Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Joy Fit Club = Me in New York on the Today Show

Some of you might remember that back in January I wrote about how I was one of several people featured in Joy Bauer’s new book, “Joy LIFE Diet.” Joy Bauer is a dietician and nutritionist and is regularly featured on the Today Show, especially twice a month when she inducts someone who has lost more than 100 pounds through diet and exercise into her Joy Fit Club. On Monday, I will be the latest inductee.

My segment will air during the 10 a.m. hour, called the “Fourth Hour” of the Today Show, but not shown in all markets at 10 a.m. For instance, in Pittsburgh it airs at 2 p.m. and in Minneapolis it airs at 11 a.m. I’m sure it will be on the MSNBC website at some point and I’ll post a link to it when I find it.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to the trip to New York. Weather looks nice for a big old walk around Central Park on Sunday and trying not to worry about saying something stupid the next day or forgetting my name. I’ve been on TV before, but man, those butterflies are relentless.

For those of you who haven’t seen the Joy Fit Club, the woman in the following video is Tammy, and she’s one of the most awesomely inspiring inductees ever. I don’t know her personally, but she is my hero. She lost 410 pounds and went from needing five liters of oxygen a day to race walking. But that’s not what makes her my hero. As you’ll hear her say, she lost her weight from the inside out. How many times have I said the same thing? It was only until I figured out what was going on inside that I could lose weight and keep it off for good this time. That Tammy and so many of you reading this GET THAT really makes me wish that kind of insight for everyone struggling with weight issues.

I LOVE Tammy's story. Like Matt Lauer said, “I don’t even know you and I’m proud of you!”

So…now you know why I’m going to New York.

HALLOWEEN UPDATE: Podunkville didn’t get the memo that Halloween is Saturday and so held its trick or treat night last night. This worked out perfectly for me because my daughter came up to stay overnight with the g-babies!

Larry and I took Claire and Luca out around our neighborhood while Cassie handed out candy at our house. Claire was a little skeptical at first. She can’t say “trick or treat!” but once she figured out that all she had to do was show the person who answered the door her plastic pumpkin and they’d put something (she didn’t know what) in it, she was all about walking around the neighborhood, even when it started drizzling.

This is Claire eating her first Kit Kat bar. So THAT’S what people were putting in my pumpkin, she’s probably thinking. Last night was dress rehearsal for trick or treating in her own neighborhood on Saturday. Larry and I will be there handing out treats so Cassie and Matt can show the kids off. A quick pat on the back for me: Two Halloweens in one year, and not ONE piece of candy will be consumed by yours truly. It helps that I bought Skittles (gag) and Starbursts (I cherish my fillings), and Cassie bought pretzels. But even if I’d bought my favorite candy in the world, I’m pretty sure I would have the courage to say no. Peanut butter Reese’s pumpkins vs. my waistline? My waistline wins hands down, especially if I want to fit into that tight black dress I’ll probably wear on the Today Show. Yikes!

Happy Halloween! I’ll be in touch from New York.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

As God As My Witness, I’ll Never Buy Hummus Again!

“Don’t buy dumb candy, Mom,” my daughter said while grocery shopping with me last Saturday.

“Dumb” candy? I get this harsh warning even after she ate some of the tastiest hummus she’s ever had? Hummus I made myself? …sigh…I get no respect. (OK, so I do, but I had to find a way to work hummus and Halloween into the same blog.)

“What exactly is dumb candy?” I asked.

Carlene rattled off a litany of things including Good ‘n Plenty, Almond Joy, Mounds, Mary Janes, 3 Musketeers (blasphemous!), Necco Wafers, and Smarties, which she retracted because, on second thought, she likes Smarties. Who doesn’t like a mouthful of artificially flavored sugar? Heck, I do! Seriously. I love Smarties. Heart them. I don’t eat them anymore, though. (But I secretly want to.)

I told her it was important that I buy Halloween candy that is not enticing to me (following Lori’s advice from last year) because it has to sit on top of my refrigerator for a few days (see last year’s blog, “The Scariest Day of the Year”) and, as Carlene knows, chocolate and me go WAY back.

So I bought three big combo bags filled with boxes of Skittles and Starburst – candy I just don’t understand. Or eat (which is the whole purpose, right?). All of it is perched on the top of my refrigerator, looking down at me like an owl, but I’m oblivious because I could care less. If they were Snickers, though, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. I’d be head first in the bag.

