Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Wonder Woman

About two years ago I returned home to PEI from Kingston, where I'd been attending grad school at Queen's. A job opportunity had prompted me to return to the Island earlier than planned and so, with the final leg of my thesis still looming, I packed up my car and life, and drove back to PEI in early June.

A part of me was apprehensive about returning to PEI. I'd been trying, albeit with little success, to shed the 25 pounds I'd gained over the past 20 months. Weight gain seemed to go part and parcel with me leaving PEI, and heading to grad school reconfirmed a pattern I'd observed since my early twenties. Still, despite knowing I'd likely be coming back to PEI bigger than when I'd left, I really didn't want to return from graduate school with these extra pounds weighing me down. I was already weighed down enough by the stresses of my thesis and the threat of a $0 bank balance. Suffice to say, I've since come to realise that my weight gain has less to do with my geographic location and way more to do with my stress levels, which happened to be really high while I was in Kingston.

I vowed that upon returning to PEI, I would get back into a health routine of eating and exercise I booked an appointment with my former nutritionist and signed up for Largo (thai kickboxing) classes immediately upon return. I needed inspiration in a desperate way, and figured between the nutritionist and Manny, of Largo fame, I would be set.

Silly me. I forgot that when you ask for inspiration, it will come to you in people and circumstances you would never anticipate.

Within a few weeks of being home, I'd noticed something rather peculiar. Three middle-aged women that I knew had each lost a lot of weight in the two years I'd been gone. I was rather taken aback. Isn't middle-age when women are destined to pack on the pounds? How could they possibly lose weight after carrying it around for years at the very exact time in life when they would be expected to gain weight?

Two of these women happened to attend aerobic classes at the Atlantic Fitness Centre, where I'd also renewed my membership. Not only did they look fantastic, but they were kicking butt in class. I felt so out of shape and unshapely in comparison, but I realized that I was not discouraged by these toned, fit women, which I may have been if they were the same age as me or younger. Rather, I felt inspired. I thought to myself - if these women can trump the middle-age spread and become powerhouses, surely there's no reason I can't lose the weight and get back my strength and endurance. Really, I've got age working in my favor!

Now that I'm back to feeling more like myself and am in the depths of my nutrition studies, I thought this would be a great time to share some of the inspiration that I received from these Wonder Women. I asked one of them if she'd oblige me with an interview for my blog and she willingly agreed. I guess she couldn't really say no, since she's my mother! Here's her story (I am using the initials WW for Wonder Woman, not for Weight Watcher!)

SC: So, tell me a bit about what prompted you to gain weight?

WW: Well, really it was just eating too much food, especially bread with 'stuff' in between it. When I was a kid I ate milk, bread, etc. and I just continued eating like that as an adult. My activity slowed down over the years, but I kept eating the same.

SC: What prompted you to lose weight now, in the middle years of your life?

WW: Well, I'd tried losing weight a couple of times over the years by cutting back on what I was eating, but I had no real plan so never really accomplished the weight loss. When my eldest daughter started doing Weight Watchers, I saw it as an opportunity to lose weight. I began to realise that some of the foods I'd been eating were really high in points, so I switched these foods for more food of lower points. I did it on my own though, because I didn't want to pay someone to lose the weight.

SC: How did you cope with the changes?

WW: It was an excellent transition. I'd weigh myself once a week and if I was up, I'd be more conscientious the next week. I tried to anticipate and prepare for upcoming social outings. In the beginning I was very strict about what I ate. I mentally convinced myself I didn't need all the treats.

SC: What kept you going during the weight loss phase?

WW: As I lost weight, I felt better and noticed that I could work out more at the gym and was getting stronger. People were also complimenting me, which was nice to hear.

SC: How much weight did you lose and how long did it take you to lose the weight you wanted to lose?

WW: I've lost and kept off about 38 to 40 pounds. It took me about 9 months to lose that weight and I've maintained my current weight for about 2 and a half years.

SC: Have you had any difficulties maintaining your new weight?

WW: Well, I did have a fudge downfall this past Christmas. Co-workers were making fudge and bringing it into the office to share or sell as a fundraiser and it was very tempting, and I may have given in once or twice!

SC: Can you give a rundown of a typical days' meals before you lost the weight and currently?

