Monday, September 30, 2013

Book Review of "The Heavy"

O.M.G. Look what I found! I started this months ago. Any time reference is from when I actually started writing this months ago. lol


I managed to fit in some reading a few weeks back and read The Heavy by Dara-Lynn Weiss.

Having seen some interviews with her on YouTube and having read articles and parts of her original article in Vogue, I wasn't sure what I was going to be reading: Was she going to be honest? Was she going to tone things down about how she interacted with her daughter and I wouldn't get a real picture of what she did? Would I be appalled or even angry at her approach? Would I even be able to finish the book or would I be as bothered as other people were (other people who, in many cases, hadn't even read the book and were throwing out their judgement)?

These concerns came from, not comments people made about her, but her own contradictions between how she presented things in the article to how things came across in the snippets from the book. Truthfully, I can't say how much she toned things down for the book, but given how nuts people went after the article came out in Vogue, I can't blame her if she did. So many people seem to use the (semi-)anonymous internet as a means to act very hurtfully. (I hope nothing I wrote previously was hurtful!)

But I digress. Back to the book.

We see around us on a daily basis the struggle adults have with their own weight, of trying to lose even just 5 or 10 pounds. It is no easy feat for many and to maintain the weight loss is even harder. Some don't succeed at all, despite trying many different things.

So, what do you do if it is your young child with the weight problem and needs to lose closer to 20 pounds over the course of a year to be a healthy weight? Or rather, how easy is it going to be to make the weight loss happen?

And that is what The Heavy is all about.

Dara-Lynn Weiss shares in this book how she dealt with her young daughter's weight problem, but also to my surprise so much more: How inconsistent society can be with their expectations and judgements, how a woman (her) with her own body image issues (and some somewhat-admitted neuroticism) finds herself struggling with helping her daughter get to a healthier weight, how schools determine what should be in cafeteria lunches, how a family deals with the situation of one child having to watch what she eats while the other doesn't need such attention and more. It is not a book telling people how to help their overweight child lose weight; in fact, she is quite honest and open at times about how she wondered if what she was doing was the right thing and feels she's in no place to actually guide someone else through the process. She feels her approach worked in the end but does not in any way suggest that all parents with overweight children ought to do the same. At the heart of it is the story of a real mother dealing with the real struggles of helping her overweight child attain a healthy weight and all the ups and downs that came with it.

It is so easy for many of us, especially those of us with kids who don't have weight problems, to "know" how to fix Weiss's problem. "You just do this, or that and it will work." Well, she thought she knew, too, and it didn't work. Weiss found herself faced with a 7-year old, food-loving child with weight that kept going up. The turning point happened when her daughter's blood pressure was officially high. A 7-year old with high blood pressure? I think any parent reading could relate to the fear that that could instill. Children aren't supposed to have high blood pressure. It's "supposed" to be a worry for us adults, not our kids. And that is when Weiss's, and her daughter's, journey began.

One important truth Weiss brings up in her book over and over, because it kept happening to her over and over, is how judged parents can be and just stuck no matter what they do. What she found consistently is if someone's child is overweight and they allow them to eat certain foods, they are just as judged when they put their foot down and don't allow the child to have "just one more cupcake" at a birthday party or things like that. "You're damned if you do and damned if you don't" was very much her experience time and time again. I can only imagine how frustrating it was for her, trying to do her best to help her daughter get to a healthy weight while getting looks for giving her calorie-reduced items (like diet pop or 100-calorie snack packs--approved on the nutritionist-designed plan) and turning around and being berated for not letting her daughter have extra dessert with far more calories. What we let our children eat or not eat seems to be more emotionally charged than many other parenting issues. (Anybody catch the reaction people were having to Gwyneth Paltrow writing about what her children don't eat? Yikes.)

