Yikes! My iPad is Making Me Fat!

I just discovered that my love handles might not be Nutella-filled solely due to lack of willpower, but the result of lack of sleep as well. One of the big culprits keeping us from getting all our Zzzzzzzs is our electronic devices. Before portable gadgets came along I used to read a book to unwind before bed, but now I curl up with my beloved iPad and surf, pin, like, friend, comment, and play all sorts of mindless games. By the time I finally set my device aside, I’m so wired my eyelids have forgotten how to function, and I end up looking like those creepy dolls whose eyes don’t shut anymore, or at least not in unison. My device might be powered off, but I’m not. I just lay and stare at the ceiling, or worse yet, the alarm clock.

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Ever since Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, our internal clock, known as our circadian rhythm, has been out of whack. Before then, we took our cues from the sun… we got up when it did, and when it slipped under the cloak of night we slipped under our blankies for a long replenishing snooze.

When God said, “Let there be light,” I don’t think He wanted us to abuse it like we do. We can summon this miracle with a flip of a switch any time of the day or night, and as a result, we’ve messed up our body’s biorhythm so much so that it affects us on a hormonal level. The blue light emanating from our electronic devices boosts attention, so it actually is beneficial during daylight hours, but that’s not what we need just before bed.

“Sleep deprivation perpetuates a vicious cycle of excess stress hormones, reduced sleep-inducing melatonin and low growth hormone.” Dr. Natasha Turner, The Hormone Diet

What’s worse, if you get less than 5 hours of sleep per night, or suffer with insomnia, like I do, cortisol, the stress hormone, elevates significantly making it even harder for you to lose weight. Studies show that sleep deprived subjects have an increased appetite and tend to crave high-calorie, high-sugary foods… hence, my Nutella-filled hips.

That’s it! I’m grounding myself. NO devices after 9 PM, since it’s recommended to power down two hours before bedtime. Wowser! My inner child just threw a ‘but Mom!’ hissy fit as I typed that. This might be harder than giving up carbs when I tested Paleo, or BBQ ribs when I tested the Whole Food, Plant-Based diet. Giving up a food group during 12 in 12 just means bidding adieu for a month, but banning devices a few hours before bedtime must be a forever thing if I want to improve my health and waistline. And you know what they say, “An Apple device a night keeps the doctor prescribing sleeping pills.” No, they don’t say that. I made that up because I’ve popped a sleeping pill every night for the last 5 days and they’re not working anymore.

This is going to be tough. I feel like Rose letting go of Jack’s hand in the frozen Atlantic (as she hogged the wooden door she floated on), that fateful night the Titanic went down. Oh iPad and iPhone, will my heart go on without you? I’m not sure… hopefully I’ll get rid of the dark circles under my eyes, and my thunder thighs might get downgraded to a tropical storm if I follow through on my device diet.

Note to family, friends and acquaintances: I apologize for not responding to you via cyberspace after 9 PM, Toronto time going forward. However, if you do get a response after that time you know that I caved and am a slave to Steve Jobs’ ghost.

For my Week 36 food journal, click here.

Love On The Run

This piece started with my wanting to find out what makes my fitness-obsessed friends Gerry and Cheryl tick, but the hopeless romantic in me fell in love with their love story and I want to share it with you.

I adore hearing stories of how couples met – there is something magical about the moment two souls intersect which alters the rest of their lives. Call it what you will: serendipity, destiny, or divine providence, unions are nothing short of miraculous when you look at all the factors at play. Just think about it… of all the people the good Lord created past, present, and future, on this side of the planet, or the other – that two individuals unite and graft a life together because of that instant, blows my mind!

Gerry and Cheryl’s love story exhausts me – not that it’s arduous, but rather these two can’t sit still. They only have one speed – blur – and the fact that these adrenaline junkies stood still long enough to find each other makes their story even more remarkable.

Gerry, a trail runner, coach and trainer can’t recall a day without being active. He’s done it all: hockey, basketball, soccer, volleyball, lacrosse, mountain biking, track and field, swimming, steeple chase, snowshoe running (good Lord, why?!), adventure racing, outdoor survival, – you name it, he’s laced up for it.

Cheryl didn’t take to fitness until she was 18, but once she got into it, she was hooked. She primarily did aerobics and eventually got into road running in her 30s. It wasn’t until a knee injury forced her into the gym and into a spin class Gerry was teaching, that BAM!, their magic moment happened. And the rest as they say, is history.

