I finally did it!

So, back in October, hubby and I began our mission to get back in shape and get rid of the ‘happy fat’ that one is prone to put on after getting married. We had our fun, indulging in cheese, beer, and wine, but it was time to curtail our gluttony and make a lifestyle change.  Four and a half months later, and I have lost… wait for it… five whole pounds!

Our mutual goal was to get down to the weight we were at when we first met, which for me meant I had between 5-10 pounds to lose. Hubby was aiming to lose 25 pounds or so. After three months, hubby had already lost 22 pounds, and I was stuck at only 2 pounds lost.  Bummer.  Then the holidays came around, so our weight loss was stalled for a month or so.

We got back into our groove in early January, and vowed to stick to one cheat meal per weekend, or less.  This meant: cooking at home, reducing our carbohydrate intake (especially at dinnertime), no alcohol during the week, no cheese other than cottage at home, and only allowing ourselves to eat out at restaurants or as guests at friends’ places once a week (this was usually our cheat meal).  I also personally made more of an effort to reduce my sugar intake after watching a documentary about how sugar is the devil and sneakily exists in almost every food product.

We have also been working out regularly.  Hubby gets up early to do his daily workout (even on weekends!) and I do my workout 5-6 nights a week after dinner.  Understandably, my results have been modest compared to my husband.  He goes balls to the wall with diet and exercise, while I will stick to my slogan of “work out to pig out”.  I have to say, though, being in shape really makes a difference in general enjoyment of life.  Our winter hikes in Gatineau Park are much more enjoyable when I don’t feel like I’m going to die on a prolonged uphill.  I can also help out when we need to shovel the driveway after a snowfall.  We have more energy, and it’s nice to be able to do up the zippers on pants.

In closing, I would say our healthy lifestyle overhaul has been a success so far!  And I hope to continue the slow and modest weight loss trend that I’ve been experiencing since October.  Next goal: increase my squat weight.

Ship glitter to your enemies!… or not…

So, today the internet is talking about this new company that offers to send an envelope full of glitter to people you dislike for $9.99 (presumably US dollars).  All they need is the cash and an address.  Apparently, the glitter gets everywhere, and is extremely difficult to remove, which makes it the perfect powdery substance (beat it, anthrax) to send to your enemies!  I can attest to the ‘difficult to remove’ part, as glitter that fell off some of our Christmas tree ornaments is still chilling out in the nooks and crannies of our coffee table despite multiple passes with the vacuum.

As amusing as this story is, I can’t help but be struck by how much it smacks of the kind of first world privilege that is rampant in Western society these days.  There was a time when having enemies was a real thing.  In the way back, your enemies were hill tribes coming to kill you with a rusty axe, rape your wife and your kids, and then maybe throw them in a stew along with your pet dog.  They came to burn your fields and your house, steal your horses, or pillage your store house, leaving you with no food for the winter.  It was serious shiznit, and your enemies did not fuck around.  It was brutal, and it was life.  Do you think those murderous barbarians would be deterred by glitter?  No effing way.

Do you have people in your life that annoy you?  Someone who is as annoying to you as you hope glitter in their ass crack would be to them?  Avoid them.  As adults in a free and democratic society, we are lucky to be able to chose (for the most part) who we associate with.  Yeah, sometimes that guy in the cubicle next to yours needs to take a phone book in the face.  And sometimes the barrista at your local coffee shop has a little to much latté-tude in the morning, but there are such things as ear plugs, and a million other coffee shops to choose from.  Even better: get a French press and a savings account.

There are people in other countries who still have to deal with real enemies.  There are people who are living in literal war zones.  There are people without clean water to drink.  There are people who are actually being persecuted for their gender, ethnic background, religion, or sexual orientation.  If only their problems could be solved with glitter.

So, in closing… maybe our $9.99 would be better spent on a chill pill.

Diet Update

So, since my last post, I’ve lost like, one and a half pounds. *sighhhhh* It sucks balls. We (hubby and I) were doing really well, eating clean and exercising several times a week. We bought frozen fruit and no-fat plain greek yogurt to make low-fat, high-protein smoothies for snacks. I started watching my sugar and carb intake. He started doing P90X again. I would do a 1-hour weight training video at least twice a week, and cardio at least once a week. We were starting to see results! I lost 3 pounds from my starting weight, which was the lowest weight I’d been at in a year! And then….

Then, we got invited to his aunt’s house for dinner one Saturday, and the booze was flowing, and there was a cheese plate, and dessert was carrot cake. Ok…. in that case, the damage was only 1 pound gained. It took three whole days to lose it.

