Easter sabotage

I was thinking about the Cadbury cream egg, hidden behind chicken breasts in my freezer, all evening. Through the sounds of crying twin babies while I fumbled with bottles like a first-time mom, through the exaggerated whines from my almost four-year-old because his stickers kept ripping, through the bedtime fails, through the piles of dishes and laundry and any other tired mom cliche you could think of.

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I wasn’t supposed to eat it, but God, I wanted to. I could almost taste the gooey insides.

So when my kids finally fell asleep that night, I ignored the mess in my home and day-four unwashed hair, and dug out that chocolate egg, wondering if it would be too frozen to eat, or if it should sit out for a few minutes first.

Yes, I did eat the damn egg, and yes, it was delicious. But when you are writing down everything you eat for the sixth week of the Actual Nutrition program, your brain plays tricks with you. Especially after Easter. You wonder how much damage can one innocent little egg do to six weeks of hard work?

“Let’s just pretend that never happened,” the little devil on your shoulder whispers. Kevin will never need to know.

But the thing is, I will know, and that’s worse.

So I wrote it down, hung my head in shame, washed my hair and went to bed.

The kids, and the Easter Bunny, won that round.

“Doing better than you think,” Kevin wrote to me. “Time to evacuate the treat cupboard.”

Clean eating is actually not that hard. Especially when you have a plan, and accountability. And control over the food in your house.

But life includes holidays and social occasions. Shopping trips that run late into babies’ supper times, which means mom eats last, which means mom is ravenous.

That’s when you need all the will power in the world not to fall into old habits and reach for those chocolate eggs, or your husband’s chips, or the Goldfish crackers. This is the hardest part, and this is where I need discipline.

So, Mr. Easter Bunny, you can hop away now and take your chocolate with you. I don’t need you tempting me when I’m weak anymore!

Back to my hard-boiled egg and salsa.

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Cleaning up my diet: one week in

When Kevin and Catt suggested I try the Actual Nutrition program that goes hand-in-hand with their workouts at 3rd Degree Training, it actually intimidated me more than the idea of working out four times a week.

I have never once gone on a diet, and I hate depriving myself of treats. I have always enjoyed healthy foods, and once cut out sugar for a few months, but I have never followed a prescribed eating plan. I wasn’t sure if I could do it!

Still, I wanted to give it an honest shot, and share my experience so people can see what it’s like for a mom of three little ones trying to return to a healthy lifestyle.

The idea behind Actual Nutrition is simply to eat whole, real foods. Based on my age, current weight, activity level and particularly the fact I am breastfeeding twins, Kevin designed a plan that helps me chose what kinds of foods to eat at every meal and snack. Lucky for me, and the bonus 1,000 calories a day I burn by feeding my five-month-old twins, this means I get to eat a ton of food. But now it’s all healthy, rather than full of carbs and sugar, my weakness.

My favourite part has been that the outline gives me full control of what to eat: for example, I can pick 1.5 servings of protein for breakfast, along with 1.5 servings of complex carbs, a simple carb (fruit) and one serving of fat or dairy. This way, I find myself thinking about all the food I get to eat, rather than what I can’t eat.

The most significant adjustment for me has been the volume of protein I need to consume each day. I always suspected I wasn’t getting enough, but now I know this is sort of the secret sauce to feeling satisfied and keeping cravings at bay. I now eat three eggs for breakfast(!) plus toast or oatmeal, fruit and peanut butter or avocado. YUM! Also, salsa and hot sauce are my new favourite condiments. For dinner, I need to eat two servings of protein. Two chicken breasts! After eating a big old plate of food, my body no longer searches for that sugary goodness it once desired. And if it does, that usually means I didn’t get enough protein, fat or healthy calories during the day!

I feel like this solves a mystery that never should have been so tough to figure out. Protein will not only help me build muscle from my workouts, but it is also a key factor in maintaining my milk supply. I may even be eating more now than I was before!