Did her approach really work toward healthy eating? No. Absolutely not. But that's not what the book is about, so as much as I urgh over her approach--which she didn't even design--I liked the rest of the book too much to not declare it a book worth reading. The program she followed is all about calorie restriction and learning to figure out what you will eat at any given moment based on what you've eaten during the day and what you anticipate eating, kind of Weight Watchers-like. Part of me wants to find fault with this, especially in having an 8/9-year old girl (as her daughter is by the end of the book) master this, and yet, is that not what I do on a daily basis with my fruits and vegetables consumption? Or when I'm trying to watch my intake of grains? Or when I find I'm going crazy with sweets? I can not find fault with her on this without my being a bit hypocritical. Her daughter was able to eat and eat and eat, regardless of whether it was healthy or not; she did need to learn to curb that tendency and focusing on the calories definitely helped that.

Did Weiss's daughter have to go on a serious calorie focus to learn to eat just one cupcake now and then rather than two at every chance? No, probably not. Did her daughter's weight qualify to treat it as though she were a diabetic or food-allergic? No, I don't think so, but that's where some of the neuroticism comes in a bit. Could her daughter have done better with something else that focused more on healthy eating and less on being concerned with trying to get the extra weight off by an arbitrarily decided deadline and trying to make the daughter feel "normal"? Perhaps. But, I'm not Dara-Lynn Weiss, I don't have children who have ever had the love of food her daughter does, and I'm not living in a situation with an overweight young child who likes to (over)eat and where there are birthday parties at school almost every week where the amount of food consumption goes unchecked and pizza Fridays and so forth for her to engage in.

Could Weiss have done things differently? Yes. Might they have been better? Who knows? In the end, none of us is perfect, we don't know for sure what would have worked for this family and we have, really, no right to expect a mom to do the perfect thing or even to know what "the right" thing to do is all the time. Should she have continued to not do anything because of her neuroticism and just let her daughter's weight get even more out of control? "No, but she should/could have...," I can hear someone saying. No, no, no! Of course she could have done this, that or the other but to pretend there is one single way to help a child in this situation that we all should know about and we ought to be judged for not living up to that standard is completely unfair to everybody. She did the best she could with the knowledge she had. We can come up with ideas of what we would do or suggest to someone in that situation, but we really need to learn to back off and stop thinking our ideas are what others should do in such situations.

Many of us spend so much of our lives being aghast at the imperfection of people's emotions and choices and forget to look in the mirror sometime. Her story was a good one to remind me to not get on my high horse and look down upon her. Because, after all, she is just another mom like me: imperfect and doing the best she can with what she knows and can do with her kids. Really, can we ask more of her?

Could I write a post about all of my disagreements with her thinking and approach, with my concerns about how her daughter will turn out? Absolutely. But I can appreciate her story all the while disagreeing with her.

Read the book. You don't need to agree with her approach nor be unconcerned about her views at times. But the book is not about the approach. Read it because she's an imperfect parent daring to be open and imperfect in a time where we are so easily critical of imperfect parents (and people) and it's actually refreshing to see that someone else is imperfect, too.

Friday, September 27, 2013

96 Days Left in 2013!

This week has been so busy, it's hard to understand how there are still 96 days left to the year!

I am still plugging away at this. A couple of busy, and exhausting, days meant less done than I had hoped, but my mind is still really focused on accomplishing what I can, so I have definitely been getting things done--and avoiding such things as playing round after round of Candy Crush Saga.

If you are doing a challenge, or just want to hop on board, let me know! :)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

98 Days Left!

There are 98 days left now--what are you doing with your time?

I watched a couple of motivational little blurb vidoes which has helped keep my motivation high, even though crazy busy days. One comment I saw by someone had something about achieving his five major goals. I created my own list of five major goals and then a list of "other goals" (the name "minor goals" made them feel insignificant, which they're not, so I changed the name). The one thing that makes this challenge different for me is that I might not work on every goal each day, but I'm refreshing my memory about the goal each day and am making progress on things. If I can keep this up, I will reach January 1st and be amazed, I know it!

One of my goals is to have a complete set of gluten-free supper menus in place so my daughter can maintain even better her desire to stay wheat/gluten-free. I managed to make a gluten-free meatless supper Monday night (a vegan stir fry) and last night, as well, substituting a gluten-free flour mix for the flour called for in the vegan scalloped potatoes recipe I have previously shared. I am determined to have a good variety of gluten-free supper menus that my family will at least somewhat enjoy!

