Sunday, December 30, 2007

finding "just right"

Yesterday was a day for organizing my weight-loss toolbox. As I reported yesterday, I went to a Weight Watchers meeting to have a record of where I started and bought meeting coupons so I have no excuse not to go.

Another piece of the puzzle was a gym membership. A couple of months before I moved, I cancelled my membership at a very nice no-frills gym. I really missed having a place to go for weight workouts. I also missed the social aspect of seeing the same people over and over when I went in to do my exercise. Things have settled down enough that I can imagine actually going to a gym, so we started looking into our options.

My husband had heard about a discount through his employer at a bare-bones place, so we checked that out first. No dice. The membership price was reasonable, except for a big joining fee, but the place depressed me. It was like someone had set up a gym in an old warehouse -- everything was in a couple of big rooms, and it was dingy and noisy with bad lighting. People grimly marched along on treadmills as we toured the place. I knew I wouldn't want to go there.

Next we checked out a brand-spanking-new, super-fancy gym that is going in nearby. The gym is still being built so we couldn't get a tour. Instead, we got to see a music video (no, I'm not kidding). A gym representative talked us through all the incredible offerings with the help of a big poster that showed all the stuff they had available. It sounded really amazing and state-of-the art, but I just want a place to work out. I don't need plasma TVs on all the treadmills and rave music blaring on the speakers. Throughout the entire sales pitch, when I was supposed to be getting dizzy with excitement from all the equipment and classes, I was just thinking, "I can't imagine how much this is going to cost." It was obvious why the representatives went through the whole explanation before talking about price. Of course, they wanted to sell you on all the cool stuff before you got sticker shock. When we finally got to that, the pricing was weird. There was one, super-high advertised price, then a special deal for signing up that day, and then, as we seemed not swayed, more negotiations. I didn't like the whole car-salesman routine. I think that we got a better offer because my husband is gorgeous (no, I'm not biased) and athletic and looks like the kind of person they'd want people to see when they toured the facility. But the "special" price was still a little high to me, and I really wondered if I'd feel at home working out at this place, which seemed destined to be filled with gym bunnies and trophy wives. I think the representative killed the sale, at least for me, when he said that everyone gets a three-dimensional representation of their starting point and their goal body. Yikes! Is there any woman in the United States who really wants to see a three-dimensional representation of the backs of her thighs?

I finally got a membership at the YMCA. It had seemed expensive at first, until we found out the pricing for the Uber-Gym. And it's friendly, sort of retro, and there are no plasma TVs. And no scary 3D pictures of my butt. I think it will be just right for us.

On the agenda for tomorrow: Grocery shopping. I need some good food in my shiny new fridge to help fuel this transformation.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

yet another fresh start

I finally did it -- went in to a center and weighed in. I knew I had to go before the New Year's Resolution crowd surged in. I was surprised to find that even after ignoring the whole weight-loss issue since I got my new job and indulging in a Christmas-season free-for-all, I am still less than 12 pounds from my goal. I wasn't at goal when I got the new job, so it is far better than I thought.

I went ahead and sprung for yet another starter kit, and even bought ten weeks of coupons in advance. If I've already spent the money, I'll be less likely to talk myself into quitting again. I suppose I could get to goal before I've used them all -- but that would be a nice problem to have, wouldn't it?

I have to confess, I am also trying a new gimmick: The Shangri-La Diet. The author of this book claims that by having a flavorless (or almost) source of calories more than an hour from other food and meals helps you to feel less hungry. As goofy as it sounds, I actually believe that the concept makes some sense, and so far, it has seemed to work. The two sources he recommends are flavorless oils and sugar water. I figured it couldn't hurt to try it. It's not really a diet, as much as a method for managing appetite, so you can do this and also do a diet like Weight Watchers.

I just started this last night. I have been having a lot of trouble with free-for-all snacking, and last night was the first in a long time where I haven't had the urge to go foraging for evening snacks after my planned food. If nothing else, the stipulation that you can't eat anything (or drink anything besides water) within an hour of the dose means that there's a smaller snacking window available.

It all seems silly, even to me, so I'm not recommending it, but I had to find something to help with my hunger pangs. I find myself desperate for food at work, partly from real hunger and partly because sitting at a desk all day makes me feel stir-crazy.

I'm not relying on Shangri-La goofiness alone, though. Over my holiday break, I've been enjoying getting back into an exercise habit again, and I have to figure out a way to make it work with my new schedule. Unfortunately, I think that means getting up at 5:30 a.m.

I am going to resolve to at least post once a week to keep you up-to-date on my progress. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

long overdue update

I'm not sure anyone is still reading my semi-abandoned blog, but I thought it would be nice to post an update anyway. I have gone through what feels like dozens of major life changes lately: new house in a new town, new job, graduation (woo hoo!)... luckily these are all good things, but that much change is pretty exhausting, even if it is happy change. Plus, we have spent what seems like billions of dollars on new furniture and appliances for our new place. And no, we haven't sold the old one yet. It's a little scary, especially since I still have lots of Christmas shopping to do. After the holidays it's back to living a little more simply (and less expensively) until we get a few things paid off.

I also know I've put on a few pounds because all my clothes feel a little snug. Probably 5-10 pounds. I'm a little afraid weigh in to see for sure. Our office lately has been full of goodies, plus I'm not getting much exercise. Being in the car all the time is a killer. I think after the holidays are over, it's back to Weight Watchers meetings for me.

I watched "The Biggest Loser" last night and was thrilled to see that it was a Jillian Michaels sweep! Go Jillian! (Remember, the two of us are pals). Not only did her team have a lock on the final four (and therefore, the actual Biggest Loser), but even the two of her original contestants (and her one adopted one) who were sent home did great on their own. I won't give away any spoilers, but I loved how things turned out. I definitely had some hits and misses in my predictions. Lori told me that Jillian has a radio show that can be downloaded as podcasts, and since I have a shiny new iPod nano that I got for my birthday, I downloaded a bunch of them. I asked for a car adapter for Christmas so that I can listen to podcasts in the car, including these.

I have to admit, with everything going on I've been able to tell myself that all this weight business is superficial and silly and not worth spending a lot of time and thought on. But there's really nothing fun about overeating, feeling stuffed and bloated, and not fitting into my clothes.

I hope that everyone out there, especially my fellow Angry Fat Girlz, has a wonderful and relaxing holiday. I'm trying to work on a way to have more time at home... if so, watch this spot for more frequent updates, and hopefully, some weigh-ins showing my progress from Chubby Commuter back to Goal again.

Monday, November 19, 2007

the kindness of strangers

The new job requires travel, and I'm on the road, typing this from a comfortable hotel bed in a completely foreign state, one I've never visited before. The thing I hate about hotels is the air conditioning, which always is either blowing right at you at full force or turned completely off. Also my fear of bugs means I have to leave the bathroom light on (door mostly closed) so I don't sleep well. I have some definite quirks.

One of these is that I love the random encounters with people I've never met and probably will never see again. There was a flight a couple of weeks ago where I ended up next to a man who was a great and funny conversationalist. He traveled often for business and gave me a lot of funky travel tips -- like always carry Lysol to clean off the TV remote in hotel rooms. Yeah. Think about it for a second. I think I'll just read and use my computer.

I am not the kind of person who forces conversation on a plane. I usually have a good book with me, but these kind of random chats are really interesting, so if my seatmate is game and is at least somewhat interesting, I can converse with anyone on just about any topic. I guess that's how I got the job I have right now, which involves a lot of public relations. I just generally like people, for the most part.

