Monthly Archives: December 2013

Want to lose weight and feel great? Ask Me How! (Actually, don’t. I’ll just tell you.)

It was a busy year.

It was a busy year.

This pic and title are a clever draw to get you to read this.  I know that you’re thinking New Year’s and resolutions and all that.   I just hope you’ll think before you act if you are a parent who wants to lose weight and you are considering buying or selling direct-sales weight-loss products.  You should start thinking after you read this post, “How to talk to your daughter about her body,” over on Hope Avenue.

If you are like me, you have about a dozen Facebook friends now who are attempting to sell me some type of “health” product these days.  They mention a lot of weight lost with less effort than one might expect.  These “health product” shortcuts can help you, but as someone who has watched people close to me suffer from eating disorders, I worry about the message it sends to kids when they see parents use them.
Because I want to live up to my promise, first I will tell you everything you need to know about how I dropped 40 pounds and 6 dress sizes. I really did do that. I hope you’ll read on after that.
I will use just 3 words to describe how I lost the weight. They even all start with S.  Sweat.  Salads. Spanx.
Sweat is from exercise that burns more calories than you consume.   I chose to train for and then run a couple 5ks. Then I signed up for a half marathon in June, 2014.  Besides running, I do some Yoga and exercise videos with my daughter, too.  We look really silly sometimes and giggle a lot.  Sometimes she goes off and colors or plays with the dog while I finish up without her.
Salads are something you can eat a lot of without having to do more exercise than you want to.  When I wanted things other than salad, I used the (totally FREE) MyFitnessPal app to help keep calories burned over calories consumed.
Spanx is because, well, it’s the best $50 you’ll spend in formal dresswear because it doesn’t just shrink, it smooths.
Now, back to my soap box. To be very clear, I don’t mind the sales effort in my news feed on Facebook.  Sure, if someone is posting about what he or she is selling more than once per day, those posts are technically spam.  But I’m in sales and recognize that most of these direct-sellers are doing a great job with curating and even creating relevant, interesting content.I also know that the product these folks are trying to sell me works. First, because these are people I do believe and trust. Also, with some of those products, I feel like you’d have to do something really wrong for them NOT to work. For instance, some direct-sellers say they replace an entire meal with a caffeine-laden shake. As a result, they say they’ve lost weight and feel like they have more energy.  (No Way!  It’s MAGIC!)
So, what is my problem with the direct-sellers?  A couple quick observations on history:

In the 1980s, news became big media business and to keep us hooked they have to have something on all the time that scares us.  So we stopped letting our kids go outside and play.  Kids were okay with this because cable kept adding more channels and video games keep getting better and now they really don’t even need to see their friends in person with SnapChat and Social Media.

In the nineties, the USDA introduced the food pyramid and essentially began recommending a diet based around carbs.  (You can read a little more on that in this post entitled “The Ultimate Pyramid Scheme” on the Carb-Loaded documentary’s blog.)

These things – staying inside and eating mostly grains- swirled around with a couple other factors like food deserts in poor neighborhoods and the rise of juice boxes and boom, we’ve got ourselves a childhood obesity epidemic.Direct from the CDC:  Obesity now affects 17% of all children and adolescents in the United States – triple the rate from just one generation ago.  Ouch, scary.

I know what you’re thinking:  “That’s why I’m selling and using these products, Jenn!  I want to be an example of not being overweight for my child!”  Please hear me out.

Kids today are already hearing so much about food.  Food that is bad, chemicals in food, not eating enough food, eating too much food, etc.  What message do you want to send your kids about food?

When you start using and/or selling weight loss products and let it become a huge part of your everyday life and you let your kids know it, here are five scary things you are demonstrating to your kids:

1.  Being thin is very important.  They’re going to get this message from stick figures like Bella Thorne, Zendaya, Cinderella, iCarly, the fleet of scantily-clad fairies fluttering around Disney, and most other beloved children’s characters on the media they watch, please don’t reinforce it.  (“It’s not about being thin, Jenn!” you say; “It’s about being healthy!”  Oh, that’s why you keep posting before and after pics of your BMI.)

Our children do NOT need more thin “role models.”  They need role models who show them how to have a normal, healthy relationship with food.