Trick or treating is tomorrow here in Podunkville. Someone keeps forgetting to send our borough the memo that Halloween is the 31st. I can’t remember the last time kids in m town trick or treated on the actual Halloween day. Thank goodness my grandkids in Pittsburgh will trick or treat on Saturday night and I’ll be there to see them in their costumes! Whoohoo! And WHY will I be in Pittsburgh on Saturday night, you ask? (You did want to know, right?)


TEASER ALERT: I’m leaving Sunday morning, very early, for New York City where I’ll walk around Central Park, eat some ethnic food, stay in a hotel and work out on some awesome cardio equipment before wandering over to 30 Rock on Monday to be on the Today Show! I promise more info on that in a few days.

But for now, I want to talk about hummus!

I love hummus, but the kind that really floats my boat is from Trader Joe’s, and I don’t get there enough to keep it in stock. Tribe is OK in a pinch, but I really like TJ’s horseradish or roasted red pepper hummus. After a hummus dry spell, I decided to scour my cookbooks and the Internet for recipes. I conquered refried beans, after all. I figured I could do hummus.

I bought some tahini (slimy, gunky stuff that it is) and made my first batch of hummus a few weeks ago. Just some garbanzo beans, tahini, lemon juice, horseradish…typical plain hummus. It was alright, but I knew I could do better. And I did. Last Saturday, I combined two hummus recipes – taking the best options from both – and made a nice spicy hummus that I’ll definitely make again. Here’s the recipe:

Sun-Dried Tomato Hummus

4-5 sun-dried tomato halves (dried, not packed in oil)
1 can chickpeas (15 oz or so)
4 cloves garlic
2 T tahini
3 T lemon juice
1/3 C fat-free Greek yogurt
¼ t each salt and pepper
1 t curry powder
½ t ground cumin
½ t ground coriander

Finely chop the tomato halves and set aside. Put everything else in a food processor and process until smooth. Add the tomatoes and put in the refrigerator for a few hours.

This makes about 1¾ C of hummus. I love it on toasted Arnolds Sandwich Thins or with homemade pita chips.

I’m looking forward to finding and perfecting more hummus recipes. Store bought be damned! Just like I will never buy canned soup ever again, hummus will not be on my grocery list unless it’s an emergency. Wait…whoever has a hummus emergency? I guess if anyone does it will be me.

Anyway, I’ve got a big ass jar of tahini and I intend to use it well. I’ve also got the rest of those sun-dried tomatoes sitting in my fridge. What to do, what to do….If you have any ideas, pass them on!

Happy Halloween, everyone! What did you buy to pass out to the trick or treaters?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Cost Of Eating Real Food

Thank you for all your insights to my question, Is Michael Pollan right that most Americans don’t care about eating whole foods given the paltry 27 minutes of cooking time spent, on average, every day. Now I’d like to pick your brain about the cost of real food.

In his book, “In Defense of Food,” Pollan writes: “Is it just a coincidence that as the portion of our income spent on food has declined, spending on health care has soared? In 1960 Americans spent 17.5 percent of their income on food and 5.2 percent of national income on health care. Since then, those numbers have flipped: Spending on food has fallen to 9.9 percent, while spending on health care has climbed to 16 percent of the national income. I have to think that by spending a little more on healthier food we could reduce the amount we have to spend on health care.”

I’ve written about this before, but it’s worth addressing on a regular basis. Real food – as in fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and meats (including healthy fish) – can be costly. Add in the organic component, and the prices are even higher. Pollan acknowledges that many people can’t afford to spend more on food, but argues that whole foods, while costlier than prepackaged processed foods, satisfy us longer and fill us up faster and with less calories, thus offering a savings in the end. I would also add that, being on a tight food budget myself, it is possible to buy healthy items like dried beans, canned or frozen fruits and vegetables, and staples such as whole grain flour to make homemade bread without breaking the bank.

Take, for instance, my homemade chili. Meatless, it requires tomatoes, broth, vegetables, beans and spices. I went to WalMart and added up the price of my chili versus the cost of one can of Hormel Chili. Up front cost for six 2-cup servings of chili is $14-$16, depending on whether you buy canned or dried beans. Keep in mind, this includes roughly $7 for the spices: chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper, which will yield at least 10 batches of chili, making the average cost for 10 batches of chili around $7.70-$9.70 each. The price changes very little if you make it with half the beans and add a pound of lean beef or ground turkey.

