Hooky Day

Every once in a while, you need to step back and take a day to get out of your routine and reset.  You need to put all of your obligations and everyone’s expectations of you aside and do something for yourself.  

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This week, it was Hudson who needed that break.  Between his Mom being away for a week and me keeping him up way past bedtime for a showing of Infinity Wars, he woke up absolutely zonked and feeling emotional and anxious one morning.  

I am fortunate enough to work for an employer that offers a nice little benefit called an “emergency” day.  It’s there for just such occasions when you need to drop everything and handle something personally.  It’s perfect for the unexpected moments that life throws at you.  I tapped into one of these days to give Hudson a day of full attention and flexibility.

We went back to sleep.  We made a great breakfast.  We walked our dog, well, he walked our dog while I trailed behind them.  We played at our local park.  And we made a delicious lunch together.     

After lunch, we decided to head over to High Park in Toronto to see if the Cherry Trees were blossoming yet.  Oddly, as we were leaving, he commented that we would be about 3 hours.  I didn’t think much about it at the time, but he was right, almost to the minute.   

We brought along our cameras to capture some of our day:

Susie is the Featured Athlete at Strive Life

For the 11 years that I've known my wife, she has always been a gym rat.  Unlike people that have a hard time getting off the couch, she jumps out of bed at the crack of dawn to make a morning class.  Or she squeezes in a workout at lunchtime.  Or she will sacrifice her evening to make sure that she gets a good sweat on.  

I've watched the evolution of her gym habits, including various memberships, spin classes, boxing routines, park boot camps, and exercise-based travel destinations.  

Now, her success and results are showcased on www.strivelife.ca with a before and after picture as a testament to how great the team at Strive is at helping their clients to overcome plateaus and drive better results through better form and high-intensity activity.

I've had the pleasure of attending a few of their classes myself and can report that I have not only never worked harder in a fitness class, but that I have never wanted to work harder.  The instructors are fantastic motivators, but it's the system they use that prepares you for success as an athlete.

Unlike most workout classes, where you warm-up, work-out, and cool down, Strive adds a step after the warm-up that makes a world of difference.  They call it the Body Primer.  Think of it as a validation of your form for each exercise before doing it with added weight or difficulty.  By adding in this extra step, you can very quickly progress in your skill and efficiency in doing each style of activity.

Susie has become markedly better at her form in all activities because of her time at Strive.  I am incredibly proud of her accomplishments.  
 

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She is now at 313 consecutive days of achieving her activity goal measured on an Apple Watch.   If you haven't seen her 100 Day progress video, you can check it out here.

She did it for 100 straight days!

Susie tracks her progress every single day using the Apple Watch activity app, and completing the “Active Calories” ring as a benchmark for success each day.

She noticed that, on days that she was paying attention and motivated, she would close the ring, but on days that she didn’t watch it, she could be well under.

As someone who goes to up to three different gyms on a given week, anyone that knows her will tell you that she is a very active person.

I was fascinated seeing the shift in her being motivated to hit that goal each day.  At first, she would try to hit it on random individual days.  Then, she would hit small streaks and remark: “Can you believe I’ve hit this goal every day for a week?”

Then, in June of this year, there was a twist. After a missed day, she decided to hit that active calories goal every day ... for 100 days, no matter what.  It seemed like an achievable goal, but it would require focus.

On gym days, she would be most of the way there, but on the few days per week that she wasn’t scheduled for a big boost of activity, what then?

She challenged herself to hit the Apple Watch Active Calorie goal of 600 calories every day.  I, in turn, challenged her to make a quick vlog-style entry each day to tell the story and capture the experience.  This video is the result of her work:

I am so incredibly proud of her for setting and achieving this goal.  When you consider that it takes time to form a habit, you can really see her hit her stride around day 82 in the video.  

I am inspired. 

Since Susie started this project, I have been working out more, walking more, and generally more active.  I just looked at my Apple Watch history and I've hit the last 6 consecutive days, so I've bumped my target up as well.  

Surviving on Goldfish...

