fitness · motivation · strength training

Where you workout: In your face or a separate space?

Where do you put your workout equipment?  Do you need it in the middle of the living room to gently remind you to do a little movement, or do you tuck it away to a separate space?  

I’ve been thinking about the advice I hear sometimes to keep some resistance bands, a kettle bell or a yoga mat in our living spaces so that we can “do a few reps” in between the rest of our lives.  During the pandemic, by necessity my lifting became a part of my everyday space.  I created a “workout” space in our guest bedroom, which is also the room with my clothes closet, where my little TV is, where I tuck myself away when I need some quiet time, and in other words, spend a fair amount of my time day to day.

And over the winter break, my husband and I finally got to finishing the garage, and we were able to install a folding squat rack on one side.  Suddenly, once again I have a separate space where I only go to do my lifts. 

And I love it.

I love heading out to the garage and going to “the gym,” getting to be inside my own head and focusing on the work without distractions.  I’m enjoying my lifting like I haven’t in months.  Don’t get me wrong; I had moments of joy these last eight months before I got the rack set up–figuring out how to MacGyver lifts, to keep it challenging with fewer options, and had some successes getting stronger.  But it was hard to stay motivated.  I’d get distracted, cut workouts short, be grateful that I’d checked the boxes, but not really feel that post-lifting glow. And I think at least a part of that was missing the “escape” of lifting in a separate space.

I acknowledge that there are times in our lives when we simply can’t carve out 45 minutes or more several times a week to do some exercises by ourselves. And of course, having space and equipment has a huge element of privilege to it.  But when we are able to prioritize it a bit more, and when our spaces allow for it, I wonder if advising people to do a few squats as they brush their teeth prevents them from enjoying some of the most satisfying, and therefore motivating, elements of regular exercise?

I suspect that for some folks who don’t find that they love exercising, this sort of approach–carving out a special location and quiet time to do it in–might give them new avenues of enjoyment.  They might find, like I do, that this time alone focusing on myself and my lifts, can become a kind of moving meditation, an act of mindfulness and self care not just for the “exercise,” but for the rest it brings to the mind.  It is a chance to monotask and to be truly grounded in our bodies.

Now, of course this need not be an all or nothing situation.  Maybe right now someone can only get away one day a week for an extended workout and the rest of the time, it’s wall push-ups while they’re heating up dinner.  Maybe it’s simply an experiment we run from time to time, to see if we like a particular actively more when we do it alone.  As our lives change, our needs adjust also.  

I like the idea of cultivating these moments of quiet contemplation as a form of self-care, to encourage some of the intrinsic rewards to exercise; to make it more worthwhile to us in the moment and therefore more likely to be something we regularly create space for in our lives.  I love lifting weights, but it is so much more than the effort and the progress.  I love spending time with myself without distractions, focusing on the feedback my body is giving me, and enjoying being present in the moment.  If you’re struggling to find joy and motivation for your fitness routine, it may be worthwhile to run the experiment, to find out if what you’re missing is taking time away while you take care of yourself.

Photo description: Image of the author’s garage gym, with folding squat rack, weight bench, and toolboxes and lawn mower in the background.

Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle school science and health teacher.  She can be found joyfully and mindfully picking up heavy things and putting them down again, in Portland, Oregon.

Feature photo credit: Simon Migaj, via Unsplash.

eating · habits

Marjorie Joins Balance 365

CW: Mentions weight, body size change, and desire for change. Feature Image photo credit: Jon Flobrant via Unsplash.

I’ve been a fan of Jen and Annie for a while now.  Jennifer Campbell and Annie Brees host the Balance 365 Life Radio Podcast, where they discuss all things women’s nutrition, health and wellness.  The podcast is clearly a vehicle for bringing women into their sphere of influence and to introduce us to the philosophy behind their coaching program.  And while it’s obvious that is what it is, they do not hold back the “juicy bits” of info, dangling them to tempt you to join up.  It may be a hook, but they’re up front about who they are and what they have to offer, and it’s the clear moral compass behind these sorts of business decisions that finally convinced me to trust them enough and join in November.

Balance 365 is a program designed for women to find a balanced, healthy lifestyle that works for them.  It is not a diet and it does not assume that you have fat loss goals, although it is ok if you do, and it is ok if you don’t.  The program is about creating a genuinely healthy relationship with food, bodies, and movement, with a big emphasis on “Diet Deprogramming,” changing mindset out of a scarcity/restriction place with food and to find that place where healthy, balanced food choices are less of a big deal.  It is a habit-based program, encouraging small steps at your own pace, building over time to a more significant lifestyle shift.

