Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Time to give it a try

There's this new Weight Watchers program out called Points Plus. I should probably give that a try.  I'm not surprised to be up a little this week. I didn't really count points on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, and didn't stay within my points on some of the other days.  My goal was just to maintain this week, but I missed that by a little.

There was a Lifetimer in my group who said she was up, is really struggling with maintenance and hasn't tracked in weeks. I know how she feels. It is so easy to think that you shouldn't have to do this work, that it should be easier. But seriously, how many people who are thin get away without somehow regulating their calories? Not many, if any.  It really isn't that hard.

Just do it.  That's my message to myself today. No whining, no blame, no judgment, just do what you need to do and get on with it.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Looking toward 2011

The Christmas gifts are all unwrapped.  I had as much fun giving gifts this year, maybe more, as I did opening mine.  It has been a busy and hectic season: A very busy winter term, a trip to Toronto, the usual holiday shopping and festing.  Now there's the quick downhill roll to the New Year and all of the good things to come.

I have done plenty of reflecting on the mistakes of 2010 and the things I'd like to accomplish in 2011, thanks to Reverb 10. But as Shauna said in an offline reply to one of my comments: "Is there not more to life than GOALS and trying to tick off stuff? A year is made up of more than striving for things. What about friends, family, events, books you loved, movies that moved you..."

Tonight, after some great times with family, I'm thinking of friends I have lost touch with, friends I am still lucky enough to have in my life.  I am thinking of one friend in particular who left this earth this time last year, and inspired a lot of her friends to rethink their lives.  Maybe instead of focusing so hard on future goals, we needed to enjoy the moments as they passed. Who knows how much time we have left?  I think this kind of reflection should be less "The Bucket List" and more "Last Holiday." After all, it's not laziness that keeps us from living fully, as the spirit of Reverb 10 would suggest. Usually it's fear.

On to more lighthearted thoughts.

Books I loved this year included (I listened to an audio version), (also audio), (also listened, many times), (ditto), (read the old-fashioned way). I am listening to more books than I read lately, partly because I can "read" while driving, but that method doesn't work well for me with fiction. I didn't read much fiction this year, except a novel that I read on one long plane trip.  I want to squeeze in more fiction next year.  I miss it, but the reason I don't let myself start it is because I don't want to put it down.  Nonfiction is easier for me to put down and pick up.  I still want to read .

My favorite movie that I saw in 2010, and maybe ever, was "Inception." It was smart and well-written and had incredible visuals.  The movie really captured the weirdness of the dream world.  I still want to see "The Fighter" and "The King's Speech," though I don't know if I will get to them in the last shreds of 2010. 

I'd love to hear your movie and book recommendations and any other thoughts you want to share on 2010. It was a good year. Here's hoping for happy days ahead in 2011.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Back home from vacation

I'm going to join the ranks of Reverb 10 quitters, along with Shauna and what's-her-name at The Plan is This. I was getting tired of it and I missed the last two prompts while I was in Toronto.  I'll blog about the trip sometime soon. I had a great time, and would consider renouncing my U.S. citizenship for better access to Aero bars and VIA Rail if it wasn't so cold and dark there.

My husband started mumbling about needing an "austerity programme" (we were in Canada so I assume that's how he spelled it) when we got back. We definitely spent a lot of money, drank too much, and ate too much (though I did try to stick to salads at dinner to get my veggies in).

I don't really want to do austerity but I do want to actually count my points and work on losing. I could wait until New Year's Day like everyone else, but as I told a friend who suggested that, "How much fatter do I want to be by then?" So I got a run in today and went to the grocery store so I could stuff the fridge full of veggies and fruit. 

    Thursday, December 16, 2010

    The Biggest Loser Season 10: Finale!

    This was a no-big-surprises finale for me.  I wasn't surprised that Ada was chosen over Elizabeth. I wasn't surprised that Elizabeth, though she looked good, hadn't lost a lot of weight at home. I wasn't surprised that all the final four looked terrific. I wasn't surprised by the at-home winner. And I was fairly certain that the person who won was going to be "The Biggest Loser." But it isn't about what happens. It's seeing how it all plays out. And, of course, seeing how everyone looks.

    In this case, the biggest surprise was that next season, Season 11, will have two new trainers.  We didn't see their faces. All we got to see were their silhouettes, miming out various moves. The new woman trainer is a boxer. The new male trainer looked like Spiderman, some sort of martial-arts-acrobat-type.  Jillian and Bob will still be there next season, but then Jillian is leaving to go do other things, try to become the new Oprah and "a mommy."

    The first season I really watched on "The Biggest Loser" was Season 2.  That season, the finale was really great.  We got to see the contestants at home trying to translate their on-campus success into an at-home lifestyle. We got to see their struggles and the strategies they used to overcome them.  In the last few seasons, though, there is no new footage in the finale. The live show is the only new stuff, and the video clips are the same ones we've been watching all season of each contestant's defining moment.

