an hour a day

IMG_20200413_220128_602

…or sometimes 40-45 minutes. For 30 days straight, no days off. That’s what it took to get these results. In this post, I’d like to share with you how in greater detail.
Note: No exercise/nutrition plan is a one-size-fits-all solution and I am not a health professional, just an average Joe sharing my tips on my way to figuring things out 🙂

Where to begin.. as a mom of 2, I find that my 30s has been a yo-yo of gains and losses, triumphs and disappointments. I’ve had all the excuses in the world, given into my sweet tooth way too often, and tried the latest diet fads just like everybody else, often finding that nothing consistently kept the weight off.

In the above left photo, taken November 2019, I was lackadaisical in my exercise routine and food choices. My workout plan consisted of commuting by bus and Go train to downtown Toronto for work, taking the stairs two-by-two whenever possible, and squeezing in a 30-minute gym workout at lunch 0-3 times a week (which I detested because I focussed heavily on leaving early and heading back without being late). Having access to the all the dessert and fast food places was definitely not a setup for success (also the pizza & cake lunches for monthly office birthdays, breakfast pastries and other snacks/sweets brought in by clients).

Then on March 12th, I started working from home due to the obvious Covid-19 crisis. I reminded myself, hey, I’ve got all the time in the world. After that weekend (and my period) ended, I started doing free YouTube workouts every day for a month. Here is a summary of the important factors leading to my (positive!) results.

Lenten Sugar Fast
At the start of Lent in early March, I committed to cutting out sweets (all desserts, chocolates/candies, bubble tea, etc.) for the entire 40-day period. I suspect the lack of sugar was definitely a catalyst for my waistline reduction.

Intermittent Fasting
For a year and a half, working full-time in-office, it was very simple to commit to intermittent fasting. I would not eat breakfast until 11:00 a.m. and had my last meal no later than 6:00 p.m. after arriving home. Since WFH began, I no longer adhere to a structured fast. I had gotten up each morning, had my cup of Skinny Mint tea* (see below), a cup of yogurt, and whatever was in the kitchen for eating the rest of the day. We are in lockdown and cannot afford to be choosy, after all 🙂 I often snacked with the hubby late at night, but felt less guilty because they weren’t sweets!

Skinny Mint Tea
About a year ago I had ordered a double 28-day supply of Skinny Mint Tea, forgot about it, found the 2nd batch and started drinking it along with my Lenten fast and daily workout routine. Now, it barely curbed my appetite nor did I lose any pounds, but it did make me explode out buttwater like a mothaf*cka! There’s a “calming” loose leaf tea you drink every morning, and every other night before bed you drink a bag of the “strong” stuff. I highly recommend teatoxing only when you’re quarantined at home and NOT before commuting 1+ hours to the office, because the risk of crapping your undies is high indeed! I did feel “refreshed,” however, in dumping that waste down the drain (literally).

YouTube Workouts
As noted earlier, I did the majority of my workouts for an hour, sometimes 40-45 minutes only when PMSing, heavily menstruating or feeling otherwise broken down and tired (about 6 of 30 workouts). I simply YouTubed “1 hour workouts” and chose from HIIT (high intensity interval training), Tabata, GoodLife Les Mills (Body Combat, Zumba) and anything else that looked interesting, never doing the same workout twice.

I alternated a HIIT cardio workout one day with a routine involving dumbbells another day — I own a pair of 5- and 8-lb weights — for at least 3 days of weight training per week. When feeling “ick” I would do yoga (there are even workouts for PMS!), pilates and light dance workouts. The important thing is if I was tired one day, I wouldn’t skip a workout; I’d just choose something light and fitting of my current mood and bodily state.

I visually associate fat loss to a microwave and a stick of butter: you can place the butter in there and stare at it all you want, but it won’t melt until you turn on the power and blast it 🙂 And it’s the same with our bodies: we need to turn up the heat and discomfort and pain and SWEAT!