Here are a few more early revelations:

  • I have spent a lot of money on groceries this week. I haven’t added it up, but I hope now that my house is full of healthy food, the bills will level out.
  • I used to avoid eating too much meat as a cost-saving measure but I’ve realized I was just spending that extra money on junk food we really didn’t need.
  • My husband and my three-year-old are eating a little better now too. Silas asks me if different things he is eating are healthy and if they will make him big and strong.
  • My taste buds have adjusted to savour the taste of real food. My sweets are now fruits. At Costco I had a couple of pitted dates they were handing out as samples and it felt like I was eating a jube-jube!
  • I went through a couple days of adjusting to not eating as many carbs later in the day. For dinner I just have one serving then it’s just veggies for snacks in the evening. One night I had two servings of salmon, 1/3 cup of brown rice, two servings of vegetables and felt completely full. Half an hour later, I felt peckish and was like, “How can this be?” I realized what I was missing was that sugar kick I usually got from dessert or filling up on rice/potato/pasta with my main course. The fullness I get from protein is so much nicer.
  • Eggs, so many eggs. I am eating so much for breakfast and just made a pot of hard-boiled eggs to have on hand for snacks. They pack such a punch and yummy too!
  • I actually enjoy all this clean eating and I don’t miss the junk at all. Will this stick for seven more weeks? I hope so!
  • I wonder how easy it would be to maintain this style of eating if I was working full-time in addition to managing family life with three kids. Right now this is like a project for me while on maternity leave to think up healthy meal ideas and take the time to make them, even if it’s while wearing a baby.
  • The eating really complements the workouts. I feel great during and after the workouts and I think the food aids in my recovery from sore muscles.
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Salad with hard-boiled eggs, chicken bacon, snap peas, mushrooms, tomatoes, hummus, sriracha and brown rice.

 

Jelly belly

Silas and I have kept busy the past few days. My little man doesn’t seem to mind – he has been exceptionally cute and good natured lately. Of course, I am biased, but come on…

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Last Thursday, we tried a Stroller Fit class in Rockwood Park. I found a Facebook group a while back and had been meaning to try it. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but for $7, was quite pleased with the quality of the workout. It included a little bit of everything, from high knees, to side shuffles, light jogging, push-ups, step-ups onto picnic tables – the list goes on. I like how the instructor involves the babies – we sang “Wheels on the Bus” among other tunes – and the hour passed by so quickly. As for Silas, he was fast asleep for almost the entire class.

Friday, we met one of my co-workers for coffee, followed by a little shopping.

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When we got home around 5 p.m., Silas was asleep in the car. I knew he would wake up just in time for his fussy period when we got in the house, so I opened up the stroller and took him for a spin around the neighbourhood. It was a beautiful afternoon with a warm sun and touch of fall in the air.

Saturday was the Dog Jog at Rockwood Park. I promised my friend, one of the SPCA directors, that we would walk. So, despite not having a dog, Silas and I faithfully showed up and walked alongside dozens of cute pooches. He is just starting to take notice of furry friends, but again, Silas was fast asleep the entire walk (which included some steep sections on trails – quite a challenge with the stroller!).

Our first successful day trip was Sunday, when the three of us took a drive to Moncton to shop and visit with friends. Everything takes a little longer with a little one, as we followed his eat/sleep/awake rhythms, but we still had a good time.

Mark and I were on the hunt for a few updates to our wardrobes. I have been living in yoga/stretchy pants all summer and have come to the conclusion that my baby weight is not melting away as fast as hoped. But I was hit with a bit of a rude awakening when I tried on a size bigger than normal, only to find out that, no, I’m two sizes up from before. Ugh.

I tried not to let it get to me because although my pants size is way up, my weight isn’t too bad with only about 10 pounds to go. And hopefully in time, I will get back to the old me, or close to it. I’m trying not to be vain. It’s just sometimes sad to think I was the thinnest and fittest I had ever been before pregnancy and now set back a few steps with a jelly belly to boot.

So today I started tracking my food, just to get an idea of whether I have been overeating. I took account of the extra calories I need for breastfeeding, and found that by suppertime, I was very close to the max (even including calories burned during an hour-long walk).

I think for the past few weeks, especially when I’m tired or when I was sick, I was mindlessly eating. I have also been eating plenty in the night when I’m up feeding Silas. And there have been treats – lots of them. Bulk Barn trips have always included visits to the candy aisle. If we’re picking up a coffee, why not a muffin or donut too. Sweets and treats are my weakness and I have been slowly falling back into old ways.

Hopefully a focus on continuing to get out for active outings with a little meal/snack planning will help us veer back on track.

Diary of a hungry pregnant girl

I’ll admit some days are a struggle. I’m trying to eat all the things I’m supposed to: protein, calcium, veggies, iron, whole grains – and sometimes I just want to eat something delicious.  Like a donut, or a chocolate bar, or a muffin. Or, drink a giant coffee. On Tuesday, at 23 weeks, I wrote down everything I ate to give you a fun little peak into my crazy, food-obsessed, pregnant journalist life.

