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Archive for the ‘beliefs’ Category

Diet Cherry Dr. Pepper

Diet Cherry Dr. Pepper (Photo credit: ManyLittleBlessings)

I remember a few years back, on the first Sunday of Lent, the minister at my church made a humorous observation, one that has stayed with me and that I repeat often. He said: “as good Protestants you’ve probably already given up on giving up.” I laughed then, and I laugh whenever I think of it. Up until last year I always gave something up for Lent. Usually it was chocolate, or ice cream, or some other guilty pleasure of which I was starting to feel a little ashamed.

The minister was encouraging us to see Lent as a time to broaden our understanding of spirituality, and to use the Lenten season for self improvement, if not for fasting. Last year, mostly because I couldn’t think of anything to give up, I decided that I would instead focus on adding something to my routine, and so I meditated. I meditated every night before bed, and enjoyed it so much that I shared my guided meditations with any friend who expressed an interest. Instead of giving up I decided to add in, to build up my spiritual health, rather than deny myself something I shouldn’t be eating anyhow. I added something to my life to make myself more spiritually aware, help ease my stress, and bring back a sense of calm. In fact, it was the best Lenten season I’d ever had—so good, that I swore I would never give up again.

This year, as we start Lenten anew I’ve changed my tune. I’ve decided to give up diet pop. Diet pop is more than just a guilty pleasure, it’s a daily indulgence that, I worry, is really problematic. So, for that reason, I’ve decided to give up diet pop.

We all have our Achilles heels, those foods that we know are bad for us, but that we can’t seem to pull ourselves away from. Mine is pop. A few years ago I switched to diet pop. I told myself that I needed the carbonation, but I couldn’t justify the sugar in regular pop. So I drank the diet pop, and didn’t give it another thought. But now I’ve reevaluated this indulgence, and I know that it has no place in my life. So I’m choosing to respect my belief that I deserve good health, and that good health is something I can achieve.

Over the summer I made the transition to a mostly plant-based diet. Since that time I’ve been really interested in food: how it’s made, what’s in it, and how it affects us. Then last week, when I was quite sick, I had no energy, so I found myself at home sleeping and watching movies. My second day home, I was flipping through Netflix when I found a documentary called Hungry for Change. I tried not to watch it; I was looking for a good laugh, but as nothing else really appealed to me, I decided to watch it.

Sure, there are lots of things that I took from this movie, but the one that really spoke to me was the information on diet pop. I won’t get into all of the arguments that Hungry for Change makes against diet pop, because frankly there are far too many of them, but there was one argument that really hit home with me. Aside from being full of chemicals, diet pop, the experts argued, is not calorie free. Manufacturers use artificial sweeteners, so that they can make the claim that it is calorie free. And in one sense this is true: no sugar means no calories. But these artificial sweeteners still have a lot of carbs in them, which when you ingest them are converted to sugar in the body. This is all stuff I know. I worked for many years in diabetes education, and so I have a pretty good idea about how this works. (By pretty good, I mean less than a dietician, but perhaps more than the average person.) Still, in spite of the fact that I know this, I continued to drink my stupid diet pop, and think nothing of it. But today it stops. I am giving up my diet pop, and replacing it with water, or other nutrient-rich drinks.

I struggled for a long time with this decision. I hate to “use” a time meant for spiritual reflection and personal betterment for something as base as kicking the pop habit, but I think that this is the right thing to do. I like to think that instead I’m using this time to bring myself back to a more natural diet, which will, hopefully, have other spiritual benefits.

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Deutsch: Ben & Jerrys Cherry Garcia

I often think about support systems. How we keep ourselves on track, and the people who are standing beside us, urging us on, are a big part of the success we experience. For most of us, we get the majority of our support from friends and family. Some of us might have the support of health care professionals, but at the end of the day, the decision to exercise, or to have that second bowl of ice cream, is between us, the voices in our heads, and often the reflection in the mirror. So I guess it’s not all that surprising that we often make the wrong decision.

