Tuesday, May 31, 2011


186.6 lbs. yesterday and today.  PLATEAU BROKEN!  And new one established (God, I hope not)  The Red Sox lost yesterday and  today, the White Sox are in the process of beating the snot out of them.   I volunteer to do their losing for Boston this season. I am that dedicated a fan.

So, 6 day plateau broken and that was by reducing my water intake from a volume equivalent to half of Lake Superior (sans  whitefish and the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald) to 8 glasses. A friend who consumes a lot of water out of medical necessity explained the weight of water and the costs of retention. Ha! 2 more pounds and another decade mark down. I will not be denied.

When all the Rapture nonsense was getting attention, my first thought (and a selfish one it was) was “Oh, crap. I’m finally on the way to getting in shape and the world is going to end before I hit my goal weight. They don’t let fat people into heaven. That’s why Gluttony is one of the Big Seven.”  According to the latter day Oracle of Delphi (who must have been working from a lunar calendar. L’Chaim.), October 21, 2011 is when it all ends. God, that really screws up the timetable for getting to my goal weight. My second thought was, “Well, more cheese for me.”

One of the original little Asian ladies  from yoga class with the pile of designer accessories next to her mat told me I looked like I had lost a lot of weight! Yea! I almost hugged her, but she said her shoulders were bothering her. But, still…

I found it necessary to revisit the confessional.

“Bless Me, Father for I have sinned.”

“You again? Go away.”

“No, really, I need absolution.”

“You need to be Catholic to do this. Why aren’t you?”

“That whole transubstantiation thing. I don’t believe Welch’s grape juice and Pepperidge Farm bread becomes the blood and body of Christ. It’s a symbolic act.”

“Aw, Jeez…”

“What? Like you’ve got something better to do? You don’t exactly need reservations to get in here.”

“My head, I’m getting such a headache.”

“I happen to know you sit in there and do Sudoku most of the time.”

“I do not.”

“Right. It’s baseball season. You’re listening to the game in there.”

“Hey, can’t beat the reception in here.”

“Can we get to it?”

“Did you just stick a 20 through the screen?”

“It’s not a bribe if you give me a receipt. Bless me, Father…:

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, cut to the chase.”

“I cheated, Father.”

“What, another hot dog? Big whoop.”

“No, I cheated at yoga.”

“How the hell do you cheat at yoga?”

“Father! Language!”

“Just answer the question.”

“The teacher thinks I pulled off the vinyasa.”

“Is that like one of those mattress tags?”

“No, it’s a flowing series of poses to transition from one to another. You’re supposed to do a push up , then bend upward into a Up Dog.”

“And? I’m just dying from the suspense.”

“Leave the sarcasm to me, Father. I only went halfway down on the push up before I went to the Up Dog. She just saw me in the Upward Dog and congratulated me on my progress. I feel guilty.”

“Wait, so you only got halfway down on the pushup, then did the whatever?”


“That’s acceptable. I used to watch Lillias! Yoga and You” on WGBH all the time. That’s not cheating.”

“But I’m not getting into the balance poses fully.”

“Well, you’re a top heavy klutz.”

“You want me to come through that screen, Father? I can take you.”

“Sorry. Lillias had a term for not fully getting into the balance poses. It’s called ‘modification.’ You do what you can. My God, that woman was limber.”


“Sorry. What else have you got?”

“I’ve had bad thoughts.”

“Impure thoughts, you mean? Lust?”

“Not really, Father, unless I’m watching “300”. No, I’m talking hateful thoughts.”


“Father! Focus!”

“Hateful thoughts. I’m listening.”

“The people on their cell phones in the gym, the people wearing their funky gym clothes into the steam room…”

“I noticed your sneakers are minty fresh.”

“It’s an obsession, Father. No stinky feet. I just want to slap them all. And Axl Rose, Jillian Michaels and Ryan Reynolds.”

“Okay, Rose and Michaels, I get, but Ryan Reynolds?”

“I know. Something about him just bugs the shit out of me. “

“Really, is that all you have?”

“Well, there is one more thing…”

“How did I know?”

“I cheated with respect to food.”


“At a Memorial Day party. I had a brownie.”

“Gluttony’s a sin, my child. One of the Big Seven. This is serious and you wasted it on a mere brownie?”

“Well, it was a special occasion, Father.  My birthday.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa. Get back, Loretta. Your birthday is June 1. Saturday was May 28. That was just plain cheating.”

“No, Father. This was not a mere brownie. This was a Mandicake brownie.”

“Oooh, the blondie?”

“Nonono, the dark chocolate…”

“Oh, yeah, you mean the one with the…”

“Yeah, and the…”

“Ah, I love those. How many did you scarf?”

“Just one, Father and I counted it in the food diary.”

“Anything else/”

“Two glasses of rose wine.”

“Odd combination.”

“I was channeling a couple of friends who couldn’t be at the party.”

“Ah hah! So it was your own act of communion, my child! You have not sinned!”


“Loophole. Hey, I studied law before I entered the seminary.”

“No penance?”

“Just that Chair Pose in yoga. Hint to the wise: don’t eat Mexican before yoga class.”

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Some Guy Named Ahab Left a Message For You

187.8 lbs. Do you hear something like a distant hammering? That’s me pounding my head on the wall.

I was talking to a friend about this plateau and she had an interesting insight: I may be drinking too much water. I had thought that there was no such thing and, in fact, the best means of treating a water weight gain was to flush it out with more water. My current intake is close to a gallon a day, mostly on the instructions of Torquemada. However, what the body cannot use, it stores (same with food) and a gallon of water weighs 8 lbs. This surprised me because I thought whatever water the body didn’t use became a very uncomfortable bladder and a run to the restroom. Not so, according to my source.   The recommendation I got was to reduce my intake by at least 2 glasses per day and see if that didn’t break the plateau. We’ll see what happens tomorrow (which is Monday and Monster Mondays. Monser Calorie Burn, that is).

