Tuesday, July 31, 2007
On toledolefty, I posted about the experience of meeting Elizabeth Edwards. I have to admit that I was almost as thrilled to get to sit in on a lunchtime session with "The Biggest Loser" trainer Jillian Michaels, sponsored by AOL Body and AOL Coaches. I got to sit right in front of Jillian and even ask her a question or two. Here I am with Jillian and another blogger. I'm the one on the right. (Thank you to Carmen from The ELFF Diet for the photo!)
In real life, she is even tinier and more buff than she appears on the show. She's probably right around 5' tall. I thought she might fit in my carryon bag if I could somehow wrestle her in there, and then I'd have my own kick-ass personal trainer. Here she is with the beautiful and charming Shauna. Check out those biceps!
I took three and a half pages of notes on this session, because Jillian had so much wisdom about the tricky weight-loss business. She just seemed very down-to-earth and caring, and relatively calm compared to her hyperkinetic TBL persona.
I was happy to hear that Jillian had many of the same feelings about TBL that I do. She says she doesn't like the weigh-ins, the temptations, the eliminations, the unrealistic idea that people should lose ten pounds in a week. Despite all that, so many people are inspired by it that "the show's doing more good in the world than bad." I agree. I commented on how at the beginning of each season, the contestants seem to have no hope in their eyes, but at the end, they all seem to feel like badasses. I asked what Jillian does to kick off such a huge transformation in attitude. She said, "I scoop them up into a tornado where they really can't think at all."
All the yelling and seemingly crazy behavior on the show is her way to keep the contestants from saying they can't do it. She says she is good at gaging people's abilities, so she knows what they're capable of if they got out of their own way. "I'm not a big believer in motivation," she said. People who wait to get motivated never start an exercise program. She makes people do it first, and then eventually they become internally motivated.
In the real world, she said, people need to find a support system first, and tell their cheering section exactly what kind of support they want. After educating themselves a little on exercise and nutrition, wanna-be losers should make sure to start slowly with activity, but they should start right away. "Just go for a walk, get outside, find things you like." If they don't love exercise, they shouldn't be surprised, Jillian said, because "there's never a moment when I'm lifting a weight or doing a push-up where I think I love this! But I love the results." The first step for many people, she said, is "just not moving backwards" -- once they stop gaining, they can start the weight-loss process and get more fit.
One woman asked about her husband, who is reluctant to try to lose weight and says, "maybe I'm just meant to be heavy." Jillian said, "A lot of times, people hide behind the weight because it allows them to hide from life." They're afraid of failing, or that they won't be able to live up to the new expectations that people might have for them once they lose the weight. "Successful people fail all the time," she said. "If you're not failing, you're not really living. Being successful is a matter of attrition," succeeding just a little more often than you fail.
Jillian knows that many people, especially moms, think it's selfish to devote so much time to meal preparation and planning and exercise. "Your health is the platform on which you build your life," she said. For some of the people she helps, it may be a question of spending a couple of hours a day on fitness versus having their time with their children cut short by early death or chronic diseases. "What is it you want for yourself?" she asks. She suggests that people write out what they hope to accomplish from weight loss, whether it's having more energy to play with their kids or looking better in a bathing suit. During the tough times, they can refer back to those goals to remind themselves that the effort is worth it.
My favorite quote from the session is, "I'm not a big believer in moderation." Jillian knows that many people aren't going to be satisfied with "just little bits of everything," so she keeps the everyday food plan of her contestants fairly strict so that when they splurge, they can really splurge. But the catch is that they also need to plan to work out harder on splurge days. It's all about balance, she said, not moderation. The payoff is that "maintenance is actually easier than weight loss." A little extra effort during the losing process will get people to goal faster, and the calorie balance required to maintain the weight is easier than that required for dropping pounds.
Jillian's final weight loss advice? "Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bullshit."
