Sunday, December 31, 2006

if all your friends were jumping off a cliff...

Fellow weight-loss bloggers like The Shrinking Knitter and Cindy (and many, many others) are posting their year-end reviews so I thought that it would be a good time for me to reflect on 2006.

Last year at this time I was in Key West for the New Year. My husband and I had been looking forward to it, but for me, a lot of the fun of the trip was spoiled because I was overweight and unhappy about it. It's hard not to be self-conscious in a city full of beatiful people wearing as little as possible. I enjoyed the trip, but it was sort of like that oatmeal commercial -- I felt like I was dragging along a lot of shame in the form of my weight. It was hard walking down the street with my husband past all the women in their bikini tops and cut-off shorts. (The men walking around in just bikini bottoms didn't bother me nearly as much for some reason)

At that point, I probably only weighed about 10-15 pounds more than I do now. My attitude about myself has probably changed more than my weight, though I still have room for improvement there too. I have lost some weight, dropped a clothing size, but more importantly, I am realizing that the Snow-White-Stepmother mindset has to go -- it doesn't matter who's the fairest in the land. I don't have to compare myself to other people. I need to be grateful for my own gifts.

I have a lot of wonderful friends that I met through and AngryFatGirlz who have helped me a lot with this. I've also managed to get a lot more at peace with who I am and have gotten a lot more in touch with my spirituality. I don't feel like I'm going it alone now. And I'm working on the weight loss again, because I decided that was what I really wanted, not because anyone else thinks I should.

This year, I didn't want to go to a bar or a party for New Year's Eve. Those kinds of things are never as much fun as they sound like they will be. There's a local 5K race where you can "Run Into 2007." I just decided that I wanted to do it a couple of days ago. I've already been running so the distance shouldn't be a problem, and I thought it would be a good way to start the new year off right. And there won't be a hangover to contend with.

Though I don't believe in resolutions, I do believe in goals. Some of my goals for 2007:

  • Get back to my goal weight in the next couple of months so I can stop paying for Weight Watchers meetings
  • Defend my dissertation in May for an August graduation
  • Find a tenure-track faculty job
  • Find a home where neither my husband or I has more than a 15-minute commute to work
  • Become more centered and at peace with myself

I hope everyone who reads this has a wonderful New Year's celebration and is filled with the resolve to accomplish whatever it is they want to achieve in 2007.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

more on the weight loss quest

I've had the loveliest little holiday vacation this year. Last year we went to Key West after Christmas and stayed through New Year's Day, but I have to admit that I'm enjoying this year more. I've liked having a lot of time to enjoy at home and relax. We have been able to spend time with family and friends and enjoy a holiday at home. Besides, I don't have to deal with my winter-white body in a bathing suit this year.

One nice luxury is having the time to get lost in a book. I got Eat, Pray, Love for Christmas this year and devoured the book in two days. It really is beautiful: the language, the descriptions of the people and places, and most of all, the food. The book is a memoir of the author's travels in Italy, India, and Indonesia while on a spiritual journey.

It sounds superficial and silly to say this, but the weight loss this time around has been a little bit more of a spiritual journey for me. Like Gilbert, I am trying to figure out how to have pleasure and beauty and discipline and spirituality all at the same time. And I insist that my food be beautiful along the way. I love the kind of food that Gilbert described in the Italy section: Simply prepared, beautiful food made from fresh ingredients.

My eating habits have really changed over the years, but I'm still a picky eater. The difference is that instead of hating vegetables and refusing to try new things, now I'm too picky to eat bad, or even mediocre food. A lot of the recipes that they share in Weight Watchers meetings call for fake foods: fat-free this, sugar-free that. And I refuse to lose weight by trying to survive on Smart Ones and Lean Cuisines. I want food that is real.

One thing I do love about Weight Watchers is that their actual recipe books are wonderful. I have yet to make something from one of those books that hasn't gotten rave reviews from me and anyone I share it with. And I have to thank Chef Kathleen for teaching me how to love vegetables. Since I first saw her television show, her recipes have taught me to like fennel, asparagus, broccoli, even beets! I was still thinking of cooked vegetables as the mushy, salty stuff from cans that we had to eat once in a while at my meat-and-potatoes household. My mother's parents are both from Italy, but because my father was even more of a picky eater than me, it took until adulthood for me to learn to love real Italian food. My mom rarely made anything that my dad wouldn't eat, and I picked up my skittishness about "weird" food from him.

Now that I have learned to like everything from falafel to sushi, the hard part for me is balancing my love of good food with my desire to fit into jeans in a smaller size (or two). Add to that a few more parties in the tail end of the holiday party season and you can see why this is on my mind.

I could easily lose the weight if I was willing to lock myself away from friends, family, and any events involving food. I could subsist on frozen entrees and Pumpkin Fluff (a Weight Watchers favorite made from canned pumpkin and fat-free Cool Whip). But I want to do this in a way that makes me happy and fits the kind of life I want to live. That's what I mean when I'm saying that I see it this time as a spiritual quest. I'm not just trying to lose weight this time around, I want to figure out how to live my life in a way that makes me happy. I figure that is the only way to do this for the long haul. I don't want to be trying to recover from a relapse again in a year or two, I want to keep this going forever.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

a late Christmas gift

I decided to go to a meeting today to see how bad the damage was for my splurges on the 24th and the 25th. I felt like I had just been given a little gift when I found out that I actually lost 1.6 this week. I thought back on it, and even though I had three really big meals over those two days, the rest of my week really wasn't that bad.

I have been having very good results since starting over with the new plan. has really been dramatic since I started honestly tracking my points and making a serious effort to stay within them. (I wish Google Spreadsheets allowed you to make charts, but so far they don't.) I suppose it shouldn't be that big of news that the plan works better if you follow it!

I also enjoyed the meeting today. The leader and the other people there were fun, everyone seemed genuinely welcoming and happy to be there. I would consider switchinng to this meeting, but I'm normally at work during that timeslot.

Knowing that I don't have to be perfect all the time to see good results makes me feel a lot calmer about the whole process. I am already starting to think about maintenance, which is where I ran into trouble before. I think that continuing to track and plan meals is going to be the best way for me to maintain. Last time I figured that once I was at goal weight, I could give all of that up. It should be a lot easier with the extra maintenance points, but I know that I won't maintain successfully if I don't stick to the program. Besides, it actually is kind of satisfying to remind myself, in writing, that I stuck to my goals for the day.

Monday, December 25, 2006

overdid it

Well, predictably, I overdid it yesterday and today. The big extended-family party was on Christmas Eve. I had fun with my family but there were also mountains of food, and a lot of it stuff I would never buy to keep at home: Crackers and cheese spread, various types of chips and dips, candy, cookies, etc. I was in the house with all this food most of yesterday, and kept going back to nibble on something. I would have a hard time even guessing what I ate yesterday.

I have actually journaled today's big breakfast and bigger lunch with my immediate family. I didn't eat dinner until about half an hour ago, and dinner was two slices of toast on sprouted-grain bread with natural peanut butter, celery, an apple, a banana, and green tea. My stomach is still feeling touchy. I haven't counted points for my whole day yet but I think that the week is still salvageable as long as I keep things reasonable from here. At least I got in a run outside in the nice weather.

Unfortunately, there is another Christmas dinner coming up with my in-laws, but the food won't be as good and it will just be a few hours. I think I can do fine if I bring a few healthy dishes of my own to supplement what everyone else is bringing.

I plan to go to a meeting tomorrow, just to keep myself focused. I thought about hitting the After-Christmas Sales, but decided against it, since if I wait a few days the lines will be shorter. I got some really nice gifts and only have a couple of things to return. I don't plan to buy a whole bunch of extra stuff. I have an Ann Taylor gift card to spend, but I think I might save it as a Goal Weight shopping spree.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

have a wonderful holiday

Here's hoping for a lot more Peace on Earth in 2007. I am honored that you stop by and read my thoughts, and I look forward to seeing you all in the new year!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

fit and/or fat?