For me, the appeal of the program was maybe to get some new information, but mostly to find a community in which I can share my process, to get feedback, and to find support.  I’ve written here a few times since the pandemic that I’ve been struggling with my healthy habits.  As my size has increased over the last year, my mindset has struggled, too.  My goals for this program at this time is to work on shifting my mindset into a more neutral place about my food choices, to give less salience to my decisions, and to continue to rebuild habits that are supportive of my longer-term goals.  For me, that does include a desire to be a smaller size again, but I don’t want to do it in a way that is fragile or temporary.  I want to find the best, healthiest lifestyle I can habitually maintain, and I suspect that will mean a smaller size than I currently am.  Even if it doesn’t, reduced stress around food would be a big win.  Jen referred to this as having a “goal life, not a goal weight,” and I’m onboard with that.

What I’ve purchased is access to the self-guided program.  This includes three e-books (Diet Deprogramming, Nutrition Habits, and Movement), lots of online “handouts” and worksheets, and access to the private Facebook group.  There is a group coaching option, and I’ve decided not to take that on at this time.  I don’t really want the added project of a coaching session to attend, and I feel pretty good about being able to instill habits for myself.  I’d like to check in here with the FIFI community from time to time as I explore these resources, reflect upon them, and participate in the work.  This community shares the value of leaving behind dieting mindsets, but we rarely explicitly address what that process involves.  I am especially interested in sharing that work with you, and I hope you will grant me the grace to be imperfect, to do the work, and to share that process.  If you have questions as I go along, your comments are always welcome!

Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle school science and health teacher. She can be found journaling on her core values, lifting up heavy things and putting them back down again in Portland, Oregon.

eating disorders · food · overeating

It is Time to Retire the Phrase “Binge Watch”

I’m done using the term “binge watch.”  I didn’t “binge” on the new-to-me Buffy the Vampire Slayer podcast I found a few weeks ago.  I’m not “binging” on The Queen’s Gambit right now.  

I know many of us aren’t proud when we spend hours consuming content, but it truly isn’t the same thing.  We may be numbing out, which can be analogous, but binging is so much more than an act of self-sabotage and shame.

We would never say, “I refused to watch that whole series; I was totally anorexic about it!”  Ok, so in part we wouldn’t say it because it sounds weird, but more than that, we recognize that it is insensitive.  It makes light of a serious medical condition.  Binge eating can be serious, too.  And for the person who struggles with binging regularly, it is deeply painful.

My guess is that we are ok making light of binging because most of us unconsciously hold the belief that it’s ultimately an act in the binge eater’s control and shows their personal weakness rather than something larger.  Most people who habitually overeat believe that they are fully responsible for this behavior.  They have bought into the diet culture belief that overeating is a sign of personal weakness, not a product of their environment, personal food history, food availability and so much more.  Even if they are aware of the research pointing to these influences, people often believe that they can override them with strong enough willpower and discipline.

Binge eating, though, is a symptom of dieting culture and fatism.  People who chronically restrict their food, either in quantity or in type, are high risk for binge eating episodes.  Research suggests that even the thought of restriction, “I really shouldn’t eat cupcakes anymore,” can lead to binging episodes later.  In addition, binge eating is actually encouraged by food producers, and for a fairly large percentage of the population, we are susceptible to the cues–flavor, texture, visuals, etc.–to keep eating that bag of chips or stack of cookies until they are all gone.  However, most habitual overeaters, and most folks who are aware of them, will still put the responsibility squarely onto the laps of the eater, not diet culture and food manufacturers.

I don’t want to contribute to these assumptions anymore.  I’m not willing to make light of binge eating or to perpetuate the lie that chronic overeating is only about personal will and discipline.  No, when I sit down to re-watch all three of the Lord of the Rings movies in series next weekend, I won’t be binge watching them.  I’m just going to be enjoying my movies.

Can you help out, dear reader? What phrase can we use instead of “binge watch?”

Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle science and health teacher. She can be found serially watching nostalgic, nerdy movies, picking up heavy things, and putting them down again, in Portland, Oregon.

covid19 · holidays · mindfulness

We Wish You a Meh Christmas

The holidays are a bummer this year, and I’m ok with that.  I’m ok with it being a bummer; I’m ok with being bummed out.  I appreciate that my husband and I have enough privilege that our discomfort this year is about disappointments, not serious suffering.  We are not food or housing insecure like far too many people; we aren’t yet mourning the loss of anyone close to us due to the pandemic. In that context, being bummed out is actually a pretty good place to be.

Buddhism teaches that expectation is the root of all suffering, and while I’m not a Buddhist, I see wisdom in this perspective, and I’m working on letting go of my expectations.  Expectation management looks like telling Mom a few weeks before I was on winter break that I won’t be seeing her during my vacation.  It looks like shipping gifts to friends with notes saying, “I miss you” rather than “I can’t wait to get together.”  It looks like planning a tasty but modest meal for celebrating the holidays with my husband, alone in our house.  We’re keeping low expectations to avoid regretting that it isn’t more.

That’s not to say that there aren’t real consequences to not getting together this year.  I have family in poor health, family I never see except at the holidays and may not see for another year, and family with problematic lives I’d love to see face to face to KNOW they are actually ok.  I am sad and concerned to miss this yearly check-in and opportunity for connection.  But we agree that the risks outweigh the benefits, and I will not be seeing any of them in person until it is safe to do so.

