Saturday, March 23, 2013

Week 10, Photos, Gluttony, and the Elusiveness of Vegetables

The time has come that I dread the most. I hate photo day.  I have to take these photos every month and with so little progress happening, I feel as if every photo I have taken is just more of the same.  Still, since I didn't post my last photo, I'll post this one.  Do you see a difference?  I don't.

This week I'm down only a half a pound and my girth measurements are up.  I haven't been terribly on plan this week.  I admit that.  Even though I really thought my habits of eating slowly and stopping at a certain level of fullness were sticking, it seems like this week they weren't.  I do notice I feel full faster and more easily, so I guess my eating is a little slower, but I'm not stopping when I should.  I haven't been leaving things on my plate.  I have felt satiety and still kept going.  I like food too much.

The vegetable habit continues to elude me.  It really is extremely difficult to eat five vegetables a day.  In order to complete this habit, I really do have to make sure I prepare all of my own meals.  You can't go out and expect to get even a full vegetable serving.   You might get one serving, but you likely won't get more than that.

When I don't have anything to pack for lunch at work and I go out, I am faced with hundreds of choices within a few blocks of my office.  It's amazing how few of them offer vegetables.  I think about my favorite places for lunch like Mangu Dominican, Sophie's Cuban, Rickshaw Dumpling, or Zaiya Japanese noodle shop.  At best you can order a small scoop of salad with your lunch combo at Mangu or Sophie's.  Rickshaw has a tiny salad too.  Maybe that's one serving of vegetables.  Places like Boi Sandwich (a banh mi shop) or Chipotle will put their meat offerings on a "salad" for you, but the only real vegetable there is lettuce.  (Well, I guess that's not 100% correct.  At Chipotle I can ask for fajita vegetables with my meat and get a scant handful and if I want to be generous, I can count the salsas.)  Even the shops that advertise as healthful and organic are not very vegetable heavy.  Salads are lettuce with fruit, meat, cheese, and nuts along with occasional tomatoes.  Sandwiches are ubiquitous, but you can't fit that many vegetables between two slices of bread.  At best you'll have a serving. Sit-down restaurants might give you a serving of vegetables on the side.  I guess you can get a salad appetizer too, but then I have to deal with the lack of actual vegetables in a restaurant salad.  My only choice is salad bars and hot cases at the delis.  The problem with those is that they can be really pricey.

Let's just say my habit compliance has not been great this week.  I tried.  I even did a fair amount of my own cooking this week and came to realize I don't cook with enough vegetables.  I thought I learned that lesson last week, but apparently I didn't.

I had an assignment this week to select a movie from a list of food-related movies and watch it.  Among the choices were Supersize Me, King Corn, and Food Inc. I had seen Supersize Me.  Although I hadn't seen the other two, I knew about them and I think I'm rather savvy about the horrors of the food industry. They wouldn't be telling me anything I didn't already know.  Another choice they offered was the independent movie, LBs LBs is about a young man named Neil is who dangerously obese, suffers a heart attack and retreats from the world in a trailer in rural midstate NY where he commits to a better lifestyle and confronts his own demons.

I was both horrified by Neil and felt a strong connection to him.  Neil was a glutton.  He ate enormous amounts of food.  He didn't seem to have many psychological issues beyond his weight itself.  He had a close-knit and loving Italian family, with a smothering mother who loved to feed him. That's hardly atypical in many Italian families. He also had a best friend who was a cocaine addict, which I guess helped feed his own addictions.  He just really loved to eat and was capable of putting away enormous amounts of food.

In one scene after he came home from the hospital, he tried to eat a vegetable soup his family fed him and he was totally repulsed.  He headed to his local pizza parlor and begged his friend behind the counter to give him some real food.  The scene cut to him sitting at the table eating a burger with three slices of pizza on the table in front of him and also what appeared to be an entire plate of chocolate cookies.  Later in the movie, after he had been making progress in his trailer, he had a fight with his friend and ended up at the local barbecue takeout and ordered even more food.  He bought multiple combo meals, a burger, large fries, and two sodas.  He didn't even leave the parking lot to eat it.

I can think of too many times in my life when my desire to eat certain foods overrode my desire to be slimmer and healthier.  I could pay lip service to my weight, and even make efforts to cut back, but too many times I threw caution to the wind and just ate what I wanted in my teens and early twenties.  I could eat a barbecue combo of chicken and ribs, or a value combo from McDonalds for lunch and still eat a full dinner at the end of the day.  I could eat Chinese takeout as an after-dinner snack.  I could order a burger deluxe at the diner and eat every french fry on my plate and finish it off with a slice of pie.  I could wash down an entire chili cheesesteak wedge with a milkshake.  What I ate was not on the scale of what I saw in LBs, but it was a lot of food for a woman of my size.