I have been lucky enough to discover a new supporter. Back in March I walked into my local convenience store and picked up a bag of chips, a two-litre bottle of Dr. Pepper, and a pint of Cherry Garcia ice cream. While I was waiting for the charges to clear my account I started chatting to the sales clerk. I told her that it was my first splurge in two weeks. She laughed and asked if I was on a diet. I laughed and said, well… yes, but also it’s about saving money, since junk food is expensive. Then we both laughed, because my three items had come to nearly twenty dollars. I took my “treasures” and went home to enjoy them.

A few weeks ago I had another series of cravings. I was in the store three more times, in as many days. On my second trip the sales clerk reminded me that I had given up junk food. I became defensive, and told her that I deserved some credit for not coming in before. She laughed and packed my treats into my Lulu Lemon bag.

I could make no such protestation when I arrived the next day with my Lulu Lemon bag in font of my face. She laughed as soon as she saw me slink into the store. Undeterred, I got my treats, said a few self loathing words to her, and turned to leave. In a pathetic attempt to salvage some dignity and pretend that I have willpower, I said “you won’t see me now for a long time.” “Good,” she said, “I’m here all the time.” And with that I left, knowing that I had lost my anonymity, but had gained a new supporter. And an important supporter at that; now that I know there is another set of eyes on me I think twice before spur of the moment over indulgencies.

It’s been two months since that last meeting, and my only interaction with this kind sales clerk is when I stop my dog walk to wave at her through the open door. It’s good to know that she’s keeping me on track.

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A couple of years ago I was helping my mum move all of her decorations from her tattered cardboard boxes to some of the nicer Tupperware kinds. As I’ve hinted, Christmas is a big deal in my home, and the work was exhausting. As we approached the bottom of the second box, and we could see the untouched third box sitting in the corner of the room, I looked down and saw that there were just a few scarps of paper sitting. I sighed and put the box down. Then, and I have no idea why, I picked the box up again, and took a good look at the paper. It was mostly receipts so old and worn that they were illegible, but mixed in with them was a tiny newspaper clipping. It was my first letter to Santa Clause, and at the risk of great embarrassment, I am sharing it with you today.

 

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Dear Santa,

Do you have enough candy canes and gingermans made for all the kids? I would like to have a gingerman, oranges; grapes, starfish and a big, big new dolly. I want the biggest candy cane in the whole world.

How are the reindeer and Mrs. Santa. Can you bring a little Bert and Ernie doll for my little brother Matthew. He’s too little to write a letter. I want everything big. Give him everything little. I can’t wait to see you Santa at our party with all the kids. My Mommy helped me write this letter.

Love and kisses
Circe, age 4.

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Montreal massacre memorial at McMaster University

Image via Wikipedia

I think I may have launched into the Christmas spirit a little too early this year, and I’m starting to spin out of control. I’m looking at my calendar and figuring that I will need…oh…about 3 half day vacations, plus I wanted to take the end of the week before Christmas so that I could bake and wrap and just relax. But the days are starting to add up, and I think I’m just going to have to be a grown up and push through, I only get so many vacation days. Also, if I sit at home I know I’ll just start to worry that I haven’t bought enough, and end up shopping for more gifts…with no idea of who will receive them.

In the midst of this chaotic train of thought I came in to work today and was reminded that yesterday was a very sad day in the history of Canadian women, as it was the 21st anniversary of the Montreal Massacre. On that day, 21 years ago, Marc Lépine walked into an engineering class at Montreal’s École Polytechnique, ordered the men out of the classroom and then proceeded to kill 14 women. Reports indicate that Lépine blamed women for all of his life problems, while he systematically killed many of the women in that room, as well as injuring many other women and several men.

