Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Birthday Week: heat wave, picnics, and family visits

Autumn! You are so very necessary this year, what with all the fire and fury of our hot, dry summer. Even I am almost ready for you.

My birthday was yesterday, and it was on a day so hot that even I quailed. I had to teach some preschool classes in the morning, and by the time I met my sweetheart and biked to the PNE for some deep-fried meat and other healthy snacks I was so exhausted and irritable that I couldn't quite give in to the carefree enjoyment that a trip to the fair demands. I even snapped a few times at my poor love, who is so swamped with work and yet still took time off to cater to my wishes because it was my special day. (Sorry, Jay.) We got our coveted free-entry stamps so that we could come back to the fair that evening and see Tom Cochrane perform, and then we biked (so uphill! much panting!) to Black Rook Bakehouse because I needed birthday cake, dammit! But as I slumped, sweaty and defeated, over my Molly Cake, I had to accept the fact that

  1. nothing could take the place of Blacksmith Bakery's peerless Chocolate Guinness Cake, which I'd had in Fort Langley on my birthday last year, and 
  2. It was just too hot for sugar, even though (or maybe especially because) I've been cutting back so drastically on it lately.
Luckily, things started looking up once we got sensible and dragged ourselves over to New Brighton Park for some much needed r&r. Not right away though, because I'd just bought myself a Knapbag. Are inflatable couches all the rage where you live? They certainly are here. Unfortunately, my couch didn't come with instructions, and therefore I took out the plastic lining inside of it, not realizing (silly girl!) that you need those liners, because that's where you trap the air. Whoops. 

Utter despair. 
The bag, of course, wouldn't inflate properly. I was hot and frustrated and furious. With myself, natch.  What a waste of 60 bucks!

Luckily, Jay is made of sterner stuff, and he soon figured out how to re-insert the lining. Thanks to my love, I was able to lounge comfortably after all! And he appreciated it too, because he could use it as a backrest while he sat and sketched, which was part of the work that he needed to do. Win-win!
Much happier! 

We stayed here for about 5 hours. I, of course, spent some of that time in the pool. I felt much more human again after a quick dip. 

Later, we went back to the fair to watch Tom Cochrane and Red Rider play. Although we were both tired, the air cooled as the sun went down, and Tom played a great set as we cheered and sang along in the night air. Honestly, these fairground shows are mostly nostalgia acts, meaning you'll often see performers in their waning years, but many of them are still super-tight, sounding great, and seem genuinely happy to be there. Tom had tons of energy, and his voice was as good as ever. I can't think of too many bands that are more quintessentially Canadian than this one. 
Rockin' out. 
Two years ago, my birthday plans (almost identical to this year's) were foiled by some epic winds and rain, which closed down the PNE for a while. This year, the epic-ness went the other direction, with temperatures that got up to over 29 degrees. Even I, with all my love of sunny days, found this one to be simply too much. It is greatly to Jay's credit that we were able to have a lovely time despite the blistering weather. 

As usual, I like to spread my birthday over several days. Why have one celebration when you can have three?

Last Saturday I had a little picnic in another local park. It was very last-minute, and very small. I panicked about inviting people for several reasons:
  1. Vancouverites are infamous for saying they'll be somewhere and then bailing.  
  2. This trait gets even worse in the summer. 
  3. What if I set it all up and then the weather changed? (This was the dumbest concern, as it hasn't rained in over a month.)
  4. Did I really want a large group of semi-friends, or just a small group pf people I really wanted to see?
In the end, I went with a small group of friends. I had my band, my boyfriend, and my mom. And a shit-ton of food. We hung out, we drank illicit alcohol in the park, we played music, we ate (not as much as we should have- I bought waaaaayyyyyy too much stuff), and we sunned ourselves. It was easy and perfect. 

The next day, my dad and his girlfriend arrived for a quick visit. Thanks to the weather, it was also easy and perfect. We ate dinner en famille on Commercial Drive. We walked over 15km around downtown and Stanley Park, much to the delight of my dad's girlfriend, who's hardly ever been to Vancouver. And on their last night we simply barbecued steaks in my back yard, invited my landlord to join us for dessert, and sat in the summer darkness: me, Jay, landlord, dad, and girlfriend- just talking and laughing and enjoying family time.  It was a delightful birthday week. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Appetite For Destruction

I had an ice cream today.
Actual ice cream not exactly as pictured. It was actually a double scoop
of Earnest Ice Cream's Strawberry Swirl and Salted Chocolate, in case you care. 
I really hate that it's even a thing I have to think about, let alone feel guilty over. I mean, God, I just went for over a month without having a single dessert so I could break sugar's hold on me and maybe lose a few pounds and get healthy and all that crap. It started slow, while I was still in Saskatoon. It felt hard, damn hard. But by the time I got home the self-discipline had taken hold and I was rockin' it, you know? It even started to feel good.

Then I levelled up: I started biking everywhere. Taught some music classes on Granville Island: biked. (Easy- not even 30 minutes from my house.) The next week I helped teach a creative drama camp in West Van. Did I want to take the bus every day? I did not. I got on my bike 4 days out of the 5 and I biked through downtown and along the Coal Harbour seawall and through the @#$ Stanley Park Causeway and over the mighty and terrifying Lions Gate Bridge and past Ambleside and then I worked with active little kids for 2.5 hours and then I got back on my bike and did it all again... in reverse. I got addicted to the feeling of getting myself from A to B under my own power. I still didn't eat the sweet stuff. And at the end of those 2 weeks of teaching, I wanted to stay active. Hell, I don't even want to be indoors at all when the sun's out and it's hot. 

