Monday, September 28, 2009

Time away

Carmel and Big Sur

What is there to say about a weekend away in Carmel, alone with one's husband of 10 years? Just too fabulous to put into words. Photos are here, which will account for many thousands of words.

I could go on about any number of topics related to my trip, such as being alone with my husband, life goals and choices, natural beauty, seeing old friends, but I'll stick to topics pertinent to this blog.

The trip was well timed, although completely unplanned on my part - it was for a wedding. But it was a special treat to have taken this trip post-body transformation. I think I was more relaxed and able to enjoy myself than I would have been if I was still losing or God forbid before I started this. This trip was a true celebration of 10 years of marriage, and for me also, of the last 9 months of work. Our actual 10 yr anniversary was in June but we waited to celebrate until this trip.

We only had two days to sight see, attend wedding activities and have fun. In addition to meandering around Carmel and driving to Big Sur we also went running on the beach, sloshing through waves and hopping over massive sea weed mounds, and just enjoying doing something active and outside together. I love climbing on rocks and found it noticeably easier with my strengthened quads to scamper up the jagged coastal formations. Dave and I even went shopping in a store so fancy that we received a thank you note in the mail today. Apparently they want us to enjoy our new shirt and dress. I don't think we've ever spent
so much time in a store like trying on tons of dresses and skirts, and him waiting and watching and picking out a shirt of his own. We really were acting like different people.

I did alright guessing at appropriate portion sizes when served soccer ball-sized salads full of cheese and nuts. It's kind of hard to know when to stop in those circumstances. And while I tried to make mostly good choices, I also ordered morning glory loaf (carrot cake sans cream cheese frosting) with my coffee, knowing it was ok to do on vacation, but not fretting that I would drop my guard and suddenly order a huge loaf of cake every time I stepped into a Starbucks.

Like my dad before me I am always the photographer and rarely photographed. This is partly because I don't trust anyone else to take a good photo and recently was sort of due to not liking how I looked. This time however I went wild with the auto timer and let myself be in plenty of photographs (those rock formations come in quite handy for the auto timer), not exactly thrilled with the budding wrinkles, but certainly not concerned that I looked fat compared to my in-shape husband or the other women around. The California wedding guests really did live up to their in-shape reputation, and it was really fun to watch everyone head down to the beach barefoot in their fancy dresses. Dolphins even swam by just before the ceremony!

We really wished that we had one more day of vacation, so that the travel time to vacation time was not 50/50, but our Fall is quite complicated so it was not to be. Next time!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Favorite cookies...

I know I blather on all the time about how bad sugar is, but let's face it, we all need some sometimes.

For the first few weeks of my diet I banned sugar altogether, as part of a cleansing away bad habits/retraining my brain project, but now I have sweets in moderation. I have developed a habit of eating 2-3 small cookies after dinner. This serves two purposes:
  1. I have a small dinner, and it is easy for me to keep eating, especially as I'm in the kitchen cleaning up, making lunches, putting leftovers away. It's so easy to pick and have a second dinner. So it is my Pavlovian cue that eating is over. It usually works, but not always. I used to force myself to wait until I was done cleaning the kitchen - kind of a reward, but I've given up on that!
  2. I want something sweet after dinner. Don't we all?
Here are my two favorites, both from Trader Joe's...I try to have only 60 calories worth. They're uber-sweet so it's not
that hard. I definitely stay under 100.

The Righteous Rounds (26 cal each) are a little bigger, have a weird taste, due to having vegetables in them, and are super, lip-puckeringly sweet. For some reason I'm addicted to them, despite their odd taste, as is Alex. I try to eat only 2-3. I eat enough vegetables that I don't need to hide them in cookies, but I like these anyway.

The whole gain chocolate chip cookies (16 cal each) are new from TJs, normal-tasting cookies, lots of normal pantry ingredients (brown sugar, whole wheat, butter, chips, walnut meal) also a ton of sugar and extra fiber (chicory root). I just like them. I do not eat cookies to get my fiber intake, but I do like that they are made as healthy as possible while still being tasty. I mean, why not make cookies with whole grain flour? I eat 3 of these. Natasha prefers this kind.

I also sometimes have 5 or so of the kids' gummy bear vitamins instead.

I have gotten pretty good at controlling myself, but it is easy to go overboard. I don't usually eat say 10 cookies, but I may have some cookies, a few handfuls of sweetened cereal, and then a few gummy bears. Still, not like a hot fudge sundae, but it is amazing how quickly a "good" habit can turn into a bad one.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

For what it's worth...

