an hour a day

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…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 😉

Gains in Losses

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About a month after I gave birth, I ordered ALL my summer clothes online in a size medium, and gave myself three months maximum to fit into them all. I’m happy to report that it’s mission accomplished 🙂

Let me reverse and tell you a little bit more about my recovery (if you haven’t read the horror story which was my second delivery, please see below post entitled “4 Months Old.”)

After being released from the hospital on day four, my journey to recovery began, and it was unfortunately not seamless. Due to the amount of blood I had lost, I was prescribed iron tablets three times daily, along with the two Advil and four Tylenol I was taking for the pain – the constant soreness in which I couldn’t even sit properly. What was most uncomfortable about my recovery was the constipation – the iron pills would make me constipated, I was warned, and the only thing I had to counteract that was one stool softener I could take daily. It was six days before I had a bowel movement, and it was not a complete or “natural” one. TMI alert – it was more like a bunch of little black pebbles than something I would call a relief. Every time I would push, it would ache, and sometimes I would irritate the wound and rip the stitching a little, causing it to bleed more. One time I took a mirror and glanced at myself “down there” and was appalled at how I looked – a gaping, mutilated hole bound by stitching. I know you wonder why I would bother looking, but I just had to know.

One thing that helped with the pain was sitting in an epsom salt sitz bath three times daily, 20 minutes each time. A sitz bath is a round, plastic tub you place over the toilet that is filled with water and connected to an IV bag-like contraption with a tube and a clamp. Basically you fill the bag with hot water and move the clamp blocking the water passage to allow hot water into the bath as needed, and the excess water pours out a hole in the tub and into the toilet. Now that we are well versed in sitz bathery, I’ll get back to my recovery story.

Eventually, as the weeks passed, I was able to decrease the amount of pain killers to only 2-3 per day. And although I was told to take three iron tablets daily, I only took one and tried to eat as much iron-rich foods as possible instead, such as red meat and beans. That really helped with the constipation, and I was more “regular” about 2.5 weeks after I delivered.

At my six week post-partum appointment, I told the doc I still couldn’t sit upright properly in a chair. This concerned her, so she examined me and discovered I had some granulation on my vagina. Granulation tissue looks like polyps, and formed as a result of my stitching healing “too well” or “over-healing.” I had only a small one, and she gave me two options: either she burn it off immediately with silver nitrate, or I could take Vagifem daily suppositories (a tablet on a stick inserted into the vagina) to lubricate the area and help it to shrink on its own. I opted for the Vagifem, because I was too terrified of any more pain going on (she had warned me the silver nitrate would burn and be very uncomfortable.) She did tell me, however, that I was able to resume any form of exercise, including sexual activity.

For the next six weeks, I worked out at Goodlife four times a week, first thing in the morning. I took any and every class from Aqua Fit, Body Pump, Body Flow, Pilates Mat, Yoga, Body Step, Body Attack, and Body Combat. I prefer classes because I respond better to being told what to do, instead of leaving myself to my own devices (and laziness). At first I cut out white rice and only ate whole wheat bread with every meal. I didn’t eat sugary desserts or anything deep-fried. As you can probably guess, this didn’t last long. As the weight melted off, I started to become lackadaisical in my food choices and concentrated more on portion size: eating smaller portions of the things I actually enjoyed. This included sugary desserts because of my notorious sweet tooth, but very limited deep-fried items. To this day, I haven’t had fried chicken, and I very rarely order french fries (one exception is Swiss Chalet, because it’s just not the same without them).

A month after my previous appointment, doc told me the granulation was very small now, and I could continue with the Vagifem or she could burn it off with the silver nitrate. She told me again that it would hurt but only for a brief while, so I said, what the hell, just burn that mothaf*cka off. She applied the nitrate, and when she was finished, I exclaimed, that’s it?! I didn’t feel a thing!

