Wednesday, October 29, 2008
How many women do you know who buy Kirn's idea that any of us who are imperfect in some way need to feel grateful for a man's attention, even to the point that we should work hard to keep it. I know I've been there. I loaned men money (never to get it back, of course), helped them with their homework, even put up with some really awful treatment just because I didn't think I deserved better. Somewhere along the line we need to start telling ourselves we deserve better. I think that's why the "Dancing Queen" scene in Mama Mia is so empowering. It's sort of a message to women to stop buying that kind of line.
Yesterday I was listening to NPR and there was a story about John McCain's difficulties finding a consistent, compelling narrative that could capture the imagination of voters. During the course of the campaign, he kept auditioning new narratives: the maverick narrative, the guy who could cross party lines, the dealmaker, the comeback kid, the guy who stuck to his guns, the guy who was above partisan politics, etc. These narratives were problematic because they started to contradict each other and turned into a "John McCain vs. John McCain" narrative.
I think it's true that as human beings, we're natural storytellers. The key to serious change might just be finding a better storyline for ourselves. Watching "The Biggest Loser" last night, I saw how the show has transformed the story for the contestants from "I am so fat and hopeless, I need to do whatever it takes," to a couple of new storylines. One is, "I'm an athlete." I see this on Jillian's team, mostly. The contestants start to focus on all the amazing things they're learning to do, and the weight loss is mostly a side effect. On the Blue Team, the dominant narrative is about gameplay. They are completely satisfied to manipulate their weight loss to get rid of players they don't like or perceive as threats. Either narrative changes the focus to something that makes the contestants feel powerful.
I think that maybe part of my problem is that somewhere along the way I lost focus on the narrative that really worked for me, the triathlete in training. Along the way I became just another dieter. It's hard to get excited about a storyline where losing is winning and the way to win is to be satisfied with less. Training for a race is all about power and intensity, so I think it's time to get back in touch with my inner athlete. I caught a glimpse of her the other day when I noticed my muscle definition in the mirror, and a little more of her yesterday, when I couldn't wait to get out for a run in the park.
Monday, October 27, 2008
I am still trying to trust the process of the Intuitive Eating thing. It's hard, because I still have a strong urge to do a "just this once"diet because, of course, I want a quick fix. But I really do see the value of building a trust in myself to do the right thing. I read a little of Marion Nestle's What to Eat and realize that we've overcomplicated this food thing to the point of total dysfunction. I think the food companies love diets, because they confuse us so much that we don't really know what to do ("carbs are good," "carbs are bad," "you need to only have good carbs") that most of us end up buying both the junky junk food and the diet junk food, dumping it in the trash half the time covered in kitty litter and coffee grounds. They make money whether we actually eat the food or not.
Today I went to the gym and lifted weights. I wore a tank top and noticed that my arm muscles are starting to show a little definition. If this were the body I had to have for the rest of my life, I could live with it. I guess that's what acceptance looks like -- there are still things I would like to change, but the overall package isn't bad.
I really love my new job and never ever ever want to leave it. I'm lobbying for a permanent, full-time position.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
My food choices haven't been all sugar and salt like I feared. I'm still striving for balance and making sure that some vegetables sneak in. Plus, I'm exercising quite a bit, just to hedge my bets and because it's a beautiful time of year to get outside. Yesterday I raked leaves, planted bulbs, and went for a short run. Today I did a yoga class and took a nice long walk in the park. I went to the grocery store today and bought a bunch of nice-looking veggies and some seafood. I'm still thinking about nutrition, then, just not counting points or calories or anything else.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
I had seen talk of Intuitive Eating on the weight-loss blogs, but mostly in connection with blogs that also advocate Fat Acceptance. And as bad as I know this will sound, while I accept other people's fat, and even accept my own, I'm not all that excited about the idea of keeping my fat forever and ever if I could, conceivably, lose it without also losing my mind. I wanted an approach that would help me find some balance between health, nutrition, and a desire to enjoy a brownie once in a while. I also recognized myself in Frankel's clicker experiment, where she found she thought more about weight loss and her body than she did about sex, work, or even her family. I want to break out of that kind of self-obsession.