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Recently, everything I put in front of Cru to eat, he pushes away, except for "Fishy Crackers". I've always been somewhat of a picky eater, so maybe he gets it from me.  Like some days, I'll pour him a bowl of homemade chicken and dumpling soup and he'll scarf down the whole thing. Other days, same exact soup and he will look at me like I'm a crazy person, who's trying to poison him.  Actually, getting him to eat food I make from scratch is probably one of the most satisfying things as a parent.  Seeing him gobble down a meal, really puts a smile on my face. I say to Eva "look at him, he likes it". I feel like one of those cooks on Chopped, and Cru's Geoffrey Zakarian.  I'm constantly being judged.  I could put a beautiful meal in front of him and he either loves it or tosses it. 

When we first started giving Cru solid foods, like potatoes or chicken, I would give him some sort of sauce to dip it in. I would say "dip dip" and make the action of dipping the food in the sauce. I just figured I like sauce, he's gotta like it too. Originally, we gave him a little ketchup with some homemade fries. He hated it. I put a little bbq sauce in front of him. He loved it. For the next couple months, everything had to be dipped in bbq sauce. Bullseye Bold, to be precise.  From there we went to mustard. I'm talking everything had to have mustard on it. We're dipping chicken, cheese, crackers, veggies etc...  Then, up until yesterday, tzatziki was his dip of choice.  I'm actually making it from scratch now because most of those ingredients we normally have in our fridge at all times. Plus, it's super easy.  So guess what sauce we're back to now.  You got it. Good Ol' Bullseye Bold. Dipping cucumbers last night with our dinner. 

Eva and I have a few go to's that no matter what, Cru will eat. Chicken souvlaki, bacon, and beef. Any kind of beef.  Everything else on the plate, he really has very little interest in. Ok, we have a meat eater.  The two of us should have known that was coming. All Eva craved while she was pregnant was meat. 

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One meal we make pretty regularly for Cru is pasta with a meat sauce. The noodles are always a hit or miss. I've tried truck and animal shaped noodles, but at the end of the day, they always look way better before you boil them and of course, that's when he wants to eat them.  Big old freak out because I won't let him eat an uncooked hard noodle. Before Cru was born, I would make a pretty chunky sauce. Big chunks of mushrooms, onions, peppers, and tomatoes. That's how we had it growing up, that's what I'm used to. Not anymore. I still put all that stuff in there, but I blend it so he doesn't know its in there. lol. I'm sure everyone knows what I'm talking about. I remember the first time I tried blending. I said to Eva. "you see what I did, blended all the veggies" like I was the first person who ever thought of that. Apparently, she's been doing it too.

Some days I look back and think "what did he eat today?" 3 bites of pancakes for breakfast, no lunch, 200 goldfish crackers, a liter of watered down apple juice and half an ounce of chicken for dinner.   And today, 10 Doritos. Not even enough for a bird to survive. I was telling our neighbor Helen who also has a toddler, how Cru really is not eating much. Her response: "Let him live his life."
 

Co-Sleeping - I'm never doing it!

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As long as I can remember I've talked shit about people who bring their kids to bed with them. It just didn't make sense to me. I thought it was weird. Why would you want to do that? Cru was great at sleeping in his bed. Every night 8-10 hrs. I kept thinking there's no way we're bringing this kid in our bed. 

So, fast forward to when Cru is 17 months old, and I find myself in North Bay visiting my mom for a 3-night stay. My wife is not with us; she's away working out of town. The four hr trip with just one parent is another story/nightmare altogether. I kept our bed time routine the same. Bath, story, cuddle, bed. I even had our owl nightlight with the white noise. 11 pm Cru wakes up crying. I rock him, put him back down, still not sleeping. I try that like five more times. Fuck it; I'm tired. I lay him beside me in the bed; he stops crying, we both fall asleep. Its official, I'm one of those people that sleep with their kids. The next morning I wake up to Cru playing with my face. Over breakfast I tell my mom. "guess who slept with me last night" she just shakes her head. She says "let him cry; he'll be fine." I didn't listen to my mom at 10; I'm not starting now at 38. Something about my little guy crying that makes me want to go in and save the day. Plus I'm lazy. So the next two nights are the same. Cru wakes up around 11 pm. I bring him in with me, and we both have a great sleep. And you know what? I'm gonna say it ... I liked it. Something about having my little buddy cuddled up to me felt good. His warm little body, his little heart beat, his little snores. I found myself playing with his hair and kissing his neck and arms.  

On the 4 hour ride home between Cru's naps, and the latest Splash and Boots album, I think I'll have to tell Eva that we slept together. Oh, No! She's going to be pissed. But forget that "Why all of a sudden was he getting up in the middle of the night?" and "Was the three nights we slept together gonna screw up the routine at home?". 