I think I can remember the day I really began to understand the reach of my own gluttony.  It was fourteen years ago and I was joining my boyfriend Kevin on his family vacation in Florida for the first time.  Things were becoming pretty serious between us and I realized that this trip could potentially affect everyone's impressions of me.  Kevin and I were staying at a lovely Holiday Inn on the beach.  I remember how pleasurable it was to sit on the outdoor poolside patio of the hotel restaurant at breakfast staring out at the ocean and enjoying the many excellent selections the Holiday Inn offered.  One day I decided to cave to temptation and ordered one of their Skillet Inspirations".  These are pans full of scrambled eggs and many other waistline-damaging ingredients.  I chose what was likely the worst one of the bunch.  It had peppers, onions, potatoes, bacon, and sausage.  I had a biscuit on the side.  I was about three quarters of the way through it when Kevin said to me,  "You can really pack it in."

I slammed down my fork.  I shot him a dirty look.  What did he mean by that?  He pleaded innocence.  "I just meant you have a healthy appetite."  I know he didn't mean to offend me, but suddenly I saw myself through others' eyes.  I saw myself through his eyes.  I saw myself through my mother's eyes (Mom has never been shy about calling me out when I complain I'm too fat and then eat something totally inappropriate.)  I thought about how I looked to just about anyone who knew me.  Here I was, this chubby girl who hated her weight, who nonetheless loved every unhealthful food on the planet and ate it to her heart's content.  My boyfriend was naturally thin, had a much smaller appetite, and hated many of the foods I found the most tempting.  Even though I knew he had a naturally unfair advantage, I thought about how repulsive my eating habits must seem to him.  I realized I was full.  I was beyond full.  I couldn't eat another bite of that skillet.  I didn't want to eat anything else that day.  At lunch time the family wanted to have a brunch together at a local pancake house.  The menu was full of delicious temptations.  There was a time when I would have ordered what I wanted.  I ordered a fruit cup.  I had learned a lesson that day.  I needed to back off.

The next day we were having breakfast and there was an obese man sitting at a nearby table.  He ordered the skillet (which came with toast or a biscuit) and a bagel with cream cheese.  I realized the importance of backing off, and of taking it easy after those meals where I don't back off.  I was where I was weight-wise because I do things like order that skillet.  That man likely looked the way he looked because he would eat the entire thing and a caloric side dish to boot.

The incident hardly damaged my relationship.  Kevin and I were married two years later.  Over the years I have learned to back off.  I do try to balance my more gluttonous episodes with reasonable, small, meals.  I'm not saying I never go all-out.  I'm still a danger at parties and there are times I just have to have a cheeseburger.  I avoid pizza because it's a huge trigger food for me.  (Stop at one slice?  You must be kidding me!)  What's weird is that with all of the attempts I make to back off and strike a balance, I gained up to18 pounds since that Florida trip.  Right now I'm seven pounds above the weight I was then.

It would be nice to not have to struggle with this.  At the end of LBs, Neil acknowledges his love of food.  He, like me, considers it one of his greatest pleasures.  He ends the film with the commentary that he needs to find that thing he loves as much, or loves more.  I do have things I know I love more.  It's just when food is in front of me, or if I have a certain food on the brain, I forget.

So here are my current stats since I'm sharing my photo, I'll share the rest.

Height: 4'11.5"
Weight: 134.8
Chest: 38.2
Arm: 14.3
Waist: 31.3
Hips: 40.7
Thigh: 25 (that measurement never wants to go anywhere)

Pounds lost: 6.5
Inches lost: 5.6

Monday, March 18, 2013

Finding Your Perfection

I finally have the body I want.  The key to getting the body you want is to want a really sh***y body. - Louis CK

When I'm at the gym I rarely ever socialize.  I'm pretty sure my fellow gym goers think I'm unfriendly and anti-social, but that's not the case at all.  The problem is that I'm too social.  If I start talking to people, I will never do my workout.  There have been many instances where I run into an old friend and we start chatting and soon an hour is gone and I haven't even seen the inside of the locker room yet.  My mother will ask me a question while I'm warming up on the treadmill and soon I've been on the treadmill a half an hour and I'm out of time for the weight room.

This means I don't know many of the names of other gym members.  I plug into my headphones and ignore everyone.  I recognize all of the regulars, but I couldn't tell you most of their names because I don't talk to them.  Occasionally one or two of them will stand out to me.  For example, there is this one guy I call "Superman" in my head because he is always performing these astounding feats of strength. *

*I really should learn this guy's name.  One day he saw me wearing a Chincoteague shirt and came up to me talking about his daughter's love of horses and the Misty books and wanted to know more about Chincoteague vacations.