Then, my husband’s birthday was on Thursday. He wanted Wagyu beef. Wagyu beef is marbled up the wazoo with fat all up in that muscle. It’s delicious, but not what one would consider diet food. We also had wine. And port. I had some chocolate. It was good times.

Then, we were invited out to dinner with his parents Saturday night. I ordered mussels and fries. There was bread and butter offered (for free!) by the waitress. I didn’t want to be rude… There was wine that night as well… and did I mention creme brulee cheesecake? Hmmm….

Sunday we went out to do some errands and some shopping. We threw out the suggestion to have Freshii for lunch. It would be a healthy option, since they have a lot of salads and other options that can be piled high with fresh veggies. We ended up going to an Indian buffet. I’m pretty sure all that butter chicken and coconut milk wasn’t the best choice. Also, the sodium…. the sodium.

Oh, and did I mention I’m in the midst of that great PMS symptom that is called “I WANT ALL THE FOODS!”?  Yeah…. My husband, by the way, has lost 8 pounds.

I’m not giving up, though! I will continue to try to eat clean and exercise. Once my uterus regains composure, I’m hoping I’ll see more progress. Getting healthy is a process, and I’ve only just begun!

Enough is Enough!

So, I didn’t even bother stepping on the scale this morning. Usually, I would do a morning check-in just to survey the damage, but I skipped my weigh-in knowing that no good could come of it. I think it’s time for an intervention of sorts. I shall go on a diet! The husband and I resolved to work out together twice a week using weights, but that kind of hit a snag when I was in Toronto last week (eating out every night, I might add), and now that my hubby is on call at work, his schedule is all crazy.

The next time we swing by the grocery store, I’ll stock up on healthy snacks like grapes and raw almonds… maybe some whole wheat crackers, and some salad. I really, really, can’t afford new pants, so something must be done! When I was losing weight for my wedding, I would have a pretty low-calorie lunch of lots of salad, half a pita bread, some hummus, and maybe a hard boiled egg. I’m hoping a similar regimen will help me lose the extra junk in my trunk and saddle bags. I am hoping to lose at least 5 pounds… 10 if the Gods are in my corner.

I’ll have to start logging my food on myfitnesspal again so I can see just how much crap I’m actually putting in my mouth. Shame and embarrassment are a real motivator for me. I realize that starting a diet at the start of the holiday season might not be a strategy for success, but it at least makes me feel like I’m trying. My biggest fear would be to end up the size of a whale before I’m 50. No thank you!

Book Review: Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

I am finally getting around to writing this book review several days after I finished reading it. I read the first two chapters over a couple weeks, then finished the rest of the book over 3 days while I was in Toronto for work. It was a welcome change to be able to read a lot while commuting on public transit and on the plane.

The major themes of this book are the ways that external and internal factors and gender stereotypes affect the progression of women throughout their careers, and the inevitable result that women are underrepresented in leadership roles in business and government.  It is the author’s belief that having more women in leadership roles will be beneficial for all people in all countries, and will lead to a more equal society around the globe.  The book then goes on to discuss the ways that women are held back by the stereotypes others use to define them, and how they hold themselves back by subconsciously conforming to those stereotypes.  Having experienced a lot of these things herself, the author then offers some advice to women on how to combat the issues they will most likely face in their careers.

The Book is organized into 11 Chapters:

  1. The Leadership Ambition Gap: What Would You Do if You Weren’t Afraid?
  2. Sit at the Table
  3. Success and Likeability
  4. It’s a Jungle Gym, Not a Ladder
  5. Are You My Mentor?
  6. Seek and Speak Your Truth
  7. Don’t Leave Before You Leave
  8. Make Your Partner a Real Partner
  9. The Myth of Doing It All
  10. Let’s Start Talking About It
  11. Working Together Toward Equality

Each chapter has its own anecdotes and sociological studies that basically all tell the same story: women are subject to more criticism than men, and they are scrutinized on more levels.  The author likens it to running in a marathon, where all the men are encouraged and all the women are discouraged from running, criticized for the way they’re running, and questioned on if they should even be running at all.  The most important ideas and chapters for me were “Sit at the Table” “Don’t Leave Before You Leave” “Make Your Partner a Real Partner” and “The Myth of Doing It All”.  Sheryl Sandberg did a TED talk about the first three, and I think these are the core topics.  The other chapters expand on  the core ideas.

