The Color of the Fence

The Color of the Fence

When my daughters were little girls and I would tuck them in at night we played imagination games together so I could get them to fall asleep.

Many times the bedtime readings were not enough…and Dr. Seuss usually got them more excited than relaxed at bedtime.

One day I invented a game that worked for me for years in helping get them to sleep and just last night when I found myself wide awake at 2 am I thought of the game again…and sure enough, it worked!  I fell asleep within 5 or 6 minutes.

This is how the game went.  I would ask them a series of questions meant to help them visualize a pasture with sheep, and then we would count the sheep.  I know…not very original…but it was…because each night we played, the pasture and the sheep would change.

First I would tell them to close their eyes and think of a field with short grass.  And then the questions would begin:

  1. What color is the grass?
  2. Let’s build a wooden fence around the field.  What color is your fence?
  3. We left all the sheep outside the fence!  What color are the sheep?
  4. How many sheep do you think we have?  Let’s count them as they jump over the fence…
  5. and so we would count…slowly, until they fell asleep.

My oldest daughter loved this game and she was very imaginative with her sheep.  Her grass was almost always pink when she was very little and later it was always green because “there is no such thing as pink grass mom!”  Her sheep sometimes had stripes and polka dots and once they were all rainbow sheep.

She, being the oldest of course, outgrew the game first–one day announcing “I’m sleepy mom, I don’t want to build a fence.” And soon after, this little game was not needed for her to fall asleep. She has always been straightforward and logical.

The youngest also enjoyed this game but always tried to outsmart me. I would ask her the game questions and she would answer with a question of her own.  I would ask her what color is your fence? and she would ask me why the fence had to be made of wood?

It always took me a little bit more time to get her to sleep and I have to admit a few times I think she put me to sleep because I would wake up sometimes an hour later, still in her bed beside her.

She outgrew the game when she decided one evening that she did not want the sheep to jump the fence and come poop in her field. She has always been curious and practical.

And so the game was forgotten.

Until last night I had not thought of it in a long time…but in my mind I thought of long yellow grass, surrounded by a short white wooden fence.  I thought of white and gray sheep and as I visualized them jumping over the fence into the field I started to count…1, 2, 3, …. I was asleep before I knew it. The game still works.

What color is your fence?

Calories In and Calories Out

Calories In and Calories Out

The hardest part in trying to create a nutritional plan that works is keeping the proper count of calories. Why is this important?  Well because just like you cannot run a car without gasoline a body cannot run without calories. And running the body is what we are all about.

Although some diets and nutritional gurus may say that counting calories does not matter when trying to lose and maintain a healthy weight–they are relying on other processes of the body–like manipulating the way a person’s metabolism works to reach their weight losing goals.

The biggest problem is that these diets do work–at least for a while.  They work as long as you keep to the parameters of the diet strictly. The minute you change anything in these diets the weight comes back–with often a few extra pounds–that the body will save for the next time the body experiences these manipulations.

We forget that we are not meant to be on a the roller coaster of diets–we were made to follow a nutritional plan that provides the needed calories for the energy of living.

So scientifically, if you want to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight–you need to know what is going in and what is going out. And more complicated yet…you need to understand what calories you should be eating for optimum nutrition.

The way I see it there are two major challenges:  accurately counting the calories we are taking in and accurately counting the calories we are burning.  When we eat, we usually think we are eating less calories than we are actually eating–and we are usually not burning as many calories as we think we are burning.

Regardless of the challenges–it is important to note that becoming a healthier you is so important that the counting frustration should not stop us.  This is a learning process.

The best way to measure the amount of food in your servings is to use measuring cups and a food weight scale.  Most solid foods should be weighed while more liquid foods can be measured. Being consistent in weighing  and measuring your foods will help you in keeping an accurate count of the calories.

Once we get “used” to the meals that work best for us nutritionally we tend to stop measuring and weighing.  A chicken breast is a chicken breast right?  No. They come in all sizes and when we stop measuring–the calories creep in.

As with everything that is important in your life–I’m afraid to say–you are going to have to write it down. Keeping a food diary is the best way to know what calories are going into your body. (If you are not a fan of writing things down, I’m sure there is an app for that.)

On the counting calories out side–the same applies.  Every activity burns calories–but each person burns calories differently based on their weight.  The more you weigh the more calories you will burn during any given activity.

There are online calculators that will help you track the number of calories you are burning in any given activity or work out.  Keep in mind that to get an accurate count you have to be diligent about entering the accurate time an activity took place and also the level of intensity that you completed the activity.

Walking a mile slowly does not burn as many calories as walking a mile quickly while swinging your arms. And you can’t count walking for 60 minutes if you stopped and spoke to a neighbor for 10 minutes–you can only count 50 minutes.

Ultimately, though, the only way to maintain a healthy lifestyle is to know what comes in and what comes out. There is no scientific way around it. Creating this type of lifestyle when it comes to nourishing your body and keeping fit is much more sustainable.

Count your calories and your blessings! We live in the greatest time of nutritional knowledge–embrace it!

Have a great day today!  Leave me a comment or send me an email at emptynestsavvy@gmail.com…I’d love to hear from you!