end-of-year goals

About halfway through November, I realized I didn’t set any written goals aloud but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been working towards some. I recently met with a nutritionist who I talked to about trying to lose enough weight to get within my healthy zone — I know that more than weight counts for health and I’ve been definitely working on my health this year. I have lost twenty pounds with minimal effort and have maintained that loss through many trips and even more cupcakes. Still, I want to match that loss in 2020.

With the nutritionist, she recommended I actually increase my carbs intake. I’m certainly not on a low-carb diet and I eat lots of potatoes but she recommended using more oats, brown rice, and pastas. I also talked to her about incorporating more plant-based meals into my life. Before I met my husband, I rarely ate meat because I won’t touch raw meat and thus won’t cook it — it’s really easy to eat plant-based when you refuse to handle any proteins. I decided to largely go back to that (and take my family with me). My husband was easily on board because so many of his runner friends told him that moving toward a plant-based diet would help improve his running time.

Incorporating more grains and eating less meat kind of go hand-in-hand in my mind, so this has been a fairly simple transition. Trader Joe’s makes it easy enough to buy meatballs if the kids want to add meat to a pasta dish and last week, we bought a rotisserie chicken and my husband broke it down so that there was the option of adding chicken. 11 & 13 (especially) are big on meat eating; 4 is like me — he could take it or leave it. This is a central part of our end-of-year goals; basically, intuitive eating with foods and nutrients.

Additionally, I have been focusing on moving more. I have struggled to get into a routine and my nutritionist asked why I felt the need to be in a routine. She suggested I look into ClassPass, which has been great. My old yoga studio in the city participates, as do several in my immediate area — these classes coupled with my gym membership on campus and my at-home cardio equipment and weights should have me covered. So, my goal is to get to at least two yoga classes a week — I can typically fit them in on weekends and then take further advantage on days my husband works from home. On other days, I can just do cardio at home or use the spin bikes/Expresso workouts at the gym.

So, my goals around fitness are to keep on this path — do what I feel like doing and if I don’t feel like doing anything, try to talk myself into getting in a 10-min yoga video or a mile run. So far, this has been working for me and I’m hoping to continue to push forward with continuing this way.

Lastly, I’ve been straightening my hair more regularly, which has given me a big boost — hair, eyeliner, and mascara accompanied by high-waisted ‘mom jeans’ and crop sweaters.

With all this being said, here’s to ending 2019 in such away that encourages me to keep eating carbs and plants, moving my body in ways that push boundaries and ways that make me feel healthy, and getting myself ready for tasks like the grocery store.

bad medicine

Last weekend, 4 and I went on an adventure to our nation’s capital: There, we visited playgrounds, went to the National Zoo with friends, and dined at TrueFood more than once — we also ate doughnuts and pizza! It was a really decadent weekend, full of mommy-4 time and I loved every second of it. 4 is now an expert at train travel and taxi travel (thanks to the RideSafer) — the number of compliments he gets at the airport for getting his own bin and putting his backpack and jacket in show his savvy when it comes to air travel.

Along our journey from northern VA to the zoo, we got out at Farragut West and walked around for a bit. We were running early and I wanted to show 4 where I used to work (across the street from the WhiteHouse). I pushed him in his stroller a bit and we made our way back to Farragut North to take the red line train to Woodley Park. We took the elevator down to the lower level and then went to board the next elevator to the train platform when we ran into our first joint encounter with a woman who was clearly in a space. Of course the elevator wasn’t working, so we turned around and had an employee turn off the lock so we could access it. As we waited for the elevator, the woman had a very boisterous moment which was followed by taking pills.

All in all, 4 was exposed to language and activity I’d rather not him see but realized that at some point I would need to address. Given 4’s life experiences, I always want to have an open line of communication when it comes to drugs and experimentation. This is something my husband and I have spoken about tirelessly and always figured we’d start addressing this deliberately at an early(ish) age. So, when 4 asked why the woman was screaming, I took it as a chance to open the doors of communication.

I wasn’t sure how to really approach the idea of drug abuse, but given that two of my cousins and an uncle lost their lives to overdose, I felt like I could deliver information about the habit/behavior without judgment/lessening the value of the person; thus, I introduced him to the term of ‘bad medicine’ and I explained that sometimes people take bad medicine because they want to feel a certain way or feel better about things but instead it makes them sick. Then, we talked about how we can’t take Zarbees (honey cough syrup) when we aren’t sick because it won’t work the right way with our bodies.

