Intuitively moving

I put on my workout clothes, moved things aside in the living room and made room for my yoga mat and some weights. I positioned my laptop so I could watch the Zoom workout class I was tuning in for.

I watched as my colleagues signed in and waved to one another. Then we started the warmup. Not feeling it, I stepped out of frame to get a glass of water. And then to grab a tissue. Finally, I saw my phone light up. Saved by the bell! I turned off the workout class and talked to my niece and nephew instead.

The first 9 weeks of quarantine, I was finishing grad school and secretly relieved that I didn’t have to squeeze in gym sessions in with everything else. I went for walks, took an occasional yoga class or pushed my chair back and did some stretches by my desk.

Quarantine has introduced me to the idea of intuitive fitness. It’s similar to intuitive eating, which encourages you to listen to your body and what give it what it needs. The idea is to eat mindfully, so not in front of the TV or while playing Words With Friends with your right hand while awkwardly spooning soup into your mouth with your left. We all have internal cues about when we need to eat and what. Intuitive eating gets us back in touch with those cues.

Pre-quarantine I pushed myself in 2-3 high intensity interval training (HIIT) classes at my gym each week. I usually enjoyed the classes. I really liked the comraderie of meeting with the same instructor and participants. The tricky part was the classes were Tuesday at 5 and Thursday at 6. There was no showing up when it felt right for my body. I had to make sure to leave the office around 4:15 on Tuesdays to get to the gym and changed in time. It brought a level of stress.

In quarantine, though, the gym isn’t happening, so I learned to do what feels good to me. A few times that was running the hills in my neighborhood. Often, it’s going for a walk. I’ve been enjoying Wednesday and Sunday morning Zoom yoga classes. Sometimes I pick up the weights in the living room or set a goal to do 100 kettlebell swings. Other days I like to just stand up from my desk and do a dozen air squats. Sometimes I get out on the water for a sunset paddleboarding adventure with my friend Pam. Somedays I just really crave that good, sweaty HIIT session.

Humans are great at homeostasis, which is the body’s desire to keep things—like weight—constant. Without outside influences and liquid calories, we’re likely to eat 95-105% of our needed calories for the day just instinctively. Same thing with movement. Despite a sizable shift in my activity since March, my weight has stayed the same. Intuition for the win!

Cats, the self-care masters

I never thought of my cat as a role model for wellness before quarantine. But as we spend our fifth month together at home, I realize that cats are the masters of self-care and that I could learn a thing or two.

My cat, Gatito, is a 13-year-old American shorthair. I took him in when he was seven and his previous family moved abroad. I jokingly call him the worst roommate I’ve ever had because I have to provide for him and clean up after him. He doesn’t even offer cuddles in return.

But now that much of my world is on pause, I spend more time mindfully noticing things around me. Here’s what I learned from my cat:

Make your needs known

Gatito doesn’t hesitate to meow when he needs attention, food, or is about to get rolled over because he cuddled up to the wheels on my office chair again. I realized that sometimes I need to use my own voice to ask for a hug or suggest we order take-out because I can’t deal with cooking.

Get outside

We live in Seattle and sometimes neither of us wants to go out in the rain. But when the sun comes out, Gatito knows to seize the opportunity and go lay out on the deck or take a stroll on the patio. It does good things for my mental health when I, too, get out while the weather is nice.

Stick to your routine (and make sure everyone else does, too)

Since we started working from home, we turned off our morning alarms. Gatito doesn’t use an alarm, but he’s always up at the same time ready for his routine of getting brushed, having wet food, and going outside before napping by my desk.

Show your love

OK, I’m not going to nuzzle my loved ones’ pant legs like Gatito does, but I can show my affection in more human ways. It feels good to start a conversation with a friend or former coworker by tapping out a thinking-of-you text. Similarly, I can call my parents or brush Gatito to show my love.

Get cuddly

Gatito has a knack for finding comfy spots where he feels safe–like in the back of the closet with some shoes or by burying himself under a blanket. I can find solace under a cozy blanket on the couch or by climbing into fresh clean sheets on the bed.

