Category Archives: health

So, let’s talk about postpartum feelings

Some of you have read this post before. If you’re in my circle of family and close friends, you’ve already seen this. I’m sharing it again in this medium because I think I think all moms and moms-to-be benefit when other moms share their real after-birth feelings.

I wrote this a few months back when my kiddo was 3 weeks old, because my DH (dear husband) said it might be cathartic to do so. He was right.

While I’m feeling 110 percent better, maybe my thoughts will help some of you.

I’m quite sure LO (little one) did some growing this week along with other cute things, but I was stuck in some weird emotional state that left me crying one moment and worrying about the dumbest thing the next.

So, let’s talk about postpartum feelings.

Namely, how much they suck. I can cry anytime, anywhere. Don’t believe me? Try me. Go ahead, call me up and try me. One moment I’m happy as a clam and loving on my sweet LO. The next moment I’m weepy and wondering what the heck I’ve gotten myself into. I can cry while changing a diaper. I can cry while looking at my LO. I can cry while looking out the window.

I’ve done all three. Separately and simultaneously.

I remember the births of my girlfriends’ children and how everything was sunshine, lollipops and teddy bears. I heard about how much they loved their child. How wonderful mommyhood was. How they could hardly wait to think about having more children.

No one talked about feeling overwhelmed and underwhelmed at the same time. About the uncertainty of what to do with a newborn. Of the boredom that ensues. Of the bloodcurdling screams and the inability to get any soothing mechanisms to work. Of the lack of control.

That’s what I miss the most. Being in control. No one controls a newborn. You can read every baby book under the sun and gain all sorts of examples of how to care for your kiddo, but the author never shows up to take your child off of your hands for an hour, allowing you to go back to bed or do something non-child related.

While speaking—sometimes in tears—with my girlfriends recently, I’ve learned their entry days and weeks into mommyhood weren’t as sunshine-filled as I had previously thought. They, too, shed tears, shared doubts, felt overwhelmed and were certain they’d never again gain control. In sum, raising a newborn was the hardest thing they’d ever done.

The hardest and most worthwhile. It’s just sometimes hard to see the worthwhile part while riding a rollercoaster of emotions on the way down from a hormone high. Stupid hormones.

Oh, how I miss feeling normal.

Their advice? Go create a new “normal.” Get out of the house! Go for a walk! Meet a friend! Join a mommy group! Just go! Do something! Do anything!

Most importantly, talk about how you’re feeling. Because admitting you feel off is the first step toward feeling right again. And, you know, what? They’re right.

While I miss being in control and sometimes find myself in tears wondering what exactly is it I’m crying about, I know that I’ve been blessed with a beautiful LO. And LO is continually teaching me that I don’t need to be in control of all things all day long. It’s OK to have a messy living room (ugh!) and a pile or two of dirty laundry (egads!). It’s OK to not straighten the bed every day. Didn’t wash my hair? Not a problem. And—a big one—couldn’t get to the gym? That’s OK, too.

Really, it is OK.

Because tomorrow is a new day with new adventures. The hormones aren’t for forever. But the love I have for my LO is. And knowing how much I love LO (and LO’s daddy) and look forward to watching LO grow makes it all worthwhile.

Every last annoying tear.

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The case of the streaky, white-coated dishes

Dirty dishes go in. Dirty dishes come out. Wait. What?

For about a month now, Husband and I have been pondering why our dishes were coming out of the dishwasher with a white finish. They looked somewhat clean. But they were also white-coated. White-coated and streaked.

“Is the dishwasher on the fritz?” Husband asked. No. “Are we using new detergent?” No. “Are we using too much detergent?” No.

It was a real mystery. Until today. When the National Post gave us our answer.

Phosphates.

Phosphates, or rather the lack thereof, have been turning everything white.

It turns out the Canadian government brought in new regulations last July, effectively banning phosphorous in most household dishwashing and laundry detergents, reports the National Post. The new rules prohibit the manufacture and import of these products containing phosphorus beyond 0.5 percent by weight.

That’s wonderful and all, but a heads up would’ve been grand. Why no mention of the regulation?

“It’s probably because a satisfactory replacement hasn’t yet been found,” said Bruce Cran, president of the Consumers Association of Canada, in the National Post article. “This is often the case with industry when things happen that aren’t necessarily to their advantage.”

