Saturday, January 26, 2008

heading in the wrong direction

I was up another pound today. To be fair, I attended a later meeting than usual, so I ate breakfast before the meeting. I can't say I'm surprised, but I'm feeling down about it. I need to at least stop the gain.

I haven't been journaling or counting points at all, just because I knew how far from my points I would be if I did. I know that's sort of weird logic. Staying under 22 points seems so hopeless that I didn't even feel like trying.

I'm going to go into Weight Watchers' maintenance mode for a while -- adding a few points a day -- just to make journaling and counting less intimidating. If I can stay within this slightly higher range, I should at least stop the gain.

Despite bleedingespresso's invitation in response to my post yesterday, I won't be celebrating World Nutella Day on February 5. I love Nutella, but this isn't the time for me to bring a jar of creamy chocolate spread into my home, especially when I'll be watching Super Tuesday election results that may just be depressingly "Hillary, Hillary, Hillary."

Friday, January 25, 2008

wow, it's like chocolate peanut butter...

I thought of Shauna and her "problem with Nutella" today when I went for lunch at a French/Japanese place. They had a beautiful pastry case and a jar of the lovely stuff on the counter. For the uninitiated, Nutella is a chocolate-hazelnut spread, sort of the French version of peanut butter. In high school, I took four years of French and loved tout fran├žais, so I was familiar with Nutella's charms.

In my quest for health, and warmth, I ordered an udon noodle bowl. It turned out to be so much work to eat with chopsticks that I gave up on it midway, tired of spraying broth everywhere. Still hungry, I took a croissant to go and asked for a little plastic cup of Nutella. There was maybe a tablespoon or two in the cup. When I finished the croissant, I scraped the leftover Nutella out of the cup with the plastic knife and licked it clean. The only thing that kept me from licking the actual cup was the certain knowledge that I would get Nutella on my face or clothes and have to walk around like that for the rest of the day.

I can definitely see how someone could have a problem with Nutella. I think it would make an excellent cake frosting. I won't be bringing a jar of this stuff home anytime soon.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

a little light...

snowy branchesI like my job but I absolutely hate the commute. It usually takes me about an hour to get there, no matter what tricks I try. There are patches of heavy traffic and I find it pretty stressful, and I resent the two hours a day that I spend driving.

Since the excitement of having a new job wore off, I have been feeling sorry for myself about this and therefor totally unmotivated to work out, eat right, or do much of anything but watch TV when I get home. This probably explains my lackluster progress on Weight Watchers since rejoining before the first of the year. The thing is that this situation probably isn't going to change any time soon, so I'm going to have to find a way to make it work.

My solution? Better living through shopping, of course. I got an FM transmitter for my iPod that lets me listen to podcasts on my car radio. I was starting to go a little nuts from listening to nothing but NPR talk radio. After a few days of it, you start to wonder if it's on a loop: elections, the latest environmental disaster in China, the foreclosure crisis, another reason airport security is a total failure, and by the way, we're still spending billions of dollars in Iraq with no clear mission. I'd rather read my news online and listen to Jillian Michaels or Mugglecast.

I am starting to make time for some exercise, too. My husband and I have been doing the Gaiam "A.M. and P.M. Yoga for Beginners" DVD, either the morning or evening workout each day. I'm starting to do weight training a couple of evenings a week and to stick around for some cardio afterward. I've done a few runs here and there, and I try to get in at least a short walk on my lunch hour. I've felt better, slept better, and anxious chatter in my head seems to have quieted down a little. Recently, Frances sent me a link to an article that asks, "Does Exercise Really Make us Thinner?" I think it does, if only because it relaxes me and keeps me busy during a time that I might otherwise be snacking. But I'm starting to remember how worth it getting in that workout really is, even if it didn't make an iota of difference in my weight loss.

I noticed yesterday that it was light out for most of my drive home. The bare branches of the trees reached up into a rosy sunset light that stretched all around me. Even if I'm watching the world through my windshield too much of the time, things are starting to feel a little brighter.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

a recipe, sort of: tortilla soup

There is a hotdog stand within walking distance of my new job that sells the most fantastic tortilla soup, but it's not there every day and you don't know when it will be on the menu. I have had weeks where I got lucky and had the soup three days in a row for lunch. It's cheesy and delicious and warm. I could happily eat it every day if not for the suspicion that it's a little high in calories and fat, with all the cheese and tortilla strips.

I made my own version tonight and it turned out pretty good. I could probably have gotten closer to the original had I used about half a cup of grated cheese in it instead of a couple of tablespoons. Somehow their cheese melts perfectly into the broth and makes it really creamy and amazing. Mine just sort of disappeared in the bowl.

