The War on Sugar-AHHHHHH By Guest Bloggers, Leigh and Meg

lollipops-602441_640Our guests this week are Leigh and Meg from the popular motherhood blog, Me and Meg. Leigh and Meg blog about ups and downs of motherhood with just the right amount of snark. They are witty, humble and kick-ass at Cross Fit (and other fitness-y things!). Think you’ve heard of them? I wouldn’t be surprised because they are contributors to Global Morning Show, Parentdish.ca and “What She Said” Canada Talks on SiriusXM Radio.

Thank you ladies for giving us your two cents on this topical issue.

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The War on sugar is real! We fight it daily with our kids. Our war consists mainly of our kids asking for some sugar-laden snack and us saying “no”.  We are very conscious of how much they consumer daily. That means water is what you can find in their bottles always and they rarely get anything at the arena snack bar – we are real drags as mothers.

It doesn’t stop at sugar, what about preservatives! There is a whole world of bad food out there worth avoiding….

What we have seen happen in our children’s school is an increase use of candy as a reward in class, quite the opposite of a sugar ban.

With so many “fads”  one can prescribe to now and ever-changing research on the food industry it’s difficult to say what is the right choice or the “most” healthy for our children – just ask a vegetarian or talk to someone who adheres to a paleo diet. Could you find a larger chasm in what is nutritional and optimal for our health than that? Recently we read that it’s not sugar itself that is the nasty school yard
bully but sugar and fat TOGETHER. Right okay. Like ice cream, give us some. Our kids go crazy over it too. Do we think it’s bad for their overall health? No.

Do we think a world where schools do not allow sugar is the right choice? No, that’s ludicrous. The path to a healthy lifestyle involves moderation, which means having the odd juice box, and treat. We are better off teaching our kids what healthy choices are and empowering them to make well-balanced decisions.

The schools should focus on a holistic approach to health, remember getting changed for gym class? We do. Our kids don’t do that. Let’s bring back physical activity EVERYDAY in our schools and not make any one food forbidden.

As for the  birthday treats at school-we say skip those too.

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Banning Sugar In Schools Doesn’t Teach Healthy Habits

cake-pops-684163__180Not that long ago there was some discussion at the neighbourhood school my boys attend, how to greatly reduce the amount of sugar the students were consuming while on the premises.

A naturopathic doctor, also a parent to two young boys, gave a compelling presentation about the health and behaviour benefits to cutting back the white stuff, and successfully riled up the parent population with suggested action items.

I don’t know much, but I do know this: one sure-fire way to ignite controversy and polarize a group is to change-up the status quo.

Back when I was a kid, we’d walk the ten minutes to school in the pouring rain toting our umbrellas and like a growing snowball collect kids along the way and after school we’d knock on doors, ride bikes and play a good old fashioned game of kick the can. Not really, but you get the picture. We weren’t developing carpel tunnel syndrome by age 12 and taking selfies to document every minute of teenage angst.

When I was growing up sugar wasn’t the evil, it was fat and cholesterol. A few spandex clad mothers could be heard espousing the benefits of the 20-minute work-out, Jane Fonda and the AB Roller while pouring a healthy dollop of Lite salad dressing over iceberg lettuce. Butter, eggs, oils, red meat, all of it was eschewed until the mid 90s when Barry Spears revolutionize the diet world with The Zone and all of a sudden steak and eggs reclaimed their clout in the grocery cart.

As a kid I enjoyed donuts, candies and cupcakes.   Mrs. Dickson used to make the best cupcakes, with lots of icing and sprinkles so when it was her son’s birthday and she came into the classroom, I made sure to not be the last in the line-up. When a French teacher would toss out mini-sized chocolate bars for correct answers, we’d know that she was in a good mood and Mr. MacDonald used to let us pop balloons for prizes: a weekend with the class budgie, an afternoon in his chair, giant, over-sized chocolate bars our parents would never buy.

I used to peddle my bike to the corner store (about 15 minutes away and across a busy intersection) with my friends. We’d return our books to the library and then go the Village Market, to see how many Hot Lips and sour keys our change could buy us. A lot more than today’s pennies, that’s for sure.

But now I am a grown-up and I am the one making the decisions.

Do you want to know something? My shoulders are sore from the burden of expectations.

