On Saturday I was excited to attend my first Zumbathon: two hours of non-stop of Zumba to Latin-inspired music.
The experience was awesome and the guest Zumba instructors AMAZING! I loved the choreography, the music, and the energy that they brought to the room. After an hour and a half, my own energy was flagging a little but I could not stop. It is not often that a person can experience such talented instructors. At the end of the two hour stint, I was thirsty and tired – but content.
I was sore when I arrived home but the experience was worth it. Not only did I reach my goal of 10 000 steps, but I also enjoyed the exercise immensely. I look forward to attending the next one that the dance school organises.
About two weeks ago I received an email from Fitbit telling me a bit about my achievements for 2017. The numbers reflect my stats from about mid-May (I received my Fitbit device for Mother’s Day)
The stats are interesting to see but, as I look at them, they are just numbers to me with no meaning. What I do see, though, is the effort that I have put into moving my body. Hopefully I can continue with my goal to increase my physical activity so that it can impact on my weight loss. I guess next year’s stats will show me how much I have increased the number of steps I have taken as well as the amount of calories that I have burned.
Remember I told you at the beginning of the year that I was going to count calories using the Lose it! app? I has been a month now that I have been logging every morsel that I eat into my daily record. I have been diligent about the tracking – noting down every drink, every meal, and every snack.
I am sure you are wondering whether tracking my caloric input has affected my weight. I can tell you that it hasn’t. The needle on the scale hasn’t budged and I still weigh the same as I did 5 weeks ago when I began recording the number of calories that I consume.
The tracking has made me think about my food and whether I am ‘allowed’ to eat it or not. Personally I feel that I have become even more focused on my eating – and not always in a good way. I found myself measuring my cereal, the milk I use, and even the butter I spread on my toast. It does take out the joy of preparing a meal. I could get used to measuring my meals – but doing so is not working for me.
Tracking my caloric intake has also been difficult at times. Many of my meals are cooked from scratch and how do I figure out what the calories are of a serving of fried rice? Or homemade vegetable soup? I found this to be a little frustrating.
Tracking calories, however, has reinforced that natural, whole foods do have less calories than the prepackaged foods that are made by bulk in factories. Thus it is better to focus on eating whole fruit and vegetables as opposed to the snacks and foods that are laden with sugar and so easy to enjoy.
To count or not to count? My decision is not to count. After the discipline of tracking for a month (remember that my word of the year is discipline?), I have decided that I need to find another way of changing my eating habits.
Women, and a few men, moved through the glass doors into the open space and gravitated to their spots. I hung back, choosing a space near the closed doorway. Self-consciously I pulled my t-shirt down and breathed an internal sigh of relief as I noticed that I was not the only overweight person in the room older than 30. I had steeled myself for months to join this class. Twenty years ago I would have been one of those women who walked through the door with confidence. But now? I knew I would not be able to keep up the pace.
“Welcome to Zumba. If you are are here for the first time, don’t worry if you can’t keep up. Put your feet to the ground, move to the music, and have fun!”
Five minutes later I was looking at the clock. My breathing was laboured, my heart was racing, and it was difficult to move my feet at the speed of the instructor’s. Ten minutes. Fifteen minutes. I kept at it, determined that I would once again move like I did twenty years ago. Not only did I want to lose my excess weight, but I also wanted to regain my fitness.
The class ended with sweat dripping down my face. I had not been able to keep up – the moves were unknown to me, and many of them were fast. But I finished. And decided to go back for more.
It had been seventeen years since the last time I had done any type of cardio exercise. I chose to do Zumba because it is a dance-based exercise and I have always loved dance. It is not quite the same as what I used to do when I danced Latin and Ballroom but in joining a Zumba class I can move rhythmically to the music.
I danced my first Zumba class six months ago – and now no longer look at the clock after five minutes. My legs are stronger and I am therefore able to do most of the moves. I still get lost with the choreography, but not as often. I have not lost weight, but have lost centimetres. I join a class twice a week when I am able – and would go more often if there were more classes available at my local gym.