Zone out

I often find Gatito just gazing out the window. He looks so calm and peaceful. It reminds me to close my laptop or put down my phone and just take a minute to do the same. Taking time to be mindful and not distract myself with gadgets and to-do lists gives me a chance to clear stresses from my mind. Now I love watching bees, flies, and hummingbirds visit my flowers and blueberry bushes and watching new buds open up.

Ending Fast Fashion

Seattle in July is more like April in other parts of the country, so I put on a pair of jeans to work from home. After work, I sat on the living room floor, as I do several times a day, to brush the cat.

When I stood up, I noticed my jeans had ripped. Dang! They had been getting thin. I opened my computer to find a replacement, then stopped myself.

I made a new year’s resolution this year not to buy new clothes. As in not fresh from the manufacturer. I could buy used clothes if I needed to replace something. My resolution has been making me more thoughtful about my purchases. Also, since all outings are canceled for 2020, there’s not a lot of need for new clothes.

I highly recommend you join me on this mission. Fast fashion is a huge problem and completely unnecessary. Before the quarantine, I subscribed to LeTote, a clothing rental service. That provided me a couple new-to-me pieces to mix up my work wardrobe. It also let me try new styles commitment-free.

I listened to a podcast with a clothing rental company founder. She noticed that her younger sister and friends were buying cheap clothes constantly because they didn’t want to have the same outfit in their Instagram photos. She noticed that her sister and friends didn’t necessarily want to keep the clothes. They just wanted to wear it once or twice. (Side note: therapy is great for building self-confidence).

Buying Used

I really had no reason to keep the subscription, but I did notice a few gaps in my work-from-home wardrobe that needed filling. Many of my comfy pants are magnets for cat fur, so that wasn’t really working for me. But I could older yoga pants that are too warm or don’t quite stay in place right for workouts were fine for my work-from-home life. I also noticed that I have long-sleeve shirts and tank tops, but not so many short-sleeve shirts.

To fill in the gaps, I turned to Poshmark. Poshmark is an online marketplace where people can sell their previously-seen-on-Insta clothes and things that didn’t work for whatever reason. One tip though, read the description carefully. I did end up with a couple things that still had the original tags on them (NWT). This wasn’t not keeping with my mission since people snatch up discounts and then resell. Now I’ve gotten better about making sure things are actually used.

Recycling Clothes

Even when I buy used on Poshmark, I look for clothes with one type of fiber (please keep that in mind when buying for your families). These are more likely to be recyclable later. I have a Ridwell box that will take threads for recycling, so ripped or stained things go in there.

If you aren’t in Seattle, you can find places to recycle your own threads—and buy recycled! I love Marine Layer. Adidas even makes running shoes out of recycled ocean plastic.

Saying I love you

I don’t say I love you very freely.

I say it to Nick and my immediate family. My nieces and nephews hear it. Though maybe I should be more specific with them and say, “I am obsessed with you and love to hear what’s going on in your head. I remember when you couldn’t lift your head up and now you are programming a computer and you’re just so fascinating. Please tell me more.” (too much?)

Sometimes my friends would say “Love you” or similar in a text and I’d respond with a heart emoji or “love ya.” Something about saying I Love You was very hard for me.

But while quarantined at home, I started saying those three words more. I wanted my friends to know that I love them and that it’s hard to be away from them.

Learning more about the lived experiences of people of color made me want to make sure that people know they matter to me. And not just matter (because that’s such a low bar). I wish you good things in life. I care about your safety and well-being. I want you and your families to thrive. You don’t just matter to me. I love you.

So, I started saying those words to people I don’t usually say them to. When checking in on my cousins, I signed off with I love you. My friends heard me say it or at least type out the three words in full.

I’ve also had the pleasure of working at the food bank where I get to engage with individuals and families. I love taking the time to ask what they want. Do you like chicken or fish? How about cheese? What kind of dessert would you like? I saw cookies, pie, chocolate croissants … What will your kids eat? I don’t say I love you when they leave, but I hope they feel it just the same.

I condemn Racism

Can you imagine leaving your house for a run or a walk around the neighborhood and getting stopped by the police and roughed up – or worse?

Can you imagine being terrified to send your teenage children to school or on an errand because they might get stopped by the police and roughed up – or worse?

Can you imagine sitting in your own car or gardening in your own yard and enduring suspicion or harassment from neighbors?