I'm reading a beautiful book right now, The Piano Shop on the Left Bank. This book is about the way that a seemingly random fascination with a mysterious store led to a life-changing encounter with the store's owner and a link to a forgotten passion for pianos. When I glanced at the acknowledgments, I found this quote intriguing:
Please don't try to find Luc or Mathilde or any of the others; they are not waiting to be discovered...As a childhood friend once said to me, solemnly and without rancour, when I tried to impinge on his spaceman fantasy, "Go find your own astronauts!" In the same spirit, let me say to the reader, "Go find your own Luc!"
I think that a lot of us don't realize how many interesting characters are all around us, each with a story. We try to duplicate the experiences we read about or see on TV or film: We might dream of a trip to Napa after seeing Sideways or want to go to Prince Edward Island to trace the footsteps of Anne of Green Gables. But the bigger challenge, and the one that author Thad Carhart suggests to us, is to find our own stories instead. In our car-centric, suburbanized American existence, chance encounters are rarer than they probably used to be. Maybe that's why we're more scared than we used to be. I am finding that travel is a good chance to be reminded of the kindness of most strangers.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

the Biggest Loser's real winner

Though I haven't been blogging as much lately, I have found the time on Tuesday nights to watch The Biggest Loser. Of course, I'm rooting for Jillian (pictured here in her full bicep-flexing glory with the amazing Shauna) to have the Biggest Loser this time. I met Jillian Michaels this summer at BlogHer, and that makes me feel even more happy for her as I see that most of her team members are still going strong, despite what seemed like an effort by trainers Bob and Kim to gun for her. Go Jillian! I love that she seems to really care about her players and gives them, not herself, full credit for their successes.

To me, it did not seem like a coincidence that all the players who have gained weight on TBL in the show's history have been Bob's team members -- I think he learned the water-loading trick from Matt (a former wrestler) and taught it to team members Neil and Ryan. Kim only has one team member left, and the only reason I'm not cheering for her to be eliminated from the show is that Brian is so likeable. I was not sorry to see scheming Amy sent home last week and thought it was laughable that she expected Isabeau to have any loyalty to her. Amy tried to convince people to vote Isabeau off several times. Brian deserved to stay -- he has been one of the few players who seems to have treated this show like an opportunity to change his life and not just a game.

So who do I expect to be in the final three? I fully expect Kae to make it -- she is an honest and determined competitor. As much as I like Brian, he seems destined to be eliminated in the next few weeks -- he is consistently in the danger zone and he doesn't have any teammates left. I expect Bill and Isabeau to represent Jillian in the final three. Hollie got lucky with the triathlon last week (she's a former swim coach) but I think her days are numbered. She doesn't have the toughness to make it to the finals. Julie has been a great player but I think she'll get to take her car and her money home soon, because her weight-loss numbers, though amazing, haven't kept up with the other players' successes.

My favorite eliminated player is probably Jim. I'd like to see him win the consolation prize. I'd love to see Jillian's team get both the top prize and the prize for eliminated players, of course.

Who are you rooting for?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

studying the studies

A link from Anne's blog led me to a story about a recent study by Katherine M. Flegal, Ph.D., of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hyattsville, Md., and colleagues on the relative mortality risk for people of various BMI levels. The researchers found that people who were slightly overweight (BMI between 25 and 30) are at a lower risk of dying from some causes than those with weights in the "ideal" range (between 18.5 and 25).

Another story summarized the findings as follows:

  • Underweight was linked with increased mortality from non-cancer, non-CVD [cardiovascular disease] causes (23,455 excess deaths).
  • Underweight was NOT linked with cancer or CVD mortality.
  • Overweight was linked with significantly decreased mortality from non-cancer, non-CVD causes.
  • Overweight was NOT linked with cancer or CVD mortality.
  • Obesity was linked with significantly increased mortality from CVD (112,159 excess deaths).
  • Obesity was NOT linked with cancer, non-cancer, or non-CVD mortality.
  • Overweight and obesity combined were linked with increased mortality from diabetes and kidney disease (61,248 excess deaths).
  • Overweight and obesity combined were linked with decreased mortality from other non-cancer, non-CVD causes.
  • Obesity was linked to increased mortality from obesity-related cancers (13,839 excess deaths) but not other cancers.
    This study is important because it suggests that maybe the current hysteria over America's weight problem is a bit overblown. It also suggests that maybe the ideal weight range for health is a little more forgiving than fashion's. Actually, a fashionable weight seems to be unhealthy, though no one talks much about that risk.

    Though it's obvious that there are certain risks associated with overweight, and more the heavier you are, there are currently a lot of risky methods for weight loss (crash diets, drugs, surgeries) that might need to be reevaluated in terms of these findings.

    As I'm sure you've probably noticed, this story set off a huge backlash of people who wanted to make sure to remind us that "it's not OK to be fat." But someone with a BMI in the moderately overweight range probably wouldn't look fat to most of us, and now it seems that they might not be at much health risk, either.

    Statistics can tell us only so much. Personally, I care more about my quality of life when I'm alive than how long I live -- I'd rather have a full and happy life that ended at 60 than a long, protracted illness that I survived into my 90s. Many of us have specific risk factors (joint problems, diabetes) that suggest that we should keep our weights lower than they currently are. But this study, and the extreme reactions to it, may suggest that the concern about our health was never really about health at all -- it was about pushing people around, or personal dislike of overweight people, or, in the case of some of the obesity researchers out there, getting grant money or a quick FDA approval for a risky diet drug with questionable results. All this societal pressure makes it even harder to make weight loss work. This was also the premise of the book Rethinking Thin, which prompted similar knee-jerk, "Fat isn't healthy" reactions from the mainstream media.

    I think that this study is one more piece of evidence, as a recent post on Angry Fat Girlz suggests, making moderate and gradual changes toward the life we really want for ourselves (which might not the one our mothers wanted, or the one that fashion designers think we should have) is really the way to go, as most of us have suspected all along.

    Saturday, November 03, 2007

    today is the first day of the rest of my life

    I made my final dissertation submission yesterday. Today is the first day in two years when I have had absolutely nothing I could be doing to work on that project. It's sort of a weird feeling, like the two or three months where my weight was right where I wanted it to be -- the absence of an accustomed worry leaves a weird kind of a hole in your life.

    So what am I doing with my newfound freedom? This morning I cashed a nice-sized check from BlogHer Ads -- my first one -- and dinner tonight is on them (and you, my readers): We bought two pounds of tenderloin at the butcher shop, plus some assorted other groceries and a nice bottle of wine. I thought about going out, but making shish kabobs at home seemed more relaxing.

    We decided to have dinner out on our picnic table since it was such a nice fall night. We had lots of leftover beef, which is great because it was so tender it melted in my mouth. I made a recipe loosely based on the Mediterranean Pilaf on the Kashi Pilaf box and some green beans. I also made a pot of vegetable soup for later in the week in an effort to eat at home more and choose healthier foods.

    I haven't been counting points or exercising seriously lately. I have been trying to keep my food reasonable but haven't put much more thought into it than that. I read Nina Planck's Real Food a few weeks ago, and I think that sometimes the whole diet thing leads me to eat a lot of fake food. I know that I'm not the kind of person who can naturally maintain at a weight I'll be happy with, though, so if I'm not going to do Weight Watchers, I am going to have to be more active and figure out some other kind of food plan.

    I did take a great Pilates class this morning. And since I spend three hours in a car most weekdays, I have been finding places to sneak a walk into my day where I can -- mostly at lunchtime. Once I'm settled after The Big Move, I am hoping to find a new gym and come up with a real exercise program. Until then, I am just doing the best that I can.

    Thanks for reading, and for dinner!

    Sunday, October 28, 2007

    one-minute update

    I successfully defended my dissertation! I had to do a few rewrites and am waiting final approval before submitting to the graduate college, but it all looks good for a December graduation. I still like the new job and will be moving in December to a new home. Please send home-selling wishes our way -- that's the last sticking point. I think it will happen, though. I'm thinking positive.

    Hope you are all well too!

