From the category archives:

It IS all about me

Working up a sweat

by DaniGirl on June 16, 2014 · 2 comments

in It IS all about me

The man-child decided he wanted to walk home after school today, even though I’d met them at the school with the car. He is competing in an inter-school track and field meet on Wednesday (he scored first in his school for 60m dash!) and he wanted to get in a little extra practice. We live about a kilometer away from the school, and as I drove past him with one child in the back seat (the other had also decided to walk, yay!) he was loping along the side of the road like a gazelle.

He came in the door with a sweet rosy glow and a little out of breath, and pretty much got on with his afternoon without missing a beat. I watched this with open-mouthed wonder. He’d just pretty much sprinted a kilometer, and showed about as much effort as I do climbing the stairs from the basement. Oh to be twelve again!

Goode Run 5 of 6

(Three years ago – his first 5K.)

I like to think I’m leading a pretty active lifestyle. This month I’m regularly clocking my goal of 10,000 steps, which is more or less 5K of walking, and I work out a couple of times a week. And yet, I can’t expend more than a few kilojoules of energy without turning red and drenching myself in sweat as if I’ve just finished the Boston Marathon in 100% humidity. I can’t figure out if this is middle age, wonky hormones or a sedentary lifestyle, but holy crap is it ever annoying!

I like to walk on my lunch break at work, but even if I maintain a very moderate pace, far slower than what it takes to wind me, I will be soaked with sweat by the time I’m done if I walk anything more than half a kilometer or so. And by soaked, I mean sweat dripping from my temples and running down my back. Let me tell you, the discomfort of spending the day in a damp bra is a huge disincentive for that vigourous walk! I’ve learned to (TMI alert!) line the inside of my bra with paper towels, which is a little bit more convenient than carrying a spare bra but only slightly. I’d blame the summery weather but I was like this in March with my coat open in -5C, too.

And if I am a sweaty mess after a brisk walk, you can imagine the soaking, tomato-faced disaster I am after a visit to the gym or a 45 minute tangle with the lawn-mower and the ditch of death. We’re not talking patting a hankie on your brow, either, but towelling off in waves.

I heard somewhere that the more you sweat, the more efficiently your body-machine is running. Therefore, the more fit I get, the more I can expect to sweat. I’m thinking terry-cloth undergarments are the next step.

Can anyone else commiserate on this one? Any ideas on how to regulate your internal thermostat so it’s not quite so touchy?

PS more progress on the weight loss: down 7 lbs overall. Apparently most of that in sweat! ;)


I was already thinking about writing a blog post about Yoni Freedhoff’s book The Diet Fix when I happened to catch him speaking to Jian Ghomeshi this morning on CBC Radio Q. I’ve been aware of Dr Freedhoff, an Ottawa doctor who specializes in treating overweight people, for many years. I’ve been following him on Twitter for a lot of that time, and have occasionally read his Weighty Matters blog. While I have always found his opinions interesting, I have to admit that I have previously found him a little too strident in his views (and how he espouses them) for my tastes.

Maybe he’s become more moderate in his views, or maybe I’ve become more rigid in mine. Maybe I just never gave him enough of my attention to make a fair judgement. Regardless, between reading The Diet Fix and listening to him on Q this morning, I’m well on my way to becoming a fangirl.

If you’re struggling with health and weight and nutrition, I really recommend you give Dr Freedhoff’s book a try. He preaches embracing a lifestyle of moderation, giving you straightforward advice about how to re-think the idea of dieting and allowing you the flexibility to enjoy real food, including those occasional indulgences of chips, chocolate and ice cream – as long as it’s in thoughtful quantities that are the minimum amount that will make you happy. It’s exactly what I’ve already been doing, but it’s also given me some good insight into where I might have been deceiving myself and subverting my own efforts.

