Category Archives: Food

Right Here, Right Now

My friend Joey sold ad time at a radio station right after we got out of college. He asked me to do a voice-over for him one day since a client wanted an Australian accent and I was the only person that he knew who could mimic one (passably enough for late 1980s Starkville, MS, anyway). Thus began my short career in radio voice-overs. Since there was such little work involved for me, I took CDs and concert tickets as payment. It was a great arrangement that got me tons of tunes and got me in to see Heart and Jesus Jones where my worlds collided. (I was a chemistry lab teaching assistant at a local high school. Some of my students walked up to me at the outdoor show. Honey! You have never seen a cigarette get flicked and beer dumped so fast! I don’t know why I thought my students shouldn’t know that I drank and smoked, but I did and so jettisoned those articles at warp speed! If you were at the show at Malfunction Junction and were suddenly soaked, my bad!)

But, I digress. (Imagine!) One of Jesus Jones’s biggest hits was Right Here, Right Now. The first couplet of the chorus is, “Right here, right now / there is no other place I want to be.” And, although I sometimes have romantic notions about living in some simpler time, the truth is that I also want to live right here, right now. Every morning when I wake, I am thankful for modern advances, specifically in vision correction. I cannot see more than five or six inches before my vision gets blurry. Without glasses, I would be largely helpless. I am so grateful that I have access to tools that allow me to continue to function. Glasses are not the only daily tool I use to function, either.

As I’ve mentioned on many occasions, I have been treated for depression for over half of my life. A large part of my treatment was and continues to be pharmaceutical. And, although I have been taking my meds throughout all of my recent trials, I was still overwhelmed; so, I went to see my doctor – another reason I’m glad to live in this time. The doctor changed some dosage amounts and times around. I began to feel the effects within just 24 hours. Wonderful!

Now, here I am, several days later and feeling 100% better. I’m sleeping with only one or two interruptions rather than waking up every hour or so. I’m no longer craving sugar to the point of eating roughly 4000 calories every day (Y’all, I wish I were exaggerating. No Ho-Ho or Ding Dong was safe within a half a mile of me.) My stomach is once again communicating with my brain letting me know when I’m full. My mood and perceptions are once again stable. I don’t feel like I’m on the verge of tears all the time. It’s really wonderful!

I think of my Self as a castle that sits inside the fortified walls of my mind and emotions. Negative people and stress can deteriorate those walls. People whose endocrine systems function normally can manufacture the materials needed to repair the walls. To a lesser degree, I can, too. However, people with both normal and abnormal endocrine systems may find their fortifications overwhelmed by circumstances. Last week, I mentioned coping mechanisms, finding ones that work for you, abandoning ones that don’t or ones that are harmful, and seeking help when you need it – when your fortifications are being overwhelmed. Sometimes meds are the help we need, sometimes it’s counseling. But, somehow, we think of seeking counseling as some sort of character or moral failing.

Ummm.

Generally, I seek counseling when I’m puzzling through some situation I’ve never encountered and don’t know how to handle. So, it’s rather like reading the instructions in complicated flat pack furniture. Is it a character flaw to read those instructions to put together something I’ve never constructed before? Only a stubborn fool would insist that it was. So, how is seeking help to get through an unfamiliar situation any different? I just don’t see it.

Similarly, people often see it as shameful to admit that they are taking anti-depressants. Why? Are people with Type 1 diabetes ashamed to admit that they take insulin? Their bodies don’t make it. It’s not their fault. It’s just how their endocrine systems function, or rather, don’t function. The same thing is true for people with many mental conditions. These are actually endocrine system issues that express themselves through the mind. They can produce brilliance in the minds of some of the Selfs that carry them like in Van Gogh, Hemingway, and Poe. But they create misery in the minds of all of the Selfs that carry them. Perhaps those artists would not have created had they had access to today’s medications. Perhaps they would have.

In any case, I am grateful to have access to today’s medications and tools and to be right here, right now.

Pity? Party of One?

So, I’ve kind of been over here all “Lesley-Gore-It’s-My-Party-And-I’ll-Cry-If-I-Want-To” and here come some friends busting in the joint with gifts for me, screwing the whole thing up. Nothing will kill a good pity party vibe like getting an amazing gift. Here are three of the ones I got:

“You spoke my words.”

