Taking a Small Step

I signed up for a thing!

Being near my alma mater has its advantages, as I have been able to reconnect with many W&M folks. Since the pandemic, a lot of the alumni programs have moved online, including a career development program option.

An email popped into my inbox a couple months ago about this online collaborative career development program. I thought, “Why not?”

Nothing to Lose!

Since I currently have no career to speak of, I figured I had nothing to lose and everything to gain by joining in on the program.

It has the added benefit of being online, and fitting fairly easily into my “schedule” (meaning, I can do most of it after the kids are in bed).

The Format

For the next four weeks, I’ll be dedicating about five hours a week first to reflection, then definition, testing, and creating an action plan for moving forward in my career.

Each week, you have individual assignments to complete (this week’s include a worksheet to help me identify my strengths, likes and dislikes, and preparing an introduction of myself).

You’re also paired with an accountability partner, and a team. You’re supposed to meet with your partner and your team once a week. Before each meeting, you have some materials to prepare so that you’ll actually have something to talk about.

The program is run by a company called Mission Collaborative. They’re a pretty new start-up, so it will be interesting to see how this pans out.

There’s a lot of fluffy language on their website, which is worrisome, but that seems to be pretty typical here in the States. Let me tell ya, it wouldn’t fly in Deutschland! “Vat does ‘authentic expression‘ mean? Am I not expressing myself clearly??”

What I hope to get out of it

If I can get even one or two good ideas for different possible career paths, then I’ll be pleased with the result.

I’ll be curious to see if any specific and actionable points come out of a program like this, or if it turns out to be a glorified personality test.

I’ve done one of those in-depth, all-day workshop personality tests, and I found that while it was fun (who doesn’t like hearing about themselves??), it didn’t really tell me anything I didn’t already know.

That’s what I’m hoping for, really.

To learn something I don’t already know.

The Big Important Things

I’ve been pushing these out of my mind lately.

You know what they are. The Big Important Things you need to do. The things that seem terrifying.

And the longer you go without doing them, the more terrifying and difficult they seem.

An Example

Take, for instance, the dishes (not a Big Important Thing, but serves as a good example).

Since this is pandemic time, and we’re all at home together, we have four people eating three main meals a day and two smaller snacks. That generates a lot of dishes.

Say I were to leave them piling up in the sink and on the counters until the end of the day. By the time evening rolls around, the number of dishes in the kitchen is overwhelming.

There are now more dishes that I will ever possibly be able to do! The pressure!! The stress!! I naturally have a breakdown.

However, if we start the day by one of us popping all the breakfast things in the dishwasher right after brekkie, another tidying the lunch things away, quickly sweeping the snack dishes in in the afternoon…

Then, by dinner time, the kitchen is tidy and ready to be cooked in, and the dishes after dinner aren’t so crushingly overwhelming.

Voila! Simples!

In Reality, Though…

While we all know that the Big Important Things aren’t that difficult to do, they, like the dishes, accumulate and seem to take on an aura of impossibility.

For me, it’s financial things. Doing taxes, financial planning, etc. It’s not that it’s hard, but it’s something I do not easily grasp and must take a little more time to think through.

And so, I often push them aside until (like when we eventually run out of dishes to eat off of) I’m forced to deal with them.

(Now that’s not to say we’re not taking care of things. We are.)

Grow Into Boogeymen

Though these are things that can be fairly easily dealt with, because I keep putting them off, they seem to get more and more Big, and more and more Important.

That’s when I wake up to pee at 3am and suddenly it pops into my head that I haven’t looked into whether I can continue to contribute to social security in Switzerland while living in the United States, and OH MY GOD I NEED TO DO THAT, and what about looking into that investment we were thinking about, and have we saved enough for a down payment on a house, and OH GOD WILL THE BOYS WANT TO GO TO COLLEGE IN THE STATES HOW WILL WE EVER AFFORD THAT and I should be looking for a job but I’m stuck home with the boys and do I need to have that mole looked at?

But it’s 3am and it’s simply NOT THE RIGHT TIME.

This is where the Big Important Things become boogeymen.

When Day Breaks

But the funny thing is, that (after eventually drifting off to sleep), in the morning I wake up and I have entirely forgotten about these things.

Because the requirements of every day life take priority. And that to-do list of Big Important Things continues to grow.