I had occasion to go through my storage unit yesterday (through a combination of factors, my current living situation is a hotel and I have not had a home of my own for 6 years. So, whatever doesn’t fit in my car lives in my storage unit.  I’d really like change that). I rooted through a number of boxes including those containing clothing I hadn’t been able to wear in years (too tight). I didn’t locate my beloved Levis yet, but I did find some khakis that had been the right size but cut so that they were uncomfortably tight (business casual allows for polo shirts and khakis. I think it makes us look like a cult). When I tried them on, they were now too big, as in “able to pull them on and off without unzipping them” too big. This is the kind of progress I like.

(Random) Another reason to buy Not Your Daughter’s Jeans: they are made in the USA.

I’m not a big fan of looking at myself, either in the mirror or in pictures. This morning, though, as I moved in front of the mirror, something caught my eye and I had to go back and look. I confirmed that I had actually seen what I thought I saw:

The beginnings of a waist.

Not the equator that I had formerly been sporting. I’m talking about an indentation between the bust and the hips. You know, an hourglass? There had been speculation for years in the scientific community that mine was extinct, a similar debate to the current status of the ivory-billed woodpecker.  Those who had said it was gone and never to be seen or heard from again (my waist, not the bird) will have to re-evaluate their stance.

This is a significant step forward  in the (loving) eradication of the Great White Belly. I believe what has done the trick (or begun to do the trick. Let’s not get carried away, here) is the work I’ve been doing that focuses on the oblique muscles (the ones on the sides of the waist that allow you to twist). I state and emphasize that there is no such thing as spot reducing, but as you work, tighten and build muscles, the landscape around them changes to accommodate the emerging shape. I can’t see ribs (they’re still under a layer of fat. Smaller than it was,though) but I’ve noticed that the bra strap overhang is almost gone and whereas the band of the bra (for guys, that’s the part with the hooks that is your worst enemy) used to indent, it doesn’t anymore. In fact, I may need to go down a size.

I still don’t like looking at The Great White Belly. It’s shapeless and pasty, has stretch marks around the front and hangs down and low to create a flesh fold that is unattractive and unfeminine. It would take the tummy tuck from hell to tame this beast. . (This is going to get a bit gross) It’s necessary to lift the fold to wash and dry the crease (skin care is skin care) and swipe it with deodorant, especially during hot weather. A few years back, a man with an ugly heart  told me I smelled bad because I was fat and sweaty (I shower and shampoo every day, so I’m clean) and that I was stinking up the couch of a friend (like I said, I haven’t had my own home in a few years). It’s not so much that I felt any real truth in what he said (I’d known this guy for a few years already and considered him a smug jackass who’s nowhere near as intelligent as he pretends to be), but it was the fact that he felt free to make this statement that hurt. The friend had nothing to say on the subject and hasn’t since the incident took place. While his comment didn’t make any difference in my behavior, it didn’t do anything to change my self-loathing and that was probably his intention.  The best defense is a good offense, after all.

Fuck him.

The Great White Belly, though still considerable, is changing shape. It’s smaller, the sides are shrinking and narrowing and the rolls, while still there, are getting smaller. Do I think I’ll ever be a size 2 or 0? Hell, no. Let me tell you something: those Hollywood starlets whom we’re supposed to worship and imitate? The ones who do wear 2s and 0s? Yeah.  They’re  Munchkins in Manolos.  These are short women in high heels who consider cigarettes, Red Bull and vodka a three-course meal.  I’ve worked as an extra, I have seen these women up close and they are tiny. If you’re over 5’ 6”, you aren’t going to wear the sample sizes.

Well in closing, I offer the following before and after shots, from July 4, 2010 and May 28, 2011.
July 4, 2010

 May 28, 2011
I see an improvement.

Friday, May 27, 2011

You Can Make It Better

187.8 lbs. Okay, where’s the damned dynamite? Plateaus blow.

I can pat myself on the back today. No, I mean that literally: my flexibility has improved to the point where I can just about reach the bra strap by reaching over the shoulder. Yea!

I am not an expert on much of anything except for being me. Let’s get that straight. I am not a nutritionist, personal trainer or kinesiologist  except for where it pertains to my experience.  And I have a lot of experience.

That being said, I want to address something I’ve observed for years. I frequent public places like malls and I feel a little tug at my heart every time I see a young girl (teens and pre-teens) walking with head down,  eyes downcast and tightly hugging herself as she walks. There are also the girls with long sleeves (especially the big, baggy sweatshirts).  They have the sleeves pulled all the way down and clutched tightly in balled fists, arms rigid and straight at their sides and hood pulled down, if the shirt has one. If these girls do look up and make eye contact, it’s either quickly broken with eyes going back to the floor or returned with a defensive and hostile look (“What are you lookin’ at?). What makes this hurt a bit is that this is the body language of low self-esteem and feeling inferior or unattractive. It’s the body language of striving to be invisible.

I remember hearing a radio interview with someone who had been an aide to the Dalai Lama and written a book about it. He had attended an international symposium with His Holiness (I forget what the topic was. I heard this story in 1996 or 1997. That was a while ago). Self-esteem had come up as a topic and people were having a hard time explaining low self-esteem to His Holiness. The concept did not exist to a Buddhist monk.

There’s the “It Gets Better” campaign aimed at bullied, gay teens. There should be a similar campaign to reach young women called “You Can Make It Better.”

“Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Young Ladies, lift up your eyes, straighten your shoulders  and see the world around you. This is America. We do not have royalty, aristocracy or a caste system (except in high school).  You are equal to anyone you encounter. Always remember that.