Lori and I were having an online conversation about whether you can be fit and fat. This is a topic that is going to crop up on most weight-loss blogs eventually, so I thought it was about time for me to tackle it.

Covert Bailey has a bunch pretty well-known books that are variations on the "Fit or Fat" theme. Despite highly judgemental title and the accompanying attitude that creeps in from time to time, he has some pretty sensible advice on how to take yourself from fitness to fatness. His premise is that fitness is really more important than weight, so if you focus on becoming more fit, your weight will start to take care of itself. He basically assumes that you cannot be fat and fit, that if you are truly fit, you won't be fat.

I can't say much about Sally Edwards's book Fit and Fat, because I haven't read it. But there are a lot of people who talk about being fat and fit, who exercise a lot and yet still are larger than most people might think they should be. They would say that they aren't fat people on their way to becoming fit, they are fit people who are fat, whether or not they eventually plan to get thinner.

I really don't see this as an either-or question myself. Though of course there's some relationship between fitness and fatness, it's definitely not linear. A lot of people use "healthy" as a code for "thin," but that is obviously not true. Though I would agree there aren't a lot of 500-pound marathoners out there, there also aren't a lot of 98-pound ones either. You can be too thin to be healthy, though you'd never think it from paying attention to our media.

I think that being fit is much more important than your weight -- I would never try to argue with that. When I decided, around the time that I turned 30, that I wanted to lose weight, I did the opposite of what a lot of people do -- I started exercising first. I lost my first 20 or so pounds mostly because of exercise alone while training for my first triathlon, but I couldn't get to my weight goal that way, and when I backed off even a little from a triathete's training schedule, the weight started to creep back on, mostly because I was still eating whatever I wanted, though I tried to "watch it" a little.

If you watch NBC's "The Biggest Loser," you see very fat people who are exercising very intensely. I think that people are starting to realize that you don't have to wait until you are skinny to be able to do some pretty serious workouts. Exercise can also help you feel better and sleep better, so you might not find yourself munching out of boredom, stress, or exhaustion. But, just like on the show, exercise alone never did it for me. If I were a natural, intuitive eater, I could probably just follow my body's hunger signals, eat exactly what my body needed and stop. Guess what? I'm not, and neither are most people I know. According to Brian Wansink, almost no one is. So I need to follow some kind of a food plan if I want to lose weight, which I do.

And that last sentence brings me back around to what I think is most important in all of this. We really have to think about what we want most. If what we want is to be thinner, but we don't care about how healthy or fit we are, there are plenty of ways to do that: Extreme diets, chain-smoking and drinking coffee instead of eating, diet pills, heroin... If what we want is to be fit and healthy, no matter what our size, we can exercise daily and try to eat healthy foods but not worry too much about how much of them we eat. If what we want is to do what we want and we don't care about our weight or our health, that's our choice too. Unfortunately, there is a lot of judgement that goes on about what people should want, which is where a lot of the nastiness in the comments on weight-related blogs seems to come from.

Aside from all the judgements is the reality: If we what we really, truly, deeply want is to be thinner and fitter, we have to do the things it takes to be thin and fit. This means a sensible food plan and a sensible exercise plan. That might mean consulting a coach, a nutritionist, a weight-loss or twelve-step group, or reading books that help guide us in the right direction. A lot of people have the idea that we need to be extreme about things in order to be successful, and if people think they have to eat less than 1,000 calories and exercise for five hours a day to reach their weight goals, no wonder a lot of people give up. We also have to accept that while we're getting fit, we still might be fat for a while. I would still put my money on the middle-of-the-season Pam from "The Biggest Loser" in a cage match against your average chain-smoking supermodel.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

a better day

I know I sounded frustrated yesterday with the cookies, I really couldn't believe that something so simple went so wrong. I manged to conquer the cookie demon today, made molasses cookies and made them small. The recipe was supposed to make 4 dozen but I managed to get almost exactly 5 dozen smaller cookies out of it. I figure if everyone has five dozen cookies, they aren't going to care if a few of them are little. I think part of what was provoking my anxiety was feeling that we weren't going to really have much to talk about but the cookies (I don't know half of the people that will be there) and if my cookies stunk, that leaves me feeling like a dope. I ended up with 3 extra cookies, and I had two of them (3 points) and thought they were pretty good. All the rest are cooled and put away in small disposable containers. Yesterday I ended up eating 6 points worth (estimated) of ruined, terrible cookies. I think I kept tasting them in the hopes that maybe they weren't as bad as I thought. I am so weird sometimes.

I got a swim in with a friend of mine and it felt surprisingly good. I've been avoiding the pool but it was a lot of fun. We swam for an hour, but I paced myself and managed to stay comfortable for the whole workout. I think getting up and working out might have made the difference in the cookie trauma -- yesterday I tried to work on more transcription but instead sat at my desk and surfed the internet, bored but still unable to get myself motivated. After I finish this post I'm going out to run some errands, because it is a beautiful day outside and I don't feel like sitting in this dark cave again today.

I also found out about some unexpected money -- I got a nice-sized grant to help cover my dissertation expenses, which is a really wonderful surprise. All I need now is a call from my #1 job choice requesting an interview for February (need some time to prepare) and all my real Christmas wishes will be granted.

After a lousy food day yesterday where I used 15 of my 35 weekly allowance points -- the cookie mess was just a sad finale to a day of too much starch and not enough veggies -- I'm on track for a pretty good day today. I think I can still salvage the week as long as I don't go overboard at this party tonight. I have a friend coming to visit on Friday that I know can be counted on to devour whatever cookies are still around by then.

I'm not sure when (or if) I'll get in to weigh in with Christmas closing my usual alternatives on Mondays. I could weigh in on Tuesday as long as Monday's not too much of a mess, and there's also a Thursday meeting that I like in the evenings.

Happy Holidays, everyone. Here's hoping that none of us eat too many cookies! :)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

stupid cookies

My friend is having a cookie party. I am not so excited about this because I'm supposed to bring 5 dozen of one kind of cookie, and I go home with 5 dozen assorted cookies. I'm a good cook--I love to improvise with my recipes and make new things. This is not a good trait for baking, so I rarely bake, because it's not really a good idea for me. And cookies are one of my least favorite things to make.

Of course I couldn't make some easy kind of cookie that I've made before. First I was going to make meringues, figuring they'd be semi-calorie friendly. But then I realized that it would be very difficult to make that many of them. So I moved on to plan B, before discarding that plan because the cookies had to be refrigerated 2 hours. I then picked what seemed to be the simplest recipe in the Betty Crocker cookbook my mom gave me and made it "Christmasy" by adding crushed peppermint candies and mini chocolate chips.

Well, they were a disaster. They spread out all over the cookie sheet and looked greasy and awful. Of course I had to taste them. The candies had gotten chewy and though they tasted okay, they wouldn't even come off the cookie sheet except in one huge mushy lump. So yuck.

The party is tomorrow and I have the day off so I can try another batch. I'm going to do something easier, something that I can't mess up. But I've never made this many cookies at one time before, and I can't believe that anyone does this because they like to do it. One dozen can be fun, but five dozen is a pain. I suppose if I had five cookie sheets it might not be so bad, but I am not going to buy five cookie sheets, because this is the last time I will ever make this many cookies. I promise.

Tags: cookies, baking

Monday, December 18, 2006

down 2.2 -- only 10 more...

...before I'm at my official Weight Watchers goal. In fact, once I lose 8 more, I'll be within the 2-pound buffer zone allowed for Lifetime members. My WW program doesn't start up again until the second or third week of January, so I've been meeting-hopping. I went to a meeting near my house last week, but for some reason they weren't meeting this week, so I went to a different one today. Christmas and New Year's both fall on Mondays, so I have to find a different meeting if I want to weigh in next week. Luckily there are a few centers within a half-hour's drive from me, so I have lots of options.