This book seems to have the balance nailed. The idea is that if you fully legalize food, and allow yourself to feed your hunger with the foods you truly want and love, while also working on bad food habits like eating out of boredom, you will start to feel free to enjoy a wide range of foods, and not yo-yo between "perfect" diet eating and out-of-control binging. It's not necessarily a new idea, but it gets more into the nitty-gritty of how to do it than some of the other books I've read on this subject, like Geneen Roth's. Toward the end, the book also addresses nutrition and exercise, which helped alleviate my fears that this was a feel-good book that would leave me hopelessly fat if I followed its instructions.
I have to admit that after seeing an unflattering photo, I gave some serious thought to doing one last diet before reading this book, just to get down to a good weight before trying this intuitive eating thing. Apparently the authors have heard this one before because there's a section on the "One Last Diet Trap."
I started trying this out on Saturday. I went to a yoga class with a friend and we went to breakfast afterward. I actually ordered exactly what I wanted: basted eggs, dry wheat toast, orange slices, and potatoes with sour cream and chives. I was really hungry, but found that later at lunch I naturally wanted to eat lighter. I feel freer to have foods, like bread and cheese and wine, that I enjoy but considered too high-calorie, but I'm finding that I'm not feeling as compelled to eat everything in front of me because I'm committed to the idea of having what I want, when I want it, as long as I'm truly hungry. I'm also making sure to exercise almost daily, which makes me feel good and also helps keep me a little less high-strung and less likely to eat because I'm nervous or worried.
This plan doesn't promise model-thinness but suggests that if you follow it, your body will find its natural, healthy weight. I truly believe that I have at least a few pounds to go from where my body would settle naturally if I had never learned to obsess over food or see it as a therapist and best buddy rolled into one. I'd love to feel fit, strong, and sane and to be able to enjoy any food in a reasonable portion without worry or guilt. I'm currently wearing a size 14, and all I'm really hoping for is to fit happily into my 12s again, about where I was when I visited with my AFG co-authors in New York City.
I can't say that I regret the times I've dieted, because I have learned to really love vegetables and have tried a lot of recipes that I thoroughly enjoy but might never have tried on my own. Still, I like being free of the counting mentality and the constant self-criticism for blowing it or being hungrier than is convenient. I'm trying to take the emphasis off weight loss and put it back onto fitness and happiness, which is why my weekly weigh-ins and other weight-loss-goal-related widgets are now banished from the site.
I'm still watching "The Biggest Loser," though, because I'm totally hooked.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
- Know the rules. If you haven't flown for a few years, check out the TSA site (for U.S. travelers), which has information on the rules about everything from knitting needles to body piercings. The biggest change in the last few years is the restriction on liquids in carryons, but also expect to be required to take your shoes off (yes, everyone), pull your laptop out of your bag (if you're bringing one), and take off your jacket. You also have to pull your bag of liquids and gels out of your bag so that the screeners can see it. Knowing the rules allows you to be strategic. For example, I like to take my shoes off first and put them in the first bin with my jacket, so that I can quickly get re-dressed before collecting the rest of my belongings. I also put my laptop inbetween my shoes and my suitcase so I don't forget it.
- Dress comfortably, with a minimum of belt buckles, jewelry, and other metal items. Flights are really full now, which means you can't even hope to be seated next to an empty seat. You may want to dress in layers even though it means taking off your jacket, because flights always seem to be either too cold or too hot. Don't forget that you want comfortable shoes for walking through the airport, preferably ones that are easy to slip on and off. And wear socks if you don't want to walk through security barefoot.
- Pack strategically. Check your airline's website, because most are now charging for every single bag you check. You are generally allowed one carry-on bag and one briefcase or purse. Make sure the bag you're using for your carry-on is within the allowable size or you'll have to pay to check it. Also make sure that it's not so heavy that you can't lift it above your head to put it into the overhead compartment. I always put everything I think I want to bring in a pile, and then see what I can eliminate. It's really freeing to travel light.
- If you plan to shop, either leave space in your bag or bring a collapseable duffle with you. Even if you have to pay to check it, at least you won't have to buy another suitcase for your new stuff. I usually pack my laundry in the duffle and check that, keeping any new purchases in my carry-on. That way, if my luggage is delayed, I have an excuse not to do laundry, not a worry that my exciting new purchases won't find their way home.