I survived high school. I still don’t know why a group of kids in my home room decided that their mornings should start by torturing me, but they did. There was a group of guys who would taunt and harass me at lunchtime (again, I don’t know why). I had no classes in common with them and the only time we shared space was the lunch period, but they decided I was a good target. I ended up back-handing the ring leader in front of everyone in the lunch room (which was the whole school). I don’t remember much after that except for the vice principal (who later shut my finger in his car door, but that was an accident and a different story) dragging me away to the other end of the room and begging me to calm down. As for the taunting, it stopped that day (My older sister, who had suffered identical torture from this group, berated me for having hit the leader and how it had embarrassed her that I had done so.  Of course, she was in the A clique in her class and a small group of jocks had eliminated the problem for her by threatening to beat the shit out of the offender if he didn’t leave her alone. Not having the same support system, I had to solve the problem on my own. I also don’t let her decide how I think or feel).

This is important: The kids (usually girls) who make catty comments and seek to establish their ‘superiority” by making everyone around them feel miserable are themselves insecure and in pain of some sort. The best defense is a good offense. Rather than confront their own feeling about themselves and appear vulnerable to the clique, they’ll project their inadequacies onto you. (The members will turn on each other in a heartbeat. I’ve seen groups of women who cannot wait for one to even be completely out of earshot before they start verbally ripping her. Of course, when she returns, it’s all smiles and friendship) They deserve your pity because they cannot get away from themselves.

People who respect themselves and are comfortable in their own skins do not mock and belittle others. They do not attack and ridicule unless provoked and usually, not even then. They are supportive and kind because they believe life is good, the world is a good place and you pose no threat to them.  They do not make good bullies because they do not need your misery to feel better about themselves.  They do not make good victims because their self-esteem is bulletproof.

The classic ruling clique in high school (Mean Girls Syndrome) are not people who like themselves very much. They may seem to have it all but they don’t. The fat girl who ignores them and continues to play the tuba in band or draw Hello Kitty all over her notebooks even after she’s been ridiculed for it has a more solid foundation and a better sense of self than the girls who make the comments, even if the digs get repeated and spread throughout school.  If you can withstand the onslaught and remain standing, you have a good foundation for handling whatever life throws at you. Them? Not so much.  

One of my favorite movies is “Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion.” I don’t identify with any particular character (although I would love to have Lisa Kudrow’s long, elegant neck) but our girls Romy and Michelle, after having concocted a big lie about their lives to impress the clique who had tormented them, finally realize that they are perfectly happy with their lives as is and don’t need those bitches anyway. The phrase “peaked too soon” applies because whereas our heroines had moved to Venice Beach, California designing clothing and having fun, the A clique was still stuck in their high school personas and hadn’t grown (except for one whom they turned on when she voiced an opinion they didn’t like).

The A clique in my class blew hot and cold on me. I could fit in and be on great terms with them some days or they could decide it was the day to torture me. One of them wrote in my yearbook, “I can’t believe how much bullsh—(she didn’t have the guts to spell it out) you take from me and still smile.” I can safely state I’m still working on building my self-esteem, but at least it was strong enough 30 years ago to withstand the onslaught.

Cool comes from within. Cool isn’t wearing a particular label or having the right boyfriend (or girlfriend) or listening to the right music. Cool is actually self-esteem. You are who you are, you like who you are and you don’t allow anyone to change that. Cool is like style: it doesn’t reside in the latest trend or the hottest fashion or what everybody else is doing. If you like pink poodle skirts and it makes you happy to wear them and you actually DO wear them regardless of the public reaction, you are cool. If you like pink poodle skirts and it makes you happy to wear them, but you leave them in the closet because somebody made you feel bad about wearing them, well, the cool is hanging in the closet with the skirts.

I recognize the self-preservation instinct behind trying to blend in with the crowd or carrying ourselves so as not to risk attention. After all, we’re told that the nail that stands up is the one that gets hammered down. That’s the easy way out, though and likely to make you miserable because while you’re blending in, you’re not being true to yourself.  And it’s unlikely that the people you’re trying to impress will actually give a damn or value your sacrifice. Twenty years down the road, they probably won’t even remember your name and you’ll have sacrificed your identity for nothing. And the chances are good that they’re not 1) Oscar winners, 2) CEOs of companies that they built, 3) Nobel Prize winners or 4) President of the US (if you went to high school with President Obama, well…there’s an exception to every rule, but I kind of doubt he was bullying people in high school).

You don’t have to compare yourself to anyone, not the prom queen, not the girl who got the lead in the school play, not the girls in Cosmo Teen or the girls on “Glee.” If anyone tries to force it on you, brush it aside; chances are this is just someone trying to make you unhappy or use you to make someone else unhappy. Do not let anyone else dictate how you feel about yourself  or others.

I walk with my head up and look people in the eye. I have for years. My head has not yet exploded. Nobody has hit me in the face with a tomato. In fact, I get smiles and nods sometimes. There was an element of “fake it til you make it” for a while. When I was in law school, we had courses in conducting a trial. When I started the course, I was very harsh when performing a cross-examination. The professor asked me why I came across so hard. I told him that I didn’t want people to think I was just some fat broad that people could take advantage of. The professor and my classmates look puzzled. I asked them, “So what impression do I give when I walk into a room?” The answer: “Power.”  You could have surprised the hell out of me.

So, Young Ladies, if you’re still listening, instead of trying to make yourself small and invisible, try walking with your head held high, relaxed posture and eyes looking forward. Pretend you already have self-confidence and power. You’d be surprised how quickly they actually show up.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

I Downward Dog Dare You

187.8 lbs. Where’s that dynamite? I was THIS CLOSE to 184.6 (40 down) and I will not be denied.

You can tell a woman is not serious about her upcoming workout when she arrives at the gym wearing as much makeup as a toddler beauty pageant contestant. Today, I saw such a woman.

Checking my diary entries from the last time I had a spike plus plateau combination, it took a day or two for things to get back on track.