I'll be happy when I get back to my regular meeting, though. It's hard not to feel like a total dork when you go to a meeting where everyone else knows each other and you don't know anyone. I was expecting a lot of talk about how the new program went, but I guess for most people it didn't change all that much.

There was this one guy who kept complaining, in a really loud and booming voice, about how stupid it was that "if I was losing before with the number of points I had, that I should have to go up 6 points a day and expect to still lose." He was complaining because he had gained, though after listening to him say the same exact thing two or three times about how unfair it was that he had to eat all these extra points, I said, "I'll take them." The leader said a lot of the guys went up 6-8 points. I guess the days of the guy joining WW and immediately losing 8 pounds are on their way out. Maybe, just maybe, it would be safe for women to join with their husbands now, but I certainly wouldn't do it. My husband doesn't need WW, but even if he did, I have seen enough couples in the meetings where the guy is bragging about how he "helps" his wife by yelling at her to put down the snacks. If my husband did that, I'd be tempted to choke him with a 2-Point Bar and say it was an accident. "I don't know how it happened, Officer, I guess he just got too hungry and forgot to chew it. He's been so good on his diet."

Sunday, December 17, 2006

wish me luck

Tomorrow is my first weigh-in on "the new program." Though for me, the new program really isn't that much different from the old one -- I even get the same number of points as I did before -- I treated this as a new start, and I am happy to report that I even have 1 point out of my Weekly Allowance of 35 left. I am going to a morning meeting tomorrow and I'll let you know what happens, but I'm expecting a loss. I am, of course, going to wear my lucky weigh-in pants.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

don't want to jinx it

...but I'm on track for a good week. I have 11 Flex Points left for today and tomorrow, I have been getting plenty of veggies and exercising. I have been honest in my food journal and not fudging things to make it look like I'm eating better than I really am.

I think after I get through the holidays, I'd like to give Core another try, but it's hard to imagine how I'd be able to do it this time of the year, when it seems there is candy everywhere I look. I love my carbs, too, and Core doesn't really give you much opportunity to indulge in them. But I know that I would lose a lot of weight on it, for the same reason.

I did an unofficial weigh-in after my run today (one hour) and it was 163.0. I had to check it twice. Now, after a long run like that, I'm pretty sure that I was a little dehydrated, so I don't necessarily think that the scale at WW will be quite so nice to me. But it was still nice to see that number.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

don't want to spoil it for those who TiVo'd...

...but I really enjoyed watching "The Biggest Loser" season finale last night. It was just amazing to see the before footage of the contestants and to see what they looked like now, and they brought all the original 50 state people back.

There were several transformations that were just amazing. I have to admit being a little jealous of some of the women, especially the one who went from a size 22 to a size 2! The smallest women's size I ever remember wearing was a size 5 dress at my eigth-grade graduation in 1984, when I was 13 years old. Of course, I was taller than this woman is.

I was happy about how the final four thing worked out, but it was probably even cooler to see how much the people who did all or part of their weight loss on their own managed to take off. It was definitely a good advertisement for their online club -- if I wasn't already a Weight Watchers member I would definitely think about signing up.

Of course, it is a little sad to admit that I was eating while I watched this... even if it was air-popped popcorn spritzed with canola oil and sprinkled with this amazing white cheddar cheese stuff. So it was relatively healthy, but I still ate a huge bowl of it. Old habits die hard, I guess, but at least I counted the points for it. I have 20 Flex Points left to use until next Monday, which is better than usual at this point in the week.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

day 3

I think I'm doing pretty well so far. I realized as I was going through my day how many times I would have not written something small down, or tried to fudge the numbers. I guess that's part of being an old-timer, you think you're smarter than the program. I, like many people I know, really don't think the rules should apply to me the way they do to everyone else. But following the rules works a lot better than not following them -- you could just look at my old WW journals as evidence of that. So I'm following the rules.

I got out of work late for lunch today and was just tempted to grab something on the way home, but I came home and cooked instead. I made a shrimp and vegetable stir-fry and had it with some whole wheat couscous. The sauce was just soy sauce, garlic, ginger, red pepper flake, and a little sesame oil. I have tons of leftovers, so I probably barely used a teaspoon of oil between the sesame oil and the canola oil I cooked it in. The whole lunch was 4 points.

One thing I always have trouble with are the milk servings and the healthy oils thing. I never want to use my points on that stuff. I love cheese, lowfat or full-fat, but that's a lot of points per serving. I'll eat yogurt in the summer but don't like eating it in the winter, too cold. I bought some, though. And I never liked drinking milk. If I'm cooking something I use the healthy oils, or if I'm whipping up a salad dressing. Mostly I just don't get to those things, even though I know they're supposed to be important. I am trying, but if I can at least stay under my point limit I figure that's better than I have been doing.

Monday, December 11, 2006

a fresh start

I made sure to attend a Weight Watchers meeting today because my leader told me that we would be getting new materials and learning about some of the updates to the program. As Anne said in her post, the changes are more tweaks around the edges of the program than anything revolutionary. Still, I like her idea of using this update as a chance for a fresh start.

I remember when I first signed up for WW. I was so excited to begin the program, and was upset to find out that the first "meeting" of an program is really just a time for the leader to collect your money and make sure that there are enough people signed up to really start things. You have to have at least 15 paying members for an , at least in our franchise. I wanted to get started right away. I think that intensity really paid off, because I lost very quickly and was pretty strict with myself.

I regained partly because I lost that intensity and partly because I got discouraged with how much focus it takes to maintain weight loss. I tried rejoining a few times, but I never got back that "beginner mind" that is so important. Even knowing, as I do, that the program "works when I work it," I still couldn't seem to muster up the excitement I had the first time around to get going, stick to it, and plan my meals carefully to get the most out of my points.

I'm going to read all my new materials tonight and start acting like a beginner again. It's not going to work if I'm vague and loose and "just sort of watch it" without really journaling, counting points, and stopping when my points are gone. I even bought the starter kit again, which includes a new food guide, dining out guide, three-month journal, and some coupons for WW products (if someone wants my coupons, send me your address and I'll mail them to you). I am going to switch from my electronic journaling system to the paper journal again, just to make myself look things up and use the slider.

You'll notice that my ticker has changed to reflect that I'm starting over again. I even decided to shoot for 10%, like new members do, instead of my official goal of 155.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

don't bring a book!

I'm going to invent a restaurant for solo travelers with that name. I've been away from home three nights now, and it is so boring and depressing to eat (almost) every meal, but especially dinner, all alone. And everywhere I go, I see business travelers or other people like me who are traveling by themselves, with their noses buried in a newspaper or, worse, chatting the entire time on a cell phone, because no one feels comfortable by themselves in a restaurant. I wish I was brave enough to go up to someone and say, "hey, we're both tired of dining alone, why don't we just have dinner together?" The only problem is that a guy would think I was hitting on him (and feel either happy or annoyed, depending on what he thought of me) and a woman would probably just think I was a weirdo. I did have a nice chat with a woman at breakfast, but it was just because she asked me a question as I was leaving, so we didn't actually eat together.

I have heard that in other countries, people do just routinely sit together and strike up conversations with strangers. That would be very nice. I enjoy talking to new people and would find that to be a lot of fun. Sure, there are lots of people who enjoy dining solo, but there are a lot of us who would welcome the chance to have some dinner companions, and the introverts would have plenty of other places to choose from.

If someone else wants to steal my idea, go ahead, just make sure that your food is very good, have some healthy options and offer some good wines by the glass. Also, make the food manners-friendly -- nothing that is hard to eat neatly or that splatters. I'll be your best customer.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

living la vida loca

Sorry, so sorry for the annoying earworm I just planted. But I know I have had lots of times lately when I wondered why I push myself so hard when other people might have been perfectly happy with the life I had before I started working on my degree. And part of me has been thinking, "I can't wait until I'm done with this and can settle down into a normal life again."