Can you imagine fearing getting lynched in a park? Because that’s happening again.

Can you imagine applying for a job you’d be a perfect match for and not even getting a first interview?

When you do get a job, can you imagine watching white man after white man promoted while you’re working twice as hard for half the credit?

I’ve been quiet on this platform since a police officer murdered George Floyd on the streets of Minneapolis. I don’t want you think I was silent because I don’t care. In fact, quite the opposite. I care deeply.

I also know the Internet doesn’t need another privileged white woman talking about her own journey. What it needs is privileged white women condemning these racist acts. And I do.

It is not OK to call the police because a Black man is running in your neighborhood with a hoodie on. That’s not a crime. He is probably trying to burn off some fat and/or steam like the rest of us.

It is not OK to overlook the contributions of people of color in the workplace.

It is not OK to assume a Black neighborhood is less safe than any other neighborhood.

If these scenarios don’t horrify you, you are on the wrong side of history. They are happening. People are hurting so badly. They need you to recognize.

It is time for all of us to look a little deeper. Look at the man running. Look at the mother’s tears. Look at the smart child who just wants a chance like the white kids

I hope you’ll join me in condemning racism and giving some of your privilege to those who need it.

The healing power of a nice long walk

Move over, banana bread and sourdough. I think walks should be the hot trend of 2020.

It seems like everyone I talk to is enjoying neighborhood walks (with the exception of my friends in New York who are still reporting anxiety on the crowded sidewalks).

Here in Seattle, my friends are happily noticing birds and lovely gardens. I’ve been known to stick my nose in the flowers to get a good smell. I probably shouldn’t be doing that during a pandemic, should I?

In early March, the first couple weeks of quarantine, I donned my rain jacket or even winter puffer for my walks. I got to watch as things went from brown and bare to green and lush. The cherry blossoms bloomed, dropped white petals and pollen everywhere, and then turned a rich burgundy color. I watched the tulips go from barely peeking out of the ground to tall and open to wilted brown leaves. What a gorgeous spring it’s been and how wonderful it’s been to notice all the changes.

Cherry blossoms + winter coat back in March. (Look how much shorter my hair was, too!)

Walking also comes with a myriad of health benefits.

My therapist friends tell me they’re great for letting go of stress and anxiety. Leave your phone at home or in your pocket and get a good dose of mindfulness.

Since my expertise lies in the weight management category, I can tell you that for most people 20-30 minutes of moderate walking is really all you need to maintain your current weight. That’s assuming, of course, that you don’t walk to the bar, bakery or ice cream shop for a high-calorie treat.

For weight loss or more substantial health benefits, up the intensity by jogging, walking uphill or carrying a backpack. You could also ride a bike, go for a swim, dance, garden or basically move your body in a way that feels good to you. But at a baseline you’re doing really well with 20 minutes of walking per day (2 10-minute sessions is also good, but make your bouts of exercise at least 10 minutes long).

Walks are also a great way to get the lactic acid moving the day after good weight-lifting or running session. If you’re a little sore, resist the urge to lie on the couch and get some steps instead.

Today I took a longer walk than usual to the post office and back with some moderate hills. It’s about a half hour each way through a different neighborhood. I came home in such a skippy, happy mood. Bread has never made me feel that good. And I like bread.

Getting dressed

What are you wearing?

No that’s not a come-on. I’m genuinely curious. If you’re half my readers, that makes you my dad (Hi, Dad!). You’re wearing jeans with a blue polo shirt.

But what about the rest of you? I’ve been switching between about 5 outfits since this all began.

One is a comfy striped dress that I add knit leg warmers circa 2011 to on chilly mornings. Two of my outfits involve patterned yoga pants with either a t-shirt or a hoodie depending on the part of the day. Finally, I occasionally throw on one of two pairs of jeans, but mostly just one. With that, I again pick whatever t-shirt or hoodie feels right. I rotate between 3 pairs of shoes: classic black sneakers, my running shoes, and flip-flops. Often I choose the running shoes to duck out the mailbox or deposit the compost simply because the laces are short and I won’t trip over them if I don’t tie my shoes.