Keeping things in line with 4’s understanding and allowing the lines of communication to remain open are of the utmost importance when discussing such heavy matters. Considering, he has been talking about this since shows that he is processing what we talked about and what he saw — which leaves me hopeful that as he grows, he will continue to work to understand the epidemic facing our society, show empathy, and make the best choices he can.

cry when you get home

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of taking 4 to DC to celebrate his birthday (belatedly) by visiting BeiBei at the National Zoo. We had a blast and I logged nearly 25 miles on foot over the course of the four days there. Traveling with a toddler isn’t all panda bears and doughnuts, though; my son goes to bed at 7:30PM each night and we try to stay on schedule when traveling, thus I had a bit of time to read on my phone in the dark each night (because if I went to bed at 7:30, I’d be up and ready to party by 3AM).

One article I read over the weekend was about teacher burnout in urban school settings: https://www.inquirer.com/opinion/commentary/teachers-therapy-trauma-philadelphia-20191107.html

In this article, it was mentioned that a PD session implored teachers to be strong for their students and thus need to maintain their cool until the school day ends. This brought back so many memories of behaviors and conversations I’ve had with fellow teachers I’ve worked with.

When I started teaching, I loved the work I did — I spent countless hours planning and reading and preparing and prepping for my students’ success. After two years in DC Public Schools, I learned of an opportunity in northern VA that would cut my commute and seemed like a similar enough fit. I took my skills there and eventually became a department chair before leaving for MA. I’ve been teaching at the community college level for the last nine years and still have the same emotional load to carry as I did when I first began.

For years, I’d cry the duration of my morning and/or afternoon commutes. The weight of my students’ plight sat heavy in my heart and many days, I couldn’t really handle the thought of what a weekend or school vacation brought to their lives. My physical and mental health suffered and I used many sick days battling illness and/or tears. I thought that when I transitioned to higher education, I’d leave behind all of the fret I dreaded each day.

I was wrong.

The last two years have increased my stress-load; especially last year when I had a handful of students who partook in a form of self-harm. Again, managing the emotional load took a toll on me — I was drained of energy and filled with dread to take on my days. In some ways, I’m grateful that students are more aware and willing to share their experiences so that they can receive the help they so dearly need; on the other hand, the empath in my really struggles to separate the school day with my personal life.

Taking time off to figure out how to move forward career-wise has been good for me. I’ve been able to spend tons of time with my family and am in a much better headspace (I’m sure all of the yoga helps with this too). I am wondering how the emotional load changes when moving away from urban education and into more suburban settings. Believe me, I understand that all districts have their issues — I’m just trying to figure out how to balance the emotional load with the work and personal loads.

I am hoping that this time I am using to stay at home with 4 and reflect and take classes will help guide my thoughts and release my mind so that I’m fresh to go when 4 is ready to start kindergarten; until then, I’ll keep getting myself into healthy habits so that I can be set up for as much emotional and physical success as possible when the time comes.

meal of the week

I have been trying to think about how I could blog about our meals — I enjoy keeping a running record of our favorite things and always enjoy reading other people’s favorite meals. This week, I am going to showcase my favorite breakfast: Stuffed Acorn Squash.

This recipe is from True Roots (P11) and always feels like such a decadent choice for Sunday brunch — there are only four ingredients and with sugar-free sausage, it can be Whole30 & Paleo. Sausage, Celery, Egg, and Acorn Squash complete this dish — we always sprinkle with hot sauce too.

Bonus: You get to eat out of an acorn squash!

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This is one of those meals that you eat for brunch and you’re full throughout the way but there’s no guilt with any side dishes, be them fruit or mimosas because you’re putting so many nutrients in your system to start the day.

We will probably make these again this coming weekend because we enjoy them so much and we know the kids will have a nice, healthy filling meal before our family date date takes over and everyone is filled to the brim with sugar.

What are some of your favorite breakfasts?

september goals, updated

I have thrown out all of my September goals and have started over.

I have been working up the nerve to try to a box jump for the last two years. On Friday, at the gym, I did it. I did ONE box jump and it was not graceful and it was kind of scary BUT… I DID IT. I think I’m still on a high from this! I’ve been visiting the gym on campus because 1. I pay the fees in my tuition and 2. I still haven’t found a yoga studio of interest. So, in addition to testing the waters of box jumping, I have also started to do tire flips.