The thing is, I hated having a normal life. I gained most of my weight when my life was the most normal, because I was bored and unhappy. I went in, spent my work hours killing time until I could go home, spent my time at home mostly in front of the TV, snacking. Even though I'm stressed and tired a lot of the time, I love my life now. I like being busy. I like having things I'm working toward. I love the days when I come home from my new job and say, "They kept me running today."

I was reminded of this because I interviewed someone last night who is in a similar situation, working and going to school, and I realized how much fun it was to talk to someone else who was doing all this and who was blissfully happy about it all. Sometimes it's hard to remember in the rushing around that this is the life I chose, but this is what I want for myself: To always be working hard, learning lots of new things, to be fully engaged in life instead of spending a lot of time plugged in to the Internet and the television. I had forgotten that, in a sense, and kept thinking that I couldn't wait until this process was over and I could settle down a little. I do want some things in my external situation to be more settled: I want to know where I'll be living and working, I want my finances to be better, etc., but I don't want a boring, easy life. Spending a lot of time killing time made me feel dead.

There are a couple of people that I have been around lately who drive me crazy, much crazier than anything they do merits. I had a little bit of a breakthrough yesterday in figuring out why. They are fact factories -- they can tell you anything about anyone around them: How long they've been at their job, who their relatives are, what kind of cars they drive, where they went to school, etc. They know all these things about people they don't even really know, people they read about in the paper or someone who just lives in their town. They also know what everyone else should do instead of what they're doing now. Listening to them talk made me feel a little insane for some reason. My current theory, and the reason that I think they bother me so much, is that this is what smart people in captivity do. People who are intelligent but don't have any outlet for their brainpower spend a lot of time collecting information, mostly trivial, and displaying it to other people. Maybe they wouldn't be so nosy if they had dreams of their own to pursue. It's kind of painful to see someone stuck in this kind of life, especially a person who has a lot of potential.

I'm reading The Rise of the Creative Class and it's making me think a lot about creativity and the mechanics of it. It's a little weird to see the formulas for what makes a town a creative place, but it makes some sense. I have only read a few chapters so I can't tell you what I think of it yet, but it's a fascinating read.

I have a really full schedule today but of course my brain is still on Eastern time so I woke up too early to really do anything yet. I am going to stop by the office of the person I'm supposed to meet tomorrow while I'm out, so if I'm lucky I can have a whole day in Chicago just for sightseeing and shopping. It's pretty cold here but I figure if I keep moving, I'll stay warmer. And luckily everyone seems pretty practical about hats and gloves and stuff, so I don't feel like a total dork bundling up myself.

Friday, December 01, 2006

good things

I used to watch Martha Stewart's show and I especially liked her "." Later, as I realized how time-consuming and expensive it would be to live the idealized "simple" life she presented, I became disenchanted. But I still like the idea of small things that can make your life happier and better. Today had quite a few little good things in it.

I wore my new cashmere sweater for the first time today ($79.99, Macy's). If I ever become much wealthier, I will have dozens of these in different colors in different styles (turtleneck, crew, v-neck, cardigan, long-sleeved, short-sleeved, three-quarter sleeves, tank) because they are so comfortable. Today was chilly here and it kept me cozy but with no bulk.

I went to a grant-writing workshop and got all charged up about the idea of doing research and writing grants. I also read some good books on how to analyze data and write up results. Both of these things made me realize how much I really do want to find a faculty position, and how lucky I'd be if I got to make a good living doing something I liked and was passionate about. I also had a good meeting with my advisor today.

Finally, Working Assets, my mobile phone company called today to let me know that our wireless contract was up for renewal. After looking at their website and going over all the options, I decided to keep my current phones but found out I could drop our coverage to a lower-minutes plan (I really am not a phone person and neither is my husband) and save $20 a month. The company has the nicest customer service of any company I have ever called, and they also gave me a credit for renewing my contract and being a good customer. I really like them and like that part of my phone bill goes to progressive causes. The wireless service is good too.

So lots of good things. As far as Weight Watchers goes, I'm over 3 points for the day (and have no Flex Points left), but I don't plan to eat anything else tonight and I don't think that those 3 points are going to ruin what has been a pretty good week.

I'll be in Chicago again next week, so I'm not sure how much I'll be online. Hope everyone has a good week.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

good post-holiday meeting

Today was my last meeting at my current Weight Watchers session. There will be a meeting next week but I will be out of town. I may try to make it to some other meetings before the next session starts, especially because my leader hinted that some updates to the program will be revealed the week of December 11.

Since it was so popular, I updated my chart to reflect the last couple weeks' weigh-ins. I also added a "line of best fit," which is something that Microsoft Excel will do for you if you read enough Help files to figure out how. It shows the trend of the data in the graph. As you can see, the trend is a nice, gradual downward slope. That is fine with me. As much as I sighed over Audrey Hepburn's arms in my last post, I know that I would FREAK OUT if I started looking completely different in the mirror to myself all at once. That happened to me last time around. I think that losing more gradually this time will help me keep it off, at least I'm hoping.

Thanks to everyone for your kind words, especially Alicia for the incredibly flattering comparison, which is still one of the nicest things anyone has ever said about me. I wasn't trying to sound sad, I was just trying to think about things in a realistic framework and work towards acceptance.

I was thinking more about "Breakfast at Tiffany's," and it's so amazing to watch a movie in which the heroine is smart and funny and incredibly beautiful. Women used to be smarter in movies than they are now. I told my husband that it's probably that the writers and producers got dumber. Now women are expected to choose between being smart (and less attractive) and being pretty (and dumb). Even "The Truth About Cats and Dogs" seems to suggest that Noelle is dumb because she's pretty, and that Abby has developed her brains instead of her beauty, which means that she is romantically unsuccessful, at least until she does the goofy charade where she lets Noelle be the face of Abby to a guy until he falls for her. Of course, the fact that Jeannine Garafolo is beautiful in her own right confuses things and makes the movie seem a little silly and pointless.

Watch movies from the "Classics" section in your video store and you'll see gorgeous, sexy women who charm men, often sort of simple-minded hunky ones, with their wits. I'd love to see a movie like "The Lady Eve" made today.

Monday, November 27, 2006

unrequited love

I watched "Breakfast at Tiffany's" last night on Oxygen. It seems impossible that someone could be as beautiful and graceful as Audrey Hepburn. I think she might have been the most beautiful woman who ever lived. None of the current flavor-of-the-day starlets even hold a candle. They might get as thin as her, but they never figured out how to emulate her style and grace.

Still, the beautiful, lithe body Audrey Hepburn had would be an impossibility for me, even if I didn't have the occasional tragic love affair with snack food. I have always desperately wanted to have this kind of look -- fragile, delicate, elegant -- but my body isn't, even at its bones, like that at all. I have had an unrequited love affair with that coltish, slender body type for most of my life. I think it's time to stop carrying a torch for it, as I (quickly) approach my 36th birthday, and accept that though it might be possible for me to improve on the body I have, I can't change from a Clydesdale to a Thoroughbred.

I keep telling myself this, but a part of me still holds out with, "Maybe if I just worked a little harder," despite the fact that I've never actually been as thin as Marilyn, let alone Audrey. By the way, despite all the propaganda that "Marilyn Monroe wore a size 16," if you actually look at pictures of her, she was pretty thin when she was younger and just made the most of the cleavage she had. As she got older, she put on a little weight, like most of us do.

Maybe I'll just try to be the best possible version of myself. How's that for a revolutionary idea?

Saturday, November 25, 2006

road trip!

I ended up feeling stuffed to the gills on Thanksgiving and the day after. I always have a hard time with portion control at family functions. I had to try all three kinds of pie (though the pieces were small), plus I acted as if I suddenly rediscovered the existence of potato chips. Enough said, though as usual I'm not looking forward to my weekly weigh-in. After two days of food and family, we needed to find something more exciting to do today, so we took a road trip.