    Saturday, October 13, 2007

    long-overdue post

    I'm still alive and well here, just very busy! Shauna's comment reminded me how much things have changed -- back in July I was so immersed in blog culture that I went to a convention on blogging. Now I haven't read or posted in weeks! I'm not sure I'll ever be able to be as plugged in as I was this summer, but maybe I can find an in-between spot somewhere.

    I have so many major life events happening right now, and I'm also commuting about 3 hours roundtrip a day. So between trying to sell my current house, buy a new one, prepare for my dissertation defense, and learning how to do my new job, there's plenty to keep me busy. And after looking at a computer all day at work, I'm not really that interested in logging in at home.

    Weight Watchers has gone by the wayside, but I need that structure again. I am going to start counting points again, even if I can't make it to the meetings. It's too easy to go back to my old habits without my journal to remind me of my goals. And I'm going to try to check into the blogs at least once in a while to get that extra boost of motivation.

    Thanks for checking in on me. Hopefully things will settle down a little soon.

    Saturday, September 15, 2007

    the secret to weight loss?

    Weight Chart

    It's possible that the true secret to weight loss is being too busy to eat. Or, more accurately, too busy to eat mindlessly. I'm still eating, but I'm less likely to munch at work than I was when I was home most of the day working on my dissertation (and looking for a break from the frustrations of the writing process).

    Between my commute, my work hours, and an hour for lunch, I'm usually away from home about twelve hours a day right now. I love my job but am looking forward to moving closer and leaving behind the long commute. The drive isn't terrible, but I do miss having free time. Still, obviously it has paid off in a bigger weight loss than I've seen in a long time. And that's even though I had a pretty big dinner last night and wore jeans and a lightweight sweater to weigh-in.

    I'm glad I didn't give up on meetings -- today's was fairly interesting and I know that the weekly check-ins keep me focused. If I can repeat this week's weight loss next week (a tall order, I know), I can start attending meetings for free again.

    Thursday, September 13, 2007

    one-minute update

    I know I haven't updated in a very long time. Suffice to say that I love the new job and it's keeping me very busy, but happy. I will write more when I can.

    I really miss my blogland friends and hope you're all doing well.

    Wednesday, September 05, 2007

    soul searching

    I really want to thank the people who thoughtfully commented on yesterday's post. They helped me a lot, because it helped me think about what I'm actually thinking about when I think about quitting meetings.

    I think that I wanted to tell myself it was OK not to try so hard to lose, which it isn't really. As John said, I'm so close. But I'm creeping further away, and I think that quitting meetings might be giving myself permission to give up. That's not what I want to do. I definitely need to lose those 5.6 pounds. Sure, no one else might be able to tell the difference, but mentally there is a big difference between almost at goal and at goal.

    Laura N. is right, it may help to keep me anchored while everything else is changing. And now that some of my major worries are out of the way, I shouldn't be able to make excuses for not sticking to it. Ironically, the long commute may make it easier to stick to my food plan, because I won't have time to snack. I don't like to eat in my car.

    By the way, I'm reading Nina Planck's Real Food and am looking forward to writing a review of it when I'm done. It's an interesting book.

    Tuesday, September 04, 2007

    should I quit going to meetings?

    Weight Chart

    It may seem to be a weird question for someone who has a blog with "Weight Watchers" right the name, but I have been thinking about giving up on the meetings. I am going to be commuting a long way to work and back for a while, and meetings would cut into my little remaining free time.

    I could, theoretically, do Weight Watchers without the meetings -- I have all the stuff. In my experience, I haven't done a very good job of it on my own, but maybe I could try harder? I don't know. I am thinking about doing WW Online, or just waiting until I'm more settled.

    Meetings are sometimes really great and sometimes I feel like I'm counting down the seconds. I'm not sure what I'm going to do yet.

    This week's weigh-in was crummy, just like I knew it would be. I haven't been following the program very well so my results haven't been great. I don't know if I need to spend $11 a week to find that out.

    I'm really not sure what to do at this point. I might try next week without a meeting and see how it goes.

    Sunday, September 02, 2007

    an observation

    I know the real estate market is slow, but if your agent leaves a picture of your house on the real estate web sites with snow in the yard, maybe it's time to find a new agent. I've been spending an inordinate amount of time looking at these sites and it's amazing how many agents do things like this. In one listing, the agent made sure to display the beautiful flowering crabapple trees in the yard. That was probably a nice touch, in April or May. In August, it seems like malpractice.

    Agents are supposedly obligated to put their client's best interests first. But as Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner explained in Freakonomics, a fairly big difference in price for the seller means only a small difference in an agent's commission.

    So for an unscrupulous agent, sending the message, "MY CLIENT IS DESPERATE" is an OK move. Maybe someone will make an offer, even if it's a crummy one, and they'll make back the money they've been spending to advertise the house since April.

    I don't think it's usually anything that sinister, though. I think the agents take the photos, slap up the listings, and then either don't think to update them or don't have the inclination to go back and take new photos. It really sends a message to future clients that they work hard to make sure you get a good offer, doesn't it?

    Saturday, September 01, 2007

    gainfully employed

    deliverhappy.jpgSorry I haven't posted lately. I found out this week that I have a job. I'm thrilled and overwhelmed and so grateful. I just went through the ritual of deleting all the Chronicle of Higher Education and alerts that used to send me new jobs that fit my interests. The day I accepted a job, I had to turn down another offer for an interview and cancel one that I had already scheduled.

    I have a lot of work to do to get ready for this change. I need to freshen up a few things around the house before it's ready to go on the market. I have to hope for the best in a very slow real estate market, but on the flip side, I'll have the advantage when I'm the buyer. Luckily, the new job is close enough (barely) to commute for a while until we can take care of these things.

    I had wanted to finish the first draft of my dissertation yesterday but my mind was racing too much for me to focus on writing. I did manage to get a few pages done yesterday, and I think that I can reasonably wrap it up today.

    It seems so strange that so many things are resolving themselves almost effortlessly now. I feel a little weird -- my system has been used to a certain level of stress for the past few years that I am not sure I know how to function like a normal person again. Wish me luck!

    Monday, August 27, 2007

    hell is other people

    In Jean-Paul Sartre's play No Exit, which I had to read for Philosophy 101, three people who die and expect to go to Hell find themselves in a drawing room. No fire, no demons, no pitchforks. Just three people locked in a room with no windows, no mirrors. The lights are always on, they can never sleep, and they can never get away from each other. This play is the origin of the famous line, "Hell is other people."

    I always have a book on my nightstand, and right now it's Carolyn Myss's book Entering the Castle: An Inner Path to God and Your Soul. So far I've only read the introduction -- Myss is a little long-winded so far -- but I am intrigued by one idea in it already. She writes that hell is identifying with the temporal self -- the collection of neuroses, worries, personality traits, and thoughts that most of us think of as who we are. She says that we can experience heaven on earth if we identify instead with the higher Self, a spark of the divine that is part of us and all things.

    That's a lot for me to digest at the moment, but it is what reminded me of Sartre's play. If we can't see ourselves clearly (no mirrors) and are forever looking to other people to tell us who we are, knowing that they may be wrong about us but not able to see for ourselves, that does seem like hell to me. We might be able to fool people into thinking we are better than we are, but they could always wise up and see us just as we are. Or they may see us worse than we think we are, and we torture ourselves to show them that they are wrong, all the while not being sure that they really are. Or we start to accept that they are right.

    This is the heartbreak of Weetabix's recent post in The Vault, Michele's anguish at chairs and the Urban Dictionary, Lori's worry that Fat Girl is the only language she knows how to speak,my annoyance at backwards compliments that suggest that I was always right to believe that there was Something Wrong With Me. And lots more of us.

    I don't know a way out except to stop trying to see ourselves reflected through someone else's eyes. Learning ourselves from the inside out, from that spark that shines through all of our neuroses and personality flaws and problems.

    I can see that I have a lot more reading to do.

