Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Couple or Three Thoughts


Not getting’ back on the scale until January 1.



Three different things I want to share here:



1.       One day two weeks ago, I get to the gym and find that some idiot forgot to pack my sneakers in my gym bag (In the interest of fairness, I am the only idiot/genius (yeah, right)/fair to middling/intelligence of any caliber in my household. Therefore, it was my oversight, but nevertheless…). It did, however, have my swimsuit (and, giggles of mad joy, it’s looser than when I bought it. Giggles, I tell you). Luckily, my gym that never closes has a Olympic pool and I was motivated to swim for cardio. I lasted about 20 minutes (it is a big workout and I got cold) and I was pretty tired and achy for a couple of days. I think a pair of goggles is in order (chlorine burns like crazy). The takeaway? Don’t want to run, dance, bike, Rotating Staircase of Death or elliptical? Get in the pool. No impact (and my cranky right knee was fine with it) and you will find yourself challenged.

2.       In the interest of muscle confusion (and shaking things up) I tried out the Boxing Boot Camp. I’ve seen “Million Dollar Baby” and “The Fighter.” While I don’t think I could out-butch Hillary Swank or develop abs like Mark Wahlberg (but I’d be happy to study them via touch…), I’ve heard for years that boxing training is excellent and demanding.



I lasted 10 minutes.



First of all, the teacher (who is a good guy. Really) he was working from the mistaken presumption that everybody in the class already knew what the moves were called and  didn’t have a mic. I make sure that I’m close to the teacher in classes so that I can follow what’s going on. Doesn’t work quite so well when the teacher hops around more than a flea on a caffeinated Jack Russell terrier (Yes, dog people, I know the AKC changed the name to Parson Russell, but to me, the hyperactive little twerps will ALWAYS be Jack Russell terriers. And thoroughly obnoxious. Haven’t met a good one yet). Secondly, my right knee, the problem child, the one getting hit with heat, ultrasound, joint cream (glucosamine, chondroitin and MSS) and anything else Dr. Best can think up, that knee, made the following statement at 9.5 minutes in:  “Bitch, you take one more step and it’s scalpel time.”



I also discovered Exercise Induced Asthma. No, it’s real. I have found that with the extremely energetic classes, like the Boxing Boot Camp and Bollywood Dance, I will feel pressure in my chest, be coughing up a storm (and some kind of nasty, sticky gunk from the bottom of the bronchial tubes) and this will last a couple of days. I am NOT asthmatic, I am not sick, there were no allergens in the room and dadgumfrumalumitt, I have been working out 6 days a week for 8 months so I know it’s not “out of shape” as my loving family used to tell me. I also have the same reaction in sub-zero weather (Yeah, I hate winter. I freakin’ hate being cold and this is part of the reason. I dislike feeling like I’m about to yak up a lung). Google is a beautiful thing: I plugged “post exercise lung congestion” and found a few sites directing me to Exercise Induced Asthma. Whereas, breathing through your nose warms the air before it hits the lungs, breathing fast and furious breaths through your mouth do not and your lungs do not care for cold air (Up yours, Sarah Palin. NOBODY should live in Alaska, but then, you’ve moved your opportunistic, money-grabbing ass to Arizona, so….). They make their displeasure known by constricting airflow and making mucus to get rid of the cold (nobody said the lungs were the brains of the operation. Everybody knows rum, not mucus, gets rid of cold). Your state of fitness doesn’t make a bit of difference; if you’re sucking in cold air like this and your lungs don’t like cold air, you could be Jack LaLanne (RIP) and still cough fit to be a Dickens character (they all had tuberculosis. Excuse me, “consumption”). What’s the answer? Move to California. Hey, look at that! I’m ahead of the game!



3.       Today’s variation from the norm was about saving gas more than changing up the routine but: I walked to my mailbox (about a mile, give or take) rather than drove. Uphill and down, maintained a pretty good clip (per Google Maps, 1 mile). Elevated heart rate, sweating a little and the round trip took 40 minutes (I checked). I collected my mail, got some fresh air and exercise and found a potential acupuncturist (I want to go back to seeing one). Have sneakers, will travel. There was a time when I lived in Los Angeles, no car, no bus pass and walked where I needed/wanted to go (Backpack for grocery shopping). I was logging 6 miles a day commuting to work and I don’t know the weekend mileage. It can be done (although I don’t recommend being on foot during July and August in these parts. Heat stroke is a serious risk). Even if you just walk around the house a couple of times, it’s a start.





We are about to head into 2012. I have no resolutions regarding weight and health except for FINALLY completing a push-up. I’m looking hard at the P90X workout program (Logistically, not a doable right now), but you know, I’ve dropped from size 20 to size 12 in less than a year and that wasn’t based on a New Year’s resolution (which is about to make life at my gym aggravating. Thank God, the place is open 24 hours) and I intend to stick with it.



So, Happy New Year to all and to all, LET’S GO RED SOX (who am I kidding?).








Monday, December 19, 2011

CR Thatcher, JR.


Haven’t stepped on a scale for a week. I will again very soon.



Clifford Richard Thatcher, Jr. passed away December 16, 2011. He was my dad and it had been a complicated relationship. I have related a few of the negative things in this blog, but let me share some of the good stuff.

Dad was a gifted pianist with an amazing ability to sight-read sheet music. At the age of 4, his signature number was “Fur Elise” by Beethoven. He could also play Chopin, the Beatles and Dave Brubeck from memory.

He was a pretty good backyard griller with one noteworthy exception: one Mother’s Day, he decided to rotisserie cook a turkey on the Weber grill for dinner. Either the fire was too hot or the bird was on too long because that thing was black to the bone. Even the dog wouldn’t touch it. I think Mother’s Day dinner that year was pizza.

Among his favorite Christmas gifts were various editions of The Baseball Encyclopedia (Red Sox fans). He would let me know it was time for a new one by discussing it with someone else, fixing me with a hard gaze and stating, “Susan needs to buy me a new one.” Hey, I can take a hint.

One year we got a bongo board for Christmas (see picture).




In the process of demonstrating it to us, Dad kind of overbalanced and scraped his knuckles on the new textured ceiling. The blood trails stayed up there for years. Alcohol may have been a factor.

