A Review of “Knitting Comfortably”

I’m an old dog.

Well, maybe not old. But definitely middle-aged! And learning new tricks is no picnic.

Regular readers will know that I have been off the needles again. The knitting needles, that is.

In an effort to reduce discomfort and avoid injury, I purchased myself a copy of Carson Demers’ book Knitting Comfortably: the Ergonomics of Hand Knitting.

It arrived the other day, and I have learned many, many things. For instance…

I’M DOING IT ALL WRONG!

I exaggerate. (But not much.)

Posture? WRONG. Knitting chair? WRONG. Lighting? WRONG. Yarn tensioning? WRONG. Pairing needles and yarn? WRONG.

You get the idea.

Okay, to be fair, it’s not a question of right or wrong. It’s a question of ergonomics, and balancing productivity, efficiency and safety.

A Balancing Act

In his book, Demers makes it very clear that there is no incorrect way to knit: no one method that is superior to any other (though there is one he pooh-poohs).

How we knit is a balancing act, and he uses the image of the 3-legged stool to demonstrate. Ergonomics (or comfort) is the seat, and the three legs are what I mentioned above: productivity, efficiency and safety.

He then breaks down the elements that contribute to each of those three aspects of ergonomics and addresses them in relation to knitting.

My favorite part of this book is that Demers is himself a knitter, and truly understands how much knitters love their craft. He is just as passionate about yarn and patterns as the next knitter is!

He pairs his understanding of the knitter’s psyche with his expertise in ergonomics brilliantly, and the result is an engaging, clear and easy to understand (and apply!) book.

Applying the Concepts

You can start applying the concepts from the get-go. He begins with a discussion of posture, which (according to the physical therapist I saw back in early 2020) is the source of my problem.

What the physical therapist could not tell me (because she is not a knitter and didn’t even pay attention when I showed her how I knit), is exactly how my posture was causing me pain.

One chapter into this book, I already had significant changes I could apply. And since I had been on complete knitting rest for 10 days or so, I was starting with a clean slate and could gingerly experiment.

Here’s where the old dog factor comes in.

Old Dog; New Tricks

You know what they say…

I learned to knit in 2012 or 2013. It’s not like I’ve been knitting forever. But once you get comfortable with it, it then becomes very hard to change how you knit.

I had already made an effort to change the way I tension my yarn (you can see my video in this post). However, that wasn’t enough to remove the pressure from my shoulder.

More drastic changes were clearly in order.

In addition to changing where I knit, I have to change how I hold my knitting. Up until now I’ve tended to hold my knitting up to look at it more easily, but doing so pulls my shoulder forward and puts pressure on both my shoulder and my elbow.

What I need to do is lower my knitting into my lap (or to a cushion on my lap) and try and keep my forearms parallel to the floor. It’s not easy to do this, as my arms have a tendency to creep up as I keep wanting to look down at my knitting.

But part of the exercise is to learn to trust that my hands know what they’re doing, and that unless I’m working a complicated stitch pattern, they can be left to their own devices, with only an occasional glace.

It needs practice, and I must constantly check in with myself to see how my shoulder is handling it. So far, so good.

Don’t Overdo It

Another change is a behavioral one: I mustn’t allow myself to sit and knit for long stretches of time. We’re always told that sitting for long periods is bad for us.

But that’s so easy to forget when we’re doing something as enjoyable as knitting!

I need to set a timer, or simply stand up to knit. I’ve got to remember to give myself plenty of breaks and ease back into it.

Not Just About Knitting

Demers’ observations and advice apply not only to knitting, but to any sedentary activity (think: using the computer, poking at your smartphone, or driving).

All of these activities involve neck strain (looking down), pressure on wrists, elbows and shoulders, and awkward postures.

So this information is not only valuable in the context of knitting, but also for computer and keyboard use, smartphone use and driving.