    Sunday, August 26, 2007

    a quick clarification about reviews

    A response to my last post questioned the honesty of my review of products that I received for free. I think that a clarification of my review policy is in order.

    Per my agreement with BlogHer Ads, I cannot do paid reviews or sponsored posts of any kind.
    You are free to write your opinion about any product or service you’ve purchased. You may also accept for free and review any product(s) with a retail value of under $40 (U.S.) as long as you properly disclose that you were given the product.
    This is fair. I think it would be unfair to review a product I had received for free without revealing that fact, and I think it's only fair to the readers of this blog to give my actual opinions of the products I review.

    So far, I have done a total of one review of products I received for free, and I disclosed that fact in the very beginning of the post. I also only accepted the products because they were offered without strings attached. I gave my honest opinion of the items I tried. If I hadn't liked the products at all, I would have seen no point in writing about them.

    The other books and items I have reviewed were things that I purchased myself. So far I have not been deluged with offers of freebies. I get emails quite often asking me to blog about a particular topic or website. I only rarely do this, and only if I genuinely am interested in the issue or information in question.

    I write my blog for fun, and to connect with people who have interests similar to mine, not to make big money or to be a mouthpiece for some other person or company. I want the people who read this blog to be able to trust the things I write.

    Please let me know if you have any questions about this policy. I'd also be interested to hear how other people are dealing with this issue.

    Saturday, August 25, 2007

    brownies, candies, and chips, oh my!

    I'm not usually a big fan of diet snacks, but when the nice people at Linda's Diet Delites offered to send me a few of their snacks to try, no strings attached, I couldn't resist. Yesterday my box of goodies arrived. My husband selflessly offered to help me test the products, so we had a little tasting party.

    We had two flavors of Glenny's Brownies, the Chocolate Chip Blondie and the Peanut Butter Brownie. We cut them both in half so that we could each try both flavors with our afternoon coffee. When I opened up the brownie, the smell immediately reminded me of a Little Debbie's Fudge Brownie. The taste and texture are very similar, and so are the serving sizes. The Glenny's brownie was nice and fudgy, with a rich chocolate flavor. The difference is, the Glenny's brownie is a slim 2 points, and a Little Debbie's brownie just barely squeaks in at the high end of 6 points. Plus, the ingredients in the Glenny's brownie are mostly organic real foods:

    Water, Organic Evaporated Cane Juice, Organic Cocoa, Organic Soy Flour, Organic Peanut Butter, Peanut Butter Chips, Organic Whole Eggs, Lemon Juice, Soy Fiber, Organic Wheat Gluten, Natural Chicory Root, Acacia Gum, Organic Egg Whites, Vinegar, Organic AA Butter, Salt, Xanthan Gum, Leavening, Natural Flavors
    If you want a chocolatey snack, it's a good choice, especially for 2 points. The Glenny's brownie is much tastier than the Hostess 100-calorie packs, and contains better-quality ingredients. At $2.29 each, though, they are a little pricey. The blondie weighed in at only 1 point, but was not as tasty. We both noticed that the texture was a little off -- kind of rubbery. There weren't many chocolate chips, so the taste was sort of bland. I'd recommend choosing one of the brownie flavors instead.

    As a bonus, we also got a few Gayle's Miracles candies in the box. The truffles are 30 calories and 1 gram of fat for a nice-sized piece. They were a little chewier than a typical truffle and had a nice, complex, fudge-like flavor. I loved both the dark chocolate and the cappucino, and my husband gave rave reviews to the chocolate raspberry. Two truffles are 1 point and they could definitely satisfy an intense chocolate craving.

    Finally, we had a couple of salty snacks to try. They were the perfect thing to munch on while we did our Fantasy Football draft last night. The Spud Delites are just salty enough with a nice potato flavor. They remind me a little bit of Pringles, but they have a puffed shape. A 1.1-ounce serving is 2 points. I tried the Sea Salt flavor. The crisps are very tasty and would be a good snack to sneak into a movie. Again, the price is a little high, though not in comparison to concession stand snacks.

    My very favorite item out of all the ones we tried were the Pretzel Crisps. They are sort of a combination between a pretzel and a chip. These aren't just good in comparison to other diet-friendly treats. They could stack up against just about anything in the snack aisle. At 2 points per serving, you wont' blow your diet if you're tempted to have more than the 10-11 crisp serving. The Everything flavor is nice and garlicky, with a toasty pretzel flavor and just the right amount of salt. And at a reasonable $3.29 for six servings, you might even consider sharing these. They'd be good with a low-calorie dip, but they have plenty of flavor on their own. (Weight Watchers has a version of these, but they are a little bland in comparison, and like all foods sold in meetings, they're very expensive.) I would definitely buy these again.

    Overall, I found the Linda's Diet Delites site attractive and easy to navigate. They have a nice variety of products and provide package or product illustrations for all products. For some products, they provide photographs of the nutrition facts and ingredient lists, which are helpful to people with food allergies, or just people like me who don't want to eat foods with lots of high-tech ingredients. I would like to see these added for some of the other products, like the Glenny's Brownies. They do provide a selection of foods that are gluten-free, so adding information on other allergens might be a logical next step.

    They also have a brick-and-mortar store in New Jersey, but traveling there to visit in person would be a little impractical for this girl from Toledo. If you go, tell them I said hello!

    another look at Rethinking Thin

    I finally read through all of Gina Kolata's Rethinking Thin: The Science of Weight Loss -- And the Myths and Realities of Diets. The book was a real eye-opener. I had skimmed some of it, read some articles about it, and even have written about it here before. But actually reading through the whole book, a few things really struck me.

    The first is that there are no new diets under the sun. Though we have a sense of the 1800s as a time when fat was all the rage -- actress Lillian Russell was considered a sex symbol at 200+ pounds -- many people still dieted. Though the beauty ideals were heavier than they are now, some people still had trouble maintaining a fashionable weight. There was a low carbohydrate diet that was, essentially, the same as Atkins' "New Diet Revolution." There were high-carbohydrate, low-fat diets. There were even low-protein diets -- which is the only one that hasn't seemed to have been resurrected lately. Maybe that's next. And just like now, there were hucksters who sold questionable and even dangerous substances to desperate people who wanted to lose weight.

    The next thing that hits you like a ton of diet books is that with 200 years of dieting under our collective belts, we haven't really made much progress. The only thing that has really gotten thinner is our beauty ideals, especially for women. A study of Miss America data from the 1920s is revealing. The winners got taller, but their weights got lower.

    In the 1920s, contest winners had body mass indexes that ranged from 20 to 25, slender but well within the range that is deemed a healthy range...More recently, some Miss America winners have body mass indexes as low as 16.9...The more relaxed male standard for fatness is seen in Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston's former husband anda model for male attractiveness. He is reportedly 6 feet tall and weighs 159 pounds. That gives hima body mass index of 21.6, healthy according to federal standards. If Brad Pitt had the same body mass index as Jennifer Aniston, 18.3, he would weigh only 135 pounds.
    I'm not sure what Virginia Beckham or Paris Hilton's BMIs are, but I'm sure they're lower than Jennifer Aniston's. We are entering an era where the ideal body type for women is extremely underweight, something that statistics show is much more dangerous than being overweight, according to Kolata's research. This means that people who are in a healthy BMI range are still trying to lose weight to meet the underweight ideal.

    Kolata's analysis of statistical studies demonstrates the difficulty of anyone losing weight beyond a certain genetically determined range. Twin studies and studies of adopted children show that genetics trump environment. Identical twins raised apart have very similar weights, and adopted children have weights closer to those of their biological parents than those of their adoptive ones. This is the part of the book that many people found discouraging. She also presents the radical idea that no one really knows if losing weight has the same health benefit as never being fat at all. People (and rats) who lose a lot of weight have a metabolism more like someone who is starving than that of someone who has always been thin.