I have applied to five schools so far: Schools A thru E. Yesterday, my husband and I strolled around in the neighborhood where we'd live if I got hired by School D, which is a short drive from where I live now and closer to his work. Today, since we had no major plans, we took a two-hour drive to see School A, since neither of us had ever been there or knew much about it other than what we've read on the web. The university is nice, and though the town is a little run-down, it has some nice historic homes and a great little downtown district and we could see ourselves living there. We had coffee and bagels in a cozy little shop across from campus. Then we drove to a state park that is within an easy drive of School A. We had a fun time hiking in the woods and up and down hills. We ended up hiking around for about an hour. We ate lunch near the park and then headed for home, a little muddier but happy that we got out in what might be the last warm and sunny day of the year. We stopped on the way home to pick up falafel sandwiches for dinner -- one of the saddest prospects of relocating is that if we move far from Toledo, Lebanese food might be harder to find. So we had a nice adventure and got home before dark, hopefully working off a little bit of pie in the process.

So far School D still has a bit of an edge in the imaginary horse race, though of course we have to see what all these hiring committees think of me before making any real decisions, don't we? And you never know what charms yet-as-unknown Schools F through Z might hold.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

insurance companies...argh!

I had what should have been a minor problem with our prescription coverage, but because I kept getting the runaround (pharmacy told me to call the insurance company told me the pharmacy was at pointed back to the insurance company told me to call the benefits office...) I ended up throwing a fairly embarassing temper tantrum in the pharmacy. Luckily, when I finally called the benefits office, they knew what was wrong and fixed it right away, but not after I had to give my husband's Social Security Number while sitting in the pharmacy talking on my cell phone. The annoying thing was, they knew that there had been a clerical error on most of their employee's spouse accounts, but they didn't fix it proactively, they just waited for people to have problems and call. My husband's employer is a very bureaucratic institution and this is really par for the course with them.

I didn't want to leave the pharmacy until this got straightened out because with the holiday weekend coming, I didn't want to be without my prescription. What a royal pain in the behind. I really think I need to start looking for jobs in Canada so that I can get out of HMO Hell.

Speaking of the job search, in case you're counting, I now have five applications out. Let's call them School A, School B, School C, School D, and School E. I applied for two today (D and E) and got a request back for more information from one of the places I applied (C) the other day. One of the two new applications (School D) would be an ideal situation for me, so it would be a tough decision if both School A and School D offered me jobs. But I'll wait until I get interviews at those schools, maybe until I get one job offer before I decide which job I should take. I haven't sent back the information School C requested yet. It's one where they want a minimum salary figure. I really have to do some research so I don't give them a number that's ridiculously low or way too high.

I didn't do any transcribing today and I didn't get to the gym as planned. I think I might see if my husband would let me tag along on his run after work today, though I'd probably just go for 15-20 minutes since I ran yesterday. I need to work out the residual aggravation from the whole pharmacy encounter.

Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday weekend.

Monday, November 20, 2006


My husband has been out of town for a couple of days, and I really miss him. I really don't appreciate most of the time how hard it would be for me to live alone. I find myself staying up too late, even when I have to get up early, and I don't really like to cook for myself so I end up eating at restaurants more than I should. The only good thing is that I get all the pillows and blankets to myself at night.

Luckily he's on his way home tonight.

I'm sure some people enjoy living alone, but I wouldn't like it at all.

Tags: alone, lonely

Saturday, November 18, 2006

another shopping trip

I went shopping today at the Toledo Macy's for the first time since the new name went up on the building. No sign of Clinton and Stacy, unfortunately.

I am old enough to remember when it was Hudson's and when it switched to Marshall Field's. It seems like each time the store is bought out, there are less people working the registers. I got plenty of offers of help when I was looking at the merchandise, but I had to wait a long time to check out each time, and today was a slow Saturday because of the big Ohio State vs. Michigan game. I hope with the holidays coming up that they will start adding open registers. I usually try to avoid the mall after Thanksgiving anyway, because now that Toledo is down to one functional mall, the place is mobbed every day from the day after Thanksgiving to the day after Christams.

On the plus side, I got myself some really nice things: two pairs of earrings, some basic brown and black socks, and a purple cashmere sweater. With the various coupons I had, I saved $45. I haven't bought anything for myself in a while and I decided I deserved a little splurge. I had considered a pedicure, but cashmere lasts longer.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

skipping a meal to fight world hunger

I had seen publicity about this in previous years, but this was the first year that I decided to actually stop making excuses and skip a meal as a way of "remembering the more than 850 million people who go to sleep hungry" as suggested by Oxfam America. My husband is also doing the fast today. We will donate the money that we would have spent on lunch to Oxfam. The traditional day for this is the Thursday before Thanksgiving, but you can choose any day that you like. Obviously this is not recommended for people with diabetes or various other conditions that would make skipping a meal dangerous or otherwise unhealthy.

I figured that I, as a healthy, well-fed American (a little overly well-fed, as evidenced by the fact that I have a blog dedicated to my weight-loss efforts) could easily afford to miss lunch one day. I had oatmeal for breakfast and a banana after my morning run, but I'm waiting until dinner to have anything else. It's a very small sacrifice for someone like me, but I really can't imagine what it must be like for the people who experience this every day, and not by choice. About an hour ago my stomach was growling but now it's just kind of achy. I find it freaky how aware I am of food smells. But I feel fine otherwise and I'm a little ashamed that it took me this long to finally try the fast. In other years, I thought, "Oh, I'll just donate," but I really think that having this feeling fresh in my mind will make the check a little bigger than it would have been otherwise, and I'm sure that is why Oxfam suggests the fast and not just the check.

Fasting is, of course, part of most major religions, but by the time I went to Catholic school, Good Friday fasting wasn't recommended for children anymore, so I never purposely have tried it. Muslims, of course, fast for the entire month of Ramadan:
Due to the lack of preoccupation with the satisfaction of bodily appetites during the daylight hours of fasting, a measure of ascendancy is given to one's spiritual nature, which becomes a means of coming closer to God. Ramadan is also a time of intensive worship, reading of the Qur'an, giving charity, purifying one's behavior, and doing good deeds.

As a secondary goal, fasting is a way of experiencing hunger and developing sympathy for the less fortunate, and learning to thankfulness and appreciation for all of God's bounties. Fasting is also beneficial to the health and provides a break in the cycle of rigid habits or overindulgence.
I think, with the major feast coming up next week and all the other opportunities coming up for overeating in the next month and a half, it is a good time to pause and reflect that for a lot of people, food isn't something to be taken for granted. And consider donating to Oxfam or to The Cherry Street Mission to help hungry people right here in Toledo, Ohio.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


I don't have a lot of time to blog today, but instead of the ticker I usually to track my weight, I decided to include a chart that gives more of a history of what has been happening lately. Last week I gained almost 4 pounds. As of today, that is all gone except 0.4 -- not bad considering that I was over by 20 points (almost a whole day's worth) at least 2 days this last week. I want to get that line moving down, but with the holidays coming, I at least want to avoid any more upticks like last week's.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

why my blog is semi-anonymous

I have gotten a couple of requests for more details about my dissertation, my job search, etc. While I really appreciate the interest -- most people in my real life are already bored to tears from hearing about those topics -- I haven't given a lot of those details because I am keeping my blogs semi-anonymous. I am looking for an academic job, and have heard that there is a lot of prejudice against bloggers, to the point where there was an article in the Chronicle called Bloggers Need Not Apply. So I'm not being coy or evasive, but dissertation topics are specific enough that to put too much information here would be a dead giveaway. I am sure a determined person could connect the dots, but I don't want to make it too easy for them. Although I try not to write anything here that would embarass me or a future employer, I also don't think the details of my weight-loss efforts or my opinions on various political issues need to be a part of my job application package.

As an overview, though, my dissertation research involves one-on-one interviews, which is why you see me traveling around here and there. I am hoping to have these interviews completed by winter break, and spend the first few months of next year analyzing the interview data and writing my first draft. If all goes well, I will graduate next summer.