On a family vacation in the Bahamas, Dad and I would snorkel together. He would bring a stick to poke the sea slugs and make them squirt ink (magenta). He got a little too bold and molested some of the other sea life as well, including green moray eels. One day, we were examining an old refrigerator someone had dropped in the bay as an artificial reef. In with the large school of fish, I saw a leopard-spotted moray eel undulating. I signaled Dad up to the surface and told him I’d seen the eel, the leopard spots were more aggressive than the greens and he should not get too close. He scoffed. On the next dive, Dad came nose to nose with the leopard moray. Backing off, he signaled me to the surface. “I believe,” he said, “that we’ve seen enough here and we should move on.”

Dad loved practical jokes and he could maintain a poker face to pull them off. As a family, we had decided to combine Secret Santa and filling Christmas stockings. Slips of paper with names were made up, drawn anonymously and distributed. As we were unveiling our stockings, Dad reached into his and pulled out a bottle of Harvey’s Bristol Cream sherry and nothing else. He accused us each in term of “Oh sure, just buy the old man a bottle and he’s happy.” It was not until everyone had opened their stockings that we figured out someone had gotten his own name in the draw. Safeguards to prevent a recurrence were hastily installed.

He was the master of the long con: over the course of 5 to 20 years, Dad had a running practical joke guerilla war going with one of his cousins. She’d said something about a ceramic horse sculpture in my grandparents’ house. While Gramp and Gram were in Florida, Dad got the horse and a Polaroid camera and made up a bunch of blackmail shots: him threatening the horse with a croquet mallet, a picture of our dog licking the sculpture (we’d smeared peanut butter on it to get him to lick it) and wrote “Max’s special little friend” on the photo. Somehow, this eventually evolved into the two of them passing a tacky gorilla-shaped bank back and forth: spray painting it gold, installing a clock in its belly, turning it into a lamp. His best, though, was the time he cleaned out a collection of postcards from around the US and Canada and sent them to his cousin, one every week. She believed he was on the trip of a lifetime until someone pointed out that all the postmarks were from Rutland, VT.

For a while, throwing a wadded-up napkin around the dinner table became a regular part of the after-dinner conversation. One time, an olive ended up replacing the napkin and after a few trips across the table, it ended up in front of him. He decided to smash it, but got a little too enthusiastic and his coffee cup sailed up in the air like something out of a Wile E. Coyote cartoon. Alcohol may have been a factor.

According to him, the answer to any question was, “Hoagy Carmichael.” Or it should have been.

I could not recommend him as a driver’s ed teacher, especially teaching his kids how to drive a stick shift. Here was the rule for training on his beloved Volkswagen Rabbit (one of the first in the US): you got to stall the car 10 times. After the tenth stall, he’d reach over, pluck the keys out of the ignition, pick up his martini from between his knees (cars didn’t have cup holders) and then return to sitting on the porch and watching the sunset.  His definition of defensive driving: “Assume everybody else on the road is an asshole and is going to do the stupidest thing imaginable.” That advice has saved my neck a couple of times.

He was a great explorer. The fastest route between two points on a map was not his preferred way to go. Dad liked to hit the back roads and see the USA from his Chevrolet (or Buick or Cadillac). And sometimes Canada. He did the same on the water, taking his houseboat as far from its home on Lake Champlain as he could go and still return during a two week vacation. This included at least two trips down the Champlain Canal, the Hudson River and around the Statue of Liberty. Crewing for him could be a bit like crewing for Captain Bligh on HMS Bounty, but he did enjoy “simply messing about in boats” (Quote from “The Wind in the Willows”).

In the early 1960s, most parents were telling their kids to “turn off that damn racket” when the Beatles came on the radio. Our parents bought us the “Meet the Beatles” album. Their song (“They’re Playing Our Song” song)  was “Here, There and Everywhere.” I took my parents to two Jimmy Buffett concert and he was yelling for Jimmy to play “Brown Eyed Girl” (no, he didn’t mix up Jimmy Buffett and Van Morrison. Jimmy did a cover that was better than Van’s original).

According to Dad, America’s greatest Broadway composer was Frank Loesser (“Guys and Dolls”). He didn’t have a satisfactory comeback when I asked him to square that with “The answer to any question is Hoagy Carmichael.”

And I get a lump in my throat every time I hear "Baby, It's Cold Outside."

Bye, Dad.






Tuesday, December 13, 2011

SOS


I’m not going near a scale for a few days. Too much nonsense in my life right now causing emotional stress and that will be the point in a minute.

Hey, I pulled off a Tree Pose on the left side in yoga today!! Woo! Hoo!! And Woo Hoo! Lila calls me the Incredible Shrinking Woman.  Soon enough, those size 11 jeans…

I know I’ve said this before, but I am so delighted that the newer, smaller wardrobe I needed was one I already had. Good stuff, too.

Due to family issues (which I will not detail as I have gotten a dumpster of emotional shit dumped on my head for saying something), I am stressed. Highly stressed. If I was a Persian cat, I’d be damned near bald right now and you’d be rolling clumps of my hair off the carpet. When things came to a head last week, my instant response – no thought, no planning, just Pavlov stimulus/response: I headed straight for the refrigerator to stuff myself.

And it scared the hell out of me.

 My thought was “I’m using.” Normally, this is the language of drugs, but when a substance, even a legal one like alcohol or food, becomes a coping mechanism, you are using.

Luckily, what was in fridge was Atkins, yogurt, Brussels sprouts (WITH BACON) and fruit. And almonds (well, not in the fridge, but available). Bullet dodged, but still…

I’ve been working very hard to change my habits and the fact that I could so easily go back was terrifying.

What’s different this time from before? I know it’s okay to ask for help this time. If I start to slip or actually slip, there are people out there who can help me get and stay back on track. And they will do so without judgment, guilt trips, shame and making  me feel as small and worthless as possible because that’s worked so well in the past.

Health insurance that covers a psycho therapist is a beautiful thing, particularly when you can see someone who is trained in your particular issues. I still want to eat, but somebody’s got my back and can talk me down from the ledge.

I also have wonderful friends who have my back and are willing to take off their earrings and do battle. I wouldn’t ask them to do so, but it’s nice to know they’re out there.  And trust me, you do NOT want these women to take off their earrings.

A better coping mechanism I’m finding is weight/resistance training. Channeling anger and frustration into pushing or pulling lead plates helps to diffuse the negative energy, burns calories and spares the lives of those who have caused it. If you’re not Lindsay Lohan, you’ll have to actually do time. I’ve seen “Oz” and “The Shawshank Redemption.”  No thanks.