Occasionally, I’ll take a scythe to it, and like the Grim Reaper will mow down the terrifying Big Important Things on my list and try to reset to zero.

And that’s the trick! The thing is to do one, just ONE of those terrifying things on your to-do list.

When you do that one, you quickly realize that it wasn’t that hard to do after all. And that gives you courage to move ahead with the rest.

Like washing up the dishes, it’s getting started that’s the hard part. Once you get rolling, it’s like they do themselves.

So let’s get rolling!

What are your Big Important Things you’re putting off? How can you get started on just one of them today?

Things I Did Today

I hauled myself out of bed and (miraculously) got on the exercise bike. It’s gotten to the point where it’s almost mechanical now. The day isn’t right if I don’t do it.

I epilated for the first time in far more weeks than I care to say. I did this while sitting stark naked in our bathtub with a three-year-old playing with the Paw Patrol on the bathroom floor next to me, constantly complaining that my “machine” made “too much noise.”

I piled the threenager into the car and went to the grocery store. Found some Spanish jamon serrano which I’d forgotten about until now and now I desperately want to pull out of the fridge.

I put some laundry into the washer. Then moved it to the dryer. Then left it there.

I obsessed over why, despite eating meals heavy in proteins and veggies and some carefully chosen carbohydrates, I’m still feeling hungry after my meals? Is this all in my head?

I ate four cookies (and wrote it down–though first I only counted it as two because two of them were really small, but then I thought the point of writing it all down is to really write it down).

I glanced at the clean and dry bedsheets hanging over our bar stools (to avoid wrinkles) and considered folding them. Then didn’t.

I finished a book.

I took the boys to the playground where I continually shooed them away from me and told them to go play, no, Mama is not “safe”, stop jumping on me, ouch, please go play, we are at the playground, there’s a jungle gym, you guys can climb on me at home. Finally, I fended them off with my knitting needles.

We saw a really really really big snake crawling through the playground. I managed to scoop it up onto a long stick and toss it into the bushes. It was kinda scary and cool. My boys weren’t impressed.

I cooked one meal for the Chico and me and another for the boys. I couldn’t face their complaints, meltdowns and grossed-out faces. The Chico devoured his meal and had seconds. God bless him.

I played the piano. I wrote to friends. I’m writing here.

It’s been a busy day.

And Yet…

When I think about some Big Important Things I should probably be doing, it seems like I have been wasting my time.

At least I finished a book. Time to start another.

We’re Doing Just Fine

You can’t make me believe in “terrible twos.” Nope. Impossible.

To us, terrible two doesn’t exist.

Our boys were absolute DOLLS at the age of two. They were sweet, loving, caring, fun and funny. We can’t remember any huge behavioral issues at age two, and even tantrums (few and far between) weren’t a big thing.

They both potty trained at two or shortly after. They had big changes in their third years (a baby brother for the big guy, and moving to another country for the little guy). They exploded with language and really started speaking in both English and Spanish at or before age two.

It was wonderful. A dream!

That was two.

Fast Forward to Three

I once heard someone use the term threenager.

That’s a mash-up of “three” and “teenager.” It means emotions are BIG. They’re OVERWHELMING. They’re OVER THE TOP.

Attitudes are big, too. Eyes roll, tempers flare. Transitions become nearly impossible.

For example, when it’s time to leave the playground: Meltdown.

When it’s time to stop playing and come set the table: Meltdown.

When it’s time to get ready for bed: EPIC MELTDOWN.

We try to mitigate the meltdown by giving ten-minute warnings for transitions. “Ten minutes until we have to leave, boys! Ten minutes!” Five minutes later, we’ll give the five-minute warning. Then, if things look like they’ll be rough, a two-minute warning.

The warning system has helped to get our kids used to the idea that a transition is coming. It doesn’t always cut off the tantrum, but it often helps.

It’s Relentless

Because of this threenager behavior, we need to keep a couple steps ahead of the game in an effort to help manage these enormous feelings.

But we don’t always do it right. Sometimes, we’re tired. Sometimes, we don’t have the time to think about how an upcoming event (even if it literally happens at the SAME TIME EVERY DAY) is going to break upon the beach of our three-year-old’s mind.

