Thursday, February 26, 2009

Claire and Grammy In the Kitchen

WARNING! The following blog contains a photo of me first thing in the morning. Turn away if you’re easily offended by flannel shirts, mismatched pajamas, and bed head. The thing is, the old me would never have put such a photo out there. The new me, the one working through the “What will people think?” issue, is pretty sure no one gives a goshdarn if I wear makeup or not.

Having said that....

The first time Claire and I cooked together, she was 3 months old. I’d laid her in her mother’s sling and wrapped it around my neck and shoulder then went in the kitchen and made an omelet. Claire couldn’t help much, but still I talked to her about the foods I was chopping and cooking. She didn’t cry so I took that as a good sign.

The older Claire got, the more curious she was about what Grammy Lynn was doing in the kitchen. “Unh! Unh!” she’d say, pulling at my leg and bouncing a little with her arms in the air. In other words, “Pick me up, NOW!” When she weighed less than 20 pounds, it wasn’t too hard cooking with one arm (here we are making Christmas brunch) and she fit on my hip. But she’s at a size now where I can’t hold her and cook at the same time. When I was at her house yesterday morning, I knew as soon as she heard me digging out the fry pans, she’d be there like a shot wanting to know what I was doing and insisting she be picked up. Hmmmmm...what to do, what to do. God knows the word “No” isn’t in my vocabulary when it comes to that baby.

“Wow” is Claire’s favorite word. Everything her little 16-month-old eyes perceive as fun is “wow”: things that make noise, glitter, have pockets, flip open, snap shut…you get the picture. She purses her lips and her eyes get really big and then she draws out the word long and dramatic in her throaty little voice: “Oooooowoooowwww.” So apparently my solution to the “Claire wants to help Grammy in the kitchen” dilemma was a hit when she said, “Oooooowoooowwww” after I picked her up and set her on the kitchen counter next to me and handed her a red pepper. She sat there patiently and attentively for 15 minutes while I – I mean we – made an omelet.

As she held the red pepper (“Oooooowowww…”) she picked at the little price sticker. Big help! She held the jar of minced garlic for me (well, she shook and shook the jar of minced garlic) until she discovered that mushrooms were much more fun to touch (“Oooooowoooowwww…”). She even handed me the can of Pam when I needed it. What can I say? The kid is brilliant.

When we were done, we sat down on a stool on the other side of the counter and ate our omelet. Claire loves eggs. She isn’t crazy for Swiss cheese, but she likes spinach. I suspect she’ll continue to like spinach until some kid tells her it’s gross. Isn’t that how many of our food aversions originated?

When Cassie got back from her doctor’s appointment (g-baby #2 is due in 3 months!!), she, Claire and I went out for lunch at Bob Evan’s. Cassie ordered grilled chicken, broccoli and a baked potato and shared with Claire. She told me Claire’s never had McDonald's, something she said her coworkers find amusing and almost shocking. One of them asked her, “Well, what do you do on nights you’re rushing around and need to get dinner?” Cassie laughed and said, “I make dinner.”

It made me wonder, when did being busy become an excuse to feed kids Happy Meals? This is a legitimate question and not some kind of McDonald’s bashing because I was guilty of it back in the day, too. But I’ve since learned that making something healthy at home can be just as quick as going through the drive-through. It takes less than a minute to throw some turkey, cheese, tomato and lettuce on a wrap before running out the door; less than a minute to grab a handful of carrots and put a couple tablespoons of low-fat salad dressing in a Tupperware container to eat in the car.

I cringe when I hear people ask their children in restaurants, “Do you want broccoli or french fries?”

I’d love it if Claire never ate a french fry, but I know that’s not reality. And I’m not saying all fast food is bad or that kids should never be offered a treat. But maybe by continually exposing her to healthy foods and making cooking fun, Claire will opt more often for the broccoli or the apple or the turkey wrap.

Please don’t think me the Tyrannical Food Grammy. I’ve already got big plans for making Christmas cookies with Claire this year. But more often than not, we’ll be cooking up the healthy stuff and having a lot of “Oooooowooooowwwww” fun. Who knows? Maybe some day Claire and I will have our own cooking show.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

And the "Stress Eater Diet" Book Winner Is...


Thanks to everyone who posted a comment about stress eating and my review of "Stress Eater Diet."

I'm off to P'burgh for a few days to see daughter Cassie and grandbaby Claire. The sun is finally out, word has it it will be 46 degrees tomorrow...what more can a girl want? I'll be in touch!
P.S. She's such a little diva in her Hello Kitty duds, isn't she? Hollywood's Red Carpet's got nothin' on Claire's style.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Can We Just Have Some Consistency??

I couldn’t believe I had something physically in common with Marilyn Monroe until I read an article on Snopes about the “truth” behind the fact that Marilyn wore a size 16. We’re both 5’5.5” tall. And…well, that’s where the similarities end. I’ll never have a 23-inch waist, and my bra size will never be a 38D without medical intervention.

I was researching how the perception of women’s body sizes has changed over the years. I look at photographs of my mother and mother-in-law and many of their friends from the 1940s, 50s and 60s, and they’re all small waisted and petite (by today’s standards) even after having babies. Yet my mother wore a size 8/10 back then.

Now, I’m no mathematician, but I weigh more than my mother did in her smallest days, my hips are wider, my waist is larger, and I wear a size 4/6.

I know, I know. It’s called vanity sizing. But it’s really messing with folks. Many women like to quote the fact that Marilyn “wore” a size 16 when in reality, at her heaviest of 140 pounds, she would be a size 10 or maybe a 12 by today’s standards.

I own two pairs of long johns that I wear as pajamas on cold nights, which is most every night right now. Each was made by a different manufacturer. The are both size small. One pair is too big and one pair is too short and fits a little snug in the waist. I’d like to get another pair of the ones that are too big because they fit well in the length, but the company doesn’t make “extra small.” Like I’m extra small anyway!

I just want some consistency. Is that too much to ask of the clothing industry?