At four months post-delivery, I am now 133 pounds at my lowest vs. 178 when I gave birth, and three pounds away from my pre-pregnancy weight. As I mentioned earlier, my summer clothes all now fit, including two dresses I bought for weddings (one already passed, and the other is in three weeks). Though I am happy with the weight loss, my skin still hasn’t returned to normal, and of course I still have pockets of fat here and there that I could do without. I started off extremely motivated, but I haven’t been back to the gym in a month. I think it’s all starting to catch up to me now. I’m constantly tired for some reason. As soon as the kids are tucked into bed/crib at night, all I want to do is go to sleep, when I have tons of steno practice I could/should be doing, as well as some home workouts I found on Hulu (which I do about three times a week if I’m lucky).

I guess I’m trying not to be too hard on myself given the energy expended keeping up with two youngin’s all day, along with my other motherly/wifely duties. Once Dani is back to school in September, I think I’ll be able to return to the gym, and my studies, on a full-time basis again. One can only be optimistic.

🙂

4 months old :)

stellaIt started at around 2:30 am the night before, three days past my due date, when I started feeling moderate lower back pain every 40 minutes. I didn’t feel like it was time for the baby to come, so I decided to sleep it off and see what happened by the time I saw my OB at 9:30 am that day. She examined me, aka shoved multiple fingers up my vujay-jay, and discovered that I was one centimetre dilated. We had a conversation about what to do next, since further dilation could take hours, a few days, or even a week at that point. We decided that if the baby didn’t come by Friday (it was a Monday), I would have a C-section, or I could wait until over the weekend and they would try other methods (not exactly induction, which wasn’t possible since I’d had a C-section with my first daughter).

A little background information – as previously mentioned, I had an emergency C-section with my first daughter, Danica. I wanted another Caesarean with my second pregnancy, but Doc convinced me that I was a good candidate to have a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Caesarean) and that the recovery time would be much faster, so that’s what I went with.  However, I couldn’t wait too long for the baby to arrive on its own because of this, so that is why we were on a timeline.

At 1:20 pm while having lunch at Montana’s, I was more frequently feeling sharp back pains and it was becoming too uncomfortable to sit upright. At that point I started to record every contraction (which I had determined they were, since I remembered this feeling from my first pregnancy), and they were 17 minutes apart. I had read multiple times that if they were five minutes apart or closer, I should go to the hospital. I decided to take a nap and see how I felt when I woke up. When I arose, the contractions ranged from four to seven minutes apart, and it was around 3:30 pm when we agreed to pack up and head to the hospital before possibly getting stuck in traffic. At about 5:00 pm we arrived. I was taken into triage for the doctor to again roughly invade my insides and find that I was now three centimetres dilated.  I was admitted. Blood tests were done and my IV was inserted at that point. They couldn’t find the vein in both my arms so they put it into my hand, which was a little more painful, and I was advised to not bend it in case it broke or pinched a nerve or something. Great.

I was advised to ask for the epidural right away, because there was a chance the anaesthesiologist wouldn’t be able to come on time. At roughly 8:40 pm, three hours later, he arrived and gave me the epidural. Luckily my nurse was great and was able to snag him in between two lengthy operations. For a good 40 minutes I felt bliss from the painful and now frequent contractions. They inserted my catheter (“pee tube”) while I was already numb down there, a process I’m sure would be quite uncomfortable under normal circumstances. And then the nurse broke my water and started my pitocin drip, which would help speed along the process. At first this made me nervous because I wasn’t allowed to be induced, but they said it wasn’t the same process and wanted to have the baby out as quickly as possible in case any complications arose (the general risk of having a VBAC is that the former Caesarean scar could rupture, and the baby would lose oxygen and potentially die – SCARY!)

However, when the pitocin started to kick in, I started feeling the painful contractions again. One, two, three, four times I pressed that button for an extra hit of “epidural juice” as I like to call it, but I was still feeling the pain! Such constant, heavy, clawing back pain that I could barely lay still. I’d shake my legs after every contraction just to distract myself. At 11:35 pm, I was eight centimetres dilated. Two more hits of juice after that, and at 12:10 am they increased the dosage (which still wasn’t helping me at all). Two more hits after that, and in more excruciating pain than ever, and I was finally fully dilated at 12:45 am.