    The thing that I think Kolata fails to emphasize enough is that people aren't rats. I don't disagree with her basic ideas, but weight loss is very difficult to study because of the complexity of the human mind. It's also rare that a weight-loss study lasts more than a year or two, because of practical considerations.

    Kolata focuses on hunger and metabolism as powerful drives that regulate body size. A lot of us, for various reasons, are eating for reasons other than hunger. I know I'm not the only person who has eaten dessert after Thanksgiving dinner, for example, even though my belly already felt like it might burst. I also find myself eating when I'm bored, lonely, angry, frustrated, or having fun with friends. Maybe instead of statistical studies, researchers should talk to dieters and find out what is really going on when they're eating.

    There is no doubt that environmental factors also play a role. Food is also much more available than ever before, and in larger quantities. I was struck when shopping at the Home Depot by how many carts had empty soda bottles and candy wrappers in them. It made me wonder how we became a society where people thought they needed a snack while they shopped for caulk and staple guns. Sure, the store is huge, but I think I can cross it without provisions!

    My personal theory is that as the beauty ideals get more impossible to maintain, more people label themselves "fat" and start acting in ways they think a fat person does. We have such all-or-nothing ideas about food -- as illustrated by "Fat March," where the trainers berated contestants who "splurged" on half a slice of pizza after a long day of marching. We're either dieting or blowing it. So, since most of us don't want to commit to a diet of dry grilled chicken breasts and steamed broccoli day after day, we decide we might as well supersize our fries. The ideals are unreachable, so why even try?

    When I'm queen of the world, which I am sure is going to happen any day now, people would be treated with respect no matter what their size. People would live in communities where daily activity was fun and easy -- you could walk to the movies, work, or even the ice cream shop. There would be lots of parks and playgrounds and less four-lane roads. There would be bike trails that connected residential neighborhoods to schools and workplaces. Kids would go to small, high-quality schools where there was plenty of time for play and they served a wide range of food choices in the cafeteria. Restaurants would emphasize quality and variety over portion sizes. Fresh fruits and vegetables, not corn and soybeans, would be subsidized by the government. There would be universal health care and the standard workweek would be thirty hours. People would have lots of time to spend with their families and friends.

    Would all of this stuff make people thinner? Who knows? Who cares? I think it would make them happier, and that's really the point, isn't it?

    Monday, August 20, 2007

    drawing the line

    Weight Chart

    I had been avoiding my weigh-in but it was time to make myself go. I could feel myself slipping and I knew I had gained. It was time to face up to it, and move on from there.

    I've been giving myself lots of excuses why it's OK for me to pay less attention to my weight for now. I'm working on my dissertation, I am waiting to hear about potential jobs, I am contemplating a move... The truth is that all of this is true, but none of it makes me feel good about gaining weight. It sucks to feel clothes getting a little tighter and to know that I'm getting further from my goal instead of closer to it.

    This is just plain silly. I had gotten so close to that 155 mark and gradually, one excuse at a time, I was heading away from it. So it stops here. I'm drawing the line. As of now I am going to start putting myself first again and not putting goldfish crackers ahead of my own personal goals.

    I have kept my journal close to me and have been updating it today as I go along. I know what I'm going to have for dinner tonight, and I'm going to look through the kitchen and plan out the rest of the week later tonight. I did a short but symbolic workout in the pouring rain today (only 10 minutes of running, just to break the lazy cycle I've been in).

    I'm not beating myself up here, I am just taking charge.

    I'm glad I went to the meeting today. Weighing in, even though I didn't like the number, helped me set a boundary on the creeping gain and apathy I felt. And besides, they have a cute promotion now called "Passport to Success." It involves stickers, scratch-off lottery tickets, and prizes. They really do know me. I might acutally be more motivated at the thought of possibly winning a gift card or a vacation than I am by the possibility of actually losing the weight. Sad but true.

    Saturday, August 18, 2007

    should I talk to her about weight?

    That's one of the teaser lines on Weight Watchers Magazine this month. They have a helpful guide to talking to your partner, your parent, your friend, your sibling, and your adult child about weight issues. Not your weight issues. Their weight issues. Do this, and I can guarantee that Christmas will be a little awkward this year.

    Seriously, though, I struggle with this a little. Though I think the health risks of being a little bit overweight are probably overstated, there are people in my life whose lack of attention to their weight may be putting them at risk for serious problems. I think, though, that there is very little that I could say that might do any good, so I try not to meddle.

    I have my own experience to inform my actions. I used to dread seeing my family, because on every visit I would hear well-intentioned comments that just tore my heart out. My sister would say, "What I really like about Weight Watchers is that you can eat anything." My father would tell me, "You know, I was overweight at your age and I know that it's no fun." I knew they were right, but I wasn't able to magically make the weight disappear. Whether or not what I was doing was working, natalie deeI wanted them to respect the fact that I was aware of the issue and didn't need further commentary. I finally told them that I didn't want to talk about it anymore, and ironically, started my first effective weight-loss efforts.

    There were a few people whose suggestions probably did do some good. My doctor, for example, was hard to ignore. Though I did avoid him for a few years, I remembered his suggestion that I try Weight Watchers when I was ready to do something. Before I tried it, I posted questions on message boards and talked to people who had been successful losing 50 pounds or more. Talking to relative strangers was much easier than talking with close friends or relatives, whose concern was too easy to take as criticism.

    I guess what I'm saying is that, though the scripts in WWM are thoughtfully and tactfully written, they are probably going to be helpful only to the people who who are already planning to make a change. We've all heard about the "Stages of Change" model. The readiness is all.

    I think that the best thing that we can do for others is to be an example of success. When I was looking for weight-loss advice, the people I turned to weren't the ones who were looking for converts to a diet they just started -- they were the ones who had already done the work and really knew what it took.

    I think that it's no coincidence that this article appeared at a time when Weight Watchers is trying to market itself more effectively to men (with the help of superhero spokesperson Greg Gurnberg). If you are a woman who is considering getting your husband to join Weight Watchers with you, I would warn you to reconsider. Weight loss is so much easier for men that it should be illegal. Think about how you will feel as you struggle to lose week after week, while he gets to goal in a month. Give yourself a head start, at least. Maybe you can let him join when you're five pounds away.

    Friday, August 17, 2007

    here is a good place to be

    I'm sure that you may have noticed the lack of weigh-in news. Things are a little stalled right now. On Monday, I made major dissertation progress but hit the 100-calorie packs a little too hard while I was writing. I knew I would probably be up from all the salt and excess carby calories, and just couldn't face the scale. I decided to give myself a break and not torture myself. On the positive side, I hit a major milestone -- another chapter closer to a complete first draft.

    I will be back at my meeting next Tuesday, no matter what kinds of misdemeanors I commit with goldfish crackers and chocolate cookie-type things. I don't want to get in the habit of hiding from the truth. This week has been an iffy one. I've been missing my points target pretty regularly. I've also been stiff and sore from sitting so much -- I haven't figured out how to type while jogging. Instead of risking an injury, I've decided to take a cue from the "Fat March" people and just do some walking. I'm not sure how these choices will affect my weight.

    Speaking of "Fat March," since actually posted a comment asking me to keep watching, I'm going to give it another try on Monday. He asked so nicely and everything. In other viewing news, went to see "No Reservations" and was surprised to see how thin Catherine Zeta-Jones looked. She still looked beautiful, but she didn't have her knockout curvy figure anymore. Her butt looked completely flat. I caught a glimpse of my own figure in the mirror after the film and thought that though I'm not as fashionably thin as she is now, I do like having curves. Even if I'm not at goal weight yet, I thought I looked pretty darn good. If it takes me until after the dissertation is done to get serious about the weight loss again, so be it. Here is a pretty good place to be.