    The only thing to watch for, then, is how much more the contestants have lost since leaving the show and what outfit they decided to wear. I thought contestants had stylists to help them choose clothes, but from a remark that Rick made, they are given a clothes budget and they pick it out themselves. Rick chose to wear a tux and looked really confident. Some of the other contestants came up with some pretty crazy outfits. Anna's red minidress with black tights was pretty over-the-top, but she looked happy and done a great job losing at home. Sophia looked weird, hadn't lost much weight, and kept doing this Gene Simmons thing with her toungue that was really annoying.  She probably thought it looked rock and roll, but it just said "I'm off my meds." 

    A lot of the contestants, especially those who left early, hadn't lost a lot of weight since we last saw them.  The real standouts, other than the Final Four, were Adam, Jesse, Aaron, and Mark, who won the at-home prize.  He would have beaten the overall winner if he had been in the final four.

    After all the preliminaries, it was time for the moment of truth.  Out of the final three, Frado was the Biggest Loser on the ranch so he got to choose the order. He went first, then Ada, and finally Patrick. Frado looked very thin and weighed in with a total loss of 162 pounds.  Ada looked amazing, seemed very happy, and had lost a total of 99 pounds. Patrick lost 181 pounds, looked cute in his jeans, and though he was not as thin as Frado, had lost a higher percentage of his overall weight so he won the prize. Remember, Patrick was unemployed and had gambled everything on winning this show, borrowing money from his family so he could do it.  It would have been really sad if he had lost, but he just beat Frado by 1.11%, about 4 pounds.  Luckily, he also found a job because of the show, and was going to be working in a new state to help overweight kids.

    Overall, it was a good finale but not a great one.  These seasons are starting to all blur together. I'm wondering how long this show an maintain its momentum, especially if both Bob and Jillian leave.

    Reverb 10: December 15 and 16

    I had a very busy day yesterday and forgot to do my Reverb 10 duty. Here's yesterday's prompt:

    December 15 – 5 Minutes Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010. (Author: Patti Digh)

    I thought about writing a snarky answer to this silly prompt but decided to just play along instead. Here are the top things I'd want to remember. Since I only have five minutes, I am not going to go back and link to relevant posts: My sister's wedding and all the fun preparation leading up to it.  My trip to the Grand Tetons with my husband staying in the posh National Parks Lodge. The way my nephew giggled and sang along with the Shrek Karaoke Party. My adventures in painting class.  My angst over stats class and the relief when it seemed like the students were finally getting it. My trip to [intimacy] (weird name, great bra fittings) with my closest work friend, the birthday party I had at my house with my family. I'm going to Toronto soon so I hope that memory will not be wiped out by this freakish event where I lose my whole memory.  I imagine if I knew that would really happen I would go see a neurologist ASAP and find out why.

    December 16 – Friendship How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst? (Author: Martha Mihalick)
    My art teacher (of the famous watercolor painting classes) is leaving for a several-month ministry retreat and may or may not be coming back to teach us again.She officially says she will, but she has hinted that she's not so sure.  I have been taking this class one night a week for two hours.

    When I first started taking the class, I thought it would just be forced practice. I'd have some time set aside where I'd paint, and that would help me develop as an artist. I didn't think I needed or wanted any instruction. I have been drawing my whole life and I thought watercolor was basically drawing with a brush.  I had taken a 6-week class at the art museum so I was sure I knew everything I needed to know. 

    Second painting
    First painting
    I've learned a lot from my teacher. The first night with her, she recommended I change everything about how I mixed colors and buy different paints.  I was really upset and didn't like hearing it.  She also thought I should spend more time drawing my pictures before I started painting.  I hated that too.  Over time, though, as I saw how much better my work got with these suggestions, I really have been won over.  I have only done four paintings, and the first one was mostly done before I started working with her.  The difference from the first painting to the second is striking to me, and the third and fourth paintings were so good that I have had them both framed and am giving them out as Christmas gifts.  (I didn't think to take pictures of them before sending them to the framer, so they are not here). I will always be grateful to her for everything she has taught me and I am hoping we can stay in touch.

    Tuesday, December 14, 2010

    No Weigh-In Pass

    As you could probably tell from yesterday's post, last week was not a diet-friendly one. I'm still feeling sluggish from the extra party food I ate.  Today is a new Weight Watcher week and I had a last-minute work thing that was scheduled over my usual meeting. I decided to weigh in privately at home instead of driving around to another meeting.  I knew I would be up anyway, and I was, but since my scale is not calibrated to WW, I don't know exactly how much. I'm willing to live with that uncertainty until next Tuesday.

    I'm ready to push the reset button and start a new week. What I liked about the old Winning Points program (I know, I'm reaching back here) is that each day was its own new day. The weekly points change that for me -- if I blow it one day, I feel in the hole until a new week starts, and I had a couple of parties last week. I also didn't get to exercise the way I usually do, which is probably part of why I feel grumpy and heavy.

    Onward and, hopefully, downward.  I had a good first week on the new plan, but last week showed me that the new plan isn't magically going to make it easy when there are special circumstances. I need to use that brain of mine...

    Monday, December 13, 2010

    December 13: Annoyed with Reverb 10 Yet?

    I am, and I'm not the only one.  Shauna and also seem to be getting a bit impatient with the prompts on Reverb10. Some of them seem repetitive and yesterday's was a little annoyingly new-agey. Today's feels a bit nagging:

    December 13 – Action When it comes to aspirations, it’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen. What’s your next step? (Author: Scott Belsky)

    I can think of a couple of projects and aspirations that need a next step. But the next step feels gigantic and yawning, like a little hop, skip, and a jump across the Grand Canyon.