This time of year is a stressful one anyway. Andy Williams may sing about it being “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” but the song lyrics say nothing about finding the right gifts, trying to get through a mall without losing your mind,, credit card debt showing up in February and returns. The song is “I’ll be Home For Christmas”, not  “Well, Ted, we were at your folks for Christmas Eve last year, so it’s my folks for Christmas Eve this year and your folks Christmas Day and then we can swing by Aunt Gladys’…”. “All I Want For Christmas” is for the dog to stop drinking out of the Christmas tree stand and then barfing all over the rug that I just paid $300 to have cleaned for the holidays (Um, hypothetical dog and hypothetical carpet. I have neither a dog not a carpet).

Humans in large groups are like cattle in large groups: they feed on each other’s nervousness and tension will spread through the group faster than the latest gossip on the Whoredashians. And it won’t end sooner than one of their marriages.  I’m not sure contact “high” is the most appropriate term. Contact frazzle maybe? Naw, sounds too much like a subcategory of Muppets.

All of the above by itself used to be enough to send me on a binge. This year, I’d been able to ignore all the special holiday foods (including all the I Hop special pancakes. I had those two years ago. Sugary. Good, but sweet as hell) and keep to my cleaner eating. It just took a nasty (and, on their part, truly dumb, badly spelled and grammatically incorrect) exchange with a couple of people to trigger the old patterns that I had thought were in the rear view mirror. And because this exchange triggered the “I must eat and not stop” response, it tells me that walking away from these people was a good decision as far as my health/sanity and fitness are concerned.

Like John Wayne used to say, “A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.”

And I am.




Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Duh, Winning


176  lbs. BUT…



Operation Overlord (aka D Day, June 6, 1944 aka the first 20 minutes of “Saving Private Ryan”) did not end World War II. Neither did Midway, Guadalcanal, the Battle of the Bulge or the Battle of Britain. However, combined, they won the war (anybody piping up with Hiroshima or Nagasaki at this point just to be a smartass, shut up. I’m making a point). Let me share some of the victories in my campaign:

-          Lila the yoga teacher keeps calling me “The Incredible Shrinking Woman.”   : )

-          I am wearing a cashmere sweater that has been too small for over 8 years. There’s a little room in it.

-          While the scale number is stuck, strength is manifesting itself in the following ways:

I was able to complete the Half Moon pose (foot on the floor and the hand on the same side as the foot diagonal from it with opposite foot in the air and opposite hand on hip.  See photo) Up until VERY recently, I had to have both hands on the ground.


I don’t have to modify Plank. A back issue of “Self” magazine, Julianne Hough said something about Plank being her favorite core workout. Dawn suddenly broke over Marblehead (meaning, I saw the light) and I’m working Plank with gusto. Those abs are going down.

I didn’t have to stay on one knee for Crescent pose. And the beat-up right knee is holding up.


And as for Dancing Warrior: I lasted 5 times longer than I used to! 5 seconds v. 1. Yeah, it’s going to take a lot of work.

Not so much on the yoga push-up, either. However, the triceps have been getting my attention, as have the obliques.

                I didn’t feel like I was going to die while I was digging around in the storage unit the other day.  I  was moving stuff by myself

I can stand to look at myself in the mirror. Not necessarily naked (still see a big “apron” of fat around the middle that I don’t want to look at), but I can see a jawline and skin tightening up. I will never be mistaken for Michelle Pfeiffer (damn), but I look okay.

A lot of experts will tell you that it’s necessary to love yourself and to have a positive body image in order to improve the shape/condition of your body. I found it extremely difficult to love myself when sedentary and eating without regard to what or how much. The fact that I get antsy if I don’t go work out, take care over what I eat and measure my portions tells me I care more about myself than I did before I started. (By the way, to the “fat activist” who’s a proponent of Health At Every Size: I think it undermines your message of dignity and respect for all if you refer to overweight people as “fatties,” a term used for emotional and verbal abuse).

As I am strengthening the core muscles (think of a cummerbund), I’m finding that the back issues are clearing up, even those up in the shoulders. Tripping, falling, hitting head on sidewalk kind of set me back a week, but progress is still being made.

I’ll have those damned 501s on my butt by the end of January.






Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Very Good Day

 
Didn’t get on the scale all weekend.



Something to share: “Positivity is a coping mechanism.” This I got from Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast (the 11/14/11 one, I believe). He was talking (complaining, actually) about people telling him to have a positive outlook and that the arc and quality of someone’s life would follow his/her thoughts: be positive and everything works out. He doesn’t agree with this philosophy and part of his response was to state that “Positivity is a coping mechanism.” It’s true. There have been times in my life when things were going so far wrong that I was in the fringe shadow, light gray areas of thought where I considered ending my life because I did not want to continue with conditions as they were and I didn’t see anything on the horizon that would convince me things would improve.  I forget who talked me off the ledge, but I’m still here, so it happened. I shifted my thinking to the more positive frame and that has made dealing with ups and downs, particularly downs much easier. So, being positive as a coping mechanism? I recommend it.  Highly. A little more grounded in reality than Charlie Sheen’s “winning”, perhaps, but you get the idea.

Today was another expedition to the storage unit (aka the Cave of Wonders as in “I wonder when I’ll be able to get all this stuff out and live in it again”) to retrieve more clothing in smaller sizes. Luckily, classics never go out of style (If it was parachute pants and tie dye, well...) We’re getting down to the really good stuff: the various articles of clothing that I would describe as the Holy Grails of personal weight loss: the size 11 tapered leg Levi 501 (red tag) jeans, the Ann Taylor silk knit turtleneck sweaters, my cashmere sweaters, the Little Feat tour shirt from 1987 and the Holiest of Holies, a black velvet cocktail dress, strapless, ballet skirt, size 10. When I was growing up, I remember looking at the print ads for Black Velvet whiskey in Sports Illustrated: always a beautiful woman in some sort of black velvet outfit. I couldn’t tell you what the ad copy was, I just remember wanting to grow up to be one of those women. The closest I’ve come is this dress. It’s been to corporate Christmas parties, a performance by Pavarotti, Christmas and New Year’s Boston Pops concerts; it’s my favorite garment and I haven’t worn it in this century, let alone year or decade. I refused to let go of it, believing that one day I’d be able to wear it again.