I have come a long way with not caring what people think about my parenting. The proof is in the pudding, I like to say, and I am playing the long game. I don’t always choose the healthiest or freshest or more local foods for my kids. In fact, last night they ate an entire party-sized pizza while they watched TV, and I basically ignored them to read the latest issue of Vanity Fair.

We have a treat bucket overflowing with candy and there it stays. My boys choose something from it once a day, but they could take it or leave it.   Sunday afternoons I bake something – cookies, brownies, macaroons, Hello Dollies – whatever the request but after the initial fanfare that accompanies the trays being pulled from the oven, the cookies will remain in the jar. Nibbled on, but never gorged. The piano teacher, friends popping by and play date guests are usually the ones to grab at the goods. For my kids, it’s part of the landscape, like the wallpaper. It’s just there.

Have you heard of Snowplow Parenting? If Helicopter parent was the term of yesteryear, then Snowplow parent is the term for now.

Snowplow parents: defined by some of the extremes they take in their children’s lives. When you take the snowplow route, you are teaching your child that someone will always step in to make things right, and therefore no initiative is required on the kid’s end.

That’s how I feel about removing sugar from schools. It doesn’t teach children how to make good choices it simply removes the obstacle for them. I am a believer that diets need to be balanced and healthy, and that includes sugar. It doesn’t mean scarfing down an entire box of Krispy Kremes (guilty!) on a regular basis but having a lollipop while watching a movie, is ok in my books.

It does get tricky in schools when parties and birthdays are celebrated with food, but that’s a learning opportunity in itself. Instead of banning sugary treats empower children with decision-making.  With parents and schools being more aware of and considerate of allergies, replacing birthday cupcakes for an non-edible treat (pencils, erasers, etc) is an obvious option.  There is also the option of a paper crown and singing Happy Birthday.  Simple.  But it’s about learning when and how to celebrate with treats.

It saddens me to see so many grown women (and some men) with unhealthy relationships with food, swinging from fad diet to fad diet, depriving themselves of food groups, binge eating; all of these behaviours leading to body image issues.

Here’s my question: With as much emphasis we’re placing on reducing sugar and getting our children active, why isn’t there more of an uproar over cut PE classes and revoked recesses (as punishment or to pack in more instructional time for core subjects)? Why do high school students only need one PE credit to graduate?

If I had things my way, we’d focus on healthy living where exercise is valued for more than just fitting into skinny jeans, where real food was consumed more than “fake food” and we would all chill out!

Tried it: Barre3 By Guest Blogger Leigh from Me & Meg

Our guests this week are Leigh and Meg from the popular motherhood blog, Me and Meg. Leigh and Meg blog about ups and downs of motherhood with just the right amount of snark. They are witty, humble and kick-ass at Cross Fit. Think you’ve heard of them? I wouldn’t be surprised because they are contributors to Global Morning Show, Parentdish.ca and “What She Said” Canada Talks on SiriusXM Radio.

Thank you ladies for sharing your experience at Barre3.

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Meg and I have always loved exercising; that’s not to say that there hasn’t been times when we have totally lacked motivation or taken time off, we have. Our philosophy has always been simple: we were designed to move and we owe it to ourselves to do just that. It’s hard not get out of bed and workout when you think about what Rick Hansen and Terry Fox accomplished. Find someone who is doing a lot more with a lot less and suddenly your excuses melt away.

Meg and I both agree the key to keeping motivated is changing it up-and we don’t mean swapping the elliptical for the bike. We mean really shaking it up. We are both Crossfit and Olympic lifting coaches and that is something we consistently do. We love the variety of movements, and contrary to popular belief, it really is for everybody; our sixty year old mother does it!

We decided to start 2015 off by adding some new exercise disciplines into our repertoire. Enter Barre3. We are totally addicted. It’s like Yoga started dating a ballet dancer who also does Pilates. What do love most about it? First, the variety of workouts; by both the amount of time you have, and the part of the body you want to focus on. Meg and I love the Ballet Body Blast-who doesn’t want the long lines of a dancer? Second? You can do the workouts ANYWHERE. Between the mobile app and the on-line workouts you just can’t find an excuse not to do it.

imgres-1We also appreciate the instructor’s pace and focus on integrity of movement, often times with at-home dvd’s there is not real instruction and you feel sort of lost, that’s not the case with the Barre3 on-line and mobile app workouts. If you live in the Toronto area, we recommend checking out the new Barre3 studio that opened. Aimee the owner, is a delight.