I’m not going to lie, tire flips really make feel some kind of way — strong, fierce. Today, I did three. I am not doing a lot of them and am being cautious about form. I want to make sure I’m in a deep squat and use my trunk to move the weight of the tire instead of my back. I really look forward to seeing how much I can progress with this once I start back with yoga.

For the rest of the month, I’m going to set a goal of continuing what I’m doing and find myself a yoga studio (or at least test out a yoga studio a few times). Now that 3 has started preK, I have a few hours a few days a week to find a studio that fits with the schedule. I also ran into our babysitter at the gym on Friday and she offered to come on weekend mornings for yoga or running. I am trying to figure out how we can best utilize her with our crazy schedules and hers and this seems like the most ideal situation for us. It doesn’t give us time together, necessarily (unless we are running a race) but it does allow us some alone time doing a physical activity that keeps us sane.

In addition to the deliberate working out, I’ve been trying to log 3.1 miles a day on foot — this is from a combination of dog walks, playing with my son, errands, walking to get ice cream, and parking further than usual from a building. I’ve done pretty well with this and while it’s a goal, it’s not something that I try to focus on, so I don’t typically carry my phone around the house with me. (Fortunately, 13 keeps tabs on it and always knows where it is, which makes one of us.)

I figured if I put the update into the universe, I’d be more vigilant about continuing to try box jumps and tire flips and will find myself a new yoga studio…

 

guilt free foods

Let’s talk about “guilt free foods” for a moment. I felt inspired to discuss this when I opened an email from FindMeGlutenFree about “Guilt Free Brownie Bites” — huh?

Now, I don’t know about you, but food doesn’t make me feel guilty. I love desserts, I’m the first to admit. There is plenty of guilt to go around, especially as a mom, but we all need to draw a line somewhere and for me, this is where.

I spend a lot of time thinking about food and planning our meals. One of my goals for this year is to be more mindful of finding balance in my life, diet included. I’d like to slim down a little and lose some weight (health reasons, not merely vanity) and I’m working hard to figure out what works best for my body. I spend a good bit of time reading and researching various recipes. I’ve talked with my doctor numerous times and have met with a nutritionist. Finally, I feel I’m making progress.

Over the summer, I tried WW. I think that it’s too restrictive overall for my liking, in that I’m only allotted ~1200 calories a day. Sure, that number increases with the “zero point food” but I don’t think I’m eating 400+ calories of chicken breast and plain Greek yogurt. I will say, though, that I definitely saw a trend by tracking. I am really good about eating something for breakfast and sugary breakfast foods are not my friend because they just make me hungry. My big issue is that I often skip lunch or have “snack lunch” which never bodes well for me. This is something I’ve become mindful of needing to change. I will miss lunch because I’m busy and then 3PM rolls around and I basically eat nonstop until after dinner.

Whole30 is part of what has helped — while the foods didn’t necessarily work for me, I learned that fat is not evil and I probably need more of it in my diet. What I do not need, however, is a ton of meat — high protein/fat does not work for my body. I love fruits and vegetables and it’s easy to take in a lot of produce, and focusing on that not only works well for my body but also puts me in a good headspace.

After Whole30 a few years ago, I learned that I’m allergic to yeast and as a result, gluten and refined sugars are never going to work well with my body. I had been gluten free completely for years but then there were things that came up (a few trips coupled with a couple deaths in the family and I went completely off the rails with gluten). I got back to being mostly GF and then our kitchen collapsed and I spent the better part of last fall eating takeout and fast food. Since the kitchen was remodeled, we’ve been back to cooking wholesome meals that are more in agreement with my body. I have a few cookbooks I really like and am really looking forward to The Defined Dish’s cookbook that is set to come out.

Despite my eating preferences, I do not feel guilty if I eat something whether it be purposefully or on accident that doesn’t align with my body’s needs. I usually feel sick, but I tell myself that tomorrow is a new day and I try to pick things up and move forward. I like pizza; I like nachos; I like mac & cheese; I like cake; and as childish and gross as it may be, I like Bagel Bites (not even the organic ones but the chemical ones) — but I don’t need any guilt associated with these foods, and neither does anyone else.