As far as the job search, I am to the point where I am applying to listings as they appear, but there is no real news to report. I am hoping to get the timing right so that I start my Dream Job next fall, if I get fortunate enough to find a job that is a good match and manage to show the search committee that I am smart and competent and enthusiastic about teaching and research. I am trying to keep things regional because I value my close relationships with my family members. My husband likes his current job but is willing to move if I get a good offer.

If anyone reading this is in the job search process, it might be a good idea to do a search on yourself now and then just so you know what is "out there" about you. I have heard about people (mostly in their twenties) losing job opportunities because they posted rude or drunk pictures of themselves on mySpace. A lot of people apparently don't think about the fact that if that stuff is out there, a prospective employer might see it. I Google my own name periodically and it's funny that even though my name is fairly uncommon, a lot of people share it who are completely different from me. One is a cellist and another is a high school student in Germany. I am happy to report that none, so far, appear on the Registered Sex Offenders or Most Wanted lists.

Friday, November 10, 2006

missing the point

I know that $250,000 is a lot of money. I also know that winning "The Biggest Loser" title might also have other perks, like endorsements or future paid appearances on NBC shows (like Matt & Suzy's cameos on "The Today Show" highlighting their offscreen romance). But the real prize on this show, and one that all of the contestants can win, is the chance to get their lives back.

Though I didn't watch the first season because I didn't like the constant in-your-face food challenges, in the second season the show's producers seemed to hit on a winning formula -- choose very overweight people who might see themselves as "no hopers" and give them serious physical challenges to boost their confidence and teach them that they could be winners. That formula had me in tears during almost every episode of Season 2. Though the people on the teams competed with each other, there wasn't the gameplaying that dominated shows like "Survivor." After the first few weeks, there was the sense that Red Team, Blue Team, whatever, all the competitors were genuinely invested in each other's success.

This time around, though, things have changed. Hiring a fitness model instead of a real trainer for the Red Team was the first mistake. Kim seems more concerned with staying flexed out for the camera than teaching her team how to exercise and work together as a group. For example, her temper tantrum this week when the newest member of her team expressed some doubts that the workouts were effective. Kim pitched a fit, keeping her abs tight all the while, and told the new girl that if she didn't do as she was told, she was completely on her own.

I think that Kim's lack of leadership has allowed Heather, who is a much stronger personality, to take over as the real leader of the group and turn the emphasis to "The Game" instead of teaching the contestants how to live happier, healthier lives. So this week she purposely gained weight so she could send Bobby (a stronger competitor) home and guarantee herself a big loss next time. I hope that the strategy backfires in some way. Now that the game has shifted to "everyone for him/herself," she may have a harder time staying in it, because many weeks she seemed to rely on her teammates to cover for her lackluster numbers.

Matt, who won last season, seems to have regained more than the 27 pounds discussed publicly. He was also more into "the game" than the other competitors at times, and I think that once you get back into the real world, the game can't carry you, you have to supply your own motivation. The ones who seem to do the best are the ones who realize that getting to a healthy weight is worth a lot more than $250,000 in the long run, like Pete from last season, who lost almost half his body weight and is now training for marathons (and snagged a $100,000 consolation prize in the process).

Thursday, November 09, 2006

goals and goofs

I have applied to a couple of jobs already and have gotten back the letters acknowledging the receipt of my applications. One school indicated in their letter that they expect to conduct their interviews in February. Assuming I get invited to interviews, I am going to have to buy a new suit. I have two nice suits, both size 14, that I have "undergrown," as Vickie would say. So in the back of my mind today, I'm thinking how much happier I would be buying that suit in a size 8 or 10 than I would be buying it in a 12. I would probably make a better impression if I was closer to my goal weight, too. Getting to goal weight by February is possible, as long as I really work at it and don't let my motivation get swept away by the Olympic Eating Months. So, just in case I needed another reason to get serious about the weight loss, I have another incentive: When I whip out my Visa card (with $5000 and my name on it?), it would be nice to be at goal weight and not just buy another suit in a size I hope is temporary.

Last night I went to dinner with a friend, and I suggested Panera because I wanted to get a salad. I was a little behind on my veggie servings for the day. Now, I know that their cookies and pastries are a diet disaster, but I didn't realize how bad their salads really were. I wouldn't have expected half of a salad that contained only vegetables and vinegrette to cost me 200 calories and 19 grams of fat. Note to self: Check the website before going to the restaurant next time. Or at least skip the cookie and get the dressing on the side.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


My food has been admittedly messy since my last weigh-in. I didn't track my points at all Friday through Monday. I had a couple of bowls of pasta on Monday because I didn't eat enough early in the day and was just ravenous when I got home. Then we went out for appetizers and drinks and split a dessert that night. So I wasn't overly surprised to see that I had a gain on weigh-in yesterday, but I was kind of shocked that it was so large. Even my Weight Watchers leader looked a little shocked:

Oof. Why is it that it takes me weeks and weeks to lose 3.6 pounds but only a few days to gain it? Realistically, I know that I didn't eat anywhere near 3,500 extra calories each day, so it is probably a "real" gain of a pound or so and a couple of pounds of water retention from salty appetizers. But still, not the direction I want to be heading.

Yesterday I was already dipping way into my weekly flex points because my husband and I had a "Geek Superbowl" evening -- camped out in front of the TV late into the night with beer and snacks, watching the election returns come in.

What I need to do, though, is realize that if my impulse is to not count points, that should tell me that I know I'm not doing the right things with my food. Or exercise. I've also blown off a couple of workouts lately.

I am happy that the Democrats did well last night, though maybe not as well as everyone had hoped. I am tired today, though, and just feeling generally down about a lot of things: the dissertation which seems to stretch out into infinity, the scarcity of interesting job postings, and my inability to follow a very simple food plan.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

it's gotta be the shoes

I got talked into these Onitsuka Tiger "Ultimate 81s" by my running-nut husband. They're shoes that were made before the company name changed to Asics, so besides having a cool retro look, these are very old-school running shoes without a lot of the technical bells and whistles you find in modern shoes. They're sort of trendy now and people are buying them to wear with their jeans at the mall, but we both bought them to actually run in them.

I had worn them for a few short runs and they feel really good. It's weird, you can actually feel the ground under your feet through them, but they have enough support and motion control in the heel to keep my feet stable while I run and not let my arches fall. What I like most is how light they feel and how flexible they are in the front of the shoe. I ran an hour in them today, just to see if they would work for a long run. I felt terrific. At the end of the run I was running really fast (for me) as if I were finishing a race. It was a beautiful fall day for a run and I felt fantastic. I had a lot of nagging injury issues that had kept me from feeling really good while running and so far these shoes seem to be keeping them at bay.

I may have to buy a couple more pairs before the trend runs its course. I may have to start importing them from Japan if I still love them so much when they're not cool anymore.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

things (productive and un-) that I have been doing with my time

First, yesterday I attended a Weight Watchers meeting where I finally saw the magical 165 number, though it was followed by a pesky .4 -- I had been hoping for better but I will take it. I am not sure that this represents a real loss, since I attended a different meeting, didn't eat anything before it, only drank a small cup of coffee, and wore my lucky weigh-in pants. I would not recommend this strategy as I had a pretty bad headache afterward.

I have been trying not to obsess about the Midterm elections. I have cut myself off from polls and speculations about who will win. I got so wrapped up in the 2004 Elections that I felt physically sick when I found out how things turned out. So other than watching my two favorite hunks, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, serve up their version of the news a few nights a week, I have been trying not to pay too much attention. I have already voted and may try to help with GOTV efforts, but otherwise I'm just going to hope for the best.

I have been setting up arrangements for another research trip to Chicago. Hopefully this time will be a much less frantic experience than the last one. I am thinking I may stay an extra night, even with the extra expense this means, just so that I'm not rushed and worried about how to manage luggage if I check out and still have things to do.