Don’t tell Torquemada, but I’m cheating today: I only did yoga, no hour of cardio. HA!

Since tomorrow’s going to be another monster weight training day, I figured I could slack a little bit. Only  a little bit. Part of it was a number of errands that needed to be done, part was an experiment. I’ve been frustrated with my lack of balance. I don’t expect to pass for a Cirque du Soleil performer, but I would like to see or feel a difference, you know?

Tuesday’s class, Lila had us to a shoulder stand. If you’re a kid and goofing around on the lawn with your sisters or friends, this is the one where you’re on your back and you bring your legs up and over your head, so basically, you’re ass over teakettle with your feet on the ground over your head, but since you’re 9 years old and hopped up on Kool Aid, it’s hilarious.

Not so much when you’re closing on 50. Doing it the yoga way, I couldn’t get my legs over my head. Before class started today, I thought I’d give it a shot the old fashioned way: just whip my legs over my head. I’m here to tell you that I didn’t harm myself and I could get my legs back there. I will not be doing it again though, because due to the presence of the Great White Belly and the White Mountains, I nearly suffocated. Oh sure, you don’t think about it when you’re sitting upright, but when you bop yourself in the face with your own tits and belly…

You get the idea.

There was some progress, though. My shoulders still get tired with holding arms up and/or out, but it takes a bit longer. My upper back rebels against sitting up straight for too long, but the time period before I feel the muscles start to complain is getting longer. I was told I have nice looking legs (not by a guy. They don’t notice. I am invisible to the masculine eye). All the cardio and leg presses are paying off. If only GWB would shape up as quickly…

When we got to the sun salutation, there was the transition from Downward Dog to Plank and then the option of going back to Downward Dog (which is hands in front of you, butt in the air and trying to get your feet flat on the floor. If you can do that, you are quite stretched and flexible) to Plank (which is hands under shoulder and a long sloping line from your head back to your feet, butt below rib cage) and then there are two roads back to Downward Dog: either go directly to it by pushing back (do not pass Go, do not collect $200) or do the vinyasa: from Plank, do a push-up, then bend into Cobra (legs straight out behind you on the floor, back is arched and arms/hands pushing torso off the floor). No belly flopping allowed and Lila has pre-emptively told me to take the modification and just go straight to Down Dog from Plank. Now, I THOUGHT that it was necessary to go all the way down to the floor on the move from Plank to Cobra. HOWEVER, I saw Lila do one and she only went halfway down. HA! I CAN DO THAT! I CAN GO HALFWAY DOWN ON A PUSHUP! (Don’t expect me to come back up; it ain’t happenin’) So, as we got to the right point in the next Sun Salutation, (drumroll, if you please) I TOOK THE VINYASA. You should have seen the look on Lila’s face when she saw me in Cobra. The push up was not graceful and pretty, but damn it, I got it done. Yeah, Boy! And Lila told me it was magnificent. That made up for damned near offing myself with a boob up the nose (Seriously, I know we all have to go some time, but I’d prefer not to end up as a Darwin Award).

Without the hour of cardio before class (I usually give myself about 15 minutes in between cardio and yoga), I actually could hold a Tree Pose (before class) without a lot of shaking. It was a brief, shining moment, but I could hold it and hold it steady. Part of the issue with balance is the need for an extra mat under my yoga mat. With the screwed up kneecap, I need to put padding between it and the floor. Not so good for staying steady on one foot. On the bare floor, I did all right. It’ll come, I keep telling myself.

Chair Pose (or Fierce) aka the Methane Torpedo Tube was a bit easier. I pushed myself to go a little lower in the squat (butt clenched against disturbing the tranquil atmosphere. Never eat Mexican before yoga). My shoulders gave up before the core and leg muscles did. This is an improvement. I’ll take it.

I feel a bit restless for not having pounded out an hour on the elliptical or Rotating Staircase of Death or the treadmill and that’s okay.  For future reference, do the exercises requiring strength before you’ve exhausted your muscles with cardio. That may seem like common sense, but I tend to learn things the hard way.

Like it’s better to keep your nose above your boobs.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Weight Training Run Down

187.8 lbs. Of course, you know this means war.

For the record, the next time somebody talks to me about “butt naked,” he’d either A) have a bottle of mental Purell ready for me or B) have the last name of “Clooney” and not a reasonable approximation thereof.

The last friggin’ thing I need or desire in my life is for this program to go BACKWARDS. Hell, if I wanted to put on weight, I’ve got a Denny’s in waddling distance and an In N Out just beyond that. There are far more fun ways to do this, believe me.

Like I said, obsession is not just a lousy Calvin Klein fragrance. I was rehashing what I’d eaten, how hard I’d worked out and in my mind’s eye, sitting in a corner in a little ball glaring at the rest of the world and grumbling to myself. You know, the kind of thing you walk away from on a subway platform. Rapidly. Then, it occurred to me: I have been down this road before: overnight spike and plateau. I’ve started getting nasal congestion and a little bit of eczema.


That sneaky bastard had somehow made its way back into my system. The only thing I had changed from last week was the protein powder I was using. Label check: I didn’t see anything obvious in the ingredients, but I recognized the symptoms (of course, not having studied biochemistry or organic chemistry, I could not readily identify a lot of the ingredients on the label, except to say there were no synthetic compounds). Streamline is a good product, don’t get me wrong. It is high quality stuff. But the quality doesn’t make a difference if there’s something in there which triggers a reaction in my system. I returned it and we’ll see what happens from here.

There are people who have excellent self-esteem regardless of size (and despite societal pressure) and there are people who have the current “approved” appearance yet suffer from self-loathing. Those in the former category are probably not even reading this blog except to hunt for snarky comments (and maybe even not that. There are some true Christians out there). However, for those of us who feel the need to take action to achieve self-acceptance (that would be me), I offer this post.

