CN: Diet and Weight and Exercise / Coronavirus

I’m hearing from a lot of people, including many of my students who did personal history projects on how coronavirus has been affecting them, that they’re getting a lot less activity than they’re used to, and as a result are feeling physically and mentally not great.

Several of them noted gaining weight, and while I don’t want to put too much emphasis on weight specifically, I do think it’s worth thinking and talking about the mental health aspects of sudden body changes. It can be hard, in a time that’s already hard. And of course, that weight gain isn’t a gain in muscle mass — my students’ and friends’ bodies are getting generally less fit, less toned, less physically capable than they were six weeks ago. It’s stressful.

Kevin and I have both gained a few pounds since shelter-in-place, just because our days don’t have the kind of physical activity that used to be built into commuting to campus, running errands, etc. I used to hit 10 – 15K steps daily, without any additional effort, and according to my Fitbit, most days now are more like 2-4K. That’s a massive decrease in activity, and it’s not surprising that my body is reacting to it.

(We’ve generally been making the kids exercise twice a day, and I think it has a huge positive effect on their moods.)

The thing is, I think we’re in this for the long haul. I know that’s stressful and depressing to think about, and maybe some people will be able to go back to work soon (and of course, essential workers are already working).

But Kevin and I are in agreement that even if the state lifts restrictions, we’re going to try to physically distance our family for quite a while to come. Maybe three months, maybe six months, maybe a year, depending on how fast a vaccine is developed, and how much we flatten the curve. (Gah. I know. It sucks. I miss people.)

Distancing as much as possible just feels like the socially responsible thing to do, since we have work-from-home jobs at the moment, and possibly into the fall. My family has the luxury of being able to socially distance, and by doing so, we lower the rate of transmission. So to the extent that we can stand it, our family is going to be distancing probably quite a bit more than is required by the government. (This is also why I’m making a serious effort to get better at video conferencing, podcasting, etc., but that’s another post.)

The thing is, if we gain five pounds a month for the next year, we’re both going to be in serious trouble in a year. It’s not sustainable, so we’re committing to taking our physical fitness seriously.

I am no kind of fitness guru (hm, now I kind of want to interview fitness folks for the Serendib Home podcast, if that’s you, drop me a note?), but I do think about fitness and health a fair bit. And since I’m not teaching this summer, I have the leisure to be a little more organized about fitness.

So I’m doing a 100 Days of activity challenge in my fitness FB group (all are welcome), and I’ll be posting there, just logging it for accountability. Please feel free to join in; we’re starting today.

I’m going to try to vary my activity a LOT, in part so I can reflect possibilities that some of you may not have thought of, in part because I get bored. But I’m planning to have a few regular components:

– building up to being able to run for real (I’ll be using the “Zombies, Run!” app, starting again from the beginning, because it’s been so long)

– lifting weights (to build muscle, so I can do more, and because I find the tracking of it to be really motivating, watching the numbers creep up)

– possibly swimming, if I can get our Intex pool set up in the backyard and a weight belt to let me do laps in place

– gardening. 

I want to be clear that I’m supportive of all kinds of activity — this isn’t a competition. If increased activity for you means taking a ten-minute walk around the block, great. The goal is simply to add a little activity into your day. That’s it.

I will be taking some photos and measurements of myself for accountability, aiming for once / week on Wednesday, and will post those in the fitness group too. I know some people find that kind of thing triggering, which is why I’m segregating everything like that into the fitness group. Please don’t feel obliged to do anything of the sort yourself — it helps me, but it hurts some people. Do what makes you feel better, and please take care of yourself.

I suppose that’s the theme for this whole post — I’m trying to take better care of myself, and I hope this might help others do the same.

Stronger together.

Paying Attention to What Actually Makes Me Feel Better

Sometimes I wake up tired and cranky, and I’m trying to pay attention to what actually makes me feel better. Lying in bed and playing a video game (Polytopia is my default these days) for 30 minutes kills time, but doesn’t actually make me feel better. It’s numbing and distracting, which is better than nothing?

But getting up and getting coffee and breakfast and taking my meds, starting to move and straightening the kitchen and sewing some masks (some of these are from last night, some this morning) — that makes me actually feel better.

Going to go for an exercise walk around the block now and then do some gardening and listen to Samin Nosrat’s “Home Cooking” podcast. I’m really loving her podcast, I think because I’m honestly a little lonely (I am at least part extrovert), and listening to it feels a little like I’m hanging out in her warm, generous kitchen.

This is the kind of podcast I’d like to host with Benjamin Rosenbaum. Speaking of which, more on that in a later post — watch for it.  And then the rest of the day is trying to get my grading finished and in (except for the few students who asked for extensions) — it’ll be a relief when that’s done. Another thing that will make me feel better!

Plus a 3 p.m. meeting with the Serendib Press team — we’re going to start working more actively again. Cooking videos and such. That will be good.

Better Late Than Never

I don’t like exercising late in the day, but better late than never — I wrapped up work enough that I could squeeze in 20 minutes on the treadmill before Dr. Who with Kev and the kids. 1 minute running 19 minutes walking, half of that at incline of 4, half of it flat. Felt good to do again, after months away.