WW: Sure. My old breakfast was typically something like two slices of bread with peanut butter or cream cheese. My new breakfast is pretty consistently the same: 1/4 dry oatmeal (cooked with 1/2 cup of water ), topped with 1/4 c. of greek yogurt and 1/4 c of blueberries.

Previously my lunch would often be something like a six inch veggie sub with mayo from Subway, and sometimes I'd make it a foot long sub. Now I opt for a salad with vegetables and add a can of tuna, a boiled egg or leftover, cooked protein from dinner the night before.

In the past I might have a mid-afternoon snack such as a muffin, whereas now I tend to have fruit.

My dinners have not changed a lot in composition, but I have reduced my portions and we avoid bread. A typical dinner would be some type of grilled protein, potatoes or rice and a garden salad or veggies.

When I was in weight loss mode I avoided evening snacks, but now I might have a small amount of cheese and some mini crackers.

SC: Has your exercise routine changed?

WW: I always exercised regularly, but I'm definitely going to the gym more often now and really pushing myself. It's easier to push yourself when you have less weight to carry around.

SC: What final thoughts and advice would you like to share?

WW: Well, if you're a middle-aged woman and you lose weight, that weight was holding things up, so be prepared when you look in the mirror!! Basically, I decided I didn't want to get old and decrepit, and then made the changes necessary. Now I love going shopping and working out at the gym.

I think for me the weekly weigh-in is very important in my having been able to maintain the weight loss, so that is still part of the routine that really allows me to see if I've been naughty or nice and to nip any gain in the bud.

Before After
(the photos don't do justice to Mom's sculpted arms and smaller size all round)

SC: And there you have it, advice from a wise, slim Wonder Woman known also as my Mom! Look around for inspiration and you're sure to find it!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

An Addendum

Recently, I was in Vermont (much more about that in posts to come). In Burlington, the state's largest city with a whopping population of around 40,000, the City passed a by-law several years ago that there would be only one grocery store allowed to operated within City limits. Tenders were made by, amongst others, a New England chain called Hanniford's and the local co-operative grocery store. Against all odds, the Onion River Co-op won the tender, with the City really going out on a limb to make this happen. What a concept - progressive leadership! Anyways, it is my understanding that the Co-op really floundered for the first few years, under the management of a person who'd come from the South and had come from a corporate-run grocery chain background. He didn't know how to run the Co-op and so it suffered.  A change of management (a local who had a lot of knowledge about co-operatives) turned the Co-op around and it is now apparently the second highest grossing, independently owned co-operative in the United States! Given the population it serves, this is pretty amazing. I love visiting the Co-op in Burlington. It's a full-service grocery store, so you can find things like Cheerios and a small section dedicated to Coke/Pepsi, but there are also items you'd never see in a normal grocery store, like Goat's Milk Smoothie, and everything is labelled according to its origin (i.e. local, regional, US, imported). The selection of Vermont-produced foods is wonderful, and I am always especially drawn to the cheese aisle. On my most recent visit, however, I made a foray into the meat section, as I was house-sitting and had a hankering for a homemade meal.  I was delighted when I came to the beef section and found these signs:

What a stark difference from the labelling at the local Sobeys here, where I recently discovered the cereal aisle had been labelled so shoppers could identify what types of cereals are appropriate for adults, families and children.  After I wrote that blog post, I decided it'd be nice to add some visuals to the blog post for effect. I was about to take my third shot - of the Child's Cereal' section - when a Sobeys employee (a manager I think) told me that I wasn't allowed to take photos in the store.  I was too embarrassed to inquire as to why, so I won't try to make any conclusions about the rationale, but really?! What is so secret about the contents of a grocery store that photos aren't allowed? Or am I missing something obvious? Is it about 'security and safety'...the catchall rationale for everything that 'they' want to impose upon 'us' to reduce our power/freedom.  But I digress. The manager didn't make me erase the two photos I did manage to take, so here they are!!

Finally, it should be noted that while I was taking the photos at Burlington's Co-op, I wasn't approached by anyone, however, when my friend was looking for advice about a natural remedy for a health condition at about five minutes before close, one employee went in search of a staff member that had expertise in the area and she provided some great advice to my friend.

All of this has me wondering if Charlottetown could/would support such an alternative grocery store (I don't consider Co-op Atlantic to be quite the same, although it IS better than Sobeys/Superstore in my opinion), and if we would ever see such leadership from the City in terms of establishing such a grocery store here.   One can always hope or one can take action to make it happen! Watch this space for more....