Sunday, July 31, 2011

Updates, tossed together like salad

I did the triathlon today. I had a great swim and bike, and jogged/limped/walked through the run in my slowest-ever 5k performance. Still, I did it on a very hot day with my legs cramping, my hip aching, and my toes begging for mercy. Good enough for me, and I'm proud of myself for toughing it out.

My boy kitty is much better, looking sleek, plump, and healthy. The vet cut him down to one dose of prednisolone per day.

My other kitty got to go to the vet for a checkup a couple of weeks ago since her sibling was doing better. Because she is 12, they did a blood and urine test and found that her thyroid was overactive and was messing up her blood sugar. Now she is on meds twice a day and a different special food from the other cat.

School is threatening to start any minute and I feel far from ready. I have been trying to do a little each weekday.

Thought i would tie up a few loose threads before moving on.

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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Triathlon tomorrow

The picture is from my first triathlon, Danskin Chicagoland in 2002. I was elated because I really wasn't sure I could do the race before I did it. When I signed up, I was putting a huge stretch goal out there, something that would really challenge me. For those six months, every day I thought about the race. It got me out of bed for 6 a.m. swims and made me think carefully about everything I ate and whether it would fuel me or sabotage me.

Where is that girl now? I could really use her attitude. I have done at least one sprint tri every year since then, but because I know I can do it, my attitude has really changed. I'm not sure how to change it back.

I am a little excited about the race tomorrow, but it doesn't feel like such a big deal. Part of it may be that when I did my first race, I thought that if I could do that, I would never be able to believe I was lazy or weak-willed again, and no one would ever think that about me either. Getting proven wrong on that really hurt. I know now that there is nothing that can completely make me safe from criticism, whether it's from myself or others.

Maybe I will find my old optimism on the race course tomorrow? That would mean a lot more to me than a silly medal.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Lazy morning

My morning feels off today. I am doing a sprint triathlon this weekend and I thought it would be smart to take a couple of days off beforehand. Without a workout, I feel like I don't know how to start my day!

I did have my usual summer breakfast: Fage 2% yogurt with berries, walnuts, and flax meal, coffee with a splash of half and half and a sprinkle of cinnamon, and a glass of water.

Thanks to everyone on the comments on the new blog design and domain name. I am still trying to come up with a cool logo idea. Suggestions?

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

What gives?

I have one great, totally on-target day and the next, I'm hungry all evening and can't seem to feel full. At this rate, I will reach my goal weight in 2050.


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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Workout log for last week and comment

Forgot to post this yesterday. Camping trip last week meant a lot of changes to the plan.

In response to a comment from yesterday, I wasn't planning to run a challenge, was just providing a worksheet for you to use or modify as you like. I have tried to run challenges before and they have always flopped. Please let me know how you like the worksheet if you use it.

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Monday, July 25, 2011

The Healthy Habits Game

I have hinted about this "game" a couple of times here and I thought I would go ahead and post the sheet we use to keep score.  Here is a link to and one to of the document. The point values are as follows:

  • Exercise: One point per minute, up to 40 points. A 10-point bonus is possible if we do a second workout.
  • Veggies: Up to 5 servings, 4 points each. 
  • Fruit: Up to 4 servings, 2 points each.
  • Bonus: 10 points for meeting a specific calorie goal 
  • Sleep: At least 7.5 hours, 10 points
  • Hydration: 2 points per 16-ounce glass, max 12 points
  • Vitamins: 10 points
  • Alcohol: 25 point penalty per drink! (One day of our choosing per week, this penalty does not apply)
Imaginary interview about the game:

How did you get the idea for the game?

In , the authors suggested finding a way to make a game of your change plans and a meaningful way to keep score.  At first, I looked to see if someone else had done this.  I found , but I decided after scanning it in the Amazon preview that it would be better to create a game that had points of my own choosing. My husband designed the score sheet in Excel.

Why did you choose the things you did?

