Tuesday, December 1, 2015

How I lost 23 pounds

Zucchini "pasta" made with my new veggie noodler
It's been about four months now since I started actively trying to lose weight. I've done some reading & tried a few approaches. It seems to be working: I've lost over 20 pounds so far & I feel like the way I eat is sustainable, not deprivation.

People often notice that I've dropped a few sizes, & I've had a few ask what my 'secret' is, so I thought I'd share. (spoiler alert! It's not really a secret)

Before I say anything further, let me say this is just what has worked for me, I know everyone's bodies are different so if you to try eating the same way, your mileage may vary. I am not a dietician, or a medical professional of any sort, nor do I claim to be any sort of expert or diet guru.

Now that's out of the way, here's the list of what I've learned in the past few months, in no particular order:

    This veggie bean soup was yummy!
  1. I don't drink my calories. When I have a can of pop or a fancy espresso drink here & there during the week, the calories add up fast. I've also read that calories in liquid form don't register in the same way as a full belly from a huge salad or bowl of rice & beans. I may still want to eat even though I've just consumed a 1000 calorie beverage. Beware smoothies for this reason, especially the ones from fast food places or smoothie places--they often have a ton of added sugar on top of the fruit & veg that may be in them.
  2. Refined starchy foods aren't worth it. I'm not going all Atkins on you, but I do avoid the more processed carbs as much as possible. Anything made mainly from white flour--pasta, bread, muffins, cookies, crackers--has a lot of calories & not much else. Fibre is really key in helping you feel full & slowing down the metabolism of the sugars that these starches turn into rather quickly, so I still eat some starchy foods, but I try to pick whole grain versions when I'm eating things like bread or pasta. I've also started doing a lot of substitutions like zucchini 'noodles' for spaghetti or ramen, roasted chickpeas when I get a potato chip urge, or high fibre cereal with fruit rather than just toast for breakfast.
  3. There is no magic bullet. It's not about superfoods, fat burners or supplements but just fewer calories. All the magic formulas or secret tricks that are out there are just marketing. Easy answers sell diet books & make snake oil peddlers like Dr. Oz millions of dollars, but I think the sad fact of the matter is that eating less crappy food is the only way to lose weight & be healthy. Which leads me to my next point...
  4. I track what I eat. I always thought my diet was pretty good, but I rarely ate green leafy veg, consumed way too much fatty dairy (11% greek yogurt, several ounces of cheese a day, plus milk & occasional ice cream binges) & just a lot more calories than I needed. But I didn't really know what I should be eating until I started actually writing it down (or entering it into MyFitnessPal, technically) Tracking also helps me identify foods that are higher calorie than I may have realized, like salads at restaurants (the dressing & add-ons like dried fruit & nuts are often super sugary & fatty). I won'tdo this forever, but I think it's helping me stay honest when it comes to portion sizing & snacking.
  5. Portion sizes are important. I attended a nutrition class led by a dietitian a few months ago. Seeing the fake food she brought along was really helpful for me to get a sense of how much to eat. Using an app to track my diet helps me rejig my portion sizes too. & though you might think that it means always having less than I want to, it's not all bad news. I realized that the 'official' recommended portion size for fruit & vegetables is 1/2 cup/120ml--half a banana or half an apple, a handful of peas or carrots. It's not that hard to get in the 5-10 fruit & veg recommended in the Canada Food Guide.
  6. Calories have nothing to do with satiety. Reading Eat To Live then trying fairly low-calorie salads as meals really hammered this one home for me. The stomach doesn't feel full based on calories consumed but bulk, so I eat low calorie, high fibre, & nutrient dense foods more often. Meaning veggies, fruit, beans & legumes. Huge salads or plates loaded with raw veggies & oil-free hummus dip satisfy my North American desire to consume mass quantities while being full of nutrients but not necessarily calories.
  7. Protein isn't as important as people think. I'm not saying it's unnecessary, but there's no reason to go out of my way to add it in. Adding a few grams of chopped nuts to my oatmeal or cereal in the morning does put off the stomach rumbles for a little longer, but that's the only difference I've noticed. From what I've read, if I'm eating enough food, I'll get enough protein. 
  8. Fat has its place: a very small place. A teaspoon of oil to sautee with, an ounce or less of cheese grated on dinner, or the (most likely) healthy fats in nuts, olives & avocadoes added to salad is great. But the processed stuff (butter, olive oil, etc) is basically just fat & doesn't generally have any other significant nutritional value.
I ate one of these. Just one. In past I likely would have had four.
That's about it. Michael Pollan's very simple advice in In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto sums up most of the above: "Eat food. Mostly Plants. Not too much." Another thing to mention is that I don't really consider this a "diet" in the sense that it's a temporary change in eating habits to lose weight. I see this as a permanent change to my eating habits. Or perhaps I should say an ideal to continue striving for, since I don't have a 'perfect' diet. I still eat chocolate, have cake at birthday parties, & eat the occasional handful of deep fried potato chips or fries. But my eating habits are healthier, I feel better, & I'm about the same size I was in my early 20s, which feels good too.