Then there is the woman I call Gym Goddess.  If I were capable of being a lesbian, I'd be one for her.  She is beautiful.  She can't hide her pretty face behind her nerdy glasses.  Most importantly, she has an amazing body.  I can't stop admiring her body.  She is long-limbed (though not super-duper-Amazonian tall) and lean.  Her muscles curve out gently beneath her skin without any extra fat on them.  She looks strong, lean, and capable.  I find myself watching her work out not just because I want to admire her (well maybe I do a little), but because I want to see what exercises she does as if doing her workouts would give me her body.

Then one day I noticed something.  As I saw GG walking around the gym with her lean arms and legs extending out from her tiny tank top and little bike shorts with no stomach bulging outwards, I noticed something else about her.

"HA!" I exclaimed inwardly.  "She has no boobs and no butt!"  I then went over to the mirror, turned partway, and looked down at my best asset.  "Hello gorgeous," I said to my butt.  "Nice to see you are still back there."

My first thoughts about GG's lack of curves were a bit snarky.  I admit that.  But once the snark was over*, I really began to re-examine my ideals of perfection and what I really wanted to achieve for my body.

*I will still inwardly make fun of GG for her use of the leg press machine. I ridicule anyone who uses a leg press machine. A gym goddess should know better.

The media hold up an ideal body type for women as tall, willowy, and very slender.  Most of us who consume mass media agree that a long-limbed and lean woman is the model of perfection.  Women who are very lean, but have one or two assets that are a little bigger than the ideal (e.g. Jennifer Lopez) are considered "voluptuous" or "curvy".  It is important to note that while as a society we may worship the fashion model, as individuals we all have our own preferences.

What if I were to magically transform my body one night and wake up with Gym Goddess's body?  I would be standing in front of a mirror, wearing a bikini, and admiring my lovely flat stomach, while my husband would be standing behind me, staring forlornly at the place where my butt used to be.

What makes me attractive to men?  Well, that's a dumb question as I can't be attractive to all men.  Let me rephrase that as what makes me attractive to the men who are attracted to me?

I'd love to say that men are initially attracted to me because of my sparkling wit and devastating intelligence, but I don't think that's the case.  I look slightly suspiciously at a guy who says the first thing he noticed was my dazzling smile, raven ringlets, or my rather ordinary mud brown eyes. The truth is that in 90% of my relationships, guys are attracted to me for the T&A. (The other 10% were just nerds who were just grateful that a woman would date them whether they found her truly physically attractive or not.)  I remember very clearly the day I learned the power I can have over men by sporting a black bustier cocktail dress.

If I knew I could lose all of the thirty-plus pounds that I would like to lose, but also knew it would mean losing my assets, would I still want to lose that much?  I think Gym Goddess's body is just as sexy as mine (sexier really) even if she lacks the typical female curves.  Having boobs and a butt is partially a function of body fat.  If I want to lose as much excess body fat as possible, I could potentially lose it in places where I would rather some of it stayed. On the other hand, knowing how much I envy fit, lean women, I might really love the way I looked without any serious curves.  Unfortunately my husband might not - and he is the second most important person in my life and the person who enjoys my body the most.

The truth is that I have been overweight for so long that I have no idea what my body would look like if it weren't overweight.  It is not very likely that I will lose thirty pounds on this program.  I'm still trying to work on that goal regardless.  Should I reach that goal, there may still be things about my body that I don't like.  The aspects of my body I don't like could be very different from what I don't like about my body now.  That's a chance I have to take.

My weight loss shouldn't be about how I look.  I know this.  I am trying to avoid being another Type 2 Diabetes statistic.  I want to cut my heart disease risk.  I want to grow old gracefully and as easily as possible.  Whether or not I have a perfect body aesthetically shouldn't even figure in to the equation.  Unfortunately, it still does.

The future of this program is a mystery.  I don't even know what my eating habits or workouts will be next week.  I certainly can't predict how much my body will change in the next nine months.  Will I have a perfect body?  If so, what will that perfect body be?  If not, what will I not like about it?

In some ways I think I have a great body right now.  I'm not just talking about the aesthetics of a nice, round, firm butt either.  I'm talking about how I have a body that drop to the floor and crank out twenty pushups.  I'm talking about how I have a body that can rattle off an intricate tap combo.  I'm talking about how I have a body that takes control of animals weighing hundreds of pounds.  I'm talking about a body that will walk rather than drive whenever possible.  My body's accomplishments aren't Olympic-caliber, but for someone who is naturally unathletic and klutzy, my body's achievements are pretty spectacular when you consider what I have to work with.

Perfection is in the eye of the beholder.  Only I can decide if and when I have a perfect body.  I am beginning to realize that I don't know yet what my perfect body would look like.  Would I prefer to stay curvy and have an extra fifteen pounds on me, or would I like to lose thirty pounds and have no curves?  Is my body type just the type that is always going to have extra padding on it no matter how much fat I try to remove from it?  Is it possible to have lean defined muscle, no excess padding around the stomach, and still have a reasonable amount of boobage and a nice round butt?