This is what I've come up with: The room at my mom's place is super dark, and cold, and kinda scary if you are 1 and a half years old. Plus, it's filled with toys. Of course, he's not gonna sleep. Who could sleep knowing all these awesome trucks and motorcycles and dinky cars are just feet from your bed? 

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I tell Eva. Her reaction; "Why did you start that?  Now he's never gonna sleep on his own." She took it pretty well though. That night, I bring him into our bed after we tried for an hour to get him to sleep. I put him in the middle of us and close my eyes. For the next five mins, I hear kissing noises. Eva's kissing Cru and loving him up. This, coming from the women that said: "Now he's never gonna sleep on his own." At some point I say to her, stop kissing on him so we can get some rest. 

It's been 30 days of Cru sleeping with us in our bed. 30 days of me telling Eva to stop kissing on Cruzy. I'm not sure who likes it more. Eva or Cru. I'm trying to convince Eva to get Cru out of the crib and into a big boy bed. I figure at least if he gets up in the middle of the night, one of us could lay with him in a twin bed, and when he falls asleep, we could sneak out. Eva-instant tears. She's obviously not ready for him out of the crib or is it out of our bed. 

Too much confidence, Too little skill

Hudson getting a cast for his broken arm at the Hospital for Sick Kids in Toronto.  August 26, 2017

Hudson getting a cast for his broken arm at the Hospital for Sick Kids in Toronto.  August 26, 2017

When I was 13, I almost drowned in a wave pool in Montreal.  Not once, not twice, but three times in the same afternoon.  We were there as part of a SEVEC student exchange where I was welcomed into a home in Trois Rivieres, QC for two weeks and then my host was welcomed to my childhood home back in North Bay for two weeks.

Every day, we would go on some adventure with the entire group where we would need to help each other to communicate and grow as people.  On this particular day, our outing was to LaRonde theme park in Montreal.  

I was intrigued by the wave pool.  Nobody else from our group was interested, but I wanted to spend the afternoon coasting around in the waves.  Almost right away, the waves started, and I was having the time of my life. But I found that the pounding waves were a little too much for me.  Lucky for me, there was a lifeguard nearby who was able to throw me a lifesaving buoy.  I would guess that she was about 16 years old and she was absolutely beautiful.  She rescued me, and she pulled me along to the shallow end of the pool where she made sure I was OK before heading back to her lifeguard duty.

I remember the feeling of being overwhelmed by the waves very clearly.  It was terrifying, and while I first I tried to find it my body simply gave up, and I went weak like a dummy.  If the lifeguard hadn't been there, I'm sure I would've drowned.  You think that would be the end of the story, but it's not.  As soon as I felt strong enough I headed straight back out into that wave pool and, of course, I was again completely overwhelmed by the waves.  Lucky for me, the same lifeguard spotted me right away and saved me again.  We laughed, and I was embarrassed but OK.  Sure enough not a few minutes later I find myself waiting out into the wave pool for the third time. By now, my hero lifeguard had moved on to help someone else who was having a hard time in the pool.  This time, as the waves overwhelmed me, I was on my own.  I went under, and I remember thinking this is it.  This is how I die.  

I went completely under, and I lost track of which direction was up.  Then, as I'd given up hope and resolved that this was the end, I felt hands reach under my arms and pull me up to the surface and drag me to the shallow end.  I laughed again and thanked her for the third time, but she turned to me and said: "maybe you should go and play somewhere else for a while. The wave pool is not your friend today".

This wouldn't be the last time that I would get myself in over my head.  When I first learned how to snowboard, I was too impatient to wait for the lesson that came with my package in the afternoon.  I figured how hard can it be and I strapped on the board and headed for the top of the hill.  On my first run, I fell so hard that I'm pretty sure I dislocated my elbow.  I was in so much pain that I thought my day snowboarding would be over.  Then the lesson started a few hours later, and I decided to participate so I could learn where I had gone wrong.  I was tentative because of my tender arm, but in five minutes I discovered where I had gone wrong.  The quick tips and tricks that the instructor gave us for snowboarding were all I would've needed to hear at the beginning of the day to prevent injury and have a great day overall.  