I know myself well enough to know that deprivation of any sort simply will not work for me. While I have great admiration for those of you who have succeeded on low carb or low fat diets, or who have eliminated sugar from their diets, I always knew that I would never be able to maintain that sort of diet. And if I did manage it, I’d be miserable. I’m a creature of comfort – I don’t like to be miserable. I do, however, believe in moderation, and that’s the thread that runs through The Diet Fix.

I keep thinking about one quote in the book: “You can’t outrun your fork.” Dr Freedhoff isn’t a fan of Biggest Loser style guerrilla exercise campaigns where you burn off excess calories with hours at the gym. I’ve been a little self-critical about the fact that I haven’t been making the time to work out more, so this spoke to me. He cautions that treadmills and elliptical often give a false and inflated sense of calories burned, and your body’s hunger response to all those burned calories is to crave – more calories. Instead, he asks “Is this a level of exercise you are comfortable committing to for the foreseeable future?” And he approaches calories in the same way: the amount of calories you should be consuming needs to be at a level you’ll be comfortable consuming not just until you achieve your best weight, but beyond that, too.

The nice thing for me is that I’m pretty much doing exactly that. I’m just over 1/3 of the way to my goal of 14 lbs weight loss about five and a half weeks in, which is not stellar progress but it is progress. I was going to crop this chart to take the actual weight out – but I’m going to take a deep breath and leave the numbers there. As some clever person said in an earlier comment, the absolute numbers really only offer true insight into my relationship with gravity. Ten years (and one baby and one miscarriage) ago, I was at 170 lbs and considering joining weight watchers because I thought I was too heavy. Now that’s my goal weight and I’m pretty happy with how I look just a few pounds over that. But it’s still tough to share those numbers. I’m pleased enough with the downward meandering curve to take a deep breath and post them, though I am cringing just a bit.

I remember when I had my big weight loss success in 2008-2009 having the idea in my mind “I don’t eat that.” At the time, “that” comprised doughnuts, nachos, chips and a handful of other things. For six months, I didn’t eat those things, and I remember feeling vaguely naughty eating chips and salsa at a New Years party that year, but giving myself “permission” because I’d reached my weight goal. It took five years, but I gained back about 80% of that weight in the intervening time. I’m hoping this time I’m able to find a balance, as the book preaches, that lets me continue happily eating this way for good – mostly on track, but with no forbidden foods and constant mindfulness.

I’ve capitulated to the fact that I must count and measure portions and calories, at least for now. I’m lazy about it, and I guesstimate a lot. I think if I were more diligent, I’d lose the weight a little quicker, but I really do appreciate the concept of embracing a relationship with food and eating that you will be comfortable maintaining for the long term. So I will happily trade slower progress for less stress in the getting there. To me, it’s as much about awareness and informed choices as anything.

I have to say, though, the chapter that most deeply affected me was called “Parent” – as in, how to parent a child who is overweight. This is a new challenge for us right now, and I really don’t want to say too much about it except to say that it is consuming a lot of my mental energy right now. I’m so grateful to Dr Freedhoff for this chapter, which I just read last night. While I have stratospherically improved in serving healthy meals at home in the last few years, getting the children to actually eat, let alone enjoy, those meals is an ongoing challenge. Dr Freedhoff’s recounting of changing his own taste for coffee from double-double to black over the course of months inspired me. He found it took roughly 1800 sips of coffee to retrain his taste buds to appreciate black coffee – and gave me great hope that maybe some day the boys will love quinoa salad, kale and seafood as much as I do. Only 1500 nibbles to go.

Anyway, this is not so much a book review as a brain dump. I picked up the book on a whim from the express loan section of the library, and although I have to say that I was more than 75% of the way down this road, I’m grateful for Dr Freedhoff for the ideas and inspiration on how to tweak my progress without depriving myself or setting myself up for future failure or regression. It’s a good book – if you’re interested in a healthier lifestyle that is the opposite of a prescriptive diet, I highly recommend it.