Perfection is achievable as long as I believe that wherever I am is perfect as it is.

Same (Stuff) Different Pope

This week's major news story was the election of a new pope.  That's all anyone is talking about right now. 

Everywhere I look Catholics are rejoicing, celebrating, and expressing their well wishes as Pope Francis takes office.

You know what's weird?  Catholics are still complaining about church policy and the church's role in their lives.

How many Catholics wholeheartedly embrace the denial of gay rights, the denial of women's reproductive freedom, the denial of women in positions of power, the wisdom of priestly celibacy, and the belief that the pope is the unquestionable and infallible word of God?  How many Catholics are disgusted with the way the Church has handled sex abuse cases over the decades?

While we're at it, how many Catholics  truly believe without question the Virgin Birth, transubstantiation, and the belief that only Jesus-centered beliefs will win you a reward when you die? 

Do you ever think it's time to give this up? Does it serve a real purpose in your life now, or is it just something you have always done?

There are people who do take that hard line, who claim to believe in everything the church teaches.  I find most of the hard-liners still pick and choose their beliefs.  Think of someone like Rick Santorum.  I'm sure he believes in all of the religious teachings and certainly agrees with the church about the roles of gays and women in society.  He also seems to disagree with the Catholic stand on the death penalty, poverty, and social justice issues. That seems pretty typical for your average conservative Catholic.

It seems to me that no matter where you stand on an issue, the Catholic Church does not seem to represent the beliefs and values of many of its members, no matter where they stand on various social issues.

The church is a medieval institution.  It's a vestige of the dying Roman Empire, and it's proud of it.  The church has no desire to change.  It wants to always be recalling the glory of Rome.  It maintains rituals that often predate it.  It speaks a dead language.  It covers itself in pomp and wealth.  The pope is like an emperor.  It is one of the few institutions in this world where power belongs only in the hands of men.  What applications can this institution truly have to modern life?  Whenever someone tries to reform it, reforms are met with opposition from both the clergy and the more conservative members of the congregations.  Ever since the day that true reforms were made by one pope over forty years ago, every pope since then has tried to overturn them.

I almost understand why some Catholics fight reform.  Older Catholics who lived through the days before Vatican 2 are seeing those days through the eyes of childhood memory.  They associate the Latin mass and strict food regulations with the halcyon days of youth.  All of us perceive the days of our childhood as simpler and happier.  We think that's because the world was somehow better and simpler, but it was only that way because we were children and children's lives are not all that complicated.  Young conservative Catholics who never lived through this era see this time through the lens of television and false nostalgia.  Thanks to television we all see earlier eras as simple and perfect.  If we return the world to pre-Vatican 2 times, all women will be forced to remain virtuous, will marry good Catholic men, will stay home with their children, and will never divorce.  Other people who have demanded their rights in the past fifty years will stop asking for more than they deserve and fade into the woodwork and not bother good Catholics.  The world will be a 50s sitcom. 

There isn't much I can say to change the mind of a truly hard line Catholic, but for the rest of you, I want you to consider something.

You don't have to believe in this.

You say you know that, but do you really?  Most Americans are indoctrinated into religion at a young age before we learn critical thinking.  We come to accept it as true because everyone around us believes it.  If you live in the United States and hold Christian beliefs, most people around you will confirm those beliefs and not think them odd.  They will likely believe in the same or similar truths.

Imagine if you lived in Saudi Arabia or India or Sub-Saharan Africa, or Japan.  You wouldn't find so many people confirming your beliefs.  Your beliefs would be considered rather odd.  Had you been raised in one of those cultures, you wouldn't likely suddenly decide Catholicism is the only truth.  You would likely find your truth from the culture around you, which would not be Christian.  If you lived in a non-Christian culture, Christianity would sound as odd and implausible to you as animism or Hinduism sounds to you now.  In other words, we accept certain truths because the society around us confirms them.

One problem with religion is that society so closely associates religion with morality.  It's almost as if we as a society feel that all would be chaos if it weren't for religion, and more specifically, Christianity.  Is religion really the only thing that keeps us all from killing each other?  How come there is such a small percentage of professed atheists in American prisons?

