Fitness and Diet

One of the things that I wanted to finally sit down and write about was mindfulness. It turns out though I can compose these thoughts in my head, and maybe tell you about them over coffee, it’s much harder to sit down and put them on the screen.

I thought I would try today – but I’m too exhausted. That’s the excuse I’m sticking with right now. I’m also decaffeinated due to figuring out that even half-decaf coffee starts disrupting my sleep and putting me on edge. I also lost the use of one of my security devices, Fitbit One. It turns out I’ve become reliant on knowing all the little things that the device tells me about myself. It’s ridiculous, but sometimes humans are ridiculous. I am going to try the UP24 while I wait for the kind people at FitBit to ship out my (free) replacement. I have two weeks to decide if I want to keep the UP24 or return it (per the Apple Store’s policy.)

I stand back and think of this as a sort of madness that I am unwilling to stop myself from engaging in. I also think there’s some parallel to ideas of mindfulness and the attachment to unending streams of personal data.

I’m too tired to think too hard about that right now, though. Luckily UP has a caffeination tracking app available. Maybe that will come in use.

Happy Birthday, Son – A Year in Baby Consumerism

Deliberate Consumption, Motherhood

Fisher-Price Newborn Rock and Play SleeperSeriously, people. There is an entire industry that is waiting for you to have children so you will spend stupid amounts of money to help you sleep longer and make the transition to parenthood easier in our foolishly independent-focused society. My family has spent some of this ridiculous money. Here’s a list of my favorite things, which worked well for us. Amazon Prime has been a huge help, especially for midnight shopping frenzies while the kid is up and you don’t know how you’re going to be safe to drive the next day. When you can, buy used or borrow from a friend – but always check to see if the item has been recalled. For instance, a bassinet we borrowed had been recalled in 2009, and a stroller I nearly purchased from Craigslist was a recalled version (but they had been shipped the repair, though not installed.)

Also, my best advice to new moms: ignore all mom forums and stay away from baby focused websites. They will make you crazy. Seek real-time, real-mom support in your communities.

Here’s my Top Ten Consumer Choices for the First Year:

The Happiest Baby on the Block – The basics in this book are a lifesaver for the first three months. Read this book, if you can, before the baby is born. It’s seriously one of the best things you can do for yourself and your baby. Which brings me to one of the keys of the Happiest Baby…
SwaddleMe velcro-enhanced swaddles – These are key for those times you’re too tired to re-swaddle using the swaddling techniques in Happiest Baby on the Block
Swaddle Cloths by aden + anais – you (or someone else!) can make swaddle cloths using a 4’x4′ piece of muslin or flannel, but if you just need to buy some to start, this is a great way to do it.
Fisher-Price Newborn Rock ‘N Play Sleeper, Yellow
– We used the older version of this as a bassinet for the first six months, especially useful for reflux. It was crucial to getting more sleep for us and our baby. Please note that there was a recent advisory regarding the older model, as some caregivers experienced mold growth after some use, as that the old version was harder to clean. More information here.
Medela Freestyle Breast Pump – I borrowed a Medela bump from a friend, and also rented a hospital grade pump. This was spendy, but wonderful to have if I needed to move around while pumping.
Maclaren Quest (and Raincover) – People laugh about how much you can spend on strollers, but the Maclaren is worth it, if you compare it to other strollers in its class. This folds easy, is light enough to carry and has a carrying strap. The rain cover is the easiest to deploy of all stroller covers I’ve tried. Skip the City Mini and pretty much any other stroller, and if you just buy one stroller, buy the Maclaren Quest.
Bugaboo Bee Stroller and Canopy and Bugaboo Baby Cocoon Light – This is an excessively expensive stroller. It’s great for around the neighborhood if you’re in a more urban center. I like the cocoon for making it into a mini-pram, but it’s still super compact, unlike other strollers.
Dr. Brown’s Formula Mixing Pitcher – We wanted to breast feed, but ran into supply issues. This was crucial, especially when traveling.
Ergo Carrier – This is a great carrier that works for the long haul. Definitely not for the totally new-born, but great once they hit 12 lbs.
Moby Wrap Original 100% Cotton Baby Carrier, Black – I loved my super-snuggly Moby for the first few months. I highly recommend it as a first carrier.

Reusing Plastics to Cut Down on Waste

Deliberate Consumption

I’m very lucky to live in Seattle, where farmer’s markets are nearby and year round, where even the conventional grocery stores carry local and organic (though still, not as much as I’d like), and I can buy items in bulk easily, including at co-ops and small markets, bath and body items.

Today I peeled the labels (using Citra-Solv to get the gunk off as needed) off of my old conditioner bottle to prep it for being filled with bulk conditioner (Giovanni Tea Tree Triple Treat Conditioner) at my co-op. I dutifully weighed and labeled my bottle with the tare weight, to save the cashier any trouble.