    I'm thinking that once I turn in the last chapter of my first draft, I might give The Beck Diet Solution plan another try. I had really good losses while I was following it, despite my crabbiness about all the structure. I hear that there's a coming out right around the time I plan to defend my dissertation. Who knows, maybe it will have the extra insight I need to get the scale number moving down again.

    Tuesday, August 14, 2007

    could you walk 500 miles?

    Apparently trying to duplicate the success of NBC's surprise hit "The Biggest Loser," ABC has launched its own dramatic weight-loss series, "," which like most U.S. television, is based on a British show.

    If you want to see what you missed, you can watch the show on ABC's show site or read the recap at Television Without Pity. A sample of the latter:
    It's 2007, and fat is the new black. By which I mean fatsploitation is all the rage these days. And now we have Fat March.
    I thought the idea for the show was a good one when I first read about it. The twelve contestants would walk from Boston to Washington D.C. in ten weeks, hopefully losing weight and getting fit in the process. The interesting twist was that, unlike other reality shows, the goal was for as many of the contestants to finish as possible. Each marcher was eligible to win up to $100,000 for finishing the march. For every contestant who left the show, each finisher's potential payoff was reduced by $10,000.

    I thought that the show would encourage teamwork and that the contestants would work together to get everyone across the finish line. Boy, was I wrong.

    At every opportunity, the show highlights minor squabbles between the players, and the trainers seem to encourage the fights. "If someone isn't pulling their weight," chiseled trainer Steve says four or five times, "maybe it's better for everyone else if they go."

    Unlike the coaches on "The Biggest Loser," (except for Kim), the trainers on "Fat March" seem to have been chosen for their looks and their success in modeling and body-building competitions, not for their talent at motivating the overweight. They seem to have no idea how the process of getting fit might be different for a 500-pound man than for someone trying to lose ten or twenty extra pounds. Note to all future fat-show producers: Looking hot in a bikini does not mean you know anything about how to help fat people get skinnier.

    At one point in episode 2, the trainers tell Will, one of the largest contestants, that 2000 calories should be "more than adequate" to fuel him while walking ten to twelve miles a day. For a man who wants to get back into his size 34 jeans, that's probably enough, but those are probably starvation rations for someone weighing more than 400 pounds who is a competitive eating champion. Contestants apparently carry most of their food for the whole day in their own backpacks while they walk, and the trainers are surprised when Will eats all of his food early and then faints from hunger at the end of the day's walking.

    It was pretty obvious that the trainers also hadn't anticipated how hard walking and sleeping on the ground was going to be for the contestants. One contestant shamefully admitted in the first show that he couldn't put his shoes on by himself. There were three ambulance rides in the first two episodes alone, and almost every contestant was complaining of knee, back, or foot problems after the first stage. Amazingly, there are no adjustments made to the marching schedule to account for injuries. Injured contestants who are taken out in an ambulance have the choice of making up the miles they missed, quitting, or getting themselves voted off. It will be surprising to me if they finish the march with more than two people, in which case no one will win any money.

    The trainers and producers seemed to believe that the contestants just didn't know the mechanics of losing weight. They thought once they explained that fruit had less calories than bacon and that walking burns more calories than watching television, the contestants would be thrilled to march all day on a packet of instant oatmeal and a bunch of veggies. All the contestants are relatively young and some are even athletes, so the trainers and producers probably figured that 10-12 miles of walking each day would be a piece of cake. Sure the contestants would have to go slowly, but no big deal. It's obvious from watching even one episode of this show that fitness is exponentially harder as you gain weight. It's hard to get fit if your feet can't bear your weight, for example. Knees hurt. Backs ache.

    They really also should have made a title sponsor in exchange for a pallet of sports bras. There is an unbelievable amount of bouncing going on. They seem to have budgeted for hair stylists but not for support garments.

    The most frustrating thing for me so far was in episode two, when the producers set up a temptation buffet for the marchers at the end of one of their walks. After two or three weeks of bland but healthy food, the marchers were suddenly confronted with fried chicken wings, cheese sticks, and pizza. On the "virtuous" side of the table was the usual fare the marchers had been getting: poached salmon, brown rice, salad. Not even creatively prepared, interesting healthy food. Just boring vs. tempting. The trainers waited in the wings to see what would happen. This was supposed to show the marchers how to handle temptation in the real world.

    Not surprisingly, some of the contestants chose to indulge in the forbidden fatty stuff. The other contestants were angry with them and so were the trainers, who waited until everyone had loaded their plates and then pounced. They seemed surprised that anyone ate fried cheese when there was still brown rice left. They even yelled at two contestants who had each had half a slice of pizza in addition to some of the healthy items. Instead of seeing it as a sensible compromise, Steve and Lorrie yelled at them for being a negative influence on each other.

    I don't think I'll be watching episode three. I think I'll wait to get my "fatsploitation" fix until September with the new season of "The Biggest Loser." I can cheer on my new best friend, Jillian and throw things at the TV when Kim is on.

    Saturday, August 11, 2007

    just a little further

    I did my first Danskin Triathlon in 2001, and since then, have done at least one sprint triathlon (1/2 mile swim, 12 mile bike, 5K run) each year. Except this one. I just couldn't get into the training this year, and my focus right now really needs to be on getting the dissertation done.

    I feel a little sad about skipping a year, though, and I need to keep my body healthy while I focus on my mind. So I've done a little training, just the bare minimum for me to feel like I'm staying fit. Mostly I've been running and walking. Those are the easiest exercises to fit into my schedule because I just have to lace up my shoes and go. Biking and swimming require getting more equipment together, so I've definitely slacked off on those. Don't even ask about weight training, which by all rights I should be doing to keep my injuries (shoulder, knee, hip) from flaring up again.

    I've gone out on my mountain bike a few times, but today I finally dragged out my road bike, which requires special shoes and has a much narrower and more uncomfortable seat. It was an act of will just to decide to go out on that bike ride, but once I got started, I didn't want to stop. My original thought was to go out for an hour, but I ended up riding to the end of our trail and back, which took a little over two hours. I was dead tired by the time I got home, but proud of myself. The trick was that I didn't ever commit to going the whole distance. When I got to my turnaround point for one hour, I thought, "Oh, just a little further." And so on, until I was close enough to the end of the trail that I had to finish it.

    I've often said that the only athletic talent I really possess is determination, or if you want to be a jerk about it, sheer pigheadedness. I don't want to leave something (a race, a workout) unfinished. Once I get moving, I don't really want to stop. It's the getting moving part that is hardest.

    I've had the same experience with my dissertation work. The hardest part is sitting down to the computer to work. The second hardest part is staying focused and not checking out real estate sites, job sites, or looking at news headlines. I actually use a kitchen timer set to twenty minutes when I'm writing. For that twenty minutes, I'm not allowed to do anything but work on my dissertation. When the timer goes off, I'm allowed to take a break for up to twenty minutes. The funny thing is, I often just start the timer again because I don't want to stop working in the middle of something. "Just a little further..." I've found that I've had a lot of success this month, which I've dubbed "Write Every Day August," just doing 20, 40, 60, or 100 minutes at a time (for some reason, I don't like the number 80).

    My proposal was the first 3 chapters of my dissertation. I have Chapter 4 more than halfway done, and then it's on to Chapter 5 after a quick review of Chapter 2. I also have to do some revisions on all the chapters I've done so far. Still, the goal for the end of Write Every Day August is a complete first draft. My advisor has been pretty happy with the drafts I've given her so far, suggesting only minimal changes. So if I make my goal, I should be able to actually wrap this thing up in time to graduate in December. Just a little further...

    Thursday, August 09, 2007

    and the winner is...

    After my post on Fage yogurt, I got heartfelt assurances from Shauna and Anne that the 2% Fage was really every bit as delicious as the original Total.