Strawberry Shortcake, Then and Now

That’s Strawberry Shortcake, on the left, from back in the day when I was a kid.  On the right, that’s her AFTER she’s thinned out enough to be a part of this generation’s characters.

2.  There is nothing fun about exercise, so we need to find shortcuts to avoid doing too much of it.  Once you find something you like doing, EVERYTHING is fun about exercising.  The truth is, nothing is fun about finding time to exercise when you’re trying to balance a plate of work, housework, playing with your kids, your own non-exercise pursuits, and heaven only knows what else.  As a parent, there is no doubt in my mind that you do deserve a shortcut.  But don’t take one-your kids are watching.  Try to do exercise that is fun and keeps you healthy, not that makes you skinny or “toned.”  Unless you love that.  You should totally do it, then.  Your body should be a reflection of who a healthy, happy you is.  I enjoy the occasional crunch and the back pain it eliminates.  I like to think my body tells the truth about me- I like running, occasional light weight-work, drinking bourbon and eating a cookie here and there.  My husband loves all of those things about me and totally digs my body, too. I do not look like I love Crossfit, but that’s okay.
3.  Being healthy costs money.  A lot of money.  Actually, it doesn’t.  It takes some planning and some thinking and some common sense.  And when my daughter is in her first year of college and broke (because Lord knows I’m unable to foot the whole bill) and gains the “Freshman 15” and discovers that binge eating and drinking with no exercise don’t feel very good, I don’t want her to feel like she’s powerless and needs a fancy pill or shake.  I want her to put on some sneakers and take a walk or a run and go drink some water and eat an apple. Then, when she does have money and she feels sad or lonely, maybe she won’t just try to buy something to swallow, drink or snort to cure it.
4.  Getting other people thin is a fair way to make a profit.  If you’re going to make an extra buck or two, isn’t there something else you can sell? Maybe Tupperware or cooking utensils?  Stuff you can use to show your children how awesome it is to use really good, all-natural food to make a meal together that you then eat together?  If you’re interested in helping people feel better, it seems like a good idea do that for free. Maybe you could learn some fun exercise like Zumba and charge for that if you really feel like you need a profit.  Time away from your children shouldn’t be spent contributing to this country’s horrible weight gain/weight loss cycle.  If it is, please don’t tell your kids what you’re doing.
5.  Food is evil.  Especially yummy food.  That cake I made to celebrate your birth?  It’s like I’m practically trying to kill you.  Okay, so hopefully your kid won’t make a leap like that.  But what message are we sending when, in order to feel good and be thin, we REPLACE AN ENTIRE MEAL with a shake?For a kid, every meal is an adventure. At school, snack time and lunch time will be welcome breaks and time to chat with friends and eat FOOD.  At home, we do everything we can to have our kids stay at the table for the whole meal and try all kinds of new foods. This all fits in with the culture of food and eating that humans have had for thousands of years.Like all animals, humans need food to nourish our bodies.  Because we are humans, we need food that tastes good and is consumed as part of a social ritual to nourish our souls. (It’s okay if a nice, yummy dessert is occasionally part of that ritual. That’s why it’s so important we set the right example.)
That same government who brought us the carb-based food pyramid, the one that counts tomato paste on pizza as a vegetable in school lunches, is fighting back against childhood obesity in their institutions.
In schools they’re having conversations with really young kids about what foods are bad.Telling kids who are too young that ANY food is “bad” is a horrible idea.  I learned this from Sam Sandwich, a character from the Disney Junior shorts between shows.  Last year he told my 3-year-old daughter that eating too much of some foods makes you tired and lazy.  Because she’s 3, she refused to eat lunch because what she heard was “food makes you tired and lazy.”
Of course, in schools, they’re not just talking about bad foods, they’re banning those foods.  Recently, a friend of mine packed a little package of gummy bears from her daughter’s Halloween candy in her daughter’s lunch one day. This resulted in a reprimand from the school. Her daughter is not overweight or obese and eats a healthy lunch every day.
Obviously, Gummy Bears– created in 1920 — were being be brought to reckoning for their finally bringing about an entire generation of overweight children.  By golly, we should have seen this coming almost 100 years ago!
Those are just a couple of examples of what wacky stuff our kids are going to be hearing about food and eating.  And trust me, there are going to be LOTS  of conversations about food and eating.  Disney, Nick Jr., and Sprout and anyone else who acts like they care about children in order to profit, are jumping right on this bandwagon to tell our kids what to eat because actually convincing kids to take action on the other solution- exercising more- could possibly lower viewership.