Another goal of mine is to write an e-book. It's kind of funny because I was thinking about it before I saw Jenae over at Bring Joy is also working on an e-book--gluten-free vegan family-friendly eating. ("Yesss!" shouts my gluten-free menu-searching mind!) Knowing she's doing one is somehow a push for me to move forward on my idea. (On switching to dairy-free living, for those curious. Things like the different whys of going dairy-free, the things to be careful of and look out for, my favourite products and some recipes.)

I have a bunch of other goals, which I should probably start attending to now--although, writing regularly in my blogs is one of them. :)

What goals have you set yourself to work on/achieve by the end of this year?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

99 Days Left!

Are you joining me on the 100-Day Challenge? Perhaps you've only heard about it today and need to start the 99-Day Challenge. :) Either way, there are 99 days left of the year. That's a lot of days to allow us to work toward significant goals so that we move into 2014 with a bang, proud of our accomplishments--rather than hitting January 1st and going, "Ugh, I didn't do anything I wanted last year! Here's my New Year's resolution... This challenge is, in a way, a pre-2014 resolution, an End-of-Year resolution.

I encourage you to pick something! Pick a goal. Something truly meaningful to you, not just, "Oh, I should really do this, that or the other." You know what happens to smoker who quit because they should quit? The usually end up back smoking. When they really want to quit and that's it, they're going to be done with it, the success rate is much higher.

What's your goal? Maybe you are afraid to think big. Think small then. Maybe you can't do push-ups and would like to be able to. Do a push-up a day. "What? That's hardly enough!" Oh? Well, if you do a push-up a day for 99 days, you will have done 99 push-ups before the year is out. That sounds pretty good to me! And if you can do 2 push-ups each day, or maybe 5, think of how many push-ups that adds up to in a short time!

I have read many times that accomplishing something is often about doing small things consistently, not doing an amazing thing once and then nothing for a long time. This challenge is about figuring out those daily, significant things that will make a difference in the long run. What is the one thing that, if you did it each day, would make a real difference in your life over the course of the next 99 days?

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits one-self, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.
Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.

― William Hutchison Murray (often misattributed to Goethe)

Monday, September 23, 2013

100-Day Challenge!

There are 100 days left in the year, including today. Anybody up for a 100-day challenge? :D

I wish I'd known about the 100 days yesterday; I would have sat down and worked out some goals and such. I will have to do some thinking today, when I get the chance. (Busy, busy day!) Right now, my thoughts are along the lines of:

*writing goals
*financial goals
*getting my kids involved in some way

I read a document about a paid program you can participate in. I won't be signing up for it ($147; hm) BUT one thing that stuck with me is it seemed to be tied with really setting hard goals, but also taking 10 minutes a day. I'm assuming 10 minutes a day to set the goals?

What would I like to accomplish by the end of the year? What would you like to accomplish by the end of the year?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Does This Discourage You from Eating Chicken?

I came across this article:

American-killed chickens can now be sent to China for processing to then be sent back to the US for people to eat.

Because that makes sense, right? Kill the chicken here, send it all the way over there (taking how many days, I wonder, but unless they are flash frozen, greater chance of developping bacteria), get it processed there so that it can be sent back to where it started from.

Um... My brain is really from the "logic." I have no more to say about that part!

That's just about the processed chicken. Which we all should know we shouldn't be eating anyhow. But if you read about the living conditions of chickens in general in the US (and while I've seen things from here in Canada that don't paint such a bleak picture, it's still not a pretty one), does it make you wince? It makes me wince. It makes me want to try to plan the menus for the week without any chicken--or any meat--at all. That won't go over so well for the other members of my family, but surely I can figure out meals that will allow me to eat chicken-free while they can eat the chicken as they wish? (Oooh, this gives me an idea for a recipe book--recipes or meal ideas where you can easily have both vegetarians and omnivores happy!)