    I found the original, the 0%, and the 2% in the store in the small containers, supposedly single-serving size. I decided to buy all three kinds and do my own taste test. Ideally, I would have done the test blind, but instead, I had the three kinds on three different ways, served exactly the same way: with sliced farm-market peaches and cinnamon. I did the Weight Watchers points on the three kinds: 7 points for the Total, 3 points for the 2%, and 2 points for the 0%. I only ate half of each container, so for me it worked out to 3, 1, and 1.

    I had the 0% first. It was pretty good and every bit as thick and creamy as the original. Still, even though it was good with the peaches, I didn't like it on its own as much. The taste was a little bit sour by itself, and adding honey would defeat the purpose of eating the lower-calorie yogurt. I decided that if it was between the 0% and the Total, I'd go for the real thing and just eat less.

    Then I tried the 2%. Because I only ate half of the container, the points worked out the same as the 0%. There was a definite difference. The 2% was perfectly delicious on its own (I licked the spoon) and fabulous with the peaches. When I went back to the Total the next day, it tasted almost too rich.

    Besides, two extra points is a lot in Weight Watcher Land. Two points will get you a serving of Kashi crackers or a tablespoon of peanut butter. Or a big bowl of air-popped popcorn.

    By the way, when I went back to Walt Churchill's Market, they were all out of the big containers. If you're reading this, leave some for me next time, OK?

    Monday, August 06, 2007

    self-love means never having to say "I'm sorry"

    Weight Chart

    First of all, on the surface that line from "Love Story" was total nonsense. In any real love relationship I've been in, I've said "I'm sorry" a lot. But I think what it means is that love means the person knows you're sorry. Love means the person knows you want to do your best, no matter how many times you fail. Love also means that you won't stop trying to do better.

    I've had trouble doing what's best for myself with my food lately. Even though I know I need to do better, I also know that my focus has been scattered by the million important things that I have going on right now. I will do better when I can.

    I've been thinking about how often women with weight issues apologize for themselves to other people. They make jokes about how ugly and fat they are, they do things so people will like them, they date losers because "who am I to be picky," they take the smallest piece of cake because "You know I don't need it," ha, ha, ha.

    Sometimes I go poking around in the archives of blogs I like, just to see where someone has been. This paragraph in the Body of Work archives just floored me, because it was so spot-on:
    The only problem is that it never quite goes away, the feeling of having to work harder to be loved because you are fat, to make up for being unsightly by being extra-excellent and super accommodating. You can see yourself doing it, and you can try to stop yourself, but it always seems to slip out. The self-deprecating comments are always at the ready, because while I do not back out of the room any more, because I know that people see exactly what I look like, I have to make sure they know that I know exactly what I look like, too.
    It's easy to see where the urge to apologize comes from, because there is a lot of cruelty in this world, especially towards people who are overweight. I could find lots of examples in the weight-blog world, but I don't really need to. If you're reading this, you've probably been there, at one time or another.

    Because I write for a blog called Angry Fat Girlz, I got a lot of "But you're not fat" at BlogHer from people who were seeing me for the first time. I've been identifying myself as someone with weight issues for so long that it's weird to realize that I could probably pass for a civilian now. My weight, though I still have a few pounds to go before I fall inot the "healthy" BMI range, is unexceptional. I am not exceptionally thin, nor exceptionally fat. I'm just "normal," whatever that means, at least here in the U.S. I'm sure in or I'm still morbidly obese, because I hear women in those places don't get fat.

    Lori has written about "Fathead Syndrome" and I'm definitely in need of Fathead Anonymous. I want to get past the need to apologize for myself, stop treating myself like someone from the "Scratch & Dent" section of the store.

    And realistically, I should have done that long ago, even when I weighed more. I didn't ever deserve to treat myself as damaged goods, and fat jokes just aren't funny, no matter who makes them. It's time to stop saying I'm sorry for who I am, no matter how much I weigh.

    Thursday, August 02, 2007

    a love note to yogurt

    First of all, this is not a sponsored post, though if the Fage USA people want to send me some free yogurt, I won't refuse it.

    My fellow bloggers over at Angry Fat Girlz have been raving about Fage yogurt (pronounced "Fa-yeh", according to the container) for months, but they live in hip, urban areas and I live in Toledo. Actually, not even in Toledo, in a small town near Toledo. So if Kroger and Meijer don't have it, I don't have it, unless I hunt for it. And yogurt never seemed like the kind of food that I'd want to go off on a special quest to find.

    I was at one of my favorite little boutique grocery stores last week, Walt Churchill's Market at Briarwood, and decided to take a peek in the dairy case. They had Fage Total, 0%, and 2%. As a Weight Watcher, I probably should have opted for the reduced-fat or fat-free kind, but I wanted to taste the real thing. And I have to tell you, I haven't regretted that decision, though Anne swears that the 2% is really good and the 0% is good.

    An article in The New York Times featured Fage's recent ad campaign to promote just how luxurious this yogurt is by associating it with expensive jewelry. The yogurt ad is featured on one page, with an ad for the luxury jewelry item on the facing page. In the yogurt is the impression of the piece of jewelry, as if the Tourneau watch or Honora pearl necklace had been squished into the yogurt. The idea is to show that the yogurt is a luxury item, possibly to answer objections to the high price of Fage compared to other brands of yogurt.

    As goofy as it sounds, if yogurt can be luxurious, this stuff is. I had never been able to stomach plain yogurt on its own because of the harsh, sour taste. Fage tastes more like marscapone cheese or chèvre than like American yogurt, and it has the same kind of thick texture because most of the whey is strained out. I tried straining regular plain yogurt to use as cheese back in the extreme-low-fat diet days, but it wasn't even close to the taste or texture of Fage.

    The Fage Total has eight points per cup, so I've been using two tablespoons on top of some sliced peaches with a sprinkle of cinnamon. It's sort of like having cheesecake for breakfast. The yogurt is so rich that I haven't really wanted to eat more than that. I suppose I should give the lower-fat versions a try, but now that I've had the silky real thing, I'm afraid nothing else will do.

    Tuesday, July 31, 2007

    meeting Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07

    It's just so hard to say goodbye to BlogHer '07. If you want to find out about what went on in other sessions, check out the liveblogs of them created by various lightning-quick typists.

    On toledolefty, I posted about the experience of meeting Elizabeth Edwards. I have to admit that I was almost as thrilled to get to sit in on a lunchtime session with "The Biggest Loser" trainer Jillian Michaels, sponsored by AOL Body and AOL Coaches. I got to sit right in front of Jillian and even ask her a question or two. Here I am with Jillian and another blogger. I'm the one on the right. (Thank you to Carmen from The ELFF Diet for the photo!)

    In real life, she is even tinier and more buff than she appears on the show. She's probably right around 5' tall. I thought she might fit in my carryon bag if I could somehow wrestle her in there, and then I'd have my own kick-ass personal trainer. Here she is with the beautiful and charming Shauna. Check out those biceps!

    I took three and a half pages of notes on this session, because Jillian had so much wisdom about the tricky weight-loss business. She just seemed very down-to-earth and caring, and relatively calm compared to her hyperkinetic TBL persona.

    I was happy to hear that Jillian had many of the same feelings about TBL that I do. She says she doesn't like the weigh-ins, the temptations, the eliminations, the unrealistic idea that people should lose ten pounds in a week. Despite all that, so many people are inspired by it that "the show's doing more good in the world than bad." I agree. I commented on how at the beginning of each season, the contestants seem to have no hope in their eyes, but at the end, they all seem to feel like badasses. I asked what Jillian does to kick off such a huge transformation in attitude. She said, "I scoop them up into a tornado where they really can't think at all."

    All the yelling and seemingly crazy behavior on the show is her way to keep the contestants from saying they can't do it. She says she is good at gaging people's abilities, so she knows what they're capable of if they got out of their own way. "I'm not a big believer in motivation," she said. People who wait to get motivated never start an exercise program. She makes people do it first, and then eventually they become internally motivated.