These were the things I was trying to make sure I did on a daily basis.  I have heard from several sources that nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day are ideal for good health.  I thought if I made an effort to fill up on produce, I would be less likely to eat empty calories.  I know that adequate sleep is important for weight loss.   And I wanted to make frequent exercise a priority over very long workouts.  I was not taking my supplements on a daily basis so I put that in the game.  And my husband struggles to stay hydrated because he does long runs in the heat, so I added that into the game. Only non-caffeinated, non-carbonated, nonalcoholic drinks count.  Alcohol is terrible for people trying to lose weight according to , but I wanted to have the opportunity to indulge moderately once in a while. We both wanted to keep the game simple.

Drinking only water is so boring. How do you stand it?

I happen to like water but sometimes I want something different. I will brew herbal teas like  (I like the blueberry and peach flavors) and ice them sometimes, or I will slice up a lemon and put it in a pitcher with plenty of ice, water, and a few mint leaves.  At the end of the day when I've already met my hydration goals, I will have sparkling water.  And I always start the day with coffee with a splash of half and half.  At a restaurant I will order an iced tea -- even though it doesn't count for the game, it has no calories.  I don't like the taste of diet soda or sugary sodas that much anymore so giving them up was not a big sacrifice.

A goal of 2,000 calories for your bonus seems high! Can you lose weight on that amount?

I will have to see.  I am following the recommendations from Fat2Fit Radio to eat like the thinner person I want to become. At my goal weight of 150, their calculator indicates that I should be able to have between 1,965 calories (lightly active) and 2,215 calories (moderately active).  I am starting with a goal of under 2,000 and if I am regularly hitting that goal and still not losing, I will drop it gradually to 1,800 to try to get my weight loss going faster. On Weight Watchers, the goal was much lower and I think that is why I burned out so quickly on it.  Other people seem to be able to eat much less and be satisfied, but I know from my own experience that extremely low calorie intake for me just leads to crabbiness and an eventual calorie blowout when I get too frustrated. 

I am using LoseIt to count calories. My husband does not like to count calories so he is using a more subjective goal of not overeating.

How do you "win" this game?

The goal is for each of us to average 100 points a day each week, with the lowest score for each of us that week dropped.  We are playing for 6 weeks and get $10 of "mad money" each for every week we win.  We wanted the incentive to be something fun but not too big, since the real prize is going to be the better health and hopefully, weight loss, that will be a byproduct of this game.

I want to make my own game. Can I borrow your spreadsheet to start?

Sure, feel free to and change it however you'd like. I'd love to hear what you are doing with it.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Review: Sugar Nation

Note: I bought this book with my own money. I haven't gotten any good freebies to review lately.

I have a serious family history of diabetes on my father's side. My grandfather on that side was a diabetic, as is my father and all of his living siblings. I think that my other aunt, who died at 46 of a sudden heart attack, may have been an undiagnosed diabetic. I have friends and family members who have had serious complications, from blindness to amputation, from the disease.  A friend's father, also a diabetic, suffered not only amputations but kidney failure and decided to die rather than go through dialysis for the rest of his life.  This book focuses mostly on Type 2 diabetics, who suffer from insulin resistance that causes eventual failure of the pancreas, as opposed to Type I diabetics, which is an autoimmune disorder that renders the pancreas completely unable to make insulin.  Almost all of the diabetics I have known have been Type 2.   Not surprisingly, I read  quickly, like a horror story.  It is, actually, quite a horror story.

The book is an examination of the epidemic of diabetes in this country, framed by author Jeff O'Connell's own diagnosis with prediabetes and his efforts to understand how to avoid falling victim to the disease, which he learns at the same time is slowly killing his estranged father.  The O'Connells didn't fit the stereotype of Type 2 diabetics -- they were both tall and thin when diagnosed.  However, O'Connell senior has a weakness for starchy foods and sugary sodas, and his son seems to follow in the bad-food footsteps, eating a lot of junk food despite his work as a writer and editor for the fitness industry.
My ignorance is inexcusable, given that I wrote for Men's Health, but it also goes a long way toward explaining why the disease has spread across America with the persistence of a glacier and the devastation of a wildfire.  As it stands, one in three American adults has type 2 diabetes or its precursor, prediabetes.  Remarkably, one in four diabetics is in the dark about his or her condition.  One of them might be you.
Reading this book scared me to the point that I went to the drugstore and bought that included 10 test strips and a lancet. I had tested myself a few times before with my father's kit and had always been normal, just like I was when I was checked at the doctor's.  Still, I was convinced after reading about the vague symptoms the author had (headaches, joint aches, thirst, frequent urination) that I might be one of those people whose blood sugar problems show up only after a meal. I tested myself right before a meal and two hours after, getting readings of 90 and 110, respectively.  Both readings were totally normal. Whew.  The testing kits are inexpensive and available enough now that I'm not sure why people with a family history aren't advised to get one and check now and then, just to be sure.