The government supposedly passed the regulation to rein in phosphorous dumps, which have become a major problem for Canada’s waterways. While phosphorous softens water, reduces spotting and rusting, holds dirt and increases performance, it also acts as a plant fertilizer, creating an algae boon in waterways. The algae die, sink to the bottom and get eaten by bacteria. The bacteria use up all the oxygen and kill the fish. Also, the chemical causes massive green blob-like growths which can raise pH levels in water to toxic levels and block water intake pipes.

Not the prettiest of pictures.

Detergent makers have been trying for decades to come up with a suitable alternative to phosphorus with varying degrees of success, said the National Post. Tests conducted by Consumer Reports magazine in 2009 found that most phosphate-free detergents, including Great Value, sold by Wal-Mart Stores Inc., and Kirkland Signature, sold by Costco Wholesale Corp., “left our test dishes somewhat dirty.”

“Detergents without phosphates—which help clean but also boost algae growth in freshwater, threatening fish and other plants—tended to perform worst overall,” the magazine said.

Lewis Molot, an environmental scientist at York University, told the National Post that dirty dishes are a small price to pay for preventing the spread of phosphorous.

“Either the public pays huge amounts of money to remove the phosphorus at the end of the pipe, or it can choose the cheaper alternative to reduce the amount of phosphorus going into our sewers in the first place,” he said. “If I have to pay a little more for a greener detergent, even if it means it doesn’t clean the way it used to, I’ll put up with it.”

I don’t know. I kinda prefer my clean dishes.

You can read the full National Post article here.

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Have you hugged your sister today?

See! Sisters are good for more than just tattletaling.

In conjunction with its Flourishing Families Project, Brigham Young University recently conducted a study about siblings. Its findings indicate that having a sister is a good thing. A very good thing indeed.

This morning, my brother Joshua e-mailed me a link to the MSNBC story “Having a sister might make you a better person,” and wrote “Good news! You complete me.” And, “You are single-handedly responsible for three people who do not suffer severe depression.”

Am I ever proud!

The study found that siblings who have a sister are less likely to experience negative feelings such as loneliness, guilt, fear, self-consciousness and unlovedness. While I’m fairly certain that last one isn’t a word, I know it’s a feeling. No matter the age difference, sisters are more likely than parents to provide their brothers with feel-good feelings.

Not to be slighted, the study recognizes the positive influence of brothers, noting that having a loving sibling of either gender promotes good deeds and charitable attitudes. I think that means I have my brothers to thank for my expressions of niceness to others.

Thanks, guys! I couldn’t have done life without you. However, I do kinda hold you responsible for not taking care of the 8th-grade bully I had to deal with when I was in 2nd grade, but, really, why dwell on the past?

So much for the big “protective factor” examined in the study.

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Crumbly rhubarb goodness

Mmmm. rhubarb. Not so delicious when raw. Terribly delicious when made into this dessert.

OK, so apparently I’m on a recipe kick this week, because I also gave this one a shot.

Knowing that Husband and I are huge fans, my in-laws were generous with their rhubarb distribution this year. Our freezer has been holding 9 pounds of it for the past three months. What better opportunity to experiment with different rhubarb crunches, crisps and crumbles?

This recipe is also from Clean Eating magazine. What can I say? I like the magazine and appreciate its healthy-eating principles. This particular dessert is a combination of sweet and tart. The sweetness is more from the strawberries than sugar, which is a good thing.

Here’s the recipe. Continue reading below it for some modifications.

Sweet-Sour Crumbly Dessert*
(8 servings)

2 stalks rhubarb, sliced (2 cups)
18-21 medium strawberries, sliced (3 cups)
1 tsp. cinnamon, ground
3 Tbsp. organic evaporated cane juice
Juice ½ lemon
3 Tbsp. spelt flour

Topping:
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
¼ cup Sucanat (natural cane sugar)
¼ cup coconut oil
2 Tbsp. spelt flour
2 tsp. flaxseed, ground
1 tsp. cinnamon, ground

Preheat oven to 350 F. In an 8 x 8-inch baking pan, combine rhubarb, strawberries, 1 tsp. cinnamon, evaporated cane juice and lemon juice. Sprinkle with 3 Tbsp. flour and gently toss to coat. Prepare topping: In a medium bowl, add all topping ingredients. Using your hands, mix until well combined (will be very crumbly). Spread over fruit mixture in baking pan. Place pan in oven and bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until topping is golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Now for some modifications.