I remember this event very clearly; I remember watching the news coverage on the television, not really understanding what was going on. I think it’s safe to say that this is the worst single incident of violence against women in Canadian history, and God willing, this will always be the case. I remember too that when I was in highschool this was a day to remember that abuse is a regular part of life for many women. While I don’t pretend to have an answer for how to stop violence against women I think it’s important to have a day where we are reminded that problem is very much a current problem, that affects many of the people we love and value.

While this week’s observances frame a debate about gun control, and violence against women, and women’s rights to life, to education and to physical safety, these debates overshadow the loss of the families whose daughters went to class one morning and never came home. The women who did survive have had to struggle with these memories.

I would like to take a break from my holiday planning, and my normally self-indulgent blog where I focus on what I ate, and how much I exercised, and if I’ve lost any weight, to remember the women of the École Polytechnique, and every other woman who has ever suffered abuse.

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A fan made photo of Emma Watson at the premier...

Image via Wikipedia

I have been so excited about the new Harry Potter movie. I’m like a kid; every time a trailer came on I would stop what I was doing and stand mesmerized in front of the TV. I had also avoided all newspaper articles and internet stories so that I would be able to enjoy the movie without feeling like it was overkill.

I saw the movie Friday night with Penelope and her husband B, and enjoyed it, and now I feel that I can indulge and read the internet stories to my heart’s desire. This is exactly what I’ve been doing. Though I am not enjoying them as much as I had hoped.

It seems  now that Emma Watson is no longer contractually obliged to keep her hair long, and that she has decided, as many other teenagers before her–myself included–to experiment with her appearance. Most notably she has decided to go with a pixie cut.  I think that it’s adorable, and more than that I completely understand this young woman’s desire to play with her appearance, as I think it’s very natural and normal to want to see how you would look if you changed your appearance drastically.

But I’m upset by the comments that people feel they have the right to post about Ms. Watson’s new hair style. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not a major defender of the right to privacy of celebrities, but I do think that as people who can come online and comment anonymously or under a pseudonym, we are saying things about celebrities in the public space that is very rude.

Truthfully, there weren’t many comments that I found shocking or appalling in and of themselves; instead I argue that the internet has finally answered the age-old riddle “what would you do if you knew you wouldn’t get caught?” At least on a social level, I can say with certainty that there are many people who would cross the line of social acceptability, and say rude, hurtful things, feeling entitled to torpedo other people’s confidence in order to…To do what? To boost their own self-confidence, to feel that someone out there is listening to them, to share in another person’s reflected glory by presenting them as flawed?

Whatever the answer it’s pathetic. While I’m sure that the fabulous Ms. Watson and other celebrities won’t lose any sleep over the opinions of some yahoos on Yahoo, there are bigger points to consider; primarily what will other young girls think of themselves when they see such comments posted, how will they compare themselves when they hear or read negative comments about someone they admire? These comments don’t just tear down celebrities, they tear down regular people as well.

Finally, the other major issue that has to be considered is that in a society where we have the right to say anything we like, I think there are too many of us who aren’t asking if they are right to say these things. While we all have the right to have an opinion, and we all fee that we have the right to share our opinions, I argue that we need to recognize that opinions should be presented as such, instead of presenting them as factual truth; after all, long hair on women and short hair on men isn’t genetically or historically a signifier of either femininity or masculinity, just cultural and personal preference.  Besides, if you really feel that strongly that your opinion should be heard you should at least be brave enough to put your name on it.

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Anne of Green Gables: The Animated Series

Image via Wikipedia

Wednesday was a wonderful day for me. It was day 91 in my new job, and that means that I am now eligible for vacation, and I made the most of it, believe you me. I had 4 hours out with the puppy (2 in the morning, 2 in the afternoon, enjoying a wonderfully sunny fall day), I had lunch at Swiss Chalet and dinner at Red Lobster, and capped off the evening with the musical Wicked. It was a wicked day.