    Losing weight: I have been thinking about it, talking about it, planning to do it, wanting to do it. But then when I try to follow my plan (next step), I find it hard to do it.  It's OK on normal days, but yesterday I had a party at my house and I'm sure I had an extra 1,000 calories.  And the holiday season is coming.  Sure, Weight Watchers shares strategies that make sense, but when you're spending several hours with PARTY FOOD it is very hard to practice them.

    Writing a book: Next step is write every day. Again, not such a little step, and so many other things seem to demand my time and attention.

    I'm not making excuses. I'm not letting myself off the hook. I just look at these next steps and think I need a jetpack.

    Sunday, December 12, 2010

    The Biggest Loser Season 10, Episode 12: Marathon Week

    Most of this episode was taken up by two things: Showing the contestants' new lives at home, and the big event of the season: The Biggest Loser Marathon.

    We see the contestants struggling but also see them working out some of their issues. All of the contestants are greeted at home by big parties, of course, and they are given a DVD with instructions to watch it with their families. These videos seem designed to help contestants have hard conversations with their families about how they need to balance their new priorities with the demands of work and family life.  Ada's video talks about her struggles to feel loved, and her parents are both broken up.  "I never knew you were so unhappy," her mother says, over and over.  Her father says, "I love you. When you were gone, I thought about you every day!"  Patrick and Frado's videos seemed designed to remind their wives and other family members how far they had come, and how terrible it would be to lose their newfound fitness and go back to their former heavyweight selves.  Elizabeth, who disappoints Jillian by getting distracted with moving in with her boyfriend in the middle of her marathon training, has to be reminded of how bad her asthma used to be and how much she needs to stay strong. Each of the contestants gets a surprise visit from Bob or Jillian, who help them troubleshoot any problems they are having and get their heads back in the game so they will be ready for the marathon.

    At first I hated the idea of The Biggest Loser Marathon. I thought it was wrong to spring such a huge challenge on contestants after only a few months. After all, most normal-weight people start training for a marathon months or even a year in advance.  The first season that the marathon appeared, it even seemed to surprise the trainers, who had not prepared the contestants for it.

    Now, though, when contestants sign up for The Biggest Loser, they know that if they make it into the final week, they will be expected to do a marathon. The trainers know to have the contestants ready to start marathon training.  Runner's World has a great article that details all the extra support the contestants get that would not be possible at a normal marathon:

    It's nothing like the hordes that run marathons in New York City, Chicago, and Boston. Here it's just four runners trailed by a platoon of vehicles. Each participant is assigned two California Highway Patrol cars, as well as two motorcycle cops (because the roads aren't closed, the police are there for traffic control), a camera vehicle, and a support car, loaded with everything the runners could possibly want: Water, sports drinks, bananas, oranges, sandwiches, and cold towels. There are also two ambulances, two medical vans, and a helicopter thp-thp-thp-ing overhead
    Contestants are also given a lot of emotional support along the way and all the time in the world to finish without feeling like a loser.  Contestants are encouraged to walk if they need to, and even get massages on the course if they need them to keep moving. Besides, the marathon is a real touchstone for the contestants to show them how much they can accomplish with their newfound bodies and determination. 

    The weigh-in was sort of anticlimactic after the race.  I knew that Elizabeth would be below the yellow line  She really didn't belong in the final four and only got there because the other contestants thought she would be an easy target. I really wish Mark had made it instead.. My only question was which of the remaining three would be with Elizabeth.  It turned out that Ada had a bad week, and it will be up to America to decide if she gets to compete with Frado and Patrick.

    I already put my vote in for Ada.  She really deserves the chance.  Hope other viewers feel the same way.  We'll find out next week during the big finale.

    December 12: Body Integration

     Today's prompt from Reverb10:

    December 12 – Body Integration This year, when did you feel the most integrated with your body? Did you have a moment where there wasn’t mind and body, but simply a cohesive YOU, alive and present? (Author: Patrick Reynolds)

    I feel that way a lot, especially when I get really involved in an activity. This is why I enjoy intense exercise, or painting pictures, or even a really good and productive day at work.

    The flip side is that when I get anxious, I sometimes feel myself disintegrating.  I try to get dressed for a party I'm nervous about and nothing feels right. I have a meeting coming up at work and I try on 7 outfits, hating each one.  Luckily these incidents don't happen often. They're bad for my spirit and they really mess up my room as I leave discarded outfits strewn all over.

    Even though I still have weight I want to lose, I'm mostly at peace with my body.  It's pretty great, actually, that I can do so many things that I enjoy and not worry about getting tired or feeling out of shape.  I credit my workouts, especially yoga and Pilates, for bringing me back into harmony with my body.  I used to feel uncoordinated and clumsy, but now I am feeling fit and fairly agile.

    Saturday, December 11, 2010

    December 11: 11 things

    December 11 – 11 Things What are 11 things your life doesn’t need in 2011? How will you go about eliminating them? How will getting rid of these 11 things change your life? (Author: Sam Davidson)

    Sorry, I didn't feel the need to answer this prompt. Skipping it will leave more time for decorating...

    - Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

    Friday, December 10, 2010

    December 10: Wisdom

     Today's prompt from Reverb10:

    Prompt: Wisdom: What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out?.

    I think my wisest decision was deciding that losing weight would make me happier than not losing weight, and that my best bet on the former was to return to Weight Watchers

    Among the many podcasts I listen to is one on weight loss and healthy living that is hosted by two men. One of the men obviously has his weight mostly under control, but the other seems to be struggling.  I found myself getting increasingly aggravated that he was making so many excuses for why he wasn't losing and was obviously doing everything he could to avoid honestly counting his calories while still tricking himself into thinking he was doing OK, even though he continued to either lose weight or just maintain.

    And then I realized, hey, that sounds familiar.  Seeing someone else's apparent denial helped me to recognize my own.  Another impetus was the incredibly unflattering photo that my department posted of me in one of our common spaces. The person who picked this photo out probably didn't think it was unflattering, they probably thought it was accurate. Someday, I want people to look at that photo and think, "that's you?" So I'm back at Weight Watchers.

    I'm still struggling but at least I have a program to provide a framework and a path toward better results.  I am tracking accurately and consistently, even if I still go over my points now and then. I'm not hiding from myself or fooling myself by thinking I don't want to be thinner just because it's difficult to get there.

    Thursday, December 09, 2010

    December 9: Party

     Today's prompt from Reverb10:

    Prompt: Party. What social gathering rocked your socks off in 2010?
    Describe the people, music, food, drink, clothes, shenanigans.(This prompt by the lovely Shauna, who hosted an amazing cupcake party and probably wanted an excuse to write about it).

    I can't think of anything I did this year that was nearly as fun as Shauna's cupcake party looks, but I did get to host my sister's bachelorette party at my house.  The girls met at my place. I made a pitcher of Pomtinis. Both my sisters raise their eyebrows when I suggested them, but they were quickly guzzled down and praised by a crowd that included several bartenders.  I put out homemade pizza and lots of nibbly things. We barhopped all night and I woke up with a huge hangover. I was wearing a black dress and a white denim jacket and flats, but sometime during the night was convinced to switch shoes with someone wearing a surprisingly comfortable pair of four-inch heels.  Too bad that I gave them back.  I wish I knew what brand they were.  Our designated driver was pregnant so we all got home safely.  The bride charmingly managed to throw up mostly out the door and only got a little vomit in our minivan/party bus. 

    By the way, it's my 40th birthday today, though I have to work so it will be a relatively calm one. I'm going on a trip with my husband later in the month to really celebrate.

    Wednesday, December 08, 2010

    December 8: Beautifully different

     Today's prompt from Reverb10:

    Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. Reflect on all the things that make you different – you’ll find they’re what make you beautiful.
    (Author: )

    There seem to be two elements here, physical and personality.

    When I was younger I was self-conscious about the things that seemed different about me. I have very pale skin with quite a few moles and freckles. My hair is very dark and thick and cowlicky and has a mind of its own.  My arms and legs are long for my height and I have big hands and feet, and my torso is very short. I got the Germanic bigness from my dad's side of the family and the voluptuous build of my mother's Italian family. I felt like I was put together from three different kits. But when I look at pictures of me now, I think average. I'm pretty average-looking. Am I beautifully differently average?

    But maybe this prompt is more about personality. I tend to say what I think when maybe I shouldn't. I expect a lot from people. I expect even more from myself. I believe in people. I am rooting for them to achieve the things they want. I get impatient with people when they let themselves off too easily. (These are the things that, when I do them, make me extremely angry with myself.)  The people who like me like me for these qualities, I think. 

    What do I do to make people light up? I listen to them. I see them as they want to see themselves. I believe in them. I take them seriously and want them to take themselves seriously too.

    Tuesday, December 07, 2010

    December 7: Community

     Today's prompt from Reverb10:

    Community. Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011? (Author: Cali Harris)

    I have found an amazing community here online, with the readers of this blog and with healthy living and weightloss bloggers. I am still sometimes amazed at how I have found connections with so many great people, and that so many readers tune in to read my posts and even comment sometimes.

    I was discussing with my husband this morning how I could take my blog to the next level by buying a domain name for it and paying someone to make my blog pretty. As long as I'm still on using Blogger templates and hosting site, I will probably never be one of the major blogs, but I love that I still get readership anyway.

    I need to connect more deeply with my in-person local community. My husband and I moved about 3 years ago now, and we have yet to create the network of friends and hang-out buddies that we had in our old town.  I have been trying to make more real-world connections and reach out where I can.  Going from a big university in a small town to a small university in a big town has made the dynamics of friendships different. I'm still figuring them out.

    A little disappointed: Down 0.8

    I had high hopes for this week's weigh-in. For the first time in a while, I was not over my points (I'm going to continue to use the word "points" because "pointsplus value" feels awkward to say and write). Sure, I had used every single weekly and activity point, but I hadn't gone over. And I lost, which is nice, but only 0.8, which puts me back to where I was two weeks ago, which doesn't feel like a loss, really. I had hoped for the "Week One" style losses that other members seemed to be having.