Here are some of my YouTube favourites:

  • FitnessBlender
  • POPSUGAR Fitness
  • Sydney Cummings
  • HASFit
  • Yoga with Adriene
  • Michelle Vo Fitness

Best of luck, thanks for reading, and do please share your own tips!

— DI 😉

Can’t sleep.

ptr

Missing the sunrise and peeking over the balcony as early workers stroll by, conversing in native tongues over the rooster’s crow. Stretching out my legs and feeling the heat on my skin before daylight has fully broken.

Stirring the perfect cappuccino —

— under the latticed patio roof, flanked by lush vegetation and pretty florals. We pretend it’s all ours. There’s nowhere to be and nothing to accomplish. No one to appease but each other.

Then,

Heading oceanward to plunk down our bodies, laze about and brown deliciously all over. Dunking full selves into the surf when it gets a little too toasty. Hearing the wind, the waves and very little else.

The sun’s gone.

A peaceful respite though the bugs are biting, but we’ve learned not to notice. Sharing a tasty meal, not skimping on dessert, then heading out to where…

…they dance into the night.

Perfectly en pointe, in tune, attuned. Mesmerizing and seemingly without effort, commanding attention and deserving adoration.

Yet sadly,

It’s over almost as soon as it began, when the realization hits that you’re caught up and will do

Whatever
It
Takes

To feel that way again.

the love of travel
— by dianne c.

eggsperienced

It’s now Day 3 of my foray into daily blogging. I haven’t run out of steam yet, but I could very easily fall back into TV-mode and ignore this — OMG, HOUSE OF CARDS IS BACK ON NETFLIX — fighting to keep focus…

Luckily I’m writing about food and, mainly, the impressive breakfast I had this morning. We headed to The Grille on the Queensway in Etobicoke. It’s been renovated in the years since we’ve been last and looks pretty fantastic.

Let me be frank and say that for me, breakfast is the most difficult meal to enjoy meat-free, for obvious reasons. I don’t miss the taste of meat, rather the crispy, crunchy texture of slightly overdone bacon and the saltiness of fried SPAM swimming around in pools of runny yolk. So when I eat out for breakfast, I usually give Stella my sausage (about 20% of the time she’ll actually eat it), and opt for some kind of runny eggs with toast, home fries and coffee. Here’s what I ordered this morning:

eggs

Eggs Florentine ($12.99)

3 poached large eggs over cheddar cheese and sauteed baby spinach on English muffins smothered in Hollandaise sauce. Served with our famous homefries.

http://www.thegrille.ca

Three large eggs! I usually only eat one per sitting and not very often during the week. I ate one, gave John another, and took the third to go and ate it in the car when I got hungry later, with my fingers, because we didn’t have any cutlery, and we were picking up Dani from school, and my head was hurting, so I couldn’t wait to arrive all the way home to eat it, not in Toronto traffic.

I should mention that before I ate that soggy, sticky mess, the hubby and I halved a Hero veggie burger, which is conveniently down the street from Dani’s school:

Hero

Soul Burger ($5.69)

100% Vegetarian, gluten-free, non-GMO. Toppings are lettuce, pickles, ketchup, maple chipotle mayo and low fat mayo.

http://heroburgers.com/

I really thought this was the bee’s knees of veggie burgers, until just last Saturday I tried…

holychuck

Animal Feed ($9.99)

Panko crusted portobello mushroom stuffed with feta & cream cheese, deep fried then topped with lettuce, tomato & lemon herb aioli. (removed the tomato of course. duh.)

Home

It’s the squirt-mushroom-juice-on-your-nice-shirt-but-don’t-care kind of good.

Of course there are other things I can quickly pick up but don’t bother taking pictures of, usually because I’m hungry and very angry about it, such as Burger King and Harvey’s veggie burgers, or Subway tuna, falafel or veggie subs. I will admit that salads are low on my list when eating out because BO-RING. Oh, and sushi, of course. Can’t forget the sushi!