Rather than see "morality" as something that is defined by your religion (and likely has much to do with sex), I suggest you look at it the way Sam Harris does.  See morality as how much harm you do (although Harris is a bit of a hypocrite himself with his belief in racial profiling and unearned discrimination).  Why are you so concerned with who can have birth control when there are children going to be hungry in this country?  It does far less harm to allow women reproductive autonomy, which in turn can alleviate much of the poverty in this world.  Why deny condoms in African countries when they can prevent people from dying of AIDS?  Does your gas-guzzling vehicle pollute our air and water and contribute to greenhouse gases?  How much of our natural resources does it use up?  Isn't it best not to harm the planet to make it liveable for our children? Should we get rid of this idea that we have dominion over the earth and God wants us to rape it? Is it so immoral to allow gays to marry, or do you really think it's more immoral to deny the same security and spousal rights to a partner someone loves?  So many of beliefs we think of as "moral" do far more harm than good to others.  Perhaps it's best not to look to the church for your morals.

I realize that tradition is one of the main reason Catholics cling to the church.  Catholics center so much of their lives and rites of passage around Catholic ritual: weddings, communions, confirmations, and even funerals.  Even regular holidays take on certain familial meanings for members of the Catholic Church.  To let go of the church is to let go of the rituals and traditions that shaped your entire life.

I say that tradition is one of society's biggest impediments to progress.  How often do you avoid trying something new or thinking a new way because something is "traditional".  Maybe it's time to start a new tradition.  Weddings can be secular.  Family dinners don't have to center around religious rites of passage.  Have an annual family picnic, or game, or hike, or bike ride.  Do something completely different for the next big holiday.  If you need some kind of religious excuse to see family members and celebrate, then maybe those family members weren't all that close to you to begin with.  It is possible to shake off tradition.  Even if you need something to help you feel peaceful and grounded on Sunday, you can do activities that aren't going to church.  Meditate.  Take a walk in nature.  Take a yoga class.  Get together with a group of friends and sing.

I know the next part.  You don't have to tell me.  I've felt this too.  You have that nagging voice in your head.  That voice has been in your head all of your life.  It tells us that we have to believe this on some level or else, after we have enjoyed our "immoral" lives, no matter how good of a person we tried to be, that we will spend eternity in Hell.  If you were brought up in a Christian denomination of any kind, you were told that this would be your fate without Jesus.  Society confirms this on many levels.  Most Americans of Christian extraction believe in Hell and don't want to go there.  You think that maybe religion is bunk, that it has no place in your life, that the whole idea is silly, and then you start thinking along the lines of Pascal's Wager.  What if they're right?  I don't want to go to Hell.

It's a hard concept to wrestle with.  Religion, all religions and not just Christianity, rule in some part by fear.  What goes around comes around.  That's the principle behind just about every religion.  In some ways it is a very comforting idea.  It lets us believe that there is some sort of justice in the universe.

I can't tell you how to find that path out of fear.  Everyone has to find it for himself in his or her own way.  It is possible though.

Brian Flemming's documentary The God Who Wasn't There is a fascinating movie contesting the very existence of Jesus.  Although a little weak showcasing the facts*, the movie also documents Flemming's own journey out of belief.  He was raised in a strict evangelical environment.  He was "saved" numerous times in case the previous time didn't stick.  In the beginning it was because it was expected of him.  As time went on, he felt the same fears that many of us felt.  He can tell you every passage in the Bible that speaks of divine retribution and the threat of Hell.  Flemming came to realize that fear is a very crappy reason to hold a belief system.

At the end of the movie, he comes out from behind the camera and stands in front of it.  Facing the camera, he directly tells, the audience.  "I deny the spirit."

The screen fades to black and the words, "I am not afraid," are all that's left.

Do not be afraid.

*If such a thing interests you, I suggest you read this book.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Week 9 - Vegging out is hard to do!

I lost another pound this week.  Despite my intention to do what I think it would take to lose another two pounds, I did a lot of backsliding. I should be pleased I lost anything.  I guess that means that while I do some backsliding, my habits are sticking.  I am likely doing more right than I am doing wrong.  

The scale is frustrating though.  I see my weight now and think of the 35 pounds I still really want to lose, or at least the 25 pounds that are slightly more realistic to lose, or the 15 pounds that will most likely be the best I can do.  It's very easy to stare into the future, look at your goals, and think that this is just a Sisyphean task. I have lost a mere 6 pounds in 8 weeks. Then I remember my team's name, which is also my team's motto.  We are Team TNT - Today Not Tomorrow.  I have to work in the here and now.  Concentrating on what I can do today is the only way I will meet my goals in the future.

This week's habit is to eat five servings of vegetables every day.  This is harder than it sounds.  I think of myself as a produce-eating girl who regularly gets her daily five.  Then I realize that the habit is five vegetables.  I always included fruit in the produce category.  The habit doesn't say fruit.  It says vegetables.  I have come to the realization that I probably eat on average only two or three vegetables daily.  Everything else is fruit.  I snack on fruit.  I eat fruit for breakfast.  I eat a serving or two of vegetables at lunch and dinner and that's it.