Supershort Synopsis:

  • Women do not feel confident enough to ‘Sit at the Table’ – meaning they are less likely to attribute any success to their own intrinsic skills, and that they don’t feel comfortable displaying ‘ambition’ by asking for promotions or raises.  They also don’t feel like they have the right to participate in discussions or give their opinion, and are more likely to be interrupted if they do speak up.  They are told from childhood that girls shouldn’t be too talkative and opinionated, and even if they manage to go against their instincts and speak up, their experience is that their opinions aren’t valued anyways.  Suggestion: be aware of women’s tendency to be quiet, and be less timid about speaking up if you’re a woman.  If you’re in a position of power, maybe consider calling on everyone to give his/her opinion, and calling out people for interrupting a woman at a meeting.
  • Women make decisions to limit their own career progression in anticipation of one day having to take time off for a baby.  They don’t go for new and challenging positions at work, because they are afraid that taking on a more senior role will make it difficult for them to attain work-life balance in the future.  Subconsciously, girls see that the majority of household and child rearing duties are taken on by women, and assume they will have to do the same.  Because of this, they don’t get too invested in their careers.  They turn down opportunities for advancement because they think it would be ‘too hard’ to manage both a challenging career and family life.  Women ‘Leave Before they Leave’ in the sense that they are abandoning their careers by not taking on more responsibility at work even before they have even started trying to have kids.  Sandberg argues that instead of leaning back before having children, women should do the opposite and try to get to a certain level of success in their careers so that when they inevitably have children, the career will be worth going back to.  If the job you leave is low-level, low-paying, and not intellectually stimulating, it will almost inevitably lead to the women leaving the workforce altogether.  If, however, the job you leave is fulfilling, challenging, and gives you a sense of accomplishment, you’re much more likely to return after having a child.  Returning to the workforce will also provide the household with income to grow and flourish – it is an investment in the future financial well being of one’s family.
  • ‘Make Your Partner a Real Partner’ is all about dividing family care and house work evenly among spouses.  Women and men have been exposed to the idea that household chores and childcare are the woman’s realm, and that men are either incapable, or have somehow won a free pass just by being male.  Sandberg argues that in order for households to be truly equal, both men and women need to divide non-paid work evenly.  In cases where one partner works outside the home, and one is working exclusively in the home, it might make sense that the one at home take on more chores.  However, if both partners work, both should contribute equally to the household.  She also argues that stereotypes work against men who decide to become stay at home parents.  In this case, it’s women who have to do the welcoming of male stay at home parents, and start showing their children that men can be nurturing parents the same as women can.  This chapter also encourages women to allow their partners to take responsibility of certain things at home and to do them their own way.  In these cases, ‘Done is better than perfect’, and male partners can learn to become nurturing through trial and error.
  • ‘The Myth of Doing it All” is all about the way society expects women to choose between having a career and having children.  For men, it’s assumed that they can ‘do/have it all’ – meaning, they can be parents and still pursue a career outside the home.  For me, this is directly related to the fact that women are doing more housework than men.  If a man has only one full-time job outside the home, of course it will be easy for him to have both a family and a career – he is not expected to nurture his children or take care of the house.  Sandberg uses this chapter to tell women that the expectations placed on them are unrealistic, and that they need to find their own definition of balance.  Women today are expected to spend more one-on-one time with their children than women were in the 1970’s, and professionals are expected to be ‘plugged-in’ to the office for longer hours.  This creates double pressure on working women, opening them up to scrutiny because they’re being compared to women who are stay at home moms, and to coworkers with fewer responsibilities at home.  Sandberg’s solution is: reach for the top – become the boss so you can set your own schedule.  Once we have more female leaders, who are more sensitive to the competing demands of work and home, workers will have less pressure to put in long hours at the office, and will be given the flexibility needed to find balance in their own lives.

Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in increasing the number of women in leadership roles, encouraging women already in the workforce to aim higher, or for women who have ever thought, or are thinking, about their careers.  It’s an easy read with a good balance of statistics and personal anecdotes.  This book has inspired me to think critically about my fears of taking on more responsibility, and to go for it despite being nervous.

My next book will be ‘Misconceptions’ by Naomi Wolf.

 

 

How to be a Better Woman

So internets…. I’ve been thinking a lot about societal injustice lately, specifically sexism and gender issues. It is probably due to several issues that I’ve been thinking about for a while, and they seemed to all be related to the topic of sexism in some way.  I would like to see more women in leadership roles in the public and private sectors, I also routinely lament about the kind of world young babies are born into (and second-guess my desire to have kids), the prevalence of rape culture is disturbing, and I’m just so over women being subjugated.  It is 2013, people.