I'm not good at measuring, but I'll tell you what I put in the pot and you can experiment on your own if you'd like. It was very warm and satisfying. I used a four-cup box of organic, free-range chicken broth, but you could start with your own broth or stock if you're feeling ambitious.

To the broth, I added:
  • 1 diced leftover cooked chicken breast
  • 1 diced tomato
  • 1 sliced scallion
  • chili puree with garlic (just about 1/4 tsp., because it's very hot)
  • 1/2 a roasted red pepper, sliced into thin strips
  • garlic powder
  • cumin
  • smoked paprika
  • pepper
  • red pepper flake
  • a couple of heavy pinches of salt
  • a little fresh thyme, since I had some around
I brought this all to a boil and then simmered it for about an hour. When I dished out the soup, I grated sharp cheddar cheese on top and tossed in a few broken-up tortilla chips. We got three big bowls out of this, but you could do four servings of about one cup if you were careful.

It was good, but I still am thinking of checking to see if the stand has tortilla soup tomorrow.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

gained, but I don't want to write about it

So I gained 2.8 pounds. Insert lame exuses here: _______________

I don't feel like wasting my time writing excuses/apologies/self-flagellations. I gained a couple of pounds and I am completely aware of the reasons. Reading that kind of stuff is no more inspirational than writing it would be, so I thought I'd share something more hopeful and happy this weekend.

I was poking around on a friend's del.icio.us links and stumbled across an online edition of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass. I had read bits of it in college as an English major, but I saw it as dull required reading. Looking at it again, I realized how timeless and amazing this stuff was. I'm sharing a few scattered lines here from "Poem of You, Whoever You Are" below, which reminds us that almost 200 years ago, Walt Whitman thought we were all fantastically perfect. These snippets are pulled from a much longer poem:

Whoever you are, now I place my hand upon you,
that you be my poem,
I whisper with my lips close to your ear,
I have loved many women and men, but I love
none better than you.

...

There is no endowment in man or woman that is
not tallied in you,
There is no virtue, no beauty, in man or woman
but as good is in you,
No pluck, no endurance in others, but as good is
in you,
No pleasure waiting for others, but an equal plea-
sure waits for you.

...

O I have been dilatory and dumb,
I should have made my way straight to you long
ago,
I should have blabbed nothing but you, I should
have chanted nothing but you.
I will leave all, and come and make the hymns
of you;
None have understood you, but I understand you,
None have done justice to you, you have not done
justice to yourself,
None but have found you imperfect, I only find no
imperfection in you,
None but would subordinate you, I only am he
who will never consent to subordinate you,
I only am he who places over you no master,
owner, better, god, beyond what waits intrin-
sically in yourself.

...

O I could sing such grandeurs and glories about
you!
You have not known what you are—you have
slumbered upon yourself all your life,
Your eye-lids have been as much as closed most
of the time,
What you have done returns already in mock-
eries,
Your thrift, knowledge, prayers, if they do not
return in mockeries, what is their return?

...


Old, young, male, female, rude, low, rejected by
the rest, whatever you are promulges itself,
Through birth, life, death, burial, the means are
provided, nothing is scanted,
Through angers, losses, ambition, ignorance,
ennui, what you are picks its way.

Friday, January 18, 2008

facing the scale tomorrow

Tomorrow I am going to Weight Watchers, or, as I affectionately think of it, Fat Club. I have no expectations of a weight loss, even though I know the kindly receptionist will be concerned that I am not eating enough. If only she knew about the week I've had: Chinese food, pizza, candy... not bingeing, just a general lack of being careful to count points and a week where exercise was impossible.

I'm not going to the meeting for a weight loss, I'm going to think of it as a reset button. I know next week will be similarly busy and there still will be no time for exercise, but I'm going to try to plan my meals more carefully and take better food to work for snacks.

The thing is, I'm still having trouble adjusting to my new life. I'm feeling ragged and frayed at the edges. I miss my ten-minute walk to work and working on a campus full of people who knew me. So the energy to focus on dieting is not really there.

What I really want is a week's vacation, preferably somewhere warm with no computers or cell phone service. Actually, I'd settle for a week at home and a pedicure.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

chasing rainbows

photo by altopower

I wanted to pass along a motivational post that my friend Sean shared with me yesterday. It had me thinking for the rest of the day about what I really want out of life:

Ever watch someone building a dream? Ever wonder about building a dream and catch yourself thinking, I wish I was meant to do that?

Why would some people get to have their dreams and other people have to go without?

