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First of the season. Love 🌺.

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Weight, Weight, Don’t Tell Me…

When I was in Grade 7 or 8 (seventh or eight grade for my American readers), my home ec teacher was Miss Sutherland. She was probably somewhere between mid-30s and mid-40s. One day in cooking class, I’m not sure exactly what we were discussing, but I believe it was probably something to do with the relationship between calories in and pounds on.

At one point, I mentioned to the class that I could eat five hamburgers in a sitting and not gain weight and that people said I had “hollow legs.” Miss Sutherland just looked at me and said something like, “I used to be like that too. Just wait…”

Like many women, if you looked at my weight history on a line graph, it would look less like a straight line and more like a roller coaster, but with a definite trend line moving up.

I honestly have no idea how much I weighed as a kid or even in university. At 5’7″, I was slightly taller than average for girls of my generation and I was pretty skinny overall (especially on top, but that’s a whole other blog post…)

In my twenties, I probably fluctuated between 130-140 pounds, which put me smack dab in the middle of the normal BMI range.

When I was 28, I moved to Japan for two years to teach English to junior high school students. That’s when I discovered that I really didn’t like Japanese food very much (!) and I lived in a small rural community where there weren’t a lot of other choices, so I ended up eating a lot less than I was used to. Also, I didn’t have a car and I lived about a kilometer from my office, so I usually made that walk twice a day. As a result, I ended up going down to 115 pounds, which was cr-AY-zy! You could see my ribs without me needing to suck in my stomach at all.

I returned to Canada when I was 31 and lived there for another ten years and that’s when my weight really fluctuated. The first half of that decade I was super active, playing ultimate and squash and golf and curling and just being out socializing a lot as well as doing some active travelling and I kept my weight back in the 130-140 range. But during the last half, I went back to school part-time to get my MBA while working a full-time office job, so my activity level dropped, my junk food consumption rose, and by Y2K I was up to about 160 pounds. That’s the point where I moved from normal to overweight in the BMI charts.

In 2002, I moved to San Jose, California for a job and the weight continued to creep up. By the time I moved to Washington, D.C. in 2010, my new normal was between 180-190, the high end of the BMI overweight category. I was 49 at the time.

The next two years, however, I started seeing a decrease again, mostly because I didn’t have a car and did a lot more walking than I had in a long time, even though it was primarily going to and from metro stops. At one point I got back down to 170 but that didn’t last long, but I stayed in the 170-180 range most of the time.

Until…

I had moved to D.C. for a job, which I quit two years later. I started working from home as a freelance writer for corporate clients and returned to publishing my Tech for Luddites blog‐first part-time, then full-time by mid-2015. So for the last five years, my life was basically sitting at home working on my laptop all day. And while I had somewhat of a social life when I was working in D.C., most of the friends I made were either significantly younger than me or, if they were my age, already had families and existing social circles. So now that I didn’t see them at work all the time, our socializing naturally slowly dropped off to the point that I pretty much live like a hermit now, other than occasionally chatting with my neighbours when I see them outside. (It doesn’t help that I’m very much an introvert so it’s very easy for me to be alone.)

Aaand the weight started rising again. But I had always taken comfort in the fact that no matter what, I had never crossed that 200 pound mark and decided that my I had finally discovered my natural set point.

Until…

One day in early 2016, I stepped on the scale and it said 200.3 pounds. Although it’s just as arbitrary a number as any other, it was pretty depressing. But the worst was yet to come.

In the spring of 2016, I spent a couple of months living with my parents in Ottawa to help out as my Dad was recuperating from a hip operation. My diet was completely different from what I normally eat and, honestly, I didn’t pay much attention to it. Likewise, I didn’t have a scale there to keep tabs on what was happening and didn’t weight myself again until I got home in June.

215.

215?! I was STUNNED. I knew my clothes had gotten tighter, but it didn’t seem like I could have gained 15 pounds in a couple of months without even realizing it.

The worst part was that I now felt like getting down to anything resembling a reasonable, healthy weight would be almost impossible. So I didn’t even try.

Side note: I’m also now at the point that I worry that at my age if I did manage to somehow lose the weight, I’d end up with loose flaps of skin all over my body and the thought of that is even worse to me than the excess weight.

So basically, I’ve done nothing about it for the last year. That stops now.

As of today, I’m attempting to make some small lifestyle changes that will help me not only lose the weight, but improve my overall health and fitness as well.