Each can of Hormel’s contains 2.5 cups of chili which, according to the nutrition label, is 2 servings of 1¼ cups each. Fat content is low – about 1 gram per serving – and the fiber content is high in both the vegetarian and meat-added versions. However, the sodium levels are ridiculous! There are 780 mgs of sodium PER SERVING in the vegetarian version and 1,250 mgs in the meat-added. Double that and that’s what’s inside an entire can of 2.5 cups. Like a guy said to me when he saw me reading the nutrition label, “That stuff’ll KILL ya!” Amen.

My chili makes 12 cups, which I divide into six 2-cup servings, each containing less than 300 mgs of sodium per serving. You’d need to buy 5 cans of Hormel at about $8 to equal the amount of chili I make for about $8. Nutrition and taste aside (I guarantee my chili is more tasty than anything you scrape out of a can), the difference is that it takes about two hours from start to finish to make my chili and about two minutes to make the Hormel. Which do you think more folks will go for?

The same math applies to spaghetti sauce, stew, and many of the other soups and casseroles I make. Up front costs can be stiff, but in the end, the quality, quantity and ultimately the value are much higher when I cook than when I buy pre-packaged and processed food.

Pollan (and many other nutritionists, food writers, and dieticians) includes in his suggestions for how to shop at the grocery store to “stay away from the center aisles.” I’ve never understood this piece of “advice.” Yes, I know a lot of non-nutritional foodstuff and processed foods hang out in the center of the store, but there’s plenty of it around the periphery, too.

Two words: Bakery and Deli. And god knows you can find plenty of junk in the dairy case (how do candy sprinkles in yogurt promote health?), the meat case (scrapple anyone?) and the produce section (dried fruit dressed up as candy…seriously?). The center aisles are full of good stuff if you know what to look for. Beans, canned and frozen fruits and vegetables, condiments, pickles, nuts, oils, spices, sauces…the list is endless. The real foods in the inside aisles are not only healthy, but they can enhance the taste of the real foods you find on the periphery. They can also be more economical.

Advising people to avoid the center aisles doesn’t teach anything. In the end, it just makes people more confused. Stop demonizing the center aisles. They’ve got a lot to offer.

I did a rough calculation of how much my husband and I spend on groceries and it works out to be about 12 percent of our household income, up a few points from the average. We spend about 6 percent on health care costs (insurance premiums and co-pays). That can change, of course, depending on unanticipated health issues, but right now, the numbers seem to support Pollan’s assertion that if we spend more on better foods, we’ll spend less on healthcare.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this debate. What does your food spending say about your overall health compared to the overall food spending and health of the average American?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Cooking Like It’s 1965

I’m slowly making my way through Michael Pollan’s book, “In Defense of Food.” “Slowly” not in the sense that it’s complicated, but I like to read books like this when I’m riding my stationary bike and I haven’t done much of that lately since I’m taking advantage of the nice weather and exercising outdoors.

Many of you may know Pollan’s tagline: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” (Full disclosure: I’m totally on board with that tagline.) “In Defense of Food” outlines the rise of nutritionism and nutrition science and how the food industry has turned many whole foods into processed pseudo-foods containing ingredients we can’t even pronounce.

The section I’m reading now is called “Getting Over Nutritionism” and how we can escape the Western diet. He writes: “A hallmark of the Western diet is food that is fast, cheap, and easy. Americans spend less than 10 percent of their income on food (as opposed to the Italians and French who spend 14.9 percent of their income on food and the Spanish who spend 17.1 percent). (Americans) also also spend 27 minutes a day preparing meals, 4 minutes on cleanup and 65 minutes eating. In 1965 the figure was 45 minutes of preparation, 21 minutes of clean-up and 68 minutes of eating.”

I’ll address the money and the escaping the Western diet parts in later blogs, but right now I want to talk about the amount of time we spend preparing meals.

I was a little surprised by how little time Americans spend, on average, in contact with their food pre-consumption. I mean, I’m not na├»ve. I know people consume a lot more fast food and prepackaged/processed food than they did in 1965, but seriously, 27 minutes A DAY for prep?

Even when I was 300 pounds I spent more time than that making food.

I know people are busy, and cooking is usually the last thing you want to do after a long day. But I also believe we make time for what’s most important. It’s not a stretch to conclude by Pollan’s stats that for most Americans, cooking for themselves, and in most instances, themselves and their family, isn’t that important. They may think it’s important, want it to be important, plan to strive to make it important, but 27 minutes doesn’t suggest much importance.