Our advice, cut some old t-shirts off, knot’em and rock some leg warmers. That’s what ballet dancers do right?

Tried it: Paddle Board Fitness

I don’t really love the actual act of exercising. I don’t loathe it but it’s also not something that tops my list. I would rather read a good book, play with the boys, eat cookie dough . . . things I consider nourishment for my soul. But if I am to be honest, I do love the feeling that I have post-exercise. There is something to be said for the endorphin rush, in fact, a therapist told me that exercise is one of the best ways to fight the blahs.

But my interest wanes. I like to keep things fresh by trying out new classes. I have sampled my fair share and some, like Barre, hold a position in the rotation and others like the Tracy Anderson Method are collecting dust. (An aside: What beginner can actually keep up with her dancing?)

When I learned that Paddle Fitness was being added to the line-up of offerings at my club, I was keen to try. Many boxes were ticked: I like water, I like the warm sea air, I like relaxation, finding my inner calm . . .this sounded perfect for me. Forgetting for a minute that:

A) I am actually petrified of becoming shark bait whilst paddling in the Caribbean.

B) I would actually be paddling to nowhere within the confines of 4 walls blinded by the overhead fluorescent lighting.

I handed over my money.

I arrived at the class to find 6 other women, all of us clad in our finest stretchy pants and racer-backed tanks.

We prepped the boards by adding stabilizers at the front and back ends. There are three different levels of stability, this being moderately challenging. One stabilizer in the middle of the board provides the least support, better mimicking open-water paddling. Our instructor, a woman in her 40s with the body of a 20-year-old athlete, took her position facing us.

I mounted the board with ease and together we worked through a series of stretches. The mood was calm and almost relaxing thanks to a spotty WiFi connection disabling the thumping playlist. (Another aside: remember when instructors brought ghetto blasters? Mrs. Healy’s used to blare techno beats while my high school friends and I stepped up, down and to the side for an hour in her basement studio.)

Yes, I thought, this is exactly what I need. I need to zone out and imagine myself floating in the warm sea, with the sun beating down on me, defrosting my frozen fingers courtesy of the -27 degree weather outside.

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What happened next, I am not too sure. It was an assault on my body. Burpees, mountain climbers, squats, push-ups, jumping up and over the board, squats, push-ups, plank, leg raises, squats, side-plank with one leg raised, push-ups, squats, squats, SQUATS!

ALL ON AN UNSTABLE BOARD.

With 8 minutes of the class remaining, the instructor sat in the middle of the board, with her knees bent and feet flat.

Oh, thank God! We’re almost done. Just a few stretches to go. Deep breath. Easy now, you sound like a congested pug.

And then she raised her feet into table-top and proceeded with the abdominal portion of the class. Five grueling minutes of V-sits, starfish-to-crabs (think full body extension, then pulling yourself up into a tuck), triceps dips with opposite leg to elbow crunches (I know, impossible right?).

ALL ON AN UNSTABLE BOARD.

images-1Paddle Fitness is an all-encompassing work out. It works the core, challenges balance and stability, improves flexibility while being both a cardio and strength training exercise.

Wrists, shoulders and knees definitely have their moment in the spotlight, so if you have any injury or weakness with these joints be sure to let your instructor know so the program can be modified.

The verdict? Less than 24-hours later, I couldn’t put my bra on without wincing and my quads burned when I walked up the stairs, but I have been back. What can I say? I am hooked on that feelin’!

Rack-A-Thon

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On Saturday, January 26, I will be participating in an urban triathlon benefitting Rethink Breast Cancer.  The Rack-A-Thon is a three-hour fitness challenge: one hour of spinning, intense circuit training and yoga.

Rethink Breast Cancer is a charity dedicated to raising awareness and offering resources and assistance to young families affected by the disease.  Founded in 2001, Rethink uses its savvy marketing to inspire a new generation of philanthropy and activism.

A friend had posted the Rack-A-Thon link on her Facebook and on a whim, I clicked on the pink icon to learn more.  It was impulsive but I made the commitment . . .  and now that it’s only a few weeks away, I am starting to wonder, do I have what it takes or will this Rack make me a wreck?