Well, today’s not that day. But…

My knitted silk turtlenecks: 9 years since I’ve worn them. They fit.

Cashmere sweaters: 8 years. They fit.

Little Feat tour shirt: 9 years. Fits.

Size 11 Levis’: yeah, okay, not just yet but the last time I had them in hand, I couldn’t pull them up past my butt. Today: I got them on. No way in hell I can button them just yet without liposuction and the Spanx from hell, but  geez Louise, I can pull them all the way up.

This is encouragement. This is freedom from the tyranny of the plus size and all the crappy “workmanship” and cheap material that goes into making that clothing. I’ve dropped from XXL down to borderline L/XL (depends on the garment). And I did this on my own (Dear Doctor who told me 6 years ago that I needed to join a support group because obviously I couldn’t lose weight on my own: if you haven’t died or retired by now you flatulent old fossil, bite me). I refused to book passage on the guilt trips that those “with my best interests at heart” were putting on me (Blood relatives. And how’s your health these days? How many prescriptions are you taking? Still diabetic? High blood pressure? Bad backs/joints? In Lipitor We Trust? Still smoking and drinking? Talk to me when you’ve solved those issues).  That also goes to those people for whom either my methods are not acceptable or my progress isn’t enough, in their eyes. (I see that ass of yours is still dimpled and your upper arms keep waving goodbye 5 minutes after you’ve stopped.  You have no standing to discuss this subject. Therefore, shut up). I’ve never had a significant other asking me to lose weight “for him.” This is for me, in my time and those who have believed in me, thank you. Those who haven’t, fuck you.

I CAN NOT wait to get back into those jeans.








Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Post With No Name


176 lbs.  It’ll break. I will it so…



By the way, this blog has a Facebook page:


Please like it. Please.

Housekeeping: To the woman wearing the micro shorts while working out: bikini wax. It’s your civic duty: You look like you’re smuggling a hedgehog.

Here’s a tip to burn some extra calories as you go grocery shopping: PUT THE SHOPPING CART BACK IN THE CART CORRAL! You’ll burn those calories, help prevent aggravation (especially at this time of year when people are stressed and wearing ridiculous sweaters with reindeer and actual jingle bells), help lower auto insurance rates by preventing random accidents involving rogue shopping carts, keep prices down for the merchants so they don’t have to keep replacing carts or pay the cart catchers to find them. It’s good karma and Santa is watching.

As part of my effort to improve my health and lower my weight, I have been paying attention to what I eat, not only quantities, but what makes up the food. I’ve come to the unscientific conclusion that sugar and starch will throw my metabolism practically into reverse. This would seem to rule out baked goodies and sweets, which is kind of hard because I enjoy baking and eating baked goods and sweets. What’s a girl to do?

“Clean eats that taste like cheats”: that’s the motto on www.emilyzaler.com. I found this website through an LA Times article about Emily Zaler and how she has adapted various recipes to make them healthier. Ms. Zaler is a personal trainer (and judging from the pictures on her website, she practices what she preaches) who has created recipes for baked goods that substitute protein powder and stevia (a natural sugar alternative. It’s plant-derived, available pretty much anywhere. Seen the ads for Truvia? Yeah, that’s stevia). I have test driven 3 of the recipes: Low carb pumpkin pie, EZ Whey Fudge and chocolate mousse and I’ve got to say, I’m impressed.

Now, I’m not going to give you the recipes here because they are copyrighted and her property. (The Android app is only $1.99 and it has the Top 10 recipes) Let me give you an idea, though. “Normal” pumpkin pie is 323 calories (for 1/8 of a 9” pie), 14.63 grams of fat, 42 grams of carbohydrate and 21 grams of sugar. That’s a substantial bite out of your calorie/carb budget for the day (think of your daily food intake as spending money: x amount per day to use (calories in/money out). Exceeding the limit is not a good idea and you want to make the best/wisest choices. Empty calories are not a good idea, neither is tucking a week’s pay into a stripper’s G string if you haven’t paid the rent or bought groceries). Ms. Zaler’s version is 235 calories and  4 grams of carbs (that’s less than 1/10th of the “real” stuff!). She’s very skilled with substituting protein powders for flour. In this case, instead of pie crust, you’re using protein powder (Ms. Zaler is a spokesperson for About Time protein powder and one version of her recipe uses their Vanilla or Cake Batter flavor. Another version uses Graham Cracker flavor protein powder, which I found as a Muscle Milk variety). Instead of whole eggs, she’s using egg whites, adding flax (fiber is your buddy) and substituting stevia for sugar. I made it for myself on Thanksgiving morning and it was REALLY good. I’m not the biggest pumpkin pie fan, but this worked. I think her recipe is intended as a single serving, but I was satisfied with half at a time. I imagine the basic recipe (again, go to www.emilyzaler.com for the recipe) could be adapted to other custard-style pies. It was great. It worked.

Another recipe I tried was EZ Whey Fudge. Minimal preparation, 211 calories (I’m not sure of the weight v. regulation fudge), 211 calories, 4.3 grams of carbs. And it’s good. 20 seconds to melt coconut oil (available at Trader Joe’s…), about 3 minutes to measure and mix ingredients, then freeze for 10 minutes. If you can’t delay gratification for 10 minutes, it’s time to see a shrink.

There are recipes for breads, mini protein doughnuts (I refuse to write “donut” unless I’m referring to a particular chain whose name starts with Dunkin), pancakes, waffles, MUFFINS (have you seen the calorie count for 1 lousy, stinking muffin? Try over 440! Hers? 332. The carb count is kind of high at 42.6, but…).  There is a way to have goodies without blowing the diet.

Clean eats that taste like cheats, indeed.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Just Keep Swimming


Okay, I misread the scale yesterday, despite the double check because it was 176 this morning.



Fuck a doodle doo. Still, when the goal is to drop weight, 176 is infinitely  better than 225 lbs. and the size 12 jeans still fit. Life is okay. And I’ll tell you why.