I find myself, from time to time, explaining why it is that I, a person of the female gender (I am. I have proof) lift weights (or, more accurately, use weight machines). I can understand that because we think think that we will bulk up like a female version of Arnold Schwarzenegger (with whom he would probably sleep. Think of it this way, Ladies: if you’ve ever lusted after the Governator, you can probably have him. Check the flights to LAX).

The lesser reasons for weight training: boosting metabolism, improving bone density, increasing lean muscle mass, improving balance (yeah, I’m still working towards that one) and so on. According to My Net Diary, weight training will burn calories like crazy. According to Torquemada, that increased burn will last longer than cardio or yoga or Pilates. Health, improved health!

We’ll start from the bottom up with the superficial reasons:

1.       Cankles: Leg press, leg curl and leg extensions help say “Buh bye” to the dreaded cankle. And, those platform stilettos so high that you need FAA clearance to wear them? You won’t need them to make your legs look good. YOU WILL BE ABLE TO WALK WITHOUT FEAR.

2.       Thunder Thighs:  Leg presses, leg curls and leg extensions develop long, lean muscles in the thighs. Remember “Thin Thighs in 30 Days?” Same fitness generation as the Jane Fonda workouts and leg warmers? No? How old are you, anyway?

3.       Saddle bags: Abductor (I get abductors and adductors confused as to which is outer thigh) work will help pare those down to virtual coin purses.

4.       Inner thigh flaps for which there is no derogatory slang term: Adductor work. Suzanne Somers and the Thigh Master. No? Seriously, how old are you?

5.       Ba donk a donk: You may like big butts and not know why, other brothers can’t deny. However, there may be a difference between a backside like, say, Beyonce’s and one that you can use to write your name in the sand. Without sitting. The all-purpose leg press and leg curl will tone and tame the tush.

6.       The Pooch aka The Gut (in a minor case, “Muffin Top” or in a more extreme case like mine “Flabalanche”): That which hangs over the belt and has Kelly Osborne bitching about people needing Spanx. Or not wearing bikinis. Back in the 1960s, it was called “Midriff Bulge” (and I heard a LOT about mine from my parents, neither of whom were particularly slender) and the advertised cure was the panty girdle (an advanced form of the Iron Maiden). Working the abdominus rector (aka “engaging the core”) will tighten the appearance of this national obsession. No 6 packs guaranteed, but you’ll be able to stand taller.

7.       Love Handles: Work the obliques. Since I figured out how to engage mine (tells you how out of shape I was), I have noticed that my torso appears narrower. I still have The Great White Belly (I’m not sure, but I may be getting stalked by a guy named Ahab), but it’s getting contained into a smaller and smaller area as the neighborhood gets gentrified.

8.       Back boobs: Mid level and low level rowing machines working the latissimus dorsi, a big honking muscle from your upper arm down to your pelvic region. Over-sized unrestrained breasts (yes, Gentlemen, there is such a thing. Over the Shoulder Boulder Holder at all times) will torture these muscles.

9.       Bra overhang (side): Shoulder presses, high level rowing. Look good under the tank top.

10.   Mutant double boob (front): Combination of bra cup too small and need for better developed chest muscles. Rowing and chest presses.

11.   Arm flaps: tricep improvement tightens them up. A lot of the machines designed for backs and shoulders have a secondary benefit of working the triceps. Seated dips (where your feet on the floor, your hands are on a VERY firm surface like a bench and your butt is suspended betwee the two. Now you raise and lower yourself using the arms. You WILL feel it). As the muscles build and strengthen, the flaps disappear.

12.   Linebacker shoulders: Work the deltoids (anterior and posterior) to narrow and define.

I have omitted Double Chins, Turkey Wattles (aka The Reagan) and No Neck as these tend to disappear with the loss of weight, but can be tightened by tilting the head back, shoulders down and pretending to bite an apple (or whatever you might prefer to bite) repeatedly and perform this exercise a couple of times a day.

I am not a fitness/nutrition/psychotherapy professional and do not claim to be such. I can, however, share what is (or is not) working FOR ME.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bits and Pieces

187.8 lbs. Okay, I think we need to get clear on what it means to bust a plateau. Going in the opposite direction is not what I had in mind.

GWB: Great White Belly, George W. Bush. Hmm. I don’t like either one. Coincidence? I think not.

To the woman who attempted to use and flush an entire box of toilet seat covers: If you are that fearful of germs, perhaps you should just remain in your plastic bubble.

To the sister of the woman who was on the elliptical machine next to me: Ma’am, we’ve never met, but I am truly sorry to hear about your raging yeast infection and money problems. In case you haven’t heard it already, your sister thinks you’re lazy and she’s not going to loan you any more money despite your gross infection.

1.2 lbs. up overnight. Obsession is not just a lousy fragrance by Calvin Klein. I am told that it’s food that your body has not processed yet. If I made my body work 1733 calories yesterday, then something is slowing down the works. The only things I’ve changed since last week (foodwise) are the CORRECT amount of flaxseed oil (2 grams v. the 20 I was ingesting) and the new brand of protein powder. We’ll give it until the end of the week and then decide whether to keep it or ditch it.

Today was yoga with Lila and gym management was on patrol to remove those who weren’t participating in the class. Before anyone gets huffy out there: If you behave like a child, expect to be treated accordingly.

With the weight training and cardio, I’m seeing performance improvement. As far as I can tell, I haven’t really improved in yoga (and in fact, today Plank utterly killed my shoulders. They had better recover in time for tomorrow’s weight training session). Lila, was demonstrating the “Balance on One Foot While Holding the Other One Extended” pose (I have no idea what the Sanskrit translation for THAT is, but I’ll bet it’s as long as a Thai or Sri Lankan last name. Or Welsh village), when someone asked about how long it took to develop enough flexibility to do that. She smiled and said, “Oh, maybe a thousand years.” Ah HA! So it’s not just me.