Doing this dance all day, every day, is very tiring. Despite having adopted better eating and exercise habits, cutting out sugar and other unhealthy foods…

I am still exhausted.

It Has Its Moments

It’s also unpredictable. Sometimes, it’s a battle. Other times, he hops-to and does whatever we ask him. He keeps us on our toes! It’s always a guessing game!

At times like these, we try to praise enthusiastically and effusively. It may sound corny, but it works.

And truly, despite the exhaustion, despite the relentlessness and the overwhelming emotions of our three-year-old, he is still our sunshine.

He’s sweet. He is so over-the-top in a very funny way, and he often has us in stitches.

Every morning, he rises and truly shines along with his brother. Each day when that happens, it’s like someone has hit the reset button, and I feel nothing but delight and joy.

Some days that lasts longer than others.

We’re going to be fine.

Noom: More of a Bust than a Boom

Yesterday I told you about my experiences with Weight Watchers (aka WW). Today, let me tell you all about Noom.

Noooooooom!

Okay, enough of that silliness.

First Off

The name is dumb. It means nothing. And part of the company’s “playful” and “cool” schtick is to try to push it as being sooooooo mysterious and aren’t you dyyyyyying to know what it means?

No. No, I am not.

Credit Where it’s Due

To give the company its due, I did learn about it through one of its sponsorships.

Noom sponsors NPR, and I am a big NPR listener (or at least I was until the pandemic made listening to the news an anxiety-provoking activity). So, well done Noom on hitting your target audience. Bravo.

Noom bills itself as a lifestyle-changing program, rather than a diet. Though, like any other diet, you are assigned a daily calorie budget with some extra weekly points you can use to “cheat” with–like in WW.

You then begin on a daily regimen of trite inanities.

What Now?

Yes, that’s what I said. You’re put through some pretty painfully dumb readings, quizzes and assignments.

Alright, I understand that this is a program designed for all Noom users, and that perhaps I am not what you would call average in terms of rapidity of thought and concept comprehension. Nor, however, am I an Einstein.

But PLEASE! I think what drove me most insane about Noom was the stupidly vapid, annoying and sometimes rather condescending tone of voice it uses in all its communications.

What You Actually Have To Do

  • On Noom, you weigh in daily. Weight Watchers and other programs I’ve heard of have you weigh in only once a week.

Noom argues, however, that weighing in daily helps you to conquer “scanxiety,” aka “scale anxiety” (See?! It’s these stupid terms that annoy me!).

Fine. I didn’t really mind that.

  • Then, you have to spend a good ten to 20 minutes on your phone, reading all the day’s articles, taking the quizzes and preparing for the day’s “assignments.”

At first, I diligently read all the articles, tried to absorb the “psych tricks” (“It’s all based on real psychology!” Is there such a think as fake psychology?), and obediently tried out the assignments.

It wasn’t all BS, though. I did glean some takeaways for portion control, tips for avoiding temptation at the grocery store, and even got a couple of nice recipes.

But spending that much time on my phone soon became undoable. I do not spend that much time on my phone in one sitting. As life butted in, I found myself dropping off halfway through an article to help dress a child, prepare breakfast, or (Heaven forbid!) actually go pee myself.

Then the day began and suddenly, I was behind on my assignments and felt like I had to try and play catch-up for the rest of the day.

  • And of course, you count calories. Foods are either green, yellow or red, and you’re steered towards a certain amount of each per day.

In the end, Noom is like any other program you’ve tried, just with jauntier lingo. The long and the short of it is that you have to count calories.

The database of known foods may be growing as people add in grocery store items and ingredients, but when I tried it, it was still quite limited. I mainly shop at Giant and Wegmans, and many basic products I bought there were not recognized.

And, naturally, I had to put in all my go-to recipes again and calculate how many portions they are (I dunno, I’ve made them up!), and how many calories a portion is.

Other Elements of the Noom Program

At the beginning you are assigned a coach. Your coach is a “health consultant” but is not a registered dietician.

I don’t know what qualifies a person to be a health consultant, but the supposed lady who was my coach seemed more like a robot giving automated responses. She was worse than useless.

After a period, you are also added to a support group. I think you’re matched up with others who began at more or less the same time, have similar lifestyles, goals and habits (they ask you about these things when you sign up).