That’s a pretty tough gift to beat there. After reading “How To Survive The Loss Of,” a friend told me her own experience of losing her “life” after a sexual assault. (I put life in parentheses there since I don’t mean her life in the terms of pulse and brain activity. I mean her life in the sense of her home, her marriage, and her job. You know – nearly everything but her pulse.) I have known her for many years, laughed with her over a million things (she’s the funniest woman ever) and I had no idea that she had survived an assault at all, let alone that she had she survived wave after wave of polluted crap that smashed into her afterward. She stood up to each wave, but, like me with the loss of my wallet, it was the loss of something small that sent her to her knees. I’ve always really liked her and I am blown away with the honor of having her say that I had spoken her words.

“Your writing is insightful, funny, and grammatically correct.”

Another huge gift! After reading “I’m Pretty Sure I Should Be Rich By Now,” this friend, who is a wonderful writer himself, called to encourage me to continue to write, saying that he enjoys the thoughts that I share and how I share them both verbally and mechanically. What a delightful surprise! It’s always wonderful to hear that your work resonates with others and, even better, that it doesn’t make someone twitch! Bonus gift! I know that sometimes I take liberties with grammar; however, if you visit with me often, you know that I generally do it for emphasis. It’s important to me that my language mechanics be as nearly correct as I can make them so that you can hear what I have to say without being distracted by the monstrous way I’m saying it.

“Your writing is always very concise, reflective, and thought-provoking. The reason I miss it so much when you are silent.”

This was after I asked her to read “Mixed Metaphors Inside the Asteroid Belt” prior to publication. My thoughts are like ping-pong balls in a tornado – bouncing all over the place, hitting first this thing, then that thing, then each other. It’s bedlam in there! And that particular piece had even more metaphorical collisions than most; so, I needed to get another set of eyes on it. Sometimes I am afraid that connections, analogies, and metaphors that make perfect sense in my head sound like the Mad Hatter when I let them out. It’s both comfort and confirmation when someone understands the point I’m trying to make with my occasionally unconventional comparisons. Again – awesome gift!

Each of these gifts (and others I didn’t mention) have gone a long way towards helping me through grief and get a handle on what I need to get done next. However, as I mentioned, they completely ruined the Pity Party for One I had going in full swing over here. While it’s still true that I can cry if I want to, I feel less inclined to do so.

Thanks, you guys.

Bad Home Movies

8mm projector and reels

So we’ve just gotten through the holidays and in the US, at least, that sometimes means the showing of old home movies, vacation videos, childhood photos and the like. Holiday trips down memory lane. Thank goodness for eggnog, amirite? Because when many of us see those old photos we don’t think of our younger selves as children trying to figure things out. We don’t forgive ourselves for not knowing things we had no way to know at the time. We are super harsh and critical of our younger selves. And, for many of us, old loops of negative self-talk can begin again. And old movies or photos are not the only triggers.

Recently, someone I love told me I was fat. Well, what he actually said was that I “need to get one of those things you wear to count your steps.” Depending on the dictionary you use, that translates either to “Jesus! You’re a cow!” or “Damn, girl! You have let yourself go.” Some translations go even further to add a phrase about worthlessness. Like I said, it depends on the dictionary you use.

To quote Ray Schleine in the movie Uptown Girls: “News fuh-lash.”

Thanks to my joints, I am literally painfully aware of how fat I am. I am acutely aware of how much weight I have gained and I am fully aware of how I look. That comment did not help.

So, a little advice from me to you when you find yourself thinking you should “get real” with a friend or loved one about how fat they are – don’t. Just don’t. They know it. And if you just can’t help yourself, let me tell you what is likely to happen: you ask if your loved one really wants that extra cookie or piece of fudge. “You know what?” they say. “You’re right. I don’t need that and I don’t even want it.” Then while you’re off somewhere patting yourself on the back, they have stolen back to the table and taken not just the one piece of fudge they were going to take earlier, they take the whole container which they proceed to eat in the bathroom, the laundry room, or in their darkened bedroom. They are eating it to prove you right when you implied that they have no self-control and are to be pitied. They are proving you right and punishing themselves for it. You didn’t stop anything. You just increased their level of shame.

When I heard that I needed to get a step counter (one of which I have, by the way, I just wasn’t wearing it), I wasn’t prompted to go for a walk. All of those old, negative recordings in my mind started blaring and I grabbed the animal crackers Santa left in my stocking and I took them to a quiet place and ate them in secret. Then I took my hurt out on other people and was ugly to people I love, which while understandable, was inexcusable. Enter more guilt and queue up the chocolate moose Peeps.