Final Word

Don’t buy this book unless you’re a knitter. I don’t think it would even be that helpful for crocheters (though you could definitely get some useful information from it).

But if you ARE a knitter, no matter whether you’re experiencing discomfort or not, YOU SHOULD READ THIS BOOK.

Not only will it help you improve your knitting comfort immediately, it will open your eyes to some potentially unhealthy habits that can endanger your long-term knitting ability.

Don’t risk it. It’s not worth it. If you love your knitting as much as I do, you’ll want to make sure you can keep knitting comfortably for as long as possible.

Click here to visit Carson’s website and order your own copy. (I have not been paid to write this article, and clicking this link doesn’t give me–or Carson Demers–any money. Unless, of course, you buy his book, which would give him money. Not me. But if you want to send me money, I am on PayPal. Just saying.)

Have You Had Your Dance Party?

Guys, have you had your Friday dance party?

What? No?? What are you waiting for??

A Friday dance party is a way to shake off the stress of the week and kick-start your weekend. No matter if your dance moves are shockingly bad! Just GET MOVING!

The weather turned this week here in Virginia. We were having warm, sunny days until the temperature dropped and it started to pour rain. Today, the sun came out again, and we were grateful to get outside this afternoon.

But even an afternoon of running (aaaaaand accidentally rolling in dog poop–LOOOOOVELY) couldn’t get out all the pent-up energy from a rainy week in lockdown.

Enter: Dance Party!

Our kids LOVE a Friday dance party. Our current favorites are the Day of the Diesels from Thomas and Friends and (*shudder*) Crazy Frog.

But really, any song that gets you moving will do. We’ve also gone through some World Cup songs (hello Shakira!) and some old school dance hits. The boys do love to do a Twist.

We put on the little Bose bluetooth speaker, pull something up on Spotify, YouTube or whatever and GET MOVING.

Mostly, we’re just running around like fools in the living room. Sometimes we attempt some real dance moves, but mostly we’re just being silly. And that’s the beauty of the Friday dance party.

It does not matter how well you dance or how cool you look. You’re sharing an unguarded moment of silliness, fun and joy with your family.

Put It In Your Calendar

Schedule it. Put it in your calendar. Make your Friday dance party a weekly event.

Pull up your favorite dance tunes (no, it doesn’t have to be Crazy Frog). Crank up the volume. A bit of boogieing before bedtime is definitely in order.

2020 has been a hard, and sucky year. Lighten it up. Add a dance party to your routine.

The Pain of Not Knitting

Back in February I was ordered off knitting because of pain in my shoulder.

Well folks, it’s happened again.

All that Election Day (and Election Week!) stress knitting took its toll.

Early Twinges

I was already starting to feel some twinges when I finished the Bear’s Flax Lite sweater (it’s now blocked and BEAUTIFUL!), but the flurry of knitting I started on Election Day seems to have been too much.

I don’t feel the pain while I’m knitting. That’s the problem. It’s once I stop that I feel an ache in my shoulder and pain just above my elbow.

It gets to the point where my shoulder and the spot above my elbow become sensitive to the touch, and the whole area is generally achey and uncomfortable.

Physical Therapy

Before the pandemic hit, I did consult a physical therapist at a practice that is supposed to specialize in hand, arm and shoulder care. However, I was disappointed that the therapists didn’t ask to watch me knit, to see what movement I was doing, or observe my posture while I knitted. As a result, they weren’t able to pinpoint the source or cause of my pain.

I went frequently and did the exercises they gave me, but with very limited success in managing my discomfort. When the pandemic hit, I dropped my visits altogether.

More Knitting = More Pain

In periods of less knitting activity, when I’m picking something up and only working on it occasionally, this isn’t really a problem.

But when I’m working on a project I really like, or am trying to finish something by a certain date, I tend to knit more. That’s when the pain and discomfort flare up.