In which there is an app for that

by DaniGirl on May 19, 2014 · 1 comment

in Me, only better

Two weeks ago, I lamented that despite my best efforts, I had utterly failed to lose a pound and in fact, was losing the battle against the 10 lbs I gained in the last year. I whined that I did not want to count calories, that I was doing my best, that I did not know what else to do.

What a difference an app makes.

On the advice of a friend on Twitter, the very day I posted my last lament I downloaded the free My Fitness Pal app for my iPhone. Oh my goodness, how much do I love this app? I swear I am not shilling for them, but I am seriously impressed by this app. For one thing, it synchs automatically with my Fitbit, so while I log all my food and exercise for the day, it tells me how many calories I have burned based on my daily steps. Very motivating! You don’t need the app, as you can actually do most of the activities via the My Fitness Pal website, but I do like the convenience of having the app in my pocket.

And the whole counting of calories and measuring of portions is made much easier by the app, too. It has three functions I simply adore. First, you can scan the UPC code of whatever you are eating and chances are, it’s already in the database. Just enter your serving size and you are done. I haven’t stumped it yet – from Feta cheese to boxed pasta to dates rolled in coconut, every food I have scanned has been in there. The second is the amazing ability to analyze recipes from websites by simply entering the URL. It scans the page and pulls out all the ingredients and proportions. How cool is that? Sometimes you have to help it interpret a few items, but I find it runs about 80% accurate. Very, very cool! Third, you can chunk foods together as regular meals. We have fajitas at least once a week, so I keyed everything in once, saved it as a meal, and it’s just one click to add it every time we eat it. Same for my daily breakfast of cold cereal and 450 oz of coffee.

In addition to all that, it analyzes everything you eat for the day not just for calories, but for nutritional components as well. Apparently I am not as much of a carb junkie as I thought: I am regularly under on my ideal proportion of 50% of my daily calories coming from carbs and instead I regularly go over on fats. I’m thinking that’s my love of nuts, seeds, avocados and coconuts. And no wonder I haven’t had a cold in 18 months – I usually consume about double the daily recommended amount of vitamin C, but even with the vast quantities of very milky coffee I consume every day, I’m still falling short on the recommended amount of calcium.

(I am, ahem, also very glad that the one thing the app doesn’t measure is daily caffeine intake. A girl needs a vice or two, after all.)

Neat, eh? And the very best part is that I lost THREE POUNDS in the last two weeks! Well, actually I lost two, gained one, lost two, but hey, at least it’s progress! ;)

So I am a little more obsessive about the counting and measuring than I would ordinarily be comfortable with, but I have to admit that it is helping me make smarter choices. I figured out, for example, that I can have a small handful of baby carrots with a tablespoon of chip dip and that makes a surprisingly satisfying evening snack at about 80 calories – which I can ‘earn’ with about 20 minutes of walking. And I while I am reluctant to snack on high calorie foods like chips because I have to account for them, I can also choose occasional treats in moderation. Hellllooooo Starbucks macchiato!

What’s kind of funny is that I get so annoyed when I forget to put my fitbit in my pocket for the day, or can’t quite find the perfect representation of what I’ve eaten in the food database, that it’s easy to forget that it’s not what I capture in the app that’s driving my health and weight-loss but the other way around. The app might not see the sweaty hour I put in yesterday turning over a new veggie garden plot in the yard, but based on my muscle soreness this morning, my arse certainly did!

So yay for progress! According to yesterday’s update on the app, if every day were like yesterday I would be within two pounds of my weight goal in five weeks, which is conveniently when we are going to PEI. And while I may just “forget” to enter my daily calories when we’re on vacation, I’m pretty sure I can keep up at least the daily accounting without too much effort going forward.

Yay for progress!

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I will try very hard not to whine during this blog post, I promise, but I am soooo frustrated that I need some moral support, and maybe some advice.