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8 a.m. – Wake up after a good sleep. It’s the morning after a council meeting, which always makes it a little tougher to get moving.
8:30 a.m. – Eat bowl of Raisin Bran with 1% milk and a giant navel orange, and tall glass of water (protein, iron, whole grain, calcium, Vit C).
10:00 a.m. – Sitting in a board meeting for my first assignment, furiously taking notes since I forgot my recorder. My pencil is dull. The room is tiny, hot. I feel sweaty. Now I feel nauseous. I need air, water. But I need a story. Must stay. Ughhhhh..
11:15 – Drive away with heat off, windows down. It’s -8 C but I’m sooo hot and feeling gross. I think I’m actually starving.
11:40 – Hit up Tim’s drive-thru and go for chicken salad sandwich on whole wheat and green tea (whole grain, protein, veg, caffeine). Really wanted a donut, but didn’t do it. Drive past a runner and feel envy. Get back to the office by noon and mow down. Sneak in a couple chocolate covered almonds I have stashed at my desk.
12:40 – Finally feeling back to life. Fill up my Nalgene bottle and get writing.
2:20 – Hunger strikes. Eat Greek yogurt and berries (protein – 18 g, calcium, Vit C). Baby kicking!
3:40 – Almonds and dried apricots. Still fighting nausea as I embark on my second story, a column on the fire chief.
4:20 – Banana. My hunger is insatiable today!
4:30 – Overheating. Remove my wool vest and stick my head out the window at work, literally. Fill up my water bottle for third time (making a total of 1.5 litres by this point)
6: 15 p.m. – Leave the office feeling much better, and head to the gym.
6:30 p.m. – Spend 30 minutes on the treadmill, running and fast walking for a total of 2.5 miles. Hop on the rower for five minutes, and finish off with three planks, each held to the count of 20.
7:30 p.m. – Heading home. Starving again. Luckily, hubby has dinner ready: a tasty chicken fried brown rice with curry flavours (protein, whole grains) with glass of milk (calcium).
8 p.m. – I steam up some broccoli to up my veggie intake (greens, calcium) and watch two episodes of Corrie. Drink decaf herbal tea.
9:30 p.m. – Hubby needs a nap before his night shift so I crawl in bed with him and watch an episode of House of Cards while he snoozes. I snooze a bit too.
10:15 p.m. – Stomach rumbling so I make one slice of whole wheat toast with natural peanut butter and honey. Watch a bit of Downton Abbey but I fall asleep on the couch.
11 p.m. – Migrate to the bed. Goodnight!

Exercise is good for you

This week I remembered a simple lesson: the more you run, the better you feel.

Even when I didn’t feel like it, or if it was a long day at work, I got myself to the gym for a couple treadmill runs. And on Friday morning before work, I did a very laid-back 5-km outside. It was about four degrees and no rain, so quite comfortable for a run.

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You can see the ocean in the background!

I really didn’t feel like running, but just the fresh air outside made me feel better. Once I warmed up, the run felt great. I wore two thin layers on top, my Buff headband (which is so great for cool or warm weather) and some very disappointing new fleece-lined pants. The pants were a deal from Costco – two for $12, and I should have known they wouldn’t cut it for running. Maybe I just got a size too big, but they definitely did not stay up very well. I had to keep hiking them throughout the run.

After the run, I was short on time so I hit up Tim Horton’s for lunch before a later shift at work… and I quickly ruined my workout with this:

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I can’t resist candy cane donuts. Just can’t.

Today, I went to my regular Saturday morning spin class with friends. If it weren’t for them, I probably would not be able to get out of bed.

Overall, it still feels like I’m taking it easy from the half-marathon training days (which included the bulk of 2013). And it still feels weird not to have something to train for. But just getting moving more is helping a lot. Can’t even imagine how there was a time that I didn’t run at all.

On a separate note, take a look at this short documentary, The Runners. The filmmakers thought people would let their guards down while running… something I have experienced first-hand with a couple of my favourite interviews on this blog, with Joy and Julia. Thanks for sharing this, Molly!

Bloody socks

There was so much cake in my fridge. A huge slab cake. It was taunting me.

It was 30 degrees Celcius in coastal Saint John (it is never that hot).

The cake was cool, and sweet and delicious. And then after it was consumed, it felt disgusting in my gut. I felt instantly heavier and sweatier.

Somehow, I had to make it out for a long run that night. I told myself I had to. 18 K.

So I waited until 9 p.m. when it was just a little cooler – not much. And I made a bargain with myself: just run 10 K. I laced up and threw on my coolest running clothes. I started running as slowly and steadily as possible. Set my Garmin on the run/walk feature to take a mandatory break every 10 minutes.

The sun started to set, and I got into a rhythm. 10 K felt possible.