To those of you think I don't struggle any more, last week was really hard. I was starving all week - a full 7 days. I are extra to compensate but I could easily have eaten twice the normal amount I eat, no problem. It was PMS but I just don't like how my hunger is so consistent day to day and then inconsistent week to week. Even in maintenance mode, I shouldn't be eating 2500 calories, but I easily could have done that last week. By the end of the week I was on vacation and eating pretty much what I wanted so I didn't notice and then today finally, I feel back to normal. Very frustrating!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Bean soup

My soup recipes are very filling and keep for days. My French Women Don't Get Fat Lady has a whole thing about soups as being necessary for maintaining a healthy weight. Kind of annoying but true. I used to make soups a lot but went through a soup-making hiatus after a very bad pregnancy experience that involved smelling turkey stock all day. It put me off that stocky smell for years. I'm over it now.

So any soup is delicious with a solid stock to start with. This is non-negotiable. If you have a Jewish mother (and maybe if you don't) you already know this!

It is possible to buy homemade stocks from fancy grocery stores, if you don't want to take the time or mess to make stock. If you include the stock-making, bean soaking aspects of soup-making, they can be daunting. But you get used to them and can get in a groove and it's not that bad. This is where weekend cooking, or planning is helpful. There is no shame in purchasing home made stock. It's still cheaper than buying lunch out. Also after the soup is made you can refrigerate it for days or freeze it in small portions and then you have a delicious dinner or lunch in just a few minutes in the microwave. I like to freeze it in ceramic containers, and then take it out and let it defrost in the fridge, when I notice the fridge is looking empty.

I used to make stock with a whole chicken, but got tired of picking out the meat, so now I make stocks with leftover or purchased bones and make soups without the actual chicken meat sometimes. Sometimes I do it the right way, burning my fingers, pulling off the meat, but it's pretty time-consuming and messy. I eat a lot of chicken on salads and grilled, etc. so I don't mind making soups with meat or chicken stock but vegetarian ingredients otherwise.

Bean soup

-1 package "17 bean soup" or whatever it's called - just a big bag of mixed beans.
-1 batch home made chicken stock, salted to taste. big pot-full (store bought will taste very mediocre)
-celery, carrots, onion chopped, about 2-3 cups worth
-1 can diced tomatoes
-huge bunch chard (either big bag of pre-washed and chopped, or farmer's market dirty variety. doesn't matter)
-1/2 can tomato paste (optional, depending on how tomato-y you like your soup)
-2 bay leaves

(Here is how I do it...make sure chicken stock is on hand. Or make batch on weekend.)
Soak beans overnight. discard water, rinse.

Simmer beans, bay leaf in stock for 40 min or so. When beans feel about half done add all other ingredients and simmer for another 25-30 min.

Pick out bay leaves. Enjoy.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Cabbage soup

This was an adapted form of a soup my mom made when I was little. Super filling and nutritious.

-1 head green cabbage
-3 celery stalks
-1 small onion
-3 small carrots or 2 large
-2 big cans chopped tomatoes
-1 small can tomato paste (you can use just 1/2 a can)
-2 boxes Trader Joe's beef stock (the only brand I like)
-1 package oxtails or other stock-making bones
-2-3 bayleaves
-salt and pepper to taste
To make it heartier, and far more caloric, you can add stew meat to the oxtails. So brown oxtails and stew meat, and then put stew meat in at start of process. I've done it both ways, but realized it was hearty and meaty enough without the actual meat.

  1. brown oxtails
  2. while oxtails are browning chop up all veggies, cabbage can be in big 1 inch chunks but carrot, celery and onion should be smaller.
  3. drain off most of fat, saute onion, carrot, celery in small amount of oxtail fat. (very bad I know)
  4. put bayleaves, browned oxtail, canned stuff, stock in pot. bring to boil, turn down heat, let simmer for about 30 min.
  5. put in cabbage and browned veggies, let simmer another 20-30 min, until soup looks done and cabbage is really tender.
  6. add salt as needed, but there is a lot in the broth already so be conservative. Add pepper if you like it.

that's it! pull out oxtails and bayleaves.
  • This is a GREAT soup to make a huge batch of and freeze.
  • I put it in a plastic thermos for work and eat BEFORE lunch, then have a smaller lunch, like 1/2 sandwich. It's a very low-cal and filling soup. Also good for an afternoon snack. Will really keep you until dinner.
  • Great with a crusty bread.
  • Note that it really only needs half a can of tomato paste but since I always end up throwing away the other half of moldy tomato paste a few weeks later I just started putting in the whole thing. It makes it very tomato-y though.
  • The traditional recipe has vinegar and sugar in it but I stopped adding both of them after I forgot one time and still liked it.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Recipes - healthy pizza

While my self-indulgent musings on all topics related to weight, fitness, cooking, feeding a family, body image, food shopping, clothes shopping etc. are fun for me, some people have expressed an interest in something that is actually useful to them, like recipes. God forbid. I do think I've offered general food ideas - swapping out non-fat Greek yogurt for sour cream in salad dressing for example, or some bulk cooking tactics, but I don't usually post actual recipes.