I have been trying to find ways to incorporate more vegetables into meals and snacks.  I always eat vegetables with my eggs whether it's putting a fried egg on a bed of spinach and tomatoes, making a frittata or omelet, or making a "veggie benedict" by stacking an egg and vegetables on top of a portobello mushroom and topping it with roasted pepper puree.  There is a local smoothie shop near my office that does fresh vegetable juices. I add spinach or kale to my protein shakes now.  I have always snacked on raw carrots. I have to remember that a serving isn't huge.  It's the size of my fist.

I can also milk more servings out of one vegetable using the waste-not-want-not method.  For example, I bought a head of cauliflower this week.  I roasted it for dinner with the intention of having it one night and the leftovers the next night.  One head does not make two night's worth of fist-size portions for two people.  I cut off the leaves and instead of throwing them away I boiled them and pureed them with olive oil and roasted garlic.  I saved the water for either cooking pasta in or throwing into the stock pot the next time I make stock.  I shred broccoli stems and "pickle" them in vinegar, salt, and spice blends.  There are ways of making supposedly inedible parts of the vegetable edible.

Now whenever I am eating a meal out, whether it's lunch at a deli at work, or going out to a restaurant with Kevin, I ask myself, "What can I eat that will satisfy at least one vegetable serving requirement?"  I look at how many servings I have had so far and will have during the rest of the day.  The habit isn't about taking bad stuff out of my diet.  It's about adding good stuff. The interesting point is that when you are forced to eat more vegetables, you have to cut back on the processed foods.   For example I can walk into a deli at lunch time and order a turkey sandwich, which will have only the small amount of vegetables that can fit wedged between sugar-and-starch-laden bread.  I could also head to the tossed salad bar instead and have a salad made that could take care of three vegetable servings in one meal.   Trying to fit those veggies servings in tends to make sure I automatically make the better choices.

It's not easy.  I am tired of salads and vegetable soups sometimes. There are times when I buy vegetables to prepare at home, I find I don't have enough to make a decent-sized serving for both Kevin and me (as with the cauliflower mentioned above).  I'm a picky eater.  Sometimes I don't want to eat all of those vegetables.  It's easy to think, "Today I'll just say I didn't do it and take the hit on the compliance score," or that I'll just lie.  Maybe I had 3.5-4 servings.  That's close enough, right?  Doing that would defeat the purpose though.  A lower compliance score would make me less eligible for prizes at the end of the year.  Not actually complying with the habit would mean I'm not going to make my goals.  I want to be 35 pounds lighter, right? 

On to next week.  My goals are to avoid sweets and white starch, eat my five vegetables every day, and keep rocking my workouts.  The workouts will change again after next week. There will be a new habit too. It will be interesting to see where the program will go next.

New Ways Facebook, and the World in General, Get Me Down

Sometimes the world we live in gets me down in the strangest and most annoying ways.  The same stuff just hammers at me daily and wears out my brain.
I’m on Facebook a lot less these days, so I no longer do Irksome Facebook Posts of the Week, but whenever I do go on Facebook and see the same stuff all of the time, it’s going to make its way on to my blog so I can say exactly what I think is wrong with it.  
Here is my current list of things that get under my skin, rub me the wrong way, and make me wonder how exactly I’m going to deal with humanity for the next 40-50 years.  Some of it is Facebook based, but some of it is just about everything in the world.
1.  Zombies - Zombies are the new vampires.  Hollywood is coming out of one rut only to fall right into another.  Granted vampires, mobsters, and werewolves still want to hang around.  The latest craze seems to be making over and modernizing classic fairy tales (rather than doing something completely different and writing something original). 

What is it about the undead anyway?  Is this how we satisfy our fantasies of immortality?  I know we only get one shot on this earth, but I think if being a zombie/werewolf/vampire were my only choices for a second chance, I’d rather stay dead.

2.       Referring to a pregnant woman’s belly as a “baby bump” – It almost seems demeaning and dehumanizing.  You’re reducing developing life to something akin to a lump in the road.  Or maybe I just bristle at it because it’s so overused.  I suppose it sounds cuter than “sub-dermal developing fetus” – but just barely.

3.       Legos – One would think I’d be happy that kids are turning to low-tech, classic toys.  I suppose in some ways I am.  I just don’t understand how Legos have taken over the toy world and have become this strange obsession with both kids and adults.  Is there anything people won’t try to build out of Legos?  Does building the Eiffel Tower out of Legos improve upon the original?  I don’t know if it can be said of remaking the entirety of Les Miserables in blocky Lego figures.

Maybe I’m just bitter.  I could never build anything decent out of Legos when I was a kid.  I’d pile the blocks on top of each other trying to figure out how to make a house or car, and always became frustrated and give up.  I could never build anything out of Legos that looked like anything but a big chunk of plastic blocks. 