I haven’t found organic evaporated cane juice anywhere. Either I live in a small area or can’t navigate a grocery store properly. Or, maybe it’s just hard to find. Anyway, I replaced it with an equal amount of Sucanat. What’s Sucanat? It’s non-refined (natural) cane sugar. It’s not a processed sugar, which means it ranks higher on the nutritional scale, as it contains a smaller amount of sucrose than white sugar. It’s typically available wherever you find sugar.

Never used coconut oil before? Me either. Here’s your chance. I found a 31.5 oz. container of it at Meijer (in the U.S.) for $4.99. That’s a steal compared to the prices I’ve seen around here. I suspect you could probably swap it out for equal parts canola oil. Or vegetable oil. I’ve read mixed reviews on coconut oil. Some applaud it. Some caution its use. I’m leaning toward the latter, but taking the “all things in moderation” approach.

And, spelt flour? Spelt is kinda like wheat. With a tougher husk. It has a nuttier and slightly sweeter flavour than whole-wheat flour. And, it contains more protein. Bonus!

So, why make this recipe if I ended up switching up some of the ingredients? Because it’s delicious. And, that’s the point of baking. To create something you like eating. Plus, I’m a fan of trial and error.

Try it, and let me know what you think.

*Recipe taken from the May/June 2010 Clean Eating magazine, pg. 98.

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A sweaty, I mean sweet, deal

A newly negotiated gym membership means more coins in my piggy bank. But, don't think that means I love the art of negotiating.

It’s not a secret that I shy away from conflict. This plays out in a variety of ways. For today, let’s focus on the art of negotiating. In particular, the art of negotiating better deals on goods and services. I do not like doing this. Not because I do not like better deals, but rather, I do not like the action of attempting to get better deals.

If someone puts a price on something, I assume that is the price they want for it. I then decide if that price is something I am willing to pay. Yes? Pay it. No? Walk away.

Husband, on the other hand, sees prices as negotiable. Jumping-off points. Conversational ice breakers, if you will. Sure, someone is asking for that specific amount, but if he really wants to sell whatever he is selling, he will lower his price. The only non-negotiable in a sale is that everything is negotiable.

Sigh.

While I genuinely appreciate this attribute in my husband, it’s not one that I have. No, I do not frequent garage sales, flea markets or auctions.

Six days ago, I received a phone call from my gym, reminding me that my membership is coming due and asking do I want to re-up and pay in full for 12 months or would I prefer to make bi-monthly payments and, oh by the way, if you pay in full, you will receive a cool gym bag, but please decide soon because the new HST begins on July 1, and your gym membership will include a new tax. I was then quoted the same price I paid upfront last year. Not unreasonable, but not amazing. Especially considering gyms are plentiful in our area.

You can see where I’m going with this.

“This is great news!” said Husband. “Now you can negotiate a new, lower price.”

“But, really, you’re the negotiator in this relationship,” I said.

“Nonsense,” he said. “You can always learn. Tell them you can get a great deal at Gym B, since I’m a member. Just remember: You need to be willing to walk away. If they aren’t willing to budge, you have to walk.”

“Awesome,” I said. “Blast!” I thought.

I finally bucked up and went to the gym today. Friendly Ashley was happy that I came in (after three phone calls), and she pulled out my paperwork.

“So, you would like to pay in full?” she asked. Or, kinda stated. Questioningly.

“Well, actually, I’m considering cancelling my membership,” I said. “My husband is a member of Gym B, and they’ve offered me a $25 monthly membership. If you can match that, I will gladly stay here. I do like this gym. But, I can’t turn down $25 a month. Neither can my husband.” All the while, I managed to not glance away, stammer or clear my throat, and I even threw in a smile.

“Oh,” she said. “But, why isn’t your husband a member of Gym A (operated by the same company as mine)?

“He’s loyal to Gym B,” I said. “Has been for years. And, he thinks it would be nice for us to belong to the same gym, especially if it has a better price point.” I smiled again.

“Well, I’m not prepared to offer you $25 per month,” she said, punching numbers into her calculator. “Right now, you’re around $30 a month. But, since you’re willing to pay in full, I can give you two free months. That gets your monthly total down to just under $25 a month. Plus you’ll be a Gold Member, meaning you have access to all of our gyms across the GTA.”