The main point of the book was not necessarily to scare readers, though it does a pretty good job of that, especially when O'Connell describes visiting his father as he wastes away in the hospital.  It is to question the current standard of diabetes care, which pairs vague, halfhearted lifestyle advice -- "exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet" (How much exercise? What exactly is a healthy diet for diabetics?) -- with a heavy emphasis on drug therapies, because "the unspoken assumption is that the patient will never stick with the lifestyle program." In fact, though, those lifestyle changes are more effective than drugs, O'Connell says, when started early after a patient's diagnosis, citing a study that showed that "a combination of lifestyle changes (dietary adjustments, exercise, and the resulting weight loss) reduced diabetes incidence by 58 percent" while "the superstar of type 2 diabetes drugs, metformin, reduced it by only 31 percent." O'Connell doesn't come out and say it, but since the program he cited was the Diabetes Prevention Program, the patients in the study were probably prediabetic as opposed to people already in the diabetic range.

O'Connell's main thread throughout the book is that diabetics are not getting good advice, even from their doctors and the organizations designed to help them.  The standard lifestyle advice offered to diabetics is to make moderate lifestyle changes, like gentle aerobic exercise and a diet that includes carbohydrates even though they are limited.  He advocates shorter, more intense exercise sessions  (mostly strength training and high-intensity interval training) on an almost daily basis and a very carb-restricted diet, "80 or fewer grams of carbs (excluding fiber) a day to keep prediabetes at bay." He attends a convention held by The American Diabetes Association (ADA) and scoffs at the offerings on the buffet pulled right from a diabetic cookbook. "The chicken lettuce wraps and chicken rosemary strips would be compatible with my low-carb diet, but the pasta jambalaya and berry tiramisu -- with 51 and 23 carb grams per serving, respectively -- wouldn't." It is easy to agree with his position that telling diabetics to eat a diet heavy in carbs and low in fat (which does not affect blood sugar) and then adjust for it with drugs is crazy. When he describes watching a woman wearing an insulin pump pull out a granola bar, look at the label, and key in 25 grams of carbs to get the right amount of insulin, it was easy to shake my head right along with him. It does seem crazy, especially since insulin is known to cause weight gain, a very bad side effect for a medicine to treat a disease aggravated by excess weight.  But I think very few people would be able to follow as strict a diet as he advocates unless they had a gun to their head.  He makes a convincing case for us, though, that diabetics do.  It is not clear what kind of diet he would advise for people who are not diabetic or prediabetic to prevent the disease, though he hints that it would not have to be as strict as his.

That was the one weakness of the book for me, that the emphasis on his own personal plan, cobbled together with advice he picks up from experts along the way, and that he doesn't pull out some recommendations for the rest of us who might like to avoid being blindsided by the disease.  Maybe the publishers advised him against seeming to give health advice for legal reasons, figuring that determined readers would manage to connect the dots themselves.  Maybe he realized that if one of the writers and editors of Men's Health, with its "Eat This, Not That" column, was oblivious to nutritional reality until he had a wake-up call from a high blood sugar reading, the rest of us probably would be too.  He is successful in managing his blood sugar with his lifestyle changes, but he caught the disease before it developed into full-blown diabetes.

