Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Social media: What's the point?

Have you ever tried explaining blogging (or, God help me, ) to someone who just doesn't get it? I did it yesterday, and it was like trying to explain yellow to someone who is colorblind.

"What's the point of typing all that stuff out?" For some reason, the word "typing" really bothered me there. As if we're all those monkeys chained to machines, hoping to randomly hit on something worthwhile. I noticed myself getting really defensive, really quick. Why did I feel the need to update my twitter status every few hours? Why would anyone want to read the stuff I write here?

It was an interesting question, though. For me, the blogs give me a place to stretch out my ideas and sometimes have an audience for them. Have you ever noticed how hard it is to have a serious conversation with anyone lately? None of us have the attention span to listen to someone else long enough to find out what they're thinking about, or what their daydreams are, or why they are frustrated with their favorite politician. Sad but true, it seems like people (me included) can only tolerate about a minute of serious conversation before there is the desperate need to insert a joke to lighten things up.

I try not to be boring when I blog but if I am, people can just skip ahead to the next thing in their RSS reader or click on a link. It doesn't seem as deadly as being boring in conversation. I also have more time to wind through my thoughts and figure out what I really mean, why something really bothers me, why I'm really feeling so happy.

When I was a teenager, I kept a journal, and felt really seriously hurt and angry when my father confronted me about something in there. I had actually never considered that someone might read it. I thought that my right to privacy was so sacred that it couldn't be questioned, but he thought that he had the right to read my journal and my mail and anything else he wanted if he was concerned about me and wanted to find out what was up. I understand why he did it, now, but I still would like to think I wouldn't do that to my daughter, if I had one. I wouldn't have ever started journaling if I had realized that what I was doing was creating a public record of my most private thoughts. I have never wanted to keep a journal since then, because I don't want someone somewhere to read it and misunderstand.

This is different because I know there is an audience, and I write with the understanding that these thoughts will be read. I like it when someone takes the time to comment (unless it's someone selling diet pills) and it's interesting to see which posts get reactions and which ones don't.

I do find blogs and twitter useful -- it's interesting to see what people share and I feel very connected to the people whose tweets and posts I read, sometimes more than to friends and family in real life. I'm still not sure I can make my friend understand what this stuff is all about, but at least I know why I bother with it, even if he doesn't.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Home improvement projects

I agree with Jennette, it is ridiculous that we've engineered all the physical work out of our lives and then have to spend time at an indoor facility picking things up and putting them back down again and/or running and biking to nowhere. It seems like such a waste. I even had a fantasy about a gym that would be able to hook all of those machines up to turbines and generate some electricity, but it's probably too impractical to ever work. It's a nice thought, though.

Being a homeowner helps a little, because there are always projects you could do, even if you really don't want to. Today, according to my little calorie counting program Lose It!, I burned around 500 calories spending a few hours scratching loose grout out of the shower stall. We also put up curtain rods earlier in the week, which probably did not burn significant calories but did make our bedroom darker at night so I can sleep. I actually like physical work because I can see what I've accomplished and it feels so good when I stop. My husband usually gets cranky when we have to spend time on a project like this, but today he was fine so I really had a good time, and enjoyed going out for a beer and some barbecued chicken knowing I could "afford" it, not only because of calories burned doing the physical work (the estimate seemed high to me) but because it kept me too busy to eat. I think I need to tackle some of the other cleaning/organizing projects I've been putting off while I'm on break.

I also got out for a run today with my husband during a break in the cleaning action. I try to avoid the treadmill at all costs because it's so incredibly dull. Whenever it's so terrible outside that I get stuck running indoors, I have to make up little games for myself to keep my mind occupied. I'll run at a certain speed for x minutes, then bump it up by 0.1 of a mile per hour every 3o seconds, then hold it steady when I get to y speed, then start dropping things back down again. I have lots of cold weather running gear so that I can avoid that little routine as much as I can.

Today it was sunny and warm (for Ohio in the winter) but there was ice everywhere. I had to run on the bike path, which is cleared, instead of the nice dirt trails I prefer. I was planning a 30-minute run but after 25 minutes decided to call it quits. Five minutes doesn't make a lot of difference, unless you're running and have no energy for it.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

After-Christmas bargains

Like most people, my family cut back for Christmas. I decided to go see if I could find some of the things Santa forgot to bring me after Christmas. I still had gift cards for my birthday and had some rewards certificates burning a hole in my pocket.