“That sounds great. I’ll do that,” I said. And, I thought, “Did I just negotiate a deal? Wooooeeee! Look at me! I’m a negotiator! Negotiating things! Right here! Right now! I’m goooood!”

She finished up the contract; I looked it over, very pleased with my efforts, and signed up for another year. Or, 14 months, to be exact.

Then, I went home to share the good news with Husband. He was proud.

“Twenty-five dollars a month?” he asked. “That does it. I’m definitely going to my gym and telling them that my wife belongs to Gym A, and ask them to match that. Or, maybe I’ll go to Gym C (the brother gym) and tell them you’re paying $25 a month and that I’d like to see them match it or else I’m prepared to go elsewhere.”

“Well, just remember: You have to be willing to walk away,” I said with a smile.

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These quesadillas are HOW bad for me?

Curious about the food you're putting in your mouth? What you read in this book will shock you! Hopefully into action.

Yesterday, I picked up a book at our local library, and I’ve been having some trouble putting it down. Not a surprise for me, seeing as how I read a lot of books. What might surprise you is the read:

Eat This Not That!: The Best [& Worst!] Foods in America! by David Zinczenko with Matt Goulding.

OK, so maybe it’s not a surprise, as I like to read about health, nutrition and fitness. But, I am a little behind in reading this book, as it came out a while ago (last year). And, yes, there really are three exclamation points in that title. Please, try to look past that.

This book is jam-packed with the best and worst foods in America—salads, burgers, pizzas, frozen foods, drinks, desserts, etc. In sit-down restaurants, in fast-food chains, in supermarkets, for breakfast, as snacks, you name it, they’re in here. And, not only are they listed, their nutritional content is described (in scary detail), as are recommendations for better selections.

Think you know what’s in that burger you’re eating at lunch? Or that milkshake? Or that salad? How about that veggie sub? Healthy right? You might want to think again.

Don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself here.

Also included in this book are the best and worst foods for blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar—a definite bonus if you’re looking to specifically control those factors of your health. There is also great information about marketing ploys, deciphering nutrition labels, definitions of “healthy foods” and the like.

With all the self-help reads about diets and weight-loss plans, it’s refreshing to read about how simply swamping out high-calorie/high-fat meals for lower-calorie/lower-fat meals can make an immediate impact on your body’s appearance and how you feel.

After all, if it really is true that 80 percent of your body’s composition is dictated by the food you put in your mouth, shouldn’t you consider putting the best sort of food in there?

Oh, and those quesadillas? Chili’s Fajita Quesadillas Beef with Rice and Beans? 2,240 calories, 92 g. of fat, 43.5 g. of saturated fat, 6,390 mg. of sodium and 253 g. of carbohydrates.

Ugh.

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Saturdays are for pancakes

Nothing says "Saturday morning" like pancakes!

Or maybe pancakes are for Saturdays.

I love pancakes. Which shouldn’t be a surprise because pancakes fall into the breakfast-foods category, and I could eat breakfast foods for every meal of every day. Which means I could eat pancakes maybe once a day.

Since about Wednesday of this past week, I’ve been thinking about making pancakes and waited very, very patiently for Saturday morning to arrive so that I’d have the time to make them. I considered making them last night, but Husband wasn’t certain they’d go well with the Shiraz we had opened.

Bummer.

So, I made them this morning. I made a from-scratch batch, and they were delish. If you’re looking for a pancake recipe that serves up a lot of protein with not a lot of fat, this is for you, compliments of Tosca Reno’s The Eat-Clean Diet Cookbook (see more information here).

Cottage Cheese Pancakes

Dry ingredients:
1 ¼ c. whole-wheat flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. sea salt

Wet ingredients:
8 egg whites
1 c. fat-free/low-fat cottage cheese
1 c. fat-free/low-fat plain yogurt
Cooking spray

Directions:
Combine first five ingredients in a medium bowl. Make a well in the center. Combine eggs, cottage cheese and yogurt in a small bowl. (You may choose to puree these ingredients together using an immersion blender or regular blender.) Pour into well. Stir until just moistened. Heat a non-stick pan or griddle or prepare a skillet with cooking spray. Medium heat. Use ¼ c. of batter for each pancake. Cook until lightly browned on both sides. Serve with fruit. Makes 12-14, depending on how big/small you make them.

[Note: These pancakes are not super-sweet as you probably noted from the lack of sugar in the ingredient list. You could add 2 Tbsp. of sugar to the dry ingredients. I recommend skipping the sugar and serving with fruit and/or a low-sugar maple syrup.]