Feeling Deprived

Everything I’ve read says that one of the biggest mental health benefits of crafting is the sense of purpose, the objective you have to work towards. Whether it’s a hat, a sweater or some baby booties, you have delayed gratification while you work towards the final product, and the anticipation of enjoyment once it’s done.

Right now, that feeling of having a goal to work towards is huge for me. With life in limbo due to the global pandemic and my career/job prospects on hold for the time being, knitting has been a beneficial creative outlet.

And now I cannot knit. As I wrote back in February, my productivity and motivation are low, and I feel very little sense of purpose.

That’s not to say that being able to knit solves all problems, but it certainly helps.

Fearful of My Needles

Also upsetting is the apprehension and worry I feel about picking up the needles again once my arm feels better. Will I just hurt myself again? Why am I doing this so wrong that it hurts?

There’s definitely anxiety there.

Looking For Solutions

And so, I have ordered Knitting Comfortably, the Ergonomics of Hand Knitting by Carson Demers, a physical therapist and knitter based in San Francisco.

I learned about him on the Fruity Knitting podcast, and I am hoping that his book will help me answer some of these questions. I’ve also reached out to contact him and ask if he knows any physical therapists in this area that he could recommend. It’s a long shot, but there’s no harm in asking.

Here’s hoping that with rest, icing, warming, massage and then with the help of this book, I can get back to knitting without worrying about injury.

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.)

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.

I Am Not a Garbage Disposal

It’s my new mantra.

I have to mutter it to myself 4-5 times a day, as I look at what my children have left on their plates.

This is a huge pitfall for parents trying to lose weight, I have learned.

Still Counting

It’s been about ten days, and I am still counting those calories. Thanks to some very sagacious advice from my godfather, I have also added some strength training to my fitness routine.

There have been good days and bad days. Some days I have too much, other days I don’t even eat all my allotted daily calories (rare), but I’m counting everything.

Some days, I feel perfectly satisfied.

Other days, I feel like I spend the day hungry. I’m convinced it’s psychological, because those days are the ones when I have less going on. I’m not as busy, hovering around the kitchen more.

Those are the days when my kids’ plates are especially dangerous.

Family Rule

We have one kid who simply doesn’t eat a lot, and another kid who is a picky eater. The Bug will taste pretty much anything, but he won’t eat lots of it. The Bear will flat-out refuse to eat things.

To mitigate the exhaustion and unpleasantness that can be mealtimes, we have instituted one simple rule:

One bite of everything.

Whatever foods are on their plates, they must take one bite of each. This can lead to faces, complaints and protests, but generally they comply.

The trouble is that whatever they don’t like gets left on their plates.

Often, the things they don’t like are the things that I love!

After eating, once they’ve cleared their plates to the counter, I have to steel myself before heading to the kitchen to start tidying.

It’s so easy to finish off what they’ve left behind! And it seems like such a waste!

(The worst part is that Chico can finish their plates AND have his own helping of seconds and never bat an eyelash. If I were to do that, I’d see the difference on the scale the very next morning.)

Building Up the Willpower

Different people have different approaches to this problem. I’ve heard of people squirting dish soap on their kids’ plates as soon as they get to the kitchen in order to avoid the temptation.

What’s helped me, though, is the knowledge that I must write everything down.

Today, the school-provided lunch was “pizza crunchers.” Basically, fried balls of mozzarella stuffed with tomato sauce. Neither of the kids liked them very much, and they left most of them on their plates.

The golden lumps of fat gleamed up at me from their plates. Their siren call was in their smell. They smelled delicious.

Just one bite, I told myself.

I picked one up, but instead of feeling a crispy crust between my fingers, all I felt was a soggy, smooshy lump.

That broke the spell. I dropped it back onto the plate (splat!), quickly carried it into the kitchen and emptied it into the garbage.

Whew! That was close!

Feeling Pretty Good

I managed to resist temptation. I was feeling pretty good about myself.

And then the boys and I baked brownies.

The Risks We Run

It’s called a pandemic for a reason.

