Friday, June 29, 2007

only 28 days until BlogHer '07

...or less, if you're reading this after June 29. So far, I've made the following arrangements:
  • Registered
  • Found a roommate who seems very cool (check out her blog) and who was lucky enough to snag a room at the W.
  • Bought tickets for the megabus, a non-glamorous but cost-effective and low-stress way to travel from Toledo to Chicago.
  • Ordered and received blog business cards.
I just had to take advantage of the conference being so close and in one of my favorite cities.

Maybe I'll be at goal weight by then. Or have finished my dissertation. Or have found a job. If I've done all of these things, what will I worry about? Being so happy that my head will explode?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

another stick of butter gone

Weight Chart

It's pretty amazing how accurately my weight loss tracks with how well I stay within my points range. This week, I used 25 extra points, which is just under maintenance range (4 extra points a day), and I just barely did better than maintaining.

I had taken the group journal this week -- at my meeting, we have a journal that is passed around to a different member each week. The idea of the journal is to give us some accountability and maybe an extra push to stay on target. Obviously it didn't quite work that way for me, but it was interesting to look back at previous weeks and see how each member used her points. I tend to need a lot of lines to journal, because I have two points of this, four points of that, a point of the other thing. Most of the other people had used only half the lines for each day, using up more points on bigger meals. I wonder if it might work better for me to try a different tack and do something similar. I definitely think I'm snacking too much.

I'm finding it a little bit difficult to stay focused enough to get to goal. I feel pretty good with the way I look and feel right now. My co-worker, who is about half my size, keeps telling me I'm "skinny." Shopping is a lot more fun, though I'm resisting the urge to buy everything that fits in a size smaller than I expect to need. The clothes will be there later if I still want them.

I was happy to have my regular leader back this week. Today there were no poems, just good, sensible advice and lively discussion from the group.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

what men want

I bought both installments of the "Bridget Jones's Diary" movies on DVD after DaisyK mentioned the book to me yesterday. I really do love these movies, especially the first one. Bridget is such an endearing character.

I tried watching some of the special features but gave up in disgust after watching "The Young and the Mateless: An Experts' Guide to Being Single." The "experts" include an editor from Allure magazine and the creator of “Sex and the City.” They begin by talking about how great it is to be single, but it quickly turns into a discussion of "what men want." I found it especially revolting that the editor of a fashion magazine would complain about what a narcissistic society we live in. Hmm, I wonder where all of us got these ideas that appearance was so important?

It got me thinking. I had a conversation a while ago with a guy I know who is in his 20s. He's a big music guy, and plays in a very good garage band. He asked what I was interested in in college. I said that as sad as it was, I spent a lot of time in college focused on finding a boyfriend and/or keeping the one I had. Sure, I did my schoolwork and got excellent grades, but if I am honest with myself, my primary focus was always the relationship thing. I also spent a lot of time trying to lose weight, mostly because it would make me more attractive to guys. He thought that was "messed up." I agree, now.

I don't think that I was particularly shallow or unusual in my focus. This was pretty much what my friends did. They thought about, talked about, and agonized about guys. Movies, television shows, magazines, and popular books all show women characters doing the same thing. Meanwhile, men's magazines are about cars, money, sports... OK, there are magazines with naked or nearly naked women in them, but the focus isn't on relationships as much as relations. They have the freedom not to think about us because we spend our whole lives thinking about them. The fact that women are able to accomplish so much in other areas of our lives while focusing so much time and energy on relationships really speaks to our intelligence. Imagine what we could do if we were less preoccupied with boys.

In "Bridget Jones's Diary," when Bridget finds out that Daniel is cheating on her in a particularly humiliating way, she has a brief period of empowerment. She throws away all her self-help books and finally takes some action in her career. She tells Daniel off publicly and starts to really respect herself. But that empowerment just empowers her to end up with Mark. Then it's back to being insecure, flighty, and obsessed for most of the sequel.