On the food side

I’m not a big fan of “diet books” per se, but I am trying an approach outlined in “Always Hungry,” a book that was recommended by an online acquaintance. The beginning of the book goes into a whole lot of information about how our bodies store and use fat, most of which sounds like a lot of BS to me. So why am I giving it a try? A few reasons:

  • I’ve got to do something.
  • It doesn’t involve counting calories or even recording what you eat, both things I find extremely difficult to stick to.
  • The strictest part of the plan only lasts two weeks.
  • Did I mention I’ve got to do SOMETHING?

The gist of the program is reducing sugar and processed foods from your diet. In Phase 1, which lasts two weeks, you’re supposed to up your fat and protein content dramatically. In Phase 2, which lasts as long as you want it to, you reduce the fat content and increase healthy carbs. Phase 3, which is the maintenance aspect lets you add back some treats in moderation.

I’ll be honest, I skimmed over most of the book and am using it as a guideline rather than a strict list of dos and don’ts. For example, you’re supposed to purge your house of all the foods you shouldn’t be eating, which seems like ridiculous advice to me. What are people with families NOT on the plan supposed to do???

Also, you’re not supposed to drink any juices in Phase 1. Well, my breakfast almost every single day is a strawberry smoothie where I use orange juice to make it easier to blend. I may try reducing the amount I use or replacing some of it with whole milk, which is allowed on the plan, but there’s no way I’m avoiding it entirely for two weeks. Likewise, bananas. Nope, not gonna happen…

Some of the recommendations are going to be super easy. I already eat a fair bit of vegetables and fruit so increasing that amount won’t be a problem. Also, cheese… Done! 🙂 Avoiding alcohol in Phase 1 won’t be hard either. I drink so little that if I was told tomorrow I could never have another ounce of booze wouldn’t really bother me.

Harder will be cutting out chips and candy. Not that I eat a ton of it, but I definitely enjoy them and have them as snacks more than I should.

But the single greatest challenge for me on this (or any) plan is obvious: Coke. I’m addicted to the stuff. (To be clear, I’m talking about the brown liquid stuff, not the white powder…) In recent years I’ve switched mainly to Mexican Coke, which is made with cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup, but that doesn’t make it any less caloric. I currently have three or four a day, which is about three or four a day too many…

The problem is that I don’t like a lot of other drinks. I don’t like plain water and most sparkling waters, even flavoured ones, do nothing for me. The plan says you shouldn’t have any diet drinks either, which isn’t a problem on the Coke side, since I can’t handle the Diet Coke or Coke Zero aftertaste. But I’m probably going to have to get some other diet soft drinks like ginger ale, which I don’t find quite as different in taste from the regular stuff.

On the exercise side

The plan doesn’t have a lot of specifics about activity levels, but right now I’m working on walking more regularly. Fortunately, I started playing Pokémon Go a few weeks ago and that’s making me get outside and moving while I try to catch the little buggers. 🙂 I’ve also started wearing a fitness tracker that I hope will help my motivation.

So that’s the plan. This morning I weighed myself and I was 217.6 pounds. I will report back on how it’s going next month… Until then, wish me luck!

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Columbine

Such a pretty spring flower.

Columbine

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Tulip’s got ‘tude, yo.

Follow GrayageGal on Instagram.

Tulip's got 'tude, yo. 🌷🖕😂 #seenonmywalk #tulip #flower #rude

A post shared by Grayage Gal (@grayagegal) on

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Geode eggs… GEODE EGGS!

Easter eggs, science-style.

Follow Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls on Facebook. >>

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Note to self: Plant these

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Filed under “Good Ideas”

Homelessness is a complicated problem and this initiative certainly isn’t the full solution. But it shows innovative thinking and a willingness to do something rather than throw up your hands and admit defeat. That makes it a good idea.

Learn more about the Tiny House program from Seattle’s Low Income Housing Institute. >>

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Want

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Hellebores freezes over

Hellebores

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Wildflower-palooza

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Native gardens love

Bonus Tip: If you’re interested in learning more about native plants, do a Google search for native plant societies and/or native garden tours in your area.

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Gardens gone wild

7 Native Gardening Tips to Attract and Sustain Pollinators

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A very smart home indeed

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30 Days to Freedom 55

Maybe it has to do with my age or the period during which I grew up, but somewhere in my brain an advertising firm managed to plant the idea of Freedom 55, a uniquely Canadian slogan.

~ Gary Marr, Financial Post (02/05/10)

Ditto. I left Canada 13 years ago but the term “Freedom 55” still sticks with me—especially now that I’m almost there. To the 55 part, anyway, if not the freedom part.

The slogan was part of a 1980s advertising campaign for insurance company London Life and the promise was clear: invest in their financial products and you too would be able to retire at 55.