One last thing: you may have noticed that all of the above is about eating. Nothing about exercise. This is not because I think changing eating habits is the only way to lose weight. Being physically active is vital. But for me, with osteoarthritis in my hip limiting further options for exercise, diet had to be the main part of my strategy. I do bike about 50km a week & walk fairly often too. I don't really think of it as exercising, since it's just how I get around & it's nothing new. But there's no question that keeping as active as I can has helped me keep my metabolism running higher than it might be if I were to cut calories alone.

So there you have it. Does any of the above surprise you? Have you tried eating this way yourself?

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Monday, November 30, 2015

A Comfy Surprise--Two New Bravado Designs Nursing Bras

Thank you Bravado Designs!
Last week, when I got a little sentimental about retiring my very first nursing bra, I thought I'd post it on Instagram. The words kept coming as I was captioning the photo, so I decided to write a blog post. Bravado Designs, the maker of the simple leopard print bra that I've worn the heck out over for the past five & a half years, contacted me after they saw my posts. & the lovely ladies of Bravado Designs offered to give me a couple of new ones!

This was amazing because, A. who doesn't like to get a lovely new bra? & B. I'm still breastfeeding Bronte, but I've lost enough weight that my other go-to bras are a bit big--the Bravado Bliss Nursing Bra & the Allure Nursing Bra. They're both in great shape despite about four years of heavy use, by the way. I can't remember when exactly, but I know I bought both while I was still nursing Linnaeus.

Friday the bras arrived on my doorstep via courier: a new Original Nursing Bra, in leopard print, naturally, plus a Body Silk Seamless Yoga Bra in heather grey. I immediately tried on the Yoga Bra & I kid you not, the claim that it's the most comfortable nursing bra in the world is absolutely true. It's really soft & stretchy, with a slightly wider back that has three hooks. The straps are really adjustable & it has the signature one-handed clasps to open each side for breastfeeding. Another feature that I particularly like is that it's lightly padded (easily removable) for a nice smooth look under a t-shirt. Especially since losing over 20 pounds, I like a little extra in my bras. It's also kind of awesome on those days every month when my nipples get sore.

I could go on & on about how much I love Bravado bras. & it's not just because I'm excited to be gifted two: I've bought four of their nursing bras as well as a nursing tank, plus half a dozen pairs of their underwear too. They aren't the lowest priced nursing bras out there (the Original is $37, the Bliss, Yoga & Allure are $55-60 but that's a great deal for a comfortable, easy to use nursing bra that will last you from the sore-boobs-bra-wearing-24/7-last-trimester stage through newborn-growth-spurt-cluster-feeding-sore-nipple-madness, super-distractible-baby-where-lightning-reflexes-pop-those-nipples-back-in-quick, & crazy-toddler-gymnurstics phase.

Thanks again, Bravado Designs!

By the way, if you heart your Bravado bra too, & want to spread the love on social media, use the hashtags #BeComfortable & #BravadoYoga. :)

Disclaimer: Bravado Designs gave me two bras but I was not asked to write a review.

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Friday, November 27, 2015

Spokesmama Gift Guide: 5 DIY Gifts for Under $20

I'm sure there are a few people on your shopping list who like to make stuff, right? Most kids seem to need a creative outlet, whether it's building blanket forts, painting pictures, or creating their own jewellery. & I know so many adults who have taken up various crafting pursuits in the past few years. So I thought I'd put together a list of some creative gift ideas for you, all under $20.

Weavy Loops kit

There are several different types of kits with everything you need to make bracelets, or keychains, or headbands, or necklaces knotted & woven & braided out of colourful silky cord. The kits are designed for kids age six plus, & are great for developing fine motor control. We got to try one out recently & it was fun!

There are tons of different things you can do with the kits & many many video tutorials online--check out the official Weavy Loops YouTube channel to start with.

Weavy Loops kits start at $15, or $5 for cord refill kits.

Tula Pink Coloring Book

I'm sure you've heard of the recent colouring trend for adults, right? There are tons of different books out there, but the Tula Pink one has particularly gorgeous designs in it. Anyone with a quilting background will recognize the name Tula Pink, as she's an incredible textile designer. Wrap up a copy with a package of pencil crayons or markers, & this makes a wonderful gift.

I reviewed another book by the same publishers, the Stress Less Coloring Book here, if you'd like to read more about how much fun it is to colour.

The Tula Pink Coloring Book retails for about $13 & is available at tons of stores as well as online.