Books for those of you also wanting to go vegetarian or vegan in a healthy way:

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Joys of Laryngitis

Are there joys in having laryngitis? Maybe not directly, but I am a firm believer that good can come out of any situation!

With the start of the school year, I and several others I know have been hit by various viruses. Today is my 16th day sick. My daughter has been sick even longer (started with one thing, didn't get over it before getting whatever it is that I have). This virus is one my body has been having a very hard time dealing with. My mind turns to, "Should I get to a doctor?" because it's lasting so long, and yet the symptoms are constantly mutating, signs of improvement are there and no evidence of bacterial infection. I am loathe to end up at some mediclinic with a doctor I don't know who could end up being a big antibiotic pusher and my own doctor isn't, but with my schedule lately and her hours...

I ended up having full-out laryngitis last week. Started losing my voice (while teaching a class!) Monday afternoon, completely lost my voice by that evening and spent the next two days voiceless. Completely voiceless. I've never lost my voice like that before. It didn't hurt, there wasn't any gross mucous blocking anything, I simply couldn't talk. I started getting it back a bit last Thursday, but here I am, more than a week later, my voice is still not completely back. Or I hope not--I would not want this to be my permanent voice!

Like I said above, there is good to come out of this situation: I'm spending more time on myself, on relaxing during this hectic month, doing things I enjoy. I'm refocusing, however slowly, on how I eat. (I feel like an alcoholic who has fallen off the wagon; I suppose I'm an notveryhealthyfood-aholic?) On how my kids eat.

And that's what illness is for sometimes, I think: to get us to set things straight, to remind us that we have strayed from the direction that will serve us best. While the illness itself should not be seen as a blessing, in my opinion, there are blessings that can come out of it, if we are willing to be open to whatever it is we need to "hear."

This being ill did lead me to discover a lovely drink that I find very soothing on a sore throat (or one unable to speak!):

  • warm water (almost to the point of hot) in a coffee mug
  • honey (1/2-1 Tbs.); if your farmer's market has honey and you have always had store-bought honey, consider trying the farmer's market honey. My farmer's market honey is more expensive but it tastes so extraordinary compared to store-bought, I will never buy store-bought again!
  • squeeze of a lemon wedge
Stir the honey until it dissolves in the warm water (I admit, I tend to start with hot water, let the honey dissolve faster and the water cool down to quite warm before drinking) and then squeeze a lemon wedge into it. Stir and enjoy!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Finding *Your* "Thing"

I suppose this post isn't really about helping you to find your "thing" as it is about me finding, reconnecting, with mine, but I write it in hopes that it will help you, too, find or reconnect with your "thing."

My "thing" for a long time has been writing. I have known--okay, sort of seen and suspected it--since I was in elementary school (some of you might call that grade school). I didn't do much writing in jr. high and high school, but since university, I have dabbled on and off. In recent years, I have felt very strongly that writing is what I really want to do, what I'm called to do, that I ought to be spending more time on it, and yet... I don't. Or I do, but sporadically.

Today, after some thinking and praying and meditating lately, I determinedly got back into my "thing." It wasn't without some difficulties, trying to find a novel I had started working on last November during NaNoWriMo, not finding my zip drive, lamenting the knowledge there's a copy on an out-of-commission laptop, unable to remember the online site I was originally using (turned out to be and then unable to remember my password... My intention to spend from 6:15-7 this morning writing turned out to be much less than that. ;) But what little I did... I knew I was in my element. I knew it was my "thing." How did I know? I felt blissful and energized. Just writing a single paragraph. I loved what I was doing and had I not had to get myself moving and actually get dressed, I could have spent a long time just sitting there, writing. I see this same bliss and energy in my 15-year old daughter when she is creating art, clothing, stories or poems (she seems to have more than just one "thing"!)

Quote by Joseph Campbell; image by

I've had the same feeling before when working on blog or website posts, sometimes during the writing phase and other times during the research. The feeling is so... right. Like I've truly connected with some truth about myself. The trick now is to learn to manage my time so I can indulge in my "thing" every day! :)

Have you found your thing? What is it? Or maybe you have more than one? What led you to finding it or realizing that it was the one?