It can’t be luck. It can’t be money. It sure can’t be smarts. Look around. Those things don’t decide who gets what.

How would a universe choose which stars get to shine and which don’t?

I think one of the best things about this blogging community is that we get to see people living their dreams every day. Whether it's losing weight, finding true love, writing a book, finding a really great job, or clearing away years of clutter, we see daily evidence that people just like us can make changes in our lives.

I like what a commenter said in response to the "Change the World" post:

I can only speak for myself of course, but the person who turns the dream into reality enjoys the journey towards the goal - including the set-backs.
The ‘onlooker’ only (IMHO) sees mountains, rivers and other obstacles in his/her path, so never starts the journey - too much ‘hard work’ of climbing, going round, finding a way through, over, under the obstacle. And missing out on all the discoveries along the way.

I've felt a little lost since I finished my Ph.D. I haven't been without a big goal in front of me in years. I have a new job, a new (old) house, and now a Ph.D., but none of it feels like the big "hoo-rah" finish line I had hoped for. It must be a little bit like postpartum depression: "This isn't quite the way I thought it would be. Was it really all worth it?"

As odd as it might be to say so, there were times in the midst of writing the dissertation that were pure joy. If the writing was going well, the whole day had a rosy glow. A lot of it was pure hell too, and I had to force myself to do it most of the time. But I miss it, and miss the time I had by myself to work. I wish I had made myself enjoy the journey a little more, instead of staying so focused on the finish line.

I think I'm going to have to start thinking about a new project... maybe a smaller one for now, until I feel a little more settled and everyone's out of the hospital.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

mission accomplished

It was a small thing, but yesterday I promised I would make an appointment for a checkup with my new doctor. I made the appointment today, and tomorrow I just need to send a request for my medical records to be sent from the old practice to my new one.

I have no specific concerns, but I want to make sure I take care of myself and beat the odds against me. Diabetes runs in my family and at least three relatives had heart attacks at age 46, including one woman. So I want to make sure that I have more than nine healthy years ahead of me.

Next small goal: Make an appointment with the dentist. Did you know that keeping your teeth and gums healthy is one way to protect your heart?

"The findings of this new analysis of previously published studies suggest that the long-term effect of chronic periodontitis, such as extended bacterial exposure, may be what ultimately leads to cardiovascular disease."

Monday, January 14, 2008

a healthy outlook


One thing I enjoyed about Shauna's book was, although it is a weight-loss memoir, the real revelations came not from weight loss itself but from the things that our intrepid heroine Dietgirl found along the way. She started exercising with an eye to "lard busting," but discovered that she loved the way the workouts made her feel strong and powerful. She did a few different diets, but instead of sticking blindly to a regime, she learned something from each of them and figured out what kind of food made her feel best (hint, it wasn't a steady diet of fish and chips). She found she could enjoy mostly healthy food and indulge occasionally without polishing off an entire box of candy.

What I like about this is that many people seem to equate being healthy with complete deprivation and self-flagellation. Many people who seem to be fit and slim are actually living an unhealthy lifestyle of overtraining and obsession, but overeating and inactivity aren't enjoyable either.

I have several people around me right now who are suffering from serious health problems that were aggravated by unhealthy habits: poor diets, lack of exercise, smoking, etc. Sometimes people resist changing those kinds of habits because, "You can't live forever." However, usually these kinds of health problems are more chronic than deadly. It's facing the idea of a long, slow decline, not dying, that worries me.

So Shauna's philosophy of pursuing weight loss while also finding your bliss seems to be the most sensible, life-affirming approach. BlogHer's Good-Health-A-Thon might be a good way to focus your efforts. Each week, try setting a goal that is SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely) and blogging about it.

My first SMART goal is going to be calling this week to schedule a checkup. I have a new insurance plan and a new doctor, but I've never met her. I want to get in as a healthy person instead of waiting to meet her when I'm sick. I'll let you know when I have it on the calendar.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

from blog to book

As many of you already know, two of the bloggers in this photo are now published authors. PastaQueen's Half-Assed: A Weight Loss Memoir is available for pre-order now. Be sure to order it through the link on Jennette's site so that her publisher knows how many adoring blog-reading fans she has.

As I reported last week, Shauna's book, The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl flew all the way from the UK just to grace my bookshelf with her incredibly faithful cartoon likeness and remind me how much fun we had sipping drinks and chatting on the front porch of the W at BlogHer '07. I started reading it casually enough this morning, but got entrenched in the story and had to finish it today after my weekly visit with my parents.