I wasn't sure I bought the author's claim that diabetics aren't advised to cut carbs. I have known a few diabetics who are pretty vigilant about counting carbohydrate grams and avoiding bread and potatoes.  However, then I went to the ADA's "Create Your Plate" page and it says that diabetics should visualize cutting a dinner plate in quarters, filling half with nonstarchy vegetables, one quarter with lean meat or eggs, tofu, etc., and one quarter with starchy foods, then drinking a glass of lowfat or nonfat milk and having fruit or fruit salad ("canned in light syrup") for dessert. If you realize that the milk and fruit are actually 2 extra "quarters" of the plate (making 6 parts, with two of them vegetables), that means that the lean protein sources and nonstarchy vegetables are half of the plate (and less than half of the calories) and carbohydrate-rich foods make up the other half of the plate.  This seems like it would be a fine meal plan for a nondiabetic, but not so great for someone whose body has a hard time processing carbs.  It's still probably idealistic compared to what most diabetics actually eat.  Because diabetes is so common, it's easy to think it isn't a big deal, until you know a diabetic who has dealt with some of the more serious complications.

This book was definitely an eye-opener for me and made me even more determined not to develop diabetes. I already avoid fast food restaurants and don't drink sweetened soda (I drink when I want bubbles. I limit added sugar, though I will admit that I probably eat more starchy carbs than I should and need to work on that. I exercise almost daily already, but this book reminded me how important it is to keep the intensity up and to incorporate strength training.  I am making it more of a priority to get enough sleep, which is important for keeping blood sugar regulated. Luckily, these steps are all of the same ones I need to work toward a more healthy weight.  I also made an appointment for a physical to see if there are any lurking concerns I'm not aware of, since my last one was a couple of years ago.  I can't change my family history, but I can manage the other risk factors.  I hope that more people will read the book, including some of the board members of the ADA.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Weekly check-in, July 11-18

I'm still working from the same exercise plan, tweaked here and there to accommodate other commitments. It works well for me to have a default plan with some flexibility.

This week, my husband and I are officially starting our new healthy-habits game. You earn points for things like getting adequate sleep, drinking water and eating vegetables. Points aren't tied to outcomes, they are tied to behaviors. Eating more fruits and veggies and drinking more water leaves less room for the bad stuff. If there is some interest, I can share the score sheet he created to track our progress. We are not playing against each other, instead, we are shooting for specific team goals. We tested it out for the last few days and it made me a lot more mindful.

Any new tips and tricks you are trying out? What is working well for you right now?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

How an understanding of shame is a game-changer

I have blogged about Brené Brown's work on shame before (see previous posts "By special request..." and "The things that get in the way") because I think that an understanding of the concepts she explains in  and  are truly life-changing.  (See the posts linked above to links to more content, including a couple of videos).  I was struck by just how much of a game-changer they are while listening to the latest episode of The Jillian Michaels Show yesterday.  On the episode titled "Loving Your Home & All About Fear," Jillian takes a call from a listener who has used Jillian's advice to create a Shredded, No-Trouble-Zones version of herself and is justifiably proud of her "great biceps." She says, though, that she still feels like she has no self-esteem. People are treating her better, she thinks, but she still doesn't feel good about herself sometimes. She has a family history of depression and thinks maybe that's the problem, so she's in therapy, but she wants Jillian to tell her how to translate the happiness she feels when looking in the mirror to a better self-image.

Jillian has some good advice, that the caller has merely addressed one of the symptoms of feeling bad about herself, the excess weight, but that she can't expect that to solve the problem because the weight was not what caused the bad feelings. She also asks the caller to explain exactly how people are treating her differently now and how she feels about it.

The part I disagreed with Jillian about was turning the discussion to how issues in the caller's childhood might have triggered the bad feelings about herself and then telling her that addressing those issues was the only way to deal with the problem. I think that can send a message of damage and helplessness. It would be easy to hear this response as, "Your parents didn't love you the right way when you were young, so you will never feel really loved now."