I'm happily married, and so I think about men less. I would say that my focus has shifted from 90% on relationships to only about 40%. I think being in a committed relationship has freed up a lot of mental space for other things. And to be honest, my husband has provided a lot of support for me while I worked on my goals. But I would be willing to bet that I spend much more time thinking about and doing things for my husband than he spends thinking about or doing things for me. This isn't because he's a bad guy. I think as far as guys go, he's fairly thoughtful. He just doesn't have the years of training that I had.

I would like to think it's different for girls growing up today, but my niece showed me her video games last weekend and they were all about virtual pets (nurturing) and shopping (looks). At least I hear that she also loves art and science.

I would be completely bored with a partner whose primary interests were his looks and his relationship with me. Maybe if we thought less about men, they'd think more about (and of) us.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

stupid Weight Watchers tricks

Weight Chart

Actually, I'm not talking about the scale, though as you can see from the graph, it's bouncing all over the place. I was not expecting a good weigh-in with the week I just had.

I'm just grouchy because my usual Weight Watchers leader was not there and our sub was a very nice woman who is a True Believer. I'm not sure how many of the people who read this blog are veteran Weight Watchers like me, but True Believers are chirpy little people who read the "Ten Little Weight Watchers" poem with enthusiasm and passion, and don't realize that if you've been in WW for more than a year, you've probably already heard it seven or eight times before. "Isn't that just the cutest thing?"

I've noticed a change in the program in the last couple of years. Meetings used to be more free-form. There was always a weekly topic, but leaders had a sheet of material on it and seemed to be free to use it however they wanted. Now there is a website with graphics for leaders to print out and paste onto flip charts, and there is much less room for members to talk about obstacles they faced during the week or share information and tips with each other.

I'm sure the point is to keep the meetings on track. I know my very first leader was more interested in telling us all about what was going on in her life and the lives of her kids than talking about program, but I find the cute cartoons on the flip charts reminiscent of kindergarten. I also don't find the kind of fill-in-the-blank participation this format encourages ("Always remember to drink your _______") to be particularly inspiring. Though the script keeps the meeting from being a completely irrelevant monologue by the leader -- "My son's wife said the funniest thing the other day" -- it also makes it harder for the good leaders to shine. Maybe if Weight Watchers started treating their leaders as professionals, and paying them that way, we could expect more consistent quality of instruction. Then they could let the leaders run the meetings themselves instead of reading through a premade curriculum. It's not surprising that they sometimes have a hard time finding good people if leaders' income depends on how many vile 2-POINT Bars they sell.

Today's topic was particularly strange and unhelpful. When I got there, I saw a bottle of water with a "Cure-All" label on it. I figured it was going to be all about the benefits of drinking our water. Not the most inspiring topic, but at least something that would make sense. Instead we got a weird little dissertation on three kinds of "Salt Water" that were the key to success: "Sweat," "Tears," and oddly enough, "The Sea." Each had a cute little smiley face to represent it. I don't think even with a spectacular leader this topic would have worked, but with this particular leader, it really was mystifying. I never did get a clear understanding of why The Sea was in there.

Weight Watchers is a hugely successful business, with almost $400 million of revenues in just the first quarter of this year. They have a team of scientists and other experts and even a magazine of their own. This would seem to give the organization the resources to design programming that is more sophisticated and targeted to an adult intelligence level. Someone in Corporate seems to have the idea that because we're overweight, and mostly women, that we are of subpar intellect and genuinely want cartoons and cute slogans and poems.