You see what I’m getting at?  As a parent, if you’re letting any part of your life revolve around weight loss, you’re contributing to what is already an unhealthy conversation about foods.  Worse yet, you’re not just talking.  You’re becoming an example.

And that’s my two cents.  And if you don’t like it, don’t read it.  I’ll probably be forced to keep reading your posts about “ask me how,” though.  Because you’ll still be my friend because I love you and I know you’re an amazing parent and think you’re doing the right thing.  Just think carefully about what you let your kids know about it, okay?
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Hundreds of Babies Without Men Their Lives

Baby Cartoon

Baby Cartoon (Photo credit: Ian Kershaw)

I witnessed something scary the other day.

I saw hundreds of babies. They all looked beautiful, sweet and healthy and they were all well-dressed and looked like they had plenty of food and toys.

The strange part was that ALL of them appeared to be in situations where they were cared for SOLELY by their moms. Not one shred of evidence existed that there were any men in these children’s lives.

For me, caring for an infant without my husband would have been a nightmare. He was so great at calming a crying baby. He could gently massage gas bubbles from tiny tummies. He could prepare and warm a bottle like nobody’s business. Tickling and piggy-back rides were other fortes of his as our babies grew older. The list of his contributions to my children’s well-being is endless.

Don’t mistake my observations for judgement of single mothers. There are women who care for children on their own and do very, very well at it. Certainly they made a great choice in having that child! But most of them didn’t choose that as their ideal situation. Lets face it,  kids are a lot of work. Most mothers appreciate, at the very least, the other set of hands that having a man around provides.

That apparently was NOT a consideration when these babies I was looking at came into existence.
It was obvious that these particular babies were all purposefully created with the intention of being raised by females alone. Not one was a case of conception outside a meaningful relationship, death of a parent, divorce, a father in the military or any of the normal reasons babies are raised by their mommies alone. Weird, right? What kind of crazy society is this?

Then, I noticed something even weirder. Only a very small percentage of these babies- probably less than 5%- were boys. And many of those boys had a twin sister. I couldn’t help but think that baby boy twins were only kept around because of their attachment to their twin sister. Logically, I can only assume that there were once the regular old 50/50 ratio of male to female in this baby population. What was happening to the rest of the male infants? Were the boys sent away somewhere? Or -gulp- even worse?

The assumptions were horrifying. In fact, I got so creeped out I decided that I had to leave the doll section at the store.

Seriously, what the hell is going on in 2013, where mothers and fathers are supposed to both be taking active roles in their children’s lives, and little boys are so excluded from the baby doll world? What about a little girl who is raised by her father alone? According to many toy and department stores, that’s just impossible.

I started noticing all this after I heard the “Girls, Boys, Toys — And Gender” segment of OnPoint with Tom Ashbrook. Check it out here: http://onpoint.wbur.org/2013/12/11/holiday-toys-girls-boys. Then, I started having my own experiences when I finally got around to Christmas shopping for my 19-month-old son, who I call Buster.

Buster LOVES to push a baby around in a stroller. It’s pretty much the only thing he will throw a crying, screaming, thrashing-on-the-floor fit about. If we don’t get an afternoon walk in with his “EEEEEE” (his word for baby- It’s also his word for binky, his sister, lights, sky, leaves and tree) he will pitch a tantrum like you’ve never seen.
At his age, his sister would push the stroller but stop every few feet to check on whomever was riding in the stroller. No more than half way through our walk, she would decide she was too tired to push the stroller and beg me to carry it. I hated allowing her to push the stroller.

When my son pushes the stroller around, he’s all boy. He walks fast and pushes hard and doesn’t stop except to chase Oooo-eees (that’s his word for cats- ours is named Louie; incidentally he refers to dogs as kitties) or pick up anything large and exceptionally dirty. Taking a walk with him when he’s not pushing a stroller is much harder because he’s running everywhere, trying to tear leaves of trees and run in everyone’s yard.