I have read other blog-to-books before, but Shauna's was probably the first that didn't feel like a bunch of random blog entries printed out and pasted together in chronological order. Though her book reads like a diary, Shauna pulled it together with a strong narrative thread and it reads like a modern-day Evangelina -- a series of heartfelt, newsy letters that chronicle our heroine's transformation from shy lass to a confident woman who finds herself and wins the man of her dreams in the process. Shauna was so poised and confident when we met that I would have never guessed, even after reading her blog, how many doubts and challenges she had to face down.

I am glad that I ordered the UK version and didn't wait for some US publisher to chop out all references to the metric system and transform all the "lardy arses" and "greedy guts" references to "fat butts" and "emotional overeaters." I do wonder how people can lose weight in a country where the milestones are weighed out in stone. Although, since Shauna keeps track of stone, kilograms, and pounds, she has three separate sets of milestones to motivate her (and help enlighten the metric-ignorant among us). Plus there are pictures. In color!

I loved the book and especially love that the New Shauna never feels anything but sympathy and respect for Old Shauna, who, after all, had to do all the hard work of bringing New Shauna to life. And did a brilliant job of it.

As for my book? Well, I wrote a whole dissertation, but don't hold your breath for it to appear on the shelves in a Borders near you. Between Shauna and Jennette, you should have plenty of reading material for a while.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

back home with a small weight loss

My Weight Chart:
Weight Chart


Commenters seem to like the graphs so I included the current one. This only tracks my last three weeks in Weight Watchers. I was happy to see a loss, even a small one, after getting in late last night. Especially because there were no attractive healthy options in the airport and I ended up having dark chocolate Raisinets, a slice of cheese pizza, and peanut butter crackers for dinner. But I did make sure to have my water!

I had to laugh when the receptionist, seeing that I hadn't lost even a whole pound in two weeks, asked me with concern in her voice whether I was eating enough and using all my daily points. That has never been a problem for me, and I really wonder how often that acually happens. I feel like the WW daily points allowance is fairly small. At my weight I get 22 points a day. That would be, at most, 1550 calories per day, plus maybe another 100-200 calories in free vegetables, assuming I was eating just extremely high-fiber, low-fat foods. I imagine women with more weight to lose, who get more points per day, might sometimes have a hard time getting it all in, but I never have trouble eating all my points and then some. Still, it was nice that she didn't just assume that I was lazing around eating chips all day.

One thing I like about the meetings is it helps to mark the start of a new week, and a chance to start fresh. I also liked that in today's meeting, the leader had us all introduce ourselves to someone. I know I could do this on my own, but I often assume that people in meetings just want to be left alone and not bothered. I think from now on I'll take my chances and just say hello, though I doubt I'll use "how much weight have you lost so far?" as my follow-up question.

Epilogue: I think I miscalculated the maximum calories for 22 points... it could possibly be a little higher, though it would be hard to eat that many super-lowfat, super-high fiber foods... I might try tracking on fitday.com or a similar site, just out of curiousity, to see how many calories I use in a typical day. Has anyone tried this?

Yet Another Followup: After logging my calories in FitDay, my points averaged to 50.29 calories each. So the old estimate I've always heard that each point is around 50 calories worked OK for me. For the curious, my calories were: 28% fat, 55% carbs, 16% protein and I had 34 grams of fiber. I don't think I'd want to do this much data entry every day, though.

Friday, January 11, 2008

traveling again

I'm up early because I don't sleep that well in hotel rooms. I was relieved, actually, to have slept pretty well from 11:00 to 4:00. I am toying with the idea of spending some time in the fitness room here, especially after reading blog entries from Anne and Lori about how they are fitting fitness in and planning ahead. Yesterday, because of my own failure to plan ahead, I subsisted mostly on junk food: Junky make-your-own waffle from the hotel breakfast bar, chips and candy for lunch. I'm going to skip the waffles this morning, at least. Toast, maybe?

On the plane on the way here I found out the value of my new iPod as self-defense. I usually enjoy talking to people on planes, but we had a particularly cramped flight and I was feeling claustrophobic. I had someone reclining into my lap, and leaning out into the aisle to get some room only resulted in getting whacked by every passer-by. I had a really great book to read, Atonement, but my seatmate interrupted me every time I opened it. I know it's unfriendly, but I had a couple of days of being "on" for work ahead of me and really just wanted to relax. I was friendly but tried not to encourage conversation as I cursed myself for changing from a window seat at the back of the plane to this seat further forward. I wondered if changing seats had resulted in some sort of bad airplane Karma. I waited for a pause in the conversation (when my seatmate turned to talk to the man in the window seat). Then I put on my iPod headphones and listened to Jillian Michaels podcasts. People seem to respect headphones more than a book. At least in my head, then, I had a little bit of space.

