Category Archives: Food

Make Good Behaviour Easy

At the start of 2018, I made a number of resolutions/goals, which met with mixed success (more on that soon, I hope). But I’ve realized that I never wrote about what turned out to be my most successful resolution: to stop buying tea (or hot chocolate, etc., I’m not a coffee drinker) if it would come in a disposable cup.

I can’t now remember what prompted me to make the resolution; I certainly wasn’t in a daily habit of purchasing hot beverages, but I must have been buying them frequently enough for me to get fed up with the waste.

What made (I think) this resolution such a success was that it didn’t actually forbid the problematic behaviour. There was nothing stopping me from buying tea or hot chocolate- I just had to remember to bring my travel mug with me. And if I didn’t want to spend the money, I could consciously choose not to bring the mug with me.

It was incredibly effective.

The year wasn’t perfect, but I think I can say with confidence that I bought a hot beverage in a container that would have to be put in the garbage once it was empty less than five times. Definitely less than ten. And almost every occasion was when someone else was doing the buying and I forgot to say ‘no’ when asked if I’d like something.

Even on a memorable Wednesday late last semester, when I was tired and ill and freezing cold, when I wanted some tea so badly, I didn’t buy it. I didn’t have my mug with me, and by then the habit was firmly entrenched.

So this year I’ve decided to up the ante. I developed a very bad habit of buying my lunch last semester, which had ballooned by the end of the semester into buying lunch nearly every workday, plus frequent snacks. Last semester was incredibly chaotic, but this was a ball I didn’t need to be dropping in such spectacular fashion.

I knew an outright ban on buying food was unlikely to work, because I don’t respond well to prohibitions. Instead, I expanded the resolution from last year.

In 2019, my goal is to be litter-free when I’m at work.

It’s not that I can’t buy food…I just have to work out the logistics to make sure I’m not using any of the disposable packaging that would normally come with it. If I want to buy a burrito bowl when I’m on campus (a burrito bowl which I was in the habit of buying at least once a week, if not more often, last semester), I have to bring my own bowl and cutlery with me (I have yet to determine whether the staff will be happy to accommodate my BYOB approach).

My impetus for this change is largely financial. I’ve been crunching our budget numbers to find areas where we can cut back and ‘food and dining’ is clearly the low-hanging fruit. When I ran the numbers comparing our average monthly spend on ‘groceries’ versus ‘food and dining’ (which includes groceries, but also alcohol, restaurants and coffee shops, and the money Q. and I spend on food while at work (which have their own categories in my system)), I found that we were spending, on average, close to $500 a month on ‘food and dining’ that couldn’t be classified as actual groceries.

Yikes.

There are obvious environmental benefits to my decision and likely health ones as well (I gained weight last semester and I’m certain my reliance on purchased food played a role), but my strong aversion to wasting money is the key. The advantage to the financial aspect is it’s so easy to track my progress. I know what the average monthly spend on ‘Turia’s Snacks’ in 2018 was, and I’m looking forward to seeing that number plummet in 2019.

I’m allowing myself one Lara bar wrapper a day (I buy them in bulk when they’re on sale for less than $1 each, and I’ve come to rely on them for a late afternoon snack) and I’m not expecting perfection on the weekend if I’m out with my family. But my hope is that changing how I approach food for myself will also change the larger patterns in our household. I took the kids on two major expeditions in the second week of the holidays and both days I built enough time into our schedule to allow me to pack a lunch and snacks for the three of us. Since we have memberships at both locations, the total cost of our days out was minimal: $6 in public transit fares for myself in one case (the kids are free) and $8 for parking in the other.

There are costs that comes with this change, of course. There was an initial financial outlay to purchase an appropriate lunch container. Q. and the kids picked out a green yumbox for me as a Christmas present. I don’t think it’s what I would have picked for myself, but I’m making it work along with the tupperware containers and reusable sandwich and snack bags we already had in the house. I still need to buy travel cutlery. Making it extremely difficult for me to purchase food while at work increases my emotional labour around food. I have to plan ahead and make sure appropriate lunch things are on the menu and purchased at the grocery store. It also increases the time I spend on food. I have to plan ahead and make my lunch and pack my snacks. But these are small costs that will become invisible as I settle into the new habit, and the time I spend making my lunch in the evenings is probably cancelled out by the time I save not standing in line the next day.