P.S. Chicago finally broke my vacation weight-loss trend. But with the shot of Jillianspiration, I will be working to get that line on the graph moving back down.
Saturday, July 28, 2007
As much as I was starstruck at first, it was like meeting old friends. It's a little weird, though, to actually talk to someone face-to-face after reading their writing and writing back. And the conference is such an amazing opportunity that I feel obligated to fling myself into everything full force, which means that by the end of the day, during the cocktail parties, I'm so tired and spacy that I'm not the best company. We spent a lot of time wandering around looking for people, finding them, and losing them again.
It's hard to believe that I'm leaving tomorrow. I'm looking forward to getting home, but at the same time I have the sense that this is all slipping away too fast. I have a full day ahead of me, and I'll do my best to make the most of it.
Friday, July 27, 2007
I did pull a few interesting points from the conversation. I found it sad to hear people admit they referred to themselves as "lard-ass," but the "self-love" stuff doesn't necessarily ring true for me. To me, the "love yourself" stuff feels superficial and maybe a little patronizing. I love myself sometimes, sometimes not so much. To some extent, I agreed Laurie Toby Edison's comment that, essentially, loving ourselves is nice but it isn't as important as making change in the world. There were two clashing layers in the conversation -- the personal and the societal.
But most blogging does end up being more about personal issues. Many of us as bloggers, and I will definitely include myself in this, are pretty self-centered. We are doing our blogs not so much to change the world, but to change ourselves and our own minds. A lot of blogging and blog-reading and commenting could be distilled down to, "I thought this/did this. Am I okay?" Yvonne Marie said that one big turning point for her was posting pictures of her stretch marks on her blogs, and getting emails and pictures from other women with stretch marks. Another woman said she looked on Flickr to see if she could find pictures of women in the same stage of their pregnancy as she was, just to see if her body was "normal." Shauna said that she started out her diet blog being very hard on herself in her blog, but as she went forward with it and got feedback, she started feeling differently about herself and her goals.
That's why many bloggers will probably continue to focus on our own issues in addition to, or even instead of, changing the world. We aren't patient enough to wait for the whole world to change. We want to feel better now too. That's why there were so many questions about how to feel less like a fraud, about whether it was more important to spend time with your kids and their friends than to go to the gym, whether it's ever okay to post a "shame slam."
Probably the first step is to stop asking "am I okay?" No one can answer that question for you. And no one is ever going to get consistent validation that they are okay. I originally got involved in this conversation feeling a need to "stand up for myself" as a diet blogger and make the point that it was unfair to characterize diet bloggers as necessarily shallow and self-loathing. This discussion made me realize how futile and stupid that was. I did make a comment along those lines, but it fell flat, partly because mid-thought, I realized that I probably seemed even more shallow for trying to make that point.
The truth is that we have no control over how other people think of us or what they say to us. It requires a sort of bratty entitlement to expect that no one should ever going to say, think, or do anything to upset us. So, even though a "No Fat Chicks" t-shirt is upsetting or annoying, for example, a "No Fat Chicks" employment or media policy is a much more serious issue.
Speaking of bratty entitlement, I have caught myself complaining once or twice about something -- the long lines for the bathrooms, for example -- and then realized that I have to realize how amazing it is to be able to be here and rubbing elbows with all these fabulous women bloggers, with free drinks and plenty of great programming.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
I had a fun seatmate on the bus over and it made the bus ride, which took an hour longer than normal, go a lot faster. I lost her when I got off the bus, but it was nice to have someone to talk to. I mentioned this conference and said that one of the things I blog about was weight loss. She said, "Have you been through weight loss?" which is a good way of putting it. That was interesting, because I felt like, as Frances called it in her book, I had "passed for thin." I still don't really think of myself that way.
More from the conference to come, once I've actually registered and met some people. I have my digital camera and hope to post some pictures.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
I've been blogging for a little more than a year about politics, body image, and assorted other subjects.
I'm a daydreamer from Toledo, Ohio who loves sushi and peanut butter sandwiches (but not together).