We’ve all seen the footage of a newborn foal getting to its feet and wobbling about for the first time. However, within a day or two, it’s pretty sturdy and maybe even playing with other youngsters in the paddock. The improvement comes from the legs getting stronger which also improves balance.

I know that my legs are stronger than when I started yoga in April. I would think there would be a corresponding improvement in balance. I have yet to see it. They tremble and I fall over very quickly. It takes longer for particles to travel through the Large Hadron Collider.

I refuse to be defeated by my own body. I WILL get to Tree Pose and whatever the hell you call the Grab Your Big Toe and Hold Your Leg in the Air Poe.

Dr. Oz interviewed mothers and obese children today. I only caught part of the show, but there was a woman in the audience who represents a No Fat Kids group. One of the mothers on stage was talking about the difficulties of raising an obese child and how they “stick out” if the other kids are getting treats and the fat kid doesn’t. The No Fat Kids woman wants the issue to be treated as child abuse. That’s a bit extreme. However, to the lady who can’t say “No” to her child, in the case of “every other kid gets ice cream but mine”: Hey, Lady. If your child was diabetic, would you allow her to have the ice cream just so she wouldn’t feel self-conscious? How about allergic or lactose intolerant? Would you ignore those conditions so your kid is socially acceptable? You know what? Tell the kid no ice cream so she’ll have something to tell the therapist.

I am working up the courage to take pictures in my gym clothes to post. I have shoulders that would not shame me in an off the shoulder dress. The arms aren’t flapping so much. These moments must be recorded for posterity.

By the way, my birthday is Wednesday, June 1 and I’d still like to punch Jillian Michaels in the face. I’ll be fair and not wear my biggest rings, but if someone could arrange that, I’d appreciate it and so would a number of other people.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Mind Games

186.6 lbs. Yep, the dreaded plateau. Snort. I’d eat plateaus for breakfast, but they lack fiber.

It’s May in Los Angeles and yet there was a woman wearing either painted-on jean or jeggings (Ugh. Just ugh.) and big FURRY white boots. Is the Clydesdale Look in this year? I can never keep up. They should get together with the women walking around with the gauzy little tops and huge riding boots.

Limits are like your muscles. They need to be stretched.
This is Ragen Chastain, who is a dancer and AFAA certified fitness professional. You can look at this picture and think, "I could never do that" and be right. You could also look at this picture and think, "Man, I can't wait to be able to do that" and be right.  (Ragen's blog about fitness at any size is www.danceswithfat.wordpress.com) I want to be able to do that.

Did you ever read Frank Herbert’s “Dune” or see the God-awful movie? I forget who handed the book to me, but the “Litany of Fear” from the Bene Gesserit really stuck with me:

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

One of my least favorite exercises is the Prone Leg Curl. There is a machine for a Seated Leg Curl, but for me (and I speak strictly for myself), the prone position is more difficult (could be because it isolates the muscles more than seated. I don’t know). I make myself do it because it is the more difficult of the two options and in the words of JFK announcing the race to the moon: “…We choose to go to the moon and do the other things because they are hard…”

I used to ski. Not well. I could zoom down the bunny slopes, but it would take me forever to get down the intermediate or advanced runs. Part was being out of shape (muscles weren't strong enough to hold the correct form), part was I fucking hate being cold, but also because I would not challenge myself by tackling those tougher slopes on my own. I’d bomb the bunny slopes at Pico Peak and keep doing the same thing over and over because I was afraid to push myself. I never improved and remained in my rut.

When Torquemada told me I should do an hour of cardio six times a week and vary my speeds on the treadmill from 3 MPH up to 5 MPH, I couldn’t see myself being able to do this without passing out. Running? Me? Are you MAD? They’d be cleaning barf off the treadmill 6 days a week and I don’t need the cleaning crew getting mad at me.

6 years ago, the last time I undertook a regular exercise program, I didn’t try to push past my limits. And I didn’t see the numbers drop.

Today, I pegged the weight stacks one level higher than I had last week (they’re not all in 10 lb. increments, so it could be an increase of 15 lbs.). My muscles burned like I had just gotten kicked by Mrs. O’Leary’s cow (reference to the Great Chicago Fire. I was on Jeopardy, remember?)  and they trembled at the end of the session, even when I was resting in between sets on the abdominal stack (all over, they trembled), but I pushed past my mental limit and found I had what I needed to move upward. THAT particular plateau was busted.

I hit the Rotating Staircase of Death again. While I don’t see myself able to pull off a chirpy little trot for a half-hour, I increased my speed from 33 steps per minute to 40. And I completed it. Again, muscles screaming and trembling but they came through and I completed 65 floors (or more. I think). I kept telling myself, "Keep pushing." 

Muscle definition is emerging. I have biceps. Guns, almost. We’re not talking the veiny, gross Madonna style arms, nor even the First Lady’s, but they’re not the flesh bolognas they were. I can actually see where my collarbones are, not just imagine them.

My legs always respond quickly to exercise, but the inner and outer thigh muscles always lag behind. Not this time. Those suckers are falling with the program. As is the butt. The Rotating Staircase of Death is like combining weight training with cardio for the hamstrings, quads and glutes.

The abdominals are still buried under The Great White Belly, but they’re able to work against greater weight.

I pushed myself. I pushed through all of my fears: of pain, of failure and of being judged harshly by others. I found success.

 One of the least favorite things I’d hear from the parental units (and some mean-ass teachers) as I was growing was “Not working up to potential.” Well, I am now.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

B2 or not B2? Or Do I Need Niacin?

186.6 lbs. Okay, this is a plateau I can handle, but not for long. 184.6 lbs,. the 40 pound benchmark is in sight and I aim to hit and surpass it by this time next week.