Take Eddie Bauer for example. My hips measure 38 inches and my waist varies between 30-31. According to EB’s size chart, my waist size puts me in a size 12 or L and my hips a size 8 or M. These seem very reasonable to me. If I were ordering from their catalog or website, I’d select a size based on these numbers, right? So how come when I go into their store and try on their clothes, I wear a 4 or 6, both in tops and bottoms?

Marilyn Monroe’s hips were 36 inches at her heaviest. 36 tiny inches. According to EB online, she’d be a size 4/6. But I’M a size 4/6 at EB! So what’s the truth? An inch measures the same now as it did 50 years ago. Inches didn’t suddenly become smaller. Have we become that vane that we need to see an S or a 6 or 8 on our clothing to feel good about ourselves, even though the truth is that we’re an M or L or 10, 12, 14 or whatever?

Personally, I just want to go online or into a store and know that my 38-inch hips ALWAYS fit into the same size across the board. Whether I’m at Ann Taylor or WalMart, my size is always my size, and that size is always dependent on the cold hard facts: my waist/hip/bust/inseam measurements.

As for who’s “fat,” Marilyn Monroe, Kate Winslet, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Drew Barrymore, Jessica Simpson…each one has been called “fat” in the press. If this is fat (that's Jessica Simpson), then hell, I want to be fat!


REMINDER: You have until tomorrow morning around 7 a.m. Eastern time to leave a comment on my last blog entry – “Stress Eater Diet” Review and a Giveaway – to qualify to win the “Stress Eater Diet” book. Thanks to all of you who have shared your stress stories and strategies, and a big welcome to all you new readers! Keep the comments coming!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

“Stress Eater Diet” Review and a Giveaway

It’s no surprise to anyone reading this that survey after survey shows American’s stress levels have gone through the roof in recent months. Everyone, to some degree, is impacted by the financial crisis, whether it’s directly through a job loss or cut back; loss of savings through the stock market; higher prices at the grocery store; or reduced services provided by federal, state and local governments.

What worries me (OK, stresses me out) is that more people will turn to food for comfort. Stress eating is already something 50 percent of Americans report they do, and a more recent survey shows that 82 percent of people say they have eaten in response to a stressful situation.

It worries me because, as a news junkie, I’ve noticed the overweight/obesity epidemic has not only taken a back seat to the economic crisis in the media, but it’s been downright kicked out of the car along the side of the road. And now with everyone stressing out over money and jobs – and rightly so, this is a serious situation – chances are people are going to get even bigger than smaller as the financial crisis continues.

That’s why I was thrilled to read (and highly recommend) “Stress Eater Diet” by Robert Posner, MD, and Linda Hlivka.

This “diet” is normal and healthy – real food and no “cleansing” – and it places a strong emphasis on mindful eating, behavior modification, and stress-reducing techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga and exercise.

I was really glad to see the question, “Who are you losing the weight for?” asked almost right away. God knows enough of us have lost (or are are still losing) weight “for” someone else, “for” something else, like “just for me” isn’t good enough.

The “spin” to this diet (and you know every diet has a spin) is its emphasis on serotonin imbalance. The authors recommend eating foods that contain tryptophan (an amino acid essential for normal growth and metabolism). Foods include: turkey, chicken, fish, pheasant, partridge, cottage cheese, bananas, eggs, nuts, wheat germ, avocados, milk, cheese and legumes. They also want us to get out in the sun more.

Another big reason I can recommend this diet is because it encourages journaling, both food and emotions. Long-time readers, you know I’m all about journaling, even before you start to lose weight. Figuring out WHY we overeat, WHY we treat ourselves the way we do, and WHAT we eat can help us develop personal strategies for overcoming old patterns.

The book includes an Emotional Eating Worksheet which I can see would be very helpful, very “journaling-like.”

Tips for “Breaking the pattern of stress eating” include waiting 15-30 minutes before eating, keeping a diet log, changing your snacking routine pattern, making it a habit to eat only when you’re sitting at the table and not occupied by another task, putting a note such as “Why am I eating?” on the refrigerator or pantry (I like this one the best), and “As a last resort, if you cannot stop yourself from eating a particular food, limit the portion and STOP after you have eaten that portion. Do not feel as though you have ruined the day and might as well eat everything else in sight. Start fresh from that moment on.”

The book includes several other practical tips like how to reduce stress in the car, managing stress and anger, and how to “sniff” away stress. They recommend one of my favorite essential oils: frankincense. I always thought it was some ancient perfume long buried in the ruins of old Bethlehem until I found some at the place I get a massage.

The heart of the book is the actual diet. The last section deals with stress-reducing foods and outlines a four-week eating plan. It includes the best explanation I’ve read on why it’s important to “eat your colors,” and what those certain foods do in terms of health benefits.

The meal plan gets two thumbs up. There a lot of emphasis on protein, fruits and vegetables, and while the plan suggests several kinds of meat, I can see how it could be easily adjusted to accommodate those of us who choose not to eat meat.

The Stress Eater Diet authors also write a blog. I’ll be adding it to my blog roll. And while most of you probably realize if you eat when you’re stressed, the Stress Eater Diet website offers a Stress Eater Quiz (click the link). It’s also in the book.

So, who wants to win this book? Leave a comment about stress and how you deal with it. I’ll “draw” a winner on Tuesday!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

This Is The Time

I bought myself some tulips today at WalMart. Just a little $5 bunch of small purple tulips that are still tightly closed. Soon they’ll open and then they’ll die, but from now until then they give me hope that, as I look out my window and see snow blowing little birds off the feeders, spring really is a month away.

More than that, they symbolize what I realized today listening to David Cook sing in my iPod at the gym. I never thought I’d find something profound in one of the corny songs written for American Idol winners since they’ve all been disappointingly bubblegum in nature (not to mention I hate any song that refers to rainbows), but there are three lines in the lyrics of “This Is The Time” that said to me this morning, “Hey, Lynn. Listen up.”

The first is the opening line: “I’ve been waiting for my dreams to turn into something I could believe in.”

I’ve been doing this for awhile now: waiting, sort of acting, but definitely being a mostly passive observer. I know dreams don’t simply get dumped in our laps. At least not usually. We have to act, often aggressively, to make them a reality. But this one dream I have…man…it’s been tough to envision as real.