Russell Simmons was on Mark & Brian’s radio show this morning (95.5 KLOS, 5 – 6 AM repeat, 6 -10 AM live. Available as a podcast and I recommend giving it a listen. I just did again so I could quote him accurately), talking about his new book, “Super Rich, A Guide to Having It All.”  Normally, this would just be background noise as I looked over the financial data for people more financially secure than I (and fiscally more responsible. With better credit. And big fat fluffy brown tabby cats asleep on their beds in the appraisal photos). I have nothing against Mr. Simmons and didn’t know that much about him: Def Jam, Def Comedy Jam (Martin Lawrence’s springboard), Phat Farm, Kimora Lee, that’s about all). Today, though, he caught my attention.

Russell Simmons spoke, not of the great deals he had made to create his wealth or tips and strategies for building a personal fortune. I wrote down a few quotes (and if you’re wondering what to get me for Christmas, I’ll take a copy of this book, a leather trench coat (I’d have to try it on to know the size), a tablet computer and a year’s lease on an apartment in the LA area.  One that allows cats. And a pair of kittens. Brown, tabby, fluffy. AND FOR E HARMONY TO LIVE UP TO ITS ADVERTISING.). Without having read the book (yet), I’m still pondering the first few, but the last one was a message I needed today:

“Give your talents until others can’t live without them.”

“Good givers are good getters.”

“Rid yourself of neediness. Super rich is needing nothing. Needing nothing is a state of bliss. Operate from a happy space.”

“If you don’t love it, leave it alone.”

(The big one) “Let go of results. Stay focused on the work itself rather than the results. Work is the prayer.” He further explained this was part of a Bible quote that explains we don’t have control over results, but we do have control over the work we do.

As this applies today, I thought I was further along on the weight loss project than I actually am and the joy and elation I felt yesterday took a hit this morning when the scale was 176 not 170. However, I ate my healthy breakfast (non-fat Greek yogurt, blackberries, ground flaxseed), worked on my paying gig (underwriting) and went to yoga class. While I was in yoga, I focused on contracting and really engaging my abdominal muscles and I felt a big shift in my ability to get into and hold certain poses. Oh, I’m a hurtin’ unit right now, but I did really good work in class today. I was careful about my calorie intake today (whether it did any good, we’ll know in the morning).

The work itself.  Eating properly (and there will be blogs on that. I’ve discovered some recipes that stave off cravings for naughty baked goods), drinking plenty of water and exercising. The week before Thanksgiving, the topic on the show had turned to diet and exercise (which it does a lot. Mark makes an announcement of when he’s going to Five Guys – what so proudly I hail – for a cheat meal) and how metabolism changed from being skinny teenagers who could eat everything to men of a certain age who had to be mindful of eating and exercise. A guy called in and mentioned isometric exercises. “Isometric exercise or isometrics are a type of strength training in which the joint angle and muscle length do not change during contraction (compared to concentric or eccentric contractions, called dynamic/isotonic movements). Isometrics are done in static positions, rather than being dynamic through a range of motion.” (copied and pasted from Wikipedia). Basically, you contract your muscles while you’re just sitting there (Years ago, in a TV Guide article, Victoria Principal described doing isometrics. Being overweight and not fond of hard exercise, I was interested. Never did it). If you’ve seen the infomercials or (cheapy Joe TV ads. You know the product is crap when you see them) for the electric band that you put on your muscles and it “contracts them for you”, save your money: you can suck in your gut for free. I digress. My point is, since I heard the guy on Mark & Brian, I have been practicing isometrics during my day. I spend about 7 hours staring into a computer screen, why not contract the abdominals and get in some strength training at the same time?

Am I seeing a dramatic difference in my waistline? No. On the scale? See the “fuck a doodle doo” © that started off this post. BUT, while I’m not visually seeing a difference, I’m seeing a difference in my ability to perform certain moves. I can sit up straight for longer and longer periods of time  and the back fatigue/pain takes a lot longer to come around. I’ve noticed that I’m starting the isometric work even without thinking “Oh, yeah, tighten the abs.” And I still fit in the size 12 Calvins with the unforgiving waistband. Even after they’ve come out of the dryer.

I leave you with the great philosopher, Dory, who has the same message, just phrased differently:
Dory 


Monday, November 28, 2011

New Numbers

170.6 lbs. Great day in the morning! I'd like to thank protein powders, Atkins and the elliptical cross-trainer.

New round of "By The Numbers":


Measurement
January 31, 2011
May 18, 2011
November 28, 2011
Weight
224.6 lbs.
188.4 lbs.
170.6 lbs.
BMI
35.2%
29.5%
26.7%
Neck
17.3”
16.75”
15.5”
Chest
56.7”
45.5”
42”
Waist
51.2”
44.5”
39.75”
Hips
47.6”
46.5”
42”







Looks like pretty good progress unless you let the guys at the gym (who want to sell you a training package) do a body fat calculation. Mine today came up with 41.75% body fat. Fuck ‘em. I’m making great progress in other ways.



From 51.2” to 39.75”: the Great White Belly is going buh-bye.




Thursday, November 24, 2011

I've Got Your Brussels Sprouts Right Here...


175 lbs. Whatever. It’s still not 225.



If you freak out easily over terms like “bacon”, “oil” or “fucker,” this is not the blog post for you. Go find one all about kittens and puppies. Of course, these days being what they are, the puppies probably bark George Carlin’s “7 Words You Can’t Say on TV.”

Okay, I decided to experiment and be something of a grown-up (50. You can’t pretend to be a teenager anymore) and bought Brussels sprouts with the intention of making them the green vegetable for my Thanksgiving dinner. Understand, I am not only a member of the Brussels Sprouts Suck Society, I’m its President and up until today, it was President for Life (sort of like Hugo Chavez and judging by the look of him lately, he’s coming up on his term limit pretty soon).  If not properly prepared, they’re inedible: chewy (like it’ll take you a half-hour), just bitter enough to not taste very good and (up until today) pretty much a pointless exercise in eating. You want me to eat green vegetables? Throw me some green beans or Swiss chard. Use the BS (oh, figure it out) as ammunition.  

Brussels sprouts have been the butt of many a joke about how nothing good ever came from Belgium. Except chocolate, French fries and Jean-Claude Van Damme. A kitten could knock one around a house for days without damaging it. Pointless vegetable: looks like a miniature cabbage without the potential of becoming coleslaw.

But, I decided to boldly go where my tastebuds had never gone (“What’s that? Anymore and I’ll have to pay a royalty to Gene Roddenberry’s estate? And William Shatner?”Lawyers. Jeez.)…fill in the blank.