Also, Whole Foods’ hot and cold deli counters offer amazing mock chicken General Tao and mock chicken curry salad, with many different kinds of kale and beet concoctions, stewed curry veggies, fresh soups, etc. Just be prepared to pay $30 or more for a decent-sized container (true story).

yums

Hey… how did that get in there?! =)

This was at the Groundwork Coffee Co. in Hollywood, somewhere along the Walk of Fame. I just took a picture. Didn’t eat any of it. Fully regret that now. =(

an ode to hotels

hotels

We love hotels!  It’s hard to imagine who doesn’t, really.  You arrive to a freshly made bed and (assumed) spotless tub. When you leave for the day and come back, everything’s cleaned up for you.  The pillows and covers are like heavenly soft marshmallows, and when you hang a sign on the door, no one bothers you.

We love hotels.

Dani and Stella, as soon as they get in, unplug the phone and start to make pretend calls on it.  It’s hard to pry the Gideons bible out of Stella’s hands before she rips pages out of it.  There’s satellite TV with tons of current movies to watch (though we never, ever end up seeing one), room service (which we’ve never ordered), and wake up calls to be arranged (that never get arranged, because with experience I’ve learned to trust only myself to get up promptly in the mornings).

We love hotels.

You head downstairs in the morning, having freshly rolled out of bed in our pantulog (pajamas), so succinctly our style, and grab some light breakfast. There’s coffee which is mandatory for us parents, oatmeal which is mandatory for Stella, who eats nothing else, and hard-boiled eggs for Dani, who eats only the whites and always asks for more (guess who gets the extra cholesterol hit because I don’t waste yolk).

We love hotels.

When it’s the night before checkout, it’s time to pack up.  We must peek in every drawer, under each nightstand and couch cushion, and in the crevices of the bedposts to make sure the kids haven’t dropped or hidden anything valuable.  There’s hair in the tub, nubs of toothpaste in the sink basin, and scrunched-up covers on the bed and strewn on the floor.  Tomorrow, we must leave this wonderful abode.  Where we’re going, no one is going to clean up our messes, pay for satellite television stations, or have breakfast hot and ready when we decide to wake up.  It’s time to re-welcome reality and it bites!

The end.

that chick(en) tho.

chickens apple

Just a few days ago, I was surprised with an email from WordPress saying I had a spike in amount of visits that day. Oh! I was then reminded I had a blog to maintain that apparently people were still reading!

My last post was nine months ago, and of course that’s way too long. At the suggestion of my hubby, who is way more versed in social media than I am, I agreed I would try and post daily, no matter how insignificant or wayward my thoughts would be that day. So here we are!

We are just returning from the Big Apple in Colborne, Ontario, located off Highway 401. We had passed the gigantic smiling red apple monument on numerous occasions throughout our travels to beaches or campgrounds, but never actually stopped to go in. Today, a very warm and sunny Sunday in May, quite a change from the chilly and rainy almost daily weather, we had gotten out of bed and wondered what to do. I suggested going to the Big Apple and then seeing where we would end up after.

It turned out to be a very interesting and quaint shop. Inside were several food offerings including apple pies, sandwiches, soup, hot meals, ice cream, fudge, and lots of other chocolates, honey and maple treats, as well as cute souvenirs and knickknacks. Had I been Dianne of just a few weeks ago, I’d have probably walked out with bags of fudge, maple candies and pies, but I recently cut processed sugar out of my diet (another blog post, perhaps).

So now we arrive at the real subject of this post: chicken. In the front of the Red Apple store is a mini-putt course and small petting zoo, where you can put a $0.25 or $1.00 coin in a machine to get a capsule of animal feed for the ducks, goats, and chickens. While John and Dani fed animals, I followed Stella as she wandered past the animals’ cages. There was one coop housing several chickens and hens. In their cage were bowls of feed and fresh water. The chickens themselves were sunning, grazing, snoozing, perched in their little house laying eggs. I thought, what a peaceful little abode they had.