While I’ve been aware of my holding back for awhile now, the song was there at the right place at the right time. I’ve not been acting to make one of my biggest dreams come true. I think about it all the time. I plan strategies for how to accomplish it. And still, I do nothing other than dabble in it.

Why do I do that? I thought as I cooled off on the bike. What’s holding me back?

Fear, said the little voice. Fear that you’re not good enough.

I thought about that for a few minutes and realized it was true. I don’t believe in myself. That’s the bottom line. I mean, I do a little, otherwise I wouldn’t have lost 170 pounds, right? Obviously a cheerleader lives inside me, albeit subconsciously. I need to resuscitate her. Give her some pompoms, a short skirt and some kicky white vinyl boots (that’s how pompom girls dressed when I was a kid) and let her give me an L! Give me a Y! Give me an N! Give me an N!

The second lyric that caught my attention was: “This is the time to be more than a name or a face in the crowd…”

My dream has nothing to do with fame and fortune. It’s more like losing weight – something I want to do for me, not anyone else. But it still wants to be done. Still wants to be accomplished.
There are nights I go to bed and vow to never write another blog. I want to simply vanish into anonymity and be nothing more than a face in the crowd. It’s safe being one of the masses. But always I wake in the morning and know that my voice, as small as it is in the billion-blog realm, needs to come out, even if I’m the only one who hears it. Well, me, my mom, my kids and Gail, who I’m pretty sure reads every one of my blogs. (Hi, Gail!)

Then there’s the third part of the lyric. I thought about it and decided it’s something I want to do: I’m “Ready to run; I’m keeping my feet on the ground; My arms open wide; My face to the sun; I’ll taste every moment; And live it out loud; I know this is the time.”

What have I got to lose? What’s life if I don’t break out and do what I really deep down want to do? And why not live it out loud? I’m gonna do it. I need to restructure some things, rework my priorities, but it will be done. The dream that is. It’s time.

I’d love it if you’d break down this song – or any other song or poem or writing that speaks to you whether it’s in an elevator, a commercial, or at the gym – and apply it to your own life. What dream do you have? Are you living it? Or are you merely thinking about it? This is your time. YOUR time. Just give it some thought.

Oh, and buy yourself some tulips. You deserve it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Getting Skinny. Staying Skinny. How Do “They” Do It?

“How do they stay skinny?” Every time I go to Facebook, I see this ad, as well as the one for Hollywood’s secret for eliminating wrinkles *eyeroll*. The ads use headshots of Jennifer Aniston, Diane Lane, Julia Roberts, Angelina Jolie, and every other thin female celeb you can think of. My blood boils every time I see it because I know there are people who actually believe the ad is real and end up getting duped. Desperation is like that.

I clicked on the darn thing last night to see what it was all about and gee, surprise surprise, it was an acai diet. I played along and called myself Sid who wanted to lose 10 pounds. Here’s the message I got back (oh, and keep in mind I won’t be 46 until August, thank you very much)

“Hello Sid, Based on your goals of moving from 128 lbs to 118 lbs, your height of 5'6" and the fact you are 46 years of age, you seem like the perfect candidate for one of our remaining weight loss packages with 14-day Trial period. However due to the small number of trials we have left to hand out, there’s just a few short questions we’d like to ask before having a full month’s supply (that's 60 capsules!) rushed to your door.”

I answered their questions and this was the next message:

“Great news! Sid, you qualify for one of our remaining trial packages! Not only that, but if you take AcaiBurn 2x per day and....- go for an easy 30 minute walk (or swim, or cycle) three times a week- don’t eat after 7:30pm- drink 8 glasses of water a day… you can lose weight fast and be well on your way to your weight loss goal by Mar 18, 2009!

Your BMI is within the normal range of weight for your height. Weight is not always the true indication of your fitness. The BMI represents a range of healthy weight for your height. Your Wu-Yi Tea will help you fuel your engine and get you to your goal weight without compromising your energy or good nutrition.

DIRECTIONS: As a dietary supplement, take 1 capsule of AcaiBurn 2x per day, approximately 30 to 60 minutes before your morning and afternoon meals. Consume at least six 8-oz. glasses of water per day. Read the entire label before use and follow directions. Do not exceed 2 capsules in a 24 hour period. Do not take within 3 hours of bedtime. If you begin to experience weight loss in excess of one pound per 24 hours, temporarily discontinue use.

WARNING!....The AcaiBurn system was not created for those people who only want to lose a few measly pounds. The AcaiBurn System was created to help you achieve the incredible body you have always wanted…USE WITH CAUTION!”

So there you have it. That’s what’s being advertised on Facebook and I’m sure a million other places. Just take a few pills, drink some tea, walk a little, and pray you don't lose so many bodily fluids that you lose a pound every 24 hours.

Where do you suppose these ads originate? My guess is somewhere in Asia. This doesn’t sound like the same “voice” you get in those “I am living in exile and have $5 billion dollars in my bank account…” email scams.

Call me naïve, but I don’t know how advertisers like this live with themselves. Shame on them.

But mostly I’m sadly perplexed by the number of people who actually give out their credit card numbers to these scammers. I don’t mean that as a slam on anyone. God knows I’ve made my share of financial mistakes in my life. But my heart really goes out to the desperation people feel to lose weight fast and, in most cases, so unhealthily.

I’m sure many of you (me included) have felt that “fat desperation” before. That “Oh my god just get it OFF me already!” kind of panic when it comes to weight loss. It’s easy to forget we have better choices and we have time. Time to think. Time to develop patience. Time to remember that weight loss isn’t something that’s best done quickly.

We need time for our brains to catch up to our bodies. Time to figure out what made us fat in the first place. Time to just breathe and be and start loving who we are despite the scale. Actually, just remembering to breathe and keep loving who we are is something that continues in maintenance. I’m always reminding myself to be patient.

It’s hard, though, when day in and day out we’re bombarded with ads promising fast weight loss. Promising that our lives will be perfect once we lose weight. Sadly, that’s the biggest lie ever. How do we combat it? I don’t know. I guess just one blog at a time, eh?

