Thursday, November 26, 2015

What Does Thanksgiving Mean to You?

I have an acquaintance who actively refuses to celebrate Thanksgiving because she won't waste one iota of her time contributing to the misinformed adulation of the American mythology of peace, love, and happiness between the Pilgrims and the Wompanoag people.

I know this acquaintance is not alone in making this political statement. And I think it is a foolish one.

Yesterday, National Public Radio aired a story on how to teach children about Thanksgiving in light of the holiday's muddy history. They offered two concrete ideas for using the holiday to:

1, Introduce children to different cultural (national and ethnic) expressions of gratitude. Thanksgiving, celebrated by in countries beyond the U.S., is but one way. (Did you know that President Abraham Lincoln made the U.S. Thanksgiving a national holiday in an effort to unite the country during the Civil War?)

2. Invite learners to explore the (lowercase) pilgrim experience, by exploring what it means to be a refugee or part of another oppressed people. This discussion could certainly veer in to the realm of Native American politics, by using the Trail of Tears as an example, or present day politics through an age-appropriate focused on the global reaction to the crisis in Syria.


Thanksgiving, for me, is not a joyful holiday, but rather a reflective one.

While I enjoy spending time with family over a beautiful meal, that's not what defines Thanksgiving for me. Nor do the secular expressions of the national holiday make my heart go pitter pat - football, parades, the Christmas frenzy that follows.

Instead, Thanksgiving is an opportunity to express of gratitude for the privileges I enjoy, while raising my awareness of the privileges denied to many due to poverty, inequality, and injustice. It is a holiday I can observe while sipping a cup of coffee in the early hours of the morning as easily as I can celebrate it while enjoying a turkey dinner with all the trimmings.

BMG was released from the hospital on Tuesday, after a 4.5 day stay for treatment of complications related to his Crohn's Disease. Today I'm thankful for my access to the highest quality health care, my ability to work in a job that provides good health insurance, my husband family, who has the means to pay for the best possible care and accommodations, and for the network of friends and family who I can call for moral and practical support.

Conversely, for the duration of BMG's visit to Brigham and Women's, I thought of the families that would be financially devastated by a 5-day hospital stay and all it entails; the people who don't have adequate health insurance to help bear the costs; and the people who don't have family who can work remotely or spend the night, so they are with a loved one night and day.


I'm curious. Do you celebrate American Thanksgiving? If so, what are the rituals that you love the most? And why?

Friday, November 20, 2015

Why Waltz, When You Can Riverdance?

My husband, BMG, was admitted to the hospital last night. The cause? An uncontrolled, high fever of unknown origins. Unwilling to leave him until they have some idea of the disease his body is fighting, I spent the night in his room, sleeping fitfully in a recliner thoughtfully scared up by the nursing staff.

In one of my dreams, my mother waltzes into BMG's hospital room in the morning, having driven all night from her home in Central NY, to be with us. Wearing an elaborately layered red, boiled wool coat, she insert herself in the midst of the hospital chaos and declares, "I'm here!"

So I tell my mom about this dream, during an early morning round of texting. 

I follow-up the story with an all caps admonition, "DO NOT DRIVE HERE."

She replies, "I promise that won't happen. My boiled wool coat is a bluish purple. And I wouldn't Walt into his room. I would Riverdance my way in."

(Now that I would like to see.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Epitome of Lazy (aka the napkin caper)

I was recently at a cafeteria-style quick serve restaurant. While there, I observed a woman open the napkin dispenser to pull out a paper napkin.

"Oh aren't you clever," I started to exclaim.

But my voice dropped off when I realized she was pulling a 4" stack out of the machine. My eyes got wide and I finished my sentence with "And apparently very messy!"

She smiled at me and said, "I do this because it takes too long to pull out each napkin one by one."

Monday, November 2, 2015

SFS Fall 2015: Intermittent Fasting (IF)

I'm doing a six-week holistic diet with Liz Vequist in an effort to start feeling fit, active, and inspired. The diet started on Monday, October 26, 2015. 