I got some nice things. At Ann Taylor I bought the sweater pictured here for $39.99 and a pair of jeans for half price, and had a coupon for 20% off and a $50 gift card. That meant I was only out about $29 out of pocket. I got a very soft v-neck, a black cashmere winter hat, and a cobalt blue long-sleeved T at the Gap. I had $30 in rewards certificates so that was only abotu another $20 from me. My big splurge was a brown cashmere shawl-neck sweater at Macy's, which was still $40 even after my $10 off coupon and the cost of a returned item.

That's going to be it for me shopping for awhile. I am still feeling nervous about my long-term job prospects and have had to buy some items for the house and also went on a little book-and-calendar splurge.

I'm not exactly making New Year's resolutions this year in the traditional sense, but my husband wants us each to spend 30 minutes a day on housecleaning, which seems like a fair bargain to make. One of the books I bought was The Joy of Appreciative Living, which promises to help readers start seeing their lives more positively and, consequently, start to find more joy in their lives. I want to do the exercises in this book, which take 5-15 minutes per day and should be both easy and rewarding. You can sign up for free to have the exercises emailed to you each day if you're interested. There are three exercises: Two daily, and one weekly. The daily exercises ask you to list three things you're grateful for and take a moment to really feel appreciation for them, as well as to list one thing you can do that day to increase your joy. The weekly exercise is a "visioning" exercise that asks you to imagine and describe your joy-filled life. I like the idea of working on joy and appreciation instead of the usual resolution-y things like weight loss, getting organized, etc. I think that feeling happier would also help move me in the direction of these goals anyway.

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday and are looking forward to an exciting new year. I am really very grateful for all of the people who read my posts and those who comment on them, because this blog has helped get me into a regular writing habit that I think helped me finish my dissertation. Maybe it will lead me to some other good things too.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Re-reading Oprah's January article

A few weeks ago, the cover story of the January 2009 Oprah inspired a flurry of posts in the blog world. Here are links to the first and the follow-up by Elastic Waist and the one Anne wrote for AFG. The focus of most of these was on the pull quotes, like "I'm mad at myself. I'm embarassed. I can't believe that after all of these yearss, I'm still talking about my weight," and "Standing between Tina Turner and Cher, I felt like a fat cow. I wanted to disappear." Anne came out and said what a lot of people were thinking, I think: "But honestly, Oprah. It makes me mad that you are apologizing for being me. You have nothing to apologize for -- and neither do I." What made people angry and set off a firestorm of comments on these posts was applying the transative property to the story: If A=B and B=C than A=C... The reader thinks, "If I weigh 200 pounds and Oprah weighs 200 pounds and Oprah thinks she's a fat cow, then that means that Oprah thinks I am a fat cow too." Oprah, who never even met this reader, is judging her and calling her names. That bitch!

The actual article itself is much less incendiary than the pull quotes, in fact, it seemed downright dull the first time I read it. But rereading it today, I saw this quote, which wouldn't sell ads or magazines so it didn't make the headlines:
What I've learned this year is that my weight issue isn't about eating less or working out harder, or even about a malfunctioning thyroid. It's about my life being out of balance, with too much work and not enough play, not enough time to calm down. I let the well run dry. . . Falling off the wagon isn't a weight issue; it's a love issue.
The other thing that is problematic (for many of us) is believing that there is a wagon and that you're either on or off. Oprah responded to her thyroid problems by giving up: She was having trouble maintaining her washboard abs and her marathon training schedule so she felt defeated. I know I compare my current tired self to the me who used to get up at 5 a.m. to take swim classes so I could do a triathlon and think, "Where did that girl go?"

I took a walk in the park today after two days of too much food, too much noise, and not enough sleep. I had Jillian on the iPod for company, and she was talking about how real change only happens when we can let go of the familiar and slip into an unknown, uncomfortable space. Even if we're not happy with the way things are, it's often hard to let go of the grudges and defense mechanisms and habits that we know. Taking that kind of risk is the only thing that leads to change. Oprah did this when she lost weight the first time, I did this when I signed up for my first triathlon and started training.