Day 1 of WFH life. I was proud of myself for wearing a dress–but didn’t bother doing my hair.
Day 5,478. It just makes sense to wear workout attire in case I want to catch Zoom barre or yoga in the afternoon–still with the not doing my hair.

I went to a Zoom open house last week and a friend and I were talking about how we considered just getting rid of all the other shoes in our closets. Her other friend told us not to do that. “We are going back to offices eventually,” she reasoned. I wasn’t seriously going to ship that all off–besides the Goodwill isn’t even open for donations right now.

Yesterday I felt a bit weird because I wore a pair of black and white striped yoga pants with a blue Brooklyn t-shirt out on a walk. About halfway to my destination, I realized my stay-at-home outfit was a little weird out of the house. But I shrugged it off.

I have two pairs of solid-colored leggings, but one is black and one is navy and they are both magnets for my cat’s white fur, so I don’t wear them around the house. Today I considered buying some gray leggings that wouldn’t show the cat’s fur but decided against it. I’m good.

I’ve also been favoring simple white gym socks that I never wore in ordinary times because they don’t stay in place when I’m running, and they don’t look nice with work attire. At home, though, they’re the perfect comfy socks to keep my feet warm on spring days.

I know I will eventually go back to an office, but for now, this feels fine. I don’t mind my minimal life one bit. I feel 0 pressure to impress any of you on Instagram or even this blog.

I hope I will carry some of this minimalism with me when we do leave the house again. A few mix and match pieces to make up a simple capsule wardrobe will work just fine.

For now, I make it a point to get dressed every morning. I’ve worked from home off and on throughout my career and that has always been important to me. But I definitely don’t wear my office attire and makeup to sit in the dining room with a cat in front of me. How about you? Do you swear by getting dressed as usual each day? Do you change out of your day jammies and into your night jammies?

The best diet

It’s usually my stomach that wakes me up and a Saturday morning in physical distancing was no different. I really didn’t feel like making eggs. I wanted carbs and sugar but not toast. When I spotted a bag with a fudgy cookie leftover from the previous night, I felt giddy. That’s exactly what I was craving.

I ate my cookie and drank coffee without guilt. In fact, I was proud of myself for listening to my body and feeding it what it wanted. Later in the morning, I felt like protein and grains, so I made a second breakfast of a breakfast burrito.

As a nutritionist, I’m often asked about the best diet and timing of food. My answer makes no one happy. It depends.

Afternoon tea and muffin

Some people swear by eating only at meal time. Others (like me) eat small amounts more frequently. Since we’ve been home all day, I’ve analyzed my quaranteammate’s and my eating habits. I usually eat toast or oatmeal with almond butter and fruit right away. Usually have a snack of nuts or fruit around 10. Then I’ll have lunch and an afternoon snack—usually something sweet. If I find myself hungry later in the afternoon, I might have more nuts or a granola depending on how I’m feeling.

He eats breakfast. Then lunch. Then dinner. My meals are closer to 400 calories. He’ll usually have a larger portion of the meal I make then maybe have some bread with cheese on it or crackers and hummus. And a banana.

Neither of us is right or wrong. Neither of us will gain or lose more weight than the other. We’re both feeding our bodies the way that works for us.

In one of my final nutrition classes, I did a review of scientific studies on timing of eating. The results were inconclusive. Some studies showed that participants who followed intermittent fasting lost more weight. Some found that people who had frequent snacks and meals had a healthier body weight. Some showed that the secret to success was eating a bigger breakfast and smaller dinner.

My conclusion (and my classmates all came to the same conclusion) was that when you eat is subjective. It’s more important what you eat and how much.

In the same class, we were all assigned a weight-loss diet to present to the class. I observed that we could have all had the same first 2 slides in our presentations. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and get at least 20 minutes a day of moderately vigorous physical activity.

From there, you could add a whole lot of calcium, subtract any foods not available in the Paleolithic era, or eat only plants. It was basically a wash as long as you had that foundation of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and physical activity.

So one plan I like is mindful eating. That’s what I was practicing the morning I ate a fudgy cookie for breakfast. Mindful eating is about thoughtfully choosing foods to nourish your body and consuming them without distraction. You can start with fudgy cookies if that’s what you want. Usually after eating sugar, though, I feel like I need protein, so I had that. In the afternoons, if I need a little pick-me-up, I know that a handful of almonds is going to give me what I need. A cookie is going to make me want a nap on the couch. Coffee is going to leave me frustrated when I battle insomnia a few hours later.