In an effort to be successful (and procrastinate from my training) I Googled tips to completing fitness goals and I found this list.

1.    Make it part of your routine

Check.  I can do this.   I have almost two hours in the morning when all three kids are at school.

So long as no one has an episode of explosive diarrhea, projectile vomiting, a raging fever, croup, chronic nighttime cough, or develop some weird and unexplainable rash that would prevent them from going to school, I can use this time to train.

I should be able to log a solid three or four mornings over the five weeks.

2.    Give yourself permission to spend time on you

Check.  I give myself permission to spend time on myself all of the time – it’s the little people in my life who aren’t on board!

3.    Set realistic goals

5 weeks to train for an hour of spin, yoga and circuit.  That sounds realistic, right?

4.    Buddy-up

Check.  It took little convincing to get my fitness-junkie sister-in-law on board.  She is always game for a good butt kickin’ and her enthusiasm is good motivation.

5.    Keep your eyes on the prize

Check.  Thinking about the many women and their families who benefit from Rethink make my sweat seem paltry in comparison to their bravery.

6.    Make it convenient

Is anything convenient when you have three kids?

7.    Fit in work-outs even in your off days

Check.  I have three live-in personal trainers who ensure that I never sit for more than a few minutes.

8.    Keep it fun

Cardio = Just Dance 4 = Fun

9.    Support your goal by getting sleep and eating well

Check.   I can do this.

So long as no one has an episode of explosive diarrhea, projectile vomiting, a raging fever, croup, chronic nighttime cough, or develop some weird and unexplainable rash that would prevent them from sleeping, I can use this time to catch up on my z’s.

With our recent track record, I am sure that getting adequate sleep will prove no problem at all. *

*Said dripping with sarcasm and rolling eye

10. Reward yourself

The reward will be completing the challenge and knowing that the funds I have helped to raise will go towards Rethink Breast Cancer’s education, support and research programs.

Check back or follow us on Twitter on Saturday, January 26 for a play-by-play of how I am faring!  Do you want to join me and participate in the Rack-A-Thon?  Check out Rethink Breast Cancer for more information.

Wish me luck!

Mom Jeans

My “best” jeans are missing. Gone. Nowhere to be found.

Now, things going missing in my house is hardly an unusual occurrence. What’s rare, though, is that for the first time since I was a child, I only own two pair of jeans, so their absence is keenly felt.  The missing ones are a pair of skinny jeans. They look good tucked into boots, but that’s about the only thing they have going for them. They’re too short in the rise, are unwearable without a belt (lest I flash someone while bending over) and really need to be worn with both a compression tank (to smooth out my really-should-have-gotten-rid-of-this-by-now muffin top) and a long tunic or sweater (to disguise the compression tank top, of course). They were made for a bony sixteen year old with boy hips, not a fully fledged woman with birthing hips.

The other jeans, which I’ve owned since I was on maternity leave with my first son (and which were purchased in a panic when I ran out of clothes that fit; a continuously nursing child is both a blessing and a curse) are faded, wide legged, and button up somewhere in the vicinity of my chin.

The skinny jeans are the ones I feel compelled to wear. They’re fashionable. They make the three inches of visible thigh between the top of my boots and the bottom of my sweater look thin. The other ones are the ones that, everything else being equal, I would wear every day because they actually fit.

They’re Mom jeans. Baggy. High-waisted.  They’re the jeans you wore in 1987 and your mom has never stopped wearing. And now they’re the ones you reach for because they hide your post-partum pooch and c-section scar. Comfortable? You bet. Fashionable? Not even. I confess to owing a pair. You probably own a pair too, and unless you’ve had time to give yourself a thorough once-over in a mirror in the morning, you’re probably not even aware that they make your ass look like as expansive as prairie wheat-field.

What’s got me thinking about Mom jeans is this post over at the blog Blood Sweat and Peanut ButterTiffany198549 knows all about Mom jeans and the stages of transition between wearing hip, sexy skinny jeans and Mom jeans: How Bad Jeans Happen To Good Moms. Braver than I, she has so far resisted the slow, pleated slide toward comfort fit. But I embrace my Mom jeans, though they have their place: they are definitely not to be worn on dates with my husband, casual work days, playground visits, girls’ nights out, or any other places when I might actually care what I look like. But on a 9:30 a.m. Saturday errand run, me and my 9-inch rise will be rockin’ the grocery store.