I’m doing what I can to celebrate the little joys–the smells of fresh-baked, spiced lebkuchen cookies and boiling candied orange rinds, the glimmer of Christmas lights in puddles as I walk through the neighborhood, a quiet evening at home with my fireplace, my cats, and a puzzle.  It’s a kind of mindfulness that I can get behind, being present and not wishing, hoping, yearning for more.

My goal isn’t to convince myself it’s all exactly as I would wish it to be; the lack of validation that can coincide with the forced seeking of silver-linings doesn’t make me feel better.  I’m not a gratitude practice kind of person.  That sort of list-making seems to make me focus on what’s missing rather than on what’s there.  Instead, I’m acknowledging it, that it’s not quite right, that it’s not what I want, and that it’s still ok, good enough even.

My family is Danish-American, and Christmas Eve was traditionally the day we celebrated growing up, a day for a big family dinner and opening the presents under the tree.  (Only stockings stuffed with treats from Santa to be enjoyed on Christmas morning.)  Christmas won’t be that this year, it’s going to be a bit disappointing, and I’m fine with that.  I hope you are able to be ok with your holidays, too, in whatever form they come.  “Meh Christmas to all, and to all a good enough night.

Photo description: Five people on bicycles wearing Santa Claus costumes. Photo credit: Rocco Dipoppa photographer, Unsplash.

Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle school science and health teacher.  She can be found making tins of homemade candies and cookies to send to her family, picking up heavy things, and putting them back down again in Portland, Oregon.

fitness · motivation

Fragrance Pairings for Fitness Activities

It’s probably best not to ask me what kind of fragrances I like, unless you have a spare hour and some open real estate on your wrists.  I am what we in the community affectionately refer to as a perfumista, an appellation used in a genderless fashion to describe someone who has been drawn down into the fascinating world of perfume and personal fragrance.  The fragrances I like, the ones that I love and really make me swoon, take me on a journey, transport me somewhere wonderful or intriguing, or evoke strong emotions and personal connections.  Fragrances have the power to lift me up, help me focus, ground me in the moment, and energize.  As such, it is a tool I happily use to enliven my workouts, help me push through or to get started. Here are some of my favorite fragrance and fitness pairings.

Photo description: The author’s personal bottles of Eau des Baux, Parfum Sacre, Chanel Bois des Iles, and Champagne de Bois.

For contemplation, mindfulness, and activities that have you focusing inward like yoga or mind-muscle hypertrophy training: consider woody and/or incense fragrances.

A wonderful exemplar in this category is Chanel Bois des Iles.  Chanel fragrances have an austere, contained feeling to them.  They may be noticeable, but they still feel restrained even when their sillage is blooming.  (Sillage is the “throw” of a fragrance, to what degree it can be detected at a distance from the body.)  Bois des Iles is a rich sandalwood fragrance, but this isn’t a dirty, essential oils, body odor and natural fibers kind of sandalwood.  Instead, it’s a carefully tended sandalwood jewelry box, sanded down so all the sharp edges are rounded and elegant. (Other wonderful, woody scents to consider include the affordable, spicy cedar L’Occitane Eau des Baux, and the sparkling Sonoma Scent Studios Champagne de Bois.)

If smoky incense is more your contemplative style, Caron Parfum Sacre is a classic of the genre, although perhaps more high holidays church service than meditative ashram.  Parfum Sacre is a very dry, almost ashy incense layered with just enough rose to soften the edges.  This is an introverted scent, dark enough to almost be brooding, but melancholy rather than self-pitying.  If you want your incense to be a bit less Gothic in character, try Etro Shaal Nur.

Photo description: Bottles of Chanel Egoiste, Fico di Amalfi, Gris Clair, and Guerlain Vetiver.

For fragrances that energize you and help you get pumped to push hard, classic colognes or vetiver-based scents may be more your style.

For a perfumista, the word cologne has a few meanings.  It can mean a scent is an eau de cologne, suggesting that there is a lower concentration of fragrant oils in the mix, or it can mean it has certain fragrance notes that many of us associate with “sporty” and/or “masculine” scents.  I could go on quite the tangent here about gender norms and fragrance, and perhaps some day I will do that, but for today let it suffice that a true perfumista does not pay attention to these categories and assumptions except inasmuch as they help us communicate what we are experiencing as we consider a fragrance.  Both uses of the term “cologne” can be useful when searching out energizing, “clean” scents.  