Holiday Crafts: 50 Projects for Year-Round Family Fun

Christmas time it seems the crafting hits a peak, but what can you do the rest of the year? As the title promises, Holiday Crafts is about ALL the holidays through the year, not just Christmas, so this book will still be relevant after December 25. This is a great starting point for making crafts with kids if yours are young or you are more of a beginner yourself.

Check out my review for more details on Holiday Crafts: 50 Projects for Year-Round Family Fun.

The paperback book is $20, but if you get the ebook edition of Holiday Crafts, you can also pick up a whole set of craft supplies (popsicle sticks, foam, eyes, paper, etc) from a dollar store near you to make everything in the book.

Brilliant Bee Crayons

For the youngest DIYer on your list, you could pick up a beautiful smelling set of non-toxic beeswax crayons & (I saw these on for $15 at Welk's General Store in my neighbourhood). They're also triangular which encourages the development of a proper pencil grip, but also doesn't roll off the table.

Add to the crayons a sketchbook like the simple paperback ones that fold nice & flat from Collage Collage, et voila, you have a great gift for a little artist. The sketchbooks start at $4.

Colibri Snack Bag

Reusable snack bags are a great way to do litterless lunches but for a Christmas gift? Well, Colibri makes a line of colour your own snack bags that would be awesome stocking stuffers. I spotted the fun space themed prints at Welk's recently. They were $8 for the larger size (perfect for a big sandwich in a lunch box). Pick up a set of & fabric markers to the little aliens & astronauts & you have a great gift for a boy or girl on your list.

Disclaimer: I received a Weavy Loops kit, the Tula Pink colouring book, & Holiday Crafts for free to facilitate these reviews. I was not compensated in any other way, & the opinions above are my own, as always! 

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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Screen Diet

Using the smart board at school
I read an article lately which suggested that too much screen time can cause kids to have behaviour issues that look a lot like ADHD. I'm a bit skeptical, but it got me thinking. I have noticed that the days Linnaeus watches more videos, his behaviour is worse. Especially when we're trying to peel him away from the screen.

He wasn't watching a ton of shows--we don't have a TV, it was just a few 12-minute episodes of Chirp, Pingu, or whatever on the laptop. But it was usually every day. & some days, when I was more tired, it was several hours.

So I thought we'd try a month with no screen time for him at home. He does get a little at school--how much depends on if you could smart board use--but we've cut him off, cold turkey, from Youtube & the occasional app on my phone.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Our Top 15 Family Activities for the Holiday Season

It's a month away from Christmas! Time to make a list to remind me of the fun holiday activities--other than seeing family & friends--that I don't want to forget to do.

Here's what I'd like to get around to this holiday season:

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Eastside Culture Crawl with Little Kids

We Culture Crawled! (L exempted himself from the family selfie)
This year, we finally made it to the Eastside Culture Crawl, after a few years' children-induced hiatus. If you haven't heard of it before, the Crawl is a four day celebration of East Vancouver art & artists. Hundreds of artists tidy up their studios & throw open their doors to the public every November. It's free & it's a great way to see some of the amazing art that's happening right here in our community, as well as a great chance to bring some home. & you don't need to be rich to buy art--prices start at $2!

We dragged our five-year-old & two-year-old, kicking & screaming at times, through the labyrinthine studios at 1000 Parker, a few in the Mergatroyd Building right after parking our bikes at the Bicycle Valet, & two in the Hamilton Bank Building.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Family Portraits with Images by Bethany

I'm so pleased with the results of our family portrait mini session with Bethany Schiedel. We got the images back last week & it took me a few days to decide which ones we wanted to print. Here are our favourite images:

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Goodbye, Old Friend

Goodbye, old friend.
The last few times I've put on this bra, I keep noticing the holes along the elastic getting bigger. I've been meaning to repair it, but while doing a closet purge & really looking at it, I realize this bra's a little beyond that point now. It's time to say goodbye.

Why so nostalgic about an undergarment? Well...

Back in the summer of  2010, close to ready to pop
This Bravado nursing bra has been with me through the awkward nights of sleep during two pregnancies, two newborns worth of midnight feedings, low milk supply both times, countless breastfeeding clinic visits, nearly a year total of daily pumping, thrush infections, finally making enough to exclusively breastfeed, nursing in public the first time, tiny sharp toothed bites, toddler gymnurstics, mom & baby fitness classes, many tears of frustration, & more happy moments.

I'm sad the bra won't make it until I finish breastfeeding; Bronte is nowhere near ready to wean. Between her & Linnaeus, I've now breastfed over 55 months. Add to that the time I wore it to bed during my last trimesters & I've worn this comfy little bra (along with several others) for five & a half years.

So goodbye, my old friend. Or... maybe this is the sort of thing I should keep to show my grandchildren? Ha!

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