I have been lurking on job postings boards and forums and generally obsessing about the job postings (or lack thereof) in my chosen field. I have been browsing the websites of places I have applied or am thinking about applying. I have taken these activities past the point that they would be productive and really need to rein them in.

My job has really been interesting and has kept me busy lately. This is terrific but, of course, adds another excuse to my list of reasons why I haven't had enough time to transcribe interviews (even though I have time to do all the aforementioned activities).

As Lori said, I didn't write anything about The Biggest Loser yet this week. I was afraid that my posts might have become spoilers for people who tape it or watch it later. But I have to say, I am really happy that they broke up the teams and did the duos. It may help to short-circuit the unhealthy dynamic that was developing on the Red Team. If I were Kai, I would be very angry Erik for letting her free pass be a reason to slack off and gain three pounds. That pass could have been a lifesaver later in the game, but instead she had to waste it because he wanted to take a little vacation. I was happy to see that Pam and Brian both did so well at home after leaving the ranch. I can no longer root for Heather to be voted off, because she is paired with my favorite member of the Blue Team, Bobby. I am really interested to see more of the new arrivals next week and find out how they all did. There was a great article on TBL in the Los Angeles Times recently, talking about whether people who lose this fast can keep the weight off. I think that in the case of people who are seriously overweight, a drastic approach may really help some people who wouldn't otherwise ever reach their goals.

OK, enough playing. I need to get back to my transcription. Whee!

P.S. I almost forgot. My kitties had been literally playing cat-and-mouse games this week. We had a smallish mouse in the house, which I only noticed because they caught it a couple of times, played with it in front of us, and before we could take it away, let it go. This was not making me very happy. This morning we found poor Mousie dead under the coffee table. They apparently lost interest once Mousie couldn't play with them anymore. Mousie went out in the trash today, may she RIP. In the nine years that we have lived here, this is the third time we've found a dead mouse in the house. Only once had they eaten part of one. I think they are too well-fed to be interested in creatures as snacks and not just toys. I hadn't ever seen a live one or signs of one until this week. Once in a while I find a dead cricket in the basement and they have been known to catch and eat flies in the summer. So my Natural Born Killers are doing their jobs, even if they took their sweet time about it this week.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


I think I'm going to go to a meeting tomorrow since I missed my regular one on Tuesday. There's one at 10:00 not too far away. I did an unofficial weigh-in on Tuesday and it was 164.5 -- I'd like to see that number on the WW scale, dressed and in the middle of the afternoon.

I'm feeling discouraged because things are going so slow, but at the same time, I know that it's a reflection of my lack of commitment. I don't want to completely skip a week, considering that a lot of times, my meeting is what gets me back in line for a while.

I am tired of all the self-examination and happy talk about why this is such a learning experience -- I just want the weight GONE.

Friday, October 27, 2006

all keyed up

I have a lot of work to do but my mind is pinging away like a pinball machine on things that are not that productive. (For a sense of what this sounds like inside my obsessive little brain, read my AFG post on "Monkey Mind" from a few weeks back. I am beginning to apply for jobs while still working on my dissertation. I find myself compelled to check job postings, read job-search message boards, and daydream about living in various other locations instead of doing what I need to do -- transcribe interviews. I am trying to set a timer for 15 minutes and transcribe until it goes off, but even 15 minutes at a stretch is more than my brain can handle right now. Transcription is not only boring, it's distressing, because I have to listen to my own voice and hear myself make interviewing mistakes. As a result, about every 5 minutes I start feeling the urge to check my email, or look at a web page, or go get a snack.

I'm going to try 10 minutes. Maybe I can do that much at a time.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

on notice

The scale is officially On Notice. One more false move and it will be Dead to Me. Seriously, though, even though this week's weigh-in looks like a small loss (0.6), it doesn't make up for my gain last week.

Around mid-week, I got on the scale and saw a really good number, 164. If I had been able to keep doing the right stuff, I would have finally broken through the 165 barrier at WW. But instead, I managed to have one screwup after another this week, culminating in a really bad day the night before weigh in. Lots of it was salty food, including two packages of those Weight Watchers Cheddar Twists. And one of those WW Mint Cookie bars. I don't buy this stuff, I won them in the previous weeks' drawings. I think that junky WW food is even worse than regular junk food, because it somehow seems more virtuous. It's all garbage, sugar and flour and salt. From now on, I'll just stay out of the drawings and contests if that stuff is the prize. I was keeping it in my office as desperation food but somehow I started to like it, even though it seems to upset my stomach.

I have to start acting in my own best interest, no more excuses. I have to give up the idea that I can lose weight without working at it. I rejoined WW because I thought it would keep me accountable, but I have to keep myself accountable too.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

defending my right to order fruit for dessert

I let most of my friends and family know that I do Weight Watchers, not because I'm trying to make a big deal about it, but because it's easier to just tell them than to try to hide the stuff I do like journaling, making food decisions, and going to meetings. I figure there is no reason to be ashamed of it, though I try not to talk about it too much because, let's face it, diet talk is boring. No one needs to hear all the various decisions I go through each day to try to stay within my points.

Sometimes I am not so sure that my open-door policy is the best strategy. I was out with a friend a couple of days ago, one who knows that I do WW. She was telling me about her sister telling her about Weight Watchers, and acting "so superior" about it. "I said, 'Thanks, but I'd rather be fat.'"

I wasn't sure what I, as an openly Weight-Watching person, was supposed to take from that story. Maybe I was being too sensitive, because it might have just been a story she was telling. But it was hard not to take it as a judgement of me and my choice to do the program, especially because when I'm with this friend I always feel some pressure not to order the salad, to get the fries, to order dessert.

I know why food decisions matter. Eating is a social activity and if two friends are eating together, there's some pressure for the two dinners to "match." If I get the veggie wrap with a side salad and you get a cheesburger and an order of french fries, chances are, you're going to be annoyed and feel like maybe you should have ordered something healthier. I, on the other hand, will probably be secretly drooling over your fries. If you want to order dessert but I don't, I am either going to have to sit there while you eat dessert in front of me or you're going to have to skip it.

It is all made harder by the fact that I usually want the dessert. I haven't come to a point in my life where I think fresh fruit is more exciting than apple pie. If pie and fresh fruit had the same effect on my waistline, you can bet that I would be eating the pie. Every time. But I'm OK with having pie only once in a while, and most of the time I do prefer the veggie wrap to the cheeseburger. For me, though, the real decision is about what I want more, eating pie anytime I want it or to be able to someday fit into size 10 jeans. And most of the time, the jeans sound a lot better. Though sometimes I do want the pie.

It's hard, though, when I'm with people who make different choices about the pie and the jeans, to stand firm on mine. There is the ambivalence on my part, and there's also the feeling of not wanting to stand out from the crowd, to fit in. There's sort of a schizophrenia in our society -- we're supposed to be thin, but we're supposed to do it effortlessly, while still eating the same things our friends do.

If someone constantly doesn't respect the decisions I make for myself, though, to me that becomes a problem. I really don't care what my friends look like, what they eat, whether they exercise, or what size their jeans are. I only start to have a problem when it becomes a challenge for me to act in my own best interests when they are around. I want to go out with friends but I also don't want to blow my diet week after week because I have to be a pal and order what they want to order. Most of the time, I'm always calculating. What can I get that isn't going to look like a diet entree? Are people going to want dessert? If I order dessert, can I get something light for dinner without too much comment? So instead of feeling superior when they order the cheeseburger, I'm really trying to figure out if I can "get away with" the veggie wrap. Or maybe I can splurge at this meal and do better later in the week.