    I guess it's better than gaining again. And maybe if I stick with it I will see things moving in the right direction. At least the program is easier to follow.  It's just disappointing -- my birthday is Thursday and I had hoped to lose a little before turning the big 4-0.  But I didn't do what it takes to get that result, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised that it didn't happen.

    Monday, December 06, 2010

    It's weigh-in eve again

    Tomorrow is my first weigh-in with the new PointsPlus plan. I am at exactly 0 weekly points left, or I will be after I have my planned snack later (roasted acorn squash with a little butter and brown sugar). This picture shows tonight's dinner.

    Back around 2000, when I started my first healthy-eating efforts, I was an avowed vegetable hater. I liked: salad, sweet corn, potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, and celery.  I used to pick all the vegetables out of my Chinese food and only eat the meat, sauce, and rice. You can imagine how hard it was for me to eat well with that limited a veggie vocabulary.  I started trying new veggies after watching "Cooking Thin," which is unfortunately no longer still on the air. When I started Weight Watchers, I got more into veggies.

    Now, I don't rule any veggie out until I've had it cooked a couple of different ways.  I even like Brussels sprouts (pictured at right), a veggie famous for being hated by almost everyone.  I like them roasted with a tiny bit of olive oil (there's my healthy oil) and a splash of balsamic vinegar, maybe some garlic powder, salt and pepper. Very good.  I saw these in the weird on-the-stalk formation at the grocery store and decided I had to buy them because I knew they'd be fresh.  I can't really think of a veggie I don't like. I'm not crazy about beets, but I will eat them if they are roasted.

    People always think of diets as restrictive. They can be. But since I started dieting, I have actually learned to like a lot more foods than I ever did before. My old "I don't like it" way of eating was much more restrictive than any diet I'd be willing to follow. This new plan, with most veggies and fruit being zero points, really encourages me to shop the produce aisle of the grocery store first.  I think it's interesting to see how the different plans encourage different habits. I haven't bought an avocado since they lost their SetPoints value, but I've been buying lots of fruit.

    I'm setting the over-under for tomorrow at 3 pounds. I told my husband 2, but I really think 3 would be cool, since it would put me at my first five pound star since my latest "restart."

    Any other PointsPlusers out there want to share their weigh-ins?  I am really curious to see how everyone does this week.

    December 6: Make

     Today's prompt from Reverb10:

    What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it?
    (Author: )

    As I said earlier, I am really enjoying my watercolor painting class because I have to clearly see things and notice how they look, not the cartoon image of the way I think they look, to be able to do a good painting.

    So far I have painted two birds, a big and incredibly painting of a flower, and I'm working on my first portrait. I use Winsor & Newton Artists' colors squeezed out from their tubes onto a plastic palette with a lid. I use Arches watercolor paper. I have a collection of pencils that I still use from my high school days, and I keep my paints and brushes in a fishing tackle box.  I don't think I will change mediums anytime soon, since I have spent so much on supplies!

    Another thing I'd like to "make" is a book, and as I said in an earlier post, I definitely need to set aside time to do it.  I only stay on track with my painting because I take an art class, which means I have a regularly-scheduled time to do it, and a group of like-minded people to hang around with while I paint.  I haven't found that for writing yet.  Once I do, I'll probably be unstoppable.

    Sunday, December 05, 2010

    December 5: Let Go

     Today's prompt from Reverb10:
    What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?
    (Author: Alice Bradley)

    I let go of trying to explain why I wanted to achieve my goals. There are some people who, when I mentioned something I wanted to do or something I wanted to accomplish, would immediately respond with, "Oh, I could never do that" or something similar.  I realized that rather than an invitation to talk more about my goal or dream, this response was an invitation to turn the conversation back to the other person again.  Or worse yet, this person had invented an imaginary competition that I didn't know we were in, and any sign that I wanted that this person didn't was a sign that I thought I was better than him/her. I've been there.  When I feel myself wanting to respond that way, I know it's because I'm feeling insecure.  But instead of trying to prop that person's self-esteem up (too exhausting and unproductive), I've found that it's better to just let the topic drop.  I tend not to spend too much time with people who aren't on my side anymore.

    I like hearing about other people's goals and dreams. There's nothing more fun than seeing someone light up talking about something they are really excited about. I've tried living without dreams, just surviving day-to-day, and it's a lousy way to live.

    Saturday, December 04, 2010

    December 4: Wonder

    Today's Reverb10 prompt: How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?

    Two things: Spending as much time as possible with my 2-year-old nephew, and taking a watercolor painting class. Both help me see the world with new eyes.

    - Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

    Friday, December 03, 2010

    The PointsPlus plan: A midweek review

    I was one of the people going bonkers with excitement over the new plan. I read all the speculatory threads on the Weight Watchers boards. I read all my plan information Sunday night (see below) and then I went on Tuesday to my meeting to hear it all confirmed in person. I even bought the turquoise "Deluxe Member Kit" with a three-month tracker, food and restaurant guides, and a coupon for a free calculator. I'm not really sure why I bought all of that stuff. I mostly use my iPhone to track and rarely need to look anything up in a book, I think I was swept away by the promotional price and the excitement of it all. The kit came with a cookbook with some recipes for the new plan.

    How has the plan changed?