Absolutely there are days when I heat up a Boca burger, slap it in a pita, squirt on a little ketchup and call it dinner. Or I throw some yogurt and fruit in a bowl and call it breakfast. Or eat a string cheese, a handful of almonds, an apple and some carrots and declare it lunch. But those are the exception meals, not the rule.

It’s not like I’m a slave to the kitchen. On average, breakfast takes me 10 to 20 minutes to prepare, lunch another 10 to 20 minutes, and dinner about 30 to 60 minutes, not including cooking time. And I know a lot of you (based on the blogs I read) find ways to cut your prep time. Granted, sometimes my prep minutes include thawing and heating up meals I prepared ahead of time and put in the refrigerator or freezer. But the time spent in putting a soup or other recipe together is usually an additional hour or two a week.

Eating real food requires real cooking. Maybe people really can prepare three healthy meals consisting of whole and not processed foods in less than 30 minutes per day. If so, clue me in because I would love to know how that’s done. I made a tasty Swiss chard concoction for lunch a few days ago and it took 30 minutes start to finish. Not bad time wise, but 30 minutes is the same amount of time most people spend preparing their food for an entire day.

I’m really not trying to be heavy fisted and judgmental. I’m just trying to figure out how people eat. I mean, seriously, at my heaviest I spent more time in front of the stove than the microwave or on the phone ordering out. Not that that made me a saint. Good lord knows preparing cheesy potatoes takes over an hour to make and yet adds a pound or two to my waistline. My favorite pot pie recipe takes an hour to put together and includes all kinds of things I no longer eat. So time prep isn’t so much the issue, is it?

It’s about choice. Anyone can make a solid, healthy breakfast, lunch, dinner or snack in less than 10 minutes. But it takes a lot of planning ahead to make many of those healthy choices. They aren’t on every street corner and certainly not on every take-out menu or prepackaged package. Choosing to eat and preparing whole REAL food takes time.

So my question is: Is Pollan right? Do you think most Americans A) care; and B) want to try to find the time to make their meals? What will it take to get us back to 1965?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Best Seat In The House

As many of you know, I have three big dogs, each with their own favorite spots in our house.

Jake is a 12-year-old, 95-pound Golden Retriever (or as we call the breed, Permanent Adolescent) who prefers to sleep at the bottom of the stairs or in front of the front door or in the master bedroom right in front of the toilet – three of our most high traffic areas. We’ve tried to make other areas of the house more appealing, but he’ll have none of that. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. At least not an old dog who’s taking a narcotic for hip dysplasia. He’s comfortable sleeping at the bottom of the stairs and in front of the door and in the bathroom, so whatever. We’re not going to argue with him.

Mathilda is a 9-year-old, 75-pound Beagle mix. Larry calls her “Butterball” because she’s 20 pounds overweight. Her diet has little to do with it, though. Mathilda has allergies, and every year for three or four months in the summer and fall, we give her steroids to control her itching. Without steroids (and believe me, we’ve tried everything), she cuts open her face and every other place her nails can reach. In the spring and early summer she sheds her weight…just in time to go back on steroids. It’s a nasty cycle, but she’s a happy girl nonetheless.

Mathilda’s favorite place to sleep is on my living room chair or the loveseat or the futon in Larry’s office. Rarely do we have to step over her, she’s considerate when we ask her to move (unlike Jake who just stares at us), and is low-maintenance in the area of demanding attention. She likes a good belly rub once in awhile, but prefers to be left alone most of the time.

Cooper is a 5-year-old, 70-pound Flat Coated Retriever (a breed developed many years ago as a mix between a Newfoundland and a Golden Retriever). Cooper sleeps anywhere Larry is and is always disappointed when I climb into bed at night. “Maybe tonight they’ll let me sleep here,” is what his eyes say just before we laugh and say, “Um…no.” We have a full-size bed and I’m a pillow pig. I tuck them all around my body. There’s no room for another being, especially not one that’s 75 pounds and sprawls out, not curls up, to sleep.

Each dog has their own idea of what constitutes the best seat in the house. We all have those favorite places, don’t we? Whether it’s in our homes or outside, there are those places that fit us like a glove. I thought about that that today as I sat on what is now my new best seat outside my home:

After switchbacking up the side of the mountain on a different section of the North Country Trail from last week, there was a bench. A lovely, sturdy wooden bench overlooking the forest. Not only did it lend itself as a place to rest and offered a spectacular view, it helped me appreciate, once again, my body and what it’s capable of. I never would have found or sat on that bench when I was 300 pounds. It physically could not have happened. And even though I have two bum knees, I got to the top of that mountain and, more importantly, down again. (As anyone with knee problems knows, climbing isn’t the hardest part. It’s going down that’s a killer.)