I have reiterated many times that I do not use recipes, but I will try and distill some for the purposes of this blog.

This is something my family loves. Not particularly dietetic but I try and have just one reasonably-sized piece.

Healthy pizza
- quick and easy weeknight meal - not necessarily low-cal, but very healthy

-one bag Trader Joe's or other brand 100% whole wheat pizza dough (I should add that this is no longer enough to feed my family and it barely feeds my husband and kids even when I have one small piece.
-shredded cheese (now this is where I use 4 cheese Italian blend from TJs, and NOT low-fat as I hate it and rarely eat cheese in large portions. However if you like low-fat cheese then by all means use it.
-one tub Trader Joe's pizza sauce (probably has a lot of sugar. I'm not looking)
-toppings (chopped veggies, ground beef or turkey, chicken sausage)

Ok, so follow directions on bag of dough. Use most of tub of sauce, use cheese probably more sparingly than I did. I have lately been adding meat to our pizzas. I know this is horribly caloric, but I limit myself to one piece and either a very large green salad or bowl of soup eaten before the pizza.

I like to have ground beef, ground turkey, sauteed chicken sausage slices either leftover in the fridge or in the freezer. Makes a huge difference in week night dinner food prep! And frankly you can't fit that much meat on one slice. I haven't been using too many veggies on the pizza because they make it soggy sometimes, the kids don't like them, and Dave and I eat tons of veggies already. But those are kind of silly reasons. At any rate, don't get sucked into the idea that if you make a veggie pizza you can have 3 slices. Not true!

And I know this doesn't list calories, amounts of slice sizes, but it's the best I can do. I cut the whole pizza into about 8 slices, I have 1 (2 would be preferable for me), Dave has 3 and each kid has 2. So I can work on figuring out the calories next time I make it. I'm guessing 6 (5-7) points for pizza with reasonable amount of cheese and low-fat meat. Or something like 350 calories.

Now this is a hard thing to eat just one slice of...I mainly succeed because I need to leave the rest for my family members or I'll have to make them more food. But it's a yummy treat! Kids can help make too of course.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Soccer snacks

Perhaps I'm a curmudgeon. This past weekend we started our foray into organized sports. All in all, it was really fun. Dave is assistant coach for Natasha's 1st grade girls team and since we were too wimpy to manage two soccer schedules in addition to karate, tennis and art, Alex is not playing on his own team and instead is assistant assistant coach. It's pretty adorable - except for the sibling rivalry part when Natasha pushed Alex to the ground during a game of stuck in the mud.

At any rate, Natasha did well, actually running, trying and even scoring a goal. She has a tendency, like her mother, to be a bit lazy. Unlike her mother she has her father's competitive streak, so I guess that combats the laziness a bit, and did in fact, propel her to try on the field.

So after the triumphant first game, it was lunchtime. I had packed a cooler with relatively healthy snacks, including peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on whole wheat bread, trail mix, yogurt, pita chips. Nothing super healthy, God forbid, like a carrot, but I hadn't gone shopping yet.

Alex found time to eat a yogurt and sandwich during the game. After the game, an incredibly thoughtful, generous parent put out a few bags of snacks. He had bought enough for the whole team, which I thought was beyond sweet. The snacks were Oreos, Goldfish and Capri Sun fruit punch. I implored Natasha to eat only one so there would be enough for everyone but then the parent kind of sheepishly said, "We bought enough for each girl to have one of each - if you want." He wasn't chastising me, just explaining that there were indeed enough packets.

So rather than stage a pitched battle with my daughter in front of all the parents I had never met, I let her have one of each, but wouldn't let her drink the Capri Sun. I'm sure it was something like 600 calories of crap (a kid that age needs about 1300/day) and of course she didn't eat lunch.

I was so irritated. Not with the man, he was just being nice. But partly with my giving in to let her have both, and before lunch no less, and partly with the whole culture. Why does every kid event have to involve the expectation that 30 grams of sugar will be ingested? I was clearly the only parent concerned about this and someone even said something like, "They just ran around, they're enjoying it, relax" but in a much nicer way.