Honestly, most of the time I ignored what was going on in my “support group” and what the group leader (another Noom employee) was posting there. She was supposedly setting challenges or giving motivating advice, but most of the time it just felt like even more stuff to read and assignments to complete.

All In All

Okay, so I did lose a little weight when I started Noom. That’s probably because my calorie intake was limited to 1,400 calories a day (whaaaaaaat? Yeeeeeeeeees, I know it’s ridiculous).

I spent a lot of time hungry. The “green foods” Noom suggests you focus on were not enough to fill me up. Lean proteins and even healthy fats like avocado, nuts and seeds are classified as “red foods,” so I avoided them.

Funny, but it seems to me like (in moderation) these are precisely the kinds of foods that help to satiate while also stabilizing blood sugar. But hey, I’m not an expert.

(Though it seems I already know more than my Noom “health coach” did.)

I fell behind in my readings and quizzes and soon became overwhelmed and unmotivated. My tracking fizzled, and before long I had quit and deleted the app.

And the weight crept back on.

In Conclusion

In terms of personalization, good coaching and support, Weight Watchers is definitely superior to Noom. Their database of known foods is also much better.

If you want to try a diet that encourages low-fat, low calorie consumption, and you don’t want stupid people talking to you as if you are the idiot, then skip Noom and use Weight Watchers. If you’re going to be hungry, you don’t want to feel like someone’s adding insult to the injury by belittling your intelligence.

Personally, I’m ready to try something else. Something drastic.

Watch this space.

Why WW Didn’t Work for Me

In this article, I refer to the company as both Weight Watchers and WW. The official name used to be Weight Watchers, but they recently rebranded to just WW. A lot of people still refer to the company by the long name, so I’m using both interchangeably.

I wrote a few days ago about my decision to count calories. Or, if not count calories, at least track everything that I eat.

This decision comes as I realize that I need to take my health (and the health of my lower back!) seriously. Not so much focused on a number when it comes to weight loss, but on my back feeling less pressure, feeling strong and healthy.

I’ve Tried WW Before

At the end of 2011, I was about as heavy as I am now. In 2010, I had surgery on my lower back which eliminated running from being my principal exercise.

In 2012, starting a new life in a new place, I decided to try and make some changes. I signed up for what was then Weight Watchers, which is now officially WW.

In the first week, I felt seriously hungry. I remember breaking down in tears at the thought that this was my future: feeling hungry all the time.

It Got Better

Gradually, it got better and just by tracking and eating less (not exercising regularly), I did manage to lose a good 10kg in about nine months.

I noticed, though, that Weight Watchers steered me heavily towards low-fat and low calorie options, and encouraged a lot of fruit consumption (high in sugar).

I was doing WW online, and I liked the app and the relative ease of tracking. However, putting all my recipes in (since I do mostly cook from scratch) was pretty tedious, and the database of known Canadian ingredients wasn’t huge.

At one point, when I had hit a plateau and wanted to try and re-motivate myself, I attended a couple of meetings.

Meetings Were a No-Go

The meetings heavily pushed Weight Watchers products. There were always arrays of packaged “healthy” foods: treats, salty snacks, prepared meals, all branded.

That was a bit of a turn-off. Also, the focus of the meetings didn’t seem right to me.

Instead of talking about making healthy lifestyle changes, the leader and other members seemed to focus on how to “cheat.”

They were constantly looking for ways to try and fool their taste buds or their stomachs into thinking they had eaten something they craved, or eaten more.

I stopped attending after two meetings.

Fizzled Out

Eventually, the whole process lost its charm, and my use of the app and tracking fizzled out.

I have actually twice signed up again for WW, only to let it drop. Once in 2018, when we were living in Germany. It is not huge in Germany, and I was using the American site. Tracking the ingredients and foods I was eating there was very difficult, and I soon gave up.

A second time was earlier this year.

Rebranded from Weight Watchers to WW

In early 2020, I tried again. Weight Watchers is now WW and the rebranding has included a revamping of their points system.

You are assigned a color, and based on your color, some foods are “allowed” and others are not.

If you are purple, you get fewer points for eating potatoes than if you are blue, for instance.

I also tried attending meetings again (this was pre-pandemic). But once again, though there was more sharing of tasty recipes in this group, there was a lot of talk about “fooling” yourself into think you’re eating what you’re not.