Normally, I don’t mention actual names in this space (unless the companies involved want to pay for the publicity. I am an American and a capitalist). Today, though, the Mr. & Mrs. Organic store at 22140 Ventura Blvd in Woodland Hills gets a mention.

As part of my plan to improve my fitness, both physically and mentally, I take a variety of supplements to improve my neurotransmitters (See Grace Slick and Jefferson Airplane, “White Rabbit”, the line “Feed your head”), lower cholesterol, rebuild collagen and enable my body to burn fat more efficiently (Jim Morrison, the Doors, “Light My Fire” but be careful because it’s grease). I’ve learned a few things about vitamins and other supplements (such as you don’t need a prescription for them and this bugs big Pharma. I enjoy bugging Big Pharma) that have made a huge difference in what I buy.

Rule #1: You get what you pay for. Not all supplements are created equal. While a nationally advertised brand of multi-vitamins may be a lot cheaper than the brands you find at a health food store or vitamin store and contain the same amounts of vitamins, your body will probably not get the same benefit from the cheap stuff as it does from the more costly. Today’s vocabulary word is “bioavailability.” The definition from www.answers.com : “The degree to which or rate at which a drug or other substance is absorbed or becomes available at the site of physiological activity after administration.”

One thing that makes one vitamin cheaper than another is fillers. Some of these substances can actually prevent your body from absorbing the vitamin. I remember showing an iron supplement to a gentleman who ran a small health food store and he threw the bottle across the room (it was not one of his products). A little dramatic, but he pointed out an ingredient on the label, then looked it up online and showed me where the effect of this ingredient was to coat the stomach and block uptake. Since then, if the salesman in a store is trying to sell me on a particular item, my first question is always about bioavailability. If I get a confused look, I thank him/her and walk away. If your body is unable to use the product, why spend money on it? A solid tablet or pill may be bioavailable, but a softgel or capsule will be more bioavailable and a liquid is most bioavailable. It may be something that tastes like the bottom of your gym shoes, but you’ll need less of it to get more benefit. I’m a big believer in more bang for the buck.

Shane, the proprietor of Mr. & Mrs. Organic, showed me a B Complex supplement that had parsley in it. The parsley helped the body to better absorb the vitamins. (And I think I left the bottle I purchased either at his store or it’s rolling around in the car. There was a lot of douchebaggery on the roads today and I had to stop short a couple of times).

How a supplement is processed can also make a difference in its effectiveness. Take flaxseed oil (which I do and found out today that I was taking about 10 times more per day than I thought I was. Lousy metric system confused me. I’m an American. We’re proud of our metric ignorance. Even our rocket scientists. Remember the Mars Lander that crashed because the calculations hadn't been done in metric? I rest my case). Heat breaks down oil and the Omega 3 fatty acids, so it’s important to choose cold-pressed oil and raw seeds.

I also consider the source of the ingredients, putting more faith in organic material than I do in synthetic compounds. I’m not a fan of polyester and this distrust of synthetics expands to include drug compounds, artificial colors and flavors, Auto-Tune and Jennifer Lopez’s career (living proof that aggressive self-promotion will trump a lack of talent). I’m nearing the half-century mark and although I’ve undoubtedly been eating pesticides, chemical fertilizer, bovine growth hormone and antibiotics for years, I don’t know how that has affected me or my health and at this point, I’d prefer not to add to whatever may be lurking in my tissues. If you are on a prescription, a little online research will help to avoid interactions between the scrip and whatever supplements you’re considering.

Various supplements, like iron or B12 have different varieties and it’s important to know before you buy. For instance, per the instructions of Torquemada, I take B12 a half-hour (or as close as I can reasonably get to it) before hitting the gym. There are two varieties of B12: methylcobalamin and cyanocobalamin. The second variety is a synthetic compound. Take a look at the beginning of the name. Does it remind you of another compound, like, oh, CYANIDE? Yep; this baby breaks down into cyanide in your body. Very small amount and it’s excreted quickly, but I’d prefer not to have that running around my brain. I’ll stick with the methylcobalamin. Just in case.

I had found Mr. & Mrs. Organic as a place to refill water jugs (they are few and far between in Woodland Hills). They sell water with varying degrees of alkalinity and by reusing the gallon jugs, I feel somewhat better about my lessened contribution to L.A.’s landfills. Torquemada has me downing a protein drink after working out. Shane asked me to bring in the bottle to compare to what he had in his store. After shopping for supplements today, I showed him those bottles, too.

He ran the numbers for me, comparing the prices I was paying at a big health food store chain to the prices of other brands in his store, pill by pill. He showed me that the alternatives he was showing me were superior in nutrition and bioavailability than what I had just purchased. For instance, I take DHA to supplement the flaxseed oil. What he had in stock had more tablets per bottle and a higher dose per tablet than what I was taking. His product would last longer than what I had just purchased. Who doesn’t want to save a buck? In a side by side comparison, shopping at his store saved me $18.00 for the same supplements (different brands, but brands I trust) sold at the large chain health food store. And he’s a pleasant guy and Pam (Mrs. Organic) is a very nice lady.

If you’re in the area, please patronize this store, but please leave a parking space for me. I don’t want to end up like Yogi Berra: “Nobody goes to that restaurant anymore. It’s too crowded.”

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Mine, Mine, Mine!

187.6 lbs. I’m still bowled over at being out of the 190 bracket.

Seen in the locker room: a woman (not a teenaged girl or young twenties. I’m estimating late thirties) wearing knee high cordovan leather, buckled riding boots combined with a seafoam gauzy spaghetti strap top (and not much under that). I’ve seen a lot of boot misuse in Los Angeles (Ugg boots - which are a crime against fashion in the first place – with shorts, on a 90 degree day in July, under a miniskirt, on unsuspecting toddlers) but I think this one wins. Yes, it makes a fashion statement: “I can’t dress myself.”