I want to give a shout out and plug to my sister Emily's best friend Carye who is an independent artist living in Portland and runs a little press called Red Bat Press. Carye designs very fun cards, calendars and blank books.

I'm particularly fond of her bunny series. I also love the birds.

If you're looking for something a little different, click here to go to her website.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Wait...What Was I Doing?

Nothing sounded appealing yesterday, so I did a half hour of strength training in silence (as silent as my house gets with three dogs). I realize I need to do this more often because I get a better workout when I concentrate on the moves rather than sing “Mas Tequila” at the top of my lungs.

Instead of music or news or a podcast, I listened to the Pink Panther neon wall clock ticking loudly on every second. I followed its cadence while lifting rather than the cadence in my head because, as I learned, 10 Lynn seconds is about 6 or 7 real seconds. Amazing the difference 3 or 4 seconds can make. Just ask my obliques. Fifteen to 20 reps, 3 sets…that’s 2-3 additional minutes per exercise. Yikes.

After the ST at home, I went to the gym and did cardio for 50 minutes. With all the thinking and music listening I do to distract me, the exercise itself becomes tertiary. I just muscle through doing the same old same old and wishing it was over. Halfway through my workout yesterday, the song “The More You Ignore Me…” by Morrissey came on. I forgot I’d added that to my playlist.

“The more you ignore me The closer I get You're wasting your time The more you ignore me The closer I get You're wasting your time”

It was like Morrissey was channeling my body. “Stop ignoring me!” it was saying. “Pay attention!”

I focused on my thighs and calves and heart rate and realized, yes, I really was being an ignorant nit. I could do better, work harder, stop wasting my time. So I cranked up the arc trainer to 50 and a 7 incline, found “Mas Tequila” on the playlist, and stepped in time to the beat (no, I didn’t sing). I paid attention to everything me. I felt every drip of sweat fall over my nose and watched them drip to the floor. I felt my feet and legs and arms and abs. For 3 minutes it was just me, my myself and I. Well, and Sammy, too, but I didn’t engage in my usual fantasy of drinking tequila in Baja and licking the salt off of…oh never mind.

Today, I rode my spiffy new recumbent bike in silence. I thought I’d go stark raving mad, but it wasn’t too bad. I learned where I need to focus, so hopefully that will become second nature with some practice.

I am easily distracted, though. My mind wanders all over the place, whether I’m exercising or writing or whatever. For instance, the first thing I wanted to do this morning was pay bills and balance the checkbook. I got up from my desk in my office to retrieve my checkbook in my purse hanging on a chair in the dining room. On my way, I remembered I wanted to plan meals for the week. I wandered into the kitchen, dug out cookbooks, figured out the plan, and then walked back to my office. I sat down and thought, Wait. I need my checkbook. Back to the dining room. On the way, I remembered I wanted to add soap and paprika to the grocery list. But before I could do that, I had to turn off the electric candles in the windows, open the shades, make some tea and pick out workout clothes. I got back to my desk and still didn’t have my checkbook.

This is a recurring issue for me. Even after yesterday’s intentional mindfulness during exercise and I was feeling so good about how well I’d done, today comes and I have to start all over again.

And that’s OK. I didn’t lose weight overnight. I can’t train my mind to pay attention overnight, either, right?

Now I’m really going to go pay bills and balance my checkbook. Really. I am.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Welcome To My Kitchen (Plus…The Veggie Burger Recipe)

My stepson Andy calls our house a “death trap for tall people.” It has high ceilings on the first floor, but dormered ceilings on the second and very solid (and very low) wood beams in the basement.

In spite of its smallness, it’s cozy. Especially the kitchen. Because it’s the size of a postage stamp, it forces me to do dishes more than once a day (thank god for the Scotch-Brite Soap Dispensing Dish Wand), which means I always have clean knives and cutting boards (even though I’m a bit of a board whore. They are one of my kitchen addictions). It also means more counter space for visitors to sit and chat.

This lack of space also forces me to keep my cookbooks and recipe files (that I store on an old metal baker’s rack) up-to-date and orderly. (Yes, that’s one lonely apple you see in the hanging basket. I should have done the grocery shopping during my steroid high a few days ago, but driving didn’t seem like a good idea.)

I own a lot of cookbooks, but most of them are in the Big Box ‘O Books in the basement. Before I store them in said box, I tag the recipes I make the most, bring the book(s) to Staples, make a copy of each, and stick them in the corresponding homemade recipe file keeper. Not only does this take up less space, I’m free to write any changes or comments on the paper rather than messing up the book.

These three-ring gems saved me from recipe hell. You know the place: that abyss of clipped snippets of recipes from magazines, soup cans, applesauce jars, flour bags, the underside of Cool-Whip or yogurt containers, and the sides of rice, pasta and cereal boxes? All those recipes you say you want to try just pile up in the junk drawer until you practically go insane trying to find “that one recipe” ten times a week.

Thus, I use binders.

I also love LOVE my Clear Solutions Jumbo Cookbook. When I plan meals for the week, I take out the necessary recipe from its file or I tag it in a cookbook and stick them all behind the plastic cover guard where they stand ready when I am.

You can see in the photo a can of white kidney beans. I’m fixin’ to make some more of those veggie burgers I talked about in my last blog, the ones that don’t fall apart. For two years, I’ve been on a mission to find a homemade veggie burger that doesn’t crumble to bits the second I flip them in the pan or stick a fork in them. Apparently many of you have the same problem, based on the number of requests I received for the recipe. I found this one in my Healthy Cooking magazine from Taste of Home. I’ve typed out the recipe as is, but on this next go round, I plan to add chili powder and use barbecue sauce instead of ketchup to spice them up a little.

Veggie Burgers
4 servings = 2 Points each; 6 servings = 1 Point each

1 can (16 oz.) kidney beans (I suspect you could use black or pinto beans as well)
½ C old-fashioned oats
2 T ketchup
½ C finely chopped fresh mushrooms
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 small sweet red pepper, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ t salt (I omitted this due to sodium concerns)
1/8 t pepper

Place the beans, oats and ketchup in a food processor; cover and pulse until blended. Transfer to medium bowl; stir in rest of ingredients. Shape into four or six patties. On a baking sheet coated with non-stick spray, bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes (or until well browned), turning halfway through.