In reality, we all know that women who have weight issues are mostly intelligent, funny women with a sarcastic, rebellious streak. We want a down-to-earth leader that knows that no matter how many times you chant, "It's not a diet, it's a lifestyle change," you still have to eat less food to lose weight, and that it sucks sometimes. We need a leader who can agree with us that it sucks, but gently and firmly tell us we still are going to have to do it anyway. It would be a bonus if she could give us some realistic advice on how to do that.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

party animal

I had two parties and houseguests this weekend, so I am totally exhausted. Even houseguests as pleasant as the ones that we had are an interruption in the normal routine, so sleep and food habits get bumped around a bit. We had some extra restaurant meals, too, because we wanted to show that our little boring town had some very fun ethnic food options. Besides, it meant that I had an excuse to eat some really great Lebanese and Bulgarian food. We even discovered a great new restaurant.

I was glad to get to spend some time with family and to play hostess, even if exercise, rest, and food restriction took a bit of a backseat. Remind me of this if I start complaining about a bad weigh-in on Tuesday, okay? At least, thanks to the weight loss, I wasn't scrambling to get in the back row when family photos were taken.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

nasty compliments

Laura's comment about weight-loss related compliments that feel more like insults on Grumpy Chair's latest post reminded me of a conversation that really bugged me recently:
Complimenter: "So, how much weight have you lost?"
Me: "Oh, I don't know, maybe 10 or 15 pounds, total."
Complimenter: "Well, it sure looks like a lot more than that!"
I know she meant well, but if she wanted to compliment me, she could have said, "You look great," or something similarly innocuous. "It looks like a lot more than that," really just implies, "Boy, were you a heifer before!"

To be fair, I've looked at old pictures of myself and it does look like I've lost more than that. I've been weight-training and upping my aerobic exercise as I've lost weight, so I know that my body has gotten leaner. But still, I'd personally prefer the type of compliments that suggest I look good now, versus the kind that just refer to how huge I used to be. I wasn't really in the mood to explain it.

The absolute worst compliment I ever got was, "Boy, you must have lost a TON!" Well, no, since I never weighed more than 2000 pounds, it was physically impossible for me to have lost a ton. But thanks for implying that I used to weigh more than a cow. I had probably lost about 60 pounds when I got this "compliment" from a guy at my gym who had never spoken to me before. Until that point, I had lived under the happy illusion that none of the people at the gym really noticed me at all, and that they were all just busy doing their own workouts.

Mostly, though, these kinds of compliments make me think carefully about how best to express myself if I want to notice someone's weight loss in a nice way, rather than make them cringe. I usually either just say, "You look really good," or, if I don't know the person well, don't say much until they bring it up. It just seems safer that way. Once I complimented a formerly stocky guy that I hadn't seen since college on how trim he looked, and it turned out that he had been seriously ill for the past few years. Ouch.

What (if anything) is the right thing to say when someone has lost a noticeable amount of weight? What's the worst compliment you ever got?

Note: Anonymous comments have now been disabled, thanks to someone who is much too excited to tell everyone how they can show the latest news on their blogs. I've done my best to delete all the spam comments, but I may have missed a few.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

maybe I should go on vacation every week

Weight Chart

It's funny that some of my all-time best weigh-ins come just as I'm returning from vacation. I still haven't gotten back to the weight I was after my flirtation with potato pancakes in New York City, but this week at the lake, I didn't count my points and my food groups were basically alcohol, cheese, and fried. Fish and chips with beer, wine and cheese, crabcakes and more wine... I think that the reason it didn't hurt me was that we did a lot of biking and walking around. I also was not working on my dissertation, which seems to require frequent snacks for distraction and pain relief.

This week I'm going back to counting points more normally -- 22 points a day and 35 weekly allowance points. I found that I was ending up using a lot of extra points by trying to give myself a few more each day, because I didn't have a stockpile of points available by the time the weekend rolled around. Maybe if I can stick to this, I can get to goal and stop thinking about weight loss quite so much.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

things I shouldn't let inside my head

I always check out the "What's Up in Weight-Blog Land" section of Elastic Waist, mainly because a lot of the bloggers I read and admire are featured there. Last night, I read a post on Big Fat Blog about a nasty article in Salon that focused on the "unhealthy" body types favored by a lot of Black men -- basically, along with Sir Mix-A-Lot, they "like big butts and [they] cannot lie."