I think my problem is as follows:
  • Natasha has no self-control where junk food is involved and I want her to gain some.
  • She doesn't get much exercise when she's not swimming so she can't eat tons of junk food.
  • She has my butt and thighs!
  • I don't want to set expectations that every outburst of energy is rewarded with Oreos, as if the children will perish of malnutrition if not immediately replenished with a sugar- binge.
  • I should have just put my foot down and let her meltdown in front of everyone. Well - maybe not. There is a time and place for everything.
And most importantly,
  • By the time she's a teenager I want her to have developed an innate sense of healthy eating. She should know intuitively what is appropriate in terms of content and portion.
This is a bit of a pipe dream, I know. But it is a fantasy goal of mine.

I remember being a skating rink once, and I saw a Korean-American family enjoying a snack of dried fruit. The kids were chewing happily on their fiber-rich snack. No one whined about wanting Pirate's Booty. I couldn't imaging being in that place. The kids are too exposed to junk food too often. This is where my beef is with the culture as a whole. We all knew a kid growing up who wasn't allowed to watch tv and then went on play dates and sat mesmerized in front of the television the whole time at other kids' houses, as if they were in a trance, completely unable to play or do anything else. My kids will certainly not be those kids. They eat plenty of junk food and watch plenty of tv. But I just wish the sugar/fat/white bread/pizza cabal weren't so dominant.

We'll see what happens next Saturday. Certainly lunch will be eaten first.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Premium Denim

Please note - that photo is from a web site - and that is most certainly not my behind!! I wish!

Despite some of my recent posts I actually really hate shopping. I'm kind of enjoying learning a bit more about fashion and trends in general, but I'm not enjoying slogging through stores, picking out acceptable items, getting frustrated by the price, the lack of availability in my size or color, and taking dozens of outfits on and off. I am having fun looking at the pretty pictures on web sites of already put together outfits on models. Two very different endeavors. And shopping at Cindy's was kind of the best of both worlds. Everything was beautiful and already laid out on the bed for me. And everything was almost my size, albeit a bit small. But at least I could see the general idea.

So I'm overwhelmed at needing an entirely new wardrobe. Once it gets cold I'll either be wearing two pairs of jeans to work every day, which are already too big, or I'll be wearing summer clothes. So I must find some stuff. I'm hesitant to do so because I am not sure if I will stay at this size, or go up or down a few pounds as the winter months wear on.

At any rate, many people have been encouraging me to purchase some premium denim. I couldn't be less interested. I have so many things to buy and the idea of spending $180 or something I can get for $40 is just not practical to me. And what on earth is the purpose of these fancy pants? They don't seem to feel any different to me.

Well, despite this feeling, I found a pair that I love while browsing at one of the fancy stores in Bethesda. And on top of that, they have some gold stitching on them. What is wrong with me? So sassy and adorable. I wan't to tempted to buy them as they didn't have my size. One pair seemed to fit, but the young sales girl told me they were way too big, and the other pair were too small and I couldn't button. I have been told by many of these sweet, knowledgable sales girls that the jeans should be as tight as humanly possibly when purchased as they will stretch so much. Not sure how I feel about this but it sounds painful. I do have to say that I do have jeans that seem to fit and then stretch out quickly.

So we'll see. I'm not sold just yet. But I'm weakening.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Hardest workout ever...

Another post about exercise. I'm not sure why exercise is so much on my mind lately. Possible reasons...
  1. Silly article about how exercise makes you fat. Already wrote long post about this but figuring out the most efficient way to exercise to improve fitness without ending up starving is kind of tricky.
  2. I have achieved a bit of muscle definition and it's kind of fun to have it so I want to make sure I maintain it.
  3. Indya asked me a question about it the other day.
  4. Morning schedule changed so I have to rethink my exercise routine in general.
Well anyway, personal psychology aside here is my story. So today it was pouring and instead of leaving for work I was cruising exercisetv on demand and found that my favorite trainer, Marco Reed, has a new workout. Did an alien inhabit my body and type that sentence? I can't believe I just wrote anything about a favorite tv trainer. He is pretty dreamy though, with his slightly slow-voiced California "I like what I'm seeing" gentle encouragements. And I really do like the combinations in routines. Lots of twisting and variety. This new one was listed as 40 min and I figured with warm up and cool down it would be perfect - 34 min or so. I saw that it said "hard core" or something but I figured that I'm in good shape now and that it would be fine.
Well, I did not know what I was in for. I was ready to keel over after about 2 min. This workout makes Jackie and Jillian seem easy! There is NO warm-up. You just go right into various squat-dumbell presses or impossible plank-push-up torture moves or burpee-style jumping combinations. I literally had to go upstairs half way through and have a few bites of yogurt just to keep going. I am sure this workout is fantastic for burning calories and building muscle. He kept saying that it was the most efficient way to spend 40 min and that it was a super advanced workout etc. and that even 10 minutes of this would be great. He was calling it an anaerobic workout, which means it's muscle building not cardio. I don't even know if Dave could do this. I challenge any of you to do it with your husbands and see how they do. I immediately did all push-up exercises on my knees. I did try to use my 8 lbs most of the time, but did some 5 lbs too. But it was kind of fun because there were so many different exercises. By the way - no cool down either. No stretching, no relaxing, no 'you did it' chit chat. Marco and his studly back-up trainers finish the last sideways-lunge-side-arm-pull, Marco gives us a "good job" and goes back to hang out with all the hotties in his LA gym, leaving me to heave my weak-kneed body up two flights of stairs, contemplating working up to doing that workout properly, and feeling a little alarmed at how far I was from doing so.