I manage the office for one of the most well-respected fitness authorities in the country and while she never says anything about my physical state, I am acutely aware of it, particularly at the office. When I arrive at work, I always hope that no one wants to speak to me right away since my office is on the second floor and I am winded after a single flight of stairs. So, no. Regardless of how much you love me, you don’t need to tell me that I’m fat. I know.

Now, that’s not to say that I would be unreceptive to other ways of phrasing that concern and I believe that many overweight people would also be open to hearing the concern of loved ones if it was delivered without a side order of judgment. Good options might include:

  • I’m concerned about your health. I love you and I want us to be old lady friends together. How can I support your efforts to be healthier?
  • I’m concerned about MY health. I’m going to start walking every day, but it would really help me to have an accountability partner. Would you walk with me?

Notice that both of these approaches are in the first person singular – I – not in the first person plural – we. Don’t seek protection in numbers for this conversation. Be brave and be compassionate. Accept their answer – whatever it is – and continue to treat them with love and acceptance. If they tell you to go suck an egg, then leave it alone. It’s their life, their choice. And you can’t make people want what you want them to want. If they are open to your overture, then follow through. If they need a phone call a day to help, then make it. If you said you were going to walk, then walk.

I don’t know a single overweight or obese person who is completely comfortable in their skin. I’m sure they exist. I just don’t know any of them. Most of us hate how we feel. We hate how we look. We really hate shopping for clothes. And we hate that we don’t seem to have the power to control ourselves enough to change the situation. Most of us try and we fail. Then we try again and we fail again. And rather than every failure strengthening our resolve, it reinforces that negative loop that we are failures, that we can’t do anything right.

It’s the new year and new decade – time for all those resolutions we rarely keep. I am making only these resolutions this year and I mentioned them yesterday:

  • Always acknowledge my blessings.
  • Seek not only knowledge but also wisdom.
  • Be honest, but show compassion – to others and to myself, as well.
  • Love people (including myself) the way I claim to.
  • And watch a second season of Henry Cavill in anything.

Amen.

 

The Silver Lining to a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Well, my weekend kind of sucked. Sorry. There it is. I spent most of it in a funk over some personal stuff and I really just wanted to eat all of the chocolate in Nashville, then get in bed, pull the covers over my head and sleep.

I didn’t do any of those things.

Instead, I washed the windows in my house, washed existing curtains, hung some new ones, cooked a double batch of Jamaican Black Beans with Pineapple Chutney (from the Forks Over Knives cookbook), got rid of some junk, hung a new light, watched a couple of superhero movies and cooked a vat of tomatoes down to sauce. And, I rode my bike each day and did yoga or Tabatas, depending on what day it was. I stuck to my calendar and kept working towards my goals.

And that felt GREAT!

For some reason, I have felt really brittle the past couple of weeks. I don’t know what the deal is. I don’t know if it’s related to the changes in my diet, the changes in my activity, or maybe I’m approaching menopause. I don’t know. I just know that I’m taking my meds daily; but, I’ve still bitten my poor sister’s head off about three times. I’m struggling to get a handle on it.

Throughout the struggle, I’ve stayed away from my bad, old habits and that, frankly, feels pretty freakin’ awesome! I have been known to drown my sorrows in an Oreo Blast or a pint of Phish Food; but, so far, I’ve stayed away from the bad stuff. Honestly, my food diary and my little calendar on the fridge have been great helps in this. I can easily see what I’ve already eaten for the day, how many calories I have left for the day and I can quickly get the calorie count of whatever thing it is I am thinking of eating. I can also walk to the fridge, check out the calendar and see what tasks are marked off and what I still need to do. Having those physical reminders is proving to be really instrumental.

I’m choosing to see my brittle and/or decidedly cloudy mood as a test of my resolve to ditch my old, unhealthy habits and replace them with new, healthy ones. So far so good! And that’s a silver lining I’ll take any day of the week.

Building A Solid Fort(night)

First of all, let me say that I think American English really should include the word fortnight. It’s so much more succinct than two weeks. Anyway….