It’s been less than two weeks under the new system, so it’s early days yet, but I’ve successfully navigated two of our Terrible Tuesdays (where I’m out of the house for 15 hours) without buying food. It helps that it’s winter so I can safely leave my dinner in the trunk of my car until I’m ready for it. I’ve definitely noticed the impulse to buy food, especially when I’m bored or triggered by being near the places where I habitually purchased food last semester. But, thus far, I’ve been able to resist, and I know those impulses will weaken and vanish as I rewrite the patterns of my behaviour.

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Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Food, Money Matters

New Year, fresh start?

I’m not usually one for new year’s resolutions, since I’ve always felt that my new year actually starts in September. But I miss this space, and I miss making time to write about all the random parts of my life, so I thought I’d try to fool myself into thinking that starting to write again now was a most logical decision.

We’ll see how it goes.

I finished a five-year journal at the end of 2018 (I use this one and and love it). When I looked back at the start, before I boxed it up and tucked it away and opened the new one, I saw that my goal word for 2018 had been ‘less’. I wanted less. Of everything. Less stress. Less pressure. Less chaos.

Ha.

It’s not that 2018 was a terrible year (unlike 2016 which, birth of P. not withstanding, really was). It’s just that, as I discovered, working full-time when your partner is also working full-time and having two little kids isn’t conducive to ‘less’ in any of the ways I was hoping for.

2018 was when I dropped the balls, over and over and over again. Sometimes little balls, sometimes big ones. I learned (the hard way) that if I didn’t write down EVERY.SINGLE.DEADLINE in my online calendar, I’d forget important things, even if I’d just been thinking about them the week before.

2018 was when I felt like I could never quite catch my breath, could never quite catch up, could never quite get to everything I really needed to.

Q. and I felt like our household was on a high spin cycle for most of the entire year.

I’m not expecting the first half of 2019 to be much better. I’m still on the postdoc, which means I’m still expected to be working full-time hours. Things are improving slowly on the domestic front because as P. gets older she’s happier to spend forty minutes playing by herself (usually an elaborate game involving dolls and Playmobil people), which means I can cook dinner without a screaming toddler attached to my leg,which means that Q. isn’t trying to cook all the dinners on the weekend and freeze them, which means our weekends gain some breathing room.

Still, our weeks remain action-packed, including a truly ludicrous arrangement on Tuesdays this semester that sees me leaving the house at 6:45 a.m. and only getting home again at 9:30 p.m. after teaching two courses at two different universities in two different cities. I don’t see the kids on Tuesdays. Meanwhile, Q. has just enough time in the mornings to drop E. at school and P. at nursery school and still get to the university in time to teach for four and a half hours straight.

We call them Terrible Tuesdays. E. made a countdown calendar with a huge sad face and we put happy face stickers on the numbers every time we finish another one.

Our schedules for the rest of the week are more sensible, but there’s no getting around the fact that at this point in our lives, having the first parent get home at 5:30 on workdays is not working well for our family. I’m looking forward to the second half of the year when the postdoc will be over and Q. will be on sabbatical and we will have some breathing room to sit and think and determine what comes next.

In the meantime, we’ll just keep trying to stay afloat. I made nachos for dinner last night, because they are fast and easy and, as it turns out, E. will devour all the ingredients that he would usually refuse to eat if I put them in a chilli (including spring onions, red peppers, tomatoes, and six kinds of beans). Turns out if you cut out the rice and add tortilla chips and a whole lot of cheese instead, it becomes “one of my favourite dinners ever”. Neither Q. nor I really believes that nachos are an appropriate food for dinner, but whatever. He didn’t have to cook and the kids ate it. In this current phase of our lives, we call that a win.

