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Online Weight Loss Program Review

21 Mar

I. Am. Officially. Fat.  No way to get around it.  Call it “baby weight,” call “post-nursing gain,” call it whatever you want… I’m full-on fat these days. 

And to those who say I should “find the time” to go to the gym, I’d say I’d love to.  The gym, yoga studio and pool were once my second home, and I miss them terribly.  But between work and school, I’m away from the munchkin for 55+ hours a week; I don’t want to be away another seven – even if I am feeling physically better afterwards.  And once she’s safely in bed at 10 p.m., it’s lights-out for mommy too.

So until I’m able to find the extra time, I’m exploring some online weight loss tools: 

Weight WatchersI am blown away by Jennifer Hudson’s transformation from chunky mom to curvy diva, courtesy (she claims) of Weight Watchers.  (I’m sure there’s a personal trainer also in the mix!) 

That said, at $47.90 for the first month and $17.95 for each following month, this “convenient, customized, online plan” is a somewhat pricy option to explore, especially because it doesn’t even include the food.   The site promises healthy, family-friendly menus, workout demos, interactive tools, an online weight monitor and personal goal-setting, as well as a community to chat, but it looks like major time commitment.  I’ve also met several Weight Watchers devotees, and while incredibly successful, the maniacal obsession they have with points and meetings is a little off-putting.

Nutrisystem

A friend’s mom has had some great success with Nutrisystem recently, and I confess, I tried Nutrisystem years ago, but the food was just so awful, I lost weight because I didn’t want to eat it.  The Nutrisystem of today has an interesting online component, offering free meal-planning and progress tracking tools and a rewards program. That said, the program requires a 28 day commitment, and meals that are hard to replicate at home if you decide to stop the program.  The food is shipped directly to your house, so while convenient, you also have to make arrangements if you’re ordering frozen food.   The menu comes out to roughly $11/day – before shipping – and you still need to augment the diet with grocery shopping.

Lean Cuisine

As a time-crunched mommy, I tend to turn to Lean Cuisine once or twice a week anyway.  My husband will eat it, and when it’s on sale, I can get 5 decent-sized dinners for $10.  I’ve never been to their website, though, and I was surprised to see the free tools they have to offer.  They have a free exercise tracker, a meal-planning tool, a rewards program launching in April, and an online nutritionist to answer questions.  Plus, they also have a free bag promotion that I didn’t even know about.  Because I already eat this food, this seems like a no-brainer fit for me.

On the weekends, or nights when I get home at a reasonable time, I can take the munchkin for a walk, but for the most part, I’m stuck running errands and playing “catch up” on nights and weekends.   Anyone else have any helpful weight lost suggestions?

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Digital Lessons from PepsiCo’s B. Bonin Bough

17 Mar

I confess, I’m wildly inspired (and slightly intimidated) by the uber-early-adopters who attend the  South by Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, Texas every year.  These people are basically the pioneers of the digital frontier – and I’m excited to learn as much as I can from the gurus that network, present and share there.

I recently watched this great mini-clip of PepsiCo’s B. Bonin Bough’s SXSW presentation:

My favorite is was Bough’s reference to “digital physical fitness”…

“Digital physical fitness is the ability to adapt to changes in a digital environment.  And how do you get digitally fit?  The same way you do physical fitness.  It requires training, commitment…rigor.  It requires you to push beyond the point when you want to say ‘no’.”

For late-adopters, this is an inspiring concept.  Just like going to the gym and “catching-up” physically, we can “catch-up” in the digital world too.  It takes some work, but it’s certainly doable – even in the ever-evolving tech environment.

Thanks, Mr. Bough, for the real-life perspective, and check out more of PepsiCo’s interesting contributions to  SXSW.

Time for this techno(t)parent to hit the digital gym!

Help the Suffering in Japan

12 Mar

While Techno(t)parent is a parenting and technology blog, it’s also my personal soapbox.  One of the best things I think we can do for our children is to teach them compassion, and with regards to technology, to use it for good.   A CNN article titled:  Japan’s Earthquake:  How You Can Help is a great compilation of giving organizations that are mobilizing and collecting funds to help those suffering in Japan. 

In my first-ever donation-by-text, I’ve contributed to Save the Children.  It took 3 seconds, and was simple to do.  If this techno(t)parent can figure out how to donate using technology, so can you.

Please help those in need today.

Interview with “Parenting With Technology” Author Diane Kendall (Part III)

11 Mar

This is part 3 of my interview with parenting with technology expert Diane Kendall.  (Here’s the first post in the series.  Here’s the second post of three.)   THANK YOU Diane, for taking the time to share your wisdom!  For more of Ms. Kendall’s  spot-on advice and information, visit the Parents section of the “Power to Learn” site.

TNP:  What are the biggest drawbacks/dangers of technology for kids?  How can parents keep their kids safe?

DK: “Oversharing” is probably the biggest danger when it comes technology and kids. Most kids are willing to talk to anyone – online or off – that seems willing to listen, and without even meaning to, they can give away personal information that can lead to issues for themselves and their family. These issues can range from identity theft to being open to online predators to cyberbullying. It’s hard to learn what to share and what to keep to yourself and adults, as well as kids, need constant reminding to be careful.

“Oversharing” can create other issues as well. There has been research about how teens and adults view other people’s Facebook pages – often people they don’t know well – and become depressed because everyone seems to have “better” lives than they do.  And why not?  Most people don’t put out the bad things in their lives on their Facebook pages. Most Facebook pages are littered with positive and good things.