Back then, the idea of early retirement seemed like a real possibility, even if not a sure thing. But of course the economy was dramatically different back then. In those days there were still plenty of opportunities to join an organization right after graduation, stay with them for 30+ years, and retire with a guaranteed pension. I do have a few longtime friends who are now in that position or very close to it. And I could have done it myself if I’d stayed with the federal government where I worked for a couple of years in my early 20s.

But my career has followed a much different path, one that has become much more typical for many people. I’ve held more than a dozen jobs in a few different career areas. I’ve worked abroad, I’ve worked for myself, and my annual earnings have gone up and down many times during the last 30 years. On top of that, I’ve prioritized other things, like free time and travel and doing work I enjoyed, over salary and savings. So while I’m in okay shape financially compared to a lot of people, I’m definitely not on the brink of retirement.

But with my 55th birthday a mere 30 days away, I decided I still wanted to mark this milestone in some way, even as Freedom 55 for me represents more of an extended aspiration than an absolute line to cross over. So I’m finally making this blog public and between now and the big day, I’m going to post about any kind of accomplishments or enjoyable experiences that occur so that I can kick off this next stage of my life with a positive mindset.

With that in mind, here are some things to kick off the countdown…

Deer!

This morning was my first deer sighting of this winter. They come down from a local wooded area to hang out at the home whose backyard is kitty corner to mine. Since one of my absolute favoritist things in the world is random deer sightings, I’m considering this an excellent sign for what’s to come!

Click thumbnails to see larger images.

Squirrels! Birds!

Although these aren’t as rare sightings (especially the squirrels), I consider all wildlife in my yard to be a gift from Mother Nature.

I built this.

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to cut back on spending, so of course on New Year’s Day, I bought this.

In my defence, I came close to buying one of these last year but didn’t and suddenly it was an Amazon Deal of the Day so I got it for a third off its regular price. It arrived a few days later, but I kept putting off assembling it. But yesterday was the day! And even though one of the reviewers said that it took him 20 minutes and it took me an hour and 40 minutes, I’m still very pleased that I was able to put it together all by myself—with no parts left over! (I shot video of me putting it together, so once I get a chance to edit it, I’ll post it here as well.)

Now, since assembling it was actually a workout in and of itself (pro tip: if you do this, don’t wear a heavy sweater!) and since my butt is nowhere near in bike saddle condition, I only rode it for 10 minutes the first day, but I know I will use it. It rides very smoothly and quietly and perfect for watching TV or using my tablet. I don’t know if I’ll use it with an actual laptop, but I’ll give it a try and see how that goes.

Learn more about the FitDesk and read customer reviews at Amazon. >>

Zumba Zumba Zumba

I hate to be a total cliche, but I did sign up for a zumba class to start in January and I have already missed two classes. 🙁 BUT. I did go tonight and did what I could, which wasn’t a lot, but still… The thing I love about zumba is that you can’t really do it wrong. That’s my kind of dance class. 🙂

FYI, if you are thinking of taking a class, I highly recommend checking out your local community centers. This class is only $40 for 8 sessions (well, in my case, 6…) which I think is a great deal compared to a lot of other fitness options.

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Definitely needing this tonight!

Cold Remedy

Weather Info

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Happy Homemade Cookies Day!

Homemade Cookies Day

Original Recipe: Lemon Sugar Cookies (Taste of Home)

Alterations

  • Divided quantities by 4 because I only had 1/2 cup of butter
  • Substituted vanilla for lemon juice because I thought I had lemon juice when I chose this recipe but discovered I didn’t
  • Didn’t use lemon zest because I didn’t have any lemons, which I did know
  • Added mini chocolate chips because MINI CHOCOLATE CHIPS
  • Didn’t put sugar on them because I totally forgot to

Verdict: Not the best cookies I ever made, but let’s face it: a “just okay” cookie is ALWAYS better than no cookie at all.

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So this is a thing

So this is a thing…

A really GOOD thing!

Cotton Candy Grapes

More info, including additional flavors to come, at The Grapery.

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Whip it good

I’m pretty sure the best lesson I’ve learned in 2015 so far is that I can use my Magic Bullet blender to make real whipped cream. And it only takes about 20 seconds!

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Recipe: Quick and Dirty Crème Brûlée

creme-brulee-ready-to-eat

When I was in my 20s, I lived in L.A. for a couple of years. Two of my friends and I had a tradition where we would take the third one out to one of the city’s nicer restaurants for dinner on her birthday. The one restaurant we couldn’t afford was L’Orangerie, but one year we decided to splurge and go there for dessert and coffee afterwards. And that was the first time I had crème brûlée.

Oh. My. God.

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