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Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), Daily Life, Food, Life after the PhD

Oddities

Back at the beginning of December, I had a couple of days where I suddenly became worried I was pregnant (spoiler alert: I was not pregnant- there are no surprise pregnancy announcements in this blog post).

I didn’t have any specific reasons for thinking this, although admittedly Q. and I have yet to take permanent steps, even though we know we’re done at two kids (and so grateful to have them both).

I just felt off.

So I freaked out and bought a double pack of pregnancy tests and when they both came back negative I chastised myself for wasting money buying pregnancy tests and then I forgot about the whole issue.

About two weeks later, my period turned up.

This was a relatively big deal, since there’d been no sign of it since P. was born and it had been AWOL for most of my adult life, with the notable exception of those months in the summer of 2015 where I followed the diet that brought us P.

I filed it away as “very interesting but probably not worth investigating in much detail”. P. was still nursing frequently (including a feed around 5 a.m. every night). I was eating dairy and carbs and making no effort whatsoever to follow the diet that had normalized my cycle in 2015. I figured it was breakthrough bleeding (even though I never had it with E.) and resolved to have another conversation with Q. about family planning just in case it was more than that.

Jump forward a month. I AGAIN thought I was pregnant and, since this would have been two weeks after the two week mark after my period turned up, there was the VERY SLIGHT possibility that this could be true. (And by slight, I mean practically non-existent, but I am a worrier.)

I just felt off, in the same way as I had six weeks earlier. Bloated, crampy, feeling like I had a rock in my stomach.

I bought more pregnancy tests, which were negative again, and again chastised myself for wasting the money and again resolved to try to convince Q. that we should do something permanent about the whole thing (we are currently at an impasse where I think Q. should be the one to do something permanent given everything I’ve gone through and he doesn’t want to take that permanent step).

I texted labmonkey: “I am starting to think I am ovulating whenever I freak out and think I am pregnant. Guess I will see what happens in a couple of weeks.”

Turns out I was right, because exactly two weeks later my period turned up.

I am still nursing P. about as frequently as I was before.

I am still eating dairy.

I am still eating carbs and making no effort whatsoever to eat more protein.

I am, in short, doing none of the things that were responsible for my “masquerading as normal” cycle in 2015, and yet my body appears to be regulating itself.

I am both impressed (go body!) and annoyed (seriously?! you figure all of this out NOW?!). I can’t wish my body had figured this out earlier, because then I wouldn’t have my children (I might have children, but they wouldn’t be the two specific children who live in my house now). But at the same time it’s more than a little frustrating that my body seems to be doing its best to become ‘normal’ at the point in my life where I really would prefer not to be pregnant, after years and years of not being pregnant and wanting desperately for it to be otherwise.

I had intentions of cutting out dairy for the next couple of weeks to see if that would move ovulation up earlier in the cycle, but Q. and I went out for our January date lunch today and burrata was on the menu, so that clearly wasn’t happening. I can’t chart because my wake up times are still all over the map thanks to P., as I usually can’t get back to sleep once I’ve got up to nurse her.

I guess I’ll wait and see what happens in a month or so.

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Filed under Cycle Madness, Food, PCOS

Microblog Mondays: Sugar Overload

Until this year, I had never really understood parents who opted for the “switch witch” concept, where they either take away their child’s Hallowe’en candy at night while the kid is sleeping and leave a toy instead, or give the kid a choice between keeping the candy or keeping the toy. I didn’t have much of a problem with E. enjoying his Hallowe’en spoils, especially since he only visited a handful of houses every year and was happy enough to be limited to one piece a day (after dinner).

Then there was this year, and because E. is six now he wanted to stay out trick-or-treating for longer and because his costume was so ridiculously amazing many of our neighbours gave him extra candy- huge handfuls of it in some cases.

He ended up with a TRUCKLOAD of candy- it filled the bowl in which we’d kept the candy that we gave out to 80 or 90 kids, plus he needed an extra container for his chips.