She’s making a resolution and checking it twice . . .

The New Year is upon us and like many I have made a resolution to dedicate more time to myself.  The past four years my body has been a vessel for my children and my days dedicated to fulfilling the needs (and wants) of my growing family.  Somewhere between play dates, mountains of laundry and laps around the grocery store, I lost sight of who I am.

2011 will be the year that I dedicate to myself.  That doesn’t mean abdicating all of my responsibilities and moving to the desert to mediate for a whole year (although the silence does sound appealing).

It means that this is the year that I am going to focus on taking care of my body, being a better friend, saying “no” (so I can say “yes”) and re-discovering what I like.

Through my mom’s group, I met Vanessa Reeve.  Vanessa is a wife and mother to two young girls and she is an inspiration to me.  Not only does she make time for herself everyday, she has also managed to start a new career in the midst of mothering – no easy feat.

After having her daughters, Vanessa said goodbye to the corporate life to focus on being a stay-at-home mom.  A life-long fitness junkie, Vanessa found difficulty finding the time to workout after her first born.  Never one to let excuses get in the way, she bought a pilates DVD and dedicated time everyday to get down on her mat.

Once her second daughter was born, Vanessa became acutely aware of the example she was setting for her children.  She wanted her girls to grow up in a home where exercise is a part of a healthy lifestyle and not just to be used as a crash course to weight loss.

She joined a gym and attended classes regularly.  After a few years, she has parlayed her love of fitness into a new career.  Vanessa is now a certified CanFitPro instructor and encourages people to set up realistic fitness goals and provides them with the tools to achieve results.

In an effort to stay true to my resolutions, I met with Vanessa and we had a chat about health, fitness and how to dedicate more of my (limited) time to exercise.

First off, Vanessa says that you should be exercising because . . .

  • As we age we lose balance, coordination, flexibility and reaction time.  Translation:  Exercise will help you from wiping out and crashing into the wall after stepping barefoot on tiny lego pieces in the middle of the night.
  • Exercise improves cardio-respiratory capacity.  Translation: You will be able to grab your destined-for-gold-in-the-hundred-meter child by his hood and prevent him from running into traffic (hypothetically, of course).
  • Fitness leads to improved health, adds years to your life and affects overall happiness.  Translation: By working out, you might be will be less bitchy and therefore more enjoyable to live with. For a long, long, long time.
  • Exercise helps to reduce stress.  Translation: You won’t lose your shit after asking everyone four times to pick up after themselves.  It will take between six and eight times.
  • Exercise helps to prevent the loss of bone density.  Translation: Decreases likelihood of a fractured hip in old age and having your children ship you off to the farthest nursing home.
  • Exercise sets a positive example for your kids.  Translation: An easy way to ensure that your kids benefit from all of the above too.  And really, what mom doesn’t want the best for their kids?

Excuses.  Excuses.

We all have them.  We all know them.

I work too much.  I am too tired.  I can’t afford it.  I will join a gym after I lose five pounds.  I don’t want to be away from the kids.  No one is around the watch the kids.

Own your excuses.  Say them out loud, write them down but ultimately, acknowledge that they are the barriers to success.  I ask myself, would I let something stand in the way of my children’s success or happiness?  Then why am I so willing to let something stand in my way?

Perhaps what I love the most about Vanessa is that she doesn’t advocate exercise to look like a Victoria Secret model (puh-lease, that ship has sailed!). Instead, she is vocal about the release that exercise provides: say goodbye to negative stress and hello to positive endorphins.  Those endorphins are also known as to stretch my patience, calm my nerves, quiet my voice and elevate my fun-ness meter.  In other words, my children and husband are also key beneficiaries.

Next week, I will spell out my personal fitness challenge of 2011 and I encourage you to reflect on your personal goals.  “Sharing your fitness goals with others makes you accountable and more likely to follow through,” says Vanessa.

Being a busy mom, Vanessa knows all too well the struggle to find a balance between caring for family and for your self.  Vanessa will be sharing her tips on how to incorporate fitness into your daily life . . . with your kids and for free!  (Cross those two excuses off your list!)

Vanessa’s enthusiasm is infectious.  She makes me want to take better care of myself so that I can take better care of my family.   And if I can rock a bikini as well as her, I will gladly accept that as a bonus!