In our last visit, I told you that I had started to build some new, healthier habits. To date, I have ridden my stationary bike for 30 minutes on each of the last 16 days (fortnight plus four) – today being number 16 and I got it out of the way this morning. And, yes, I marked it off on the 21-day calendar that I have hanging on my fridge. That visual, while perhaps childish, is a really good motivator. I see it every time I walk into the kitchen. It reminds me to ride the bike on days when I haven’t done it yet and on days when I have, like today, it gives me a great sense of accomplishment to see all of those days marked off. I have five more days on this calendar and I will have completed the 21 days.

Even now, I can already see a MASSIVE change in my attitude! In the first few days, I hated it – like I started hating it 30 minutes before I even did it. I had to force myself to do it and I pretty much trash-talked myself into completing the 30 minutes. This morning, I had to encourage – not trash talk – myself only through two minutes of the highest intensity setting. (Have the bike set on Rolling Hills so the intensity changes from level 3 to level 5.) And yesterday! Let me tell you about yesterday. But, first, I have to start with last week.

Last week, the hot water knob in the shower was stuck; so, I had to fix it. Saturday, my computer showed no password box on the login screen. After a full day of trying all the fixes I found on the HP website and on YouTube, I had to reformat the thing. Monday, the dryer died. All of those things joined a thousand other stressors in my life resulting in a full-on anxiety attack at work yesterday. I called Dad to talk me through it, which was SO great I can’t even tell you. When I got home after work, I did something I haven’t done in a very long time – I did not respond to stress by eating.

As I’ve told you before, I’m a stress eater among other things. If I’m stressed, I take a lawn chair and a spoon to the Publix frozen food section and make myself at home. Okay, so I don’t actually do that, but I do hit the ice cream aisle pretty hard and I eat the whole pint at one sitting on my couch. Yesterday, I didn’t do that. When I got home, I did some chores then I rode the bike. And I felt better. I felt better because of the endorphins and because I won an enormous battle over my own bad habits. It felt truly fantastic.

I’m excited about this attitude change and I want to keep this momentum; so, I am making another 21-day calendar with the same habits I’ve worked on this month plus a couple of new ones. My first two weeks were solid with this cycle and I am feeling psyched about the rest of it. To be honest, I’m feeling kind of psyched about getting the next challenges started!

 

There’s Always a Reason to Cheat

On your diet, that is.

Last week, I told you that I had given up ice cream for my OktoberFast. I don’t really know that you can appreciate just how big a sacrifice that is for me. I used to say that Little Debbie was my homegirl; but, y’all, Debs ain’t got nothing on Ben and Jerry. If you don’t understand that, then I can safely conclude that you either: 1. don’t like ice cream (and what kind of mutant are you?) , or 2. have never tried either Phish Food or Karamel Sutra. (Side note: this Spring, I started cheating on my boys from Vermont, though, by taking the High Road. Their Aztec Chocolate is transcendent. Seriously.)

But….that’s not really my point, plus I’m drooling on my keyboard.

My point is that I love ice cream and that I notice its absence acutely. In spite of this – or rather, because of this – I gave it up for OktoberFast…..totally not thinking about my friend’s birthday being in October.

Traditionally, what do we have for birthday celebrations? Cake and ice cream! Yes! So, when discussing his birthday dinner, we agreed that I could take a “time out” just for that one night. After all, it was just one night. And it was his birthday, for pity’s sake!

Right. It was still cheating.

I made a commitment to myself at the beginning of October that I would keep the sinks clear of dishes and that I would not eat ice cream. Neither commitment really matters to anyone else but me; so, who really cares if I lapse? No, not lapse. Cheat.

I care.

We were celebrating. That’s a good reason to have something special, right? Sure. It’s as good an excuse as any to cheat. So is having a bad day, having a good day, or Thursday. There’s always an excuse to cheat if you look for one.

I’ve regained 80 of the pounds I lost six years ago with just that kind of thinking. “I can have it just this once.” But it wasn’t just once, was it? That one cheat day became a cheat weekend, then a cheat month, then fat pants with elastic waistbands.

It’s just like several of the times I quit smoking. I would go for months and even a couple of years without a cigarette. Then I would be with a group of smokers and I would think that I could have just one. BAM! I’d soon be back up to a pack a day on regular days and over two packs a day on the weekends. The truth I had to face was that I couldn’t have just one. I was (and still am, I suppose) a nicotine addict. One hit of that Camel Light and I was hooked again. Intellectually, I know that my body responds to all addictive substances in basically the same way – the pleasure centers of my brain go nuts. And my brain doesn’t really care if the cause is a cupcake or a crack pipe. It just knows that it’s getting something it likes and it wants more of it.