    In the real world, she said, people need to find a support system first, and tell their cheering section exactly what kind of support they want. After educating themselves a little on exercise and nutrition, wanna-be losers should make sure to start slowly with activity, but they should start right away. "Just go for a walk, get outside, find things you like." If they don't love exercise, they shouldn't be surprised, Jillian said, because "there's never a moment when I'm lifting a weight or doing a push-up where I think I love this! But I love the results." The first step for many people, she said, is "just not moving backwards" -- once they stop gaining, they can start the weight-loss process and get more fit.

    One woman asked about her husband, who is reluctant to try to lose weight and says, "maybe I'm just meant to be heavy." Jillian said, "A lot of times, people hide behind the weight because it allows them to hide from life." They're afraid of failing, or that they won't be able to live up to the new expectations that people might have for them once they lose the weight. "Successful people fail all the time," she said. "If you're not failing, you're not really living. Being successful is a matter of attrition," succeeding just a little more often than you fail.

    Jillian knows that many people, especially moms, think it's selfish to devote so much time to meal preparation and planning and exercise. "Your health is the platform on which you build your life," she said. For some of the people she helps, it may be a question of spending a couple of hours a day on fitness versus having their time with their children cut short by early death or chronic diseases. "What is it you want for yourself?" she asks. She suggests that people write out what they hope to accomplish from weight loss, whether it's having more energy to play with their kids or looking better in a bathing suit. During the tough times, they can refer back to those goals to remind themselves that the effort is worth it.

    My favorite quote from the session is, "I'm not a big believer in moderation." Jillian knows that many people aren't going to be satisfied with "just little bits of everything," so she keeps the everyday food plan of her contestants fairly strict so that when they splurge, they can really splurge. But the catch is that they also need to plan to work out harder on splurge days. It's all about balance, she said, not moderation. The payoff is that "maintenance is actually easier than weight loss." A little extra effort during the losing process will get people to goal faster, and the calorie balance required to maintain the weight is easier than that required for dropping pounds.

    Jillian's final weight loss advice? "Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bullshit."

    P.S. Chicago finally broke my vacation weight-loss trend. But with the shot of Jillianspiration, I will be working to get that line on the graph moving back down.

    Weight Chart

    Saturday, July 28, 2007

    photos from BlogHer '07

    I have some great pics to share from the conference, not even including the pics of me with Jillian Michaels from "The Biggest Loser." A lovely fellow blogger is going to send those to me, because my own camera batteries died during the talk, which was sponsored by AOL Body and AOL Coaches. I have so much I want to say about the sessions I attended today, but I am still a little sleepy this morning, so I'll just post a few photos of the fabulous women I met. You can see the rest on .

    I was starstruck when I met Elizabeth Edwards, whose keynote was heartfelt and inspiring.

    With witty, whip-smart Cynthia Samuels, who gave great advice to BlogHers for working with the media.

    Hanging out on the terrace with fellow body-image BlogHers Jennette, Corinna, Shauna, and Wendy. It was hard saying goodbye to everyone, but I'm ready to go back home and get a little rest. I hope I can make it to BlogHer '08.

    meeting Dietgirl and PastaQueen

    So, what was it like meeting the famous Dietgirl and PastaQueen? Shauna said it best: "Whenever I meet a fatblogger, I'm always surprised by how small she is!" Shauna and Jennette are both so cute and thin. It's really hard to believe that the two have them have lost somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 pounds between them.

    As much as I was starstruck at first, it was like meeting old friends. It's a little weird, though, to actually talk to someone face-to-face after reading their writing and writing back. And the conference is such an amazing opportunity that I feel obligated to fling myself into everything full force, which means that by the end of the day, during the cocktail parties, I'm so tired and spacy that I'm not the best company. We spent a lot of time wandering around looking for people, finding them, and losing them again.

    It's hard to believe that I'm leaving tomorrow. I'm looking forward to getting home, but at the same time I have the sense that this is all slipping away too fast. I have a full day ahead of me, and I'll do my best to make the most of it.

    Friday, July 27, 2007

    first real conference day

    I attended the "Our Bodies, Our Blogs" session today. I have to admit that I went into this session -- along with Jennette and Shauna -- wondering if I would be walking into a fight. I felt I had to represent as someone who diets but who doesn't necessarily hate herself. I didn't feel like that happened, but I did feel as if the session felt a little scattered. I think it would have been better to have broken this session into two or three separate groups. There was obviously a large contingent who was interested in weight-blogging, and an equally big group who thought this was a silly topic to talk about.

    I did pull a few interesting points from the conversation. I found it sad to hear people admit they referred to themselves as "lard-ass," but the "self-love" stuff doesn't necessarily ring true for me. To me, the "love yourself" stuff feels superficial and maybe a little patronizing. I love myself sometimes, sometimes not so much. To some extent, I agreed Laurie Toby Edison's comment that, essentially, loving ourselves is nice but it isn't as important as making change in the world. There were two clashing layers in the conversation -- the personal and the societal.

    But most blogging does end up being more about personal issues. Many of us as bloggers, and I will definitely include myself in this, are pretty self-centered. We are doing our blogs not so much to change the world, but to change ourselves and our own minds. A lot of blogging and blog-reading and commenting could be distilled down to, "I thought this/did this. Am I okay?" Yvonne Marie said that one big turning point for her was posting pictures of her stretch marks on her blogs, and getting emails and pictures from other women with stretch marks. Another woman said she looked on Flickr to see if she could find pictures of women in the same stage of their pregnancy as she was, just to see if her body was "normal." Shauna said that she started out her diet blog being very hard on herself in her blog, but as she went forward with it and got feedback, she started feeling differently about herself and her goals.

    That's why many bloggers will probably continue to focus on our own issues in addition to, or even instead of, changing the world. We aren't patient enough to wait for the whole world to change. We want to feel better now too. That's why there were so many questions about how to feel less like a fraud, about whether it was more important to spend time with your kids and their friends than to go to the gym, whether it's ever okay to post a "shame slam."

    Probably the first step is to stop asking "am I okay?" No one can answer that question for you. And no one is ever going to get consistent validation that they are okay. I originally got involved in this conversation feeling a need to "stand up for myself" as a diet blogger and make the point that it was unfair to characterize diet bloggers as necessarily shallow and self-loathing. This discussion made me realize how futile and stupid that was. I did make a comment along those lines, but it fell flat, partly because mid-thought, I realized that I probably seemed even more shallow for trying to make that point.

    The truth is that we have no control over how other people think of us or what they say to us. It requires a sort of bratty entitlement to expect that no one should ever going to say, think, or do anything to upset us. So, even though a "No Fat Chicks" t-shirt is upsetting or annoying, for example, a "No Fat Chicks" employment or media policy is a much more serious issue.

    Speaking of bratty entitlement, I have caught myself complaining once or twice about something -- the long lines for the bathrooms, for example -- and then realized that I have to realize how amazing it is to be able to be here and rubbing elbows with all these fabulous women bloggers, with free drinks and plenty of great programming.

    Thursday, July 26, 2007

    just got in

    I got off the Megabus and caught a taxi to the W. I've checked in, freshened up, and now I'm relaxing on the rockers facing the lake and watching the traffic zoom by on Lakeshore Drive. Once Corinna arrives, we're going to get a quick bite. I'm looking forward to meeting her in person.

    I had a fun seatmate on the bus over and it made the bus ride, which took an hour longer than normal, go a lot faster. I lost her when I got off the bus, but it was nice to have someone to talk to. I mentioned this conference and said that one of the things I blog about was weight loss. She said, "Have you been through weight loss?" which is a good way of putting it. That was interesting, because I felt like, as Frances called it in her book, I had "passed for thin." I still don't really think of myself that way.

    More from the conference to come, once I've actually registered and met some people. I have my digital camera and hope to post some pictures.
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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