The best compliment I ever got was when fellow blogger Alicia said I look like Isabella Rosallini. I think I look more like Lindsay from Freaks and Geeks. That probably sums up my personality, too.
Did that take more than ten seconds to read? You can read other introductions by finding links with this tag: blogme2007
Saturday, July 21, 2007
I have been avoiding TV news for a couple of days, being careful when surfing online. I told people who read the leaked manuscript (actually, just the end) online that I don't want to know. I know that would-be spoilers just want to prove how smart they are by knowing something that we schmucks who actually want to read the book don't. But I don't read the books just to find out what happened, I read them to get lost in the amazing fantasy world that J.K. Rowling created. I've never been the kind of person who reads the end of the book first, because I do enjoy the element of surprise. That's the sad thing about finishing the last book -- I can't be surprised by any of these again, even though I'll enjoy re-reading them.
In Shakespeare plays, a narrator comes out on stage at the beginning to tell the audience what was going to happen so that they could then relax and enjoy the unfolding of the characters and the dialogue without being anxious to know how things end. Maybe he had the right idea after all -- his plays were totally spoiler-proof. And these were in the days before the Internet and cable news.
Speaking of books, I've been enjoying the comments on the Beck post. Plenty of good insights and valid criticisms. I will definitely admit to being a little harsh in my tone and perhaps taking things too much to heart. This dieting stuff is just so fraught. I will have to give the book another try when I'm feeling a little less sensitive.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
I probably quit this program in the same place that 99% of other people who picked up the book quit: Day 14.
Why Day 14?
Today, you're going to write a food plan that includes everything you're going to eat tomorrow. And, tomorrow, you'll check off whatever you eat that's on the plan and write down any food you eat that isn't on the plan.Let's put it this way. My "sabotaging thoughts" about this were not argued away by Beck's very reasonable discussion of why this was a good idea. I understand why planning ahead is a great idea, I just don't want to do it. The exact reason it's a good idea is the reason I don't want to: It prevents spontaneous decisions about food. If something unplanned comes up, what you're supposed to do is say "Oh Well" and wait until you get a chance to eat the food you've planned.
You'll continue to plan and monitor your eating in writing every day for many weeks and months, possibly until you've lost all the weight you want -- and maybe even beyond.
In some sense, I already do plan my food. I eat the same breakfast almost every day. I often plan my dinners at the beginning of the week. But I want the option to respond to a situation that comes up, as long as I make it fit with my points. Yesterday, for example, I was at a farmer's market buying some fresh peaches and other fruit. I saw avocados (not local, of course) and thought of a salad that I saw in a magazine. So we had avocado, tomato, and onion salad for dinner (too much onion, next time I'll use less) with fresh sweet corn.
Theoretically, I know that even if I had committed to writing down ahead of time what I wanted to eat, I could still change my mind and do something else and write it down. But it doesn't feel that way to me -- it feels "unfair, punitive... too regimented," just like Dr. Beck knew it would.
After all, many people who aren't dieting don't have to plan like this. They can just stand in front of the refrigerator and think What do I feel like eating tonight? People who want to lose weight, however, just can't have that luxury.So why can't we? I guess because we've proven that we can't make good choices by getting fat in the first place. That's the thing that grated on me while I was reading this book. The examples of good behavior that Dr. Beck used occasionally seemed like the behavior of someone mentally ill, or at least bizarre, like the woman who was offered a homemade chocolate chip cookie and didn't want it right then, but asked if she could take one home for her snack later.
Consider the difference between sitting and eating a cookie with a friend, chatting happily, and eating it alone, at the end of the day with no one else around. Sure, you can chat with the friend while she eats the cookie and you don't, but there's some tension there, and then at the end of the day you nibble at your cookie by yourself, trying to make it last as long as possible. And why do you have to do this instead of being a part of the human race? Because you're fat. Maybe when you've gotten to goal weight and have proven you can be trusted, you can eat your cookie with everyone else.