Over one million people have died worldwide (that we know of). Over 200,000 have died in the United States alone.

Just because we’re tired of social distancing, doesn’t mean the virus is gone. People are still getting sick with Covid-19. The coronavirus gives precisely zero craps about how fed up we are with things.

And So, We Choose Risks.

First, we carefully consider how much risk we are willing to tolerate. Do we get together with a limited group of family members?

Then, we consider the kids. Do we keep them at home? Or do we take the risk and send them to daycare and school?

We kept social distancing, but we returned the kids to daycare. They thrived. We kept up our hand washing routines, health checks. Everyone was fine.

When it came time to make the choice about distance learning vs. hybrid, we opted for distance learning, before the school board reversed its decision to offer a choice and went for only distance learning.

And Then… We Got Used to It.

Pandemic procedures became part of daily life.

The weather was good, the boys were happy. We were spending time outside, so we saw people outside, and it was easy to forget about the pandemic.

We kept wearing our masks, and the children’s teachers were always masked. It all came to seem so normal.

Yesterday, A Child Got Sick.

Yesterday evening, we got a call that a child in the Bear’s daycare class had tested positive for Covid-19.

I cannot imagine how terrifying the situation must be for the family. I’ve since learned that the child is only experiencing mild symptoms, and I pray that continues to be the case.

For me, it’s been a real wake-up call. A reminder that this is still real, and it can happen to us.

Quarantined

So we’re in quarantine. The Chico and I are experiencing mild cold symptoms, so we got ourselves tested for Covid-19 and should have results tomorrow.

Whether we have “the dreaded lurgy” or not, we’ve been given a stark reminder to take this seriously.

If we do have the lurgy, then we’ll see you after quarantine.

If we don’t have it, well, we’ve still got to quarantine at home.

Either Way, We (Won’t) Be Seeing Ya!

Because we’ve got to social distance.

Making A Decision

Earlier this year, towards the beginning of the pandemic, I made a decision.

I decided I would write every day. As regular readers know, it started off as a creative writing challenge. I did many, many posts based off of some creative writing prompts I found online.

Lately, it’s evolved from that. It’s just become a habit. Instead of following the creative writing prompts, though, I’ve gotten into a groove of coming up with my own topics and writing (if not daily) pretty regularly.

Another Decision

A couple of months after making my first decision, I made another.

This time, I decided I would exercise. At first I said daily, but knowing myself I knew that wasn’t sustainable. So I set myself a goal of 4 times a week.

Seeing as the first decision I’d made had worked out so well, I was optimistic about this. It helped that Chico got us an exercise bike!

Sticking to It

I’m proud to tell you that (so far) I’m sticking to both these decisions.

Some days are better than others, but on the whole I’ve written and I’ve exercised on average four days a week for a few months now.

Each time I hit “publish” or get off the exercise bike, I feel proud. I feel like I’m doing something positive for myself, and it feels great.

I decided to do both of these activities (writing and exercise) for my own mental and physical wellbeing. Writing challenges my brain, and cycling pushes my body.

And I feel their positive effects daily.

Time to Make a Third Decision?

But now I think it’s time to make another decision.

I’m a bit nervous about writing this here, to be honest. It feels risky. I could be setting myself up to potentially feel very crappy about this if I fail.

And by telling you all about it, you’ll all know if I fail!

Oh well. Here goes…

I’ve decided to change my eating habits.

Breaking it Down

That’s a huge thing. So I’m breaking it down into one key element:

I’ve started (ugh, I shudder to think of it!) to count calories. Specifically, to use a free food tracking app called MyFitnessPal.

If writing is a pleasure, and exercising is a challenge, calorie counting is (let’s face it) a bit of a chore.

I have come to the conclusion, however, that this one act, this practice of tracking what I eat, will significantly contribute to both my mental and physical wellbing.