Despite feeling very loser-like and incapable, I did do most of it (military-style push-ups aside) it was fun to feel like I had pushed it to the limit and was ready to sit on my arse at my desk at work all day. So here I sit.

You can find in on exercise tv on demand (Comcast) under "hard core" and it's called "Rock Hard Total Body" OR you can purchase for computer here for $7....once you download it you can burn it to DVD for playing on a tv, or you can play it on the computer.

Good Luck!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Well I tried it. I entered all my measurements into and answered all the other questions as well. I felt a bit like I was taking a Meyers-Briggs test. At any rate the site immediately spit out a Calvin Klein dress in blue in my size. CK is my favorite designer and blue looks good on me, and it's in a style that Cindy was recommending I try and that does in fact flatter my body shape. So so far it's a hit - although I didn't actually order anything and see if the clothes really fit or not.

I'm really enjoying window shopping and online browsing and not buying anything - except a pair of awesome slouchy Uggs. I figure it takes a while for it to get cold here so why not wait until there are some sales. I also like learning new things and I've been so utterly and completely alienated by fashion for so long that I haven't paid the slightest bit of attention. It's kind of fun to learn a new vocabulary and understand various looks. Plus it's something I can do with Natasha. We went shopping for dresses and she picks out what she likes and even helped me find what I liked - she asked me what shape and colors I like and looked for those items. The other day she saw me on Zappos and asked to do her own searching. So I helped her search girls/red and she picked out the most adorable pair of Chuck Taylors! And I let her get them as we had been entirely negligent in teaching her to tie her own shoes. She basically never owned any tie shoes. So they came and Dave taught her. Volila! I will post a photo as she's so adorable in them.

Will keep you updated on

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

To exercise or not to exercise....

There has been much hullabaloo about the merits of exercise with regards to weight loss. One example....Below are my completely unscientific thoughts. First of all, the studies are kind of missing the point. I mean, they're making an ok point, which is that statistically speaking, it has been shown that exercise makes people hungry so they eat more and don't lose any weight. But the take away should not be that you don't exercise. I think the take away should be that you fine tune your exercise to be as efficient as possible, and learn to manage your hunger and eating patterns so that you're not overeating. You don't need to be a statistic.

I will accept that reducing calories to something along the order of 1400 per day, give or take, depending on various factors, is essential, even more essential than exercise. I tried for many years to exercise in the form of power walks with 3 lb weights, eat healthy (few sweets) but not seriously restrict or even monitor my calorie intake, and the result is that I was 45 lbs heavier than I am now! Or perhaps the better way to look at is: Nine months ago I cut my calorie intake (probably in half) kept the same healthy foods, and upped my exercise to be almost daily as well as focused on muscle building, not just cardio, and I pretty handily lost 45 lbs and gained tons of muscle definition. I just can't imagine what would have happened without the exercise. Especially for people with desk jobs, where the metabolism is slowed to a crawl most of the day.

