Friday, January 21, 2011

Fat & Fitness

It seems like every day I hear something about obesity. The newspapers are full of interviews with alarmed statisticians and staggering numbers. I've heard interviews (in the past week alone) with fat people, former fat people, doctors, nurses, urban planners and health advocates, all pontificating on how we got here and how we are going to fix it. Naturally it is something I think about a lot and something that really concerns me.

When I was pregnant with Paisley I gained a lot of weight. This was the first time in my life where I had ever really struggled with my weight. After she was born I was left with an entirely different body - an unfamiliar visitor that left me feeling awful. I felt like the inside no longer matched the outside and that people looked at me differently. There were all kinds of reasons why I put on the weight and although the diabetes didn't help, it was ultimately because I had consumed more calories than I expended. I realize the relationship isn't always so linear, and that the more we learn about our fat metabolism and obesity, the more complicated it gets, but still, you can't escape the fact that if you take in less calories than you burn, you won't continue to gain weight.

I started getting fit. I watched the pounds drop off and made friends at the local YMCA. I gained muscle tone and energy and enthusiasm for life. I looked better, I felt better and I was discovering a whole new me. At some point I passed over to evangelism. This happens to people. You discover running, or fitness, and you can't believe how it changes your life. You start to feel like if everyone could discover what you have discovered, they would feel this way too. It becomes a solution to everything you see around you - depression, obesity, heart disease, fad diets and low self-esteem. You start to see it as a cure-all and the people around you start to feel annoyed. :)

Here's the thing though. Exercise is a cure-all. That's not saying everyone likes it. I've come to realize that maybe some people will never feel the rush I feel after a good run (although part of me still insists with consistent effort over a long period of time it will happen) but nobody can argue that the run won't do them any good. The human body is designed to move. Our metabolisms are based on certain energy outputs and evolved under conditions with way less food and far more movement than we have today.

This pregnancy has been so incredibly different from my first, and it is all because of fitness. Losing the baby weight, getting healthy and then maintaining my routine throughout the pregnancy has left me feeling strong, energized and free. The baby of course is better off as well. I haven't gained nearly the weight I gained last time and I have no doubt the recovery will be easier, faster and more enjoyable as well. The only thing worse than being overweight was being pregnant and overweight.

Recognize that I am not talking about being skinny. I have a good friend who is super-fit and does Ironmans - she is incredibly strong and healthy. And she will never be skinny. It's not who she is or how she is built, but she (and her body) derives the benefits of fitness the same as anyone. I firmly believe that if I could snap my fingers and have everyone in the world experience feeling truly fit for one week, nobody would ever go back. It's the getting there that is so tough.

Across the world (or at least across the Western hemisphere) people are looking for an answer to obesity. If I could find that one motivator that would work for people, to push them over the edge into changing their lifestyle I would be a billionaire. Several times over. I often wonder what makes some people get off the couch and 350 lbs and start running, while others (the majority to be fair) just stay there. Is it personality, environment, chemicals? Have they just not found their motivation yet or is it so much more complicated?

I understand that genetics, social groups, past hitory, urban planning, social economic status, culture, race and education all play into this. I get that it's not simple - but what makes some people hit that wall and make a change while others watch from the sidelines?

Wednesday, January 05, 2011


Wow. Nearly 6 months since I last posted here. That's pretty lame. I have to admit that although blogging more regularly is one of my New Year's resolutions, I don't feel particularly inspired. I will give it a try for the next few weeks and see how it goes. As far as updates go, there are plenty!

1. We moved! In September we moved into Arbour Lake - a neighbourhood just 10 minutes down the road from where we were before. It's a real house with a garage and a backyard and so far, we love it. It fuelled a major existential crisis when we bought it (see #2) but so far we're enjoying it. I can walk with Paisley to the library, the YMCA and all the shops I could ever need. People are friendly and decorate their house for Halloween/Christmas etc. and there is a private lake 5 minutes away that has ice-fishing, skating, swimming, kayaking and scuba diving. Brian can walk to the train which means he has cut a bus out of his commute and although it isn't shorter, it is easier. We are really looking forward to the summer so we can enjoy the yard, have people over for BBQs and meet all the little kids around.

2. The decision to move was an ugly one. We knew we needed more space and wanted out of the condo. We had this idea of who we are as a family, and unfortunately it had a hard time holding up to reality. What we wanted was an inner city house within a short commute (or hey, walking distance!) from Brian's work. We wanted to not need a car and to have a local corner market and coffee shop. We wanted a stoop where we could sit and say hello to neighbours and a school nearby for when Paisley is older. The big problem was that we also didn't have $2 million in the bank. Sigh. So, that left us with the same urban dilemma that faces thousands of young families. Rent at an exorbitant rate (if we could even find what we wanted that is) close to the core, or move out to the burbs. After much analyzing, discussing and tears, we headed further out of the city. We felt like we were abandoning some principles along the way and that never feels very good but we also knew that we would benefit a lot from the things that the suburbs could offer us, like say, affordable housing.

3. When we bought the house, we knew it would need a new kitchen. The house isn't old and in fact the kitchen looked quite nice but there was no room for a kitchen table. Weird. A four-bedroom family home and you couldn't put a good-sized table anywhere. The house had been on the market for awhile and was already significantly less than the other house on the market so we went for it, on the condition that we would remodel the main level. Fast forward 3 months and you have a haggard couple on the verge of divorce in a half-finished kitchen, washing dishes in the upstairs bathroom, drowning in mounting debt and losing faith that life will ever get better. Fast forward to now and all is well. The kitchen is mostly done and while the bills are not yet paid, they are no longer growing. We managed to finish just before Christmas and are really happy with the results. The emotional scars will heal in time. Right?

4. I'm pregnant! We found out the same week we bought the house (elation!) and I had all kinds of complications the week we moved (stress!) but now everything seems perfect (trend?). The official due date is May 1st but due date has ceased to mean much. I have a bicornuate uterus, which essentially means that rather than having one big pear-shaped uterus, I have a heart-shaped uterus with two individual horns. I always knew this was the case but nobody had ever really made a big deal out of it. My doc thinks that having a baby may have made the condition more pronounced and now says it is the reason I had a hard time conceiving before Paisley was born, it's why she was born early and it's why this one will likely be early too. So - between that and the diabetes I will be having a baby sometime in late March to mid April. Let's hope no earlier. (Or god forbid, later.)

5. Paisley is nearly three and deserves her own post (more like 50 posts but let's get real), so I'll get on that. Short story is that she is awesome. Really funny, talking like crazy and the joy of my life.

6. I quit work. Again. From the time Paisley was about 6 months old until this summer I had been working part-time from home. I was writing for magazines and websites and newsletters and all sorts of things. I actually really enjoyed the work but not the schedule. I was getting up at 5:00am before Paisley awoke, writing for a few hours and then writing again during her naps or after she went to bed. To make matters worse, I would calculate my hours at the end of a long, exhausting, stressful week and find that I had put in 8 hours. All that stress for only 8 hours!? It just wasn't worth it. So, when the chance came to take a break over the summer I did. And I never looked back. I thought I would miss it but I don't. Not even a little bit.

7. Paisley is in a day home on Wednesdays and I am really enjoying having one day to myself. I love being a Mom but as she gets older it becomes harder on her to drag her around for errands and appointments. I have had a ton of appointments with this pregnancy and it didn't seem fair to take her with me all the time. So this way, I schedule everything for Wednesday's and she gets to play with her new little friends at the day home.

Ok, that's it for now. To anyone still optimistic enough to have me on their RSS feed, thank you. And wow, you're a really positive person.