Sunday, April 25, 2010


Today, I bought a new journal to record my nutrition and exercise. The one I chose has a two page spread to record all the information I want to record daily. I finally decided to take my doctor's advice and try to pay attention to the fat vs protein ratio that I am ingesting. She basically wanted me to invert the two types of nutrients. The Weight Watchers journal I was using records a number in which calories, fat, and fiber are the inputs in a proprietary algorithm that comes up with the mysterious Points value (TM). While using the new journal is going to be time consuming because I have to look up and record a number of bits of information about a food's nutrition, I think I'm going to like having more data rather than less, particularly about the fat vs. protein ratio.

I've mentioned before, I think, that I don't have any full length mirrors in the house, having taken the breaking of one during our move to a new house seven years ago as a sign that maybe I didn't need a full length mirror.

I should have replaced it.

As part of the goal setting section of the journal, there is space for a Before/After photo spread. I took a picture of myself in my underwear (and yes, this journal is being kept in a fireproof safe ringed round with adamantine chains). What a horrifying thing to see oneself in this way. I look like a balloon woman who has had been blown up by a malicious little boy giant.

Time to get that mirror. And no, you will not be seeing me do this on my blog at any time at all. What a brave woman that Jennette Fulda is -- funny too as her memoir, Half-Assed, attests.

Monday, April 19, 2010

"Mama, Don't Get F-a-t, O.K.?"

Peggy Orenstein's article in this week's New York Times Magazine hit home with me. I know that my complicated, hate-hate relationship (actually, I suppose a hate-hate relationship is pretty uncomplicated actually) with my body poses many risks for my two daughters and THEIR self-perceptions. I've already mentioned that Chickadee #1 is sensitive to my weight. She's not sensitive in the same way that I'm sensitive -- when I was upset by what she said to her friend, she hastened to tell me that "I was only talking about ME, Mommy, not YOU. I was just saying that I wouldn't be fat... I wasn't saying anything about you...," in all innocence.

So, I trudge forward, hoping against hope that I will become magically motivated and not be discouraged by the plateau I've been stuck on for months. Thing is, I don't WANT to diet. I don't WANT to become obsessed by every morsel that passes my lips - that's why I really had a difficult time with Weight Watchers -- journaling takes too many brain cells that I have to devote to other responsibilities. I want to be "normal", like other people who are not dogged by this dis-ease. A few observations on those lines:

  • Today, I had to do some grocery shopping. Because I also had to deal with a broken washing machine before I left which took a lot more time on the phone than I'd anticipated, I managed to time my shopping expedition with Chickadee #2 right at lunchtime. So, before we did our shopping, we had lunch in the little grocery store cafe. I had a cold cut sub (ham and cheese on Italian, with lettuce and tomatoes) and Chickadee #2 had a slice of cheese pizza. Seated right beside us was a young girl. I noticed as I sat down that this lovely young girl was munching down, with apparent gusto, on a salad from the salad bar. As I began my lunch, I reflected that this was the difference between her and me -- she chose a salad, and nice trim figure, and I chose a sub, which probably contained the same amount of bread that this child ate in a week. My task, the only thing that is going to make positive change in my life, is to make choosing a salad from the salad bar as automatic as choosing a ham and cheese sandwich is at the moment. I also have to ensure that I don't arrive at the grocery store starving because I've only had a quarter cup of milk and 20 goldfish pass my lips by 12:30 pm.
  • I think that my perceptions of "normal" are completely abnormal. A case in point is body image. I've managed to go for the past 7+ years without a full length mirror in my home (the full length mirror I brought to my marriage shattered during our move to our present home and I haven't replaced it). Truth be told, I don't want to replace it, because I really don't want to see myself. When I pass plate glass windows, my gaze seldom travels below my shoulders and I've already discussed the discomfiting feeling working out in the gym has caused me.
  • I've been told many times that inculcating a new habit takes twenty-one days. Three weeks of going to the gym and swimming pool. Three weeks of drinking cranberry lemon juice vinegar concoctions. Three weeks of journaling. Three weeks of meal planning. Trouble is, I have been so resistant to dedicating those three weeks. They seem insurmountable. But, as I've said, I'm a great beginner.
And, in a final, and unrelated note, can I tell you how disgusted I am that the "fitness assessment" I have been being urged to do at the gym since I joined (didn't want to do it then because my knee was still in trouble) was actually just an hour long commercial for physical training sessions? I mean, I didn't need some 30 year old guy to tell me that I'm fat, okay? I actually already know that. I didn't need him to tell me that I have pretty okay strength in my arms, but need to work on my lower back, or that my balance is crappy. I also didn't actually need to be sold on training sessions. I'd be the first to sign up if I had the money, but I nearly fainted when the price chart was revealed (always the last step). 800 dollars for the "package I'd recommend for you" -- 3 sessions per week for a year. When I explained that these prices were actually much greater than my monthly discretionary spending budget (my husband and I allocate a certain amount for our "allowances" -- discretionary money that we are not accountable to one another for and which doesn't figure into the detail of our monthly budget), the very nice young 30 year old who bragged to me that he had such low body fat that he sank to the bottom of the pool like a stone) presented much "better prices", the best of which is fully one third of my monthly discretionary spending, and that for 3 half-hour sessions per month. Sigh.