I crossed Reversing Falls and the temperature dropped a couple degrees. So I said, just a little farther. Add another 2 K to make it 12.

I looped back to head on home and everything felt right. The cake was a distant memory. I was running slowly, but had a lot of energy left. I walked in my door and rehydrated with Gatorade and water. Then I did something I’ve never done before. I went back out the door and kept going.

I tacked on another 5 K. Ah, why not make it 6. Before I knew it, I had met my goal.

It was the warmest night I ever remember in Saint John. And it wasn’t until the final home stretch that I felt a burning sensation between my toes. Not sure if it was the sweat, or the extra mileage I’ve been building lately, but my feet had had enough. The skin beneath my second toe on my left foot was peeling off very painfully. I came home to find a bloody sock.

My superficial toe injury has left me limping around a bit more than usual this week. Walking down stairs is particularly ouch-worthy. But hey, it’s like a war wound, and I’m proud of it.

And although the cake was lovely, leftovers from a sweet, post-elopement gathering, I didn’t touch it again.

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My favourite meal of the day

When I was in my teens, the thought of eating first thing in the morning turned my stomach. I had a very uneasy tummy and sometimes even got sick.

As the nervous belly faded, I got in the habit of getting ravenous before noon, and eating whatever sugary, delicious baked good came my way. Muffins, cinnamon buns and even brownies were consumed. In those days, I didn’t even consider sugar and calories. I carried on those bad habits into university, adding a double-double to the mix. Somewhere along the line, probably only within the last five years –  around the time I started dabbling in running – I changed.

I got so excited about breakfast, that I fell asleep at night dreaming about what I would eat the next morning. Something tasty, and yes, healthy.

Enter, oatmeal.

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I used to love getting those little packets of instant oatmeal, but soon realized making a quick pot of plain oatmeal on the stove (or in the microwave) doesn’t take long. It’s also lower in sugar and since it is processed less, has a lower glycemic index, which means the carbs turn into sugar less quickly and makes you feel full longer.

Measure out 1/3 cup of Quaker Quick Oats, add it to 2/3 cup of boiling water, and you’ve got a steaming bowl of delicious, high-fibre oatmeal in minutes. It’s only 120 calories! (Way less than the average sugar and sodium-packed bowl of packaged cereal)

But wait, how do you make it taste good? My favourite part.

First, add fruit. I like a berry blend like strawberries and blueberries, or perhaps banana or cut-up apple. The warm oatmeal slightly cooks the fruit when you add it in. Or, you can add in dried fruit such as raisins, dried blueberries or dried cherries.

Then, add nuts, such as chopped almonds or walnuts, and a dash of cinnamon.

Another recent addition to my loaded oatmeal bowl is a teaspoon of Holy Crap cereal. It adds another 65 calories but it’s full of more goodness, including chia seeds (good for runners!), hemp hearts and buckwheat – all slow-burning fuel.

I top off the bowl with a drizzle of honey or maple syrup. It’s heaven, all for under 300 calories, still way less than the average baked good at my favourite coffee places. It’s all natural and it keeps me satisfied.

Other favourite breakfasts:

– English muffin toasted with natural peanut or almond butter

– Smoothie with Greek yogurt, banana, frozen berries, and if I have it, a splash of mango or orange juice. Sometimes I get crazy and add spinach (you can’t even taste it!)

– One scrambled egg and salsa with one slice of whole wheat toast with peanut butter on it.

– Bowl of Cheerios or Raisin Bran with skim milk with fruit on the side

– Whole wheat tortilla with peanut butter, banana, nuts, dried fruit and honey inside

All served with a great big mug of steaming coffee and skim milk.

I consider most of these breakfasts to be great recovery foods after a morning run. Running experts agree that recovery foods should include healthy carbs as well as protein to restore glycogen or energy stores after a hard run.

I personally couldn’t stomach a breakfast like one of these before a run, but tiny portion of fast-burning carbs – a small slice of bread with peanut butter, or half a banana – works for me, as long as I give myself at least 30 minutes to digest with some water.

On Sunday, I had my longest run so far in 2013 at 12 km.

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I was running late before the run, so I quickly ate about 1/4 cup of multi-grain Cheerios with a splash of milk, and one date. (I know, dates sound and look gross, but they’re actually delicious, like candy.)

I drank a big gulp of water and headed out the door. Usually I need to give myself more time to digest, but I had no stomach issues along the way.

The run was great. It was a quiet Sunday morning after Daylight Savings. The world wasn’t awake yet. It was cold but peaceful. The sidewalks were clear. My body carried me home.

After the run? It had to be oatmeal.