You can also wrap these individually in plastic wrap and store in the freezer. WAY cheaper (and less sodium) than Bocas or Morningstars.

To download the recipe, click here. Keep in mind, the nutritional stats included on the Taste of Home site account for a hamburger bun. And ignore the question by a would-be reviewer on the page as to whether she should use an egg because every other burger recipe she’s seen requires an egg. Trust me, you don’t need an egg. *eyeroll*

Hope you enjoyed the little tour of my kitchen. Here’s one last photo. It’s of my refrigerator, or as I call it, a big metal photo album.

Also, keep in mind this disclaimer if you ever come to visit: I can’t be held responsible if you’re taller than 5’7” and you forget to hunch over when you walk around upstairs or do your laundry in the basement and you smack your head on an overhead light or a big old beam. I’ll offer you an ice cube for the ensuing bump, though.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Adventures in Steroids

I’ve been up since 4 a.m. even though I went to bed at 11:30 with a half a Xanax. Nothing was going to keep me sleeping. Not after that steroid shot.

After the root canal yesterday, Dr. Jimmy gave me a shot that he said would help keep the pain to a manageable level. Oh, and by the way, it might cause a burst of energy in the evening. What the? What kind of burst of energy? I asked. He just smiled and said, “You’ll know.”

Six hours later, I was like Ed Grimley on speed.

For instance, I made homemade refried beans. I drained them from the crockpot (they’d been cooking all day), threw them in the food processor along with all the spices and such, started pulsing it, then the food processor stopped working. Oh well. Transferred it all to a bowl. Dug out the hand mixer. It didn’t mash it the way I wanted. Oh well. Dug out the blender. Dumped in the bean mixture. Started pulsing. Wasn’t blending. Too many beans. Took half out. Blended in two smaller batches. Perfect. Threw the beans in a Tupperware and into the fridge. Cleaned up the crock pot, food processor, mixer, blender and the ten bowls I messed up, all without so much as a swear word! In real life, I’d have been pretty ticked by the time I got to the blender.

I let the dogs out. When they came in they tracked in mud. Oh well. I washed the kitchen floor.

Talked to my daughter on the phone while doing dishes. I think I let her talk, too. I don’t remember. I wasn’t hungry, but I put some frozen soup on low on the stove and started singing and dancing to “Free Ride.” That song hasn’t made me happy since, what, sixth grade?

I’d skipped my workout in the morning because of the tooth debacle, so I thought I’d get on the elliptical. Then I remembered it was broken. That’s probably a good thing because I probably would have cranked that baby up to level 15 at a 9 percent incline for an hour. Can you image what my thighs would be saying to me today?

I felt 20 years old and invincible. I felt thin and nimble. I could have brokered a deal on the stimulus package and read “War and Peace” in Russian. It was like I’d slept in a Holiday Inn Express or something.

I suspect that steroid could also be an aphrodisiac, but Larry was really tired last night.

It’s now 6:30. I’ve already written a blog for Refuse to Regain and this one. I gave pieces of my book a look-see and started compiling a list of questions for my agent. I’ve read the news and looked at the weather and a video for a core exercise I’d like to try. I changed the photo on my desktop, put away the clean clothes from Sunday’s laundry, and wrote an entry on my maintenance support group chat site. I read three blogs.

I was hoping I’d be sleeping again by now, but that’s obviously not going to happen. It’s already 50 degrees outside so I think once the sun comes up I’ll go for a walk. “Dr. Feelgood” is on the iPod. I’ll listen to it and think of Dr. Jimmy and his magical shot and wish for the day when whatever it was that made me feel this way could be added to a daily vitamin. Well, in a lower dose. I don’t think I can take another day of a million accomplishments. I really do like to sleep.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Dr. Jimmy: He's the One That Makes It Alright

After my husband went to work today, I took a shower, put on some makeup and met up with his good friend, Dr. Jimmy, who grinned and said to me, “Lynn, we’re gonna have some fun this morning.” Then he offered me drugs, messed up my hair, and took away my pain.

Yup, this morning I had an emergency root canal.

It was supposed to be a simple crown. I’m in, I’m out, I go to the gym. But no. Xrays revealed an infection in one of the roots and decay under the tooth. No wonder my lymph nodes are swollen and I’ve felt yucky the last few days. I thought it was just me in a bad mood.

Anyway, after three hours of Mozart and Bach on the headphones while Dr. J and his staff tugged, pulled, drilled and plugged their way around my molar, I’m home with several prescriptions and a Band-Aid on my upper arm from the steroid injection.

I’m skipping the gym today.

Reason #2,671 why I’m glad I lost weight: my chest makes a more reliable dental tray.

You know how dentists lay their instruments across your chest during a procedure? The instruments no longer roll off and land on the floor like they used to. I also fit in the seat and can move my arms from the arm rests to my sides at any given time and without thought, although three hours in the chair allows you the time to think about such things.

Since coming home, I’ve managed to eat a leftover homemade veggie burger (just the burger, no bread. They’re the first veggie burgers I’ve ever made that actually hold together – yay!), a banana dipped in PB2, and now I’m slowly chewing cooked bok choy. It’s soft, but the slivered almonds are a bit of a problem. It’s not easy opening my mouth, and chewing on just one side of my mouth is challenging, but man, I was hungry. Drinking’s a problem right now, too, but I’m determined to open a bottle of wine this evening. Tonight it’s me in my PJs on the couch with a glass or three of chardonnay, doggonit, and I’ll drink it through a straw if I have to.

Remember how I said a few posts ago that I hate cardio? Yeah, well, there are some things I hate even more. Root canals would be one of them. But hey, it’s all part of taking care of the old body, right?

Ooooohhh, the side of my face is tingling. Good drugs wearing off. At least I didn’t have the same drugs this kid did!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

What's Your Deepest Intention?

I read the following story recently as part of an online course I’m taking through Insight Meditation Center.