This book has some excellent strategies, but a few things like this sort of ruined it for me. Maybe I'm in deep denial and just not able to see what's in my best interest. Maybe it's just not worth it to me.
On a related but slightly different note, I was in a bookstore yesterday and leafed through Gina Kolata's Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss -- and the Myths and Realities of Dieting, which I've read about but still haven't actually read. I just couldn't justify spending the money on yet another diet-related book right now, since I feel like I have my own Fat Library already. But I read through the prologue and the epilogue, and I am going to have to see if my library has it. Kolata, at least, seems to be trying to defend people who have trouble losing weight against accusations that they're not really trying or that they just don't know what's best for themselves.
By the way, I have to add in a big thank you to Erin for her nice comments about me in her excellent post the other day. I think the whole body politics/self-esteem/weight thing is a hard knot to unravel, but I'd like to think that the conversations we're having about it in Weight-Blog Land are getting us a little closer to sanity.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Here's the thing: We get to have our cake and eat it too. There's no law that says you can't be happy with the size of your ass but also want to exercise and eat right. We don't assume that those means are aimed at weight loss, nor that you need to feel like shit about yourself so that you go work out. In fact, my personal feeling is that if you feel like shit about yourself, you're less likely to go work out because when you're depressed, the damned Stairmaster is the modern equivalent of the medieval rack. No, my experience tells me exactly the opposite and it's when you feel like you could do anything, with no limits, that's when you want to take a five mile walk, singing at the top of your lungs the entire way. And that, my friends, is a beautiful thing. Right there. I wish that for everyone, whether they are trying to lose weight or not.
Be sure to read the whole thing on the site. And while you're there, check out my review of Weight Watchers, which is right underneath. I was so pleased to be asked to write this post that I checked a couple of times last night and earlier this morning, just to see if it might come out a little before it was expected.
Saturday, July 14, 2007
Wendy may not have bought into the diet mantra as other women, but she’s still following a diet plan which has been shown to have a very, very low effectiveness rate for sustained weight loss.
This begs the question -- if someone is still following Weight Watchers, or another weight-loss plan, are they not welcome to participate in the discussion? Considering the number of weight-loss blogs, including this one, I would think that a discussion of blogs and body image would be incomplete without a discussion of weight loss blogging, but when I asked my question, I only got one response:
there are times when people need to lose weight for health reasons but there are other times when people try to lose weight because they feel like they have to, because they don't like the way their bodies look, because they don't feel successful or happy because they aren't skinny.
I consider myself a feminist (no, I'm not one of those, "I'm not a feminist, but..." people), so this is an important issue to me: Whether you can honestly love yourself and other women just as they are, while still striving actively to lose weight, for whatever reason. I don't want to think I'm engaging in an inherently destructive activity by writing about my weight-loss efforts and my feelings about them.
I guess those of us who write weight-loss blogs have to provide the answer through what we write. We have a responsibility, not only to ourselves but to the people who read our blogs. We have to remember that one person's "Before" is another person's "After." We want to give our readers hope and encouragement, not make them feel sad by poking fun at our, and by extension their, bodies. I'm a regular reader of PastaQueen -- she has lost half her previous weight -- and my favorite thing about her blog is that she is respectful of her former self while enjoying all the new things she can do with her thinner body. Other blogs, including the now-defunct "Fat Bitch," don't do this as well. I can't prove it, but I believe pretty strongly that any effort undertaken in an attitude of self-loathing is doomed to failure. Yet another reason, if I'm right, to be kind to ourselves at all stages of the process.