Ultimately, this rambling is really about understanding the importance of disparaging titles attached to foods. There really shouldn’t be — we should all just be concerned with what makes our bodies work and what we can afford and what works for us. It really bothers to me that my kids grow up seeing that they should feel guilty for indulging in a treat or should be shamed for eating something that’s not terribly healthy. At some point, I think it’s vital to change the way we look and talk about food — and also how it’s marketed.

/endrant

(On a side note, I go back and forth and back and forth about getting a fitness watch of some sort — I think they’re neat and I’d love a more accurate read of how many calories I burn doing exercises; however, I know myself and I know that I become obsessed with numerical goals like this. Every time I say I’m considering getting one, I weigh my options and always come back to doing what is best for my mental health — steering clear. I do not need guilt from food, nor do I from fitness…)

(Second side note: I wrote this before my trip to PA and set it to publish at a later date. When I was in PA, my mother talked incessantly about calories – so much so, that three started to ask about how many calories are in an item; then, I returned to MA to my MIL who also obsessively talked about ‘bad’ foods and needing to ‘be good’ with eating. She’s doing WW now and everything is about how many points it has… it was all too much for me. I try to dabble in structure but it just doesn’t seem to work because I don’t want to model the concept of demonizing food for the kids. With 3, I worry because he’s never gaining enough weight for his doctors to be pleased; despite the fact that all he does when he’s not moving is eat, bathe, or sleep…)

 

 

 

weight watchers & more

In June, I had my annual exam and wanted to address my weight frustrations with my doctor. I’ve been asking my PCP for years why I can’t lose weight and she never offers any advice or blood work; she just shrugs and says it’s not a big deal. Maybe to her, it’s not a big deal, but for me, it feels like I am constantly working hard to be healthy and my weight stays the same. I want to be within the normal amounts on the BMI and not just slightly above, so it is important to me to be able to lose a little weight to get there.

When the new year started, I went back to yoga and was eating healthier. I felt like I wanted to put the healthiest of foods into my system and while I saw a change in how my clothes fit and noticed that my strength was increasing and 5k times were decreasing, I did not see any movement on the scale. How frustrating! I know that non-scale victories are important and I am typically all about them but when you’re trying to drop 15 pounds to hit a goal, they don’t seem as important.

At my annual, my doctor told me to try WW. She’d done it the previous summer when she wanted to lose 10 pounds. Apparently, she’d gone to a conference with a nutritionist who recommended it due to the nature of the glycemic index of the foods. Okay, I figured this seemed good enough and I gave it a go. I ordered the app and started using it.

The app is easy enough and the setup with the zero point foods works well for me. I learned that most of the foods I naturally eat are zero point foods and it seems that where I lose my healthy eating is when I miss lunch and then start to snack at about 2PM and that lasts until dinner where I continue to eat and eat and eat. This is a trend that I noticed pretty quickly (and was aware of it to some extent before this). I used the app from June-August with minimal deliberate exercise (walking the dog and at the beach, mostly) and lost just under 10 pounds. This was good enough for me.

I think that there is value to the program but I can also see how it could feel restrictive or too tightly wound. I am considering canceling this month and using my instincts in September. When we did Whole30, I was able to largely cut out snacking unless I’m actually hungry, which is good and with this, I need to keep in mind that even if I’m not super hungry at lunch, I need to eat. I am thinking that being armed with these pieces of information can help me devise my own plan that mixes pieces of what I want and need.

While I can appreciate the approach, and I see that it definitely works, I think that I need something a bit more fluid. I don’t want to be tracking calories or points or anything else with any regularity. I think that I need to find the balance I once had where I could eat anything but I can’t eat everything; that is the mindset that works best for me.

My goal for September is going to be to eat more salads and raw vegetables with the Greek yogurt ranch for lunches. Dinners are typically loaded with vegetables anyway, but I’d like to get more during the day. I also want to try and keep the frozen foods I like more for weekend treats. We love to do Sunday Funday Football foods — wings; wontons; dips… I want to keep the rest of the week simple: stews, soups, meat & potatoes, etc all with vegetables. I’m looking forward to getting back to the cookbooks in the fall and finding meals that work for us all while lacing an occasional Sunday brunch at home in there (complete with sparking juice and fanc-i-fied meals).

So, while I think WW has been a good summer experiment and I think it’s a good way to start and evaluate what and how I eat, it is likely not something I’ll want to continue long term.