A wonderful example of the category is Acqua Di Parma Blu Mediterraneo Fico di Amalfi.  “Fico” means fig, and Fico di Amalfi is all fig and citrus, a bright and cheerful fruit combination that avoids being candied.  Fig scents can vary from green and bitter to smooth and coconutty.  The fig in Fico di Amalfi stays on the greener end, grounding the cheerful citrus (mostly grapefruit and lemon to my nose), and outlasting it to give a sharp, crisp hum of scent that will last through your workout, but not long afterwards. (Other fresh scents to consider include the herbal sandalwood of Chanel Egoiste and the dusty, summer lavendar of Serge Lutens Gris Clair.)

I am not a big fan of vetiver scents, as the note can go from grassy (which I like) to muddy and mushy, like a week’s old pile of wet grass clippings (which I don’t like).  The one vetiver I own is Guerlain Vetiver, which stays on the strictly clean, soapy end of the grass spectrum.  However, several perfumista friends have commented that they love the note while exercising, with Prada Infusion de Vetiver being a safe choice if you want to avoid much sillage in a studio, and Frederic Malle Vetiver Extraordinaire as a more complex offering.

Photo description: Amouage Memoir, Tauer PHI, and Lys 41.

Up to this point, I have been suggesting fairly “safe” options, fragrances that are relatively easy to come by and easy to enjoy.  However, in true perfumista fashion, I would love to draw you down into the art of fragrance with some unusual and wonderful scents that will push your comfort zone and have you reconsidering what a fragrance can do.  Wear these scents for long hikes, or while working out at home, or when you aren’t concerned about whether or not your personal fragrance plays well with others.

Amouage Memoir is usually classified as an incense and leather scent, but I also get warm spices, boozy, fruity tannins, and luscious vanilla.  Memoir changes over time and it has enough sillage for you to notice it again and again as it morphs from top notes (what you smell initially), to heart notes, and base notes (what lingers at the end).  It stays present and beautiful and interesting for hours, and if you’re lucky enough to get some on your scarf or coat collar, you can enjoy it for even longer.  It stays on fabric for weeks.  I would pair Memoir with an extra long walk through my neighborhood, especially on a sunny, crisp day.

Tauer Phi: Une Rose de Khandahar is a jammy apricot and rose fragrance, thick and luscious like the best homemade preserves.  The base of this fragrance will feel familiar to any Tauer fragrance fans, a heady mix of amber, soft spices, and tobacco leaf.  At first spritz, I am nearly overwhelmed by the camphorous fruit, which shoots up and slightly sears my nasal passages, but nearly as fast as I notice this effect, it begins to settle and warm into apricot, cinnamon, and rose.  This is not a light, “pink,” thin rose, but rather something so luscious and full, it’s almost like eating a rose bloom rather than smelling it.  Like Memoir, Phi stays interesting and changes for several hours.  Not quite as long-lasting as Memoir, it has more sillage, and I rarely spritz more than a couple sprays so as to not overwhelm my senses.  I would pair Phi with an active day around the house, where half of my steps come from chores before eventually heading out for my daily stroll or lifting session.

Le Labo Lys 41 will be the lightest offering I will invite you to try in this section.  It’s a sunny, buttery tuberose scent (even though it’s named “lily,” as that only references which ingredient is in highest quantities, not which note is most dominant).  Tuberose is a note that I took a while to appreciate.  It can be very sweet and hard to miss, like the first sopranos in a choir.  Lys 41 begins to my nose with tuberose front and center, and then slowly morphs into something beachy, with tiare, lily and jasmine.  It stays bright and floral all the way through, settling close to the skin but occasionally blooming and making its presence known.  I would pair Lys 41 with a higher energy workout, something that gets the heart pumping and warms the skin. (Although if you really want to play, get a sample of Frederic Malle Carnal Flower and be ready to have strong feelings about tuberose!)

I could go on.  There are so many wonderful fragrances to explore.  It is an artform worthy of our time, like revisiting a great opera or symphony again and again–each experience shows us new nuances and interplay we may have missed in the past, a new appreciation and new associations to give it meaning.  I welcome you to explore this beautiful tool to enliven and enrich your fitness practice, too!

Any fellow perfumistas out there?  Feel free to drop a howdy and a fitness and fragrance pairing in the comments!

Photo description: two very full shelves inside the author’s “perfume cabinet.” Over 50 bottles can be seen.

Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle school science and health teacher.  She can be found smelling fantastic, picking up heavy things and putting them down again in Portland, Oregon.

eating · habits · holidays

Make-Ahead Breakfast Food Prep–The Pumpkin Spice Edition!

Last year I offered up some breakfast and lunch food prep ideas based on what I’d been eating at the time.  Appetites change, work from home has replaced “the office” for many of us, and I wondered if it might be time for another set of recipes.  Today, a few more ideas for make-ahead breakfasts.  I know we’re reaching the end of the “pumpkin spice” season, but I find these flavors wonderful and soothing as long as the weather is cold. 