As you might have noticed, I am really working on healthier living. I cook more than 90 per cent of our meals from scratch and I eat with purpose from whole foods. I’m very cognizant of just about everything I put in my mouth. I try not to eat sugar and I watch carbs in particular, although I have not cut out either one entirely and have no plans to do so. I’m also exercising diligently. I’ve ramped up my gym visits from once a week to twice a week, and for the last few weeks I’ve met my goal of walking 10,000 steps at least four days out of seven. For the last six weeks, I have been trying hard to lose the ten pounds I’ve gained over the last year despite my focus on healthier living overall, and for my daily and near constant efforts, I have lost – nothing. Well, I lost two pounds, gained one, gained two, lost one, lost one, gained two, etc.

I. Am. So. Frustrated.

My feet and knees ache with all the damn walking all the time. I don’t have room in my week for a third workout. I haven’t seen the inside of the elevator at work in a month (I work on the fourth floor) and I’ve switched to a further-away Starbucks. I am trying to eat with moderation instead of deprivation because I know deprivation isn’t sustainable. And if I were making any progress at all, even just a pound every two weeks, I’d at least feel motivated enough to keep working at it. I have to wonder, though, why the hell bother if I’m not getting any results? Pass the chips and dip, please.

You might remember I had great success with losing some weight after Lucas was born. It took me five months, but I went from 192 lbs to 165, and OMFG it was hard. I don’t want to work that hard again, but I also don’t want to lose that much – I’m just aiming for 12 lbs, which I thought was reasonable six weeks ago when I started. At the rate I’m going, I’ll be successful — in a year and a half. :\

I know the equation – consume less calories than you burn. Easy peasy, right? Gah. But when I start counting, I start getting obsessive. And also it’s a boatload of time and effort to measure and count everything, and I start getting anxious about what I’m eating and not eating and deserve to eat and should be eating, and I don’t like that road.

Vintage scale

So while I’m not ready to go back to the commitment of Dr Bishop’s clinic and the rigours of his plan (which I still have, somewhere – I remember it was 1200 calories a day) I’m thinking of maybe Weight Watchers Online. No meetings, I have neither the time nor interest in weekly meetings. But I know some of you have had great success with WW. I’d happily fork over the $60 for three months if I knew I’d be free of that damn 12 pounds at the end of the three months.

Any thoughts?


Thanks a million to the amazing Lynn Jatania for writing this very sweet feature on Postcards from the Mothership for the Blogs We Love column in the May 2014 in Capital Parent Newspaper!

Featured in Capital Parent Newspaper

I knew Lynn was writing the feature when she asked me for the photo (truth be told, I took that photo because I didn’t have a recent one to give her!) but I had no idea what she might say. I laughed out loud when I realized she was quoting my rant about the time the detailer refused to clean my filthy car in her feature. Yes, my bloggy peeps, THIS is my legacy. ;)

Lynn is a tireless community builder in Ottawa’s ever-growing online community. In addition to writing for Capital Parent and her own blog Turtlehead (which just celebrated it’s TENTH anniversary!), Lynn is also the brains and the heart behind Blog Out Loud Ottawa. Also? She’s one of the most genuinely lovely people I know.

You can see the online version of the article on the Capital Parent website (page 13!) and you can find paper copies at various locations including the Ottawa Public Library, Shenkman Arts Centre, Boomerang Kids, Dovercourt Recreation Centre, Kanata Recreation Complex, Tiny Hoppers, Fun Haven, and many daycares, arenas, and community centres all across the National Capital Region.

Thanks Lynn and Capital Parent for the kind words! I wish I could express how flattered I am to hear that you say that silly old blog and I make you and others feel good. I can’t imagine a more delightful compliment!


It went something like this…

*Ring, ring*


Hey DaniGirl, it’s the Universe calling.

Oh hey, Universe! It’s been a while! Always a delight to hear from you, though. What’s new?

Oh you know, the usual – lately I’ve been entertaining myself cooking up theories on black holes with Stephen Hawking. He’s a riot! But that’s not why I’m calling.