Already a bit skeptical, when the pandemic hit I didn’t bother to try the virtual meetings. I also found that their points system didn’t work for me, and I gave up tracking again.

Eventually, I canceled my membership yet again.

An Individualized Approach

After thinking about it and wondering why I found it so hard to stick with WW, I have come to a couple of conclusions.

  • Firstly, I don’t like being told what to do by someone (or some entity) I don’t know and respect. With the online version, I don’t have any personal interaction (minus the online discussions, and let’s not even go there). And in the face-to-face meetings I attended, I couldn’t respect the person leading.
  • Secondly, despite having lost weight on WW before, I wasn’t really building lasting habits. I don’t think any app or program can do that for me, and WW certainly didn’t. I lost a lot of weight, looked great in the photos at my wedding, and then went back to old habits.

It’s not like I don’t know what I need to do. And it’s not like I am a weak-willed person who cannot discipline herself enough to build new habits.

But I think that I need something more personalized and more tailored than Weight Watchers offers.

That’s When I Tried Noom.

I’ll tell you about that another time.

(Spoiler alert: IT SUCKED.)

When Reading is a Chore

I love to read. It’s one of my favorite activities.

I especially love curling up to read with the boys. It’s always fun to snuggle with the Bear and read his favorite picture books (unless he chooses a Thomas book. I’m OVER Thomas the Tank Engine).

It’s particularly fun to read with the Bug, though, because we’re reading chapter books together. We’ve read a good number, including all of the Chronicles of Narnia, some Dick King-Smith (Babe, anyone? I LOVE that book!) and a few Roald Dahl books.

It’s such a pleasure to read with him and discover stories together, or see him enjoy the books that I loved as a child.

But sometimes, reading is a chore.

With some books, I find myself doing anything EXCEPT picking them up and reading them. This invariably means that it takes me forever to get through these books.

Usually, it’s a sure-fire sign that I am not enjoying a read. And yet, I often struggle to put aside something that I have started.

Reading Guilt

I’m not sure why I have this idea that I have to finish the books I begin. It’s not like I’m reading them for a book group, a class, or for any kind of deadline.

Often, I can feel bad if I’m not enjoying a book that someone has recommended. This is especially true if it’s a recommendation from someone I particularly love or respect.

I need to remind myself that the way I feel about their recommendations does not reflect on how I feel about the person!

Also, if I’ve paid money for a book, I tell myself I really should read it. It’s a waste of money if I don’t, right?

(This is why I’m so glad we have access to such wonderful libraries…)

What Puts Me Off

It can be for any number of reasons.

If a book is boring, then I feel far less guilt about dropping it.

The worst is when I can objectively acknowledge that a book is good, but something is keeping me from thoroughly enjoying it.

It’s usually because I don’t like the protagonist or a main character. I can’t get behind their choices, or they’re just awful people.

Sometimes, it’s the author him or herself (if I’m honest, more often a him). Do you ever feel like, even when reading a work of fiction, you’re actually reading something autobiographical? This happens to me quite often, but I don’t generally mind it.

When it does bother me, is when I can tell that the author is a real jerk. This happened when I read For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway.

I know, I know! It’s a classic! A masterpiece! It’s supposed to be sublime literature! But GOOD GRIEF WHAT A CHAUVINISTIC JERK!

It took me waaaaay too long to finish that book because I cringed almost every time I picked it up.

Call me a Philistine if you will, but when reading Hemingway, I found there was simply too much of… Well, Hemingway, in his writing.

All That To Say…

I’m reading a piece of non-fiction right now, and though I wouldn’t say the author is a jerk like Hemingway, he (and the people he’s surrounded by in his story) are insufferable snobs.

He’s got a great story to tell (I think, I haven’t gotten all that far), but man, I would NOT invite him to a dinner party. I swear, he’d spend the evening lecturing us about the superiority of other cultures and would make literary and historical references, and then scorn us for not recognizing them.

No, thank you.

But I guess I’ll try and finish his book. As long as I don’t have to meet him.

On a Photo Kick

I went down a rabbit hole today.

Today, without warning or premeditation, I suddenly decided that I ABSOLUTELY HAD to (finally) make baby photo albums for the boys.

You know. That thing I haven’t felt necessary until now was suddenly terribly urgent.