Nothing says breakfast like a cleaned-up version of one of my favorite foods.

Happy Saturday! And, Happy Pancaking!

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Poetic culinary feats

My brother Joshua recently mentioned to me that he and his wife are paying closer attention to the foods they eat and visiting the local YMCA more frequently in effort to be healthier. I’m fully supportive, as I place a lot of emphasis in my own life on taking care of the only body I’ve been given. But, I digress.

In the past two days, Joshua has kindly shared healthy meal/snack suggestions with me via e-mail.

A lunch suggestion:

Lunch consisted of spinach-wrapped spinach on a bed of spinach seasoned with a light dusting of spinach. And a carrot.

A snack suggestion:

8 oz. skim milk
2 Tbsp. peanut butter
2 scp. whey protein powder
 
Blend in blender. Drink immediately before your 3-year-old son finds out that he LOOOOOOOOOVES peanut-butter-protein shake and attempts to devour it.

Another lunch suggestion:

My “two cup spinach, one ounce ham, two tablespoon Italian dressing” salad was amazing for lunch. If you’d like to try it sometime:

2 cups spinach
1 oz. ham
2 Tbsp. Italian dressing

Another snack suggestion:

I am counting down until my afternoon snack. 1 cup of vanilla yogurt with a banana:

Mix 1 cup vanilla yogurt with one banana (peeled).
Stir to taste.

That delicious recipe led to a breakthrough on Joshua’s part. Haiku cookbooks! What could possibly make healthy cooking any simpler than using recipes that are only three lines long? And, not only will the recipes be healthy, but we’ll cut out unnecessary cooking steps, which means there will be less processing of the foods, allowing the foods to be closer to their natural states. Isn’t that a popular goal of eating healthy?

Now, Joshua is THE MASTER of haikus. You think you can haiku? No, you cannot haiku. Joshua can haiku. If I had to recommend someone to participate in the 2010 Robert Spiess Memorial Award Haiku Competition, I would nominate Joshua. The two of us have spent far too many minutes sending far too many e-mails that require us to spend far too much time ticking off syllables on our fingers to make sure we have the 5-7-5 syllable-per-line-count right.

We wrote three haiku recipes in just a few minutes:

Spaghetti. Meatballs.
Cook noodles on stove. Heat sauce.
Don’t forget meatballs.

Bowl of cereal.
Pick the one you like the best.
It must have fiber.

Ham and cheese sandwich.
Layer ham and cheese on bread.
Slice. Watch your fingers.

I’m pretty certain we have a bestseller on our hands.

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Sugar’s sweetness sours

Did you know that the average woman consumes 31 teaspoons of sugar each day? Thirty-one teaspoons. That’s nearly two-thirds of a cup or 124 grams. Nutritionists cited in SHAPE magazine say women should be taking in no more than nine teaspoons (or 36 grams) a day.

Darn my attraction to fitness magazines that alert me to all the unhealthy things I do to my body!

While, I’m tempted to wave this factoid off and reason with myself, “See, I knew I was naturally a sweet person,” I, unfortunately, know better, and I suspect my body would appreciate me a little more if I made a little more of a concerted effort to appreciate it.

Thirty-one teaspoons of sugar is a lot.

My Fiber One cereal bars that I love dearly? Nine grams of sugar per bar.
My Quaker Oatmeal Squares cereal that I also love dearly? Ten grams of sugar per serving.
Dannon vanilla yogurt? Fifteen grams.
Hot chocolate mix made with water? Nineteen grams. Made with milk? THIRTY-ONE GRAMS!

This is horrible news! One steaming hot mug of cocoa, made with pre-packaged mix, puts me five grams away from the daily recommended sugar intake. Woe is me.

And woe are a lot of women (and men) who aren’t paying much attention to what they put into their mouths. It turns out that if we drop our sugar intake to something much closer to what our body really needs, we can drop 25 pounds of body weight in one year.

Twenty-five pounds. By simply reducing the amount of sugar we swallow.*

Interested in learning ways to cut from your diet the not-so-great-for-you sugar and replace it with the really-good-for-you sugar? Check out SHAPE magazine’s article “How Sugar Packs on Pounds.”

And, good luck!

* Note: “Simply” is easy to say, harder to do. But, well worth the effort.