Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Sushi for Breakfast

Sometime last night, I decided that I was no longer worrying about the damn paper. It will be done for Sunday, not for tomorrow, and let the grades fall (ahem) where they may. I was not going to mess up my sleep _and_ my eating habits _and_ all my other reponsibilities because two profs are being neither professional nor decent.

My flatmate was having guests, so I went downtown to find a wireless connection and work on the paper. I stopped at Go Sushi before returning home and picked up salmon & avocado maki for this morning, so that I would not feel disappointed with not eating a big doughy bagel/pretzel thing and a morning coffee at the university. It worked :-) I think I should have sushi for breakfast more often.

My morning class today was sparsely attended, because at least three people skipped the class in order to write the stupid paper. One of them text-messaged me to ask if she could have my notes for the class she was missing. I said yes. That was just the first request. Four different people asked for my notes for different courses today, because the word has started to spread that I take excellent notes. Which I do. I find that taking detailed, organized notes, with colour highlights and various fonts to emphasize things helps me stay engaged with the class. I don't drift off if I am completely focused on listening, re-stating and typing. I told all the notes-requesters that if the two nasty profs decide to fail me and toss me out of the university, I am coming to them (the notes-requesters) and getting them to sign a petition to keep me in the university on the basis of my note-taking skills... :-) Everyone readily agreed to this condition.

The good: I am writing down everything I eat; that's four days of consistent journalling. I am drinking at least 2 litres of water a day; today was closer to 3 litres. I am eating breakfast every day. I am going to sleep at a more decent hour.

The bad: well, I already wrote about yesterday's binge. And I need to focus so that it does not recur between now and Sunday. Also, still no regular exercise.

The weather has improved markedly, so it is warm enough to start walking to school again rather than taking the bus. Tomorrow at midnight we switch to daylight savings time, which should inspire me to integrate a nightly walk into the schedule. I think I will not buy a monthly bus pass for April. That way I am more likely to walk to school and to downtown. I also bought a yoga book online, and in about two weeks, friends will be coming from North America and bringing the book with them (assuming they get it in time). That should make for a good start,

Lunch at the university was chicken breast, no mayo cabbage salad and mashed potatoes. And a can of Coke (330mL) which is better than a bottle (500mL), but clearly not ideal. I downgraded from a big coffee to a small coffee at the afternoon break.

I have to buy a printer. I'm leaniing towards a Canon or HP. I don't want to spend more than 500 NIS (about $120 USD), since I will only be using it for a year and a half before I leave for North America, and I will likely give it away at that time to one of the new students entering my program.

Tomorrow my class will visit the new museum at Yad Vashem. It has only been open for a month or so, so we are among the first visitors to see it.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Paper Stress = Binge

Mega carb binge whilst worrying about this paper. Three cups Honey Nut Cheerios followed by most of a package of curried rice.

Paper Stress = Food

The paper that is due March 31 is stressing me out, and as a result I am eating my way through the day. What annoys me is the sheer inconsistency and power-tripping of the two professors in question. People who did not ask them for an extension are operating under the impression that the deadline is the school's official deadline of April 3. People who did ask for an extension got zapped with a terse e-mail from the profs saying that the "final final deadline" is March 31. Finally, there are those people who for whatever reason did get an extension. One guy got an extension to April 7; but he has no idea why his request was treated differently than everyone else's, and another person got an extension till May. I didn't ask her why she got such a long extension, but I am guessing that it's because she has known the female prof socially for a long time. Here's to fairness and even-handedness.

To this silliness add the fact that even if the paper lands in the professors' mailbox on Thursday evening, they are not going to see it till Sunday morning. The university is pretty quiet on Friday, and the next business day, when they will actually pick up the papers, is Sunday. So in essence, forcing some of us to complete this paper for March 31 is nothing but their idea of fun. Cretins.

Of course, I am making it worse by using food for stress-relief. That's not the fault of the two scummy profs, that's my fault.

One bright spot, it is 3:37pm and I've already finished two litres of water and have started the third.

Monday, March 28, 2005

It's Still Monday

Going to sleep shortly, and I wanted to look back on the day and see how things went.

Water, no problem. Got the two litres in without difficulty. Unfortunately I also drank nearly a litre of cola, 830mL to be precise.

Need to bring food with me to the university and eat it earlier in the day. Even with the ridiculous amount of cola I didn't eat enough today.

I ate one homemade cookie and 1/4 of a bar of halva from my study partner's mishloach manot, saved the orange and disposed of the rest.

The next few days will be stressful because I have a paper due on Thursday. It's a completely unreasonable deadline by two completely unreasonable profs, who have given some people deadline extensions but have not given other people deadline extensions for no discernable reason. Power-tripping, probably, of the "I am a prof and therefore do not have to abide by the same laws as civilized people" variety. I sincerely hope I never have to take a class with either of them again. The first time I sent them an e-mail requesting an extension (well in advance), they ignored the e-mail for a week. Having worked in the real (non-academic) world, I find this to be extremely rude. Neither of these profs are Israeli, BTW. This semester I have a much better group of professors, thank goodness, most of who have already given us eminently reasonable deadlines.

Just wanted to get that off my chest.

Monday Monday

Went to my second WW meeting today, first meeting as a paid up member. Total damage for registration and 13 meetings, 864NIS. The attendance was lower than last time, but was still very respectable. Maybe people were reluctant to come after the sweets-feast that is Purim. My plan to not tell anyone [except for my sister and the internet...] that I joined WW fell apart, since who should walk in but the wife of one of my classmates. It was her first time, and she was there to shed some post-pregnancy weight.

I weighed in (see stats to the right) and was pleasently surprised. I know I lost lots of muscle since I got to this country, but I have not gained as much extra fat on top of that as I had expected. In the past I have been as heavy as 196lbs, so starting at 174 is just fine. Even cracking 170 will be a new experience, because I can't recall being under 170. I weighed in wearing jeans, post-breakfast, post-half a litre of water. One lady came up to me at the end of the meeting to tell me that I shouldn't weigh in with jeans, because they weigh a lot. To heck with that; I am not going to be one of those silly people who starve themselves all morning and then strip off half their clothes to weigh in.

The goal weight at right is not WW's goal weight. They don't talk to you about goal until you've lost 10% of your current weight. It's my goal weight. However, depending on how much muscle I manage to build, I would be happy with 140 also. I am not wedded to a number (unless the number is how many pounds I want to squat, bench and deadlift).

I found out that the group leader had lost 24Kg with WW, and also that she has five kids; nice!

After the meeting the group leader sat down with the newbies (me, one lady who said she had done Atkins and Bloodtype and still is not losing, older lady who seemed very shocked by the idea of drinking water, and wife of classmate) to explain the program. Apparently my point budget is 20pts, which seems a little sparse to me but we'll see how it goes. I'm not here to become a little WW calculator but to add a framework to the nutritional and exercise knowledge I already have, and if I find that I am hungry on 20pts I will eat more. Just not garbage.

Around noon I got to the university, which was quieter than usual due to a strike. I had lunch in the Education building cafeteria (chicken breast and red cabbage no mayo salad and a little couscous). Then I went to the library. I met my study partner who gave me a post-Purim mishloach manot... :-) I haven't opened it yet. I think that for next Purim I will put together savory mishlochei manot, or maybe fresh fruit baskets with herbal tea. And a single chocolate truffle.

Sunday, March 27, 2005


A gorgeous day in Jerusalem today; t-shirt weather. The midrachov was packed with people celebrating Purim. Lots of costumes and partial costumes, many homemade. Lots of angels, with little tinsel halos and wings, a couple of devils, with red/black spandex and pitchforks. The kids were adorable; lots of pirates, indians, police officers, and various animals. I saw a bear and a ladybug. Lots of girls in frilly tulle dresses being princesses, fairies, Queen Esthers. One lady was Art, I think, she had a white top with lots of paint squiggles on it, and paintbrushes in her hair. Some folks eschewed the full costumes and just wore ridiculous hats or sparkly makeup.

My flatmate gave me a mishloach manot with four different types of Kinder chocolates. I also ran into one of my classmates on the street and she gave me a mishloach manot with chocolate, fruit, cookies and a couple of gummy things. I made a basket for each of my flatmates with different types of chocolate and candy bars, and one for my cousin with chocolate and a bottle of wine.

WW meeting tomorrow morning, so I will finally know how much I weigh. I'll update stats and goals tomorrow.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Looking Back at Saturday

Shabbat just ended (6:31pm in Jerusalem). To make a long story short, I ate the chocolate. I don't know why I ate the chocolate. I didn't enjoy it. I wanted something sweet and there was nothing else sweet around to be had. I wanted tea and Shabbat had just started so I couldn't boil water for tea. [I have to buy one of those hot water things that stay on over Shabbat]. And the strawberries were disappointing, so eating the chocolate with them made them taste better.

I didn't eat all the chocolate, fortunately. And looking back on this Shabbat, I ate more veggies and fruit than I have in a long time. I didn't drink enough though. Looking at the log, I didn't drink water at all.

I have to buy a can opener. At one point I wanted tuna, but all the tuna cans I had were the kind without the pop-top. I dug up the can opener and it was dirty/rusty to the point that no cleaning would help. Fortunately I found one tuna can with a pop-top, but it didn't taste as good as the Starkist I usually eat. I've added "can opener" to my need to get list.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Friday at the Shuk

Another Friday, another visit to the market. This time I emerged with oranges, strawberries, spinach, ginger and mint leaves. I also bought three chocolate bars which I have no interest in eating; they are for the mishloach manot (Purim custom of sending yummy stuff to your friends) I am putting together. I am rather fortunate in not liking most candy bars, chocolate bars, etc. I also don't like potato chips, or Bisli and Bamba, the Israeli snack foods. However, I can easily sit down with a loaf of fresh bread and a slab of butter and eat my way through it. Not that I've done any such thing recently.

The market was full of people, some in funny hats and costumes for the holiday. Towards the end of the day, as the market prepares to shut down for Shabbat, vendors drag tables out in front of their shops and start yelling and dropping prices so as to sell their remaining wares. Today the big sellers were strawberries, which were going for 4 NIS per kilo, and oznei haman, which were 10 NIS per kilo.

After the market I walked slowly to the centre of town, enjoying the gorgeous sunshine. I wanted to get flowers but I left it too late; I couldn't find anything I liked.

I'm still keeping the food log. I am looking forward to the meeting on Monday and getting started in earnest. Still not drinking enough water. I'm going to concentrate on drinking water this weekend. I'm going to be home all weekend doing homework. I have a paper due on March 31 and one due on April 3.

Yesterday I found a place to buy kosher sushi. It is a tiny shop on Luntz Street on the midrachov called Go Sushi. I read about it in last week's paper. It is mass produced sushi; no chef behind the counter chopping away, but it was decent and reasonably priced. 12 pieces of maki for 34 NIS.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Hebrew U Food

Today is the Fast of Esther, but I am not fasting. I had breakfast around 7:45 before going to school (cornflakes mixed with honey nut cheerios, 1% milk and a banana; not an egg white omelette, but at least I am having breakfast, and the egg white omelette will happen next week. Promise!). My study partner at school was fasting, however, so I refrained from eating and drinking in front of her. I also forgot my water bottle on the dining room table at home. The result was that I had nothing to eat until almost 1:30pm, when I got to Hebrew University and hit the Education building cafeteria. 5 hours without food and water is not conducive to good nutrition.

The thing about the cafeterias at Hebrew U is that the portion sizes are huge, and the food is inexpensive. For 26 NIS, or about 7 bucks Canadian you get a meat entree with two sides and a 500mL bottle of Coke. I should bring my Rubbermaid container and pack half the lunch so that I have something to eat later in the evening. All the food outlets close at 7:00pm or thereabouts, so if you are working in the library till 9:45pm, forget about food until you get home.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Adopting New Habits

I started keeping a food log on Monday. Just noting down what I eat and when. I'm not doing a nutritional analysis yet, just getting into the habit of keeping track of what goes into my mouth. I'll start the nutritional analysis next week with the first Weight Watchers meeting. Just protein, carbohydrates, fibre and saturated/unsaturated fat tracking, nothing complex.

The most important thing this has (re-)taught me is that I need to remember to eat. Three hours fly by, and I need to have access to quality food every 2.5 to 3 hours, or I will end up hungry, which will leads to bingeing on low-quality food, which leads to bloating and gas and is very detrimental to my sunny disposition.

On the first pages of the food log I put the nutritional plan for training & rest days that my trainer had designed for me last year. It is interesting to see how far away I am from that ideal. If I am going to get to that I am going to need a *much* bigger lunch bag.

I would like to go to the gym and work out, but I have a lingering and very annoying cough, which tells me that I have not fully recovered from the flu that floored me earlier this month. I did pack the workout bag though, which shows great optimism on my part.

This Homann interview at T-Nation has some great thoughts about exercise motivation and adherence.

Monday, March 21, 2005

First Meeting

The Weight Watchers meeting took place at the local community centre. I arrived three minutes early to find two women puffing away on cigarettes outside. The door was eventually opened, and women started trickling in, grumbling about the fact that the group leader is always late. Now I know that there's no point arriving before 9:10, or even 9:15. The group was all female, except for one older man. The group leader was indeed late, blaming it on traffic jams. A lot of Jerusalem is under construction for the light rail system, and there is even more congestion and traffic than usual. Most of the women were dressed in black. The group had several smaller subgroups: the Hebrew speakers, the English speakers, the French speakers, the senior citizens, the new mothers (with their baby carriages), etc.

Most of the attendees were either obese-fat (like me) or flabby-thin, which is to say, slim but with no muscle.

I couldn't sign up even if I had wanted to do so on the spot, because the group leader didn't know the prices of anything, and the lady who does the actual registration and deals with money had to run out to avoid a parking ticket and then to another appointment. I asked about student discounts and apparently there is one, but all this is on hold until next week.

Interestingly enough, they don't have the new Core plan that is in the US and Canada, just the Points plan. Not that I care one way or the other, because I wouldn't be following either one, but I am curious as to why that is.

I discovered that they don't set your goal weight right away. In Hebrew they call it mishkal kavod or honour weight. First they want you to lose 10% of your body weight, then they wait until you get closer to your undetermined goal weight before setting the final goal. It is based on BMI (dumb, since it doesn't take muscle/fat mass into account but is only a height-weight ratio).

I was impressed by the leader's energy and patience; she sat down at the end of the meeting and answered individual questions from various people.

I packed veggies and cottage cheese for lunch today, but I ended up bringing them back home and eating the veggies for dinner. I have to remember to eat every three hours if I want to get back to working out the way I was working out in 2004.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Quick Shuk Visit

I've set myself the goal of blogging every day except Shabbat; on the seventh day I rest...

I went to the Machane Yehuda market, a.k.a the shuk, this afternoon. I love the shuk. I go every Friday, but going during the week has its advantages. For one thing, it is not as insanely crowded. On Friday everyone is trying to get their shopping done before Shabbat, and the place is a madhouse.

Today was a gorgeous day in Jerusalem, sunny and 18 degrees Celsius, and the market was busy. This coming weekend is the Jewish holiday of Purim. One of the customs is sending gifts of food (at least two different types of food) to one's friends, and this usually but not always means baskets full of candies and chocolates and other sweets. The market is full of sweets, and there are vendors selling pre-made gift baskets, as well as vendors selling empty baskets and festive wrappings so that you can make up your own baskets.

I haven't decided to whom I shall send a basket this year. It isn't a custom I followed when I was in Canada. I think that my chevruta (Talmud study partner) deserves one. Maybe I will put together a "healthy" basket, with fruit and granola bars and juice rather than lollipops and chocolate covered cereal clusters.

For now, I bypassed the chocolates and candies at the shuk and got red peppers and yellow peppers. I also got dish towels, which I have no plans to eat, but which I thought would come in handy to dry the vegetables. I stopped at the conventional supermarket on the way home and picked up a bag of milk. Yes, one bag. They sell the bags individually here.

The first Weight Watchers (or Shomrey Mishkal, as they are called in Hebrew, lit. those who guard the weight/scale) meeting is tomorrow morning. I'll report from the trenches tomorrow.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Friday at the Midrachov

So here I am at the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall (a.k.a the michrachov, which is a combination of two words: midracha – sidewalk and rechov – street, because the entire street is a sidewalk, clear?) in downtown Jerusalem, sipping a café hafuch (lit. upside down coffee, meaning with lots of milk, a.k.a latte, but you pay less for a café hafuch than you do for a latte, I’ve noticed.)

There is a place I like around here with the incredibly original name “Coffee Shop”, but they don’t have internet access there, so I am at Ben Café instead, which is small but efficient, with a patio that gives a good view of passersby.

I got up this morning with much energy and cleaned out the left hand cupboard in the kitchen. Found a cake there with a best before date of Feb 2003. The cake looked just fine in its package, which makes you wonder what preservatives they put in it. Cleaned out is a bit of a misnomer, because all I really did was throw out everything that had expired.

I organized the middle cupboard with my stuff (oatmeal, canned tuna, green tea, measuring cups) and made a list of things I still need (skim milk, sweetener, veggies). I decided to wait until Sunday before buying veggies, because one of my flatmates gets a mountain of produce from his parents each weekend, and I want to see how much space there is in the fridge and what is missing before I go shopping. I am welcome to share his food, and vice-versa; one of the nice things about my apartment is that we are pretty easy-going about food. Anyone can have anything that is in the fridge.

If I did eat more of the produce I would likely be healthier. Eliminating the Milky food group would be good too. Milky, for those of you not in Israel, is a single serving dairy treat that consists of a chocolate-pudding-like lower half (6% fat, I think) and whipped cream on top. Yummy, but not exactly the hallmark of an intelligent nutrition plan, especially not when you eat them two at a time.

While I am on the subject of dairy products, will someone please start making low-fat cottage cheese in this country? Cottage cheese comes in 1 cup (250g) containers, and in 9% fat, 5% fat and 3% fat. I’m used to getting the 1% in 750g containers back in Canada and going through it rather quickly. I have seen 1.5% fat cottage cheese here, but it isn’t really cottage cheese but some cottage cheese – yogurt concoction. Not helpful.

I also need to get eggs and get back to the days of egg white omelettes. I'll start out with a dozen eggs, and if things go the way I plan, switch to the platter of 36 eggs next week. I used to eat 4-6 whites at a time, so 36 eggs will cover a week.

And last but not least, flowers, because I like flowers on Shabbat.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

A Beginning

On Monday, I am going to join Weight Watchers.

Those of you who know me are probably flat on the floor right now, wondering who turned the world up-side-down and what the hell happened. Those of you who don’t know me are saying, “So, who cares?” or “Nu, lemi ze ichpat?” depending on whether you speak English or Hebrew as your native tongue.

The whole thing started because of the flu. It began last Sunday at 3:14am with the sort of major gastro-intestinal distress I would only wish upon Holocaust-deniers, and continued through the week with aches, pains, fever, sore throat, cough, congestion, and most relevant to this story, weakness. It wiped me out. I stayed home from school Tuesday, Wednesday and today, in bed, sleeping and not sleeping. Occasionally I listened to the radio, but mostly I rested. On Wednesday I thought I was strong enough to take out the garbage. By the time I made the two-minute trek out and back all I wanted was to see the bed again.

This flu, which is directly responsible for me missing a much anticipated four day trip to see flowers bloom on the Golan Heights, turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because it gave me time to think. And what I mostly thought about was how I’ve become a sloth over the past seven months.

I had a lot of great plans before I came to Israel. From April 2004 to August 2004, when I was in Canada, I worked out five days a week. I was stronger and had more endurance than I had ever had before. I had a wonderful gym and an amazing trainer, I squatted and bench pressed and deadlifted numbers which made me incredibly happy, and I really thought that once I got to Israel I would join a gym and continue what I had started.

It didn’t work out that way.

There was the initial period when I was looking for housing and commuting two hours a day, then there was the school schedule – my program is extremely demanding, which I love, but it made it harder to find a gym, to watch the nutrition, to do all the things I need to in order to become what I want to become.

Mostly, I had excuses, and so seven months went by, and here I am in March 2005, fat, and unfit, and very annoyed with myself for sliding back to mediocrity.

Now, while I was lying in bed this week, wondering what drove the previous occupant of my room to paint it the colour of D’Artagnan’s horse, I had limited non-academic reading material. I had a couple of old issues of Men’s Health, and two issues of the Israeli fitness / health mag Menta. The back page of one of the Israeli mags had a Weight Watchers ad and a 1-800 number. So I called, spoke to a rather useless woman, and it turned out there was a meeting a mere five minutes from my home.

I decided that this was the solution. What I need most of all is some sort of structure, and WW will be the structure. I don’t need their trite sayings and silly trinkets, and I certainly don’t need their nutritional info, but I do need a place to get weighed; a way to be accountable to myself. I also need (and this may insult those readers who are WW members, but it is not meant to) to remind myself of what I don’t wish to remain, a fat and unfit sloth.

So this coming Monday I will go to the meeting and join up.

Perhaps I was being psychic on my last visit to Canada, but I brought back with me my digital food scale and a set of measuring cups (thanks sis!). I also bought an insulated lunch bag. Today I dragged myself out of bed, went to the supermarket and bought new food containers as well as baskets to store veggies.

Tonight I will go to a different (cheaper!) supermarket and stock up on tuna and oatmeal. Not too much oatmeal, since Pesach will soon be here. Tomorrow I will go to the market and buy veggies and fruit, and I will also update this template with links I like.