I think this problem is more effectively solved by looking at it through a shame lens.  Losing weight might help address the part of our shame that was body-related, but it doesn't get rid of shame itself. Remember, the definition of shame is:
The intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging.
 Brené Brown says that the only people who do not feel shame occasionally are psychopaths with no capacity for human connection. What the caller is describing sounds a lot like shame to me, so congratulations caller, you are not a psychopath. Welcome to the shame soup, we are all in it with you. Even if your parents were Mother Theresa and St. Francis (hard since they were both celibate and lived in different centuries), you would have felt this way sometimes. Sure, reframing traumatic events from your childhood might help, but it might help more to learn some coping strategies for dealing with shame in the here and now.

Since most of us have never learned about shame, we think that this feeling of not belonging means that there is something wrong with us and look for something to fix. Weight is a convenient target, so it is not surprising that the caller feels baffled that she still feels this feeling of being messed up when she has addressed the most obvious flaw.

Why do I think that what she is describing is shame because of a couple of answers to Jillian's questions. One was that she said people treated her better now that she is thin, because "the parts they can see look good."  That means that she feels like there are not-good parts hidden from view, and if they could see those, they might feel differently. Also, she said, some people have made unwelcome comments, like telling her husband to watch out, or asking her if she should eat this or that if she wants to stay thin.  Think of the "unwanted identities" these comments suggest: unfaithful wife, undisciplined eater.  She wants people to know how much she cares about her husband and she wants people to trust that she knows how to manage her own diet.

I'm not saying that a more traditional approach that looks at childhood issues and relates them to present ones is bad necessarily, but I don't feel particularly empowered when I try to apply that approach. Sure, I can point to things my parents did wrong, we all can.  They are only human. But what action would it suggest for me if I figure out that my body-image problems are related to an offhand comment that someone made to me 30 years ago?  In the absence of a really serious trauma that needs to be addressed, I think it's more useful to look at what I can do in the here and now to address my problems, and I find this whole framework a lot more useful for doing so.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Book review: Change Anything

Note: I bought this book myself. This review is completely unsolicited and uncompensated.  There is a code (hope) in the review for a free trial premium membership to the site. I will not be compensated if you use this code, I am just sharing it because my readers might find it useful. There are some Amazon affiliate links here in case you feel like supporting the blog.

I love my account. I wait anxiously each month for my new credits. My latest purchase was . This book focuses on debunking the "willpower trap," the idea that if we are truly motivated and are strong enough, we can change through sheer force of will.

I've tried it and I bet you have too. How's that working out for you?

To illustrate the willpower trap, the authors ask us to imagine running out of gas in the typical American car, a large SUV. What if you were only a block away from a gas station, and decided to push the car uphill? Would you be likely to succeed if there were five large people standing in front of the car, pushing against you? That's the situation we're in when we try to make change through willpower alone, the authors say. Every one of their "six sources of influence" that you haven't recruited to your side is pushing against you. You will be much more likely to succeed if you can get them working for you.

Think of the much-vaunted obesity epidemic. (I know, "Do we have to?" Trust me, I'm making a point here.) According to U.S. government statistics:
As recently as 1980, just 15 percent of adults were heavy enough to be defined as obese. By 2008, however, the rate had hit 34 percent.
Do you think we all just got lazier and less personally responsible? Maybe some of us, but think of all the environmental factors that have changed since then.  The increasing size of grocery stores to accomodate twenty flavors of Doritos instead of one. The increasing size of packages.  The most common serving size for soda in 1980 was a 12-ounce can, now it's a 20-ounce bottle. If you think that strong people are immune to all of these influences, you may be right, but the authors cite some pretty convincing studies to disprove that view. They find that most of us are influenced by other people and their environment, but don't realize the important role that these factors play.  Only people who are aware of the power of external influences and work to change them are going to be truly successful in the long term.

The authors don't suggest that we wait until the environment is perfect to try to make personal changes. They explain ways to make changes in your own personal spaces to support your change efforts. They also talk about how to turn "accomplices," people who encourage you to abandon your goals, into "friends," coaches and fans who will support you.

So what was I thinking when I was listening to the audiobook? "It's too embarrassing to talk to my friends and family about my weight loss efforts. I will just have to tough it out."

Yes, I have some work to do.  Upon further reflection I realized that this was pretty silly.