Trouble is, how do you make the little fuckers edible?

I put the question to my buddy, Santino (aka Sonny). Sonny is a pro, having established a barbecue catering business and soon to branch into sandwiches.  I told him I had the accursed sprouts and pancetta (Trader Joe’s. If you don’t have one handy, move). His reply:

“Personally, my favorite way to prep them is to cut them in half lengthwise, light drizzle of olive erl, *salt & pepper then roast those fuckers in a wicked hot oven. 400 degrees is good, 425 is better. 25-30 minutes should do it so that they get all crunchy browned & sweet. Then pop 'em like peanut M&Ms...

*if you have any of that bacon salt like what you'd sent me, use that.

Side note, if you happen to think of it, put a fine chop to that pancetta & add it to the party for about the last 8-10 mins of cooking. Trow everything into a bowl after cooking, mix thoroughly (some of that crystalized lemon wouldn't hurt) and enjoy.”©

(No, those are not unintentional spelling errors. That’s Sonny being Sonny)

I did as advised (except I didn’t add  the bacon salt (obtained from Cost Plus World Market. Not in your neighborhood? Annoyed sigh. Buy it online or MOVE) until after I’d cooked them).  (Crystallized lemon: I get it in the baking aisle at Ralphs aka Krogers. True Lemon. You could squeeze a real one over the finished product. And if you lived in California or Florida, you might even have a tree in your backyard. Almost makes up for the occasional earthquake or Category 4 hurricane. Almost).

I opted for the 30 minutes  at 425 degrees (setting the timer initially for 20 minutes so I could add the pancetta. Hey, you can always chop up some bacon if you don’t have pancetta, just use applewood smoked because the  smoky addition to the flavor is priceless. And if you’re vegan, what are you doing still reading this?).

Holy crap, were those things good. I finished off the whole bowl. This is the first Thanksgiving where I’ve loaded up on green vegetables, not potatoes, appetizers or sweets. And Brussels sprouts, no less… The sprouts actually did have some sweetness to them and the lemon added a fantastic bright punch.

As I type this, my turkey (a cranberry and apple stuffed breast from Trader Joe’s. Oh, relax, I just did 2 hours on the elliptical machine in the gym) is roasting in the oven and I made a low-carb pumpkin pie from a recipe on www.emilyzaler.com. Haven’t tasted that yet, but I’ll report back later. I have sweet potatoes and cornbread stuffing (TJ’s again. Seriously, people, either lobby to get on in your neighborhood or get CARE packages), but they may not get consumed until tomorrow with leftover turkey.  

But yes, today, November 24, 2011, the Brussels sprout has officially been conquered.












Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Atkins Saves the Day


---- lbs. That’s right: No weigh in today! LIVIN’ ON THE EDGE!!!

This is important: According to a fact I heard today, the average American will consume 4,000 calories on Thanksgiving Day (not at one meal, but that’s certainly a big factor). Proceed with caution.

However, it should be noted: as I write this post, I am wearing my all-important Levi 501s that haven’t fit in this decade (Decade, hell. They haven’t fit during the 21st century). I got a sewing kit and fixed the placket (I believe that’s the technical term for the part of the fly with the buttons). Sue Ann Nivens, my Home Ec teacher from junior high would be shocked as all hell (if she’s not rolling over in her grave. My teachers were all, pretty much, shall we say “experienced” when I got them). I hated the sewing part of Home Ec. Still not crazy about sewing, but I can/will do it when pushed. And rearming my wardrobe out of my storage unit continues. Next up: digging around for my Ann Taylor silk turtlenecks. And my Bruins (Boston) jersey.

The jeans, by the way, are a wee bit loose in the seat. There’s another pair (I’m pretty sure) of a smaller size in storage, but I’m thinking not quite yet.

As for the wonky right knee: X-rayed on the 11th and according to Dr. Best, it’s “beautiful” (his words. Before I started trash talking his Kansas City Chiefs. After what the Patriots did to them last night, they deserved the trash talk). The bones are in good shape and there’s plenty of soft tissue. The radiologist’s fax to Dr. Best had a term for an inflamed tendon (that wasn’t tendinitis. Why is tendinitis spelled like that when the inflamed tissue is spelled “T-E-N-D-O-N”? Curious) that started with E and a bunch of vowels. Well, given the way I have run my right knee into every available heavy, pointy, unyielding surface over the years with the point of contact being pretty much the same, it’s no wonder. The fix? LIGHT weights, many repetitions, heat, electricity and ultrasound. In other words, what we’ve been doing.

I have a sweet tooth and especially like chocolate (and certain substances blended with chocolate. To wit, peanut butter.  The NAAC has spoken (National Association for the Advancement of Caramel), but chocolate + peanut butter has the sweet/salty built in and caramel needs it added. You guys have to do a better job of convincing me). In this space, I have mentioned some protein powders and the Atkins Endulge line as a means of satisfying the craving without undoing the good I’ve done.

Let’s talk Atkins for a few minutes. I had found their Chocolate Coconut Bar and Peanut Butter cups to be nearly equal to Mounds and to Reese’s. I said as much to the Atkins people and they sent me a flock of coupons (I’m not a member of Congress. My vote on this matter is not for sale. I would endorse these items even without 50 cents off). I turned those coupons into the other Atkins Endulge varieties and I’m here to report they all pretty much work. (All candy bar names used refer to American branded candy bars).

Chocolate coconut (Mounds):  Texture and taste nearly identical to Mounds, not as sweet, but it’s satisfying. 170 calories for 1 bar, 3 g net carbs, 1 g sugar.  (And those of you who hate coconut: your objection is noted. More for the rest of us)

Chocolate Peanut Butter cups (Reese’s): Texture and taste nearly identical to Reeses (the cups are smooth, no ridges. Deal with it). The peanut butter holds up; comparable to Reese’s (which is what sets Reese’s apart from all other peanut butter cups). 160 calories for 2, 0 g sugar, 2g net carbs.

Caramel Nut Chew Bar (Baby Ruth. Not quite Snickers):  Real caramel is butter and sugar and not much else, so creating a “lighter”, healthier version that’s actually edible is quite a challenge. This bar succeeds, even with a nougat (not as light and fluffy as the real deal, but you’re still not chewing it for 10 years). The flavor is good. 130 calories per bar, 1 g sugar and 2g net carbs.

