Slice of life

Health & Fitness summer update

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Yes, yes, I know. Long time no blog. It’s true that I haven’t spent as much time on my blog as I should have in the last few months, and the same can be said about my knitting needles that have been collecting dust for a little while. While I did sew a few bags in a variety of models and did work on my living room curtains, I must say that crafting (and blogging!) has been on the back burner for a little while, and there is a very good reason for that.

Since January, I have started a weight loss journey that has been keeping me very, very busy every day. I have always been on the bigger side, but last winter I hit a point where my weight and my fitness level (or the lack thereof) were becoming a problem in my every day life, and I wanted to do something about it. So today’s blog is not going to be about pretty yarn, fabric or anything remotely crafty, but about me and my relationship with my body.

Let’s start with true hard facts: not only was I overweight with a BMI of over 30, but I was also dangerously unfit. I’d get out of breath after climbing one small flight of stairs, and I was so sedentary that I started to develop sleep problems as well as various pains in my back, hips & knees. I would start panting after only 30 seconds of running.

Now that that’s done and out of the way, let’s talk about what I’ve been doing since then.

As there is no magic solution to weight loss, I focused my efforts on the two basic fronts : food and exercise.

On the “food” front:

  • I started calculating my calorie intake using an app on my phone to set a target and keep track of my progress. For those interested, I’m using MyFitnessPal. What I like about this app is that most foods you can find at the grocery are already in the database and can simply be scanned and added for convenience, but what I also like is the option to enter all my homemade recipes & easily calculate the calories and macros per serving. I also like that you can customize your macro proportions, and set other personalized goals.
  • As for macros, while most people get 40% to 60% of their energy from carbs, the sweet spot for me seems to be more around 30% to 35%, consequently I upped my protein & fat intake to about 20% & 50% respectively. Those proportions don’t follow any specific diet like Atkins, keto or whatever but after much trial and error, it seems to be the perfect balance where I FEEL great (no sugar craving, more constant level of energy, etc.) with minimal effort/changes to my regular diet or daily life. Since I’m vegetarian, going full out keto would be a more drastic challenge (although I’m sure it can be done!) but it was just too much work for me, so I simply cut out breads, rice, pasta and processed sugar and started opting for naturally low in sugar fruits & veggies.
  • I also cook more, and pre-portion my food. I eat out less, and make lunches for myself every day. I also make it a point to eat as much veggies as I possibly can, and try to sneak them into anything I make. Food has suddenly become more colorful and more fun!

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On the “exercise” front:

  • As a naturally muscular person, I don’t really need too much weight training but I DO do some basic exercises like squats, push ups, crunches and things like that whenever I feel like it. More than anything though, cardio is what I need to work on, so…
  • From January to May I used the treadmill almost every day, trying to build my cardio back from square one.
  • From June to now, I’ve been walking and/or running at least 5k every day. Although at first I couldn’t run much more that 1-2k without stopping, I still signed up to a series of six 5k races downtown and showed up at every single one, now matter how hot & muggy it got. Although I still need to stop & walk sometimes, I was able to cut down my time from 37 to 33.5 minutes since June, and I am so excited about it!

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(big shoutout to Hélène Bassaraba for the awesome pictures)

  • I also recently got a fitbit, and try to be on my feet more throughout the day, too, not just going for a walk or run. I also try to incorporate other activities in my routine, and sometimes do yoga or play tennis with my cousin.

And that brings us to NOW, and the results I’ve seen. I am now 36 pounds lighter than I was on January 1st, and I now have a BMI below 25. I have gained muscle, lost fat and improved my cardio to the level of an average woman my age.

There’s obviously still a long way to go, but I am so proud of myself you guys!!

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Never been so happy to be jet lagged!

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Guys, I’m excited to tell you that I just came back from a wonderful, exciting and very fulfilling two week trip to Japan! I still can’t believe it! I had been dreaming of this trip for YEARS, and it finally happened!