So, like a lot of people, the issues were in my mind, but I didn’t really do anything with them.  Then, when I was staying with my parents on a trip to Toronto, I watched a documentary on CBC about Feminism called “The ‘F’ Word”.  The documentary talked about the status of women leveling off, or even backsliding in the past few decades.  I was outraged!  How could women’s rights be in question in today’s day and age?  I felt like I wanted to rebel against the patriarchy, but didn’t know how.  These ideas sat on a back shelf of my brain for awhile, and then I started seeing more on more posts about sexism on my Facebook feed. This started me down the rabbit hole that is YouTube, and I watched a buttload of TED talks about systemic discrimination against women.  Day after day I would search and watch new videos, until I decided I should become more educated about the issues.  I ordered several books online, and have already started into the first one “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg.

I had already watched a couple of Youtube videos with SS talking about encouraging women to excel in the workplace, so I decided to read her book.  I also ordered Backlash by Susan Faludi, and The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf.  As I finish each book, my goal is to post reviews with a summary of the main points.  I’m hoping that by informing myself and becoming more aware of the issues I can try to address them in my own life and maybe bring some attention to them.  One thing I’ve already tried to do at work is worry less about being liked or perceived as ‘nice’ when I send out e-mails.  I will stick to the facts and not sugar coat things while still maintaining professionalism.

At the same time as I’ll be reading up on Feminist issues, I also hope to become more informed about what’s happening in my own community by doing some research on policies and initiatives in my province, city, and neighbourhood.  I think it will help me to feel like a participant in the political process and become engaged in the community.  A really important part of being an agent for change is to be vocal about issues that need to be addressed in society.  I intend to write a letter to my MP and MPP about issues like healthcare in our region, and maybe I will even write about sexism and request political reform.  All of this is my attempt to be more involved and a full member of society.  And I also think it will make me a better woman.

Autumn Approacheth – ’tis time for a Purge

So, my in-laws sold their old house and bought a condo. They travel to the South for 8 weeks in the winter, and are getting a bit slower in their old age, so it made sense to get a place where the landscaping and building maintenance is taken care of. As they were moving house, my husband and I volunteered to help them pack and move ‘a few’ boxes of things that the movers didn’t take from the old house. Well, what we found was more than just ‘a few’ boxes worth.

Over the years, it’s natural to accumulate things. Usually the things we keep are mementos and other small trinkets that we think will be useful, sometimes it’s artwork, or kitchen stuff, whatever’s your bag. I learned from our move from Toronto to Gatineau that things can accumulate in your home without you even realizing it. I was absolutely blown away by how much stuff I had in my tiny little bachelor apartment – and a lot of it was trash. Let me tell you: a house that’s been lived in for almost 30 years accumulates way more stuff.

My father in-law had a pretty hard time accepting that they would have to leave the house that had been their home for the past 25 years.  He had personally done a lot of work renovating that little house, so he was naturally a bit attached.  The thing is, he seemed to be attached to a lot of useless stuff, too.  We found jars and jars of nails and screws in the garage and also in the shed.  He had sometimes two or three of the same kind of yard tool, and at least four or five cable boxes (they only have 3 tv’s).  Even though they don’t have space for a garden at their new place, he wanted to keep all his vegetable canning equipment (which included at least four full cases of empty Mason jars).  My in-laws don’t really celebrate Christmas, but they had the equivalent of two banker’s boxes filled with Christmas stuff.  My husband also found a court jester’s costume that he wore when he was 9 years old in a garment bag, and my mother in-law had no intention of throwing it away or giving it to charity.

Seeing the amounts of things my in-laws kept over the years made me resolve to try to keep our house as clutter-free as possible.  There was a time when I would hang on to anything and everything just for the heck of it – because I had the room, because I might need it sometime, because it was cute or sentimental, or whaever.  I’ve gotten better at throwing things away, but I still have a bunch of things squirreled away in the house that belong in the recycling or trash.  This Fall, I think we should do a big Purge and get rid of the things we’ve been meaning to get rid of.

When your surroundings are neat and clutter free, I feel like it promotes a calm and even mindset.  I find that when our house is disorganized, my mind is unsettled and I feel really stressed out and irritable.  I’m a lot more calm and relaxed when things are put away and the house is tidy.  Along with the annual Spring Cleaning, I think a Fall Purge should become a tradition in our house.