The authors know that the prospect of putting together a six-source plan is daunting, so they suggest that you at least start somewhere.  Most of us have instinctively realized the influence of some of these sources.  For example, we have the idea that we're not going to succeed in weight loss efforts with a pantry stuffed full of Oreos and Fritos and may have "built fences" to keep those foods out of our homes.  I started with a couple of the suggestions from the "others" section. I had a conversation with my husband. We tend to be either "accomplices" or "coaches" to each other, alternating between encouraging the other to misbehave or suggesting changes the other should make.  Neither of these roles is helping our weight loss efforts. Coaching tends to make us resentful and rebellious, and obviously being accomplices to each other encourages all kinds of bad behavior.  We decided to try to be teammates instead. The authors suggested making a game out of behavior changes, so we created a scorecard of some of the better habits we want to implement.  I can share that scorecard in a future blog post, after we've had time to try it out and perfect it.

As a companion to the book, there is a website to help readers implement their own change plans.  I went to that after listening to the book, which had a code to give me access to the site. I started working on my change plan, though I must confess that I haven't gotten very far yet.  After I signed up, I got an email with a code for a premium trial membership that I could share with people who might like to try the site for themselves. All you will need is your email address and the code "hope" to get started at They don't ask for a credit card account. I have focused here on weight loss, but here is the full list of  plans. You can also create a custom plan if you don't find the one you want here:

  • Lose weight: 
  • Get out of debt:
  • Improve a relationship:
  • Quit an addiction:
I especially liked the end of the book, when the authors talked about how acknowledging and working with the six sources of influence could make the world a better place.  The expectation, especially here in the U.S. where we think of ourselves as "rugged individuals," is that people who are not weak-willed should be able to make any kind of change they want with no help at all.  Fat people are just lazy. People who are addicted to drugs are just criminals. People who are in debt are just irresponsible.  People whose relationships fail are immoral.  Advertisements only exert an influence on the weak-minded and stupid. (The huge advertising industry must be counting on there being a lot of chumps out there.) 

For example: If we really wanted to reverse the obesity epidemic in this country, we wouldn't just yell at people to stop being fat. We might look at the way our streets are designed to encourage more people to walk, bike, or use public transportation. Right now, it's not possible (or at least safe) in many places. We might look at the way food is distributed and wonder why so much food is being aggressively targeted at the people who are suffering from overfeeding while so many people in the world go hungry (think of all the real-life parallels to ). We might look at why our health care system for chronic disease and instead focuses so heavily on drugs and surgery. We might wonder why the diet industry does such a bad job at solving the problem it was supposedly designed to address while it rakes in billions in cash. We might change the incentive system for companies to discourage cutting the workforce to the bone and expecting everyone to put in extra hours.  We might make it a priority to have safe recreation spaces available in all neighborhoods. We might find ways for people to support each other in their efforts without shelling out big monthly fees for commercial diet plans.

Yeah, that all sounds complicated and expensive. Besides, there is no way for corporations to profit from that plan. Let's just put more headless fat bodies on CNN.  

Monday, July 11, 2011

Weekly check-in

I have been doing well with exercise. Food was messier -- lots of family functions where I found it hard to stay on track. I enjoyed myself, but it's no surprise that I haven't lost weight when my calories are still too high. I am going to work on that this week.

I will know I am really fit when I can do all the moves in my Tuesday strength class. That instructor kicks my butt! I finish looking like a soggy red mess. I wish there were no mirrors in the classroom, but i think it was a great addition to my routine.

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Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Review: After the Before & After

After hearing the interview with Karen C.L. Anderson on Two Fit Chicks and a Microphone, I decided to check out her book, . I liked what she had to say on the show and was hoping the book would share more insights on how she came to feel the acceptance she talked about.  I got the book as an iBook for the iPad, because I am trying to avoid any more book clutter. I have a whole bookshelf full of this kind of book already.

Karen's story will sound familiar to a lot of people -- she lost a lot of weight, got her "success story" published, and then regained about half of what she lost.