A Cherokee Legend

A grandfather is talking to his young grandson about life. He tells the boy, “I have two wolves inside of me, struggling with each other. The first is the wolf of peace, love and kindness. The other wolf is fear, greed and hatred.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win, grandfather?”

The grandfather replied, “Whichever one I feed.”

If I look at these wolves through the lens of weight loss and weight maintenance, I see how I feed them both.

The first wolf is at peace with my body, and loves and is kind to my body. The second wolf fears weight gain and doesn’t trust that I know how to stay thin; it is jealous and compares my body with other people’s bodies, and hates its shortcomings – its skin and stretch marks and other vestiges of morbid obesity’s abuse.

In a recent talk on the Buddhist view of sense of self, IMC teacher Gil Fronsdal encouraged participants to spend some quiet time alone reflecting on what their deepest intention is. When I examined this question in terms of weight, I thought about those wolves living inside me, and I realized I’ve been guided through my weight journey by one deep intention. I just hadn’t appreciated it in those terms before.

Often we’re motivated to lose weight on the spur of the moment. We see a get-thin-quick diet in a magazine or just get fed up one morning when our jeans are zipping tight. Maybe the thought of losing weight buzzes in the back of your mind and you dabble for a day or two in reducing calories or you go for a few walks, but you haven’t given real thought as to why. In a week or even a few days, you’re back to the buzzing.

Been there, done that, and have the receipts for the dozens of sacks of fat and thin clothes donated to Goodwill.

I’ve lost weight hundreds of times in the past, always with the “intention” of being good enough for other people. Four years ago, when I started losing weight the final time, I’d spent the good part of the year before wondering whether to lose weight or accept myself the way I was. It was a series of sh*t or get off the pot conversations I had with myself. I’d reached a point where I couldn’t vacillate between the two sides anymore.

Ultimately I decided to lose weight, mostly because my health was sinking fast. I had near diabetic sugar levels and my blood work indicated I was a walking heart attack. I had to decide if I wanted to eat my way to an early death or live the healthiest life I could for as long as I could. That decision became my deepest intention.

Did I falter once in awhile? Yes. But ultimately, I always went back to the intention.

That intention continues to guide me in maintenance. Without it, I’d behave the same way I always did when I got to some weight goal: by not paying attention to my food intake and slacking off on exercise. After all, my “intention” was merely to be good enough in someone else’s eyes. Once that was accomplished, I could go back to “normal.”

With my deepest intention being to be the healthiest person I can be physically and emotionally, I’m better able to pay attention to what my body and mind need and to work with them as a unit and not separately.

When I forget my deepest intention, I feed the second wolf – the wolf of fear, greed and hate. When I am focused on my intention, I feed the first wolf – the wolf of peace, love and kindness.

Which wolf do you feed? Which wolf do you want to win? What’s your deepest intention? I’m not asking so that you’ll tell me. You owe me or anyone else none of your thoughts. But they are good questions to ponder before or during a weight-loss or maintenance journey. As Gil said in his talk, it can help clarify how you find your way.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Developing An Instinct for Recipes and Exercise

I remember well the days when I had no faith in my instincts, particularly as it pertained to recipes and exercise (imagine I’m saying that in my best Peter Brady impression).

In terms of food, I never strayed from a recipe except to omit onions if my kids were eating it or to reduce the amount of salt. The recipe was the expert, not me. As the years and pounds have fallen away (and I’ve become more picky about what I eat), I’ve been listening to my inner foodie and have become more adventurous in ad libbing.

I’m not out to reinvent food or write a cookbook. I’ve just made some small changes to existing recipes that I like and reading new ones with curiosity. I could use this for that… goes through my mind now when I read cookbooks or search recipes online. I don’t discard a recipe idea just because it has meat or eggplant or exorbitant amounts of oil. If the foundation of the recipe sounds good, I think around it and find substitutes.

I especially love putting together; things from scratch with a little of this and a little of that. You know, the few leftover carrots that don’t quite constitute a serving, the quarter-cup of mixed veggies on the bottom of the bag in the freezer, the two ounces of tofu that if you don’t use soon will go bad (and no wise cracks from the peanut gallery about how can you tell, OK?)

Here’s an example of what I mean. I made soup yesterday because I had a few leeks and rutabagas in the fridge, some lentils in the cupboard, bits of frozen corn and green beans, an opened container of veggie broth, and a lonely stalk of celery. I hate seeing things go to waste, especially in this economy, so here’s what I came up with. It’s pretty basic, but very tasty.

Lynn’s Smorgasbord Soup

1 cup thinly sliced leeks, rinsed well
1 clove garlic (or more)
1 tsp. olive oil
4 cups boxed vegetable broth
2 cups water with 2 tsp. vegetable broth granules (substitute 6 cups of boxed or homemade broth, or 6 cups of water and the equivalent granules)
1 can (15 ounces or so) diced tomatoes
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
8 oz. cubed rutabaga (or use sweet potatoes or butternut squash)
½ cup frozen corn
½ cup frozen green beans
1 cup dried green lentils, rinsed and sorted
½ tsp. marjoram
½ tsp. dried thyme
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper

In a Dutch oven sprayed with non-stick spray, sauté the leeks and garlic in oil on low to medium heat for about 5 minutes. Stir frequently. Dump everything else in and simmer for about an hour.

Makes 6 hearty 2-cup servings, and if you make it like I did, it’s 3 Points per serving.

Last night, I made stuffed peppers from a cookbook recipe. I reduced the bulgur from 2/3 cup to ½ cup because it seemed like too much starch, and I added a ½ cup tomato sauce because my eyes told my mouth that the peppers might not be all I wanted them to be without some tomato. It turned out I was right and the peppers were just how I imagined.

There are times when my instincts fail me, too. Let’s just say there are some things that shouldn’t be mixed with lime juice and leave it at that.

The other area I lacked confidence was exercise. I was a by-the-book kinda gal. If some expert said I had to do cardio an hour a day to maintain my weight loss, by god I was going to do an hour of cardio a day. When another expert told me I could get by with just two days of strength training, that was good enough for me. The problem was that my body said no to both these scenarios, and so over the last several months, I’ve allowed my body to be the expert.