The thing that we both forgot, that most of us don't realize, is that we can't just grab onto the new set of circumstances and hold on for dear life. We have to keep moving forward, keep letting go, keep rolling with new circumstances. That's why weight maintenance is so hard, I think. It's easier to take risks to move toward a big exciting goal and an imagined better life. It's harder to keep living in the present when you realize it's not just one big shining moment where you feel great all the time. You can't "conquer this battle once and for all," you can just keep living and working through your new stuff.

I was thinking about the whole New Year's Resolution fad and how it's all about wanting to start fresh on a clean sheet of paper. That kind of freshness, as we all know, rarely lasts through the first weekend. Now that Christmas is over, I'd like to give myself the gift of a week of already working toward the things I want before the new year gets here. I'm not getting back on the wagon, though: I'm going on foot this time.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A second look at Ruby

Despite my initial annoyed review of "Ruby," I'm still watching the show. It was interesting because in last night's episode, her scary-fit trainer started voicing some of the same concerns that I had about Ruby's meal plan, namely that it's a temporary solution and she's giving over all of her power to other people. Of course, her trainer just wanted Ruby to hand her power over to him so that he could put her on a low-carb, high-protein diet.

I think Ruby is beautiful and even though she has a flair for drama, she's charming and has a great sense of humor. It's more fun to watch the show as you see Ruby taking her power back from other people. Sure, she has a team of people whose job it is to tell her what to do: a fitness trainer, a nutritionist, an obesity expert, and a psychologist (or psychiatrist). But in last night's episode she got frustrated with all the conflicting advice she was getting from them and arranged a "Summit" to get them all together in one room so she could get a more consistent message. I was impressed that she stood up for what she wanted and needed.

I have to say, I hadn't been impressed with the shrink until this episode, but he really stood up for Ruby and brought everyone else in line. My favorite moment was when he looked at the fitness trainer's associate (who seems to have invited herself along to the meeting), interrupted her tearful "share" about how she used to be overweight too and understands, and said, "This isn't about you right now. It's about Ruby."

If you're not watching the show, it's easy to catch up because the Style network seems to rerun every episode every single day. It's their biggest hit the network has ever had, which is funny, because Style is all about fashion, and we know how much the fashion industry sympathizes with the overweight. Ha.

Ruby also has message boards and a blog with videos like this one in case you can't get enough of Ruby from just watching the show.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Onion rings are not a Superfood

I have had a bad headache since this afternoon -- it's just now starting to let up. Not sure how Jennette lives every day with one. I took some Naproxen (generic version of Aleve) and took it easy and tried not to think about it. That seems to have helped.

Any of a number of things -- or a combination of them -- could have triggered this headache today. I did a half-hour run, but it was blisteringly cold outside, so I ran on the treadmill. The treadmill is so dull that I tend to play with faster intervals just to keep from boring myself to death. So the extra intensity could have been responsible.

I also visited my parents. They are both smokers and for a while, they had stopped smoking in the house. With the frigid weather, though, I am not surprised that they brought the smoke back in again. I had been having a lot of headaches on Sundays, the day I normally visit them, and then had stopped for a while. Last week and this week, I felt terrible. I remember having a lot of headaches as a kid, too. I think that cigarette smoke is a headache trigger for me, but I can't really say anything, since it's their house. I am hoping against hope that they air it out before people are there for the holidays. I also think that because I live in a 1920s house, I'm used to getting some fresh air even with all the windows closed. My parents' house is not quite as old as I am.

I was already feeling crummy when we went out. I had a soda and picked at some fries and onion rings, thinking that eating something might make me feel better. The grease and sugar, amazingly enough, did not help at all.

I'm feeling better but I know I have to take better care of myself than this. I don't plan to eat anything else today. Maybe a cup of tea would help.

Most of the blogs I follow have slowed down for the holidays, so I have been checking out the recommendations for me in Google Reader. (One of the blogs they recommend every time is "Perfect in Our Imperfections," because it seems like something I might like. It's nice to see that 129 people subscribe to my blog in Google Reader alone.) One I checked out was Eat, Live, Run. I don't know that I'd subscribe to it because it's mostly pictures of the food the writer, Jenna, eats, but she is thin and beautiful and eats great-looking food. I've read plenty of diet blogs where the writer photographs her food, but it's always so dull, mostly the same boring things every day. At least Jenna seems to mix it up a little and she seems to enjoy what she eats.