What Started It

I updated my Mac to the latest operating system. You’d think that would have very little to do with suddenly deciding to make a photo album, but it does!

Thankfully, not in a tragic way. My photos weren’t lost or anything (even though I did forget to do a backup before updating).

It was as simple as this: When I rebooted my computer after completing the update, for some reason the Photos app opened on its own.

And there, before my eyes was a selection of photos I haven’t seen in donkey’s years!

Well Then I Couldn’t Stop

There are SO MANY ALBUMS I NEED TO MAKE.

Photos from a trip to Greece with a dear friend (shoutout to my crazy Kiwi lady friend!), my brothers’ weddings in 2008, a trip to Ireland in 2009, my masters in the UK from 2010-2011…

(To my credit, I did make a photo album of photos of the Chico and me from our first year together, and of our wedding! So at least I’ve done that!)

Photos of our life in Montreal, Christmases, family vacations, our honeymoon, costume parties, festivals…

But I decided to narrow it down. When I saw the photos of the day our Bug was born (in January. In MONTREAL. It was HELLA COLD), I decided it was time.

Why It Matters

I love being surrounded by photos. Every so often, I’ll go to CVS or Target and print up a bunch. I’ll put some in frames, others in a photo album. Giving photos is one of my favorite holiday gifts. They’re always appreciated!

It matters to me to have printouts of photos of the people I love.

I want the boys to see our family and friends regularly. Even if we live far away, I want them to be familiar with their faces.

Also, I’m paranoid that for some reason, all digital copies of my photos will be lost. I’ve always saved my photos on an external hard drive. Now I have them stored there as well as paying for extra storage in the cloud.

But what’s the point of storing all these digital files if I’m never going to look at them? Hence the sudden and immediate NEED to print up a bunch of pictures.

How I Did It

I googled “best photo book printing websites” and after reading a bunch of different reviews, chose mixbook.com. I made two blank books (not using any template, though there are 500+ to choose from) and was able to design simple but beautiful books of our boys’ first years.

Amazon Prints is also supposed to be good, and a bit less expensive, though they don’t have as nice binding options as Mixbook.

(N.B.: If you sign up on mixbook you get 50% off your first order… So I got two books for the price of one.)

Our books are due to arrive at the end of October. The boys are super excited about their “baby books” (they were only moderately helpful in the process of designing them, but whatever), and I hope that little by little I’ll be able to put together a few more albums.

Honestly, it’s worth the time, effort and money. Nothing beats a good photo book for bringing back memories.

Home Together Again

It’s official.

We have withdrawn the Bear from daycare and we’re now all home together.

Everything Was Fine

Over the summer, both boys went to daycare. The Bug was in pre-K and the Bear in daycare. Once fall rolled around, the Bug started kindergarten in the public school (distance learning), and the Bear moved up to preschool.

It wasn’t always easy to get the Bear out of the house in the morning. He’s no fool! He knew his big brother was staying home!

Also, he was wary of the transition from daycare to preschool, and he missed his old classmates from the twos classroom.

He loved his new teacher, though, and eventually all was going swimmingly, until a child in his class tested positive for Covid.

Until It Wasn’t

As I wrote at the time, this frightened us a bit. To me, it felt like a reality check that YES THE CORONAVIRUS IS STILL AROUND, and YES WE CAN GET IT!

The school reported the case to the health department, which I was very glad about. I got a call from a contact tracer, and answered all the necessary questions about symptoms, contacts, activities, etc.

Since then, we’ve received daily texts asking us to report on the Bear’s symptoms. It’s easy to do, and so far we’ve had nothing to report.

So really, not that scary.

And yet, today, with two days left to go in our quarantine period and nary a sign of a symptom, we decided to withdraw the Bear from school.

Family Priorities

Talking it over together, the Chico and I agreed that with the onset of the cold weather, these instances of either infection or scares are likely to increase.

Whether anyone gets Covid or not, the kids will all be getting seasonal colds, coughs and sniffles. And each time that happens, we will either have to quarantine until the symptoms pass, or we will have to get tested for Covid.

We decided that though it’s not ideal for either of the boys to be out of school, under the circumstances, we’d rather keep them home.

As the weather gets colder and the days get shorter, we want to be able to spend time indoors with our friends and family. With the Bear in daycare, we wouldn’t feel as comfortable doing that.