Chocolate Caramel Mousse Bar (Milky Way): This was the least successful of the Endulge products. Like the Caramel Nut Chew Bar, the nougat is dense and chewy, not light/fluffy (but the flavor is good). There’s a very thin layer of caramel, so if you’re looking for the Milky Way caramel string experience, you won’t find it here. The flavor is okay (not great, but not hideous). 120 calories per bar, 1 g sugar and 2 net carbs.

Peanut Caramel Cluster Bar (Payday): The only thing missing is the saltiness of the peanuts in the real deal. Payday bars have a different kind of caramel from Milky Way, Snickers, etc. and Atkins nailed it, both in taste and texture. The nougat is not as dense as the other bars and this contributes to making the experience even closer to eating an actual Payday. 140 calories per bar, 1 g sugar, 3 g net carbs.

I have found these bars at the grocery store (Ralphs, Albertsons) and at Vitamin Shoppe. Bought individually, the bars are usually $1.69 each (in Vitamin Shoppe). At the grocery store, they’re available in boxes of 5 for $6.99 or $1.39 per bar. At Vitamin Shoppe, they’re available in boxes of 12 for $14.99 or $1.25 per bar (which is on par with what “real” candy bars cost).

We’re coming into a 6 week period marked by a lot of sweet, high calorie, high carbohydrate and sugar foods and enough chocolate to give all of India zits. There’s a lot of social pressure to indulge (“Hey, c’mon, it’s the holidays. Go ahead, cheat a little.” Except that it’s never “a little”. The slope is not only slippery, it’s been greased by deep fried turkey, latkes and eggnog). Atkins Endulge offers a viable work-around to all the See’s/Figi’s/Swiss Colony/Hickory Farms temptations out there and merits a taste test.

Starbucks: I am a huge fan of Gingerbread Latte, but it’s a ton of sugar and Starbucks does not (yet) have a sugar-free syrup for them. However, the baristas at my favorite branch have turned me on to Skinny Peppermint Mocha Latte: sugar free syrup and non-fat milk. 100 calories for a tall and it tastes pretty good. California has mandated that restaurants have to post calorie contents on menus and seeing  a whopping  440 calories next to the slice of gingerbread loaf works as a deterrent (another seasonal favorite and I had thought that I was doing myself a favor by skipping the chocolate covered/caramel filled bars. Nope).

Oh, and keep drinking the water. Try to get in at least one round in the morning, hot with lemon (a coffee mug and half a lemon). Your liver and your kidneys will send you a thank you note.

This year, I’m giving thanks for being able to wear my 501s again, the fact that one of my favorite people (whom I’d not seen in ages) told me Saturday night, “Wow, there’s a lot less of you” and for the fact that I’m succeeding in a project that’s dismantling  the weight issue that has been a huge part of my life (yeah, I see the pun. It works, it stays). I look in the mirror and actually like what I see (the matches on E Harmony, they’re not responding). I am getting back into clothing that well-meaning people had told me I should “get rid of” from my storage because I’d never fit into them again (And if you’re reading this, [Sweet Smile], FUCK YOU) and I’m finding ways and means to support the fitter me while minimizing the sacrifice (that would be where the Atkins comes in). Today, in yoga, I was able to perform a Half Moon (balance on one foot and one hand – same side – with other foot and other hand in the air) on the left side (right knee, tendinitis, no).  Still no push-ups. Yet. But that’s coming. I’m back in my 501s, Man!  I’m so grateful, I’m ecstatic.

And don’t overdo it with the green bean casserole (which is a crime against nature in the first place).  Only put the black olives on your fingertips that you intend to eat (not too many) and when blowing the pimentos out of the green olives at your cousins, make sure your grandmother isn’t watching. (Yes, I speak from experience).

A Happy Thanksgiving to all.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hips, hips, Hooray


175.2 lbs. 2 steps back, 1 step back.



Today’s ego boost: I was able to easily get into a couple of skirts (size 14) that have been hanging out in storage for years (I’ll put it to you this way: they’re covered in cat fur. I haven’t had any cats in over 6 years, a fact that makes my heart hurt. I miss my furry friends. They were great pets. Luckily, lint rollers and Dryel home dry cleaning are relatively cheap). The LL Bean wool (size 12), well, that’ll be another 5-10 lbs. down and a good pair of control top panty hose BUT I GOT THEM UP TO MY WAIST. I’m wearing my good old Calvin Klein size 13s and size 12s  (jeans) on a daily basis. One of my less-supportive friends sniped that “Well, those run big anyway.” Don’t you just love people like that? They can’t let you have your moment of victory. Well, in my experience, LL Bean’s clothing runs small. And the sniper can go to hell. The size 10 mini skirt…yeah, not just yet. But I’ve got the legs to go under it!

Today was weight training and cardio. One of my friends from yoga class is a body builder and I consulted with him about my triceps: I have been working on the various Nautilus machines that promise tricep development, but nothing. I’ve been working out on a heavy schedule for 8 months and still cannot do a complete, down-to-the-floor-and-up-again pushup. According to Dr. Best, there are two parts to a tricep, the short ____ (I think he said something like “bud,” but I wouldn’t swear to it) which is the part up near the shoulder and the long ____ (I wish I could remember the term) which runs down the arm to the elbow. It’s where the arm flaps hang out. I hate those things (but then, I have yet to meet a woman who describes them as her favorite body part. If you know such a person, please send her name and picture as a comment on this blog). Anyway, the body builder showed me how to do an exercise he called “skull crushers.” You need weights and if you’re new to this exercise or unfamiliar with handling weights, GO LIGHT. Part of the effectiveness of free weight is that you have to control them while exerting against the weights. I laid down on a bench for this exercise, face up. With the weights in your hands (and you’re going to do this exercise palms up as if you were pushing against the ceiling and keep them palms up the whole time), raise your arms straight up over your head.  Keeping your arms in tight near your ears, bend your forearms back by your ears. Watch this guy:

 

My triceps were shaking by the time I finished 1 set of twenty repetitions, with 2 more sets to go. Kiss those arm flaps buh bye!

Ego bruiser of the day: EHarmony isn’t doing much of anything for me so far. Guys have looked at my profile (after I’ve reached out) and chosen not to return greetings or connect. I have tremendous friendships with men, but that next step doesn’t seem to be happening. It’s their loss. Of course, if you’re reading this, have a SINGLE father/uncle/brother who is a good guy, knows how to treat a lady, is secure and in the LA area, please forward a picture and contact info.  And tell him I make a wicked tiramisu.