He’s been able to choose something nut-free for his lunch and he can have a piece after dinner if he’s had a good supper and if he remembers to ask for it. He’s never argued about this, and the result is that, even with Q. and I eating a significant number of his mini chocolate bars after he’s gone to bed, we’ve still barely made a dent in it.

We have a blanket rule that Hallowe’en candy is removed from the house on the 1st of December (so we can enjoy a couple of candy-free weeks before all the Christmas goodies start piling up) and, again, E.’s never argued with this because he’s usually eaten almost all of his candy by then and he’s a bit bored with it.

This year he’s still going to have a lot left over, so I’m not sure how he’ll react.

I don’t see anything inherently bad in eating candy as the occasional treat, and I’d even be up for E. having a big binge and making himself sick in the process as a learning experience, but I have to say that the sheer volume of candy he came home with this year has made me seriously consider the switch witch idea for the first time, even if I would dearly miss the mini Twix and Wunderbars.

If you do Hallowe’en (or did as a kid), how is (was) candy handled in your house?

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.

 

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Filed under E.- the seventh year, Food, Microblog Mondays

You wouldn’t think eating would be this complicated

I feel like January has entirely revolved around food. It’s gone like this:

  1. P. started to get interested in actually consuming food rather than just holding it in her hand and licking it. Upon starting to eat she almost immediately cut back on how much she was nursing.
  2. As a result of P’s fussy nursing, my supply dropped. This meant P. got frustrated and started having to wait for a letdown, which led to lots of pulling at the breast and a super-cranky baby.
  3. I finally realized what was happening, cut solids out entirely for a few days, and started pumping whenever I could.
  4. My supply came back but I now had a mental block about nursing because I was so worried that P. was going to do what E. did and try to self-wean. We’d have the same problem with switching to formula- her MSPI would limit our options. I didn’t think I could face pumping for five months. Also I really really really was not ready to stop breastfeeding.
  5. My mental block got so bad it started to hinder my letdown, which meant that P. would get fussy and impatient, which would make me more nervous and worried, which would hinder the letdown even further, and so on. I started to feel like I was having an anxiety attack every time I could feel a letdown beginning and the adrenaline would trap the milk in my breasts. P’s only good feeds for a few days were before her naps and in the middle of the night- any other time I offered she’d get frustrated waiting and waiting for the letdown.
  6. I solved the mental block by playing on my phone when P was nursing- writing out a message with one hand occupied my brain enough to let my body do what it needed to do. A letdown is a conditioned reflex and I was eventually able to recondition the reflex so that it became easy again.
  7. In the meantime, we reintroduced solids and discovered that BLW was NOT going to work for P. After one too many rounds of “choke until you vomit and then cry and want nothing more to do with food”, we decided to stick with spoon feeding for now (or finger foods that dissolve easily like those Mum Mum things which we never bothered buying with E).
  8. P was back to nursing at least 8 times in 24 hours. I was able to put my phone away and just go back to cuddling. She was really enjoying solids and was starting to eat quite a lot. Other than not being able to figure out when I was supposed to get anything done outside the house (as our days were a sea of drop off, nurse, nap, nurse, eat food, nurse, nap, pick up), I felt like things were going smoothly.
  9. Two days after thinking that, P got super constipated (again, something we never encountered with E.).

And that’s where we’re at. I’m pumping during her first nap every morning to get some milk for her cereal (oatmeal, not rice, so it shouldn’t be contributing to the constipation). And today we’ll be going out to buy pureed pears and prunes to try to sort out her poor tummy as she’s obviously uncomfortable.

This too shall pass.

But it’s been a real pain while it’s been happening.

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Filed under Anxiety Overload, Food, MSPI, Nursing, P.- the first year

On the perils of eating while pregnant

12:00 p.m.
Me: Oh. It is noon. I should eat lunch soon. I’m so close to finishing this PowerPoint though. I’ll get it done in the next fifteen minutes and then I’ll eat.