So, I thought maybe it would be a good idea to get him his own baby and stroller for Christmas. But I thought maybe we’d get him some neutral or boy colored items. These are NOT easy to find. I’d like to believe that’s because I’ve waited so long to start shopping, but I doubt that’s the case. What’s harder is that even some of my family members seem to think I should discourage Buster’s behavior.

Is there some reason we’re still keeping our toddlers in a 1950s episode of Leave It to Beaver?

Everyone is familiar with “Mommy and Me” dolls. But if you Google “Daddy and Me” dolls, a bunch of really interesting but kind of sad stuff comes up. Sad but good are dolls that are made with a spot where you can put a picture of a father who is far away, like in military service, or dolls that are made with the image of a long-distance relative right on the fabric. Sad but bad are poems about abusive fathers who treat their daughters like dolls.

Do we only commemorate fathers with dolls when they are absent? Why can’t we have at least the same involvement of males in pretend child care as we expect with real child care?

Really, why on earth wouldn’t my son want to care for baby dolls? He watches daddy take care of him and his sister. He sees plenty of manly men pushing their babies around in strollers. I mean, if you see a family out and about and the mom is carrying a purse or a diaper bag or tending to an older child and the dad is just standing there, hands both free, instead of pushing the stroller doesn’t he LOSE serious man points for being a douche?

A lot of times the kitchen/cooking toys are unreasonably segregated, too. First of all, Daddy does most of the cooking at our house. Are we supposed to wait until our boys are grown up to let them watch Daddy or turn on the TV and see Emeril Lagasse, Bobby Flay, or Anthony Bourdain? Well, Bourdain can be a little racy. In fact, I remember in his book, “Restaurant Confidential,” a pivotal moment for his career path as a chef came when he saw the chef at the restaurant where he worked banging a woman right outside the kitchen. Presumably the woman allowed the chef to do so because he was a chef. I wouldn’t want my son to read that for more than a few years. But certainly not because I fear it would influence his lifestyle choices.

I remember going through a few similar things with my daughter, Princess, who is now 4. She did get blocks and cars and even a tool set. For some reason, it’s not as big a deal to let a girl do “boy stuff.” But sometimes it got tricky. For instance, her favorite movie was Cars. So I wanted to get her some Cars pajamas. I had to get them in the boys’ section. Believe me, I got them, though. And they were her favorite. Did I mention I am in CAR sales as a profession?

For Buster, it’s really just the cooking and baby stuff that bothers me. Most of the other girl stuff is pretty lame even for girls, especially now that even Strawberry Shortcake is all slutted out. What’s up with that, by the way?
By the way, I did realize there are a couple of places that are much less segregated. One is our local toy store in Middletown, CT – Amato’s. The other, oddly enough, is Ikea. Just one more reason to shop small, shop local or get your toys at a Swedish furniture store I guess.

Mama’s Night Before Christmas

A lot of folks don’t realize this, but the house has to be a certain way before Santa will slip down the chimney and leave his gifts.  I mean, no one has spoken to Santa about this, but mommies everywhere just kind of assume.  So, we usually are up a little late on Christmas Eve making sure that everything is all set the way Santa would like it.  This includes a clean tree area, stockings hung properly, shelves cleaned, and some wrapping paper made available in case he needs to wrap anything while he’s there (that’s why Santa’s wrap sometimes matches what mommy and daddy have.)  Anyhow, it’s a lot of work and I think that mommies don’t always get the credit they deserve for it.  So I wrote them this poem.

Actually, I had really meant to get the Mamas in my life some gift baskets with what they need to help them through whole Christmas holiday.  I didn’t get to it, but I thought I’d share the idea in case there’s a lady in your life who deserves it.

There’d be a little package marked “For Christmas Eve” and you’d include some cocoa and  little nip of something vanilla or peppermint marked “Magic, For Cocoa.”  Then, there’d be a package marked “For Christmas Morning,” and that would have something with A LOT of caffeine.  Like coffee or tea, depending on the Mama.  Finally, there would be a bottle of wine labeled “For Christmas Night- Mama’s Christmas Cheer.”  And of course, I’d print this little booklet for them.  Enjoy  😉

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Tapes and a date are going to make news networks a LOT of money, let’s not help them.