- Don't check medicine, contact lens solutions, or anything else you will be lost without. Airlines do lose bags.
- Consider simplifying your beauty routine while you're away. There really isn't room for your 25-step anti-aging regimen in that single plastic zip-top bag. Think about what you can do without. You can count on your hotel to have soap and shampoo (and often, a hair dryer). Rarely, they have conditioner, but I always brought some just in case. Most drugstores sell travel sizes of beauty basics, and Burt's Bees also has some nice starter kits. Because I flew so often, I kept my toiletries bag packed and left it in my suitcase. Whenever I got a free sample or a small-sized beauty product as a gift that I could use for traveling, I could just add it to the bag. When one of the little bottles got emptied, I refilled it from my full-sized supply. The Body Shop, Sephora, and other cosmetics stores will often give you trial sizes of products if you ask when you're making a purchase.
In the dozen-plus flights I had last year, I don't have a single security horror story to report, except that once I forgot a bag on the conveyor and had to retrieve it from the worried TSA agent who chased me down -- "I was just praying that it wouldn't blow up," she said. I have similarly well-traveled friends who like to argue with the agents on principle and exchange "My Worst Security Nightmare" stories, but I personally preferred breezing through the line and getting on with my life to that kind of drama.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
At Ann Taylor, a saleswoman saw me browsing the sale section and trying on a million things and started asking questions about what I wanted to find. It was probably pretty obvious that I had no plan at all, and was just picking up things that I thought might fit and that were on sale. I always take a million things into the dressing room and end up buying one or two, which is why I usually shop alone. The whole thing is usually pretty traumatic.
It was a lot better with my Fairy GodSalesperson, because she paid enough attention to the things I was trying and the sizes I was picking up to bring me better things in the right sizes, things I might never have tried myself. It helped that she had a similar body to mine and knew what would and wouldn't work on me. As I was focusing on my flaws, she helped me see the positives. "That's really good on you, it shows how small your waist is." I ended up buying exactly one thing I had picked up for myself, an embellished brown skirt. I bought seven more items that she found for me, including a couple of basics and some fun things, like a jacket with a nipped-in waist and a couple of animal-print shells I would have never even tried on. For once, I didn't end up with a bunch of stuff that I didn't really like that looks just like all the other sad stuff cluttering up my wardrobe. Better yet, I left with a little more confidence in the body I have right now, and don't feel like I have to wait until I lose twenty pounds to look and feel good.
If more stores had salespeople like her, I'd be broke but I'd look and feel great.
Thursday, October 09, 2008
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
I seriously considered ditching the run, because I seem to have brought the drizzly weather home with me from Oregon. The weather ranged from misty to a downpour. I almost turned away from the park but decided to try it anyway. I promised myself I could quit early if I really hated it. Oddly enough, though, I enjoyed it. I seemed to have the park all to myself (except for a couple walking in rain gear), and the woods look pretty in the rain. I scared a few chipmunks and squirrels and got to feel like a hardcore runner.
Other than a few really miserable days in the coldest part of the winter, I'd rather run or walk outdoors in most kinds of weather than beat my brains out on the treadmill with nothing but a silent television on the wall to entertain me. I use my gym membership for weight workouts and swimming, and even swimming is much more fun in the open water (when it's warmer). I can tolerate Spinning classes because they're too intense for me to miss the scenery.
I notice on "The Biggest Loser" that they almost never work out outdoors, except for a few challenges. Maybe they do go for walks off-camera, or maybe the weather was too intense during taping for them to feel safe outside. Whatever the reason, I'd have a hard time doing the "homework" that became such an issue for Jillian in this episode, because 90 minutes of cardio in the gym is a long time to stare at the wall. I'm not competing for $250,000, though. I guess you do have to question the logic of someone who's willing to leave family and friends behind for three months to get the best weight loss advice available and the time to use it, but then skips the workouts. I thought Jillian was going to take someone's head right off.
There was a sort of puzzling "breakthrough" moment with one of the contestants, who is ditzy and jokey all the time and refuses to take the workouts seriously. She claimed, tearfully, that this is because she always has to be "the strong one." I wondered if she was just telling Jillian what she thought would get her off the hook, because there seemed to be nothing strong about the way she was acting. She seemed, to me, to be scared to try very hard to succeed, not because she's trying to be strong, but because she is somehow protecting herself from being disappointed when she fails. I'm sure there was more to the conversation than what we saw on camera.