Gerry introduced Cheryl to the adventure lifestyle, taking her love of fitness to a new level. Over their courtship, they registered more miles on foot, than my last three vehicles combined! Gerry had no doubt he found ‘the one’, and proposed to the lovely Cheryl, dropping on one knee, in the middle of a 100-mile ultra-race. She said, ‘yes’, and off he dashed to complete the event, floating the rest of the way with a song in his heart and a grin on his face.

Ultra running

They had two weddings (darn ultra-runners, they outdo us mere mortals in every category!), a traditional wedding for their families, and a quintessential ‘Gerry and Cheryl’ wedding.

In their “Run by Wedding” the entire bridal party were 100-mile finishers. Even the pastor was a runner, but claimed theirs was the first wedding he had to train for. They ran on the picturesque Bruce Trail, and exchanged vows amongst the spruce and maples to the lullaby of a waterfall. To Gerry and Cheryl, it was “somewhere between heaven and nirvana.” If that’s the model, my next wedding will have to be somewhere between the Nutella and chip aisles at Longo’s.

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They honeymooned at Blue Mountain where they mountain biked through a swamp. Ahem… a swamp… really? That’s romantic? Listen up soulmate I have yet to intersect with, if there’s a swamp in our honeymoon, the Eiffel Tower better be right behind it!

Both Gerry and Cheryl admit that they couldn’t envision a life with someone who didn’t share their love of fitness. It’s not something they do, it’s something they are. They simply wouldn’t be compatible with someone who didn’t inspire them, or enhance their life. (Note to self: ixnay the Nutella-ay, and do not hookup with a food enabler-AY!)

They admit their best times are on the trail. They look for opportunities to challenge themselves and push their limits. They’re in their element when they’re in the elements! They run in thunderstorms, when it’s 30 below, and during ice storms. Gerry admits nothing excites him more than when his bride sees a storm rolling in and she gets a mischievous look in her eye, and suggests they “go out and play.”

Gerry and Cheryl’s “in sickness and in health” vow is being put to the test. Last November, Gerry was on the highway driving to work when he was cut off by a van. In order to avoid hitting anyone, he swerved and slammed into a concrete barrier at 100 km/hr. The car was totalled. Gerry managed to walk out of the car, but collapsed steps away. Thankfully, a nurse was nearby and stopped to assist him. He was rushed to the hospital and spent several days in ICU. He suffered serious trauma: crunched heart (which had to be restarted twice), smashed head and neck resulting in post-concussive brain damage, accelerator foot and leg locked and sprained, bruised pelvis, abdominal contusions, dislocated and sprained arm, and two broken ribs. The slightest movement was painful – it hurt to breathe, move, laugh and cry.

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Gerry is as tenacious with the healing process as he is with his fitness training. While his exemplary condition prior to the accident contributes to his surpassing all the timelines his specialists anticipated, Gerry continues to push his body beyond their recommendations. They urge him to curtail his activities, or he runs the risk of shutting off his brain, or his heart, which require rest in order to repair and recover.

These days, Cheryl works out on her own, and Gerry still coaches her. They have plans with a group of ultra friends to complete the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim ultra adventure and scale the Half Dome in Yosemite this fall, but due to the accident, Gerry will have to forgo it, which doesn’t sit well with his competitive and active soul.

Their drive perplexes me – it’s fascinating and foreign. I can’t relate to the desire to push one’s body like they do. I look for reasons not to work out… headache, sniffles, hangnail, yet for folks like Gerry and Cheryl, nothing short of a serious accident will stop them! Gerry admits to once spraining his ankle at the 11 km mark of a 56 km race. He continued an additional 14 km with the sprain before being forced to stop. These people be cray-cray!

Cray cray2

In an upcoming post, I will share more of our discussion regarding fitness. I went to Gerry and Cheryl seeking a prescription, but came away with a philosophy. In all honesty, the conversation was so profound, I’m still processing it. Like my young niece once said when her mom was teaching her math, “It’s making my eyebrows bleed.” Who knew fitness was so cerebral and romantic?!

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To view my Week 29 food journal, click here.

About Face

It’s time to say ciao to the Mediterranean diet and hello to the new plan of the month. The Whole Food, Plant-Based diet is as au naturale as it gets – it makes me want to smack on strategically placed fig leaves and join a nudist colony. As a matter of fact, it’s very close to the diet God gave Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, so if you believe in creation like me, this is the oldest diet known to man… sorry my Paleo and Cavemen friends!