Sorry, I didn't have my digital camera with me, or I could have taken a snapshot of my onion rings. Or maybe I'm not sorry, because I don't think I would want to look at them right now.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The story that's not a story: Biggest Loser regains

Weetabix reported on weight regains among former contestants on "The Biggest Loser." She notes that Ryan from Season 1 has gained most of his weight back, and many other contestants have put on 30 or 40 pounds from their finale weights. To her, this suggests that the show hasn't helped the contestants:

does it speak to the fact that perhaps a crash diet and exercising for six hours a day to drop weight at alarming rates just might not be a good idea for your metabolism?
I see it differently. I looked at the slide show for myself and I think that at least among the people featured, the results were probably similar, or maybe even better, than your average successful dieter two years after goal. One person had gained almost all of it back, a few had regained significant amounts, and most had regained 20-30 pounds. A few had stayed pretty close to their finale weights. I was going to comment on the site and then I realized I had too much to say for just a comment.

"The Biggest Loser" is a television show, and dramatic results are the name of the game. Of course those kinds of results are unrealistic for people to maintain in their real lives, especially if they worked their way down to a really low number in the hopes of winning the big prize at the finale. If you read Jillian Michaels's book Making the Cut, you will see a lot of tricks for shredding out the last bit of water weight for a special event or big photo shoot. Jillian herself has said on her podcast that between seasons, she likes to relax a little, eat some chocolate, gain a few pounds, and then get shredded again for the show. To me, it's actually comforting to think that even Jillian doesn't always look like Jillian.

Besides that fact that the dramatic results are good TV, there is also an interesting theory behind them that I think deserves some thought:

Although most obesity doctors recommend losing weight slowly with moderate calorie reduction and moderate exercise, the physician and wildly telegenic trainers involved with the show are going about it differently. They think that their extreme, exercise-based diet plan may prove superior to slow-but-steady garden-variety diets at keeping weight off.

"Most of these people had never been told that they could go out and get aggressive with exercise," says the show's physician, Dr. Robert Huizenga, who works as an internist and sports physician in Beverly Hills, Calif. . . The goal is to get them close to a normal weight in a short period of time, while preserving as much muscle as possible. Because muscle burns more calories than fat, Huizenga thinks the contestants will burn more calories at their new goal weight than they would have following a traditional diet - and thus be better positioned to keep the weight off.

There is also the advantage that contestants get a chance to see how much different their lives can really be from what they have accepted for themselves. Many contestants are able to go off prescription medications for high blood pressure, prediabetes, and other serious health issues after just a week or two on the ranch. Some find they love physical challenges and go home to do marathons, triathlons, and cross-country bike rides. Sure, they don't keep off every pound that they lost in the hopes of winning thousands of dollars, but most have a dramatically different life after the show than they did before it. If the contestants lost the widely-accepted 1-2 pounds a week, and went home 25 pounds thinner, so from 355 to 330, would that really make a big difference in their lives? Enough to keep them motivated continue with exercise and healthy eating?

I don't think they have to get to look like fitness models to have a better quality of life than they did at 300+ pounds. I think Weetabix is right when she says, "without excessive fitness regimes and severely restricted caloric intakes, some people are just going to be heavier than others," I just don't agree, like she seems to, that it's better not to try to lose weight at all if you aren't going to keep every single pound of it off.

I speak from personal experience here. I've gained back about 20 pounds of the 60+ I lost. These aren't in the same league as "The Biggest Loser" contestants, but still, I definitely feel better now, at a fit but overweight 38, than I did at 25 when I was at my highest weight and very sedentary. I know I felt even better 20 pounds lighter, and having been there once at least lets me know it's possible. I think that it would have been easy to tell myself I would never succeed and not even start. I'm really glad I was willing to try to fail instead.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Super day

Frances sent me a book on SuperFoods and for the last few days, I've been trying to work more and more of them into my diet. It's fun and a new thing to focus on besides just calories. I tried some new things, like putting some frozen blueberries in my yogurt and adding flax meal to my breakfast toast. Unfortunately, I also had a lot of calories, about 2600. Even with a half-hour run, I need to work on bringing those down, because according to my little calorie counting program, that is a maintenance level and not a weight-loss level. Here's what a superfoods-heavy day looked like today. SuperFoods (or sidekicks) are in bold text:

2 slices wholegrain bread, toasted with
2 tablespoons homemade peanut butter
2 teaspoons ground flaxseeds
1/2 banana
12 oz. coffee with 1 1/2 tablespoons half-and-half and a dash of cinnamon

Post-run snack:
8 oz. greek yogurt
1/2 c. frozen blueberries, microwaved for 1 minute
1/2 c. rolled oats

1 c. egg drop soup
1 mini spring roll
3/4 c. kung pao chicken
3/4 c. brown rice
green tea
fortune cookie

2 glasses of white wine
8 wholegrain crackers
1 oz. cheddar cheese
1/2 apple
3 Dove dark chocolate Promises

6 oz. turkey breast, with some skin
3/4 c. mashed potatoes
1/2 c. celery sticks

I see some things to work on here, besides bringing the portions down and getting rid of the alcohol. There weren't a lot of veggies in there. I had the lunch at the Chinese restaurant already planned, but I could have made a better choice. I was hoping for some good vegetables in the Kung Pao chicken, but they were boring ones like water chestnuts, carrots and cucumbers. We had the snack while waiting for the turkey breast to finish cooking, so if I had planned things better, I might have been able to skip it.

Still, healthy stuff, mostly, and all delicious. I'm going to keep working on this and see if I can get Mary Lou to give me some better news.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Missed the finale of "The Biggest Loser"

We have a DVR and it is set to record all new episodes of "The Biggest Loser," but it didn't record last night's show. My only guess was that the name was different enough that the DVR didn't see it as the same show. I watched some of the highlight clips. It was good to see everyone looking so great, and of course I was happy that Michelle won. I was also happy that they let Jillian wear slacks this time. She always looked so uncomfortable when they made her wear a dress. I think the producers realize that Jillian is the reason for the show's popularity, and aren't in much of a position to make her wear skirts, shill for Jello, or do anything else she doesn't want to do.

As much as I didn't like Vicky's manipulative behavior, I think the people sending her hate mail should really get a life. It's a television show.

It looks like a new season is starting soon. Soon, NBC will be nothing but "The Biggest Loser" and "Law and Order."

No drama, please!

Did you miss me? I put up my little "Best of Jen" post last week because I knew I wouldn't be around much. I told myself I was not allowed to blog until I turned my grades in. This was the first time I taught this particular class and I had too many assignments due at the end of the term. That's the thing that students don't realize: The more work I make for them, the more work I make for me. I'm making some changes for next term.

I am still waiting for some development in my future work status and I've been making myself a little crazy worrying about it. There is a part of me that is rational and sane and a part of me that is screaming inside my head in fear. My husband has a good job but we need my income to pay the bills, and we've just been getting by on the money I'm making now -- there's no way to get ahead. And then there is Christmas, and the screen door is broken, and I accidentally washed a contact lens down the drain.... I go on and on like this, as if it does any good. I just have to trust things will be OK, while keeping an eye out for other opportunities.

I was listening to a Jillian Michaels podcast yesterday. One of her contestants was going through a tough time and he said, "I just want to win this battle within myself." She responded with, "What battle? There is no battle!" Basically, she was saying that casting yourself as the star of your own drama and losing perspective makes everything harder than it needs to be. It's just weight loss, it's not saving the world from evil.

Drama can be sort of exciting, and it can make us feel really important, and it has the added benefit of distracting us from taking action. I think it all comes down to acceptance. If we're still struggling with, "It's so unfair! I shouldn't be having this problem," then we can't really move ahead and actually work toward a solution.

I know several people who are living with serious illnesses. There are many people who are actually out of work and not just worrying that they might be. Everyone has problems. There's a Zen aphorism: "Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional." I'm going to have to learn to tolerate a little uncertainty without making a big production out of it.

In other news, Mary Lou says I'm still maintaining my weight. I've gotten to the point where I walk out of the room after I get the weight stat, cruelly ignoring her earnest advice. Poor thing.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Best of the old posts

Continuing the reflective trend from yesterday, I have gotten a couple of spam comments that prompted me look back at some older posts. Jennette has a page with links to her best entries, and that got me thinking: What were my all-time favorite posts? In no particular order, here are my top ten favorites:
  1. Where I've come from, where I'm going
  2. Fit and/or Fat?
  3. Do I really hate myself?
  4. The Potato Pancake Diet
  5. Stupid Weight Watchers tricks
  6. Meeting Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07
  7. Top ten diet tips from Jillian Michaels's podcasts
  8. Another look at Rethinking Thin
  9. Money worries
  10. Dressing for success
I also think I did some pretty good reviews of books, movies, television shows and products. Mostly, the posts I liked writing best don't just chronicle my own life, they use my experiences as a launching pad for a reflection on something larger than me and my own little problems. I find that is the kind of post I enjoy reading most on other people's blogs, too. Of course, sometimes it's nice just to catch up and find out how people are doing.