Tuesday, November 15, 2011

How I'm Saved From Myself


176.6 lbs. Yeah. I know. Shut up.

Piece of advice: Do not carefully apply mascara (and congratulate yourself on doing such a fine job),then, 2 hours later, go into a steam room. Rocky Raccoon. Now, you may think that this advice is geared strictly towards women. However, there’s always Jared Leto and Adam Lambert. (Alice Cooper actually prefers his extra smeared).

One of the issues that can derail a weight loss program, especially the “cleaner eating” portion, is food craving. Mine particular “gotta have its” were chocolate and coconut (those of you who tell me coconut is not a food may kiss my butt. It’s delicious and contains L-argenine which boosts metabolism. Dr. Oz says so) and chocolate and peanut butter. And I know there are more than a few of you out there who share my tastes in cravings. These combos are normally found in candy, milk shakes or baked goods, which are naturally loaded in sugar, fat and/or starch and empty calories and therefore, these flavors combos have been out of reach. I have been avoiding sugar as I believe it triggers an inflammatory response in my body. Not a good thing, but when you’re jonesing for a Reese’s or a Mounds…

I have recently found some great answers that effectively satisfy me and provide a benefit to my workouts as well: About Time chocolate peanut butter protein powder and BSN Lean Dessert Chocolate Coconut  protein powder.

We’ll start with About Time (www.tryabouttime.com): per scoop, 103 calories (I go 2 scoops. Next time, single scooper), No lactose, no gluten, no carbs, no fat, no artificial flavors or sweeteners. 12% of daily calcium, only 41 mgs of sodium and 24 grams of protein (lots of different kinds of protein). It’s not sweet but the flavor is good; the peanut butter tastes like peanut butter and there’s enough chocolate flavor to be satisfying. I bought some chocolate almond milk to add to it for purposes of experimentation. According to pretty much any trainer/vitamin store employee/body builder I spoke to, About Time has truly high quality protein and is far better quality than the chocolate peanut butter protein powder I had been using. About Time is also available in flavors like Cinnamon Swirl, Mocha Mint, Chocolate and Birthday Cake which I may try when I make up some of Emily Zaler’s recipes.

Whereas I had been using Rawvolution’s chocolate coconut haystacks to satisfy my chocolate coconut craving (No sugar: unsweetened cocoa powder, coconut oil, coconut nectar and shredded coconut), they were not really conducive to weight loss/muscle building (LOTS of calories, but no mass manufacturing chemicals, either). However, a close second behind a Reese’s peanut butter cup (a moment of reverence, if you will),  Mounds and Almond Joy share the silver medal. One can find a lot of chocolate or peanut butter protein shakes/bar,  but chocolate coconut is tough to pull off successfully (i.e., it doesn’t taste fake, the texture/flavor doesn’t have the dark notes/richness of the real deal). Chocolate and coconut are both pretty fatty foods and there is a certain mouth feel that’s tough to replicate. Again, a huge taboo (although we’re now hearing that some dark chocolate per day is a good idea because of its antioxidants and coconut has the L-argenine amino acid). When I was in high school, my mom would whip up a protein shake for me (sending me on some stupid ass errand to the other end of the house so she could sneak an egg into the mixture. She has made a full confession on the record) that was skim milk, ice and flavoring (cocoa powder, vanilla extract and Sweet N Low and coconut flavoring like you get in the baking section at the grocery store). It was okay, but clearly tasted like Sweet N Low, vanilla and coconut “flavoring”. Of course, some rum extract was generally dumped in there as well, so that helped (and led to me becoming a Jimmy Buffett fan. “Booze” in the blender!).

Enter BSN Lean Dessert, Chocolate Coconut Candy Bar. Serving 1 scoop (seriously, I have to cut it down from 2), 150 calories, 21 grams of protein. And it tastes fantastic. It tastes like a Mounds bar.  Also available in (which I have not yet taste tested) Chocolate Fudge Pudding, Banana Cream, Cinnamon Roll, Banana Nut.  I do not include Chocolate or Vanilla because, let’s face it, EVERYBODY has chocolate and vanilla flavors.  It’s just a matter of pulling them off properly.

These protein powders also provide energy for hours. There’s no “one hour later and you’re hungry again.”

I am a great believer in “bang for the buck”: with these protein powders, not only can I satisfy the craving for these particular flavor combos (Chocolate proves God’s existence. The combination of chocolate and peanut butter proves that He loves us), but as I do so, I’m taking in nutrients to build lean muscle (Hey, in less than a year, I’ve stepped down from size 20 to size 12 jeans that are NOT elasticized. That requires lean muscle). This is more bang for the buck.

In addition to the protein powders, I have discovered the Atkins Endulge line. These treats are candy bars, extremely low in carbohydrates (this is Atkins, after all) and the two I’ve tried (Chocolate Coconut Bar and Peanut Butter cups. Quelle surprise) successfully replicate Mounds and Reese’s without all the sugar. The Chocolate Coconut bar is 170 calories, the Peanut Butter cup is 120 calories with little to no sugar. There are also varieties that replace Milky Way (and Peanut Caramel Cluster. Payday?).  Oh yes, they will be taste tested.

As a dedicated fan of chocolate, giving it up altogether was the undoing of my previous weight loss attempts. I would always answer its dark, rich (sugar-laden) call and gorge. (A few years ago, the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History had an exhibition on the history of chocolate. The entrance to the exhibit was done up as a fancy chocolate shop. My friend Run and I almost didn’t make it into the exhibit. And the guard politely asked us to stop pressing our faces on the glass). Hey, I’ve even found the magic that is the Mo’s Bacon Bar by Vosges: chocolate and applewood smoked bacon. I kid you not (About Time? BSN? Do you think maybe…?Atkins? It seems like a natural). I can go without for periods of time, but not forever. I am so happy I’ve found these protein powders and snack bars, I almost don’t have the words (well, two pages later).

If losing weight is like climbing an ice wall or rock wall (something that does not interest me and my Not Quite Nephew has this covered. I don’t think the kid can move on a horizontal surface), these food finds are really sturdy pitons and toeholds that are going to keep me from falling off and having to restart.

Thank you, About Time, BSN and Atkins.