Although the plane trip there and back was dreadful and plagued with multiple problems and delays, this trip was worth each and every second of it, and more.

First, I briefly visited Fukuoka then headed to Hiroshima and Miyajima Island, then spent three nights in Kansai where I explored Kyoto and Osaka, followed by quick two days in Hakone taking full advantage of then onsen and mountains and finally headed to Tokyo for a packed week, including the spending some time at the Sanja Matsuri.

I cannot even begin to tell you guys how amazing this trip really was, but what made it even more special is actually all the wonderful people I met along the way. Here’s a quick shout out to my two penpals, Eriko and Misa, who were kind enough to dedicate some of their time to show me around their area and put up with my terribly limited japanese! And also to other fellow travellers I was lucky enough to spend some time with (Bernard, Isabel, Phaedra, Ben, Joana, Steve – I will remember all of you, let’s definitely meet again somewhere!), and lasty to all the kind hearted japanese people that I met on the way, and who decided to reach out to me (ゆこさん, あまのさん, くまちゃんとみんな!本当にありがとうございました!).

I was even lucky enough to run into my very favorite YouTuber, a kind soul and wonderful human being called Norm, who’s the heart and soul behind the Tokyo Lens channel (if you don’t know him, definitely check it out!)

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Of course, I have MANY fiber related things to share in regards of this trip but this post is already long enough, so I’ll save that for another time.

And guys, I still have so much more to share with all of you so stay tuned because I have some very exciting projects coming up that I think (and hope!) you’ll be interested in.

Where has summer gone?

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Anyone else here feels like June was just yesterday? I swear, I really feel like summer just barely started, but it’s already the end of August, how exactly did that happen? Where was I? Where did summer go? I know, I know – it’s not technically over yet – the end of August and September usually bring some of the best summer has to offer, just before it all goes out with a bang in the fall, when the leaves change in October. And I know that I still have a lot of fun stuff coming in the next few weeks, but somehow I still feel lovelorn – summer felt so short, I want to start it all over again and rekindle the romance.

Oh well… at least, we had some good times. Less than a month ago, Honeybee and I spent a week with his family in Ohio, and we were fortunate enough to have some quality time with his parents, since Mom-in-law was on vacation. We took advantage of the great weather and planned all sorts of activities. We spent a day at Put-in-Bay, on Lake Eerie, also visited the beautiful Shedel Gardens in Elmore, OH, went antiquing and yarn shopping and so much more!

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Although it’s been fun, I guess I haven’t been making much progress when it comes to knitting, sewing and such but I guess I have made a few bags, started an afghan and a baby blanket. I’m not quite ready to share those yet since but I should have something craft related to share with you next time, I promise! 🙂

Thanks you all folks, and I’ll talk you again soon!

A Crafter’s Guilt (And the Superwoman Syndrome)

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I am in pain. I have been in pain for the last few days, just a severe, agonizing sharp pain in my neck and shoulders. No idea where it came from, it’s just there. Is it a strain because of the long drive during vacation? Or did I pull a muscle? Maybe I pinched a nerve? Or was it a wrong move I made? Whatever it may be, I just couldn’t work on  anything in the past few days, so no spinning, no knitting, no nothing. Ok, maybe I did (a little). But no real progress here for sure. I couldn’t even finish the Tour de Fleece!

So today, since I don’t have anything craft-related to share with you guys, I will be talking about a very different topic; something I find a little bit more important and certainly a lot more personal : the overpowering, omnipresent, socially-created “Superwoman Syndrome”. We all know that in today’s lifestyle, a lot of women feel pressured to perform and achieve in a lot of different aspects of their lives. To name only a few, they feel like they have to be career-driven and professionally successful, need to workout and take care of themselves, they are expected to keep their house clean, get married, be good home makers as well as a perfect mom, they should have healthy and creative hobbies, they have to volunteer and get involved in their community, etc.