Below are some observations based on nothing more than personal experience.
  1. Exercise can be both mentally relaxing and physically beneficial. But sometimes just achieving one or the other of those two things has to be enough. We can't always have the perfect situation. So if it's beautiful out and you have a kid to watch, take a nice outdoor walk and enjoy yourself. Or if it's raining and you're feeling tubby, put in the dvd and be done with it. The ideal exercise situation will usually not present itself when you are managing a busy life. My own personal love was rollerblading along the Charles riverbank. For years after moving out Boston proper my logistical inability to do that just meant I didn't want to do anything. Those days of rollerblading along the Charles are over! Accept it and move on. Finally I did. I climbed a dusty staircase with stuffy air all winter long and just made the best of it. And it turned out to be fun. I loved my talks with Abigail.
  2. Long outdoor walks of moderate intensity are very cathartic for the fresh air, easy to do with kids who like strollers, result in some (7lbs) weight loss especially when done with weights. At some phases in a person's life this is plain old good enough! Remember I have no babies or toddlers any more.
  3. Exercise - moderate or intense - for more than 45 min will definitely make you hungry.
  4. You don't have to kill yourself right away. You can work up to killing yourself when you're thinner!
  5. Exercise does not have to mean being tortured with sprints and drills for 2.5 hrs a day like high school sports. That was what I thought being "athletic" meant and I knew I couldn't do that so I never even tried to push beyond power-walking.
  6. Short "power-sculpt" sessions burn calories and build muscles. Proponents include Jillian Michaels/Bob Harper of the Biggest Loser and Jackie Warner, as well as most professional gym trainers. Power sculpt is 20-30 min of non-stop low-weight/high-rep weight training. usually 60 seconds per exercise, with a focus on burning out particular muscles until they're completely fatigued. It's kind of in-between cardio and anaerobic weight lifting, so heart rate is always up high, multiple body parts are worked and results are very quickly achieved. A focus is placed on large muscles which burn lots of calories when made bigger, as well as some kind of embarrassing focus on vanity muscles - toned upper arms, etc. It always surprises me on the DVD how open they are about the vanity aspect of things - "You want to look good when you go out at night, don't you?" I mean, how ridiculous! But I'm ok with my vain side now.
  7. Slowly cycling through weight machines at the gym is a monumental waste of time! If you're sitting on your behind for your whole exercise routine that should be a clue that it's not an effective routine.
  8. Exercising does not mean you get to eat huge blueberry muffins post workout.
  9. Extra eating is sometimes essential. I tried to not eat the first 100 calories I burned, but maybe eat the second 100 calories if I needed it.
  10. I think there is a point of diminishing return with jogging. Perhaps around 4 or 5 miles/day? Not sure but I'm no where near that point. But muscles need some variety in order to keep building.
  11. I read someplace that swimming makes you hungry because your body is fighting to keep its temperature up in the cool water. Not sure about the scientific merit of this assertion, but swimming and skiing definitely do result in ravenous hunger for me. All in all though, it's such a great exercise if you can control your hunger.
  12. Gym memberships are generally a huge waste of money. They may work for a few months at a time but inevitably something changes - kid's nap schedule, gym babysitter you like, another external conflict, your favorite spinning class moves time, etc. Just get some free weights and clear a space in the basement or living room and use a DVD. Or jog outside. Or something else simple and cheap.
  13. 30 minutes in and out. You must be able to achieve your exercise for the day in 30 min. I now do more, about 45, but for the longest time it was 20-30 min tops.
  14. Do it as many days a week as you can, at least 5.
  15. Know your mental limits. Understand when your life is just too crazy and don't kill yourself. You will have a less busy time. Babies grow up. Work slows down. Accept it and plan to do more at a specific date in the future. For example when child turns 2.
I remember one time about 2 years ago we took the kids on the trail I guess with a jogging stroller, and Dave wanted to go jogging. This was my first day upright after a 2 week horrible sinus infection. I was so exhausted and weak. And I was WAY out of shape and overweight. I jogged for about, oh maybe 25 seconds and practically collapsed in a heap with burning lungs. I think Dave wanted to divorce me right then and there. He got really annoyed and mean and I was so upset I almost killed him. He was horrified that I was so fat and out of shape and we were not one of those families who could "do things" like go jogging together. He hates jogging by the way but it was something we could do with the kids... I was so upset that he had no comprehension of, let alone sympathy for, my weakened physical state post-infection (and these were almost chronic by the way) and I was also embarrassed at my pathetic general out of shape-ness. I mean, if I hadn't been just getting over the sinus infection I probably could have run for 90 seconds, instead of 25 seconds. All sorts of emotions welled up and I think we barely spoke all day. It was awful. He met me in my Charles River rollerblading days, and thought he married an athlete. He always accuses me of the bait and switch. Really I just loved rollerblading. Poor man.

Obviously things are better now. I can now easily run/walk on and off for about 35 min. And I arguably have a better stomach than my husband, although he has no stretch marks!! He will always be a better athlete than me. I'm just plain not competitive enough. My point is that it is possible to work up to things, but you also have to recognize that it takes baby steps. You don't need to be made to feel like you're going to die to get in shape. You do need to push yourself, but not to that high school swim team please-kill-me-now-I-beg-you feeling. And as you lose weight it gets way easier to haul your body around.