Twelve years ago, when the first in a series of three abominations calling themselves “Star Wars, I, II and III” was released, I got a ticket to the midnight show, expecting to be as delighted and awestruck as I was in 1977 (Was I? I called them “abominations.” Care to guess?). The theater was filling quickly, I had chosen my seat and there was a guy who set himself up two seats over from me. He excused himself to get popcorn, leaving his jacket behind. A couple came in and the only two empty seats in the area they chose were the two on either side of the one with the jacket. The girl started to move the jacket so they could sit together and I told her that someone else had taken that seat. She got huffy and told me, “I have a right to sit where I want.”

Before the next person says, “I have the right,” I want him or her to pull out a copy of the Constitution and show me where it says you have the right to disrupt other people’s lives with your self-absorbed behavior. Educate me. Here, you can borrow my copy.

Here’s the thing: a ticket or a membership is a license (as previously discussed) to enter and enjoy certain privileges in a facility. It is not ownership. You are a guest. In the case above, the ticket was a license to see the movie, not a guarantee to a particular seat (if you want that, go to an Arclight Cinema). A country club member does not own the golf course, but so long as he pays his dues (continues the license), he may come play golf, use the locker room and get drunk as a skunk after 18 holes while he tries to figure out how to tell his wife he just lost $500 on a golf game.

Saturday was National Douchebag Day at the gym. Somebody call George Romero because today was “Return of the Douchebags.”

The space used for classes is frequently used by people to stretch, warm up or pick up each other. There is a class that uses barbells, which are kept in the room, locked. Unfortunately, not all of the teachers lock the room and items are removed to the free weight area or just removed.

Today, when the usual suspects for yoga were choosing spots and laying out mats, there were two people at the back of the room using weights (from the free weight area, in a twist). We expected them to leave as the space was about to be used for its designated purposes, a class taught by gym personnel.

They didn’t.

When Lila approached them about leaving, the girl snottily told her, “It’s my gym.” The two of them left halfway through the class when we were supposed to be focused. Disruptions and yoga don’t mix: you’re in Pigeon and get startled, that groin is going to get pulled. Ugly, ugly stuff.

But wait, there’s more.

As we were in Downward Dog with right heels up over our heads (not the easiest pose to hold), a youngish man came in. Lila sweetly asked him if he was part of the class (I don’t this woman knows how to be a bitch. She should have asked me to step in and help out). He told her no, he wanted a barbell. She told him to wait until later, couldn’t he see the class in progress. He gave her lip and to restore peace, she let him take the barbell, which he left outside the classroom for someone else to put away when he was done.

When I went to the aqua area locker room to change for the steam room, there were used towels and empty water bottles scattered around the room. Despite a sign stating rules to the contrary, someone brought their soap into the Jacuzzi and most of the steam room occupants were in their workout clothes, no showers prior to entering, busily texting or listening to an excessively loud IPod. If the manufacturers of electronics are smart, they will put a “no condensation” clause in their warranties to deal with the losses from utter idiots coming within a hair’s breadth of actually dunking their electronics in water. Then wondering why the item quit.

America, I say this with love: GROW THE FUCK UP.

You are not toddlers, therefore “Mine, mine, mine” should not be part of your mindset. And unless your name is “_____ Fitness,” then the gym is most assuredly, NOT YOURS.

Not everything you do is special and wonderful and entitles you. If that was the case, there would be bidding wars on Ebay for your shitty diapers and you wouldn’t have needed student loans to get through school.

The world at large is not your indulgent, spoiling parents. The rest of have lives, allergies, dislikes and you are NOT the center of our little universes. Disrupting a class for no VALID reason other than, “But I just…” is the kind of behavior you see in high school. One presumes that by the time you’ve graduated high school, you are somewhat closer to being an adult and functioning member of society than you were when you went in. It’s a whole new pond and you are no longer the big fish. Act accordingly.

Speaking of indulgent, spoiling parents: unless you got a membership for your mom, she will not be cleaning up after you at the gym. Presumably, you were taught to put dirty clothes in a hamper and trash in the appropriate container. Guess what? YOU CAN STILL DO THAT!!!! Yeah! Gyms have tubs and big signs that say, “Put your used towel here” and trash cans and recycling containers that are marked as being for trash and recycling! The guesswork has been removed and you can clean up after yourself with confidence, knowing that one of the burdens of adulthood, making good choices, has been made easier for you! Wow!

By the way, the rules for the steam room, sauna and Jacuzzi (bathing suits, don’t add anything, shower before using, don’t bring toiletries into, etc.) are not there just to end your good time. There’s this thing called a “health code” and it dictates a lot of these rules. You violating them gets the gym into trouble, possibly fines and shut down. Plus, coming into the steam room or sauna directly from the free weights magnifies your sweaty pungency. Your manly funk. In other words, you stink up the joint and make it unpleasant for the other users. And the mold that grows on your clothes from wearing them into the steam room stinks.

Way back when, when we were hunter gatherers, the success of the group depended on the individuals working together (this is that evil known as “socialism.” Based on her statements, Sarah Palin is a hunter, not a gatherer, unless it’s a free wardrobe. Or a speaking engagement fee).

The next time you’re tempted to say, “I have a right” or “I’m entitled” or “But, I just…”, stop, check Ebay on your malfunctioning IPhone and see if there’s an active auction of your shitty diapers. If not, then just shut the fuck up.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Progress By The Numbers

188.4 lbs. Still in shock over the 5 lb. drop. However, it was real.

Okay, Number Geeks, this is how things measure up so far:

January 31, 2011
May 18, 2011
224.6 lbs.
188.4 lbs.
35.2 %
29.5 %

I’d like to have seen more progress with the waist and the hips, but that’s The Great White Belly and while it’s going down, it’s not without a fight.