This is a radical departure from all the plans I’ve been on so far on my 12 in 12 journey, but I’m no stranger to it. A few years ago, I went vegetarian after my daughter, a ‘weekday vegetarian’, turned me on to a series of documentaries exposing the ugly hidden truths of the food industry and industrialized farming. I binged on those docs like I do on chips and chocolate. For a week straight I was glued to the TV devouring them all: Food, Inc., Earthlings, Forks over Knives, Vegucated, Food Matters, Hungry for Change, Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, May I Be Frank, and many more. By the time I came up for air I wanted to stop shaving my armpits, hug a tree, and free all confined animals.

I literally went “cold turkey” and didn’t ingest any animal protein for a year. I was proud to be an informed, ethical, and environmentally responsible eater, and figured I’d lose tons of weight too and exude vitality as a result. Oh contraire! Did you know vegetarians can be unhealthy too? It’s not the fruit, veggies and legumes that did me in, it was everything else I consumed.

I only asked one question before I ate something… “Did it have a face?” If the answer was “no”, then down the hatch it would go. You know what doesn’t have a face? Snickers. Ruffle potato chips. Gummie bears, because no real bears were harmed in the process. Garlic bread. Peanut M&Ms, for the protein of course. Nutella. Veggie nacho platter smothered in globs of processed cheese. Do you see where I’m going here? Technically, I was a vegetarian, but in reality I became a Carbetarian.

In my defence, that’s not how I started. I went hard-core, ate very clean at first and dropped 8 lbs. in just a few weeks. I stopped shopping at the local grocery store, and drove a little further to Whole Foods or Planet Organic. I even bought essential gadgets for a face-free kitchen, like an expensive juicer, which now sits on my counter collecting dust, a fancy-schmancy pineapple peeler, and several types of graters. I was even gifted a Spirooli (a fruit and veggie spiralizer) and a Blendtec to support my efforts.

I even planted vegetables in my sad and barren backyard! Me… the Dr. Kevorkian of plants – my home is where plants come to die, and now I was tending to them. I admit, most of them didn’t survive, but it’s true what they say about kale – they’re a hardy bunch – I think they flourished to spite my ineptitude as a gardener. If they fight that hard to survive, they must be good for us!

Other than having the BEST bowel movements (yes, I went there), my health didn’t improve much after the first few months. It wasn’t the diet’s fault, it was entirely mine. Like any diet, it’s about the choices you make, and I made poor ones. The calories were going in, but the nutrients weren’t. I ate more than I did on other diets, because I digested the foods quickly.

Four months after going vegetarian, I was diagnosed with Premature Atrial Contractions (PACs). The cardiologist asked if I made any recent lifestyle changes. I told him I eliminated meat from my diet and he suggested I start eating it again. But I wouldn’t hear it – the documentaries were still fresh in my mind and my convictions were strong.

Six months later, my condition worsened, and my vitamin D and B12 were dangerously low. Once again the cardiologist recommended putting some animal protein back in my diet, something both my family doctor and naturopath also urged. I agonized over the thought of eating meat again, but my wonky ticker was freaking me out. With a heavy flip-floppy heart, I went out and bought a single chicken breast at the organic butcher – I paid what I would have for a whole chicken at the regular grocery store, but justified it was worth it if the poor creature had a better quality of life before it became my dinner. I must have stared at it for 20 minutes before taking a bite, and when I did, I gagged and cried though the entire meal.

I’ve been back on meat for 8 months now, and my vitamin levels are back to normal. My heartbeats got better for a brief time, but now are skipping worse than ever. It’s apparent that diet doesn’t have anything to do with my irregular heartbeats, so if I choose to go back to being vegetarian after 12 in 12 it won’t influence my ticker one way or another.

So why go down this road again, especially since I’ve been there, done that? This time I’ve got me an awesome coach who is going to ensure I plan balanced meals and avoid the sugar and carb traps I fell into before.

Michelle Riccio is not only my co-worker, she’s my beautiful and courageous friend with an inspirational story. She went on a whole food, plant-based diet after being diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer a little over a year ago and has been advocating its benefits on her blog, Tit Happens.

This month, we are joining forces and co-writing our blogs together – a crossover if you will, and will go by the blended name, Searching For My Tit.

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We will feature the many benefits of a whole food, plant-based diet, highlighting not only the weight loss component, but health and prevention as well.

Please join Michelle and I, as we enjoy our first whole food, plant-based meal together at Raw Aura to launch the plan.