I love it! Zumba is definitely for me. During the winter months, the obstacle I have to overcome is getting there. It is not pleasant leaving the warmth of our home to walk through frigid temperatures to the gym. In the argument to myself, I always bring up my word of the year: Discipline.
I wish to go back to the diet I followed before I had my children. My diet at this time consisted of whole foods and a minimum amount of bread, meat and diary products. Getting back to work after being a stay-at-home mom has slowly moved me towards the easier options of eating bread for lunch and snacking on sugar-laden and factory-made treats. The result has been weight gain and a feeling of fatigue I believe is not only a result of my work, but also a result of what I am putting in my mouth. Getting back into the correct way of eating does take time and it is something that is to be done in stages. My first step is to eat fruit only for breakfast. This is no hardship for me as I love the juicy, sweet taste of this food.
Every morning I now eat a bowl filled to the brim with fuit. I eat until I am full. I eat until I no longer feel the pangs of hunger. My body is still adjusting to this meal in the morning (instead of cereal or porridge) but I know that there will be a time when this bowl will be enough until it is time for me to eat lunch. I now eat a snack at first recess (around 10am) when the children do and it consists of a fruit: a banana, an apple, or even a pear. The drawers in my desk are now empty of granola bars and I plan to keep them that way.
Each weekday I open the door to our home and I breathe a sigh of relief. I feel weary to the bone and I long to sit on the sofa for a while in silence and think of nothing. My children know to give me 5 minutes rest before they bombard me with “Mommy, can you sign this?”, “Mommy can you help me?”, “Mommy look what I got for my test”.
Working with 5 year olds tires me out: my voice is croaky at the end of the day, and I am beat. The last thing I wish to do is go out again, one hour after I have arrived home, to walk to Taekwondo with my girls. Yet when the time comes, I get them ready to go knowing that the exercise will do them good. On our walk to the dojang, I hear some stories about the girls’ day. At the moment it is getting a bit chilly, so we walk briskly – exercising on our way to some formal training.
Arriving at the Taekwondo school, we are greeted by friendly faces and smiles. Each time we enter the place where we exercise, I know we made the right decision to enrol there. The school has a friendly and inviting atmosphere that is welcoming and comforting to my children.
When the exercises begin, my heart starts pumping. I am fitter than I was when I began in May – though I still get out of breathe and struggle at times to keep up with the young members of the school. As I exercise, though, I feel my weariness slip away from me bit by bit. At the end of the class, sweat trickling down my brow, I feel a satisfaction in the fact that I have moved my body and that my movements are improving.
I leave the class feeling invigorated and ready for the walk home. When I lay my head on my pillow to sleep, I quickly drift off. A bonus of exercise, for me, is that I do not struggle to fall asleep on the days I have exerted myself physically.
Do you have an inner battle with yourself before going to exercise?
My exercise of choice used to be Ballroom Dancing. I loved moving my body to the sound of music and thrilled in my ability to move gracefully across the dance floor. I spent hours with my dance partner perfecting the movements of the dance; and spent many hours with a high impact aerobics instructor in order to be “dance fit”. My aim was to compete in five dances, one after the other, and make it seem effortless. I could not imagine exercising without moving to the rhythm of music.
Fifteen years later I have had two children and dancing has become a part of my “before-children” phase. A firm believer in the benefits of exercise for growing children, I have walked my children to swimming lessons, skating lessons, and (on request) Tae Kwon Do (TKD) lessons. Each week I have taken them to our local community centre so that they can get their weekly quota of exercise in order to grow physically strong.
In January of this year, my husband and I decided our girls needed more marshal arts training than they were getting at the community centre. They needed to take the sport seriously and learn to perfect their form. We enrolled them in a TKD dojang (school) and have seen them blossom under the tutelage of their new Master and instructors.