Things are getting quiet with the holidays coming up and everyone getting busier, but I'd like to see what other bloggers think are their top ten posts of all time -- if you do a post like this and would like to share, please link to it in the comments. Thanks!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Happy birthday to me

Originally uploaded by
I turn 38 today. I'm past the point where birthdays seem like a Big Fun Day and find that they feel more like a day of reckoning. The proximity of that number to 40 has me feeling like it's important to check in and think about what I want to have accomplished when I hit that next decade mark.

I've done a lot in my 38 years. I've gotten 3 degrees, had about 10 different job titles, gotten married, lived in 8 different residences, traveled to many U.S. states and 4 other countries. I've done 7 or 8 triathlons, 3 half marathons, and a few other races of varying lengths.

I'm pretty happy where I am right now. I have a wonderful husband and family. lots of friends real and virtual, and two oddball cats to love. I love my current job and the only sad note there is that I'm not 100% sure yet that I can keep it forever and ever. We live in a really wonderful house, even if we probably owe more on it than it's worth right now. Our family is close by and we have lots of restaurants and culture and fun things to do right nearby. We have enough money to pay our bills, eat regularly, have a little fun, and give some away to others who aren't as lucky.

So what else would I like to have done when I turn 40 (in 2010)? I would like to be out of debt. I would like to be fit and healthy and have reached a weight where I feel comfortable and happy with my body and know I can maintain it for the rest of my life. I would like to have written a publishable book and have at least a good lead on publishing it. I would like to have celebrated my 16th wedding anniversary and still be at least as happy in my marriage as I am now. I would like to have a couple more years of teaching in my current job under my belt and feel really confident about my work. I would like to have traveled to Europe again or at least have purchased plane tickets for an upcoming trip. I would like to have met with a financial advisor and figured out how to untangle all our different retirement accounts and have a good sense that we will be able to have the resources for a long, happy life. Most of all I would like to be happy with myself and my choices.

Thanks for reading. I'd love to hear your goals for the next decade in the comments.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Toughing it out

I have been finding it harder to get outside to run, or even haul myself to the gym for workouts with the longer dark hours and the cold. Things have gotten busy with the end of the term coming up, so that's also a good excuse when the cold and dark one starts to wear thin.

Today it was 22 degrees and I was all dressed to go to the gym. As I was getting into the car, I realized that it wasn't that bad, really. I went back in, got my winter running gear on, and went out to the park for a run. The air was perfectly still, so even though it was cold it didn't feel that bad. I also liked having the park mostly to myself, with snow and leaves crunching underfoot. I saw some squirrels and one deer who just looked up at me and kept munching. Toward the end of my run I decided to sprint out the last 40 seconds or so. It felt good to really push myself.

I'm still watching "Ruby" and last night something was said about a dream that she had but didn't really allow herself to think about, because she knew she couldn't really do it with the extra weight. It gave me something to think about: How many things do we not even dare to want because we think we'd fail?

I know I've been holding off on setting any big race goals for next year because I don't want to be disappointed if I am not able to train as hard as I'd like. And I've also been sort of halfheartedly bumping along with the weight loss efforts because I don't want to set myself up for failure. I'm not saying I should be beating myself up for not achieving those things, but wouldn't it be OK to let myself want it? Maybe if I thought more about what I really wanted, it might help motivate me to try for some of those goals. Just like the run, maybe some of those things would be easier once I got started than they seem just thinking about them.

I'm going to let myself think about it for a while, but I think it's time to set some serious goals again. Goals that will push me a little, and make me happier as I work toward them.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Working it

I went to a work-related holiday party today. The food was fantastic and everyone was nice. I got several compliments on a skirt I bought a few months ago (for $5, on final clearance at Ann Taylor) and wore for the first time today. I wore it with knee-high boots and tights, a bright silky blouse and a velvet jacket. I felt pretty confident about how I looked, which is nice, because I tend to get freaked out when I have to dress up for a special event. I even used a curling iron, which shows that I really was making an effort. I have a tiny blister on my thumb to prove it.