The doctor came in and told me to push after the next contraction. I asked her how, and she said to push as if I was taking the largest crap ever. After the first one, I yelled out, and they told me not to yell because it took away from the power of the push. It was then discovered that my baby was “sunny side up,” or her back was to my back instead of the opposite way, which is optimal for delivery. This was why my contractions were painful – she was positioned in a way that put more pressure on my spine. Doc said she would put her hand in and turn the baby downwards while I pushed. The next contraction came, and all I saw was a hand go in and disappear up to her elbow, and a lightning flash of pain as I screamed the loudest I ever have in my entire life. I quickly shut my mouth and gritted my teeth, and concentrated on pushing while the doctor’s arm was still inside of me. My mind got fuzzy and I felt light-headed. At one point, a flood of nurses started rushing into the room. Apparently they were having trouble finding the baby’s heart rate, which had suddenly just dropped. I heard the doctor tell the nurses to prepare the operating room for a C-section and I thought, frightfully, no, not again! Then I heard mention of forceps as, my husband told me later, they sliced me open to the anus and used the forceps to pull the baby out. It lasted 20 minutes. They put my darling baby on my chest, all bloody and slimy, and had to cut the cord instead of my husband in case there were other complications.

I was so relieved and hugged my cute little baby, and then they took her away to clean her up. They told me I had done a very good job pushing and, had it lasted any longer than that, I would’ve had another Caesarean. I thank God to this day that I didn’t have Caesarean AND vaginal trauma to recover from.  They started to stitch me up. Half an hour, an hour later, I asked, what is taking so long? Doc then told me there was bleeding from my uterus, which had ripped somehow before I started pushing. I was in agony again. When I dared to look, I would see various hands and metal instruments going in and out of me. Needles slashing back and forth, sewing like mad. They couldn’t stop the bleeding. They told me that if I lost more blood and couldn’t fix it, I would need a blood transfusion and possibly an operation to sew up my uterus. At that point I broke down. I just want it to be over, I cried. I just wanted to rest and hold my baby and be at peace. They ended up inserting a latex balloon up to my uterus, inflated with 300 mg of water. Then they stuffed three cloths into my vagina up next to it. It was a little over an hour and a half when they finished sewing. They put me back on the pitocin drip (to this day I don’t remember why- something to do with stopping the uterine bleeding) and again I started to feel the painful contractions. I asked how long would I need the stuffing in there and for how long would I feel the pain, and they told me at least 12 more hours! I broke down again. I kept trying to shake my leg. I wouldn’t let go of John’s hand. I couldn’t even drink anything in case I still needed surgery, so I would sneak little sips of water to cool my super dry throat. They gave me morphine which still did nothing for me. 45 minutes later they told me to breastfeed Stella, and I tried but I couldn’t. I couldn’t even sit still, the pain was so intense, so I tearfully told them I couldn’t do it and to please take her away. It broke my heart. I probably had two more breakdowns in between then and 12 hours later. I couldn’t sleep. I wasn’t allowed to eat. I was just writhing in pain the entire time.

After 2:00 pm the next afternoon, they finally deflated the balloon and removed the stuffing. The contractions ceased, and I was in heaven. The bleeding had stopped, and I didn’t need an operation.  There were just the post-delivery complications to deal with, and I’ll leave those for next time.

I am blessed and thankful that my Stella Joan, 7 pounds and 9 ounces, came out happy and healthy, and I’m well enough mentally and physically to put it all behind me now.  Happy 4 months my sweet baby girl!

boo-bages

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I know I lack focus at times and have much of an agenda I’ve promised but not yet fulfilled, i.e. cupcake reviews and silly childhood stories part 2 (both of which I fully intend to deliver once I a – conduct more thorough research and b – am in a better mood), but I’m currently experiencing a (literally and figuratively) painful juncture in this journey called motherhood that I found important to share.