But what about me? I fell into the trap that many mothers fall into: the trap of looking after the health of the family and not my own. My exercise regime suffered. My own physical activity consisted of walking my daughters to their lessons; and trying, sometimes successfully, to follow a DVD at home early in the morning before the household awoke. No longer was I exercising for up to 2 hours a day. Instead, I have watched my children partake in their lessons, praised them and encouraged them, watched physical activity from the sidelines. I have felt proud of my children’s achievements and progress, and celebrated with them each small success.
“What about mum?” the TKD Master asked me one day after a lesson. “You are here, try it.” She encouraged me to join in, noticing that I often watched with interest the participants in her class. “Maybe you will like it. It will help you with your weight, and give you energy to be with the kids.” (She knew I am a teacher of young children). I knew on some level that I was neglecting my own physical fitness but, secretly, I hoped to one day dance again. Realistically I knew that it would not happen for a long time, not while I had children dependant on me to take them to their physical activities. And in the meantime? I gained weight, and lost the fitness that I once used to enjoy. I decided to take the Master up on her challenge and join the other adults I had watched exercise with their children.
Four months ago I donned the white uniform of the TKD student. As I tightened my white belt around my waist, young voices of encouragement echoed in my mind: “You can do it mommy! I know you can!” The voices of the instructors joined those of my children as they encouraged me to do sit-ups, push-ups, and even cartwheels.
I will not tell a lie and say that the classes were easy. I am not supple and struggled to even touch my toes. My heart beat races after the first few minutes of cardio. Often during the class I am left breathless as I strive to keep up with those fitter and younger than me. And yet … I revel in the aching muscles and physical fatigue that helps me sleep at night. I welcome learning movement again albeit without the sound of rhythmic beats. I am learning slowly to master the movements, the exercises and patterns, the Korean terms.
I felt pleased when I attained my next belt and wore the colour proudly. My children helped me learn the new patterns, and I practised a little each day when I woke up. I have slowly begun to feel stronger – certainly the muscles in my legs are getting firmer. I am surprised at how many push-ups I am now able to do (I can now do more than one!). I have reached my toes in the stretches and am now working on touching my head to my knees. I enjoy the camaraderie of the classes and still watch in admiration those who have attained a higher belt.
I have just completed the test for my orange belt and feel I am now on a TKD journey. Each time I tie my belt around my waist, not only am I showing that I have attained the next level and am committed to this marshal art, but also that I have made a commitment to my own physical exercise and well-being. And the next best thing? I am exercising with my children – both in the classroom, and when we practise together at home.
Have you ever fallen into an unexpected exercise regime?
(This post was inspired by the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge: Fit to Write)
I grew up eating home cooked meals. I remember early mornings before school my mom used to make us porridge – until we begged her for Rice Krispies and Corn Flakes. She gave in with regards to the cereal, but she never did when it came to lunch, snacks and dinner time.
School lunches were sandwiches and an apple, orange or banana. Jam sandwiches. Cheese sandwiches. Peanut butter sandwiches. The odd avocado sandwich. My lunch box did not contain the snacks which are put into lunch boxes today (Goldfish crackers, factory-wrapped cookies, granola bars). When we noisily entered home after school each day, we always claimed we were starving. My mom offered a sandwich, a fruit from the bowl on the dining table, or if we were lucky a biscuit from the batch she had baked that day. I remember my sister opening the fridge to search for leftovers from the previous evening – leftovers she would eat cold or warm up on the stove.
And then there was dinner. Made from scratch. We used to help cutting onions (why did I always get that job, I wondered), peeling carrots, chopping vegetables. Never did my mom buy frozen food from the supermarket and warm it up in the oven. Lentils, macaroni, stew and rice, split pea soup and dumplings, spaghetti bolognese, ratatouille, pork chops and vegetables. I remember sitting in the kitchen with my mother, helping out or doing homework, while she made the evening meal.