Marjorie’s Homemade Granola–Master Recipe

I’ve been working on a good homemade granola recipe for probably a decade now.  I like to have some sprinkled over fruit and Greek yogurt.  I eat it for an afternoon snack fairly often as well.  I will first provide the master recipe, in which you can switch things up as much as you prefer.  Then, I will give my go-to version, for those of you who don’t want to make so many decisions.

one.  Preheat the oven to 300 oF.

two.  Stir together in a baking dish or large glass casserole:

2 cups old-fashioned oats, quick oats, buckwheat groats, other flaked grains, or a mixture of any of these

1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut (you can use sweetened, if you can’t find it unsweetened, but obviously, the final result will be sweeter)

1.5 cups coarsely chopped nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, or a mixture of these

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp powdered ginger

three.  Heat briefly in a microwave and stir together:

2 tbs nut butter or coconut oil

2 tbs honey or maple syrup

four.  Add 1 mashed very ripe banana to the honey mixture

And maybe ½ tsp almond extract or 1 tsp vanilla extract 

five.  Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and stir until everything is evenly moistened.

six.  Bake until completely dried, stirring every half hour or so.  If it starts to toast too quickly, lower the temperature to 250oF.  Takes about 1 ½ hours.  

seven.  Allow to cool completely before packing into containers with tight-sealing lids.  Stays good, at room temperature, for several weeks.

My Go-to: Coconut Buckwheat Granola

Ingredients:

1 cup buckwheat groats (also called kasha)

1 cup quick oats (these seem to make the best, crunchy oat clusters in my experience)

1 cup unsweetened, flaked coconut

2 tbs all-natural crunchy peanut butter

2 tbs honey (really delicious with a strong-tasting honey like blackberry honey)

1 cup slivered almonds

½ cup chopped walnuts

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp powdered ginger

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 very ripe banana, mashed

Harvest Egg Bake

This custard is like a less-sweet pumpkin pie for breakfast.   In parts of the world where you are sadly without copious quantities of canned, winter squash puree, you could substitute mashed, roasted sweet potatoes.  One final note, if you want to substitute another milk, keep in mind that fats serve an important purpose in custards, keeping the proteins happy as they reach temperature.  A less fatty “milk” like almond milk or skim may split and create a less favorable texture.

one. Preheat the oven to 350oF.

two. Butter a large, 9×13 baking dish.

three. Whisk together:

12 whole eggs, or 6 whole eggs plus 2 cups egg whites

1.5 cups whole or 2% milk or soy milk 

15 oz can (about 1 3/4 cups) pumpkin puree

½-1 tsp cinnamon (honestly, I don’t actually measure this, I use a lot)

A few shakes of ground nutmeg

¼ cup brown sugar (or more, to taste)

1 tsp vanilla extract

Zest of 1 orange (optional but delicious)

four. Pour the custard into the prepared baking dish.  Then sprinkle evenly with:

2-3 finely chopped, good baking apples

⅓ cup raisins, dried cranberries, cherries, or a combination thereof

Maybe a few tangerines or a naval orange, finely chopped

five. Bake until just set in the middle, about 1 hour.

six. Allow to sit 10 minutes before serving.  Makes 6 servings.

Variation:  Harvest Oatmeal Bake

Follow the recipe, adding 1/2 cup additional milk or water to the custard and evenly spreading 2 cups of old-fashioned oats with the apples and fruit, gently pushing the oats down into the custard with a spoon.

Serve warm with a scoop of plain Greek yogurt, maybe a little maple syrup, and a tablespoon or two of chopped walnuts, for a satisfying, balanced breakfast.

Bonus “recipe:” Spiced Coffee

I make my coffee in a pour-over, but I would think this would work in a French press, too, you will just get a little more spice powder circulating in the cup.  But hey, the sludge is part of the charm of French press coffee, right?

Add to the filter with your coffee grounds:

A generous shake or two each of cinnamon and ground turmeric

A little nutmeg

Maybe a dash of cardamom

Sweeten and cream your coffee, if you like, as you like

Photo description: Pumpkins in a pumpkin patch. Photo courtesy of unsplash, photographer Christopher Rusev.

Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle school science and health teacher. She can be found buying cinnamon in bulk, picking up heavy things and putting them back down again in Portland, Oregon.

covid19 · eating · fitness · habits · health

Taking Stock of Healthy Habits

What are your healthy habits?  What do you do to take care of yourself that requires very little consideration or intentionality?  The pandemic disrupted my healthy habits for a while, but over the last several months, I’ve been able to create new routines, and I feel like I’m in a pretty good spot right now.

What makes something a habit or routine?  These are the things I do just because “it’s what I do.”  If I were to place intentional behaviors on a scale of zero to five, zero meaning they require no thought at all (brushing my teeth in the morning), five meaning they require a conscious effort and a fair amount of discomfort to follow through (signing up for a new activity I have no experience with, like joining a rock climbing gym), habits fall in the levels of 3 or less.  I like to keep my healthy habits in the 0-2 range on this scale, as I am far more successful when they require very little thought or discomfort.  Although those 3 level habits are a place of growth, so I don’t mind that they show up now and again.