I don't know what happened at the end of the show, however, because the second half won't be broadcast until tonight because of the presidential debate. The debate, however, disappointed. I think that watching the rest of "The Biggest Loser" might have been more enlightening.
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
I've been trying to count Weight Watchers points again, and it's pretty obvious I'm out of practice making this work. Still not sure that I've found, or come any closer to, a long-term answer. In Thin is the New Happy, the author claims that you can get to your body's natural weight just by not dieting, dealing with your "issues" and problems directly so you don't dive into the food, eating what you want but only as much as you want to be satisfied, and working out four days a week. If I could get a written guarantee that it would work, I'd definitely sign up for that plan. I will do a review of the book once I've had a chance to re-read it and absorb some of the things, because it's actually a lot deeper than it seems at first glance.
I don't trust myself, and that's the real problem, isn't it?
I peeked at the scale today: 175. That's down a pound from last week. Of course, tomorrow is the "official" day, so we'll see whether the scale has the same story tomorrow.
Monday, October 06, 2008
The long schedule was not really as horrendous as I thought it would be. I am really happy I decided to buy the club pass. It seemed a little expensive, but having a quiet place to sit, access to snacks and drinks and free wireless -- plus not having to bring my bags into the restroom stall with me every time -- I think overall it was worth it. I actually bought a 60-day pass, which will take me through my final consulting trip.
It's weird, though, the way money buys you out of what is, truly, a crummy experience for most people. Instead of having to sit in a noisy airport with announcements and weird hums and people everywhere, you get a quiet room with soothing music and enough space to have privacy. I think that when there's an option to buy your way into something better like this, there is less incentive to humanize the experience for the ordinary traveler. Think about the difference between first class and coach, or the express security lines for elite airline members. There is a sense that most of us should put up with some truly terrible conditions, as long as the well-to-do can buy their way into a reasonable level of comfort. If they had the same experience as the rest of us, I think that the rest of us would be traveling in a little more comfort.
That didn't stop me from enjoying the free wine and wifi, though. I'm not that righteous.
Sunday, October 05, 2008
After reading the recommendation on Elastic Waist, I'm reading Thin is the New Happy, which I picked up at Powell's Books in the Portland airport. It's real food for thought. I grew up in a household where looks were emphasized too, not in a harping, shrill way like Frankel's experience, but as a wholly accepted article of faith: Fat women were unwanted, by men and everyone else. My parents weren't trying to be cruel, they just truly believed this and wanted us to be thin and therefore, happy. Unfortunately, our family genetics don't predispose us to be willowy, and neither did our eating habits, so my sisters and I have always struggled with our weight. I am only partway through the book, and looking forward to hearing how Frankel managed to find some peace with herself and her body, because I could sure use some of that. But somehow this reading seems wrong for today, which is so weird and abstract, and thinking about my body makes me feel too solid and heavy. I think it would have been more appropriate to read poetry, or philosophy, or something spiritual. Even the idea of happy sounds odd, in tonight's context. I'm feeling far from home, and a little lonely, but in a way that just feels right for flying: Being all alone makes me seem lighter somehow, and more suited for traveling through the air in the dark and hoping I'll land at home.
Saturday, October 04, 2008
But maybe it's more like The Fulfillment Curve principle (from a great book, Your Money or Your Life) quoted in The Simple Dollar today. Trent talks about "the sweet spot" between underspending and overspending, between depriving yourself on one hand and spending so much money that you get yourself into trouble on the other:
Basically, the idea argues that there’s a sweet spot for anything that maximizes the fulfillment you get out of it. If you spend more, your fulfillment starts to actually decrease.Trent is talking about money. He uses two examples, housing and video games, to explain how having too much of something actually causes not just a financial strain, but a feeling of guilt and a restless, unfulfilled feeling. This is the same concept that Peter Walsh uses in his book about clutter, It's All Too Much. You really can have too much stuff, too many toys, too many clothes, too big of a house -- even if you can afford it. I know its unAmerican and all, but there really is a point at which you own so much stuff that it owns you.