Backtracking to six months ago, as some of my friends and family are aware, I had given up eating meat, so beef, pork, poultry, etc., the exception being seafood (which I doubt I will ever give up).  The reason for this was because back in December, I had an “incident.” Yes, another of my infamous food-related incidents. Basically, my in-laws were over one night to watch the kids while I did some editing work due that evening.  I had been slow-cooking chicken quarters since that morning, and some six hours later, I figured they were done cooking, turned off the power, and dunked in a fork for a taste. I ate some of the skin and a few pieces of meat, which had completely fallen off the bone. They didn’t taste particularly unpleasant, but did give off a slight flavour of liver and were way too mushy, so I plunked the fork into the sink and went back to work. I had given Dani a small piece to try, but she didn’t like it either.
About an hour later while sitting at the computer, I started to feel hot and sweaty and my stomach began to tighten. It was around 9:00 p.m. and time to put Dani to bed, so I sent the in-laws home for the evening and did just that. Soon afterwards, I felt queasy and my stomach swelled to four months pregnant size. I called John and asked him to come home from work immediately. My own work would have to wait. Shortly after he arrived, I ran to the bathroom, stuck my head into the toilet bowl, and vomited violently. I vomited so long and so hard my jaws locked and my neck and shoulders tensed and cramped. Exhausted, I just fell to the side and started weeping. I needed help getting up and laid down on the couch.

I had never had the vomity kind of food poisoning, but there’s a first time for everything. I managed to finish off the last of my work and lie back down again. For the next three days, I was stuck on the couch, unable to eat anything but crackers with a few sips of water and Advil. Lots of Advil. I lost four pounds. Eventually, the headaches and nausea subsided and my appetite returned (as did the four pounds — boo).  I could and would never forget what a painful and traumatizing experience it was. I thought back to what the cause could be and it didn’t take long to figure out it was the chicken. I suspect I had it defrosting in the fridge just a few hours too long. Because we’re a busy household and I was bedridden for those few days, I eventually remembered to clean out the slow cooker with the chicken still in it. Just having to open it, see that mess of bones and chicken bits and the smell — ugh — I knew I just couldn’t eat animal flesh any longer.

I had given up meat the year before, which lasted about four months. Now it has been half a year since I’ve stopped. Back to the present day, as we observed the peaceful chickens in their coop, I thought of snippets of a documentary John had showed me about chickens who are raised solely for human consumption in unspeakable living conditions. I was immediately saddened. In just researching an online article by PETA, I could barely finish reading and felt like crying a little, thinking about how happy Dani was to just feed these innocent little animals. I’m not advocating for vegetarianism or veganism or even pescatarianism by any means, but I just thought I’d share the article I read, in case it would appease your curiosity or tug at your heartstrings as it did mine. Here is an excerpt from that article:

Chickens raised for their flesh—called “broiler” chickens by the meat industry—are typically confined to massive, windowless sheds that hold tens of thousands of birds each. While chickens can function well in small groups, where each bird is able to find his or her spot in the pecking order, it’s virtually impossible for them to establish a social structure in such large numbers. Because of this, the frustrated birds often peck at one another relentlessly, causing injury and even death.  Such intensive confinement also breeds filth and disease. A Washington Post writer who visited a chicken shed said that “dust, feathers and ammonia choke the air in the chicken house and fans turn it into airborne sandpaper, rubbing skin raw.”

I didn’t want to get into more detail than that, so follow the link below if you’d like to read the rest of the article:

https://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/factory-farming/chickens/chicken-industry/

I never stopped eating meat as a result of inhumane treatment to animals, but now that I’ve already stopped, there’s just more fuel to the fire to stay away for good (let’s hope).

For mommy.

In the beginning it’s just me
Living in the palm of your hand, clinging to each finger joint, trusting every motion
Knowing nothing and nobody else
Decisions over choices, judgments over negotiations
You rule the world

As I awaken to much more
You begin to shrink
I learn, expect, love hard, disappoint
Hate, laugh, isolate, rejoice
You try your best, but it’s never enough
Why isn’t it?

A woman of curiosity
Life large, exciting, limitless
How strongly we differ

I blame and aim higher
You blame and cower away
Would it ever get easier?

You did as you could
So when you cling to every joint in the palm of my hand
To the very end, I’ll love you
And you will still rule my world.