Let me say right now: I hate cardio. Well, at least I hate an hour of cardio. Thirty to 50 minutes, no problem, but an hour? I dreaded it, and you know and I know that if you dread something, you’re less likely to do it. Now I do about 120-150 minutes a week of cardio and this makes me a much happier exerciser. I’ve lost the guilt. (Yes, I felt guilty for not doing cardio like a maniac. Kinda sick, huh?)

What I lost in cardio, I upped in strength training. Using books and other guides, I developed my own routine for upper and lower body that works with my body and its abilities, not against them. I’m not a personal trainer and I haven’t had any classes in physiology (ergo, would never advise anyone on what they should do), but I know my body best and it’s responding to the three to four hours a week of ST nicely. Best of all, I love it. It’s my favorite exercise ever. Well, besides biking, but there’s 12 inches of snow still on the ground. I won’t be out on the trails for quite some time, I’m afraid.

So are you listening to your instincts, too? What are they telling you? I’d love to hear how you’re learning to (or have learned to) trust yourself in weight loss/weight maintenance.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Oh No. It's "That" Time of Year

You’ve read enough about me to know the free Grand-Slam breakfast from Denny’s didn’t tempt me in the least. You know I laugh in the face of ice cream, stay strong in the presence of breadsticks, and faithfully bring my own salad dressing to every restaurant. I can even say no to peanut butter!

Knowing that, you probably (naturally) assume that I stand my ground around food pushers, too. Normally I can and do. But I have a confession to make. There is this one, small (and I mean small) exception – perky 8-year-olds wearing green sashes lined with hobby, cooking, camping, and first aid badges.

Yes, I’m talking about...

…Girl Scouts.

Just when I feel safe and a little smug for having successfully navigated the holiday food land mines, girls all over our neighborhood will soon descend on my house like pack wolves. Nice, friendly girls whose eyes, if you look close enough, turn hypnotic yellow and before you know it, you’re writing out a check to troop 549 and wondering if you can write off your (embarrassingly large) cookie purchase on your taxes. Doesn’t happen to you? I guess it’s just me, then.

It’s a sickness. A sickness, I tell you. If eating Thin Mints was an Olympic sport, I’d be the Michael Phelps of cookie consumption and endorsed by every bakery in this country. I’ve been in Thin Mint recovery for five years now, but back in the old days of eating with abandon, you could eat my Peanut Butter Sandwiches, Shortbreads, DoSiDos and Trefoils, but you didn’t come between me and my Thin Mints.

I used to hide them deep in the freezer or under my bed like a drunk hides his vodka in the toilet tank. My mouth would salivate just thinking about their crispy texture and minty taste. (Oh who am I kidding with “would.” It still does!) Just the smell was (probably still is) intoxicating, like a fine wine. If I’d been given a choice between licking chocolate frosting off a naked George Clooney or being thrown naked into pit with only a sleeve of Thin Mints for sustenance, the mints, sadly, would win.

I read today on CNN that the economic downturn has hit the Girl Scout cookie business and that they’re putting two to four fewer cookies in each box this year. Five years ago I’d have responded like a conspiracy theorist, wondering if it meant Thin Mints would be extinct next year. I’d have panicked and worried I’d be left with just Keebler Grasshoppers, a nice try of a cookie, but no comparison to my beloved Thin Mints. I’d have ordered a few extra boxes, just in case, hoarding them like Today Sponges and wondering if anyone out there was Thin Mint worthy.

Thin Mint recovery is difficult this time of year, to be sure. There are many foods that I purposely don’t eat, but would if the time was right and I’d be comfortable knowing when to say when. Thin Mints, all kidding aside, are truly an addicting food to me, something I really have to stay away from. While I’m fairly confident that I would say no to them if offered, I know I’d play a torturous mind game of “If I don’t eat dinner tonight…” or “Oh, just one, PLEASE, Lynn?!” like I’m some kind of puppy. Having them around the house or debating eating just one isn’t worth it.

However, if George Clooney were to call…thanks to five years of Thin Mint sobriety, I’m pretty sure I’d find him Thin Mint worthy.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Part of the Plan

Yesterday I spent 11 hours trekking through western Pennsylvania. First stop: Pittsburgh. I spent three hours with daughter Cassie and grandbaby Claire. The new cupcake shoes I’d ordered for Claire had arrived, so Claire and I opened the package together. They came packed in a little clear plastic purse, and when Claire saw this, her eyes got big and she said, “Wow. Wow.” (Wow is one of her favorite things to say. That and “weeee….”) Claire found much fun in taking her new shoes out of the purse and putting them back in the purse.

I brought along my favorite pumpkin/pudding concoction, like I always do because Claire loves it, too. We sat on the couch together and ate it. I swear I put every spoonful in her mouth, but drooly girl is cutting more teeth and she made a big chocolate ring around her mouth. Just look at the joy on that kid’s face! She radiates happiness. She was eating chocolate with her grammy while her mom sat on the other couch, she had new shoes and a new little purse…what more could a 15-month-old want? Claire knows contentment, and in that moment, so did I.

After Pittsburgh, I drove to a little blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town 40 miles away to meet Cassie’s mother-in-law Julia to help her go through some of her late Aunt Jule’s possessions. Jules was 93 when she died a few weeks ago and had lived in her house as long as Julia could remember. Her 1952 stove still worked, as did the wringer washer in the basement. The house is filled with keepsakes, photos and mementos of a long, well-lived life.

A few hours later, I said goodbye to Julia and started the final leg of my journey. Daughter Carlene and I were going to catch an early dinner at our favorite restaurant in Slippery Rock. It’s a rustic old brewery that serves awesome hummus and uses real field greens in the salads, not that fake iceberg stuff.

We ordered some wine and started to talk. We ordered our food and talked some more. Carlene’s pasta came with a little loaf of sweet whole wheat bread. It looked so good, so inviting. It seemed the perfect accompaniment to the wine, the warm and cozy atmosphere, the good company and good conversation. Stern Diet Lynn said to leave it alone. I’d already eaten two triangles of pita (white flour, no less…shame!), a few apple slices, and my allotted amount of hummus. A salad of greens, tomatoes, cucumbers and red onions with fat-free dressing was my dinner.