I agree with the writers at Big Fat Blog that this article is hardly worth discussing. But it's hard to ignore the fact that every few weeks, it seems there is some big brouhaha about how this image in the media or that is responsible for all of us being too accepting of the overweight, which is what's wrong with this country, apparently. Fat people are so beloved and revered that we all want to be chubby. Ha! I actually can't wait to see if MeMe Roth tees off at Christmastime on how Santa not only brings toys to children, he also brings diabetes, heart disease, and high cholesterol with his vision of jolly unhealth.

I do want to point out that there is a difference between body size and body shape. Diet and exercise (or lack thereof) can alter your body size to some extent, but it's hard to change your body's basic shape. You can't put on fat selectively in one place and keep a teeny waist, or millions of flat-chested women would suddenly look like Pamela Anderson. The subject of Dickerson's scorn could not possibly have achieved a body like that by sitting around and eating junk food. It's also possible to have a muscular lower body without being overweight at all.

I would like Debra Dickerson to go to a track meet sometime and see if she would like to talk to some of the world-class sprinters about how they are courting disaster with their "fat" butts. Most of them weigh less than 120 pounds and their lower bodies are still are round enough to give Dickerson heart palpitations. Sure, many sprinters are known to use performance-enhancing drugs or at least suspected of taking steroids, which is a terribly unhealthy thing to do, but no one is suggesting that it is competing with smoking for status as public health enemy number one. I'm not saying that there are no health risks associated with being overweight. But all this hysteria doesn't seem to be contributing to a solution, does it? Sometimes I get nostalgic for the days when people just called fat people ugly, instead of pretending to have a concern for their health.

Sure, fetish photography is distateful. Women are not Kentucky Fried Chicken -- most of us don't want to be just a collection of thighs, legs, and breasts. We are more than the sum of our parts. But how is objectification of thinness, and especially the current "ideal" of extreme thinness with large, balloon-like implants, any better? I think it's interesting that even though there is much more variety in the bodies of male celebrities than in women stars', no one freaks out when Vince Vaughn puts on a few pounds. I don't think it's because extra weight is less of a health problem for men than it is for women. Men don't expect to be judged solely on the basis of their looks, and it would be kind of nice of women could have that same kind of freedom.

None of us got to choose our bodies from a catalog. If we did, I'm sure most women would have chosen to look like Barbie, and things would be pretty dull. I'm sure that the MeMe Roths and Debra Dickersons of the world would have found something to complain about, even in a world like that.

Personally, though, I've given this kind of insanity free rent inside my brain for too long already. It took me most of my life to figure out that attaining the kind of thin, hipless body featured on the cover of Fitness every month is as unlikely for me as becoming a natural blonde. I think that along with reducing physical clutter in my life, it's time for me to start giving mental clutter like this the heave-ho.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

my very first blog award!

OK, so it's not so much an award as a game of tag. But even if it is a meme, I think it's a fun one. Thanks to Trixie Belden at Last Pick for choosing me for the "Thinking Blogger Award!" I appreciate that my blog makes you think. It's also always fun to have a chance to spread around some blog love.

Here are the rules for the "Thinking Blogger Award":

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think.
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.

It is going to be hard to choose only 5 from among the many blogs I read regularly, but I have to start with my three fellow Angry Fat Girlz team members and then make some tough choices from there:

  1. Daisy K. posts at car on the hill infrequently, but her well-crafted posts are worth waiting for and always make me think.
  2. Anne has a great blog at Random Thoughts of a Disordered Mind. She posts recipes, which are always incredibly popular, but she also writes thoughtful posts about her experiences as a Weight Watchers member or other insightful musings on the world around her.
  3. Lori's posts at Readheaded Stranger are usually funny, even when the things she's writing about (like a traumatic knee injury) aren't. She also posts wonderful photos.
  4. Cindy has a positive attitude about the whole weight-loss and life-improvement process. I enjoy reading her posts at I Surrender because she doesn't complain about her problems, she finds solutions. It's very refreshing.
  5. Beula's Dear Ethel is a different kind of blog. I always wonder if it's an installment novel masquerading as a personal blog. It's alternately wacky and heart-warming. Definitely check it out.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

this is how a yo-yo goes

Weight Chart

Down, up, down, up. It's enough to make me feel a little crazy. I hate the scale sometimes. I know that I was not on my best Weight Watcher behavior this past week, though. I have been very good about journaling even when I'm going over my points, and at least having the discipline to write it down. So last week, I used 39 extra points. That's not good. For all you math-y types, that's almost 6 extra points a day. So I suppose I should have expected some sort of a gain.

I try to keep in mind the fact that other people can't see a difference of three pounds, and even I am not sure that I can. When I went to pick a friend up at the airport yesterday, she said, "You're looking really good!" I doubt I gained the three pounds since yesterday.

Other than the weigh-in, Life is Good (as my favorite t-shirts say). Maybe I should get this one to wear in December. I feel more confident that I will actually graduate, because I got a good work session in yesterday and feel very comfortable about where I am with the dissertation. Yesterday on the way home from going to the airport, I saw a double rainbow, which was so clear and bright that I couldn't believe it. I wanted to stare at it until it disappeared, but since I was driving, I decided that would probably be a bad idea.

I'm not going to have Internet access for a few days, so you are going to have to survive a little while without knowing what is going on in my little life. You will have to make do with the rest of the Angry Fat Girlz. And there are always LOLCats to keep you company if all else fails.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

people first, then money, then things

I had a chance to tour Toledo's Old South End today with a group led by Dennis Wisebaker, who works with Viva South Toledo Community Development Corporation to revitalize the neighborhood and help provide affordable housing. This is one of the poorest of Toledo's inner-city neighborhoods, and there are obviously a lot of vacant houses and problems with graffiti and blight. But there also seemed to be a lot of cause for hope in the work the group is doing.

Some of the challenges seem like things out of an upside-down world created by Dr. Seuss's evil twin -- for example, the fact that a house can be abandoned by its owner and left vacant and unattended, but even if there is a willing buyer for the structure, the city can't force a change in ownership until the building is so dilapidated that it is literally falling down and in need of demolition. There are some gorgeous old homes in the neighborhood that are left to squatters and vandals as a result, when they could have been renovated to fill needs for decent housing. The corporation also builds new homes, but those often end up priced out of the reach of the people who want to live in the neighborhood. Unfortunately, the system is set up in a way that favors landlords over would-be homeowners.

I really heard a lot today to make me think, and wonder how I can do more to make a difference in the world, or at least in my corner of it. I think that maybe the failure of a lot of the self-help, New Age, and even mainstream religious culture is that spirituality is something we pursue only for our own good. The Secret is a good example of this: Get enlightened so you can get better stuff. I think a better reason to work on our own personal development is so that we are equipped to help others. There are a lot of gifts that we each have that could allow us to contribute in some small way to making this world a kinder one.

Yesterday's post about simplifying some things in my life may have come out sounding gloomier than I intended it to. I feel like I made a conscious choice to live a less-cluttered life, and not just because I decided to leave my full-time job to finish graduate school. Both decisions are really a result of thinking about what I really wanted in life and trying to live more in line with my values. It's not that I'm excessively frugal, and in fact I still probably blow a lot more money than I should, but I'm trying to think more about the things I buy and what I really need.