When I Look In the Mirror

Now, when I look in the mirror, or when I see photos of myself, I shudder. I am heavier than I’ve ever been (aside from the end of my pregnancies, but that doesn’t count).

The image I have in my own mind of myself does not match what I see in the mirror or in photos. And it’s jarring every time I’m faced with the reality of how I actually look.

Also, despite increased exercise, my weight has not budged. That means that the pressure on my back is the same.

While I am stronger and my heart and lungs are definitely healthier, I can still feel the stress that my excess weight puts on my lower back.

Realistic Expectations

I’m not trying to look good in a bikini. I’m not even trying to weigh as little as I did in college. My goal is modest, and is really based on a feeling more than a number.

Writing makes me feel more creative, more observant and sharper. Exercising makes my lungs and heart feel stronger, and I don’t feel winded walking up the stairs, or chasing after my boys.

By counting calories (and watching how I eat), I hope to improve my digestive health, feel even more energetic, and feel good about the way I look.

Now I’ve Told You

So now you know. I’ve made this decision. And by telling you all, I hope to hold myself accountable.

If you want to join in, you can look up thebraininjane on MyFitnessPal. Or you can just get in touch and swap stories, share encouragement, ask questions, whatever!

(Now I know that there are programs like Weight Watchers, Noom, etc., and I’ve previously tried them to various levels of success. Maybe I’ll write an article about why these haven’t worked for me.)

Why I’m Going to Wear My Mask Outside, Too

Yesterday I wrote about how important it is for us all to get our flu shots.

I also slipped in a little additional bonus messaging about wearing a mask.

And that got me thinking.

I’m Being Hypocritical.

I wear a mask when I go into a public building. If someone has to come into my house for some reason, I ask them to wear a mask and I wear one, too.

We have expanded our bubble to include family members who live nearby, and with them we don’t wear masks, but we still maintain distance.

However, the place I have not been wearing a mask is outside on the playground.

“Nobody Else Is!”

This is what I tell myself when I feel a bit guilty and start looking around at the playground.

No other parents are wearing masks.

Everyone is standing apart, no one is getting too close, but no one is wearing a mask.

We figure we’re all outside, and we’re far enough apart.

Not So!

The CDC makes it very clear that wearing a mask in ANY public setting is important to help stem the spread of the coronavirus. They do not distinguish between indoors or outdoors.

This article from a hospital network in New Jersey addresses the question of wearing masks outside.

Here’s when you should wear a mask outside:

  • When it is difficult to maintain the recommended 6-foot social distancing from others (such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy or walking on a busy street or in a crowded neighborhood).
  • If required to by law. Many areas now have mandatory masking regulations when in public.

Here’s when you don’t need to wear a mask outside:

  • You’re in your backyard or on personal property and it is very unlikely that you’ll end up within 6 feet of someone else.
  • You are in any other secluded location where the likelihood of running into someone else is very low.
  • You are in either of the previously mentioned environments with someone you’ve been quarantined with.
  • You are under two years old or have a condition where wearing a mask would inhibit your health.
  • You are engaging in “high intensity aerobic or anaerobic activities” or when in the water.
  • You are eating or drinking outdoors.

Source: Dr. Frank Elliot, “Should You Wear a Mask Outside”, https://www.hackensackmeridianhealth.org, updated 07/09/2020, accessed 09/19/2020, https://www.hackensackmeridianhealth.org/HealthU/2020/04/20/should-you-wear-a-mask-outside/.

The Playground is Unpredictable

Unless you’re refusing to set foot on the playground and you’re sitting off to the side, far away from others, it is VERY difficult to keep six feet away from everyone else.

Kids are running all over the place, and their parents are chasing after them.

There’s no telling when suddenly, albeit briefly, you may be within inches of another person’s face.

I’m not going to risk it. I’m going to wear a mask. And by so doing, I’ll be protecting myself, those other kids and their parents, too.

The Question Is Now…

Do I make my children wear them?

Or simply keep them off the playgrounds?