So there’s not one right answer for anyone. Listen to your body—and be sure to give it fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and some physical activity.

I hate clutter

I hate clutter.

I don’t need a picture-perfect house but stuff surrounding me just makes me feel uneasy.

I know everyone in the world is currently wishing for a bigger house and here I go jumping on the bandwagon. Our 1,000 square-foot place has two bedrooms and three bathrooms (when 1 + ¾ + ½ = 3). I’d love a third bedroom. If you’re handing them out, I’d take another closet, a space for Gatito’s litterbox, and a little patio, too. Still, in normal times, we fit here.

But as you know, these are not normal times. Therefore, I’m going to whine a little bit.

We’re both working from home, which means the space we were going to turn back into a dining room after my graduation is still an office with a desk chair and monitor in it. We have four dining chairs scattered around the house.

Since we can’t go to the gym, we borrowed a bench and some weights from a wonderful friend. The bench now doubles as the living room coffee table. The ottoman that once sat in front of the couch is in the bedroom.

It’s all just making me feel very squished. Everything I can get out of the house is going out. I brought two of the dining chairs out to the storage locker. The trunk of my car (that moves about once every 10 days) is storing bags of stuff for when the Goodwill reopens.

Still, I’ve been telling people that I feel like I live in a storage unit. My office has some framed pictures leaning against the wall because I couldn’t find proper hooks with which to hang them up—and that’s not exactly essential to warrant a trip to the hardware store. Gatito insists on having a litterbox on each floor, so the downstairs one is next to my desk. We also have stuff we brought home from the offices with us.

A few spots are making me feel better.

  1. When switching out my sweaters for summer clothes, I also packed away office clothes. I won’t be needing them until sweater season at the earliest, so my closet is looking minimal and tidy.
  2. I also gave my bathroom a good cleaning and tucked most of my makeup and hair products under the sink, leaving out just the basics.
  3. I’m making it a point to tidy up the kitchen each night before heading upstairs—and sometimes while listening to conference calls because it’s nice to get up from my desk. Having that space neat and organized feels more peaceful.
  4. I’m safe and healthy at home with my boys. We have strong wi-fi. I have a job. We have no sulky teenagers or restless kids in need of homeschooling. I’m incredibly grateful.

Making the house feel like a hotel

For Nick’s birthday this year, we booked a hotel room downtown and enjoyed a little staycation. We lounged around the room watching cable TV. We had drinks at the hotel bar before wandering down the street for a nice dinner. The next morning, we ordered room service and enjoyed a leisurely morning before taking the bus back to our house.

Those 19 or so hours of vacation were so refreshing that I wanted to do the same thing for my birthday.

Only my birthday fell on week 5 of the pandemic in North America—and the weekend that infections were expected to peak in King County. As we do in times of crisis, we adjusted our plans and gave the house hotel-like feel instead.

I started by cleaning and decluttering. No hotel has piles of junk all over. Before hotel weekend began, I made sure to have the laundry, schoolwork, and necessary shopping done. I dragged some extra dining chairs (that aren’t being used while the dining room is a home office) out to the storage locker. We also set up a little window seat in the bedroom.

Nick surprised me with new sheets as a birthday gift. But washing your bedding and making the bed tight and crisp like a hotel works just as well.

We ordered breakfast from a local bakery. We went a little overboard and got breakfast sandwiches, a loaf of bread, and some pastries, which ended up doubling as a birthday cake when we couldn’t find one of those.

We ordered dinner and a cocktail kit from a local restaurant. My personal hotel bartender mixed up drinks for days in our kitchen.

The birthday is now in the past, but some of the hotel-like luxuries remain because it makes spending all the hours at home a little bit nicer.

Every morning we’ve been making the bed. It looks nice when I walk into the bedroom and it feels like a treat at the end of the day. I try to get ahead of clutter and keep the house relatively cleaned up. I took a tip from one of the doctors at work. She routinely cleans her kitchen at the end of the day, which helps her wind down. I started doing the same.

We’ve also kept lemons and limes on hand for hotel bar replication.