I also think of habits as having layers like those Russian nesting dolls–foundational habits create the space to hold a lot of smaller, supporting habits within them.  The stronger my foundational habits, and the less effort they require, the more supporting habits can fit within them and help me build a healthier lifestyle overall.  If you struggle with creating structure and healthy habits, these would be the habits you need to find for yourself–it’s the “big rocks” that make a greater impact on improving your overall health.  Here are some examples of what works for me.

Food/nutrition.

Under the category of eating well, the big foundational habit for me, and this has been true for many years, is sitting down on Saturday to plan my meals for the week and make a grocery list.   With this habit in place, there are many other food-related routines and habits that I give very little thought.

Sunday: Food prep day.  I prepare breakfasts, lunches, and afternoon snacks for the week.  It matters to me to make sure there’s plenty of washed, prepared fruits and vegetables, and I cook protein (eggs, chicken, and turkey most often) to make prep of the individual meals fast and require very little thought.  I cook a big dinner Sunday night, and we eat the leftovers for the next 2-3 days.  Sometimes I prep desserts and place them in the freezer so they’re available when I decide I want some.

Any day:  I like 4 meals a day.  I eat my meals at pretty much the same time of day every day.  I rarely snack or nibble outside of meals.  When Sunday dinner is eaten up, it’s my husband’s turn to cook.  We rarely eat “out” anymore.  I eat most meals either at the table or on the kitchen island.

Fitness/Activity.

I think the foundational habit for this one for me is scheduling my lifting sessions into my calendar for the week.  I look over when I have meetings, and I make sure I have 3 lifting sessions scheduled in addition to the session with my trainer on the weekend.  I choose the date and the time in advance (before work, in the middle of the day, or possibly afterwards).  When I have them scheduled, I don’t have to decide to lift that day, which really helps on days that I’m tired or feeling especially busy.  I also schedule a run on whichever weekend morning I don’t work with my trainer.

When I lift, I log my workouts in a little paper journal.  I track the exercise, weight, and reps.  I try to pick up more or do more reps each workout.  I find it very rewarding to see the numbers go up over time!

In addition to these activities, I take a walk nearly every day.  This has become an essential part of my wellness during the pandemic, and it is so rewarding, I’d call it a 1 on my “intentional activity scale.”  I stop work, put on my shoes, download a podcast or two onto my phone, and out I go.  The route is habitual, too, more or less.  I walk pretty much the same neighborhood streets each time.  I like going on autopilot, spacing out, listening to my podcasts, getting some time in my head at the end of the day.

Rest/recovery.

Foundational for me is getting enough sleep.  I try to go to bed within the same 30 minute window each night (9:15-9:45).  I get not quite enough sleep during the week, waking up at 6:30 most weekdays, and I “sleep in” to maybe 7:30 or 7:45 oftentimes on weekends.  My daily walks could just as easily fall into the rest/recovery category, as they serve as much-needed introvert “alone time” in this era of constant homeboundness.  I make the bed and journal every night before I turn out the lights , and then I put earbuds into my ears and listen to an audiobook set on a timer. I use a sleep mask to cover my eyes.

Early in the pandemic, I lamented the disruption to my healthy habits.  I rely upon these habits and routines to take care of myself without having to use much “motivation” or “inspiration” to get things done.  Now that working from home has become the norm for me, my habits have been reestablished, with some tweaks to address changes in the times.  I feel so much more at ease these days, knowing that I’m taking care of myself in so many important ways without much conscious work.  It really helps me feel more like myself and better taken care of.

What habits have you established/reestablished in these challenging times?  Which ones would you consider foundational to building a healthy lifestyle for you?  I’d love to hear about it!

Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle school science and health teacher. She can be found cooking shredded chicken in her crockpot, picking up heavy things, and putting them down again in Portland, Oregon.

fitness

In Activism, so as in Fitness

As we all look towards next week and what so many of us hope will be the end of an extraordinary chapter in American history, I find myself reflecting upon the last four years and how my life has been shaped in the face of such tumultuous times. I’ve always considered my work as an educator serving disadvantaged communities to be a form of activism and empowerment, but after the election of Trump, I found myself needing to do more. I got involved in my union, started going to rallies and protests far more frequently, wrote more letters, signed more petitions, spoke out more often, and attended conferences to build my skills, network with other activists, and improve my effectiveness. During this time, I also became a better runner and a more consistent, and stronger, lifter. These two parts of my world, my activism and my fitness, reinforce each other, give me strength, and feed my soul in complementary ways. In no particular order, here are some parallel truths I’ve noted between activism, living an active life and the perseverance, tenacity, and ups and downs of doing the work over the long term.

Everything counts. Do something.

Embrace practices that play to your strengths.

Embrace opportunities to bring up your weaknesses.

It’s never too late, and we’re never too old, to get started.

Focus on what can be done, not on what limits us.