Today is my first intermittent fasting, or IF day. As I understand it, and IF day is one in which calorie intake is limited to 500-600 (I normally eat 1,750-2,000 calories per day), and one waits to have one's first meal until one is ready to chew one's hand off. The goals are multiple

  • To make up for "binge days"
  • To make it possible to eat whatever one wants on the other five days of the week
  • To prevent cancer and other health issues like diabetes and Alzheimer's
  • To remind one's body one doesn't actually need to eat as many calories a day as we do in the Western world
  • To force the body to consume one's own fat when exercising

There is also a paleo aspect, reminding the body that our hunter-gather ancestors ate intermittently and they did OK. 

On the diet, I'm supposed to have as many as two IF days each week. To get started, we are doing a 6:1 schedule - eat "normal" for six days, and IF for one. 

After four weeks of participation in Liz Vequist's SFS program, which started with a vegan food cleanse in early October, I'm down 11 pounds. I don't feel deprived, I'm not counting calories, and I'm not perseverating on food. 

I'm also not sure I need to IF. 

But, I'll play along. I also didn't think I needed to eat breakfast at work, but when I tried that, it actually had positive benefits. 

So, what does one eat when one is on an IF day? This is what I'm eating

Breakfast: 1/2 cup of aromatic brown rice and two hard-boiled eggs - 249 calories

Lunch: 1/2 cup of aromatic brown rice and 1 cup of sweet and sour red lentil dal - 233 calories

Dinner - 3 oz. steamed cod fillet, 1 cup roasted squash and broccoli, 1 cup steamed kale - 146 calories

Snack - 1/2 cup sliced cucumbers - 8 calories

Total planned calorie count for the day is 636.

My predictions? I'll eat breakfast by 10:00 AM, instead of 8:15 and then I'll perseverate on food for the rest of the day.

What would you do to make an IF day work for your body?

Saturday, October 31, 2015

SFS Fall 2015: Positive Affirmations

I'm doing a six-week holistic diet with Liz Vequist in an effort to start feeling fit, active, and inspired. The diet started on Monday, October 26, 2015. 


Week two of the diet starts on Monday, so I'm in prep mode this weekend. On the spiritual side of the diet, we're supposed to identify positive affirmations about our body that we can scatter around our homes, cars and workplaces to help inspire us to make the Slim, Fit and Sexy thing work. 

I actually feel pretty motivated already. This is, in part, a function of the pounds falling off (an indicator my body was ready to lose some weight), and the new Fitbit groups I'm participating in, which, in the first week, motivated me to amp my steps from 7500 each weekday to more than 10k. 

In the spirit of being "in it to win it," I'm creating affirmations anyway. I.m going to trust that even is my conscious self doesn't need them right now, the universe will hold them in readiness for me. 

So here goes:

I am grateful for (something positive about your body): my continuing good health.

I love my (something positive about yourself): enthusiastic and empathic spirit.

I can (positive habit): make better choices to maintain my health and soothe myself when I feel sad.  

What would your affirmations be? 

Friday, October 30, 2015

SFS Fall 2015: A Reason to Get Out of Bed in the Morning

I'm doing a six-week holistic diet with Liz Vequist in an effort to start feeling fit, active, and inspired. The diet started on Monday, October 26, 2015. 


Four full days into this holistic diet and I've learned that I'm eating breakfast too early in the morning. By shifting my weekday breakfast time 75 minutes later in the morning, makes in difference in my feelings of hunger, particularly later in the day. 

I've long held the belief that I shouldn't get out of bed in the morning for the sole purpose of going to work. I want to get out of bed because I have a full and learned life. So, my weekday routine has typically involved the following:
5:45-6:00 AM: Wake up, make coffee, give the cats cookies
6:00-6:30 AM: Drink coffee, check Facebook, read news, play games
6:30-7:00 AM: Get ready for work
7:00-7:30 AM: Make and eat breakfast, get out the door
7:30-8:00 AM: Travel to the office
9:30-10:00 AM: Eat snack at work
11:00 AM: Start perseverating on lunch, walk around and snatch pieces of candy from the generous candy bowls scattered around the office
11:30-11:45 AM: Get lunch (eat at desk)
4:00 PM: Leave work
4:30 PM: Get home, ready to chew my hands off I'm so hungry. Grab a high protein snack. 
4:45-5:30 PM: Make dinner
5:30-5:35 PM: Eat dinner
5:35-9:00 PM: Think about eating sugary treats - either give in or try using wine or tea to satiate my sweet tooth
9:00-10:00 PM: Starting settling down for sleep

But, my routine means I'm often eating breakfast because of the time of day, not because of any hunger I might feel. And then I'm a hungry hungry hippo for the rest of the day. 