I know what you're thinking as you read this. You're thinking I shouldn't let people influence me, that I should stand up for myself, that maybe I should ditch the friends that don't support my choices. Believe me, all those thoughts, plus a lot more, go through my head in these situations. Sooner or later I am going to have to become stronger or just give up the idea that I am going to ever lose weight. I already know I can't be "fat and happy." I have tried. I got the fat part down fine, but the happy part was harder. I'm not saying that it's impossible to be fat and happy, I'm saying it's impossible for me to be fat and happy. I wish I could just do my thing and let others do theirs. I don't care what they eat, why should they care what I eat?

Maybe there's another way, though. Maybe I should give up the idea that I need to defend my choices or make someone else happy about them. Maybe I need to just do what I need to do, matter-of-factly. It's really hard to be honest about what I want with people, and honest with myself too. Maybe I use someone else's feelings as an excuse to do things that I want to do even though I know I shouldn't. I do that all too often. I think it's time to take responsibilty for myself and let other people take responsibility for themselves.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

national love your body day

I am gradually letting my magazine subscriptions lapse. Whichever ones don't make me feel happy about myself and empowered are not going to be renewed. The first obvious casualties are Fitness and Self, whose models get skinnier each month to the point where they don't look like they'd have the energy to exercise. Luckily I never subscribed to People or Us or any of those other celebrity magazines, because as I read the "articles" in which they discuss Ashlee or Jessica's figure flaws, I feel my own self-respect gradually slipping away.

One that is still in the running to stay is Oprah's magazine, O, but even that magazine has its bad moments. Whenever they do a "fashions for all sizes" layout, the copy tells us that the "plus-sized" women are size 12, or sometimes 14. Rarely a 16 or above. And this month, there was a layout on how to dress that had mostly good advice, but this comment threw me: "If your knees aren't perfect, don't show them." Um, OK. Actually, I have always had great anxiety about my knees. Maybe I should take this advice. They're scarred from being a normal kid who liked to play outside and who fell down a lot. There is this part of them that I don't like at all, this chubby part on the inside, next to the kneecap. So I guess I'm a candidate for not perfect knees.

In fact, I have a lot of not-perfect parts. Why stop at the knees? The only parts of me that I would nominate for perfection are my ears (they're very cute), and the last two fingers on my left hand. I love my hair, or at least I do most days. The rest of my body has scratches and dents and parts that aren't as firm and beautiful as I'd like them to be.

But instead of ordering a specially-made burqa that covers everything but my ears and part of my left hand -- with a removable top for good hair days -- I think I'll celebrate the National Organization for Women's Love Your Body Day with a big old raspberry to the fashion editors and advertisers who want to turn my shame into their profits.

I am wearing a skirt and just-below-the-knee boots today, showing my not-perfect knees to anyone who would like to look. The rest of them can close their eyes unless there is a Keira Knightley look-alike around to watch. Or they can order their own custom-made burqa, one that covers their eyes and their mouths.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

no big surprises

I was expecting to be up a little with all my snack-food adventures. I have seven more weeks in my Weight Watchers session and this puts me at twelve pounds to lose. I think if I get serious I can still do this.

I have really not been taking Weight Watchers seriously the way I did the first time around. I have been doing a half-hearted job of tracking, planning, etc. So it's not surprising that my results haven't been stellar.

I have been fundamentally unexcited about the idea of cooking and eating at home lately. I bought a couple of new WW cookbooks -- there was a bundle of two for $14 with a portion going to the American Cancer Society. One is called "In No Time," which sounds perfect for my lifestyle right now.

Monday, October 16, 2006

food messiness

I have really been allowing my food to junk itself up in the last few days. Cooking has not interested me at all lately, and planning and shopping are of course, right out the window. We get veggies from our CSA and they rot (though, to be fair, they haven't been that appealing-looking). I made the mistake of buying some of those 100-calorie packs not long before I left and thankfully they're gone, but even though I only had one a day, I had one every day, and other snacks in the same vein were sneaking into my food plan all over the place. The adventure with McDonald's the other day at least reminded me how little I like that stuff, but the other snacky stuff is more insidious.

I'm frustrated with myself and at the same time, just thinking about getting up and planning meals for the week makes my scalp hurt. As I posted on AFG, I feel like the desire to change isn't always there. I feel discouraged and tired and angry with myself. I'm also angry at the way my body looks -- it seems to have gone all soft and pasty overnight.

As soon as I finish this post, I'm going to do it anyway. I'm going to plan the week's meals and make a shopping list, then get ready for work. I'm going to journal every bite of food and start replacing the crap with real stuff. I think waiting to want to do it is a trap.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

made it here safe

Finally got in to Chicago at 11:30 p.m. local time (that's 12:30 a.m. my time). The bus was noisy and cold and it seemed to take forever. There was a weird half hour stop at a turnpike plaza in Indiana.

Because I had been upset all day I hadn't eaten much, so I decided to get something to eat. I figured I would be too tired to hunt for food in Chicago. The only choice was McDonald's. I thought about the various salads, but I finally decided that I really only wanted fries. I got a small french fry and a small iced tea. I always had a ritual with McDonald's fries and it's funny, I haven't been there in years, but I instinctively did the same thing: emptied the fries into the paper bag, emptied half a packet of salt into the bag, closed the top, shook. The first few were pretty good, but I really didn't love them the way I remembered. I ate them slowly and after they get cold, they're really hard and don't taste very good. So I ended up throwing away the last few.

Watching out the window as I came into the city, I felt humbled by all the lights. There are so many people here, and so many lives, and all my problems and hopes and dreams aren't even a slice of the world, not even a crumb. Maybe a speck that falls off a crumb. What I like about traveling alone is the anonymity and friendliness of it all. It does help me to realize how much I really like people when I'm completely on my own in a strange place. The little interactions that I have with people, like the funny late-night desk clerk who joked with me while trying to get the computer to work, make me happy, and the perspective of being one unimportant person in a sea of others is kind of comforting after all.

Friday, October 13, 2006

rough couple of days

So yesterday, I had a meeting with my advisor. She is good at, as I think the phrase goes, "killing me with faint praise." She's a nice enough person but she isn't someone who gives compliments, and I find myself talking more and more to try to say something that will win her approval, and ending up feeling like an even bigger idiot. It's rough. And something I said yesterday has come back to haunt me: "I have three interviews this weekend, hope nothing goes wrong."

It was a throwaway phrase but I really haven't felt great about this trip to Chicago, even though I was looking forward to a change of scenery. Sure enough, I hyper-planned the little stupid things, like what clothes to take, and failed to check the most basic and important ones, like where my bus stops and what time it left. So it left. Three minutes before I got to the right stop. I called the company but it was too late -- I was supposed to be there fifteen minutes early and ended up there ten minutes after it was scheduled to leave. So apparently they waited for me a few minutes.

I was lucky, in a sense. I got a ticket on the next bus, which leaves at 7 (I will be there at 6:30, maybe even 6:00) and the people I am interviewing were nice about allowing me to reschedule the interviews. I have two interviews tomorrow. The third will wait until I go back to interview other people in the same town. Still, the aftermath is tough -- I feel physically ill and very depressed. I'm sure it's a side effect of the adrenaline on overdrive.

I am sure a lot of these things could be lessons for weight loss, life, etc. But I don't have the mental energy to wrap this post up in a neat little bow. I'm mostly calmed down, though I feel pretty stupid (this is the theme of the week) about all of it. The thing that makes me feel worst is how I begged and cried and ranted at the poor guy unfortunate enough to take my customer service call. He was very nice and professional. Hopefully there is a karmic reward for him for being so understanding, better yet, maybe they get to record their phone calls and submit them for some kind of "crazy person of the week" prize. If so, he will win for sure. Heather (from the Biggest Loser), I apologize for calling you a crybaby. I have you beat.

This is my prayer for the day: That in the future I am more understanding of other people's mistakes, and even my own. That I will be kinder to people when they need someone to listen, and that I will be the kind of person who helps in a crisis and makes people feel good about themselves. That I will handle setbacks more gracefully and not make myself and other people suffer so much when things don't go the way they planned.

Thank God for Plan B.
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"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07