remind you to take us out!”).  I generally take them out every afternoon for a minimum of 20 minutes (this in addition to their morning walk, courtesy of C., and their evening walk, which we all take together).  I see this as one of the major benefits of having dogs. Though I have to say here, that when we watch The Dog Whisperer, one of our favorite shows (“No! Don’t watch that, mum! Don’t watch that show!”), I’m always amazed that when asked how often they walk their dogs, people say things like, “Well, I manage to get out once a week. . . .”.  Huh?  Knowing that dogs were basically born to be outside running around, I would destroy myself with guilt if I didn’t take them out at least twice a day.  Strangely, though, the twice-daily dog walks don’t seem to affect my weight.  Ergo, adding in the aerobics every second day.

That’s it for now.  Tomorrow, I’ll cover the Goals section of the plan, after which I’ll really be on my way.