“No more food for you!” my diet mind said.

But You Only Live Once Lynn popped out (she doesn’t emerge often so I was a little surprised) and said, “Lynn, it’s bread. It’s not poison, a hand grenade, or anything that will hurt you if you have a reasonable amount. It’s OK to allow food to enhance emotions sometimes.

Eat the freaking bread.”

So I did. I also ate an extra pita with hummus and some more apples while Carlene and I talked and sipped our wine and just enjoyed our time together.

Driving home, I thought about Claire and the pudding, Jules and her long life, Carlene and the pita and the bread and the wine and I started humming a song by Dan Fogelberg called “Part of the Plan.” Here are some of the lyrics:

I have these moments
All steady and strong
I’m feeling so holy and humble
The next thing I know
I’m all worried and weak
And I feel myself
Starting to crumble.
The meanings get lost
And the teachings get tossed
And you don’t know what you’re
Going to do next
You wait for the sun
But it never quite comes
Some kind of message comes
Through to you
Some kind of message comes through
And it says to you...
Love when you can
Cry when you have to
Be who you must
That’s a part of the plan
Await your arrival
With simple survival
And one day we’ll all understand...

Ah, the plan. My plan was to go to Pittsburgh, help Julia, and to meet Carlene for dinner. I didn’t plan Claire’s pudding face or shoes in a purse. I didn’t plan to feel so humbled amongst Jules’ possessions. I didn’t plan to eat bread. But aren’t these the things that make our lives so rich? Aren’t these the moments we hope and live for?

“Be who you must, that’s a part of the plan.” For me, being who I must means being disciplined and yet open, rigid yet bendable, all in the right time. I’m not always real good at determining when those times are, but I’m getting better at recognizing them. I just have to remember to ask myself these questions: When am I rigid and unyielding when I could be a little softer? When do I feel holy when I should be humble, or lost when I’m really found?

Here’s a YouTube link to Dan singing “Part of the Plan.” I chose this 1982 concert performance because Dan was young and bearded and this song was fresh and new. For all the lyrics to “Part of the Plan,” click here.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

A Little Chat About Yogurt, Soup and PB2

Our local WalMart is such a tease. I got all excited when they started selling Oikos Greek yogurt a few months ago. I expected it to be there every week, in stock, just like all the other stuff our WalMart sells like frozen egg rolls and shelves of everything Jimmy Dean. But alas, when I went there Friday, it was gone. Nothing but pro-biotic somethingorother yogurts in its place. Damn you, foul temptress! It’s why when I spied Arnold’s Sandwich Thins the other day, I refused to get all hot and bothered because I know they’ll just be gone in a few weeks. I can’t stand the disappointment.

Anyway, when I purchased the second-string yogurt (Dannon fat-free plain, which isn’t as thick as Greek and has half the protein), I found what might turn out to be a yummy soup recipe. Who thinks to look for soup ideas on a yogurt lid? How serendipitous.

Since I had to type out the recipe (a foil yogurt lid isn’t the most sturdy recipe card), I thought I’d share it and see what you think. It might be the new recipe I try this week.

Creamy Sweet Potato Soup
12 servings

2 T canola oil (I’ll use 2 t of olive oil)
1 large sweet onion, sliced
2 t ground cumin
3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
6 cups chicken broth (I’ll use vegetable)
1 ¾ C Dannon plain yogurt (I’ll use the fat-free and Greek, when I get my hands on some)
2 T chopped parsley or cilantro
¼ C toasted pumpkin seeds

Heat oil in Dutch oven. Add onions and cumin; sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add potatoes and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20-25 minutes. Puree soup with 1½ C yogurt and parsley or cilantro. Serve each portion with a dollop of remaining yogurt and a sprinkle of pumpkin seeds.

Nutrition facts (using fat-free yogurt): 120 calories; 4.5 grams fat (that’s with 2 T of oil); 6 grams protein; 15 grams carbs.

It might need some additions in the spice and garlic department, but I think this will be my new recipe for the week.

Reader Nicole posted a comment in my last entry regarding the slaw recipe and PB2. She wants to know what PB2 tastes like and how it compares to regular peanut butter. I’ll try to describe it as best I can, but please feel free to add a comment regarding your own experience with PB2.

PB2 is powdered peanut butter made by Bell Plantation. It’s available in a few stores around the country, but mostly people order it through Bell’s website. The minimum order is four jars, so many people are hesitant to buy it in case they don’t like it. Fair enough. However, for people like me who adore (and I mean “can’t-have-it-in-the-house-or-I’ll-eat-it-all” kind of adore) peanut butter, PB2 is a godsend. Two tablespoons have around 50 calories and 3 grams of fat (1 WW Point).

You can make PB2 as thick or as creamy as you want since you add water (or jelly) to the powder yourself. You can also put PB2 in smoothies and other recipes that call for peanut butter.

If you’re looking for something that tastes exactly like Jif or Skippy, PB2 isn’t for you. You’ll have to be willing to alter your peanut butter tastes. Because PB2 is much lower in fat than regular peanut butter it has a much more raw peanut taste. Most people I’ve talked to say it only took them a few servings to train their peanut butter taste buds to the taste of PB2. I was in love from the first bite.

While I understand concerns about the cost (and would LOVE if my friends at PB2 would consider offering little sample packets to potential customers?? Just a thought.), if you’re a serious peanut butter addict like me, it’s worth the twenty-something dollars for a four-pack. I get the variety pack of three regular and one chocolate PB2 when I order.

Another way to get PB2 without the shipping might be to ask your local store to consider stocking it. Give the manager Bell’s website information and see what happens. The worst they could say is no, right?

So what are your thoughts on PB2?

Note to January: Don’t let the door hit you on the way out! Sayonara, adios! I’m glad you’re gone. The days are a little longer, my mood is lifting…While I don’t like to wish time away, January, I’m very happy to flip your page up on my calendar.