Start small, push yourself as much as you can and you will improve. And you may, like me, even start to like exercising. Stake out your exercise time with your husband as something you really need. He will come around to granting you the time, without eye-rolling, and you'll have time to yourself without guilt.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Ruining my daughter

I'm afraid I may be damaging my daughter. Not in the way you might think. And not just me but everyone who talks to me. Natasha is extremely perceptive, aware, and self-confident. The combination of these traits has meant that she has heard every comment anyone makes to me about my "weight-loss" or "skinny body" or whatever term they use. She also hears me and Dave talking in ways I would never speak in public, "Can you believe I can wear this?"

Natasha is a pretty good size for her age, although she has my exact body and tends to get big in the butt and thighs. We of course struggle daily about how many sweets she can eat, etc. and aside from her eating more desserts than I would like she eats very well overall. She is also very impressed with her own cuteness and beauty. This I find a bit horrifying - and so different from my own attitude as a child. I mean I want her to be self-confident but she will stare at herself admiringly in the mirror for the longest time, clumsily swaying her hips around and pretending to sing like Hannah Montana.

So recently she has really internalized all the compliments I'm getting. She is proud of me, and brags to other people, "My mommy is really skinny now" in the same way she brags about having a pool at her beach house (How she inherited the Cape house from my mother I don't know but she seems to think it's her house.). But the most unsettling new trend is that she is aware of her adorably perfect little figure, which frankly is a bit too mature and curvy for a 6 yr old in my opinion, and likes to show it off. She asked to pin up her tankinis to be bikinis so she could show off her stomach (like my bikini??) and when we shop she wants "clothes that go in here" pointing to her middle. She doesn't like shirts with a sweet empire waist and billowing bottom because she thinks they make her look fat.

Oh God.

Where is this going? She hasn't had her 7th birthday yet!

This is almost all translated from things she heard other people say to me, or me say to Dave, but certainly not me saying things to her. I have started to talk to her about portion size when it comes to desserts, as she will literally eat herself sick if allowed. For the longest time I shielded the kids from hearing about my diet at all, but now, it's pretty hard to do so. My body is a constant topic of conversation! Even I can't believe the transformation and sometimes mention it at home. And to be completely truthful, recently, I have explained the correlation between too many desserts and getting fat (before it was just about 'being healthy' or 'not getting sick off desserts' recently as her gluttony is just over the top. But for years I never even used that word in front of her because I didn't want it in her repertoire. Like many 4-5 yr olds, especially perceptive ones, she asked several women with big stomachs who weren't pregnant if they were. So we worked REALLY hard on learning to never comment on how adults look at all. Not their size, skin color, clothes, smell, etc.

But now she hears people comment on how I look constantly. It's a problem. It should settle down now that we're not on a tour of old friends and family any more. But she has absorbed every comment she has heard - and in true Natasha form, instead of becoming nervous or self-conscious about body image, she has found yet another thing to boost her ego.

Who is this child??? And what will happen when her hips pop out and her thighs start to jiggle?

Oy. At least bathing suit season is winding down!

A day in Cindy's closet

Yesterday was oodles of fun. My friend Cindy and I dumped our respective children with our husbands and spent the day trying on everything in her fabulous closet, walking around Georgetown, eating a lovely Italian lunch and shopping. What could be better?

Cindy is not merely a svelte mommy. She is a fashionista mommy. She works in the fashion industry and always looks fabulous. No walking around in yoga pants for her. In addition, she's one of those women who eats whatever she wants, doesn't exercise and always looks fantastic. For some reason I think of svelte mommies as people who go running and are wise in the ways of Weight Watchers Points - even when not officially counting. Just my definition but since I made up the term I get to define it.

Cindy obviously has a closet full of fabulous clothes. She is a size or so smaller than me. (This fact I still can't get over. We met when we were in 7th grade and ever since then she's been about 5 sizes smaller than me. She was confident and adventurous enough to be on the diving team while I was slogging away at the bottom of the swim team, hating being in a bathing suit even at 12.) I went to her house to pick out some things to borrow for the various events I have coming up but also to get a sense of what I like and what is flattering now that I can wear different things.

Now this was fun. I should have had her take pictures for the blog. It seemed like a vain idea at the time, but I'm sure the 5 of you who read this would have had fun critiquing along with us. In addition to the fantastic dresses I borrowed, I loved most of all squeezing into (although not buttoning) her skinny jeans, and pairing them with a tank top, a long purple flowing bohemian sweater and some knee-high leather boots. It is a look that I love and never thought would be in my repertoire. Most of her dresses were a half a size too small, which was frustrating to both of us as she just had them all tailored to be half a size smaller. But she had a couple that weren't tailored yet, including an elegant Alexander McQueen, which I'll wear to my cousin's wedding in October.

