Nov 10, 2011

Unintended consequences

I started knitting about 4 years ago. I've knit hats, fingerless mitts, washcloths, socks, and even blankets. But so far my favorite thing to knit is sweaters. I've lost track of how many I've knit for myself, but it seems ever season I have a new favorite.

This sweater was destined to be an all-time favorite. I love the pattern - shawl collar to keep my neck warm, just enough cable knitting to be an interesting knit AND interesting to look at. The yarn - Madelinetosh Tosh Merino in the Thunderstorm colorway - is gorgeous. Don't you think the pattern and yarn were meant to be together?

There was just one problem. I began knitting this sweater in February, about 6 weeks before I went Primal. Back when I weighed 175 or 180 pounds. I'm down at 150 now. And I knew the sweater was maybe a little too big, but I was wearing it anyway. I blamed the ill fit of the collar and the way it slipped off my shoulders on a too-tight collar bind-off.

That is, until I got back these photos from the amazing photographer Amy Wilbanks. She took them for me during a family photo shoot, specifically so I could have decent photos for my Ravelry project page.  Looking at the photos, I was nothing but dismayed and disappointed. The photos themselves are beautiful, but the sweater? Oh, goodness. So much too big. It's heartbreaking.

It seems there is no choice but to rip this sweater back to the beginning and start over in a smaller size. If it was a less loved pattern, or a less expensive yarn, I might just give it to a friend who's the right size. But I am in love with both pattern and yarn, so a re-knit it will be.

I think I just might wait a while, though. Not too long. Just until I've reached my desired body composition. Just in time for next winter, I hope.

Nov 5, 2011

Adventures in Paleo Baking

Today is my daughter's first birthday. It's hard to believe it was a year ago that I was having such mixed emotions - dread of the surgery (placenta previa forced us to have a c-section) and anticipation at meeting my daughter.

Today, though, my mixed emotions are for much lesser reasons. I have never been much of a baker - I mean, I can handle some chocolate chip cookies or a pumpkin pie. But Paleo baking - that is, grain-free, low-sugar baking - is a different kettle of fish. I've only attempted a couple of recipes. But I knew I wanted a special cake for this special day (even if Paige doesn't eat much of it).

I turned to Bill and Haley at The Food Lover's Primal Palate. Well, to their blog, at least. I've had success with a few of their recipes, so looked for something appropriate. I knew I'd found it when I saw their German Chocolate Torte. German chocolate is the favorite cake of both my husband and I; in fact, we had a traditional German chocolate cake at our wedding instead of a big white confection. The Paleo version isn't quite the same, but it features the same flavors.

 Baking the cake itself went well. My 4-year-old son helped me by cracking eggs and mixing together the dry ingredients. The cake looked great once it had cooled and been plated.  It looked pretty good at the ganache stage as well, even though I used 3/4 cup of chopped pecans rather than the cup called for in the recipe. Oh, how I wish I'd taken a photo of this stage.
 Something went dreadfully wrong with the whipped topping, though. I suspect I whipped the cream too long, which will teach me to multi-task by doing dishes instead of keeping an eye on the task at hand. It ended up with the consistency of whipped butter. I might have run to the store for another cup of whipping cream, but it still tasted good. And she's only a year old - she won't know the difference.

I toasted the coconut...just because I wanted to. No real reason.

I also piped the top with the left-over ganache. Obviously, I shouldn't give up my day job ;-)

The birthday girl is taking a nap, but I'm hopeful she will enjoy her mom's attempt at the perfect first birthday cake.

Nov 2, 2011


I think November 2nd might be a bit early for freezing temperatures and scraping ice off the windshield. Nevertheless, here we are.

Nov 1, 2011


I gave in to temptation last night and ate some of my son's Halloween candy. Yummy yummy candy that reminded me of so many things!
Many of the memories were good ones - of Halloween's from my childhood, of how for three years running I dressed as a hobo, wearing my dad's shirt and using charcoal to give myself a beard, of the freedom of going out with my sister and a pillowcase and roaming the neighborhood after dark. Reminders of a pretty darn good childhood.

Unfortunately, it also reminded me of adulthood and of some of the benefits I've been getting from this Paleo way of eating. It brought back the upset tummies, and the hyper-awareness of my intestines, and the knowledge of where the nearest bathroom is and how long it will take to get there.

It reminded me that I ALWAYS used to feel this way - gassy and bloated and on the verge of diarrhea. Brain fog and shaking hands. It brought back in a very real way my sweet tooth, to the point where I found myself seeking out sugar at the end of every meal.

I'm not going to regret sharing Halloween treats with my son. It is a memory to treasure, him holding out a Snickers and asking if I wanted it. How could I say no?

But it was a great reminder that I enjoy this way of eating, that I need it for my health and my daily well being.

Aug 29, 2011

A needed boost

I had a week or two of not feeling good, mentally. I wasn't taking my own advice, and was getting bummed that the scale wasn't budging. I took some measurements, and those weren't budging either. Except for my thigh - that was bigger! Seriously, seriously bummed.

And to just to make myself feel worse, I had a lot of self-talk regarding the "cheats" I'd been making. My mother-in-law came for a visit, we went out of food choices weren't entirely my own. And even when they were, I made some "bad choices" - I really didn't need to eat 4 spoons of my son's ice cream. And I knew it.

Let the self-hate commence. I was getting ready for a good old-fashioned wallow, a self-induced depression that might "make it OK" to indulge a bit more. I feel like crap, chocolate will make me feel better! I've already had some ice cream; why not add fast food french fries to the mix?

(I really  need to write that post on self-talk I've been mulling over.)

But I took a step back and realized my problem was really one of perspective. I'd forgotten how far I'd come, and how much I'd changed. The best way I knew to demonstrate that to myself - and get some love from others, I admit - was to take photos and put together a before-and-after collage.