There will be “seasons” to our efforts, which is absolutely ok. In fact, it’s necessary to acknowledge so that we have the energy to keep doing the work over the long haul.

Progress is rarely linear.

Having the time is about priorities and setting boundaries.

Most of our efforts would benefit from getting more high quality sleep.

It’s ok, and maybe even advisable, to specialize for a while and develop “your thing.”

Recovery is just as important as pushing hard.

“Balance” looks like different levels of effort and commitment at different points in time.

Don’t rely on motivation, which can be fickle; instead build routines and habits to keep doing the work when passions recede.

Nothing is more inspiring than finally getting started.

Accountability and community in the form of friends with shared values and shared efforts goes a long way.

A certain amount of discomfort is required in order for there to be growth and change.

Consistency trumps perfection.

Remember this work is a privilege.

Celebrate every victory, regardless of how small. (And then go out and do the next thing.)

And finally–avoid confusing the goal for the work. Even if I lift the weight, run the miles, and hold government officials accountable, the work is not over. Next week, whatever happens on Election Day, the work of my activism will continue. The skills I’ve learned in fitness to push through the hard times, to reprioritize my time as my needs change, and to focus on the process over the outcome have served me well as I’ve shifted my energies and gotten more involved in politics and advocacy. I really want to be on the winning team next week. I’m tired of feeling so angry, and hopeless, frustrated, and scared. My life in fitness has shown me that I can weather whatever challenges face me next, but I’m really ready to take a break from what feels like endless new hurdles and celebrate some victories for a little while! Whatever comes, I raise a glass to all of my fellow activists and the efforts you’ve made alongside me these past four years. It is an honor to do this work with you!

Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle school science and health teacher. She can be found organizing fellow educators, picking up heavy things and putting them back down again, in Portland, Oregon.

body image · fitness · food

Honoring my Hunger

CW: This piece reflects upon my personal experiences with food and food choices, with discussion of body size, diet culture, and challenges with body image. My goals may not be your goals. It is not intended as advice.

I had a moment of personal revelation this summer. I noticed something important about my self-talk. I wonder, can you pick it out?

When I went for a run and it wasn’t feeling good, I told myself, “It’s ok. I can do a walk-jog today. In fact, maybe I need to adjust my plans so that my Saturday run is always a walk-jog. I’m often just not feeling it on Saturday mornings.”

Sometimes, when I was lifting weights, I wasn’t having fun. I was tired and wanted to do something else. So I told myself, “Do these two exercises, give them all you’ve got, and then go ahead and move on with your day. At least you did something.”

I noticed that oftentimes I would get a little shaky in the morning between breakfast and lunch. It felt like low blood sugar, like I’d run out of steam and my body wasn’t managing it well. Each time it happened, I told myself, “It’s only been 90 minutes since breakfast. There’s no way I’m hungry already! Just ignore it. I will have lunch in a few hours.”

Did you notice it?

When I was struggling with my running or lifting, I accommodated my changing needs. Taking care of my fitness continued, but it was modified to help me manage stress, fatigue, and other limitations of the moment.

But when it came to my meals, I wasn’t being as flexible. I didn’t believe that my plan wasn’t right for the moment. I tried to force my habitual meals to be alright instead of trusting my experiences and the data my body was giving me that it wasn’t meeting my needs anymore. This was clearly diet culture seeping into my thoughts, motivating me to limit my food instead of trusting the signals my body gave.

And maybe it’s not a big surprise that I found some increased diet mindset creeping in these days. My body has been slowly getting larger over the last few years. Nothing dramatic, but at several life changes in the last handful of years (marriage, hysterectomy, worldwide pandemic), I’ve gotten just a little bit bigger. I’m now a full clothing size larger than I was before my wedding. And while intellectually I fully recognize that it “shouldn’t” matter, there are moments when this unintentional, slow increase in size bugs me.

My quality of life is not at all hampered by my increased size. It doesn’t impact me day to day in the slightest. I can still run, my joints don’t ache any more than they did a size smaller, and it may even help me with my lifting to be a bit bigger. However, I wonder if I’ve unconsciously “tightened up” my eating in response to increasing numbers? Have I stopped trusting in my hunger signals due to my discomfort over slowly getting larger?

So, I’ve made a new commitment to myself this last month to nutritional self-care. I have been running experiments to find out what balance of foods to eat that help me to feel really good, even when it means eating more than I’ve previously been accustomed to eating. I’ve noticed when I’m hungry and trusted that it meant I needed to eat more. I’ve checked in with myself at the end of meals to make sure I’ve genuinely eaten enough and to stop when I’m satisfied. I’ve been more flexible with my meal timing, eating more frequently some days when it seems like I needed it, instead of forcing myself to wait until the next designated eating time. And I’ve been making sure to eat dessert when I decide I want it instead of first trying to deny my appetite.