    It seems that every PointsPlus point is slightly smaller than on the old Points system, which is why members get more daily and weekly points. I didn't get a whole lot more daily points (7), but we all get 14 more weekly points than on the old plan. The points for some things, mostly low-fat protein items, have stayed the same as before, but some carbohydrate-heavy foods and alcoholic beverages have doubled in points. With the zero-point fruit, though, I think it actually adds up to more food. I also notice that I earn more points for activity than I used to, so working out really pays off.

    The biggest criticism of the old plan was that you could eat junk all day, as long as it was low-points junk, and could stay under your points. Sure, there were Good Health Guidelines that emphasized healthy foods, but those never seemed to feel mandatory for a lot of clients, and the points system itself rewarded extremely lowfat and fiber-filled versions of things, which were often highly processed. There also didn't seem to be enough emphasis on exercise. I found it difficult to follow as an active person. I was either hungry or perpetually going over my points. I didn't feel disciplined enough to make it work. I found out that one successful Weight Watcher I knew never ate any fruit when she did Weight Watchers.

    The new plan is designed to nudge people toward healthier choices. Protein is emphasized, with fiber a little less so. Foods that have a lot of carbohydrates but not a lot of fiber are the highest in points. Because fruit and most veggies have no points, the hope is that clients will eat more of them. I find it very satisfying to have the option of eating one of those huge honeycrisp apples without counting points for it.

    Despite the fears expressed by commenters on this blog and others, I don't find myself binging on fruit. The highest number of servings I have had in one day is 4, spread out through the whole day. Usually I have 2 or 3, plus veggies. Today we were going out to eat so I had a big apple before we left. That helped me to make better food decisions. Overall, it feels like I can eat a little more without going over my points, which makes it more likely that I will stick with it.

    I am on Day 4 of my week and have 3 more days and 22 weeky allowance points to use in addition to my daily points. Most days I have earned some activity points and I have set up my tracker to use the activity points before the weeklies. That gives me an easy way to check the status of my week.

    The only problems are some tech glitches and a lack Because I am a monthly pass member, I have access to Weight Watchers information with both the online tools and meetings. The night before the site was officially launched, someone figured out where the new site was and posted a link in the message boards. I was able to log in on Sunday night and read all of my plan information. This is a good thing, because since then, I have gotten this on every computer I have tried to use to log into Weight Watchers and read online plan information by clicking on "My Plan." It seems to be the Weight Watchers equivalent to the blue screen of death:

    I tried clearing my cache, deleting cookies, loading a different browser. Nothing is really working. I emailed tech support explaining all of this and got an auto-respond "clear your cache" message, which I responded to with more details about the things I have already tried and my login name. I saw other people posting about a similar error but it does not seem to be universal.

    Luckily I can still access the points tracker and the message boards, I just can't read a lot of my plan information online. I haven't tried to call customer service because I have print materials, and I imagine they are swamped. I hope they get these kinks worked out soon. I'm glad I have access to the print materials.

    Speaking of print materials, I like that they are all available in the first meeting. Weight Watchers doesn't dole out booklets week by week anymore. Instead, there is a weekly newspaper-type
    What do you think, are you enjoying the new program? Or are you scanning ebay hoping to score an old food guide? (eBay takes those down right away, by the way.)

    If you're curious, give it a try. Go to one meeting and you'll have everything you need to do the program. So far I think it's the best plan yet. Tuesday I will know more about how well it helps me lose.
    Continuing on wtih Reverb10. There will be a prompt (and a blog entry here) for every day in December. Here's today's:

    Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).
    (Author: Ali Edwards)


    Back in June, my husband and I visited Grand Tetons National Park. My moment for the year was on our hike to Inspiration Point. Actually, the moment happened after we decided to go past Inspiration Point and hike further up the mountain.  It was June, and we hiked up high enough for me to slip and fall down in the snow.  It was pure joy -- I didn't hurt myself at all, and instead of feeling embarrassed because I fell, it was such a rush to feel the rough, cold snow on my hands after being warm and sweaty from a hike, even in cool air that I couldn't stop giggling.  The snow seemed to have a scent of its own, cold and sharp and a little pine-y.  It was really quiet, because we had gotten past the point where most tourists turn around, and the snow seemed to absorb sounds.  Everything was green and blue, even the mountains seemed a little bluish. 

    It was an exhilarating hike and I was having so much fun that I didn't want to turn around and head back for the start of the trail.  We made the decision to turn around a little past the slip in the snow, because we wanted to get back for dinner at the lodge, and we got on the boat back across Jenny Lake just in time to feel the first raindrops start. For once, instead of being critical of it, I was grateful to my body for taking me on such a great adventure.

    Thursday, December 02, 2010

    The Biggest Loser Season 10, Episode 11: Getting to the Final Four

    This episode of the Biggest Loser might have been the most dramatic of the season, because it was one designed to take six contestants down to the Final Four. There will be the usual Yellow Line but also an instant-elimination Red Line.  Four out of these six contestants have lasted because of their strength: They are consistent in their weight loss and work hard. One, Elizabeth, has successfully "pulled a Helen" (I am applying for the trademark on that one) and succeeded because she is not a threat to anyone and has made some friends on the show who want to protect her. One, Brendan, has lasted because he has made strong alliances and has played the game well, with fairly good weight loss to boot.  He begins the show by bragging about how perfectly he has set himself up.  If there is one lesson we have learned over the seasons, the players who brag about how smart they are are usually set up for a big fall.  Don't brag while the Scale Gods are listening, Brendan.

