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Tag Archives | fitness

I’ve been fitbit

It started innocently enough. A friend of mine who just had her second child bought herself a fitbit, a little piece of digitized plastic that tracks how many steps you take in a day, the miles you walk, and the calories you burn.  Or the lack thereof, depending.

R. swore by her little doodad; she walked and she walked and now, damned if she isn’t on week four of a  couch to 5K program.  She swears the fitbit got her moving.

How could a little piece of plastic with a happy face on it motivate a person, I thought to myself, tossing another handful of candy corn into my mouth.

Here’s the thing: in New York, people walk. New Yorkers walk everywhere and if we’re not walking, we’re running to the subway, hauling ass up and down the stairs.  New Yorkers are like sharks: stop moving and we’ll die.

But out here in the land of cheap gas and big cars?  It’s a bit like walking in LA: people do it, but everyone around you thinks you’re a lunatic.  Plus the long distances between, say, where you live and where your children play football every damn day because you’re a spineless parent who didn’t say no exercise their angelic bodies on the football pitch, necessitate driving, which is why my butt is slowly morphing into the shape of my car seat.

Besides, we are moving into the season of festive eating, which will be followed quickly by the season of omigodimturningfifty and I think it’s time that I rid myself of that pesky baby weight.  The baby just turned nine, and although I hate to rush into anything, I guess I’d like to start my next decade sylph-shaped rather than car-shaped.

I swallowed my skepticism (along with more candy corn) and bought a fitbit.  Not the super-duper fitbit that measures everything, even the efficiency of my sleep (It’s simple: I don’t get enough sleep. Don’t need a piece of plastic to tell me that: just look at the baggage under my eyes.)

For the past few weeks, I’ve had the fitbit clipped to my pocket and every night it syncs to my computer.  It’s a little bit addictive, I have to say.  A person doesn’t want to think she can be so easily manipulated motivated by smiley faces and cheerful messages but . . . the other day I was in my office and had about 45 minutes before my next meeting. Usually I would check in on my other addiction — Tom and Lorenzo — but instead I went for a little walk outside.  Added a few thousand steps to my daily total … all in search of a CHAMP! button.

I don’t know if I’ve lost any weight yet, but now that I’ve finished the candy corn (imported from the States by a visiting friend, who I’m not sure I should thank or curse), I have a fighting chance. And yes, I know I could just choose not to eat the candy corn, but that seems just silly, given that Josh went to all the trouble of bringing it from Brooklyn.

I’m going to fitbit myself all the way to fifty, I guess, but just look at that little smiling face.  Wouldn’t that face make you take an extra step or two?






Continue Reading · on November 28, 2013 in Abu Dhabi, aging, exercise, growing up, me my own personal self, NaBloPoMo

the hard part about learning something new is that you don’t know how to do it

Caleb came home from his third day at his new school and said “look, mommy, I can write my name in Arabic!”  And he did:

It occurs to me that he may have actually written “suck it,” and I will never know. But still…he did it in Arabic.

Linguists talk about a “critical age” for language acquisition: to become truly fluent in a non-native language, you need to start at about age six. Caleb just turned seven. Every day, he comes home from school with new words: ketab, kaluam, bata, baqara, mimha, and of course that quintessential Arabic word, sabudra, whiteboard.  (I just asked him to say all these words to me and as I typed them, going by sheer phonetics, he was correcting me: “no, that’s not a “k,” it’s a “q,” no it’s not an “e” it’s an “i.”  So that’s nice. Now in addition to kicking my ass in Monopoly, he can correct my Arabic spelling.)

Liam is also taking Arabic and it delights him. His baroque nature finds great satisfaction in the flourishes and curlicues, in figuring out that the shape of letters change depending on where the letter occurs in the word.

Yes, you heard that correctly. The letters don’t look quite the same, depending on where they occur in the word. Oh, and another thing? Vowels aren’t so much included in the word. They get added afterwards, above, if you want to. There are 14 extra-alphabetical symbols that I’m supposed to remember on top of the 28 consonants.

Liam and Caleb think it’s all fascinating, like learning a new code.  Studying a new language works for them because they have brains like this:

My brain, unfortunately, looks like this:

And just like my kids, I’m also taking Arabic. But with a rock brain instead of a sponge brain. Letters that change depending on where they’re positioned? No vowels written down? An entire second layer of meaning floating in the symbols above and below the word?  It makes my rock brain hurt.  On the first day, I didn’t even open the book the right way. Which is to say that I opened it from left to right. Fail. It’s right to left, people, right to left. The workbook is written in English, thank god, and comes with a DVD that I’m supposed to watch in order to learn an entirely new system of mouth moves. Which sounds like a porn movie but won’t be as much fun.