Then again today’s Lego sets seem to be pre-fabricated building sets complete with exactly what you need to make a particular structure and explicit instructions on how to do so.  That would make things easier for construction-challenged kids like me, but it also kind of defeats the purpose, no?

I’m also sick of the “stepping on Legos” memes.  Okay.  I get it.  Stepping on Legos hurts.  There is a cure for that.  Don’t leave them on the floor.  Can we move on?

4.       Unfortunately, the “Keep Calm” memes won’t die.  Just when I think they’re fading away, I see another 10 of them. 

Even if they are fading a bit, a new annoying meme has taken their place.  Now I am constantly bombarded with the meme of, “I may not always _____, but when I do it’s always____.”  Thank you Dos Equis beer for making my life that much more miserable with your ad campaign that started it all. 

I don’t ever drink beer, but if I did, it wouldn’t be Dos Equis thanks to this commercial.

5.       That stupid FBI “hammer” meme.  - How many people do you know that own one of the controversy-causing rifles that are so actively discussed online?  How many people do you know that own hammers?   Hmmm…it’s as I thought.  Did you know I’m more likely to break my leg in a horseback riding accident than I am in a ski accident?  Total number of death by all firearms (including the controversial ones and the more common ones) is far larger that death by hammers.

Stop picking on hammers anyway.  It’s all blunt objects and not just hammers.  Get it right.  Look, if I plan to kill my husband, I’m going to do it properly and use a rolling pin!

(Gun enthusiasts, please hold your comments and your fresh new barrage of stats from The Weekly Standard/World Net Daily/Drudge Report/Breitbart/etc..  You rarely ever do much to advance your cause, as I’m sure you feel the same about me.  I agree to disagree. Picking on my post will change nothing in the world.  Go lobby Congress.)

6.       Some memes really depress me.  Every time I’m on Facebook someone posts some picture of a dog in an animal shelter talking about how miserable he is and how he wants a home, but no one will give him one. 

I also see pretty regularly friends posting photos and stories of their new purebred puppies. 

I realize that no matter how many sad dog memes, weepy Sarah McLachlan commercials, and numerous adoption drives, most homeless dogs will live short, miserable lives in shelters and die.  Everyone thinks someone should adopt a dog, but hardly anyone wants a shelter dog themselves (or a shelter cat who is past kittenhood).  

(While I'm at it, why don't I have a rescue horse?   I have two registered ponies, one of which is a rare breed that was deliberately sought out.  Jenna is as close as it comes since she was a horse no one really wanted, but she wasn't destined for the kill pens.  I'm afraid I can't handle a rescue horse? Do I assume all rescues are problem horses?  Do I not have access to good trainers who could help me?  Why am I not rescuing horses?)

7.   The glorification of alcohol I see these days really scares me.  Everyone wants to talk about drinking and how they intend to drink and how much they drank.  People really are centering their lives and their sense of well-being around alcohol.  What is so frightening is that I keep seeing statistics about the rise of alcoholism among women.  For some women it's trying to live the Sex and the City lifestyle of going out to bars and drinking multiple cocktails all night.  For older women it seems that every time their children act up, every time their husbands act like oafs,  they need a glass of wine.  It seems everything has to be done with a glass of wine.  

Maybe these posts are exaggerations.  I'm not immune to the "I need a drink" Facebook post.  Anyone who knows me knows that's often just for show.  I don't drink that much and most of the time I only drink on weekends.  Despite alcohol's reputation as a sleep aid, it can make one fall asleep faster, but drastically reduces the quality of sleep and good quality sleep is something a chronic insomniac needs.

One reason I am a very moderate drinker is that I never wanted to be the type of person who "needed" alcohol to relax and unwind, or needed alcohol to enjoy an activity.  It's the same way I have worked very hard not to be someone who depends on caffeine to feel awake and alert.  Good sleep, exercise, and good nutrition take care of both our ability to relax and our ability to function while awake.  Our bodies know what to do without us having to constantly override their instincts with chemicals and bad food.   

But enough about my drinking habits.  I still worry about my friends, especially those who may have struggled with alcohol in the past.  When someone says, "I can't give up drinking for Lent," I think it's time that person examines if religious devotion isn't their worst problem.  I'm really afraid for some people.  I feel like asking, "Could you stop if you had to?"

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Week 8 - No Surprise at Stalled Progress

I lost only four-tenths of a pound.  I'm surprised I didn't gain. 

I did my habits for the most part. I just ate a few things I shouldn’t have.

I have to realize that just paying for this program does not automatically give me the body I want.  I still have to do the work.  

I was almost going to make this post a full-blown confessional of the things I shouldn't have eaten this week and why I ate them.  I realized after writing it all out, that it's silly for me to do that.  I don't need a confessional.  I know what I did wrong. There were sweets I was convinced I had a "craving" for.  There were starches I thought would just complete a meal.  It was the wrong thing to do.  I realized that describing it in detail actually makes me dwell on it more.  Every day is a new day to wipe the slate clean.  What I ate was in the past.  I can only do my best to avoid eating crap today.