I got some compliments from various people on the job I'm doing. I was touched but a little embarrassed. I blushed, I think. I didn't want to look like I was trying to promote myself, though I know I have to do that, since I still am not in a permanent, full-time position. It's nice to get good feedback, though, and I appreciate that people think I'm doing a good job.

I just hope it's good enough. I really want that bike. :)

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The call of the WW

Ah, Weight Watchers. Somehow I feel I'll always carry a torch for you somewhere in my heart. As soon as I heard there was a new plan I thought, "Oooh, new materials! New rules!" I have been reading some of the early blog posts about it and it seems reasonable, sensible. There's a list of Filling Foods! I could go to a meeting just to get this list, I thought.

Then I thought, what? I frequent a Pilates and yoga studio that is right next door to a Weight Watchers center, and just last weekend I was watching the people filing in and telling my friend, "I'm so glad we're going to a yoga class and not a Weight Watchers meeting. I don't want to be obedient anymore." Why do I need someone else to tell me what foods are filling? I can see for myself what foods keep me satisfied for the longest amount of time. I can count calories if I want to manage my energy equation, because even Weight Watchers says, "After years of research, the answer to lasting weight loss continues to be the same. You must burn more calories than you take in; in other words, eat fewer calories and exercise more." So no magic. I would hope by this point I'm beyond magic, but there's always the allure of "maybe this will be the thing that works." I don't need someone to weigh me in to keep me accountable, I have Mary Lou (I'm starting to wish that platform had a "skip the advice and just tell me what I weigh" button, btw).

I'm not trashing the plan. I'm very glad I did Weight Watchers because I did learn a lot of things from it at first, not the least of which was I could lose a significant amount of weight if I just stuck with it. I'll be the first to admit the program, through each change I've experienced, has always worked when I did it, but I'm not sure I'd learn a whole lot from yet another plan. I'm even going to cancel my site membership -- not because I don't like it, but because I am not using it enough to justify the cost.

For now, I'd rather spend my time and money on Pilates Reformer classes. They are kicking my butt, but in a way that makes me suspect it will be a much tighter, more toned butt in a few weeks. They work on all the areas that computing and commuting tend to make weak: Shoulders, abs, butt, thighs. I am hoping that this will build a strong foundation so that I can really launch into some more intense cardio: Longer runs, Spinning classes, swimming.

If I get the job I want for next year, and we can manage to get caught up financially, I would love to help stimulate the economy by buying myself a better bike. My current one doesn't fit right and I can never ride comfortably. I tried one of these at a race once and it fit me like a dream. The price tag is YIKES, but a girl can dream...

Friday, December 05, 2008

Back to thinking about weight loss

With my 38th birthday coming up next week, I have been thinking more and more about what I really want, and one of those things is to drop some of this excess weight. If I'm really honest with myself, I would feel a lot more comfortable with my body if I could lose even ten pounds. I don't think I look terrible, but getting dressed still seems like such an effort. I spent some time recently with someone who is supposedly into "Fat Acceptance" but makes mean jokes about her weight that make me uncomfortable. It reminded me that I don't want to be that person. I'd rather gradually work on the change I want to make than live in angry denial.

I'm still playing with my weight platform. I was 1/2 pound below my starting weight today. As I said before, stepping on this thing is somehow less scary than The Scale, so I've been experimenting with it a little. A lot of the weigh-in rituals have proven pretty useless. The scale is accurate to half a pound. Before a trip to the bathroom and after, no difference. Clothes, mostly no difference. Before a run or after, no difference. It kills me to think of all the unnecessary stress I put myself through with Weight Watchers weigh-ins worrying about this stuff. I think that being at home and not having the possibility of a snotty receptionist also makes things easier. Since I'm weighing daily, I figure the little ups and downs from food choices and water retention will sort themselves out eventually if I focus on the things that make a real difference -- how much I eat and how often I exercise.