I've learned my lesson: No more aisle seats. Maybe Row 38 has its benefits after all.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

a note on requests for specific program information

In the comments to my last post, there was a question about how to figure out activity points (APs). I started to reply in the comments, but decided that it merited a quick post instead.

I do talk a little about how the program works in this blog, but the points formula and the activity points formula are patented and, not surprisingly, fiercely protected by Weight Watchers. Some websites (and a very good program for the Palm to count points) have been shut down or threatened with legal action for giving this information out for free. I will say, though, that the number of activity points you earn varies by exercise intensity and weight, so I couldn't give a quick answer even if I was willing to do so.

I am sure that if you do a Google search, you could find the formula for points and activity points -- they were part of WW's patent application and turned up from time to time on the WW boards. But I have several years' worth of materials and could do the program on my own if all it required was having the right information. For me the support and accountability of the meetings makes a difference, no matter how much I complain about them sometimes. That's why I prepaid ten meetings a couple of weeks ago, so that I would continue to go even if I had a rough week or two.

If you go to just one meeting, you will have a points and activity points slider and the Week One book, which has everything you really need to do the program on your own. A single meeting will probably cost $10-20, depending on your location. I think most markets have free registration right now to lure in the New Year's Resolutioners. If you like it, you can keep going, but even if you don't, you'll have the real information from Weight Watchers and not some blogger's personal spin on the program.

By the way, I have a voluntary health savings account at work, and am coming up on the end of the year, when I have to spend the rest of money or lose it. My 10 weeks of prepaid meetings were an allowable expense. I didn't even think of submitting that until my husband suggested it, but the administrator didn't even hesitate. You just need to ask at your meeting for a receipt when you pay. I thought I'd put this out there in case anyone else is looking for a way to spend their end-of-year surplus.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

raise your hand if you've been there

My Weight Chart:
Weight Chart

Back when I was in fourth or fifth grade, my school had these big magazine-sale fundraisers. If you sold a lot of magazines, you got to earn prizes. If you sold a whole lot, you would get applauded in front of an assembly. My parents didn't want us selling things door-to-door, and also didn't like to harass their friends with their kids' fundraisers. I would sell 5 or 6 subscriptions, not enough to earn a prize and definitely not enough to be recognized. I always knew that, going into the assembly, but I secretly hoped to hear my name called anyway.

Today at Weight Watchers was like that. I started going to an early-morning meeting last week, one with a pretty tight-knit group of regulars. The past week wasn't so great -- I didn't do well on New Year's Eve, and then on New Year's Day, I attended a party with a bunch of Italian relatives, and they really can cook. That didn't start the week off well, and I didn't manage to pull it together very well for the rest of the week. There were some positives: I journaled 4 out of 7 days, which isn't great, but it's something. I earned 23 activity points for the week.

So I knew I hadn't done the work and yet expected a weight loss. You know how sometiems you get those mystery losses you didn't deserve? I wanted one of those. But I stayed the same, and so as the leader was giving out awards, I got to get my Week 2 bookmark with no weight loss attached to it. Doh! Right after someone made goal, too. I half expected the leader to announce a loss, even though I knew better.

I have a busy week coming up with and am traveling to Florida for work. It would have been nice to have gone into that trip with even a tiny weight loss. No such luck. The theme this week was on goals and action plans: "I want ____ and I am willing to do ______ to get it." So I want to see a loss this week, and I am willing to plan more of my meals ahead of time and journal every day. I also am willing to try to boost my activity level.

Today I didn't do any formal exercise but did spend a lot of time cleaning, both at the old house and the new one. I undecorated today: I always love getting the Christmas tree, but then it's always such a relief to take it down and have the space back afterwards. The holidays are like that all around, really. I look forward to them, enjoy them when they're here, but it's always nice to get back to normal again.

Here's to a week with no parties in it!

P.S. Oh! I forgot my exciting news!

Back in July, when I attended BlogHer, I met Shauna, a.k.a. Dietgirl. We really had fun chatting and I love her blog, so I ordered her book from amazon.co.uk, even before it had been printed.

This was way back in July so I didn't think about the possibility that I might move before the book was delivered. It slipped my mind until a week or so ago, when I tried unsuccessfully to change my address for delivery. It was already being processed so I couldn't edit the order. I was just telling my husband about it today and when we checked the mail, it was miraculously there. Changes of address are no match for Dietgirl!

I can't wait to read it and then go post an adoring review on the UK Amazon site.
"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