I proceeded to do this with some other plastic containers I had lying around. I have about 4 clean plastic containers, once used for cottage cheese, sour cream and cream cheese, all great for taking home bulk items.

Why bother with all this? Well, we’re already using cloth bags to go to the market, and I’m already re-using an empty bath salts container to get more bath salt, so why not? Why use new plastic bags for bulk items when we have perfectly good (and easily washed) plastic containers that, at best, might be downcycled domestically and at the worst, chucked into the ocean (adding to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch) or burned in the developing world (where it was sent to be “recycled.”)

I’m still working on the balancing act between being a part of the world and choosing where to opt-out or minimally opt-in. I don’t claim to be completely awesome at this. Especially because there is always some news item about current research that conflicts with previous assertions. The truth is that there is no blanket statement that you can go by – it’s really a case-by-case scenario, like why I chose conventional Argentine garlic over organic Argentine garlic (which was at least 4x the cost). This is because I have trouble trusting the veracity of many organic claims from abroad as well as those domestically grown, USDA certified organic.

My first choice is local sourced organic. Second, local sourced or organic domestic. Third is domestic or organic Canadian (preferably from BC, our neighbor directly north.) Luckily I don’t usually have to go to the fourth option which is organic from abroad, or give up.

For my bath/body products, I’m trying to remember that the labels “natural” and “organic” mean ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in things other than food. (Which recalls that “natural flavors” in food just means that the ester or whatever was distilled from a natural product, and can be chemically identical to a synthetically produced chemical.) Lots of things are naturally derived, including Vaseline. Petroleum is natural, right?

It’s a big world to tackle. Today, I’m just trying to smartly re-use.

Eggs vs. Eggs

Deliberate Consumption, Fitness and Diet, Food and Drink

As my frittata breakfast settles in my stomach, I thought I’d write about my most recent experience at an IHOP in Texas. I don’t go to IHOPs, or any national chain restaurant, if I can help it, or am going through a particular bit of insanity. This is mostly because that in Seattle, you have unending choices of delicious food that is from local businesses (including local ingredients!) I’m still on a path of weight-loss, so Texas is a challenge no matter what. I thought that I could navigate breakfast rather simply, even when the family chose IHOP, but it turns out I was wrong.

The order was simple – 2 eggs over medium, 2 strips of bacon, whole-wheat toast.

What I received was all that, PLUS hash browns and an extra slice of toast, both drenched in butter.

I left one slice of toast and hash browns to the side. I planned only to eat one of the eggs, but ended up eating both. During the entire meal, I was stunned with the fact that the texture of eggs and bacon was there, but the flavor wasn’t. It wasn’t for lack of salt, as I sprinkled more than my usual on it. It wasn’t for lack of hot sauce, either, as I slathered my eggs in Tabasco and Cholula. My brain even raised the question, “Are these eggs sweet?” It seemed like I couldn’t escape a syrupiness, even on my eggs.

I’m a fan of bacon and eggs. It’s something I eat on a semi-regular basis, usually being a piece of bacon and a single egg. This combo breakfast usually sustains me for 4-5 hours before I remember that it’s time to eat. This is much longer than my usual high-fiber breakfast cereal gets me. I have found that the key to being satisfied and not overeating is limiting my simple carbohydrate intake, or ensuring that I pair all simple carbs with protein or fat. I hoped that my order at IHOP would net me the same fortitude as my experience with bacon and eggs at home. I was horribly, horribly wrong.

One reason this happened could be that I ate toast (and a bite of pancake) along with my protein and fat rich breakfast. It was whole-wheat, and naked except for butter, so I don’t imagine it had much of a glycemic impact as naked toast alone. The other reason, and I don’t have a scientific basis to believe this, is that perhaps the IHOP eggs and bacon and our eggs and bacon at home (which come from the farmer’s market) are actually different, nutritionally. IHOPs sources are likely from CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations), where our sources come from a short ways out into Washington, where allegedly, the animals lead happy lives up until their deaths. The feed itself, perhaps, makes a difference.

All I know is that in a short 2-3 hours, I was really, really hungry. Unreasonably hungry.

Maybe, instead of obscenely stacked burgers and plumped up milkshakes, THIS IS WHY WE’RE FAT. Food, in the greater parts of America, is so bland and tasteless it requires monumental amounts of salt and sugar to make it taste like anything, and when you’re done eating, you’re hungry in short order. Your tastebuds are constantly deprived, deprivation leads to overeating, almost as if you keep on eating, somehow taste will appear. Maybe this bite will be tasty?!

Corn syrup has taken a hit as the culprit of the obesity epidemic. Maybe corn syrup is just another symptom. Maybe the CAFO meats and dairy and fake-food (ie. artificial sweetners, flavors, and artificially low-fat foods) being devoid of flavor, REQUIRING more of ANYTHING to give it flavor are to blame for obesity.

After my excursion into the Heart of Darkness America, I can note that it will be very, very hard for me to ever leave the Pacific Northwest.