My lovely landlords went away for 2 weeks and left me in charge of their house, garden, and cat, so every morning I was also getting up to give the kitty some company and water the plants and spray the veggies down before the full heat of the day made that a bad idea. (It's the one thing I know about gardening: don't water things in the middle of the day. Oh, and that deadheading is always a good thing.) Not only that, but I was allowed to harvest things as they grew, so suddenly it was lettuce with the dirt still on it, and tomatoes and cucumbers right off the vine, and tiny eggplants made into the best Baba Ganoush... 

And you know what? These things work, dammit. I could see a change, see my face thinning out, feel my clothes fitting better. I felt stronger, faster, firmer. Drama camp ended (and with it, the commute across the bridge), but I discovered HIIT workouts. I still bike everywhere, and I'm starting to swim at New Brighton Pool, an outdoor pool which kicks Kits Pool's ass, in my opinion. In short, I am one healthy person right now, and I don't want to screw it up. 

At the end of July, my 30-day sugar challenge was over.

You know what? Cold turkey is easy, really. I mean, making it stick can be a pain in the ass, but once you get going, it snowballs. You feel proud. Empowered. All you have to do is one thing: stay the hell away from whatever it is you need to stay away from. (Okay, I don't have experience with hard drugs; I'm not speaking about quitting heroin here. But cigarettes? Been there, done that. Several times, in fact. Sweets? You know it. Again, many times.)

What really stymies an addict is trying to wrap their heads around moderation

I recently worked with someone who had it way worse than me. He had to bring pre-made, portioned meals to work, because if left to his own devices he would have eaten a week's worth of lunches in one sitting. "Food addiction is tough," he said gloomily. "It's not like you can just quit eating." Indeed. 

In the past I've tried:

  • Having "dessert days", where I could only indulge on certain days of the week. That went about as well as expected. 
  • Counting calories (The biggest pain in the ass ever. Forget it. Seriously.)
  • Joining various websites. Spark People. Noom. A Facebook page/support group for a cult way of eating called My Bright Life, where people- almost all women, by the way- regularly posted about how naughty they'd been for eating some bread! Or having a glass or two of wine! 
  • Keeping a food diary, to be more accountable. (This worked somewhat. But not for long.)
  • Buying a too-large bag of treats and then throwing them away somewhere where I wouldn't be tempted to retrieve them later. When I read Ann Lamott's writing about her addictions and she described running water over food so she couldn't eat it later, I felt a shock of recognition. 
  • Started my own Facebook page to support and empower myself and my friends- again, mostly women- who wanted to do something about their health. A good idea, but almost no one ever posted anything, so I gave it up, not long before I gave up on Facebook altogether. (Which is still one of the best things I've ever done, by the way.)
I have never been bulimic, thank god. I've certainly binged, but I've never purged. 

So I'm really nervous that having to be moderate about this whole eating thing is going to screw it up for me. 

Here are a couple of rules I'm putting in place to help cope: 

Every morning, the first thing I do when I get out of bed is put on workout clothes. And usually the next thing I do once I'm dressed is a quick workout, or some yoga- something to start the day right. (The only problem is that on hot, sunny days, I'm often inclined to leave the stinky workout clothes on all day so I can stay active. You have been warned.)

I have the poor man's Samsung version of the FitBit. It's called a  GearFit2, and when I remember to charge it, it's fantastic, at least for nagging me when I've been sedentary too long, and for logging my runs, walks, yoga sessions, and bike rides. It doesn't log swims (not waterproof), or HIIT workouts, although if I just kept it on during those it would probably measure my rocketing heart rate and know that something was going on.

Speaking of getting up, most days I'm getting up early. Now that my garden-tending duties are done, I'm hoping this trend will continue. It just sets the whole tone of the day, for me. 

I'm varying my routine when it comes to staying active. Some days, it's just yoga, to be honest. Other days, it's a quick HIT workout in the morning, and maybe a bike ride to the pool later on. I'm digging Fitness Blender for their workout videos, because although their workouts are torture tough, they're also blessedly short

What to eat (and more importantly, what not to) is, of course, the biggest challenge. I'm lucky, in that in the summer  I really want to eat less, and to consume lots of fruits, some veggies, and less carbs. In the winter, that changes. (So does the getting up early. It's just really hard to get out of bed when it's rainy and dark. If you have any suggestions to sweeten the deal, I'd love to hear 'em.) 
This time around, after my 30-day ban on sweets lifted, I hit upon a new idea to help with moderation. Most of my unhealthy behaviour takes place alone- it's harder to indulge in over-the-top portions and choices with an audience. So my new rule is dead simple and, I hope, effective:

Eat the ice cream, on occasion. Have the cake. Don't feel guilty about it, and for god's sake, don't be a bore about it. Just...
Don't do it alone.

I'm betting that this rule should keep my bad habits under better control (except for my boyfriend's unholy love of Chicago Mix, but I can avoid that, I think). 

Because when it comes to food- the good and the bad- the goal isn't to avoid it entirely. For me at least, the goal is just not to over-think it. Or over-eat it.

Bon appetit.