I wouldn’t think so. I love cosmology and am fascinated by quantum physics, but I never did take any high school science.

Speaking of things you never did – that IS why I’m calling. I saw you out there on the slopes at Calabogie yesterday with the Grade 6 ski trip.

Ha, did you? I had So! Much! Fun! I had chaperoned last week, too, although I have to tell you I was pretty much in it for the drive up and the photo ops. Watching the kids last week inspired me, though, so I screwed up my courage and tried it out.

You’d never been skiing before, right?

Not really. I went out once with some friends when I was 23 or 24, but I hated it. The chair lift intimidated me, I never got the mechanics down and I think I might have quit after one or two runs down the bunny hill, during which I barrelled straight down the hill screaming the whole time. Years and years passed and I never had the opportunity to try again, and as I got older my knees got quirky and I kind of wrote off skiing as something that I just couldn’t do.

So what changed your mind?

I was hugely inspired by the kids last week. Many of them had never skied before, including Tristan. A few of them were so frustrated and discouraged after an hour they wanted to quit and go home. But they got some one-on-one help and I could see them making amazing progress during the day. One of the moms in particular went out of her way to help Tristan and a few others, and by the end of the day he told me not only did he have an amazing time but he wanted his own skis for Christmas.

Sounds like a good lesson in perserverance for the kids.

It was! Tristan is like me – he doesn’t like to do something if he won’t be good at it right away. So I had that in mind when the second day of skiing came up. It was a little bit embarrassing being so clueless to everything, including how to get the ski boot into the bindings and even how to attach the ski pass to my jacket. But everybody was terrific, from the friend who attached my ski pass to my jacket to the instructors who seemed to take a special interest in getting me through the basics.

Lookit me, I'm a skier!

So how did you do?

I had only one goal in mind for the day. I wanted to ski once down the bunny hill, preferably not barrelling straight down and out of control like I did 20+ years ago.


Well to my great surprise, after an hour or two I was feeling pretty comfortable on the learning side of the bunny hill. I moved through the drills pretty much at my own speed, and instructors would stop me every now and then with corrections and pointers. On the other side of the bunny hill was a little test course, and the kids had to ski it to the instructors’ satisfaction before they were allowed to on to a lesson on the big hill. I started out the day with no real goal beyond one run down the bunny hill, but after a while I thought maybe I would even try that out. The first time I tried it was a little embarrassing – it was too steep for me and I lost control. Rather than sweeping down the slope in big turns, it was 1993 all over again and I was shooting straight down like a cannon ball.

Trust me, it's scarier than it looks. Bunny hill indeed!

But you didn’t give up.

Nope. Back to the practice run I went, over and over again. I had to convince myself to go inside and get some lunch, I was having such a good time. By mid-afternoon I was getting tired, but I’d become comfortable on both sides of the bunny hill and could control my speed and direction far better than I’d ever expected at the beginning of the day. I only fell once, and I was nearly at a dead stop when I did – I just lost my balance and tipped over sideways. Getting back up on my feet was the hardest part of the day!

So did you feel like you’d done what you’d set out to do?

Oh, way way more than what I expected. I was ridiculously pleased with myself not only because I exceeded my own expectations of myself, but because I wasn’t done yet. The wonderful friend who helped Tristan and his friends get their ski legs last week had remarked on my progress and offered to accompany me on the chair lift for a run down one of the big hills. Although the logical part of my brain was telling me to quit while I was ahead, I knew I had to try it once.

Good for you! Were you scared?

Terrified. But sheer donkey-ass stubbornness has gotten me through a lot in life, and this was to be no different. As it turns out, one of the instructors who had been helping me on the bunny hill hopped into the chair lift line beside us, and between him and K they offered me tips and advice on the ride. What I think they were actually doing was distracting me, because the chair lift brought us up about three times higher than I thought it would from the ground. As I often do, I was imagining my fate splayed across the front page of the Citizen: “Mom of three maimed in freak ski accident.” I’m glad they were there to distract me from myself.