I found a lot of good insights and "ah-ha" moments, even as someone who, as mentioned previously, has a whole shelf full of books like this one.  Many of the triggers she talked about were triggers I share, like the fear of being "a show-off" and needing or wanting too much attention.  I also recognized myself in a story she told about being on vacation with her husband.  After a three-hour hike, they went to a deli to pick up some sandwiches.  
Tim said, "Boy, these things are huge"and that he might not be able to eat all of his. did I think I could eat all of mine, I also knew I'd probably be hungry afterward. In fact, I was angry that I was hungry in the first place and Tim wasn't. I was angry because our dinner reservations weren't until 7:30 and I didn't want to appear like a piggy after eating my "huge" sandwich.
It's perfectly reasonable to be hungry after a three-hour hike, but women are often ashamed of having an appetite, especially one larger than a man's.  I think this gendered shame about having needs would have been worth exploring, but she went in a different direction discussing the differences between people who are "tend toward thin" and those who "tend toward fat." It feels like a lot of women who "tend toward fat" are with men who "tend toward thin," and that opens a whole other can of worms that was also not really the author's direction for the book. 

Her direction from the book can be summed up in this quote from Abraham used to begin Part II of the book:
You cannot struggle to joy.
Struggle and joy are not on the same channel.
You joy your way to joy.
The book chronicled her attempts to "joy her way to joy" through self-awareness, self-acceptane, and the cultivation of healthier habits.  It is not a book of neatly packaged insights won through this process, but more of a diary of the process itself.

Though I find that kind of writing interesting, which is why I read blogs, I have to confess that I would have liked this book better if it was less bloggy. As I was reading the book, I was struck by how rough it felt, as if it were just a series of printed-out blog entries. I compared it to books by Jennette and Shauna, who turned their weight loss blogs into books. They each reworked their stories to have a stronger narrative arc and to fill in some of the details that blog readers wouldn't know.

Because I bought it as an iBook, I didn't notice that there was a good reason for why the book felt different -- it is "published on demand" through BookLocker.  There wasn't an editor looking over Karen's shoulder, helping her to see where readers might want more detail or suggesting that chapters follow a consistent format.  I felt a little silly for not realizing this until I was working on my review, to be honest. It made me realize that the self-publishing route is a lot better option than it once was, especially with the prevalance of ebooks.

Concerns aside, I think the question of what happens "after the before & after" is an important one. Many people who lose a lot of weight and then regain some of it feel like failures.  This book proves that all is not lost just because some of the weight comes back.  People who have lost and regained (like me) probably still are in the process of learning whatever it is that the extra pounds have to teach us.  Karen, especially, seems to have found a lot of important insights in her "struggle against the struggle," and I'd recommend her book (and/or her blog) to those who want to see how another person has managed to learn from the process of loss-regain-loss.

Monday, July 04, 2011

First week progress report

Keeping my focus on living a healthy lifestyle is working well for me so far. I enjoyed both having an ambitious workout plan and giving myself some flexibility to adapt it as needed. I am still tracking my food and gradually working on making better food choices and dropping my calories. I have been feeling calm and energetic. I'm also working on keeping my thoughts more positive. I want to declare my independence from the notion that if I dare to feel good about myself, a smack down is sure to follow to put me in my place.

Happy 4th!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Slow weekend

Because it's a holiday weekend here in the U.S., not a lot of bloggers are posting and most of the comments I'm getting are from spambots.  I delete them as fast as I can.

If you're looking for something new, there is finally a new installment to the Two Fit Chicks and a Microphone podcast.  The guest was the author of .  I downloaded it to my iPad (trying to cut down on book clutter after a recent cleanup) and have read the first few chapters. I will do a full review later, but it reminds me a lot of what I'm doing on this blog, chronicling the struggles of trying to re-lose weight after arriving at that "ta-da!" moment and then backsliding into old habits.  Like me, she seems to have realized that she had not dealt with the underlying issues that prompted the original gain, and is trying to tackle those this time around.

Hope that everyone is enjoying the weekend. I'm going to a fireworks-viewing party later on tonight and am going to bring this hummus. I have already tested the recipe and know that it will be a hit.  It will also give me something safe to snack on, as I am bringing plenty of veggies to go with it.
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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