I love bread. Bread is my food cryptonite.
I rarely, if ever, refuse an offer of bread. If bread is available, I’m going to eat it. In fact, way back when I first lived on my own, cheese toast was my dinner of choice no matter how late or early I got home from work. Bread is my go-to snack. I eat it with peanut butter, jam or regular butter (though rarely since I’m mindful of my cholesterol these days). I eat it on its own or with cheese. I eat it any way I can get it, really.
This love of bread has not been kind to my belly recently. It isn’t as flat as it used to be mainly because of bread, I think. During my eight idle months in Jamaica earlier this year, I ate far too much bread out of sheer boredom, even more than I would normally have eaten. That’s when my flat belly started disappearing. During those eight idle months while I was consuming more bread than I should have, I was also going to the gym three or four times a week. My trainer, who’s no slacker and who doesn’t allow me to be either, did his best to battle my emerging bulge but the bread won. I haven’t seen my flat belly for over six months. I’m hoping it comes back. I miss it. A childless woman with my slim frame has no excuse for sporting a belly.
Now I’m here in Yakutsk and I’m not going to even try to pretend that I’m exercising. I brought a skipping rope with me, hoping that I could use it a few times a week to get in a decent cardio workout and hopefully burn off some of my bread belly. But remember how I told you about noisy apartment living and the need to be considerate of my neighbours? Yeah, rhythmic jumping on my downstairs neighbours’ roof isn’t a good way to do that. I shelved the skipping rope after my first failed attempt to skip quietly. Then I decided to take my sister’s advice and try an ABC workout, that is, do a prescribed movement for each letter of my name. For example, ten-second hollow hold for ‘K’, one minute spider man for ‘R’, fifty-five jump lunges for ‘I’ and so on. I got to S and stopped. I’ve never been good at working out on my own because I lack the discipline; hence my trainer. Apparently even the desire to get rid of my bread belly isn’t strong enough to get me to continue.
I decided to put my hope in climbing the five flights of stairs to my apartment every time I get home. I nixed that idea as my daily cardio the first evening I came in and started up the stairs, only to realise how poorly lit the stairwells are. So now the only time I use the stairs to go up is when there’s a decent amount of sunlight coming through the windows in the stairwells. When winter starts in a few weeks and there’s only four or five hours of day light, for sure there will be no sunlight decreasing the darkness of the stairwells so my already puny stair exercise has a looming end date. Of course, since work is literally fifty steps from the entrance to my apartment building, no exercise will come from that direction. I will say, though, that since the buildings here are all above-ground because of the permafrost, I haven’t yet encountered a building that doesn’t have a flight of stairs to enter it. So I’m definitely climbing a lot of stairs but I’m doing it at a leisurely pace.
“What about the gym?” you ask. Yes, there are gyms here and I could join one. But I honestly don’t see myself trudging through the snow and cold to go work out. I don’t love exercise so that level of effort is unrealistic for me to expect of myself. I mean, come on. If I’m not even going to the supermarket in the cold for groceries, why would I go to the gym?
I’ve now transferred my hope to my diet. I mostly eat at home, where my standard breakfast is oats and fruit and sometimes a slice of bread with peanut butter. I take my lunch to school or pop back home for lunch. My standard home cooked mean is stir fried (in very little oil) vegetables – lettuce, onions, carrots, tomatoes, that kind of thing – or a Greek salad (minus the feta cheese), sometimes with a jam or peanut butter sandwich. When I get home from work in the evenings, I’m usually hungry so I’ll have more veggies if there are leftovers in my mini-fridge; if there aren’t, I’ll reach for the bread again and have a slice of that with whatever topping meets my fancy.
It’s at this point in the day that I think my decision making is at its weakest point, because I’ll also have something sweet and it’s never healthy. I openly admit that I have a sweet tooth, and although I’ve cut way down on my sugar consumption in recent years, I do find that I crave something sweet after I eat dinner (and sometimes lunch). When I’m at home, I’ll have sweet biscuits that I buy in the mini-marts downstairs then go to bed a couple of hours later with all of that food converting into fat because it’s not being expended as energy.
I think I lost a few pounds when I first got to Yakutsk. I walked for two days straight in Moscow then I walked for the entire first week I was here. On top of that, my appetite decreased at first, I think because of the other demands on my body with respect to adjusting to the time zone changes. Then my appetite went back to normal and I started buying bread and not exercising.
On the plus side, I’m consuming a decent amount of water. Every four or five days I buy a six litre bottle from the mini-mart downstairs. This tells me that, between having it straight or in my coffee, tea or oatmeal, I’m consuming an average of more than a litre of water every day. I also use it to cook but, as I said, I mostly stir fry vegetables or make fresh salads so my cooking efforts use very little water.
An interesting side note. Since I’ve been here I haven’t once gotten up in the night to use the bathroom. Not once! This is unusual for me. I have no idea why this is and if anyone has any ideas, please share them with me. I don’t think anything is wrong because I feel fine and I go as soon as I wake up and I believe that I’m drinking enough water during the days. Still, it would be good to know why my body has changed so suddenly after years of almost unfailingly getting up in the wee hours to take care of business.
Anyway. I’ve decided to try to manage my bread habit. I tried Russian black bread (it’s not actually black, it’s wheat bread) but I don’t enjoy the taste and I definitely don’t like it with peanut butter. I’m trying other alternatives that occasionally include white bread (so good!) and I’m trying to limit my consumption to two slices per day. That’s not bad considering that the size of the bread is about half the size of the breads I’m used to buying in supermarkets back in the west.
Let’s see how this all plays out over the coming months.