The 911 tapes of last year’s tragedy in Sandy Hook are out. Especially up here in Connecticut, it’s causing quite a stir. Folks are saying that it is going to open up the wounds of the families affected.

I have no idea whether it will or it won’t because I simply refuse to read, listen to, or watch anything related to the Sandy Hook incident unless it is the idea of a victim’s family member (like the Vicki Soto 5K I ran last month.) The same way I wouldn’t buy a book or a video game that exploited the victims, I will not give any media outlet the courtesy of my click/view/whatever. Because that’s essentially giving them money in today’s world.

People keep talking about how the tapes and reports shouldn’t have been released. But we live in the United States of America and that’s not how life works here, even for the tiniest of victims and their grieving families. I wouldn’t want to live in a place where we couldn’t find out if the first responders to the incident did what they were supposed to. Of course, I don’t want to be the one to do the checking up on them, either.

Every time I think about those tiny victims and their guardians who became victims too, I get beyond choked up. And my gut wants to read more and find out more.

I don’t know if it’s because I believe that reading the experiences will some how allow me to take some pain away from those families. Or that I’ll learn something that will help prevent this from happening to me. Or maybe it’s just so awful that I feel like I have to endure learning about it.

Maybe I’m looking to see how those parents are doing, can they actually survive this? As a parent of a small child, you walk around with your heart now outside of you. It’s now inside a careless, fragile little body. If you are a parent of multiple small children, your heart is then divided up amongst several equally irreverent but adorable keepers. Do parents exist after they learn their own heart has shattered along with its tiny host? Is that what I’m looking to learn about- the unimaginable?

I used to do the same thing for every sick child on Facebook or in the news. I would reread and then pray and when the unthinkable happened, I’d go back and read it again and cry. And then I’d find more places to read more about it and I read those a couple of times, too.

It’s kind of like pushing on a bruise to see if it still hurts. It always does.

Actually, I have no idea why I would WANT to read any more than one item about any of these situations. Once is enough to say the prayer, to send the good vibes to parents in need. To learn the facts of a gruesome tragedy well enough to voice an opinion that will shape public policy.

But the rest, the unthinkable- is just that. I don’t think any of it is something you can or should try to prepare for.

Usually, after a good bit of reading the items I’m referring to, I want nothing more than to hold my children and tell them that I feel so lucky to have them.

The other day, though, I realized that with that luck comes great responsibility. Along with thanking God for my beautiful, healthy, children, I have an obligation to teach them to be great citizens of this world. And sometimes that means doing a little more than holding them and telling them I love them. Which means I need to stop thinking about the unthinkable and start thinking about the future.

So, I have to get off the phone/computer/TV sites/channels that are shoving these stories down our throats to get more views/clicks/listeners/viewers. (It’s like the “Facebook Emotional Porn” Rachel Hayter writes about in her post, “I’m sick of Facebook emotional porn.” Same concept- it’s so awful you just feel guilty ignoring it.)

I have to get involved in my community. I have to get to know my neighbors and the children my children know so that things like “isolation” are less likely. I have to research ways for my kids to play outside safely and find new places to take walks and eat healthy and help people and all of that good stuff that comes from thinking about the best possible future for my kids, not the worst.

More importantly, I have to give my children the confidence and discipline to go out and do the same for themselves.

I don’t think any parent out there who has endured the worst would disagree that having your children alive and well means you have an important task ahead of you. One you’re darn privileged to have.

The media knows about this gut obligation to “know” the worst about the worst, though. The pushing of the bruise. And they’re going to want our clicks and views in the coming weeks. They’re going to use a date that is nothing more than a date, and they’re going to call it an “anniversary” and use it as an excuse to publish a whole lot of emotional porn that some of us may feel guilty avoiding.

I say we let the guilt go and not give the media the honor of the advertising dollars that might result from the hoopla. If the families do make any specific requests, don’t worry, that same media will be glad to voice them. And we should listen, then, because they may need us.

But they might not request anything but peace.

If our emotional wounds need closure, or just a distraction, let’s talk to each other and take care of each other and do what we need to do to heal, without the sensationalized spectacle. That way, the people have Newtown will have the space to do the same.

Because I don’t think any date can measure the time that has passed for a family that has endured the unthinkable.

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