Though, somewhere in the middle I found time to have a much-needed phone visit with my friend, Beth. We talked about a lot of things: food, religion, her health (she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis almost 15 years ago), and life as a newlywed (Beth has now been married almost a year). And of course we rehashed my decision to end my engagement and discussed the rightness of this move, with Beth telling me emphatically that yes, I made the right choice (not that I doubt it, though sometimes when I feel that life is hard I have to be reminded). We also discussed her biggest breakup, and the rightness of that.

Beth dated a tyrant of a man (though I think she would prefer I put the word “man” in quotation marks) for 9 years. She gave him everything; she put all her trust in him, and was unmovable in her commitment to this relationship. After 8 years of ring shopping (never with any intention of buying) this relationship ended and Beth was devastated.

It was a lengthy and messy breakup. Her ex would call every couple of months, or leave cryptic messages for her with people at her church (this makes me want to punch him), and Beth’s healing period was tortured. In the midst of all of this emotional turmoil Beth joined the gym, and worked hard. She had 20 lbs. to lose and she wasn’t going to let this physical reminder of their relationship hold her back.

Six, almost 7 years later, life is very different for Beth. She met and had a wonderful “courtship” (I know it’s very Anne of Green Gables, but ladies it’s important, don’t sell it short) with a wonderful man who is now her husband. Beth has also lost the weight and is doing really well with the MS.

This is a very long story, I know, but there’s something to be learned from all of this. Whenever we feel that life is hard, and that no one understands what we’re going through (I admit to having a highly developed victim’s complex) it’s important to take a step back and reconsider your history and the history of those people closest to you; chances are they’ve gone through something that you don’t even know about, or that you’ve forgotten about. Everyone has a story, and when I’m trying to bring perspective back to my view of the world I remind myself that “worse things have happened to nicer people.” Sometimes (often) life’s not fair, but that shouldn’t stop us from making the most of it, as Beth did.

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I have been off the food log for about a week, and truthfully I don’t feel very good at all. But what I’m struggling with the most is how to talk about my progress or lack thereof.

I have promised myself that I will not use words like “good” and “bad” to describe how I’m doing with my new lifestyle. Why? It might seem like it’s a little too literal, and maybe I need to park my writer/editor mind while I’m working on changing my lifestyle. But the problem is that the words “good” and “bad” are words that are value heavy, and I don’t want to frame this project with these kinds of words, for a couple of reasons:

1) I feel that talking about my lifestyle in terms of “good” and “bad” makes it feel like a temporary effort instead of a conscious effort to change my life.

2) “good” and “bad” doesn’t leave room for special occasions like birthday cake, girls’ nights, and season premieres (all occasions that should be celebrated with something yummy!)

3) I don’t think that the terms “good” and “bad” are really appropriate to use to talk about food consumption and exercise routines, which are not really moral issues, as these words suggest.

The problem is that when people ask me how I’m doing, they’re looking for a quick response. They have no interest in listening to me talk at length about what I ate yesterday, and how much exercise I got in. So how can I talk about this project without using what I consider to be value-laden language.

Honestly I don’t have an answer; right now I just tell people that “I’m on track and trying to stay the course” or something equally cheesy. If I’m not doing so well, I just say something like “ugh!”

I think we have to learn to accept that the language we use can impact the way we think about life, and also, how we act. If we use passive language, then we can start to feel that we are objects that are acted upon, instead of actors who engage in activities. Likewise, when we use language that characterises our eating habits as “good” or “bad” we are speaking into a discourse much larger than food consumption.

Some people would argue that “good” and “bad” is a religious discourse used to describe “good” actions like charity and “bad” actions like adultery. So how then did these words come to describe whether I do or do not eat cheesecake.

This is the tension that I’m struggling with as I am trying to tell you that things are not going that well. The numbers on the scale are going up, not down, and my clothes are getting tighter, not looser. I’m also frustrated that as soon as I get myself into a good routine of getting up and exercising I seem to get sick, which derails me.

At this point I am looking for advice and motivation; does anyone have any tricks that might help?

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