It never occurred to me that my tendency to be over confident in my abilities before developing the necessary skill sets would be something I could pass along to my son.  Until, that is, this week when he broke his arm playing on the monkey bars.

He had been practising monkey bars for the entire summer, and he's falling off more times than I can count.  I was never particularly worried because the base underneath the monkey bars at his favourite park is a thick, soft sand.  On that fateful day, I watched him traverse the monkey bars back-and-forth twenty bars each way at least half a dozen times.  Then, I watched him do something that another child had done the day before.  He reached out instead of grabbing the next bar in the row and tried to skip a bar and go two at a time.  Between overextending himself and the change in how your body bounces when reaching that far he was able to catch the bar but not hold on.  I watched helplessly as his entire body weight swung through and he lost his balance and went tumbling towards the ground.

He landed directly on his right hand snapping his elbow back further than it's meant to.  Immediately, I jumped the fence and ran in to where he had collapsed and was now writhing in agony and grasping his arm.

After a visit to the hospital, he now has a cast.  He's not really in pain because the cast stabilizes his arm in a comfortable position.  Next week, we will be back at the orthopaedic clinic at the Hospital for Sick Kids where he will get a more permanent version of the cast.  He will be 'the kid with the cast' for the first week of school next week, and I'm sure he'll love all of the attention.

I've managed to go my entire life without learning that I need to beef up my skills before trying something new and I've hurt myself or nearly killed myself sometimes.  At this point, I'm torn between whether I should be guiding Hudson not to try things because he might get hurt and encouraging him to be like me and sometimes leap before you look.  For now, monkey bars season is over and so is scooter season and the season for playing around and not paying attention.  

Hudson will be forced to be careful to protect his arm until well into the school year.  

Healthy Eating for Weight Loss

Over the years I have spent a lot of time learning about what is takes to manage one's weight.

As an adult, I have ranged between 200lbs and 265lbs back and forth.  Since I am a 6'3" man I can carry some extra weight and still feel pretty good about myself.  I find that I'm pretty happy around 220lbs.  Any smaller and I feel like I get tossed around a bit playing basketball and any heavier and I find myself a bit sluggish.

I've often looked at the BMI chart used by health professionals with a big grain of salt because it doesn't seem to make sense to me.  The BMI range to be considered "Normal Weight" is from 18.5 to 24.9.  That means that the normal weight range for a guy my height should be from 148lbs to 199lbs.  Can you imagine a guy that is 6'3" weighing only 148lbs?  I can't even picture it.

First of all, I should be clear that I never make changes to my activity level when gaining or losing weight so that variable doesn't come into play as I outline my thoughts below.

I'm not saying that there isn't a component to a healthy lifestyle that involves being active, I'm simply stating that in my experience managing my weight, I haven't used any methods that involve increased activity.  I don't believe in exercise as part of weight control because it doesn't work as a temporary fix. If you work out to lose weight, then stop working out, you put weight back on ... No real surprise to me, but a lot of people don't seem to get it.

I have a semi regular routine that includes a mix of basketball, running, yoga, cycling, spinning, walking, and various occasional seasonal sports like snowboarding and golf.  I've never been a gym rat and don't enjoy "working out" in a traditional way.

I control weight by managing food intake compared to the required output to run my body.

Using the new and awesome wolframalpha I was able to calculate my Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)

Choosing a conservative activity level to match your BMR, you can tell approximately how many calories your body needs every day.

Since we know that you need to short your body 3,500 calories to lose a pound of true fat weight, it's easy to calculate the shortage that you need to create every day to achieve a goal.

For example, based on my activity level, I need about 3,000 calories each day (i.e. 21,000 calories per week) to maintain my weight where it is today.  If I want to lose 2lbs of fat weight per week I need to short my week by 7,000 calories (i.e. 1,000 calories per day), which means that I need to consume no more than 2,000 calories per day

The important part is to be realistic in setting that goal.  I can definitely live on 2,000 calories per day and still get the recommended daily intake for all of the usual nutrients.

This is where it becomes easier for a man to lose weight than a woman. The above is relatively easy for me because my body needs a pretty high base line number of calories. Comparing that to an average woman of around the same age and same activity level you will find that to achieve the same results you need to short a starting point of 2,000 calories per day to down around 1,000 calories per day.  That is not a lot of energy to play with.