    The focus this episode is on self-reflection for the contestants.  How well have they set themselves up, not to play a game but to go home and be successful? Bob and Jillian have a heart-to-heart with them and we get to hear their thoughts about what lies ahead. We can see that most of them are worried about going home to the places and the situations that helped them get fat in the first place.  Ada, of course, is especially nervous because she knows that when she goes home, her parents are not going to be impressed with her results.  She says, "They will say, 'You look good but you could look better.'" Mark works in a bar, which sets him up for all kinds of crazy eating, drinking, and sleep schedules. Patrick is an unemployed family man, and is really nervous about how to balance all the things he needs to do: Prepare for the finale and look for a job, while still being there for his family.  Elizabeth doesn't seem nervous but she seems like she should be.  Even on the ranch, she has not had consistent or impressive weight-loss numbers. When she goes home to her work and her kids, how is she going to make it? Frado, of all the contestants, seems the most secure in his position.  He has lost huge amounts of weight, has discovered his inner athlete, and has gotten off the 20 different medications he was using to manage his diabetes, plus we get the sense that he is the unquestioned patriarch in his house. If he goes home and wants to eat healthy, I feel pretty confident that his wife and kids will support him.  It seemed like they were all worried about him but didn't feel like they could say anything to him. 

    This week we got the classic Biggest Loser challenge: The contestants had to put all of their weight back on with the help of a special suit with multiple pockets.  They had to revisit what it was like to feel that heavy again.  All of the contestants found this experience traumatic, and talked about feeling the pain in their ankles and knees that they had forgotten. Elizabeth, who struggled with asthma, notices the weight pressing on her chest and feels like it's harder for her to breathe.  The winner of the challenge will get $10,000 from Subway. There was some random blonde gymnast from a past Olympics who was there to cheer them on.

    Of course, the contestants now with the added weight aren't really the same as their old selves.  They had to compete in a mile run or a step-up challenge to be able to get on the show in the first place.  They all barely struggled through.  This time, they get to do both challenges, wearing all of their old weight but with their new stronger muscles, bones, and hearts.  They find it difficult to move with the added pounds, but they are strong enough to do the challenges this time.  They do the step-ups first, taking off weights every 100 steps in the order that they lost them on the ranch.  Week One was a big lost for most of them, and things get a lot easier after the first couple of weight drops. Then they run/walk a mile and drop off pounds at different stages.  Ada comes out early as the easy favorite. She is one of the biggest losers on the show, but she still was never as large as the four big guys.  She doesn't have to feel an extra 100 pounds on her knees as she does the step-ups.  When it gets to the run, it's pretty clear that she has the race in the bag.  I hope she takes the money and gets herself an apartment far from her family and near one of her new Biggest Loser friends (I think there have been some sparks with her and Brendan) so that she can have some support as she works toward the finale.

    The last chance workouts gave the contestants one last chance for a beating with Bob and Jillian, and they take the chance to show each contestant how far they have come. We get to see clips of them from their first workout interspersed with what they are doing now. I am so impressed with the athleticism they develop on this show in just a few weeks. I would be terrified to work out with either of the trainers -- I can't do half the things the contestants do, and all of them are still larger than me. It goes to show that an overweight person can become incredibly fit, and that fitness is valuable in the weight loss process. The contestants who have paid their dues in the gym are the ones who are going to kick butt when they get home, because they have built themselves into weight loss machines.

    The weigh-in is dramatic, as expected. All of the contestants are going home and all will come back to the finale, but the question is whether they are competing with three other players for $250,000 or competing with all of the other contestants for $100,000.  If things go the way they have in the past, the final four will have one more weigh-in and then America will pick which of the lowest two contestants get to compete for the big prize.

    Ada has a solid loss but is watching anxiously the whole time to see if the big guys will beat her.  Mark has a disappointing loss and knows that he is in trouble.  The players have shown in the past that they are more apt to eliminate "threats" than to set themselves up for strong competition. Elizabeth, despite a solid 4-pound loss, is in the bottom of the weight loss pile until Brendan weighs in. He is still a very big guy so he needs a huge number.  He gets a 5.  He did pretty good with his gameplay strategy but seemed to have forgotten that this is ultimately a weight-losing competition.  He has been cast as the heel all season, so there was a satisfaction of seeing him below the Red Line. But I also realize that this is a guy who is not secure in himself, that doesn't seem to have a whole lot of friends and family at home to support him, and he has fallen into deep depressions before (he is the guy who regularly ate a sandwich called a Gravedigger before coming on the show). I was glad in a way that the games didn't pay off but I also hope he will be okay. All of the people on these shows start to feel like family. Brendan goes away in tears.  The contestants get to decide between Elizabeth and Mark to compete with them in the final four.