For a new mother, perhaps one of the most vital parts of post-conception is trying to nurse her child both for the baby’s health and bonding purposes. I think back to the initial days in the hospital, when I was sternly “encouraged” to breastfeed my fresh new baby girl; post-surgery pains, lack of sleep, and feelings of anxiety notwithstanding. It was so difficult. I didn’t know how to properly hold this fragile person, let alone nourish her from this rock called my breast. On my 3rd morning in-hospital I was forced into a mandatory breastfeeding seminar. I had a Cesarean section and could barely even walk, and the thought of going anywhere in that eerie hospital without my husband in stride terrified me. It didn’t help that I was the last to arrive with Dani screaming her head off; two of three other babies sleeping and the third gurgling contentedly in his mother’s arms. The nurse asked me if she needed a changing and I was foggy and perplexed; how the fk was I supposed to know? She picked up my daughter and told me I needed to change her diaper, according to the bold blue stripe at the bottom. Feeling ashamed and inadequate, I told her I didn’t know how to (wasn’t I just laying in bed for three days with a catheter stuck up my hoo-ha, slurping up Jell-o and apple juice through a straw?).

Let’s just say, the first days of motherhood, especially when you’re stuck in the hospital 8 days longer than you had planned, are neither easy nor pretty.

This brings me to back to my present situation, one I wasn’t so blatantly prepared for. Sure, there is plenty of literature on how to properly massage your breasts for milk flow, that bleeding nipples and engorgement are commonplace, how and when to pump, yada yada, but I don’t recall reading much about weaning and the painful process it’s proven to be. One of many baby- and family-related plans of mine was to not nurse Dani for more than 12 months. She is now 18 months old. She was a great drinker from the start (once I got my stone chest broken in and flowing), and I must confess I quashed many a breakdown, crying fit and cranky mood with a simple feeding session. At first I used a special nursing pillow, then decided I wanted to be comfortable too and started nursing in bed. It was so easy to pick her up, lay down, and snooze together after she was full and content. But it was just five days ago, when her big baby teeth started to grind down and yank more frequently, and her squirming 22+ pound body kept kicking and rolling all over me making it hard to breathe, that I decided it was time.

One of the greatest pleasures of motherhood thus far was nursing Dani. She loved her milk and pretty much got it when she wanted it, if I was home. I thought that my 14-hour work days would dry up the supply, but around midnight every night she would wake up and feed. Of course I complied; I missed holding her after such a long day and she was so happy to do it. It was the one thing as a mother I could offer her that no daddy, grandparent, or godmother could. You can imagine what an emotional mess I’ve been for the past few days.

After several major crying spells in between now and getting home from Easter dinner Sunday, I think I’m starting to feel better. Dani broke my heart the second night, when she pointed to “our” spot on the bed and cried, pleading for me to lay with her. But it’s proven easy to distract her (with lots of iPhone games and a handy supply of little chocolate Easter eggs), and knowing she is happy and still running around all “loca” is very reassuring.

So here I sit, breasts throbbing and leaking through layers of cabbage and sports bra, drinking Sudafed (which quite a few mothers via Internet forums have insisted provides relief and dries out the breasts) to share my story with you.

I hope you’ve found it even a tiny bit informative, if not a semi-lengthy distraction from your boring office duties 🙂

Perhaps an upcoming post will be about the painstaking journey of navigating the web-hosting and blogging world. I have purchased the domain www.preferredfate.com which I plan to have up and running very shortly, once I get my hubby to take a look. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but I’d rather poke myself in both eyes than read instructions on how to manage online services. Guess I’ve got to get with the times sooner or later (preferably, much, MUCH later).

And I also have to do some cupcake research and dig into my childhood archives, I know, I know.

(stay tuned)