So far, these experiments have succeeded in making food and hunger less of a stressor in my life. I’m realizing that it had become a low-level, persistent focus, and now I’m thinking about food far less often. That shaky feeling between meals is gone. I’m also finding that I’m more at peace with my reflection when I feel better taken care of in general. My size very likely may continue to change. I’m still working on being neutral about that. But in these extraordinary times, I welcome any moment of peace I can find. Honoring my hunger, feeling really satisfied with my meals and between them, sounds like a wonderful kind of peace to give myself.

Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle school science and health teacher. She can be found eating salted caramel chocolate cake, picking up heavy things and putting them down again in Portland, Oregon.

covid19 · disability · equality

No, “EVERYONE” Should Not Wear a Mask

I know some of you are already heating up the tar and plucking the feathers. I’m bracing for the hate-filled comments as I type this, but out of an abundance of optimism, I’m hoping you will continue reading and hear me out.

I am not going to debate the merits of mask-wearing. I would hope that by now I’ve established myself as a solid supporter of science and anti-pseudoscience (see evidence A, B). I agree with anyone who says all the evidence supports that wearing masks reduces the risk of infection for both the wearer and the people with which they come into contact.

However, when we say “everyone must wear a mask,” we are excluding people who cannot wear a mask due to various disabilities and personal challenges. Perhaps it would be “better” for them to wear a mask, but for whatever reason, they find it difficult or impossible to do so.

Unfortunately, this issue has been muddled by politics. For some reason, the man occupying the White House has decided that he’s anti-mask, and the 35% of the US that blindly follows his lead has taken up the cause. I understand that when we create wiggle room in mask wearing policies, we are creating space for people to decry their losses of personal autonomy in the face of interdependence. I appreciate that making a blanket statement that everyone must wear a mask, we are trying to make it clear to these people that if they want to do business, they need to do what’s right for the common good despite their personal attitudes on the subject.

And still, I remind you that truly not everyone can wear a mask, and I’m asking, what about them?

What about me?

I’m not sure why I find wearing a mask a challenge, but I can confirm with many repeated data points that it’s a problem for me. I nearly passed out at the grocery store on a couple different occasions before I realized that I was hyperventilating in my mask. On a recent outing, I put my mask up while I was running past a group of pedestrians, and according to my watch, my heart rate went from the mid 130’s up to a dangerous 189 bpm in about 10 seconds. It’s possible that this is due to my having a reduced lung capacity. The middle lobe of my right lung was removed many years ago, and on a good day, I get about 75% of the air of a 2-lunged person. It’s also possible that it is a manifestation of my PTSD. Wearing a mask may be triggering some element of my hysterectomy-related trauma (maybe it’s too much like wearing an oxygen mask during surgery?). Repeated attempts at wearing a mask have not made these responses easier over time. And when I talk about them, I’ve noticed some commonalities in how others deflect and deny the problem.

They downplay the seriousness and discredit my experience. “I know, they get really hot,” or “It takes me a few minutes to get used to it, too.”

They decide they know which choices are best for me. “Well, then you should just order groceries online.” “You’re obviously not returning to work then, right?”

They decide that they know which medical conditions are valid reasons and which ones aren’t. “Well, it’s actually not true that you’re getting less air.” “Maybe you just need to get used to it.”

And if I haven’t been given an opportunity to explain myself, most people apparently assume that they can tell by looking at someone if they have a valid reason for not wearing a mask. In these encounters, people just murmur under their breath, and a few times have yelled at me, “Wear a mask!” If I wouldn’t be risking a face-to-face argument with a stranger in a time when the air they breathe puts me at risk for yet another lifelong disability, I’d be more tempted to stop and debate the matter with them.

Equality and equity for folks with disabilities must include giving them the same opportunities and choices as everyone else. Not all disabilities are visible. You can’t tell by looking at someone if their experiences are valid. Trust us when we tell you there’s a problem. Don’t expect to be able to front-manage all the solutions–don’t ask for a list of “reasonable” challenges (defined by whom?) and then preload all your acceptable solutions. For example, don’t decide for me that I have to work from home, give me reasonable choices between certain accommodations at work versus the flexibility to work from home–trust that I can make the best decision for myself. Know that life gets messy and that challenges can be multifaceted and complex.

Mask-wearing is an act of both personal responsibility and a sign of our interdependence. We are being asked to wear masks for our own safety, and even moreso, for the safety of others. Just like getting our vaccinations, our communities benefit from as many of us as possible complying with public health recommendations. You are wearing a mask to keep yourself safe. You are also wearing a mask to keep me safe. Thank you for wearing one whenever you can; thank you for advocating that others wear them. But please, consider saying that “everyone who can, should wear a mask,” and grant me the autonomy to make the best decision for myself that I am able.

(Along those lines, if you are finding yourself about to post some mask-wearing advice to me in the comments, please take a moment to pause and consider if you are the right person to be offering it.)

Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle school science and health teacher. She can be found doing her best to wear a mask as much as she can, picking up heavy things and putting them back down again, in Portland, Oregon.