“All of this leads to how I think parents can keep their kids safe. KEEP TALKING  TO THEM, but most of all model good digital manners, safety and restraint. Talk to them about what people put on their Facebook pages and how it only reflects the things they want other people to know about them. Remind them if they start talking to someone online, or on a game, that seems incredibly sympathetic, perhaps that person may be too good to be true. Practice digital restraint – in other words, don’t always pull out your smart phone whenever you have a free moment.  The truth is that if you are seduced by the technology, your kids will be too. Just like everything in life, it’s all about balance and restraint.”

TNP:  Any other advice you’d like to share?

DK: I want to offer some hope. When it comes to technology, all I can tell you is that it’s about balance. I’ve been reviewing technology for children since 1979 and my two kids were exposed to it constantly growing up in the late 1990s through now. We had every new game, gadget and piece of software available at our house because I was a reviewer. Yet I still read to them every night, we did lots of art projects, they both played sports and musical instruments, my daughter was a volunteer at the local zoo in high school, and we managed to have a few serious conversations every once in a while.

Today my oldest is in a PhD program at an Ivy League university and my son is away at a respected college, playing soccer, and doing quite well despite being severely dyslexic.

“Trust your instincts, remember to model good technology habits and don’t forget to keep everything in moderation.”

Believe me – you can let technology be part of your children’s lives without being overwhelmed by it.

Interview with “Parenting With Technology” Author Diane Kendall (Part II)

9 Mar

Here is Part 2 of my  interview with parenting with technology expert Diane Kendall.   She offered heaps of really great, practical advice, so our interview is posted as three separate posts.  (Here’s Part 1).  Part 3 will be posted next week… Stay tuned!

TNP:  What are the biggest benefits of technology for kids? Why should they be exposed?  At what age?

DK:  To me, the two biggest benefits of technology for kids are becoming independent learners and no restraints on knowledge and creativity. The programs/apps/online experiences that are now available now, even for little ones, means that kids can teach themselves lots of things, at their own pace. I always laugh when I hear people say what will happen later when learning isn’t all bells and whistles and interactive characters. My question is:   “Who says there are no challenges in learning using these applications?”

Kids don’t always get the right answer, nor when playing a game, do they become good at it right away. If a game or a learning program is any good, and kids go back to it repeatedly, it is because they find some kind of challenge in it. If the technology was all easy and mindless, they wouldn’t go back to it. Obviously some challenges are greater than others, can lead to more real world skills, and can help kids learn things that will help them with the kinds of skills that they will need for standardized schooling.   But the great thing is that kids can go at their own pace using many of these apps and programs.  They are not waiting on others to get to their level. They are learning that it is ok to forge on ahead. There is a lot being said in the press and in education about how kids are going to have to be more responsible for their own education in the future. I think technology is going to be a big part of that.

As for knowledge, I was in a meeting the other day and someone was bemoaning the fact that kids have no geographic sense. “They don’t know where Tunisia is!” she exclaimed.  My answer to that was looking up where Tunisia is is so easy for kids today that the real problem is taking kids to the next level – What is important in the world today about Tunisia? How are they connected to Tunisia (at least in a kind of six degrees of separation sense)? What compelling reasons are there to know about this country or any other? If kids can answer those questions they are much more likely to know where Tunisia is.

“Factual knowledge is no longer an issue. Kids can look up what they want, when they want. That is very cool. But it makes our job as adults and teachers a bit harder because asking and getting at the answers to those other higher level questions can be a bit tougher, but definitely more necessary.”

As far as creativity goes, I love that many of the tools to create art, music, video, and other media are becoming simplified so that kids can use them to create as sophisticated products as adults can. I think that is very empowering to kids.  Don’t get me wrong. I think it is important for kids to create off the computer as well. Get messy with paint and clay and dirt out in the garden and build with blocks and all the rest. But there is something very satisfying about creating something fairly sophisticated, even at a young age, and I think that is a great benefit of technology for kids.

So when should they start at all of this? My answer is that parents know best about much of this. It is important to keep technology appropriate, set some time limits, make sure there is a mixture of activities and more. Because I was a reviewer, my two kids, started young at around 18 months or so because there was always lots of technology at our house. If exposure to technology is done as a “laptime” activity I personally think that there is some merit to doing it with preschoolers. It is a great way to supplement the learning of shapes, colors, letters, simple math concepts, reading and more.

From a Techno(t) Parent

3 Feb

As a techno(t) parent, I recently heard two bits of information that surprised me and became the driving force behind this blog.  They came from a Digital Diaries’ study from AVG  – an  Internet Security Company:

1) More kids aged 2-5 can play with a smartphone application (19 percent) than tie his or her shoelaces (9 percent).
 
2) Almost as many 2-3 year olds (17 percent) can play with a smartphone application as 4-5 year olds (21 percent).
 
Now, I think I have a smartphone.  (If a  Blackberry is, in fact, a “smartphone?”)  And I’m pretty sure I have a kid.  (She’s six-months-old and napping in the next room.)  But I’m embarrased to admit I don’t have any applications, except the partially-filled out one for daycare sitting on my desk. 
And to be even more honest, I wouldn’t know how to go about getting an “application” if I knew what, exactly, they were… Or how they could educate, entertain, or otherwise benefit me or my child. 

Merits of the study notwithstanding, (there’s some controversy regarding its validity,)  I quickly came to the realization that I need to up my “tech” game – if not for me, for my little munchkin.  Because if I don’t make the effort to get up-to-speed – and do it tout suite – I won’t be able to help my little girl navigate the technology-saturated world she’s growing up in.

I look forward to sharing my journey, in the hopes of helping other moms who aren’t brave enough to admit their six-year-old loads their iPods or they’ve never used a DVR. 

If you’re in the same boat, feel free to weigh in.  And if you’re “techno-savvy,” please share any tips, tricks, recommendations or suggestions that might help me along the way (in novice-friendly terms, please! No need to make me feel less behind than I already am, thank you!)  It should be an interesting read either way, as I try my best at parenting with technology.