However, if we know that our exposure has been limited, then we won’t be so worried about potentially infecting others.

Really it’s a question of controlling our environment as best we can.

Send Help (and/or Wine)

This is not going to be easy. It’s going to take a lot of willpower to keep from resorting to chocolate or wine on particularly relentless days.

The advantage we have now over lockdown in the spring is that the Bug has a schedule. Even though he’s at home, his days are structured, and that helps to set the rhythm for the rest of us.

Morning time is reading/school time (coloring, educational play, stories), we all have a lunch and break together, then afternoon nap for the Bear while the Bug has his afternoon classes.

The afternoons are all about exercise and playing. The boys “help” me with my Pilates (hilarity ensues–laughing burns calories, right?), and they do their Cosmic Kids yoga sessions.

If we can stick to a rhythm, I think we’ll make it through this.

But still, feel free to send wine. It won’t go to waste.

Not a Moral Failing

A year or so before my mother died, I decided there was one subject I could not broach with her.

At one point, I concluded that anything that had to do with diets, weight loss, weight management or my relationship with food (other than sharing great recipes) was off limits.

Without making any kind of formal announcement, I quietly closed that avenue of conversation with my mother. There seemed to be no point in keeping it open.

Let me Explain

I have always “struggled” with my weight. Or at least, that is what I have always thought.

In reality, I have only technically been “overweight” at two points in my life. The first time was after surgery in 2010 when my exercise habits had to change dramatically. The second time is now, after having had two babies.

What was happening before now amounts to this: I was never as skinny as my mother had been as a child and young woman.

This is not to throw shade on my mother.

I can see in hindsight, however, that her own relationship with food was likely somewhat disordered. It’s not surprising, therefore, that she should unconsciously communicate some of those disordered feelings to her daughter.

Building Frustration Over Years

When I was a teenager, my mother and I started having conversations about food.

We would talk about our habits, and we would talk about healthy habits. We would compare the two, analyse ourselves, agree that we knew what we had to do to improve.

We’d talk and talk and talk, but rarely did anything change.

Eventually, these conversations felt so cyclical, so repetitive, so fruitless and ultimately so demoralizing, that I gently but firmly put a stop to them.

It Wasn’t About Me

Again with the benefit of hindsight, I can see that these conversations weren’t so much about me as they were about my mother.

I had always thought that my mom struggled with her weight after she hit menopause. I recently learned, however, that her efforts to control her weight began long before then.

This surprised me. I always remember my mother being slim. I can remember her wearing a bikini at the beach on summer holidays. If I can remember it, I was likely five or six, making her at least 39 years old.

It turns out, though, that her weight and her relationship with food were probably two of her biggest demons.

The Effect On Me

It’s funny how now it seems so clear, so obvious, that these searching, analytical conversations about our weight and how we ate were more for her benefit than for mine.

In her effort to talk herself into a healthy mindset, she unconsciously made me feel like I was failing, like I weighed too much, and like I wasn’t healthy enough.

I know she didn’t mean to do this. I know none of this was malicious. But the truth is that these conversations, while they were probably meant to be helpful, were actually quite damaging to my self image and self esteem.

So Here We Are

Our habits are our own. No one else can make our choices for us. However, the example we see from the people we are closest to, the people we look up to, and the people we love most can have a huge influence.

All this to say that I have a few demons (some inherited, some my own) to push back against.

One demon that I have to fight hard against might have been inherited (my mother never said this), or it could come from societal attitudes. That is the idea that being overweight is somehow a moral failing.

It is not.

Just because I struggle to maintain a healthy weight (and I define “healthy weight” by whatever weight I need to be at for my back to feel good), does not make me a weak person.

A Question of Habit

That’s what it comes down to. Our habits are the things that we do without even realizing it. We’re so used to them that we don’t consciously choose to do them.

That is why they are so hard to change.

My aim is to change my eating habits from ones of extremes (Eat all the things! Deny myself everything!) to ones of moderation.

It’s not easy. It’s not going to happen overnight. And it won’t likely happen without help.

Which is why I write about it here. Because you’ve all been so helpful.

My mother was helpful, too. And I know she would be proud of me right now. She wanted for me what she felt unable to do herself. With your help, dear readers, I’ll get there.

God willing.