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


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 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 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.