To me a more salient criticism of the weight-loss blog is not that it is "fat negative" but that it is sort of a self-centered, shallow topic. I have another blog for discussing what I consider more serious, important issues, but I have to admit that I write and think about the weight-loss stuff more. I can't imagine what kinds of solutions we could find for issues like global warming if we all, including our media, put a third of the energy into looking for new ways to conserve energy as we do trying to perfect ourselves (or, in the case of the media, obsessively following the lives of ridiculous celebrities). My only defense in this case is that I do follow serious issues, but that I blog primarily as a form of entertainment for myself and an escape while working on my very serious dissertation. I'm not a news organization like MSNBC or even Fox.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
O, the Oprah Magazine is holding a conference featuring many regular contributors from the magazine. Revolution Health is sponsoring the health portion of the O You! conference:
The O You! conference is expected to draw several thousand women and will feature speakers including financial expert Suze Orman, exercise physiologist Bob Greene, life coach Martha Beck, heart surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz, and others. Revolution Health, which is led by AOL founder Steve Case, is an official title sponsor of the event.No word on whether Oprah herself will be there, or whether she'll be handing out free stuff if she is (is it just me, or do you also think of Oprah as a modern-day Santa Claus?).
I am a subscriber and regular reader of the magazine and would be thrilled just to see the speakers listed above. The cool thing is that the blogging community is getting special advance notice of the event through blogs like mine. The conference won't be announced to the general public until next week.
You can enter to win one of five trips for two to Miami to attend the conference. Just visit Revolution Health's special "O Guide." So enter early and avoid the rush. You can enter once a day, and the first drawing will be held July 21.
I've already entered. Maybe I'll see you in Miami.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
I think there must be some sort of fat-attracting field located near my house. I seem to always lose weight when I go on vacation, no matter what kind of food sins I commit when I'm away. This time, especially, I would have expected a gain. I didn't journal at all.
One thing I noticed, though. When I'm counting my food, I feel like I have to eat the whole portion because I don't want to "cheat" myself -- if I'm counting 4 points for a cup of pasta, I'm going to eat every bite of it for those 4 points -- or at least eat some fraction of it that I can figure out, like 3/4 of it. If I'm not counting, I'll gladly give someone else a bite of what I'm eating if they want to try it, or throw away part of an apple if it doesn't taste very good. I know it sounds silly, but when I'm counting, I want to get my full value of whatever it is I'm eating. Otherwise, I might be hungry later and not have any points left.
I can't explain it, but maybe when I go to Chicago for BlogHer, I'll finally make my weight goal.
Monday, July 09, 2007
My good intentions -- I packed a bunch of veggies and fruit, hummus, and other semi-healthy snacks -- were tested by the cookies, candy, potato chips, crackers, and alcoholic beverages that other people brought. Sadly, I was weak. I don't keep one bag of chips in my house, let alone several kinds of chips. I had to have a s'more, which was disappointing because the chocolate didn't quite melt. My one moment of strength was after a long day of sitting around the campsite eating. Someone suggested we walk to the camp store for ice cream. I realized that not only wasn't I hungry, I felt sick from all the stuff I had already eaten that day, so I brought along a bottle of water and passed on the ice cream. Score one point for common sense. Speaking of points, I didn't count them when I was away or even try to keep track of what I was eating. I am sure I'll pay for that tomorrow.
I really enjoyed having time with my family. It was also fun sleeping in the tiny little tent I got, which was just barely big enough for my husband and me. One night it rained and we still stayed snug and dry inside. I liked listening to the raindrops on the roof -- it put me right to sleep.
The hard part of a vacation is getting back to normal when you get home again. I've been journaling today and am doing fine with the food. I didn't get much work done on my dissertation this morning, because was so tired and achy from the long car trip home. I went to yoga tonight and am trying to schedule a massage to help work out some of the kinks. In short, I'm trying to get settled back in. Tomorrow I go back to my job. Normal life resumes.
The next thing, of course, is to shoot for the next goal on my list, as Randi suggested. I really appreciate all the support I get from all of you, cheering me on. I have other goals where I just need to push through the pain and finish, too. The dissertation. Continuing to apply for jobs. Getting rid of clutter so it's easier to keep my house reasonably clean. It's the middle of July, and the clock is ticking on all those goals I wanted to accomplish this summer. I feel like I'm on the right track, but I'm really ready to see that finish line.