We discussed all sorts of things, neck lines, sleeve styles, dress lengths, colors, waist detailing, skirt shapes, accessories, shoes. It couldn't have been more fun. I still have flaws and trouble spots, but so do most people and they just seem like a puzzle to work through as opposed to the insurmountable obstacle otherwise known as 'trying to disguise the size of my ass' that I had to deal with daily for most of my life.

I actually learned a lot, and I think Cindy did too. She is starting a business around styling so I was a good customer for her. Kind of like someone who lost everything in a fire!

I came away with my formal event issues solved, as well as some really good ideas for how to build a wardrobe from scratch. I need to look for a few extremely versatile pieces, and get some bright funky accessories that can be switched out at low cost. I'll buy a few nice items but not a ton. I'd rather spend more on fewer items. She explained how stylists "own the clothes" and look at what a piece can be, with some tailoring. For example she had a super useful and lovely white denim A-line skirt with big buttons all the way down to about the knee. I tried it with several blouses and belts and it always looked awesome. I was commenting on how it seemed to be in-between pencil and A-line shape and she told me that she had it tailored to be that way. It was super-flattering and easy to walk in to boot!

I'll post some photos when I get the shoes and other accessories to complete the outfits.

Friday, September 4, 2009


OK - I'm so completely embarrassed. I just now, 7 months in, realized that the blog spellchecker does not automatically highlight misspelled words. Well, sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't. So Dave pointed out that I spelled despair wrong. How horrifying! I am the worst speller. I'm tempted to go back and change them all to have correct spelling but I really don't have time.

In other news....we have a new schedule in our house, which is forcing me to change my exercise habits. In general the change is great, but it is hard to change existing exercise habits! I will try my best to not use this as an excuse to not exercise.

This weekend, in addition to doing a million errands and chores, I am purchasing clothes for many upcoming family events. I'm actually kind of dreading it. I just don't like shopping! I' mean I'm looking forward to hanging out with my friend, but not to the actual shopping. It's amazing to me that even in the shape I'm in things still are hard to find. Most things I can put on and button and look passable but very few things are truly flattering for my body and age. It's hard to dress one's age I've realized! And I'm trying to be budget conscious as well. And I hate anything above the knee on me.

I'll stop at Anthropologie on the way home and try out my photoblog uploading skills if I find anything good.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Don't despair....

For those of you who are finding the quest to lose 30ish lbs to be too long, to arduous, too depressing, too unattainable, please don't despair. I know my path seems too good to be true. I still get asked what I did - and people are not satisfied with "diet and exercise" as an answer. I didn't have any set backs, I didn't cheat, I didn't backslide and I've been far more successful than I ever thought possible. I have a six-pack! I mean, it's a pretty weeny six pack, but it is there. I must be very annoying - posting all my after shots and story after story of people telling me how I'm an inspiration.

But here's the thing. I didn't really even try until Alex was four and a half. That's a HUGE difference between me and those of you with tiny kids. And I have a low-stress flexible job, as well as a husband who is fitness-obsessed and who encourages me to take time for myself to exercise. This was not really always the case. I mean, he would say, "fine, go" in a kind of annoyed voice, which he thought was being supportive. But now he's truly supportive. We're both far less overwhelmed by our children than in years past. And I didn't get one single sinus infection or other out-for-the-count illness since I started in January. This is unheard of for me and extremely lucky. Those sinus infections wipe me out for weeks at a time. There were many cases in the past few years where I would make a bit of an exercise effort, would get derailed by a sinus infection and would then just think that focusing on diet and exercise was just out of my emotional reach.

I also think I picked really good diet and exercise plans. WW has an excellent system for determining amount. I already had a very strong sense of nutrition and cooking, and I chose very effective workouts. Stair-climbing, jogging, cardio-sculpt are all really super-effective muscle-toning and calorie-burning activities.

And I have written before about my support network. Fantastic! I would never have done the stairs every day without Abigail. And I would never have made it through the first few months without Jennifer. Knowing that she had been successful and asking her constant questions was really extremely helpful to me as I readjusted my mindset.

You do not need to go at my pace or achieve my "better than when I was a teenager" results. I mean, it's nice and all but it's not necessary. You guys can all do this. Do not let a setback derail you. I'm so impressed with your progress so far. Everyone is in such a better place emotionally. It is possible and it is worth it - at whatever pace you find reasonable.