I’ve had a lot of back pain recently when I spend hours sewing masks, and I’m hoping that with walking / running / weights / etc., I’ll be able to strengthen my back muscles enough that the pain will evaporate. That would be nice.

The Kind of Fabric Design I Aspire To

This is the kind of fabric design that I aspire to. So, so pretty — whomever ordered these masks clearly shares my tastes. I’ve set aside a little of these two fabrics because I want to try sewing myself summer tank tops from them.

It feels weird, not using every scrap of cotton for masks, but really, I have more than enough cotton fabric on hand — I can’t sew fast enough to use up the supply before more arrives (and I’ve ordered more). So really, it’s not horribly selfish, saving some of it for my own use.

Okay, I had to type all that out to convince myself, but I think I’m good now.

Packing for Mother’s Day

Spent the morning packing up and setting out Mother’s Day treat packages for shipment. It was a bit of a squeeze, getting them all done in time, and I had to enlist Kevin into cookie-dough making because I was running short on time and getting physically tired, but in the end, we made it. Whew.

I’m still taking orders on the Shopify site, but can no longer guarantee shipping by Mother’s Day. Locals, if you’d like a little potted lily-of-the-valley (traditional Mother’s Day flower) to go with your order, I’d be happy to include that. (I’m slowly digging mine up and replacing with native ground cover, so I have plenty to spare…)

Mask orders are open on the site too, but please note that I’m at LEAST 3 weeks out on sewing masks now. So only order if you are feeling very patient.

100 Days Challenge

cn: exercise

Okay, so tomorrow I’m starting a 100 Days challenge, which is basically just a concept, not any formal plan, that I will commit to doing some form of exercise (walking counts) daily, and will write the details down in my FB fitness group. You’re all welcome to join us — I think there’s about a dozen or so people who’ve said they plan to join in so far.


Today is Day 0: ‘pre-game’ prep. I put on a sports bra and clothes I can run in first thing, just in case the urge to exercise overcomes me. (For those in the DD and under range, I recommend the Moving Comfort sports bras, which can be hooked like a regular bra, instead of making you wrestle them over your head like a tentacled creature from the vasty deep.) I’m planning to do that for the next 100 days — since I don’t have to go into an office, there’s no real reason not to. I had ordered a cute pink hoodie for spring, and I’m wearing it now — it’s warm and comfortable and cheerful and I have no excuse for not going out for a walk this morning.

After work today is the real pre-game prep — I’m planning to set aside an hour or two to go through my exercise clothes and sort out what still fits, what doesn’t, what’s comfortable, what isn’t, what’s worn out, etc., and make a ‘capsule set’ that is prominent in my closet and is easy to grab every morning. Exercise clothes that are too small get put away for another day, ones I don’t want get donated, or if too worn, go to the rag bag. I also need to wash some of my sports bras.

Finally, I’m going to straighten up the path to the workout area in the basement, as there may be a fair bit of chaos in my way right now. 

Mother’s Day Medium Treat Box

Packing up the Mother’s Day treat boxes for shipping out tomorrow — this is the medium box. Kevin periodically asks me whether it’s actually worth the amount of time and effort I put into this, and so I feel like I should note for the record that strictly speaking, it isn’t. I have to run the numbers at some point, but I’m guessing I barely break even on doing these boxes. So why do them?

a) It means that when I’m doing recipe development, I can make back some of the costs of ingredients and time to try variations until I settle on a recipe I really like. It’s a shame I can only do that for items that I can ship — I can’t easily send out curries! The plan for Feast is that we’re going to release smaller cookbooks in future months, including one for sweets that I’m hoping to have ready by October or so, in time for holiday baking. So everyone who’s ordering these boxes, thanks — you’re helping me develop more and better recipes for that! (Which also means I can post the recipes, which feel like tiny gifts to the world in the midst of all this.)

b) it’s a nice break from the computer — especially now, during pandemic times, it’s really easy for me to spend most of the day sedentary. For the first month or so, I spent so much time on converting my classes to online versions, not to mention researching masks and mutual aid, that my poor Fitbit was shouting at me that I was only getting 2K steps a day or so. Just lots and lots of sitting. Baking is much more physical, and when I mix cooking and gardening into my day, I feel physically better at the end of it.

c) I just like sending out presents. I mean, I know people have paid for these items, but it still feels like sending out presents, you know? Here’s everything that’s going into a medium box this time around:

1 Lily-of-the-valley soap
1 Lily-of-the-valley bath salt
1 Lavender soap
1 Lavender bath salt
5 Spiced Chocolate cookies
5 Jaggery Chai Spice cookies
5 Lime and Rosewater Shortbread cookies
1 five-piece set of assorted chocolates, marshmallows, and cashew milk toffee
1 set of five postcards

Fun to wrap up, fun to ship out. I mean, if I were doing thousands of them, it would be less fun, but I’ve limited it to 10 boxes each, max, so that shouldn’t be a problem.

And as a bonus, sometimes people add on books — the box I just wrapped also took a copy of The Stars Change and a copy of Feast, the one I’m doing next wants a copy of Perennial. More people reading my books = yay! If they eat some lime shortbread while they’re reading them, even better. 

Please order by end of today if you want them shipped out in time for Mother’s Day! Here is the link: