Wednesday, April 29, 2015

My 21 Day Fix Experience.

At the beginning of the year, I made a deal with myself to be better. What I mean by this is that I wanted to stop stressing about things I can't control and to be more patient. I also wanted to take better care of my body by eating healthier and being more active. January went by, and February, and there went March and I hadn't made any valiant effort at being better to my body. My biggest fault - snacking. Chips, chocolates, and sweets. In the afternoon, before bed, and any other time I felt bored. Before moving to Beijing, I had lost almost 40lbs on Weight Watchers. Over the last two years, Im embarrassed to admit, I've put it all back on. And then, I got looking at pictures one day on Facebook and stumbled across this one from the summer: 

I can see how my shorts are to small. My cardigan is being worn not because it's cold, but because it's covering my flabby arms. I also have a great muffin top going on. I know I am sounding very harsh about my appearance, but it's the truth. And if I didn't make a change, it would only get worse and I would only become less confident in my own skin. I want to look in the mirror again and see the reflection of the person who moved to Beijing two years ago. The person who was healthier and as a result, happier.

Before going on vacation in February, I tried on my shorts. Only one pair fit properly. The others I had to squish myself in to and they felt very uncomfortable. Jeans that I brought to Beijing with me that fit when I arrived are impossible to put on now. It's not only that my clothes don't fit, I just don't feel comfortable in my own skin. I had to stop complaining and making these bold statements about changing (soon), and I finally needed to do something about it. 

I had seen a few people from home posting on Facebook about the changes they were making to their lifestyle through the "21 Day Fix." I read their comments and posts, and finally decided to approach someone about it and learn what it was all about. I reached out to Sam. I've known Sam pretty much my whole life. She and I grew up together, went to Elementary school together, my Mom babysat her, and when she moved to another town we kind of drifted apart. But through social media, we've always been connected in a way. Sam told me about her experience, walked me through the program, and answered all of the MANY questions that I had. After much thought and research, I decided to take the dive. It sounded like this program would fit my lifestyle, and ultimately, it would teach me how to treat my body properly. 

Essentially, the 21 Day Fix is a program that teaches you how to eat clean, whole foods at appropriate portion sizes. You are given 7 coloured containers that help you to measure the correct serving sizes for the different food groups (green = vegetables, purple = fruits, red = proteins, yellow = starches, blue = healthy fats, orange = nuts, seeds, and dressing). Depending on your body weight, you are allotted a set number of containers of each colour you can have each day. In addition, there is a workout program. The workouts are 30 minutes long and you do one a day. The combination of the eating plan and the workouts will help you to lose weight and inches off your body. 

I was extremely excited to start the program. I went through the fridge and pantry and gave away all of the food that I was eliminating from my diet: meals in a box (AKA: Kraft Dinner, Sidekicks, Hamburger Helper), white rice, prepared salad dressings, processed meats, white pasta, potato chips, chocolate (which I may have eaten all of it prior to the morning of my start day...), and anything with added sugar or salt. I then went grocery shopping and stocked up on A LOT of fruits and vegetables, chicken, brown rice, whole grain bread, frozen fruit and plain greek yogurt. Day one started, and I was ready! 

I found difficulty in meal planning during the first week. I started the week by planning what I would eat EVERYDAY to ensure that I'd met my allotted containers for each day. This took me a long time to do, and as the week progressed, I found it very daunting. I veered away from the meal plan, and started doing my planning the night before. I found this much easier for my lifestyle. 

I've discovered that I am a woman of routine when it comes to my breakfasts. I've never been a breakfast person, and I was a frequent breakfast skipper growing up. So, I'm not very spontaneous with my breakfast choices. I've found something that I like, and I'm gonna stick to it. At the beginning of the program, my breakfast usually consisted of cooked rolled oats with cinnamon and blueberries, or banana and peanut butter. Then, when my Shakeology arrived in Beijing, I switched to having a Shakeology shake in the morning with banana and peanut butter. Then, around 10am I had my FAVOURITE snack of the day - plain greek yogurt with mixed berries and granola with cinnamon. YUM! And very filling. 

When I made my dinner on Sunday nights, I'd make extra protein to have for lunches during the week. One week I made extra chicken, one week it was lean ground beef, and another it was pork meatballs. I found that with planning and preparing the night before, I was more likely to eat the food in my fridge then opt out for the easier option of eating in the school cafeteria or buying instant noodles at the convenience store in our school.

Struggles I had during the 21 day's: Sometimes I had a hard time meeting the daily quota for each container. Usually I was short 1 protein or 1 vegetable. It wasn't until the last week that I figured out how to spread my containers out over the day properly. However, once I got my Shakeology, I was able to tick an extra protein off my list for each day.

Speaking of Shakeology! I love it! Shakeology is a protein shake that I drink once a day. Currently, I'm using vanilla but will be very excited when I get my hands on the chocolate. You can blend it up with a variety of things, but as I have been learning about myself over the last 21 days, I am a creature of habit. I love peanut butter! So, most mornings I have a Shakeology shake made with 1 banana and a teaspoon of peanut butter. It's gone in no time! It tastes like I'm cheating, but I'm not! And it's a superfood-protein packed with a multitude of vitamins, minerals, probiotics, and all things good for your body. It's proven to help with weight loss, the building of muscle, and to cut cravings.

So now my 21 Days is officially over. I am so pleased with the results I'm seeing and feeling. I've lost 6lbs and 6.5 inches off my body. I am more energetic, motivated, and aware of what is going in my body and how I'm treating it. I am making better decisions about how I treat my body, while at the same time not depriving myself completely of some of the foods I love. I still go out on the weekends with friends to our favourite restaurants. In fact, every weekend since starting this journey I've eaten out. I've just made better decisions - I get grilled chicken with a side of mixed vegetables instead of a burger and fries. I have a salad and add cheese on it instead of nachos. I've had a few beers, and (to my surprise and happiness) I am still allowed to have wine on the fix! It's all about moderation and making wise choices.

I've decided to do a second round of the fix, which I will start next week. I'm going away to Hong Kong this weekend, and while I am going to be wise about my food choices, I'm also going to treat myself a couple of times. But once I'm back in Beijing on Monday, it's back to the routine that I have grown to love.

*This is not an advertisement for Beachbody or the 21-Day Fix. This is only my notes and personal experience on the program. Photos of the program and Shakeology were taken from the Beachbody website. I do not own these photos. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Beijing: Round Three!

Beijing's got a hold on me, and I'm not going anywhere! (Well, until vacation time where I'll set off exploring somewhere new...and this summer when I am home for 4 weeks). The point is though, I've signed a contract to come back and teach in Beijing for my third year. Exciting! A few changes are happening in that I'll be transferring to the International school in the city to teach. Broadening my horizons and becoming a city girl again! (Right now, I'm living in a small village outside the city. And I mean a SMALL village. Me, my fellow Canadian teachers, and many many Chinese families and retirees). I'm extremely excited for what is to come and for new beginnings. I'm really enjoying my life right now as an expat living abroad! The opportunities are endless and there is so much I still have yet to see. It's a big world out there folks, and we only have one life. Might as well go big!

PS - Home in 75 days! :)  

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

April Fools' in Classroom 2004.

To those of you who read my blog - HELLO! Long time no see. Sorry to have left you high and dry. I keep saying out loud "I need to blog. I need to blog! I NEED to blog!!" And I have been working here and there on a LONG post about my Spring Festival vacation, but it's not quite finished yet. Soon! I thank you for taking interest in my life and my goings on. I don't think of myself as a very interesting person, but I'm glad that you want to stay up to date on my life. Because I love catching up with all of you, too! 


April Fool's as a teacher is a lot of fun! The students are always on their guard, always trying to trick you, and are sometimes easily tricked themselves. Today, I had several students attempt to get me to "check if my shoe laces were tied" (I was wearing ballet flats) and get me to wipe my face because "there's something on it right there." I even had one student tell me he heard I was getting fired! Out of all the tricks and games, one student successfully had me wipe at my face when he told me I had ink on my chin. He had bragging rights for the day. 