12:15 p.m.
P.: Wriggle, squirm, wriggle.
Me: Yes, I know I need to eat something! I am almost done! Maybe four slides to go.
My stomach: Rumble, grumble.

12:30 p.m.
P.: WRIGGLE, SQUIRM, TWIST, WRIGGLE, SQUIRM!
Me: I KNOW! I am hungry too! Look, I just finished. Now I can record it this weekend and it will be ready to post on Monday. Ok. What are we going to eat for lunch?

12:32 p.m.
Me (in kitchen): I will make avocado and goat’s cheese on toast. That will take maybe four minutes to make, so it is super quick.

12:33 p.m.
Me: Why am I SO HUNGRY? I need to eat RIGHT NOW.
*puts down bread in toaster; starts slicing avocado, realizes hands are shaking*
P.: *general sustained protest at lack of nourishment*

12:34 p.m.
Me: Why does it take SO LONG for toast to finish?
*starts searching in pantry. Eats six rice crackers, three dried apricots and four thin Oreos in time it takes toast to pop.*

12:35 p.m.
Me: I really don’t like Oreos. I should throw them out since I only bought them to make the wheels on E’s steam train cake.
*eats another three Oreos while spreading avocado and goat’s cheese on toast*

12:39 p.m.
Me: *finishes inhaling eating two enormous slices of toast with avocado and goat’s cheese and drinking two glasses of water. Shaking subsiding. Rational brain returning.*

12:45 p.m.
P.: *hiccup. hiccup. hiccup.*

12:55 p.m.
Me: Well, I hope you are feeling better now, P. I can’t decide if I feel sick because of all the sugar I ate or because I just consumed twice as much food as my stomach has room for at the moment.
P.: zzzzzzzzzzzz

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Filed under Food, Me? Pregnant?!

PCOS and Dairy: Just Say No

Readers, this is a game changer.

If you recall, after ovulating on day 21 in my third cycle, last cycle I didn’t ovulate until day 27. That was the cycle where I had been eating ice cream on a daily basis for well over a week (yes, I know that’s embarrassing).

So I set myself a goal: with cycle #5, I was not going to eat ANY dairy, other than Greek yoghurt at breakfast, until after I ovulated. I wanted to see if it would make a difference.

Oh, and I also eased back on the whole carb/protein ratio issue, because I was so convinced dairy was the major culprit.

Oh, and my metformin ran out right before I ovulated in cycle #4 and I didn’t go and get more because I couldn’t stand the thought of going into the clinic and possibly running into my new doctor (or, worse, my old doctor) and having to explain where I had been when we were supposed to have done an IVF cycle by now.

Not exactly perfect scientific conditions with no fewer than three variables at play. What can I say. I’m a historian.

So cycle #5 started, and I stuck to my plan. No butter. No cheese. No milk. No ice cream UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES even if it looked delicious.

I still ate Greek yoghurt at breakfast most mornings. And there was some milk used in cooking now and again.

And I ovulated on day 18.

DAY 18!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Once I knew the high temperature wasn’t a fluke, I immediately tucked into the cheese.

I am still in my luteal phase (7dpo), so I’m still eating dairy occasionally. But I will cut it all out as soon as my temperature drops, and we’ll see if we can repeat this next month.

I cannot cut it out entirely, but cutting it out (except yoghurt) for half the month, and then only eating it when it’s something that I really love, that is a situation I can live with.

It boggles my mind that my “cereal and milk” breakfast habit (that has been a habit for my ENTIRE LIFE) could fundamentally be the problem behind my PCOS and my total lack of anything resembling (even remotely) a menstrual cycle before this summer.

Yes, I wish I had known about this earlier.

Yes, I wish I had made these dietary changes a couple of years ago.

Yes, I wish things could have been different with our family.

But right now, I am excited for the future, because for the first time in my life I have a way to manage my PCOS. Truly manage and live with it, not just hide it with birth control pills.

THAT is better than ice cream.

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Filed under Cycle Madness, Food, PCOS