I love the lights.

lights

They remind me of life as a teenager. When ’twas the holiday season I’d move my pillow, blanket, and Elise (beloved stuffed lamb) into the living room as my temporary headquarters.

Dino, my lovable feline rascal, would run from the side to the front window, paws up against and nose poking out of the blinds, “fighting” a neighborhood cat who was so bold as to come knocking on our door. As a result of his war games, pieces of the blinds had broken off and left gaping holes throughout the years and, when adorned by Christmas lights in the darkness of the winter, became my favourite way to gaze out into the night.

I love winter. It’s always been a season of romance for me. Of the few noteworthy relationships I’ve had, each one had begun or fully blossomed in the wintertime. So as a high schooler, I would spend my evenings spread out on the couch, television on BET’s Midnight Love, chatting on the phone ’til the wee hours of the morning on many a school night.

The lights and music provided a romantic backdrop for many conversations with boys. Oh, how I loved our talks. When they called my home, I’d leave their caller ID info on my phone to keep track of who exactly I was talking to. If I didn’t like him, I’d delete his number off the log because I didn’t like seeing his name on my phone. I remember a few of those who kept calling, and wonder when or how they eventually stopped.

The me of today avoids speaking to anybody on the phone. There’s only one boy (and two girls) I talk to now, and it’s alongside one another in the warm, romantic glow of the Christmas lights.

On Love and the Islands

islands

I sat there contentedly, stirring my cappuccino, and waiting patiently for Hubby and Big Girl to return.  It was his turn to get the crepes.  I had overeaten yet again, and this time Little Baby decided to stay in her stroller and sleep so I could sit back and enjoy dessert.

I sipped and smiled to myself, happily recounting the last few sunny days in my head, when I saw The Lady.  She sat facing me, the next table over. The Lady was also sipping a coffee, but she and I were very different this evening. The Lady had very big, sad eyes. And The Lady sat alone.

I immediately wondered how she ended up on a beautiful island, sitting all by her lonesome. I mean, I couldn’t imagine the scenario for myself. God has blessed me with a carefree and loving marriage, quite smooth sailing for the past three years and counting. In between now and 13 years ago, I had been out of a relationship for only three months. I don’t even remember what it’s like to be on my own (though, metaphorically, I could certainly recall some rough times).

I pondered how it must feel to retire for the evening to an empty bed. To wake up without the chatter of an overexcited four-year-old or the hungry cries of a grumpy little baby. Or to an exhausted husband snoring deeply.

I wondered if she was meeting anybody at the bars. Whether she chatted up the bartenders as they shook up her cocktails. Would she be boogeying on the dance floor tonight, in her highest of heels and shortest of skirts?  Did she lay on the beach until the sun set, staring into that awestriking horizon, wishing she had someone to snuggle with as the ocean breeze kissed her blonde hair?

I continued to drown in my thoughts and barely noticed The Man who set his coffee cup and plate of dessert on the table and sat facing The Lady. She acknowledged him, or lacked to acknowledge him, if you would, in the “loving” way an irritated wife would greet her tardy husband.

Guess she wasn’t lonely after all.

Whoops.

Just me and my mini

When I thought all was hopeless, I finally had a breakthrough. I was sure I’d be walking on eggshells around her once John went back to work. So I tentatively encouraged her to play with her toys and watch her favourite shows (we took away most of her playthings earlier in the week during one of her naughty episodes, so her choices were limited). By 5:30 pm she was sprawled out on the couch, eyelids drooping, so I very gently asked her to go to her bed and take a nap.  Some resistance at first, but she allowed me to carry her to her room and ended up sleeping for an hour and some. When she awoke, I braced myself for a whiny argument about nothing at all but, amazingly, there was nothing of the sort. Stella hasn’t been 100% lately so she went to bed a half hour earlier than usual, leaving just Dani and I.

These past few days I’d been on the brink of exhaustion, with Dani waking up 4-5 times every night crying and needing to be consoled back to bed, interspersed with Stella awakening every other hour, needing to be nursed and changed (as luck would have it, she started pooping late at night, as well).  It’s not easy to be in deep sleep, then wake up every hour to tend to one child or the other alternately, as if on cue.  I can’t remember when I’ve slept for two or three uninterrupted hours.