    I felt bad for Mark because he deserved to be in it with the others, but they predictably choose to keep Elizabeth instead. This is the second time Patrick seems to have sold out a friend to make things easier for himself, and at first I felt really angry at him for that.  Then I remember he is an unemployed guy who has a family and has spent a bunch of time on this show instead of looking for a job. Only on a TV show would we expect his loyalty to other players on the show to outweigh his need to make his investment pay off by winning. Mark is upset, but I actually think he will be better off for this elimination.  He is definitely the favorite to win the at-home prize.  He would have had some tough competition from Ada, Frado, and Patrick if he were competing for the big prize. Also, except in a few cases, the winner of the show doesn't seem to be the one who is best off in the long run. The money has to be nice and the title might mean a little in endorsements and B-list celeb status, but it seems like the winners don't do as well in keeping the weight off long-term.

    We get to see Mark and Brendan's reception at home. I was happy to see that Mark decided to move in with his cousin, who has been doing her own Biggest Loser program at home and has lost 100+ pounds, instead of staying with his parents and working at a bar. Since past contestant Sunshine also lives near him, they do a little spot together. We see a spot with Brendan working with some of the kids he coaches in weightlifting, which feels a little stiff and uncomfortable.  I don't really know how excited these kids are to be hanging out with a former police officer who is a Biggest Loser contestant. I get the feeling that other than his mom, he doesn't have a whole lot of people in his life, and I'm hoping he manages to build a better support network for himself.

    Next week we will get to see the other contestants' homecomings and then see them weigh in one final time, I think.  Then the following week will be the big finale.

    I didn't do a full review of it, but I recommend watching the "Where are they Now?" special on the NBC site if you are a fan of the show.  If you have been watching, it's like catching up with a bunch of your old friends. I'm not sure what happened to Michelle, who was the only past winner who was not on the special, but she is looking pretty good in this Milk ad video.  I teared up several times, especially when the contestants did an Olympic-distance triathlon (I know how hard those are!) and when Bernie was getting married (he's so adorable).  It's a must-watch.

    December 2: Writing

    There's still time to catch up with Reverb10. There will be a prompt (and a blog entry here) for every day in December:

    Prompt: Writing. What do you do each day that doesn't contribute to your writing -- and can you eliminate it?
    I have a sad distinction. I have a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from a school known for having some very successful writers as alums -- not writers like Nicholas Sparks whose books are sold everywhere in airports and grocery stores, but writers who are critically acclaimed and published in places like The New Yorker. Some pretty great writers who write great stuff, stuff they can be really proud of even if it doesn't make them big money.

    And I don't write, other than this blog and the academic stuff I have to do to keep my job.  Until my abortive NaNoWriMo attempt, I hadn't even really tried in years. 

    What happened? Part of it was that when I got into the program, I felt like an imposter. I was overconfident and only applied to two schools, thinking the graduate admissions process was going to be like my undergraduate admissions process. I'm not sure my writing portfolio was strong enough to get me in anywhere, but definitely wasn't enough to get me into the program I was in. I was allowed into the program late as an alum of the school because I had a fellowship that meant the department didn't have to support me. The year I got in, the school had admitted a bunch of graduate students without assistantships, which is unusual.  When I got into my workshops, I saw the group I was in with and instead of letting the quality of the other writers inspire me, I let it intimidate me. I suffered from "The Great Stumbling Block of the Creative Mind." I let the voices that hissed "You're not good enough" win.

    Since then, I have continued to be put down by those voices. I tried to tell myself that I just didn't care, that I had made the smart decision to follow the money instead of wasting my time on something I've always dreamed of doing but that wouldn't give me money and success even if I succeeded. And I have always been pretty sure I wouldn't succeed.

    NaNoWriMo was freeing because instead of focusing on how good (or not) my work was, I focused on word count.  If I wrote the number of words I needed each day for my quota, I won.  I remember reading an article about an art teacher who did a study. He gave students an option of being graded either on the sheer weight of the pottery they produced, or the quality of their very best piece.  Students who chose to be graded on the weight of the pottery not only produced more work, they produced better work.  Why? Because they did it more.  (Sorry, try as I might, I couldn't find the article). They also were relieved of the stress of creating the "perfect" piece because they were able to relax and know that as long as they made a piece of pottery that didn't blow up in the kiln, they would have done their duty for that day, so they could experiment and have fun. 

    So what is the one habit that is standing in my way? Not writing for the sake of writing, every single day.  Anne Lamott says that a lot of her students want to be published authors, but not many of them take the time to be writers. You can put me in that group. That's what needs to change if I want to be a writer.

    What do I do each day that doesn't contribute to my writing? I don't write each day.

    Wednesday, December 01, 2010

    December 1 One Word

    I decided to take Shauna's advice and try Reverb10, since I also crashed and burned in my NANOWRIMO attempt this year. There will be a prompt (and a blog entry here) for every day in December. Here's the first:

    Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you?
    (Author: Gwen Bell)
    My word for this year would have to be retreat. I feel like 2010 was a year for me to withdraw a bit, sort out my priorities, and figure out what was important.  I got The Hermit in a couple of tarot readings this year, and the meaning of that card seems to express the way I felt about where I was this year. I wasn't trying to isolate myself, but I was trying to clear the decks, get rid of mental clutter, and find my focus and center.

    I am hoping the word for 2011 will be dynamic.  I think I need to take the lessons of 2010 and put them into action.  I feel like I have organized my toolbox, and now it's time for me to get a lot of work done.
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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