I’d forgotten how hard it is to learn something new. I’m not sure I even remember the last time I deliberately set out to learn some new brain thing. Learning physical stuff—kick-boxing, karate, surfing—that’s hard too, but I think that brain calisthenics are even harder, because with physical stuff, someone can at least watch you and say you’re leaning too far to the right, or that you’re doing some weird torque with your hips which is why you’re falling over.

A few weeks ago, I went to the gym for a session with a personal trainer.  He said that it was important to do different exercise routines during each workout to “confuse the body,” because then your muscles have to work harder and you see better results.  After a few sessions with him, I wasn’t magically thinner or stronger (dammit!) but my aches and pains showed me that new muscles were emerging.

It occurs to me, as I make this analogy, that my brain isn’t as fit as my body. Who knew it was possible to have swags of back fat and poochy love handles on one’s brain? It’s a medical miracle. Someone call Dr. Oz.

My brain may not know it yet, but it’s just been put on a new fitness regimen that goes from right to left. I’m going to confuse that gray matter muscle and make my brain all perky and renewed, the brain equivalent of a midwestern gymnast. Who knows. Maybe the process will, inshallah, ward off Alzheimer’s: being temporarily confused as a way to ward off further, more permanent confusion.

The second Arabic class is on Sunday.  Maybe I can get my kids to help me with my homework.


brain coral in the photo above was a gift from Nancy Horwich to Caleb, who treasures it (not knowing that it’s a metaphor for his mommy’s brain)

Continue Reading · on September 16, 2011 in Abu Dhabi, Children, Education, expat, language

Cereal as a cure for chaos? Maybe…

The school year is winding down and we’re getting ready to move. Each boy’s school has end-of-year celebrations and parties and exhibits; after-school classes are over; babysitters are away on vacation.  Add to that the pile of boxes in the middle of our apartment, waiting to be shipped to Abu Dhabi, and it’s like a double whammy of chaos around here.

With all the schedule changes, family dinners have pretty much fallen by the wayside and with all the parties and celebrations happening during the school day both boys are getting lots and lots of opportunities for snacks and sweets—so the lunch boxes are coming home almost untouched. So much for that well-balanced lunch I pack each morning, hmm?

And at night, after the boys are in bed, I’m doing my own fair share of snacking, looking for a little extra sugary energy to get me through another hour or two of sorting through ten years of files, piles, and boxes.

When I was asked to review the FiberPlus cereals with antioxidants from Kelloggs in the midst of all this chaos, I got almost too excited: maybe the boys would like these nutritious cereals and I could know that even if they ate cupcakes and pretzels all day, their day at least had a solid nutritional start.

The first one we tried, FiberPlus Yogurt Berry Crunch has 10g of fiber, which is almost 40% of the daily recommended amount.  With a ½ cup of skim milk, a cup of cereal is 210 calories. The boys liked this flavor but we all agreed that it’s almost too sweet to be a breakfast food. A few handfuls of Yogurt Berry Crunch, however, have become my night-time snack, and I feel much less guilty than I do when I settle down with a plate of ginger snaps.

The second flavor, FiberPlus Cinnamon Oat Crunch was our hands-down favorite. It’s cinnamony and crunchy and tastes as good by the handful as it does with milk. A single serving with a ½ cup of skim milk has only 150 calories and contains 35% of the daily recommended intake of fiber.  Given that regular exercise has also fallen by the wayside in these chaotic weeks, a low calorie, high fiber way to start my day is a bowlful of happy.
The drawback to these two tasty boxes of goodness is that the list of ingredients contains a few too many polysyllabic chemicals (but no high-fructose corn syrup). Generally I like to serve food that’s pretty minimally processed—although, of course, Caleb regularly has hot dogs for dinner and Liam loves chicken nuggets, so I’m not sure I can quibble with what’s written on the side of these cereal boxes. I think these cereals will become a regular part of our morning routine.  Now if Kelloggs could only do something about the rest of my packing…


Full disclosure:
This is a paid post sponsored by Kellogg’s. I received one box of Berry Yogurt Crunch and one box of Cinnamon Oat Crunch to facilitate the review. The opinions in this post are my own, not Kelloggs.

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Continue Reading · on June 21, 2011 in Abu Dhabi, food, Products

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