My ski instructor, protector, human security blanket, videographer and new BFF!

Where are the scenic photos from the top of the hill?

Ha, that’s a measure of how freaked out I was. It never even occurred to me to pull out my camera, although the views were stunning. In fact, I hardly took out my camera at all during the day – that, too, is a measure of how much fun I was having. There’s very little that will pry that thing out of my hands for long!

So how did you do on the big run?

Well I don’t know how people do this without their own personal ski instructor and safety blanket, but I really felt like K made all the difference for me. She told me what to expect from each section, warned me on the steeper bits and even told me not to be surprised if she grabbed by jacket to slow me down if she thought I was out of control.

And were you out of control?

Only a couple of times for very brief interludes, but K never had to intervene. I wiped out once, and pinwheeled my arms frantically another couple of times to get my balance back, but I think I was pretty good most of the time. The hill was way WAY bigger than I’d anticipated. By the time I hit the bottom of the run I was positively drunk on adrenaline, pride and terror – that is a powerful cocktail!

So you hopped right back on the chair lift and went for another run?

Hell no. My knees were shaking so badly I could barely make it back to the chalet. I kicked off those skis and called it a day, but I was beaming the whole time. Turns out you can teach an old dog new tricks!

Well done! You proved something to yourself.

I sure did. In the grand scheme of things, learning to ski down one hill may not seem a huge accomplishment, but I really feel like I proved something to myself. I overcame my fear of being embarrassed about not knowing how to ski – or even attach my ski pass! – and proved to myself that I am perfectly capable of doing something physical like this “at my age.” I’m pleased that Tristan saw the whole thing, too. It was a great day all around. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll consider a family ski trip before all this infernal snow melts. If nothing else, I’ve still got two boys’ worth of class ski trips to look forward to!

You were worried about being sore today from the exertion. How are those knees?

My knees fared better than I expected. They’re a little tender today, but I was expecting worse. My shins and the tops of my feet ache from the ski boots and my core muscles all the way up to my shoulders are a little tight today, but I feel pretty good. Heck, I even got a bit of colour from the sun – didn’t even cross my radar to put sunscreen on my face as it was supposed to be cloudy verging on rainy, but we had hours of blazing sunshine. I never expected to soak through my clothes in sweat, either. It was a day of unexpectedly pleasant results!

Great to hear, DaniGirl. Now don’t be so quick to assume you can’t do something – or worse, are too old to do something – in the future.

That’s the best thing I learned yesterday, Universe. Thanks for calling, always a delight to hear from you!


In which she takes a stand against make-up

30 January 2014 5 things

Sometimes a blog post needs to percolate in my head for a while. This one started out as a vaguely apologetic examination of why I’ve gotten out of the habit of wearing makeup lately, but the more the idea fermented, the less apologetic I was feeling. In fact, I’m feeling rather defiant about the whole [...]

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One year with Fitbit

10 January 2014 Me, only better

Just about a year ago, I bought my Fitbit Zip. What’s a FitBit? A funky little pedometer with its own app and social component. I like the pedometer part, but it’s the stats and bar graphs that I truly love. (Beancounter much?) So far I’m as impressed with the fact that I’ve stuck with it [...]

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Why you might be seeing a lot more of me in 2014

2 January 2014 It IS all about me

Ah, the selfie. Celebrated. Reviled. International word of the year for 2013 and also at the top of words to banish for 2013. Clearly it’s a polarizing idea. People love them or hate them. I love them and hate them. I really appreciate a well-done selfie – when they’re insightful and show something about the [...]

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Flashback fave: The Reindeer Rant

13 December 2013 Flashback faves

My old friend Nick, who has endured this rant more times than I can count, was asking for this on Facebook last week, so you can blame him for the recycling yet again of this hoary old favourite seasonal post of mine. Did you think might get through one Christmas season without the annual Donder [...]

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