Today, I got my students good! Last year I pretended I lost my voice and that worked well. Until someone caught on and screamed "APRIL FOOLS'" and then my cover was blown. But this year, I vowed to not crack. I vowed to not smile. I vowed to convince them that I was NOT joking! 

As the bell rang, I had my principal come in and make an announcement to the students...

"Everyone have a seat please! Shhh! Okay, I have some bad news. We received an email this morning from the government of New Brunswick. As of today, all students will complete the ESLA exam in Grade 10 and not in Grade 11. But it gets worse. The test will be tomorrow." 

Sidenote: ESLA is the exam the students need to take at our school to receive their New Brunswick diploma which allows them to attend universities in Canada and the United States. 

The students gasped and groaned and a few cried "OH NO!" However, some of the students were on their guard and a couple whispered to their friends "It's a joke." "April Fools'" "She's not serious." This is when I stepped in. 

"Guys. I know it's April Fools' and you think we are tricking you. But it is just a coincidence that this is happening on April Fools' day. This is not a joke. It is very serious. We've talked before about this test and how important it is. We wouldn't joke about such a thing." 

This is the point where things changed. Students jaws started to drop. You saw panic start to set in a little bit. But some still seemed a little skeptical and not phased by my prank. I knew I needed to act sterner and a little more agitated. 

"So today we have a lot of work to do. Essentially, we are going to teach you all of the Grade 11 knowledge you need for this exam in our 40 minute class."

Yelps of "WHAT?!" and "SERIOUSLY?!" came from all corners of the classroom. And guys, I didn't crack a smile. (If you know me, I am NEVER successful at pranks because I always burst in laughter or am grinning. I was quite proud of my acting!) 

"Okay. I think you guys will be successful in the listening and speaking portion of the exam." I pretended to be a little scattered in my thoughts and actions. I even stopped and talked to myself sometimes being like "No, that won't work." and "There's not enough time, Melissa!" I really made them think I was going crazy! "So, I think it's best if we work on your writing. For ESLA, you need to write TWO five-paragraph essays. You guys are getting really good at writing one strong paragraph. But today you need to step it up and write 5 paragraphs about one topic. Okay, take out a pen and a paper and write a 5-paragraph essay about your favourite movie. You have ten minutes to do this." 

Students were frozen. They were so overwhelmed by all the information I was giving to them that they just didn't know what to do. Some got out a paper and pen and started writing furiously. Others sat frozen, mouths open, breathing heavily. Others were just looking straight ahead saying "What? How is this possible?" One student even slammed his pen down on the table and yelled "Impossible! Ten minutes is not enough time." I yelled back to him: "That's all the time we have!" 

I circulated around the class urging the students to work faster, put pressure on them, reminded them how important their success was. I handed out pens to students who forgot them and sternly told them how important it is to bring a pen to a test, in which I received responses of "But we didn't know!" 

"Okay guys! I changed my mind. Scratch out everything you just wrote. I want you to do a different topic that I think you can write more about." 


"I want you to write a 5-paragraph essay about how Melissa is the most clever teach you've ever had because APRIL FOOLS'" 

Nothing. They all froze. And then one student yelled "I KNEW IT!" and then the class erupted in cries and yells of "OHH!" "OH MY GOSH!" "WHAT!!!!" and "AHHHH!" They laughed. A couple of students teared up in relief. Others pointed at me and said "You are SO tricky!" My favourite response though is the student who said: "Melissa, you should quit being a teacher and become an actor. You are much better at acting!" (I'm not so sure if this was meant to be an insult or a compliment...) I got applause and we all laughed and replayed the moments out loud for about 10 minutes. It was a pretty good moment! And it went so well! 

As I was writing this, I thought that some people might think I was a cruel teacher. But it was all a joke and I did it with a class who I knew would find it funny! Which they definitely did, because the next class that came to my room were congratulating me on my well thought out prank. 

Teaching on April Fool's Day is fun! Get creative, guys. I remember the jokes my teachers played on me and my classmates when I was a student. I once had a teacher that gave us picture books that wouldn't open. I had another teacher in high school make us do a retest (THAT MADE NO SENSE!) after telling us we had all failed the previous curriculum test. I think my students will remember this joke for a long time to come. I know I will!