To learn more about the do’s and don’ts of Whole Food Plant-Based diet, click here, and you will be directed to the 06. May 2015 tab.

The Result Are In

To find out how much I lost during Month 5, when I tested The Mediterranean Diet, click here, and you’ll be directed to the Measure Up section.

It’s Time To Play…

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*cue music*

Cheeky Game Show Host Mare: Hello, and welcome to Health or Consequences where Mare from Searching For My After aims to achieve 70,000 steps or more in a week. If she doesn’t, she must complete a consequence chosen by the audience!

Mare: Hello.

Cheeky Game Show Host Mare: Let’s see how you did last week.

*The Fitbit wheel of truth spins… beep-boo-beep-boo-beeee-boooooooooo*

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Cheeky Game Show Host Mare: 78,239! This is getting too easy for you.

Mare: I wouldn’t say ‘easy’, but I am being more mindful of getting more activity in my day. You do have a point though. I think we need to spice this game up a bit.

Cheeky Game Show Host Mare: Speaking of spice…

***Game Show Announcer Mare comes out with a flaming skillet***

Game Show Announcer Mare: I hope you like your slugs well done!

Mare: Sorry to disappoint you, but I did my consequence in time. Roll the clip, Game Show Camera Mare!

Cheeky Game Show Host Mare: Good on you, but we were hoping you’d miss your deadline.

Mare: You sadistic figments of my split personalities…. as I was saying, I plan on spicing the game up sans slugs.

Cheeky Game Show Host Mare: How so?

Mare: Stay tuned, and all will be revealed during next week’s episode.

Cheeky Game Show Host Mare: How exciting! Until then, I’m Cheeky Game Show Host Mare, reminding you to choose HEALTH, or else you’ll have to live with the CONSEQUENCES.

*cue music*

 

 

When Scales Fly

When I was a kid growing up in the 70s, mood rings were all the rage. I wanted one so bad, but my parents couldn’t afford frivolous spends, so I bummed a read from friends that had one. If you’re not familiar with mood rings, they would change colour based on… you guessed it, your mood.

I’m not sure how accurate they are, but as a kid, they were the gospel truth. I remember working myself up into a tizzy to see if I could get it to turn black, or think about my crush to see if it would turn violet. How dumb… the only thing more colourful than a mood ring, was me!

Other tools we relied on to predict what kind of day we’d have were: Magic 8 balls, horoscopes, and the long dead biorhythm in the Toronto Sun. Thankfully, I don’t depend on those hokey devices anymore, but there still is one mystical gadget I faithfully turn to, that will not only predict what kind of day I’ll have, it will set my mood as well: my bathroom scale.

If it registers a number lower than I expected – I’ll have an awesome day! If it’s the same as the last time I stepped on – I’ll have a lackluster day. But if it’s higher… look out ‘cuz I’ll be in a foul mood! I realize many variables affect the read-out, like retaining water, or building muscle, but there is nothing more frustrating than not seeing results for your efforts.

I remember years back when I was married and the kids were little, I was on one of my countless diets. I deprived myself of anything delicious for months on end and I exercised daily. Every morning, after going to the washroom, and before having breakfast, I stepped on the scale. This was my daily ritual. At first I saw results, but over time, the losses were minuscule. Eventually, the darn needle on the scale played possum. No up. No down. No nothing. I figured I was on a plateau, so I went hard core for a few weeks – I took in less than 1,000 calories a day, revved up my workouts, AND I put the scale away. I felt that a watched pot never boils, so I vowed not to step on the scale for at least 2 weeks.

It felt like Christmas morning when I got back on again… the anticipation was palpable. I stuck to the plan 110% and since I hadn’t been naughty, I expected to be rewarded with a well-deserved surprise. I sure got one when I stepped on Carnac the Malevolent! That diabolic scale of injustice didn’t budge. I was soooooo mad, I literally picked up the scale and threw it out my bedroom window! I honestly and truly flung it out my second-story window like a discus thrower. I watched it propel through the air until gravity took hold and it shattered on my driveway below, spilling its lying guts about for all to see.

 Flying scale - c

I calmly walked downstairs and into the kitchen, where I buried my face in a plate full of Eggo waffles slathered with Nutella, marshmallows, and maple syrup. When I finished my glorious stupefied binge, I picked up the broom and dustpan, and walked outside my front door in my slippers and PJs, happily greeting my perplexed neighbours, as I swept up the disembowelled device from the driveway. Coils, springs, and numbers, oh my! It felt awesome!   Our home remained scaleless for many years after that.