I think I’m starting to anticipate too much what new habits might be and prepare accordingly. Even though I have no idea what my habit will be for the next two weeks is going to be, I started having this weird paranoia that it would be eliminating white starch. What’s weird is that I don’t eat that much white starch normally. I don’t eat much bread, but once every couple of weeks I’ll have a sandwich for lunch. I make pasta around once a month (although there are a few days of leftovers). Most of the time it’s gluten-free brown rice pasta. I sometimes make brown rice with Asian-style dishes. I try to limit dessert to no more than once a week.  I shouldn’t really care if I can eat white starch or not.

That's a common diet mentality though, isn't it?  We all know the drill.  We're going to start that diet on Monday, so we use the weekend to have that last binge.  Not knowing that my next habit will be, I decided to eat a food I shouldn't have eaten on the off chance it will become forbidden.

Today I was able to read ahead two days for the next habit.  It's to eat five servings of vegetables a day.  Of course our earliest habits are going to be about what to eat rather than what not to eat.  I was worrying over nothing.  I was preparing for something that may never happen.

I talked in prior blogs about how I with my blog I’m making myself accountable to everyone I know, but not to the people who count the most – my teammates and coach. When I voiced these concerns to my coach, she suggested I send her weekly check in emails. It’s funny because she sends me weekly check in emails anyway, which I do answer, but she said she wanted me to email her. I have been doing that, and she doesn’t answer, so I’m not doing this program in a vacuum. What amazed me even more was that in her last weekly check in email she made references to something I said in one of my assignments and asked if I was still following through with that. So what do you know? She does read my assignments and holds me accountable to them.

I don’t know why I should seem so surprised. Yes, there are scores of women on my team that she has to acquaint herself with. Yes, she does have an enormous amount of email to read through, a huge number of assignments to check on, and  a huge number of forum posts to read. That’s her job. She isn’t doing this as a hobby. My teammates and I are paying for a coach and we’re getting one. I shouldn’t feel as if I’m “bothering” my coach or worry if she’s paying attention to what I do on the program when she’s doing exactly what she’s paid to do.

So a pat on the back to you, Mariane! Your help and attention is appreciated.

Now, this week it's about following through with my habits and promising myself that I will see a change on the scale (and perhaps a smidge in the measurements too) next Saturday.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Week 7 - Not Perfect, but Still Better

So I just ended Week 7 of Lean Eating down a total of 5 pounds and 5 total inches.  It's nice that I seem to be losing the girth in my waist and bust.  Today I even saw the tiniest bit of shrinkage in my ginormous thighs. 

Oops.  I said ginormous thighs, didn't I?  Maybe one of these days I'll learn how to end that negative self talk.

The latest habit is to include lean protein in every meal.  This one is semi-easy for me.  I'm pretty carnivorous, so putting protein in my meals isn't difficult.  The hard part is that "lean" part.  What is lean?  They gave us a list of acceptable protein sources.  It includes "lean" meat (beef, pork, veal, game), chicken, beans, cottage cheese or unsweetened Greek yogurt.  eggs or eggs whites (in other words we're not forbidden to eat the fatty but nutritious yolks), and protein powders.  Obviously my most favorite meats like duck, lamb, and bacon aren't mentioned.  The rest seem rather up for grabs.  What chicken is acceptable?  Obviously I would be allowed boneless, skinless chicken breast, but those have so little flavor and need a lot of work to taste good.  A whole roast chicken, on the other hand, only needs some salt and pepper to be delicious. 

I still struggle with learning to understand my body's satiety signals.  I have not eaten until stuffed for the past month, but just because I'm not quite stuffed doesn't mean I'm not a bit beyond the sensible level of fullness.  I haven't always eaten the most sensible meals this week either.  I didn't eat anything terrible.  I didn't have cheeseburgers or lasagne.  I did have Japanese noodles with almost no vegetables with it for example.  I know it's a learning process.  I also sometimes swing in the opposite direction.  I will decide that I'm not hungry since I'm not feeling any pangs and then stop eating.  The problem is I'm not really satiated.  I'm just not feeling hunger.  One morning I decided I wasn't hungry, but really didn't eat enough food to sustain me.  I was hungry by the time I arrived at work in the morning and that sent me scuttling to the coffee shop where the pastries loom large.  I can only say I ate my pastry to the point of 80% fullness (I didn't finish it).  Right now I just try to use the standard trick of leaving something on my plate at every meal.    I know I'm doing better than I was.  The scale is proof.  It's just hard to believe in yourself sometimes.  When you have eaten the wrong way most of your life, it's hard to accept that you might be doing something right.