Now that I have my own family, I cook from scratch too. Fresh produce is bought, chopped and cooked for our main meal. Each day I cut up fruit for my family so that they can eat this juicy sweet treat. For school lunches my children either get fried rice, pasta if we had it the night before, or sandwiches. For a snack they get some apple, grapes or a few baby carrots. Occasionally they get a packet of Goldfish (crackers in the shape of fish).
Why do I go to all this trouble when it is so much easier to get fast food, or the frozen meals that are found in the supermarket fridges? I do so to avoid the chemical preservatives and sweeteners that are added to these foods. If I do buy a packaged food in the supermarket, I look at the ingredients and often put it back. At times I do give into temptation and buy that box of biscuits. However I do try to keep the following slogan in mind:
By trying to focus on eating fresh food, I am hoping to give my body the nutrients it needs – and not the toxins it should avoid.
Yesterday morning my walk took me in the direction of the hospital. Stomach grumbling, I moved towards the blood work centre. My annual check-up with my doctor always includes a trip to this waiting room, a gloomy place smelling of disinfectant.
People sit waiting enclosed in their own worlds, silent and inward-looking. Some read, some gaze blindly at the silent television, others stare determinedly at the calling monitor waiting impatiently for their number to flash on the screen.
Now it is my turn: the number blinks impatiently on the screen calling me into action. I move towards the designated room.
The woman seated in the chair glances up and greets me with a welcoming smile. I smile in return, slightly taken aback as the nurses here are usually efficiently formal.
She prepares for the drawing of my blood with confidence. Snapping on a new pair of gloves, she uses a blue rubber strip to create a tourniquet on the top of my arm. Flicking her fingertips against my arm, she gets ready to insert the needle. I feel the sharp burning sensation of a pin prick, and the needle plunges into my vein. Bright red fluid gushes into the vial as the needle greedily sucks out my blood.
All done! My visit was relatively painless and bruise-free. Now I wait until 2014 and my next annual drawing of blood.
Do you have yearly blood work taken? What has your experience been like?
If you were consuming a lot of Aspartame before reading about its side effects, you may have decided that you want to cut this man-made sweetener from your diet. If you have decided to do so, think about the following pointers to make it easier for you to make the change from an artificial sweetener to a natural one.
The first thing to consider is to cut back slowly so that your body gets used to no longer ingesting it. If you currently add Aspartame to your tea or coffee, for example, cut the amount you use in half; then later on to one quarter; then to none. If you drink diet soda, reduce the amount you consume from maybe 4 cans to three, and so on.
It is also time to pay attention to your taste of sweet. When you wish to have something sweet, eat a little bit of it (without the Aspartame in it) – that slice of cake, or cookie, or the piece of chocolate. Think about about how much you are eating and make sure that the portion is small. Eat it slowly. Savour the taste and the sweetness of it. You will find that your sense of taste will tell you when you have had enough: all you have to do is listen to it.
Begin to read food labels. Remember you can find Aspartame in foods such as fat-free and sugar-free yoghurt, low calorie jams, salad dressings, candy, breath mints, cereals, sugar-free gum, cocoa mixes, instant breakfasts, desserts, and shake mixes. Take note that some drug and supplement manufacturers do not use the term Aspartame on their products. Instead they state that the product contains phenylalanine (this is an amino acid that has been isolated to create Aspartame). Therefore read the labels on those protein supplements as well.
Bear in mind it may take up to 60 days to rid your body Aspartame. Drinking lots of water will help your body to flush out the toxins. If you do not like drinking plain water, add a bit of lemon to it. Or make fresh fruit and vegetable juices at home (with no added sugar). While getting rid of this artificial sweetener from your body, you may experience some symptoms which may be uncomfortable such as: headaches, tiredness, food cravings, bad breath, or mucous discharge. These are signs that your body is at work eliminating the toxins. Take heart, it will end!
Have you consumed a lot of Aspartame? Do you think you will be able to eliminate this sweetener from your diet? What steps will you take?