I may have overreacted, but I felt like I studied for the exam and still got an ‘F’. It’s one thing not to see progress if you don’t do the work, but quite another when you do EVERYTHING “right” and don’t get the results you think you deserve. I guess by pitching my scale, I was contesting my mark.

Fitness experts keep telling me that I shouldn’t rely solely on the scale to measure my progress. Frankly, I don’t care how loose my clothes feel, or how much energy I have, I want to see the number on the scale say, “Hey chickie, you’re in the normal range now.”

I still can’t break the habit of stepping on the scale regularly… okay, okay – daily. The sum is not a prediction – it’s fact. I’m fixated on the numerical output that quantifies my resolve. It’s like when I got into size 14 pants on my last quasi-successful diet. I know that’s still huge for a lot of people, but after sporting a 22 for eons, I wanted to wear the pants inside-out so everyone could read the label.

Who knows what I’ll do when I reach my goal weight? One thing’s for sure, I won’t be pitching that scale out the window! Perhaps I’ll have it bronzed and display it alongside my collection of mood rings.

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To view my Week 15 food journal, go to the 12 in 12 tab at the top of the page and select 4. March 2015 from the dropdown menu.

Before and Before

I love immersing myself in a good story – mystery, adventure, romance, drama, comedy, biography – it doesn’t matter what, I devour them all. However, my hands down favourite is the story of metamorphosis and transformation. Who didn’t love it when a made-over Eliza Doolittle walked down that staircase, or freak out when Jekyll morphed into Hyde?

I’m especially fascinated by the real-life transformation stories found in fitness magazines and reality shows. I gravitate to the Before & After section without reading a single word of text, completely mesmerized by the metamorphosis and vow to one day be in the pages myself.

My elusive quest for my own after began at the tender age of 14, shortly after I hit puberty and stopped growing vertically and sprouted Italian birthing hips.

1978 (age 14)  Be nice people - body suits and fuzzy hair were big in the 70s!
1978 (age 14)
Be nice people – body suits and fuzzy hair were big in the 70s

My first ever before photo was taken on February 6, 1978 – I remember it well. I asked my sister to take it… she chuckled then, and every time I asked her to document my resolve through the following decades. She never laughed at me (okay, maybe when I insisted on wearing gloves in my inaugural photo), she was laughing at the absurdity of it all. Who willingly stands in their underthings, posing to record their shame?

1998 (age 34) Don't I look thrilled?
1998 (age 34)
Don’t I look thrilled?

Needless to say, these before photos never made it into the family album, but spent a brief time on the fridge next to my kids’ art work, and inspirational quotes during the pre-Pinterest era. When my resolve dissipated and I became indifferent the quotes, I went hard-core and tried to scare the motivation back into myself by posting the following image from National Geographic alongside my before pic du jour. It did nothing but gross my kids out and give them nightmares.

Ew.
Ew.

Recently, I dug into our electronic files and boxes of photos to find some of my many befores (we’re a snap-happy family), but found an entire chunk of our archives missing. I tore the house apart. I still haven’t found them and I’m gutted. I searched high and low and eventually checked my usual go-to places when I’m upset. “Are they in the jar of Nutella?” Nope, not there. “Are they in the bag of chips?” Hmm, not there either. “Are they in the tub of ice cream?” No?! “Why can’t I find them, I’ve looked everywhere!!!!”

This is how it goes for me, I turn to food for a multitude of reasons and very rarely for nourishment and sustenance. I consider myself to be fairly bright and intuitive, but I haven’t been able to figure this eating to live, instead of living to eat business. Like most who have struggled with their weight, I’ve yo-yoed and sometimes have even got close to a healthy weight. Along with my before and before and before and before photos, I have the odd oh, you’re almost there photos, but I’ve never bagged me an after.

We are all living, breathing, walking stories, and this is mine. My friends call me Mare, and I invite you to journey with me as I search for my after.


Humble Pie – While writing this post, I nuked a bowl of tomato soup and poured half a bag of croutons in it for “substance” – I would have used potato chips, but I polished the bag off last night as my post second-dinner snack. Hung up on a duct-cleaning telemarketer. Noshed on a wedge of my favourite breakfast food – Italian pantone with dried fruits and raisins. Popped over to my neighbour’s house to drop off some documents. Texted back and forth with a co-worker. And taste-tested at least half-a-dozen Halloween sized chocolates.