Recommended Purchase: Octo T-Shirt $9

Arts and Crafts, Deliberate Consumption

My old friend Mark in Chicago has a shirt on of an octo. It’s available today only, for the cost of $9 per shirt. It’s a steal! Even the shipping is cheap. Seriously. I’m a huge fan of octos, especially after diving with the Giant Pacific Octopus in Puget Sound. They’re graceful, and wicked smart. Molitorious coupled his awesome illustration style with the beauty of an octo. I have to admit, I’ve mulled over the idea of an octo tattoo before, and this design may just be worthy of that (though, I’d probably commission a specific illustration if I were to go through with the idea.)

Anyway, check it out:

Now go to and buy one today!

Shout out to another artist friend of mine, David Lasky. I now desire to have some of your art on a t-shirt. 🙂 Specifically, something from your James Joyce comic.

First-World Problems: My Trip to the Dermatologist

Deliberate Consumption

Perhaps it’s a vanity that comes with being 30-something. I’ve noticed some scarring (hyper-pigmentation) on my chin and neck from years of cystic acne. It only flares up once every few months, and when it does, it’s painful. What I went to see the dermatologist about, a week ago, was to get a cream to make these scars a little less noticeable.

I hadn’t been to this particular dermatologists office before. The last time I saw a dermatologist, it was to get an annual mole screening, since I’ve been taught to keep an eye on them. I’ve not been to a dermatologist for cosmetic reasons since I was a teenager, and I don’t remember getting anything that particularly worked.

From the moment I stepped into the waiting room, I felt inadequate. Surrounding me were ads, brochures, lists of options for letting me know that though SOME women were OK with wrinkles, brown spots, discoloration, etc, I didn’t have to be. WHAT A RELIEF! Wait – I think I was OK with some of these things before… HUH? I could tell that this was going to be an interesting visit.

“no association between the amount of saturated fat consumed and the risk of heart disease”

Fitness and Diet, Food and Drink

My husband has been telling me this for years. This is contrary to everything that has been shoved down our throats as Americans.

In March the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a meta-analysis—which combines data from several studies—that compared the reported daily food intake of nearly 350,000 people against their risk of developing cardiovascular disease over a period of five to 23 years. The analysis, overseen by Ronald M. Krauss, director of atherosclerosis research at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, found no association between the amount of saturated fat consumed and the risk of heart disease.

This has come up time and time again over the past few years. Dietary intake of fat does not equal fat/cholesterol in the blood and body. Instead, our consumption of carbohydrates seems to be the problem.

I’ve been trying to lose weight through one system or another for at least 20 years. This means that this goes back to middle school, if not grade school. I remember once my mother took me to a dietition. I had to be in middle school, and I remember it well. I sat in the office while this woman gave me an incomprehensible plan. She tried to tell me it was really easy, and what I remembered from her during that time (and what I remember now) was that she told me that it was the amount of FAT in the foods I was to watch out for.

I was ecstatic to realize that Entenmenns made a FAT FREE coffee cake. After all, zero plus zero plus zero equals zero, right? Never mind the fact that it might have 12 servings per cake, and each serving was probably about 200 calories. I could sit and eat the whole cake for ZERO fat.

A month later (I think) was my first weigh in, and I gained a pound or two. She was flustered, if I remember correctly, and rather perturbed. I told her that I did just as she said, watched my fat intake. Apparently, I had missed something in her magical equation.

I’m not the only one. If you look around, there’s fat free and reduced fat products everywhere, and they’re also loaded with carbs. Another problem is that portion control is out the window. No one really knows what a portion looks like, or what satiation feels like – well, except for a few, perhaps. I would never advocate for a carb-free lifestyle, or even extreme carb restriction.

However, I did lose a majority of my weight thanks to making decisions to pass on the bread basket or tortilla chips at restaurants, and make a choice of what carbs I really want vs. other foods I really want. I ended up eating a lower carb diet by accident.

We don’t entirely understand how the body works. We have many researchers looking at this question, but there are many unanswered ones. What we eat doesn’t get instantly transferred into energy, fat, muscle. There’s a process. Some people’s bodies metabolize differently. Some medications throw this process for a loop. It’s not just scientists that have a problem with understanding how we metabolize things, it’s also people in the holistic healing industry (which I’m honestly a fan of, though with that industry the science is sometimes questionable.

I come back to the basics. Eat real food. If you eat meat and dairy, you’re eating the suffering of the animal. (I say this not to convince you to be a vegetarian, because I’m not – but that the stress hormones that build up in stressed animals make for untasty animal products, not to mention, unhealthy and requiring more antibiotics and that doesn’t sound like something I want to eat.) You eat the nutrition that the plants are grown in. Good soil makes a difference. Eat mostly plants and foods with very little processing. Try not to eat a single food that has more than 5 ingredients. (This is more a fun challenge.)

There is no magic pill, but that’s my next post.