I've also been playing with "Lose It!" an application for the iPhone/iPod Touch that counts calories for food and exercise. I really like it. It's a nice, simple application with a great interface. It's free for now, so if you have an iPhone and think you might want it, download it. There are some weird quirks -- for example, sexual activity and tobagganing are on the exercise list but yoga isn't. Overall, though, it's a great program. The problem with FitDay and other computer applications was that I don't carry my computer around with me. I do, however, carry my Touch with me just about everywhere I go. This program doesn't do anything but count calories and record weight. I'm not going nuts if I'm over my calorie target but it does help me see what I'm doing and where there's room for improvement.

For exercise, I've been running 20-30 minutes 3 days a week, doing the Pilates Reformer one day a week, an advanced yoga class another day, and walking in between. After the holidays, I want to get back into a Spinning class, but signing up now seems like a waste. I also want to see if I can swim at least one day a week. I'm trying to keep things reasonable right now because I have a lot of work at the end of the semester, and there are a lot of things going on around the holidays that make it tough to stick with a routine that's too structured.

Speaking of structure, I was briefly tempted to go back to Weight Watchers next week to see what this rumored new program is all about. Then I decided I'd just watch the weight loss blogs and see what people think of it. I'm not sure I need or want a Program with a capital "P" right now. I think I'm doing pretty well on my own with my toys.

By the way, I know I haven't blogged about "The Biggest Loser" in a couple of weeks, mostly because I've been frustrated at how it's going. All I can do at this point is root for Michelle. I thought the makeovers were fun to watch, but wondered if the contestants still did their own makeup. Vicky had a weirdly pale face and red lipstick, which made her look a little clownish. I can't imagine a professional would have put that look together. Be sure to watch next week, because apparently we get to vote on one of the contestants for the final three.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

First time I've heard the name "Mary Lou Retton" since her Wheaties days

Like many other , I was asked to try out the Mary Lou's Weigh platform, which is an alternative to the bathroom scale. The twist is that instead of a digital or dial readout, the platform talks to you in Mary Lou Retton's voice. It also doesn't tell you your actual weight, it tells you the difference between your current and starting weight. (For the geeks out there, my husband the math man, says, "It's a vector scale. It measures difference and magnitude." I am a geek, because I understood that.) It also gives a little daily snippet of advice.

I was skeptical of the idea that it would really be less "overwhelming or de-motivating" to hear how much my weight was changing than to see the actual number on the scale, but was surprised to find that it was actually a lot easier to step on the platform than a typical bathroom scale. I got mine right before Thanksgiving. My numbers have been -2.5, -1.5, -1.5, -1, -1, and 0 so far. I also tested it while holding various heavy objects. When I "gained" three or four pounds, I got a message not to give up. When I held my ten-pound cat, I got an error. This is intentional. There is a limit of a 10 pound change per day, so that if your dog or child steps on it, you will not lose your data.

I am very nearsighted, so one really nice and unexpected feature of the platform is that I don't need to put on my contact lenses or glasses to use it. I usually get on while my husband is in the shower so he doesn't have to listen to my little pep talk from Mary Lou. Even on the lowest volume setting, it is still pretty loud. That might be a problem if you're shy about others knowing how you're doing on your weight-loss program.

The platform has a slot for alternate advice cartridges (my contact says there are a few currently in development). It would be nice if they develop a maintenance cartridge, for those who don't want to lose weight but want to keep from gaining too much. There are also people who are trying to gain weight in a healthy way -- the platform could be useful for them if there was an appropriate cartridge. It would be nice to be able to change things up and have a different voice, too. Mary Lou Retton can be a bit much first thing in the morning. As much as I'd love an inspirational quote of the day from Jillian Michaels, or a recommendation from Stephen Colbert to try the new weight-loss products from Prescott Pharmaceuticals, I doubt that those cartridges would be profitable enough to be practical.

The advice is supposed to be one of the selling points of the platform, but it's mostly run-of-the mill stuff like shopping with a list and getting extra exercise when you're feeling blue. I don't think that it is going to be anything that long-time dieters will find surprising. I did like, however, the applause when I lost weight, and I liked the overall positive message of the website and the materials that came with the platform.

For those who are interested in trying the platform out and didn't win one from Roni's Weigh, I was offered a discount for the readers of my blog.
I'd give away mine... but I like it too much. Sorry! If you use the code perfblog at checkout, you can get one at a promotional rate of $39.99 (a 50% discount). I will be interested to hear what you think.
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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