I think it really is the same way with food. I tend to swing between wanting to eat all healthy, all the time, and wanting to eat nothing but crackers and cheese and thick slices of bread and butter. But neither end of that spectrum is really a happy place for me. I'd rather feel like I'm eating exactly what I want and exactly how much of it I need, instead of feeling overstuffed with junk food just because it's there. But sometimes it's hard to find that balance.
You know, though, I really do love apples, and not just apple pie. And I love crisp celery, and a perfectly cooked scrambled egg. I need to give some thought to exactly what my food/weight sweet spot might look like.
Friday, October 03, 2008
I got on my first plane yesterday at 6:00 a.m. Before leaving, I had a slice of toast with almond butter and a cup of coffee at home. I grabbed a quick peanut-butter-and-apple sandwich on whole-grain bread between flights. I brought one 12-oz. bottle of water with me on the flight and also a package of pistachio nuts in their shells that contained 3.5 servings.
I got very hot on my 5-hour flight and very thirsty. I drank all the water, plus a couple of cups of ginger ale and a couple of cups of water from the flight attendants. I tried to eat a few of the nuts, but they were too salty and also awkward to eat on the plane. After the plane, I had to wait outside for a shuttle for about an hour. I was starving and very thirsty. I ate the rest of the nuts. They weren't what I wanted but there was nothing available and I had nothing to drink. Then I sat on a shuttle for about an hour and a half, and then when I got to my hotel I felt sick, headachy and hungry. But trying to eat only made me feel worse. I ended up getting sick in my hotel room and going to bed fairly early after watching the tail end of the presidential debate. Exercise? Sure, right.
I am not sure if my headache was a migraine or if I just felt sick from eating too many nuts, being hot and tired, and being cramped and crowded on planes and buses. In retrospect, I should have eaten something at the final airport and bought some more water, but I didn't realize that I would be waiting so long for a bus. Today, I'm sticking to simple foods that I know won't make me feel sick. I will be walking everywhere while I'm here, but unless I feel better I won't be running. That sometimes brings on headaches too. I need to feel good enough to do the work I came here to do, so I can't risk another night like last night.
I bring this all up not because I want a bunch of sympathy, but just because I imagine that other people might have similar problems that get in the way of their best exercise and diet intentions. In a situation like this, all you can really do is try to get through it, take care of yourself with lots of rest and fluid, and hope for the best.
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
Speaking of the weigh-in, one person gained again this week, but unlike last time, there was a very logical explanation for it. We heard about it earlier in the show, but when the gainer is standing on the scale, of course he takes all the blame on himself instead of mentioning it. There are a couple of surprise twists at this week's elimination.
The biggest theme this week was being flexible with fitness. The contestants didn't have access to their gym, and even though they got a big pile of exercise mats, resistance bands, and medicine balls, the contestants had obviously never used this kind of equipment before and had no idea what to do with it. They halfheartedly tried to play catch with the five-pound medicine balls, which only resulted in a bloody nose for one of the contestants. They spent some time walking around the campsite, but none of them knew what to do without their trainers there. Of course the trainers were angry and showed them exactly what they could have done with the equipment when they got back, but it would have been a heck of a lot more effective if they had been taught how to use the equipment before the trip. I was as surprised as Bob and Jillian that no one went hiking in the Grand Canyon. They did do a challenge there, but otherwise, the Grand Canyon didn't figure into the show much, except for a cheesy metaphor about change over time.
I don't blame the contestants for losing focus on a trip. I always pack workout clothes for my business trips, but invariably I'm too tired from traveling and long days of training to actually put those clothes on and do anything. Usually on road trips I eat too much junk, get too little exercise, and arrive home exhausted. My biggest concession to fitness is usually to walk the concourses instead of taking the little airport train if I have time. I'll pack the exercise clothes again and see if I can do better this time.
I'll also bring my journal and points finder. I went over my points by 7 yesterday, though in FitDay I only went over my calorie range by 89. The difference is that yesterday was kind of a high-fat day, and I had about one serving of vegetables. This week was kind of a wash, weight-wise. My weight loss percentage was easy to figure out this time: 0%. At least it wasn't a gain, though. We'll see how I do on my own roadtrip, and maybe next week I'll have a loss.