Ultimately, my addiction isn’t to ice cream. It’s to sugar and to casein, the protein in milk that, when broken down during digestion, releases opiates called casomorphins. To be fair, there is some debate on how much of an effect casomorphins have on the human body; however, sugar is still there so my issue remains. In the end, I have to break my addiction to sugar by drastically reducing my intake of refined and added sugars. Ice cream is just the first step.

And, just so you know, I bought the container pictured above for my friend to enjoy ice cream with his cake while I limited myself to cake. Hey, it was chocolate ganache and I never claimed to be a saint. I obeyed the letter of the law. Obeying the spirit of the law will come later when I’m a little stronger.

As for OktoberFast? I’m still faithful and going strong.

 

The Wheel

…and why reinventing it is unnecessary.

I am an idiot. Let me just start with that.

The past several months I’ve tried all kinds of different strategies, tricks and ridiculous things to get this weight off again. And, guess what. None of those strategies, tricks or ridiculous things worked. Why? Because I was listening to other people – diet “experts.” See all those diet books in photo at the top? Those are my books. I own them. Those aren’t even all the ones I’ve read. Those are just the ones I own. (Some of them are recipe books, but they contain meal plans or advice on how to build them. Since I’ve used them like diet books, I’m counting them as diet books.) And I’m going to run it down for you. For losing weight, the ONLY two that have had advice that worked for me are Sybil Ferguson’s The Diet Center Program and Erin Oprea’s The 4X4 Diet.  Years ago, I used Bill Phillips’ Body for Life book, which was also helpful; but, not in the long term.

I lost about 60 pounds using the Diet Center Program when I was in college. When I lost weight successfully five years ago, that’s pretty  much what I used then, as well. Rather than keeping a paper food diary, though, I used the LoseIt app. Since I lost 94 pounds, I’d say it was a good combination. Wouldn’t you? So, why in the world, when I decided to get back on track, did I try these other methods?!

The only answer that makes sense to me is that I’m just thick-headed.

Even though I know that only hard work and diligence will make me leaner and fitter, I still buy into the hype and marketing. I still want to believe that there is a Magic Pill or a Get Thin quick fix.  There’s not. There’s just not. Even a whole food, plant based diet may make me healthier; but, unless I stay away from starchy carbs and excess oils, it’s not going to make me leaner.

So, for the last 30 days, I have successfully logged all my food intake, and I mean every morsel. I’ve been weighing and measuring my food again to make sure I know exactly how much I’m eating. Because I had a cast on my foot when I started this, I did not weigh in and I haven’t weighed now. But, in those 30 days, I’ve lost at least two inches around my ribs and at least an inch from around my waist. And that is just from watching what I’m eating and from watching WHEN I eat it.

Erin Oprea’s The 4X4 Diet added some practical advice to The Diet Center Program. Erin (who has never had a weight problem herself; but, who writes with the empathy of someone who really gets it) advocates watching WHEN you’re eating certain foods. As a result, I plan my meals better. If I’m going to have toast, a sandwich, or potatoes, I make sure that in addition to eating a controlled portion, I eat that portion before 3 PM. No starchy foods after 3. (Well, except when my sister and I went to see Beauty and the Beast. I totally chowed on the popcorn. But it’s DISNEY!)

Erin also advocates a periodic cheat meal – not a cheat day, a cheat meal. The idea of a whole day of eating whatever I want scares me from the perspective of a sugar addict; so, I allow myself just the one cheat meal each week, and I usually plan it for several days. I count the calories for that meal in my food diary; but, I eat whatever I want. I’ve had three cheat meals now. I truly ate whatever I wanted and as much as I wanted; however, I’m noticing that I don’t want to blow it out quite so hard. Next week, I’ll still eat whatever I want; but, I’m going to control the portion on it. I believe that I can get the same enjoyment out of that meal without consuming quite so many calories.

I’m really excited about the progress I’ve made in the last 30 days – neither my bra nor my shorts are cutting me in half, and I can bend over to tie my shoes without huffing and puffing.I still have a long way to go; but, I’m finally on track and have been on track long enough that I feel comfortable sharing it with you. I had to throw out all the “great, new ideas” and get back to what I know worked (with a tweak or two). I was failing because I was trying to reinvent the wheel.

Now, I’m rolling along just fine.