Dani asked, Mommy, will you play with me?  And I said, of course!  She gave me a Shopkin to play with and we built a little Shopkins world together. When I went to my phone to take a photo of it, she sadly asked, Mommy, are you not playing with me anymore? I answered of course I am, took the picture, and put it away. She said she didn’t want to watch TV anymore, and I turned it off. I let her stay up a little later than usual, partly because of her late nap, and partly because I enjoyed watching and listening to her play, amazed by her imagination and creativity.

Of course my eyelids were heavy, and part of me was having trouble playing when I wanted to flip on some R-rated, gory television show, or flop on my stomach and snooze for a lucky few hours until Stella woke up.

But play on, I did. When I told her it was bedtime, she softly shook her head and said she wanted to play still. I gave her five more minutes and, when they were up, told her it was late and she needed to rest up for school tomorrow. Again, I braced myself for some yelling, head-shaking, or tantrum-throwing, but to my amazement, she quietly put her toys away while I got her toothbrush ready.

I came out of the bathroom, and so unexpectedly she broke my heart. She said, Mommy, I don’t want to go to school. I want to stay home with you. I miss you. I fought the tears back, gave her big hugs, and told her everyone has a job, and hers was to go to school. Every day since the first, I’d joke to her about staying home with me instead of going to school. She’d always say, no, Mommy, I want my friends. So you can imagine what this did to me inside.

I promised her that we’d play Shopkins together every night, or do whatever she wanted, no television, telephone, or chores in the way. This made her happy, and we seamlessly brushed our teeth, said our prayers, and said good night with hugs and kisses.

I know we are all busy with our household duties. Tired from a long day of work. Ready to dig our fannies into the couch groove and do some unwinding. But there is so much beauty in a little child who wants to spend all of his or her time with you. Though they were loud and irritating sounds, I know now they were just cries for attention.  Before long, these sweet little beings will want nothing to do with us, and we’ll crave these little moments that are already gone.

I’m learning my lesson. The dishes and the laundry and the television can wait. I’ll find a way to stay awake a little longer to do my homework. I’ll try not resorting to tough love to keep her in line (although that’s definitely not going away, let’s be straight). I’ll put my phone away and ignore it (okay fine, I’ll reallyyyy try my best).  It’s about devoting more time to my girl who thinks the world of me, when I’m crowded with so much noise and can easily forget what’s right there.  I don’t ever want to forget again.

mommy et les bleus

Parenting: the hardest job to get right (if that’s even possible).

I’m about ready to devour the majority of a pumpkin pie by myself, totally ignoring the repercussions to follow, because I’m in a funk. I’m having a bit of the mommy blues.

For the past week or so, my once extremely obedient and well-behaved four-year-old daughter has become a tiny terror. It started with waking up, tossing, turning, and screaming angrily in the middle of the night (nightmares? possibly), and has since lead to copious use of the word “no,” yelling irately during a time-out, and emanating a blank stare when given simple orders.

What was once a seamless routine getting ready for school (and being picked up from school) is now becoming a battle of the wits or a mini-meltdown and almost being late every morning.

No amount of disciplining, pleading, or even asking nicely seems to be working.  Nothing is. I’ve been spending countless nights just moping about, trying to figure out what’s been going wrong and being unable to focus on much else.

Could it have something to do with growing pains? Are things happening to her at school? Is she influenced by her friends or other schoolmates? Is she jealous of her baby sister and seeks retaliation?  I feel like there is no definitive answer and she’s not telling me much, either.

In the meantime, I just gotta continue to pray and hope it’s just a phase, and that the defiance, stubbornness, and strong-headedness (she’s inherited from her mother) will ease up, though I know from experience doesn’t go away completely.  I’m doing the very best I can, and so now I turn to dessert.

To my giant handful of a daughter: Mommy loves you always.  Now, please give me a break. 🙂