On the way home from my trip to the Old South End, I was listening to an audiobook by Peter Walsh from "Clean Sweep" called It's All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff. I need to drive around a little more before I can give much of a review, but I was struck by his discussion of the incredible boom in the self-storage business at the same time that Americans' houses are larger than ever before. Obviously, we have some issues with our relationship to our possessions, and it's interesting to me to think that maybe buying all that junk is a stand-in for a real search for meaning in our lives. I wonder, if we weren't bogged down with all of this clutter and the media-driven need for ever more things, if we might find some time and resources to address some bigger problems than the difficulty of finding the perfect pair of jeans. I think we might need to take our cue from pop-culture money princess Suze Orman, and think about "People first, then money, then things."

Friday, June 01, 2007

money worries

Recently, I read a great post by The Veggie Paparazzi about getting sane when it comes to money. She went through a lot more challenges than I have, but many things about her story, especially her urge to stick her head in the sand when it came to money, struck a deep chord with me. Lately money has been a cause of some anxiety for me, and I've been finding myself looking at job sites much too often, even though I know it's not a very productive use of my time.

We have balances of less than $1000 on two different credit cards. But that is deceptive in a way, because instead of credit card debt, most of our debt is in the form of student loans and a mortgage. We also have a smallish car loan. These are all better than credit card debt in the sense that I'm not likely to go out and open another car loan on impulse, but I still feel uncomfortable with the amount of debt we've managed to accumulate in our life together.

I am aspiring to the kind of life that my grandparents lived. They paid for most things with cash and never had a credit card until they tried to get one for a trip to Europe when they were in their 60s. I have been doing better in the last year or so, mostly because choosing to lower my income by becoming a full-time graduate student meant that I had to give a good, hard look to the things in my life that I was willing to give up to make that happen. One of the big things was shopping as a recreational activity -- that's why I tend to post about the rare occasions when I buy things. Of course, I could go a lot further, like Alex Martin, who spent an entire year wearing the same brown dress. But I think that it helped that she is tiny and cute and would look great in a paper bag. I will stick to being frugal in my own way.

I'm not alone in my debt worries. It's so easy to get credit that many of us in the U.S. have huge debt balances.
Americans spent 1 in 7 of their take-home dollars on debt payments last year, up from 1 in 9 in 1980. Experts say few consumers are able to calculate the true costs of such payments.
The average family owes more than $9,000 in credit card debt alone. It's not so bad when things are going well, but unexpected events can make things dangerously tight for many of us. PBS did a great series, which turned into the book Affluenza, on America's "painful, contagious, socially-transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more." There's a lot of pressure to spend, spend, spend, but in the long run, buying all that stuff never made me happier. Two books that really helped me out of that trap were Your Money or Your Life and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Simple Living. While I didn't take every step these authors discussed, I did use them to think about what I was and wasn't willing to give up. De-cluttering my life has helped me feel a lot more peaceful, and I really don't feel deprived because I don't have more clothes (my closets are already too full) or fancier cars (which would just make me worry about scratches every time I go to the grocery store for a loaf of bread).

That doesn't mean I don't worry about money. I still haven't had any big developments in the job-search arena, and I've had a gap in my graduate student pay that has made things a little snug for my comfort in the last couple of weeks. I feel pretty confident, though, that the things that we've learned during this little lean period will help us manage our money a lot better once I start making a real salary again.

What does this all have to do with weight loss? Pretty much everything: Delayed gratification, budgeting, planning... it sounds familiar, doesn't it? Luckily for me, my desire to spend a lot on clothes actually goes down when I lose weight, because I'm not as worried about having just the right thing to distract people from noticing the size of my thighs.

Speaking of the size of my thighs, I have two little victories to report. I had a magic number on my home scale today: 155. It's unofficial, of course, because it's not the Weight Watchers scale, but I'm hoping that it's a predictor of good things to come. Also, I finally tried on my Ann Taylor suit skirt without Spanx. (Yes, this is the skirt I bought for my non-existent job interviews.) It fits better than it did, but I'd still want to wear at least a light shaper underneath. Maybe when I lose a little more, it will fit even better. It looks like I'll have some time before I need it.
"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07