Well, onward anyway!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Nutrition Science with the Chickadees

Today, my real-life and blogging friend, Susan (WhyMommy of Toddler Planet) is undergoing surgery for a locally metastatic recurrence of the Inflammatory Breast Cancer she successfully battled two years ago. Susan is a fantastic person, an inspiration, and one of the most intuitive and least neurotic moms I know. She also happens to be an astrophysicist who is dedicating her life and career to promoting women in science.

In honor of Susan as she undergoes surgery and prepares to begin another course of radiation, Stimey proposed that Susan's supporters take part in a virtual science fair to show her how much she inspires us, not just as a cancer survivor, but also as a woman, mom, and scientist. So without further ado, here's a little something I like to call "Nutrition Science with the Chickadees".

Our nutrition science activities included (1) sitting on our behinds and watching (thanks hulu) two segments of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution (the "making of chicken nuggets" horror and the "beef fat in the dumpster" scariness) and then discussing whether we should want to eat chicken nuggets and things that are fried and brown, (2) an inadvertent experiment that happened when a bag of McDonald's apples was, um, left too long in Mommy's purse, and (3) an experiment testing the fat content in food.

First, the chickadees watched with great interest and growing disgust as Jamie Oliver created chicken nuggets from a chicken carcass, chicken fat, stabilizers, flavorings, breadcrumbs, and oil. We discussed whether those things were good for you and why they might be or might not be. I'm happy to inform you that both girls thought chicken nuggets were disgusting, unlike the children on the program. We also watched a few minutes as Jamie poured one week's worth of chocolate milk (more sugar than soda), sloppy joes, and other disgusting cafeteria foods into a large tarp, demonstrating for parents what kinds of foods their children were being given at school. In the most horrible revelation, he had a truck empty the equivalent of all the fat the school consumed in a year into a dumpster. Blech. It makes me glad that Chickadee #1 goes to a school that doesn't serve lunch most days, leaving the onus on me to provide nutritious meals. Unfortunately, on the days that her school does serve lunch, the lunch consists of either pizza, with a choice of chips, ice cream, or apples, or hot dogs and sloppy joes, with a choice of chips, ice cream, or apples.

In the "accidental experiment", Mommy found a bag of apple slices that had been marinating in her purse for several days. When asked, Chickadee #1 said that it looked like "great big, puffed up balloon". We discussed the fact that carbon dioxide is a gas that is released when organic material, like apples, decay. Usually, we said, the gas is released into the air and you can't see or realize it but, in this case, the apples were sealed in a plastic bag, which meant that the gas couldn't escape and was trapped in the bag. That meant we could watch what happened. We tried to wait to see whether the bag would explode from the pressure of the expanding gas, but impatience won out. We pierced the bag and smelled the gas. "Yuck," was the consensus. Chickadee # 1 didn't think that it smelled like anything apple-related. I'm glad to know that they don't recognize the smell of hard cider (which was all I used to drink when I was in graduate school in Ireland).

Finally, we got to the real experiment. Here, we tested the fat content of various foods (mostly Easter leftovers - we don't have ham, potatoes drenched in butter, and cheesecake (or asparagus, for that matter) on a regular basis) by rubbing them on brown paper and holding the paper up to the light. It was a delightful experience for me as I watched the Chickadees actually do a science experiment and draw the correct conclusions. I got to explain what a hypothesis is and to teach them how to think about what they did. It was fantastic and funny, and my favorite quote was:

Mommy: "It's okay to get a little messy...."

Chickadee #1: "It IS science."

So, for your viewing pleasure, here is our whole experiment of "Nutrition Science with the Chickadees". Sorry about the "hacking up a lung like a three-pack-a-day" smoker. I've been hard hit with allergies and reactive airway disorder is acting up. I should have done the breathing fish (Chickadee #2's name for the nebulizer) before we started -- she has RAD too.

I can't get blogger to upload the video, so I'm posting it in segments on YouTube.