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
I think this is what a plateau looks like. It's not just a physical plateau, it's also a motivation plateau. I'm having trouble pushing to that finish line. I am a little bored and frustrated with the dieting thing.
Yet Another Blog Game
Lori tagged me a week or so ago, and I need a blog entry, so I'll play along. I'm not going to tag anyone else, so if you want to play, feel free to consider yourself tagged.
WHAT WERE YOU DOING TEN YEARS AGO?
I was 26, and my husband and I had just bought our house and were spending a lot of money and time getting it in shape. The house had vinyl flooring halfway up the walls in the bathrooms, which concealed some horrible plastic tile, stuck on with completely unremovable glue. We opted for beaded-board wainscoting to cover the mess. It looked great when it was finished, but it was a lot of work.
WHAT WERE YOU DOING A YEAR AGO?
I left my job to spend the summer working on my dissertation proposal and had just gotten my last paycheck and my vacation buyout. I was pretty worried that I wouldn't be able to make it on my puny graduate assistantship, but so far, so good.
FIVE SNACKS YOU ENJOY
- Blue corn tortilla chips with hummus
- Crackers and cheese
- Apple slices with almond butter
- Chocolate chip cookies
FIVE SONGS TO WHICH YOU KNOW ALL THE LYRICS
I know lots of song lyrics. But these are a few:
- "Love is a Battlefield" by Pat Benatar
- "Super Trooper" by ABBA
- "Birdhouse in Your Soul" by They Might Be Giants
- "Sunday Morning Coming Down" by Johnny Cash
- "Me and Bobby McGee" by Janis Joplin
FIVE THINGS YOU WOULD DO IF YOU WERE A MILLIONAIRE
- Buy a house on Kelley's Island and live there year-round
- Travel a lot, starting with a trip to Ireland
- Take private language lessons so I could speak French and Italian fluently
- Get a massage and pedicure every month and a manicure once a week
- Donate more to charities I already support like the Sierra Club, my local homeless shelter, Amnesty International, and the Nataional Parks Foundation
FIVE BAD HABITS
- Throwing my clothes on the floor or the foot of the bed instead of putting them away
- Snacking too much
- Wasting time on the Internets
- Obsessively checking higheredjobs.com and the Chronicle of Higher Education job postings
FIVE THINGS YOU LIKE DOING
- Playing with my kitties
- Being outdoors
- Spending time with my husband
FIVE THINGS YOU’LL NEVER WEAR AGAIN
- A Members Only jacket
- A perm
- A gold Century 21 real estate jacket
- A micro-miniskirt
- A mauve satin bridesmaid's dress with dyed-to-match pumps
FIVE FAVORITE TOYS
- Big Wheels (why don't they make these for adults?)
- A Magic 8 Ball
- My computer
INSTRUCTIONS: Remove the blog in the top spot from the following list and bump everyone up one place. Then add your blog to the bottom slot, like so:
Sunday, July 01, 2007
It turns out that I'm in the hole on my Weekly Allowance Points by 19 right now. If I can draw a line in the sand and stop going over, I might still have a loss on Tuesday. Even if I don't, it's at least damage control. I know that I have a tendency to think that once I've messed up the week, it's just easier to start over after my weigh-in. That has been responsible for a lot of those little upward ticks you see on my weight chart. I think that a better strategy is starting over right now. At the very least, I can keep the gain small, and not have to face the results of the kind of four-day free-for-all this thinking usually inspires. My friend M. from my meetings has told me she thinks it's brave to write things down even when I'm screwing up. I think it's the only choice I have, really. Keeping my journal pretty by only writing down the good days doesn't help me or anyone else. And, as my leader said a few weeks ago, "The body keeps an accurate journal, no matter what we write down."