What the “Superwoman” does is to set herself (and the people around her) standards that are unnaturally high, standards that are way beyond reach or reason. And then, they tend to strain themselves compulsively toward these impossible goals. Inevitably, at the end of the road, when they realize they simply can’t achieve all those goals to perfection, they break down, cry and feel guilty, worthless and sorry about themselves.

It is a feeling that is very hard to fight or to ward off; I know it because I am sometimes guilty of it myself. See, “guilty”. That word again. Just like we weren’t allowed to show any weaknesses.Truth is, life is not perfect. And we should not expect ourselves to be either. But in our results-oriented society, we have learned to measure our self-worth entirely in terms of productivity and tangible accomplishments.

As I explained earlier, I have been totally floored by very intense neck pains in the past few days.  I knew I just had to rest and wait it off, but I felt so guilty not to be working on anything! – My apartment is getting messier and messier by the minute, and I’m not making progress on any of my WIPs! And if I don’t work on anything, I would be a worthless crafter, right? And I wouldn’t have anything to share on my blog, what an excuse of a blogger would I be? And that is when it struck me… I’m in pain because I’m stressed out. Why am I stressed out, I wonder? Maybe I’m stressed out about work, or maybe it’s my messy apartment. But I can’t be stressed out about fiber arts… right? That’s my hobby, that’s what I do to relax. Crafting, blogging, I do all those things as a hobby, so why would I care if I’m productive or not? But you know what? Even without noticing it, in today’s society, we are pressured to “have fun”. We are expected to use our free time “efficiently” and to “have a good time”. In other words, I’m putting pressure on myself to be productive in everything I tackle – be it work, housekeeping, hobbies, or anything else. And in my eyes, everything has to be done perfectly, and in a timely manner How ridiculous is that?

So today, to fight off all this unhealthy pressure that’s been piling up on me and to share something more meaningful with all of you, I decided to not blog about crafts. I’m blogging about myself, and I’m going to say what I want to say.

I am me. I’m not perfect. I am enthusiastic in everything I do, but everything certainly isn’t perfect, or productive. Sometimes I fail, and sometimes I’m tired, and sometimes I just need time for myself to relax and unwind. And it’s OK.

To machine wash or not to machine wash, that is the question

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Hey folks!

I hope you all had a good time over the Easter weekend, I had a MARVELOUS time in Cape Cod with my Honeybee. Since it’s only April, we could barely take our coats off, let alone swim in the ocean; but even if we couldn’t swim, we saw beautiful landscapes, cute and quaint little villages and we could walk barefoot in the sand. Isn’t bliss? If you’re interested to see the pictures, just click on the the one just below, and you’ll be redirected to the album.

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On our way back, we got stuck in traffic in Boston for 2 hours because of a accident that left a semi-truck in flames on the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge. I can tell you we didn’t expect that. Although it was very unfortunate, it also allowed me to put the last stitches on the sweater I couldn’t finish before we left for Cape Cod, so it made the whole process a lot more bearable 🙂

After washing it, the sweater is a perfect fit and it is SO VERY COMFORTABLE. I’m so proud!!! There are a few oopsies here and there and I’m not super satisfied with the neckline, but for a first try (and without a pattern!) I think I really came up with something good. I must say, I’m also very happy that the sweater made it fine through the washer and dryer cycle. Oh I can hear you scream from here… YES, I did put my hand knit sweater in the washer and dryer. “Why”, you say? Because… well… I’m lazy. All my clothes (and I’m weighing my words here) ALL my clothes go washer and dryer. And I know that if I make an exception and buy (or knit, or sew) a sweater that needs to be hand washed, I simply won’t wear it.

So because I know that, and because I really want to wear the things I make, I simply choose my yarn and test swatch knowing it’ll go in the washer and dryer. And it works! Look at that!

http://www.ravelry.com/projects/saphirsteph/my-first-sweater-ever
http://www.ravelry.com/projects/saphirsteph/my-first-sweater-ever