So, I'm experimenting with a new routine that looks like this: 
6:00-6:15 AM: Wake up, make coffee, give the cats cookies
6:15-6:45 AM: Drink coffee, check Facebook, read news, play games
6:45-7:05 AM: Get ready for work (I'm very low maintenance)
7:05-7:30 AM: Prep breakfast and lunch to bring to work, make lemon water for the journey, maybe blog or take care of house business (e.g., pay bills)
7:30-8:00 AM: Travel to the office
8:00-8:30 AM: Eat breakfast (at my desk)
11:30 AM: Eat snack
12:30-1:00 PM: Eat most (but not all) of my lunch (at my desk)
1:30-3:00 PM: Leisurely nibble on whatever lunch I couldn't eat at lunch time (at my desk)
4:00 PM: Leave work
4:30 PM: Get home, still feeling full from my afternoon of lunching
5:30 PM: Start thinking about dinner prep
5:30-6:00 PM: Make dinner
6:00-6:15 PM: Eat dinner
7:00 PM: Make evening tea and start settling down for a 9:00 PM bed time

It is amazing to me that shifting breakfast back just 75 minutes can make such a difference in how much I'm snacking and thinking about food. I am more focused in the afternoons, and am pleasant when I get home, instead of a bear because of how hungry I feel. 

Sounds like the shift is working in the interest of my good physical and emotional health. So what's the problem? 

In my brain, eating breakfast at work instead of home implies that my raison d'etre is working, instead of living. There is an inherent lack of balance in consuming two meals at the office instead of just the one. And, because of my commitment to work/life balance, this upsets me. Luckily, I have five more weeks of this diet to figure out if the rewards are worth the trade off. I'll let you know. W

Monday, October 26, 2015

SFS Fall 2015 - Goal Setting

I'm doing a six-week holistic diet with Liz Vequist in an effort to start feeling fit, active, and inspired. The diet starts on Monday, October 26, 2015. 


Week one, day one! We're focusing this week on setting a healthy breakfast routine. I feel like I nailed this during the five-day cleanse, so this doesn't feel like work to me. Which is good, because I still need to finish my goal setting.

From the "diet" workbook:

List 3 goals that you would like to achieve over the next 6 weeks: 

My answer:
1. Beat the sugar addiction
2. Healthier relationship to snacking when I feel anxious
3. Sustainably lose another five pounds.

How will you feel as a result of achieving these goals? 

My answer:
1. More attentive in my marriage
2. More confident in my family relationships
3. Less fearful of health risks

Is there anything that could stop you from achieving these goals? 

My answer:
Those tapes that keeps playing, in spite of my knowing they are old. In spite of my knowing they aren't my story, but instead the story of the people who spoke the recorded words. The tape that tells a five year-old me, "You'd be so pretty if you could just lose some weight." And the tape recorded in Princeton that whispers conspiratorially, "I was told you are built like a linebacker...(but you are actually lovely)."

On a more practical level, my mother-in-law doesn't understand these sorts of shifts in eating (neither does my mother, but she lives 325 miles away).

Is there anything you can start doing now to make sure you achieve your goals?

My answer: 

  • I'm not cooking with my husband any longer. This change in my routine helps because our food needs are so different. (This also makes me feel sad, even though it is better for both of us. I can feel the tears welling up inside.)
  • I will give myself a daily 45-minute block of time - ostensibly after work - for exercise/movement. 
  • I need to let my mother-in-law know what I'm up to, so she doesn't keep asking me to come visit for food/wine/cake.

I want to find a way to symbolically release the tapes. And, I need to think about that a little more.