So here, in all my glory, is me in my underwear. I'd already lost ~7 pounds by the time that first set of photos was taken. I was too impatient to start this way of eating to wait for someone to take pictures of me! As you can see, I still have a ways to go before I look like the gals you see on the CrossFit videos. But, oh baby! Look how far I've come!

Aug 10, 2011

The Second Step: Excercise

By the time I'd been eating a Paleo diet for a couple of months, I was ready to start exercising. Well, not start, as it wasn't as if I'd been completely sedentary. But I was ready to step it up, to start doing something a little more formal.

By this point, my energy level was back up. While I am still not one of those people who starts the day rarin' to go, and I still don't have that need to exercise, I felt I had the physical and mental energy to tackle one more rung on this getting-fit ladder.

Those friends I knew who were eating Paleo? They are also all "doing" CrossFit. CrossFit is a pretty interesting fitness regimen.  It is used by police and military folk to get in top shape. Which makes it sound really intimidating. And if you go to YouTube and look at any of the CrossFit videos there, you might think CrossFit isn't for you.

But the great thing about CrossFit is it's scalability. The trainers are able to scale the workouts for ANY fitness level, and indeed there are grandmas and pregnant ladies who do CrossFit. It promises to get anyone fit, strong, flexible, sounded great, in other words.

So I went along with a friend to a free "class" at one of the local facilities. Wow. The warm-up alone was more than I usually did during one of my own workouts. Then the workout...well, it kicked my ass, to put it politely. And it was scaled way back for me! But I loved it!

What I didn't love was the price. CrossFit isn't cheap ($150/month and up). I found that hard to justify when I already belong to a gym that only costs me $20/year. (Let's not talk about how I've only been to that gym 3 times in the 9 months since my daughter was born....)

Part of how i keep my motivation going is to read things all over the web. And in so doing I came across the blog of Mark Sisson, a former marathoner and IronMan competitor who wrote a series of books on ancestral-style lifestyle called "The Primal Blueprint". I really appreciate his philosophy, his writing style, and especially the way his blog posts are full of research-based information.

Sisson's take on exercise, called Primal Fitness, is based on things you can do at home, at parks, or while otherwise out and about. He believes we should not just eat like our Paleolithic ancestors, but move like them, too. Hunter-gatherers did not spend 30 minutes a day lifting rocks and trees to get in shape. They just lived their life - walking everywhere, foraging, occasionally sprinting after game (or away from a predator), and lifting game to carry it home and themselves onto trees or rocks.

I downloaded the free e-booklet (you have to subscribe to his newsletter, but that is no hardship), did my assessment, and started working out the Primal way. My one expense was a doorway pull-up bar, about $30.  I love this way of working out. I don't need a sports bra (except for the sprints) or to put on shoes (even for the sprints. Although I bought a pair of Vibram Five Fingers after reading Sisson's many posts of the benefits of barefooting.)

I've been doing the bodyweight workouts for a couple of months now. Again, one of the things that's great about this "workout" is it's scalability, only Sisson's labels them progressions. I started off in the most basic progressions for everything except the squat. That meant that instead of toe push-ups, I was doing them against a wall; I use both feet on a stool for supported pull-ups, a low-bench for overhead presses, and am on my knees and hands for planks. 

I still really suck at pull-ups, and am not at all sure I am doing them right. But I've noticed a little muscle in my arm that I don't remember being there. I recently progressed to doing overhead presses on the floor (WAY harder!), and am about ready to move to the next progression in push-ups. I am getting stronger, fitter, and I feel it more when I don't get my workout in!

I am slacking on the sprints (once every 6 weeks is not the same as once a week!). I am still interested in Olympic-style lifting (deadlifts, cleans, etc.). I would like to try CrossFit again sometime, when it fits better in our budget. But right now, I'm sticking with moving Primally. It fits my life, my lifestyle, and my mental attitude the best.

Aug 2, 2011

The scale is a fickle mistress

Many many years ago, I came across a media report of a study that a majority of people who were able to maintain weight loss were the ones who weighed themselves every day. I had never done that, but when I started this new lifestyle, I decided to try.

I kept track of my weights on an app on my iPod Touch. What an interesting graph they made! No straight line, this, but a jagged mountain-scape of gains and losses. I suppose I knew weight fluctuates hourly, and depends on so many things. Have you peed? Eaten? Spent time outside in the heat?

What surprised me the most were the odd results when I would "test" my scale. I came to not trust it very much at all. I mean, how could I trust a scale that tells me I gained a pound after going to the toilet?

This is just one of the ways that knowing or tracking ones weight is a useless endeavor.  I doubt any of us need a scale to know we are over or under weight. We can see it in the mirror, we can feel it in the fit of our clothes or the way our thighs rub together or how bony our hips or collarbones feel. If we must, we can track progress with weight loss or gain by using a tape measure. That is more accurate, but still doesn't tell the whole story.

I kind of knew this. I mean, I've been different sizes at the same weight before. 20 years ago, when I lived in Australia, there was even a terrific magazine article (which I have not been able to find) showing photos of 20+ "average" women - they were all 140 pounds and 5'4" tall. They all looked different. Some looked fat, some thin, some fit, some sadly out of shape. Yet, if we went solely by the scale, we would think they were all the same.

I was reminded of this in a spectacular way a week or so ago, when I came across this blog post by local trainer Jason Seib. Go on and check it out. Scroll down to that "before and after" photo and take a look at the weights listed. Now think if you are a person who might feel fat at that weight. Take a look at the right-hand photo. Think that woman is fat? Of course not. But the scale might tell her she is.

I can't promise to throw away my scale. But I can promise to see it, and love it, a little bit less.