From my observations, women tend to eat fairly well (i.e. Always "on a diet" in the first place) and usually have a pretty solid gym/activity schedule.  The trick for women is to maintain the gym/activity schedule that their body is already used to and create a calorie deficit beyond what their diet routine normally looks like.  This is hard to do because a calorie deficit will alway leave you feeling tired, run-down, unmotivated, and down-right cranky.

Every diet is some kind of gimmick that helps you to manage this process. It doesn't really matter which diet you choose, just be aware of what you are eating and keep track.

When I reached my peak weight of 265 I asked my doctor which diet would be the best for me, based on my medical history. Her answer "Nathan, don't eat so f@&ing much".  I never forgot that advice and I know when I'm eating too much without even having to keep track.

There are a few guidelines that will hold true across a lot of diet plans. If you've ever struggled with weight or read anything about dieting, none of these will surprise you, but it might be useful to have it framed a bit differently.

Nathan's Rules for Weight Management:

  1. Know the daily calorie shortage you need to create to lose weight at an appropriate rate and be realistic with your plan.
  2. Write it down.  Keep track of what you eat in a manner that makes sense for you. Some people need the discipline of a regimented program such as Weight Watchers which takes all foods and breaks them down to a "points" value to keep track. I set up an anonymous Twitter account and tweet every meal and review each day to ensure that I am on track to plan.
  3. Eat protein at least two meals per day. If you are a gym rat consider protein essential three times a day. Protein doesn't have to be a big steak either ... Any complete proteins will do. Just keep portions to a reasonable size of 3-5 oz per serving. This is often described as the size of your hand, excluding the fingers. And, of course, choose the lean alternative whenever possible.
  4. Eat fruit.  Have a serving of frest fruit every day. I try to stick to the common fruits that have the added benefit of some fibre, such as apples, pears, oranges, grapefruits and strawberries.
  5. Eat your vegetables, and lots of them. The great thing about vegetables is that most diets either allow you great big portions or don't limit them at all. When I'm in weight loss mode I try to eat 2/3 of every plate as vegetables. Also, stick to the more dark green and leafy vegetables as often as you can.  (i.e. Spinach, broccoli, kale, etc).  The best test for me when I feel hungry is to ask myself if I want some vegetables. If the answer is yes, go ahead, if the answer is no, then it's more of a craving than real hunger.
  6. Dont avoid carbohydrates, but choose whole grains and whole wheats over white carbs.  You want to manage your blood sugar at a nice steady level instead of creating peaks and valleys throughout the day so try to make your carbohrdrate choices a little more difficult for your body to digest.
  7. No Booze.  This isn't realistic for many of us, but at least pay extra close attention to any liquid calories. It's easy to knock back a days worth of calories sitting on a patio in the warm spring air without even noticing it. Drink water as often as possible.  A lot of diets tell you to also avoid caffeine because it tends to increase appetite, but I've never cut it or noticed an issue.
  8. Take a multivitamin every day. While you are likely getting everything you need by focusing on the proteins, fruits, vegetables, and carbohydrates as listed above, it never hurts to have a little insurance to make sure there are no deficits.
  9. Consistency. if you know you need routine to be successful, then plan your days and weeks around a specific rotation (i.e. Same meals on every Monday, Tuesday, etc).
  10. Avoid circumstances that you cannot control. Going out on a business lunch is always difficult because you have no idea how the food is prepared.  This might mean that you have to take a little break from your social calendar if you have a very active group like my friends.
  11. Avoid fat. Minimize the fats that you use as toppings or in the cooking process. You can get great results with steaming and grilling. There's usually no reason to add fat to a meal, but we do it anyway out of a matter of habit.
  12. Spice it up.  Keep a full stock of your favourite spices and be creative. I like to take weight loss periods as times to experiment with other cultures and preparation styles. Of course, I love to cook in the first place.
  13. Weigh yourself every day, but be aware that your body will change weight with big fluctuations on a day to day basis. Water retention or shedding accounts for wide swings, as do hormones and your body's reaction to food that tends to be more difficult to digest than the usual crappy North American diet. I like to chart progress over time and create a line of best fit to see how many more days it should take to achieve my goal.

Maintenance after achieving your goal is another post, but the gist is that I try to follow the above rules for most of my meals, but then do whatever I want for one meal each day.   That way I never feel like I'm sacrificing anything, but still eat healthy most of the time.