Knees willing (and I’ll do everything to ensure their viability), I’m going to visit that bench again next spring. I hope Jake will still be around, sleeping at the bottom of the stairs. I hope Mathilda will be in the process of shedding her weight. And I hope Cooper still thinks we won’t notice if he stays in bed with us. But I won’t count on any of those things. I’ll just sit down in the best seat in the forest, enjoy the view, and let life be what is.

More photos from the hike:

Me at the first switchback holding the trusty walking stick I found at the beginning of our hike. It was an incredibly difficult climb - partly because of the steep grade and partly because the fallen leaves made it hard to see the slippery slopes - but it was so physically and emotionally exhilarating.

Cooper went with us on the hike. How beautiful is he? And he has no clue.

My awesome hiking boots (Skechers!!)

The creek we crossed before our ascent.
Larry and Cooper on the bench...of course. Larry is Coop's BFF. I sometimes think Coop is Larry's BFF, too. Hmmm...

Friday, October 16, 2009

Pickled Beets Are The New Chocolate. Well, Kind Of.

So I said to my gynecologist I said, “What’s up with these four pounds I’ve gained since May?”

“You’re 46,” she said.

“Oh. So it’s nothing I’ve done?”

“Nope. It’s just your metabolism slowing down.”

“But I had such a flat stomach four pounds ago! Now four pounds are just sitting right here!” I said, squishing my fingers into the center of my paper gown.

“You can still have it. Give up that wine and chocolate you like and bump up the exercise and you’ll be back down there in a few months. But ask yourself, do you really want to do that?”

Well, yeah, I kinda do. The chocolate part, anyway. I won’t add more exercise, and I’m not even going there with wine. Not yet, anyway.

I went on a chocolate hiatus for a year and survived so I know I can do it. Chocolate was the one food I stopped eating entirely when I first started losing weight. Not that I had to, per se. Weight Watchers put no restrictions on what foods I ate. But I had to if I was serious about food discipline. I told myself, “Learn portion control with potatoes first, then move on to the hard stuff.” So I gave up chocolate for a year. Funny thing was, when I ate it again, it was like, “Eh, yeah, so?” It was still tasty, certainly. But I’d already lost 100 pounds and nothing, not even chocolate, was going to take that away from me. I was a Jedi Knight of food discipline.

I’m still a Jedi, but I’m not Luke anymore. I’m Yoda. I’m staring down a slowing metabolism, and unless I want to look five months pregnant for the rest of my life and be beholden to Spanx every time I wear a dress, I’ll give up the chocolate once again.

It’s not the taste I’ll miss as much as the ritual and comfort. When I unwrap the foil and pop a bit in my mouth, the taste and texture and the way it gets into the grooves of my teeth before melting is like passing a flower shop and the scent follows you for a few yards and you have a vague and pleasant memory of prom or your wedding or a special garden.

So what could possibly replace chocolate in this ritual? I’m in the process of interviewing food. This week, it’s pickled beets. So far they’re holding their own in the comfort sector and may be called back for a second interview.

You might recall a few weekends ago I made pickled beets. Hard to believe growing up in the upper Midwest that I’d never eaten them until last month. Pickled pigs feet? Of course! Pickled herring? Absolutely! I grew up on both. But I’d not had pickled beets until I saw how much my friend Pam’s little boy loved them when we went out for lunch one day. I tried one and it was love at first bite.

I scoured the internet for recipes and found Alton Brown’s. I’m in love with Alton Brown. So is my husband, but not in that way. Larry’s a biochemist science geek and adores those chemical explanations Alton has for everything while he’s cooking. I just think he’s cute...and the way he's holding that mixer? Booyah! Anyway...

I chose this recipe because Alton roasts the beets in rosemary and uses tarragon vinegar rather than cider or regular vinegar. Sounded interesting, so I made them. I wouldn’t know how they turned out for a week because they have to ferment, but Alton promised, “Patience will be rewarded.” And he was right. The beets are, in a word, awesome.

I’m not suggesting pickled beets taste like chocolate, but they give me a similar level of comfort and satisfaction. Strange, I know, but keep in mind, I was raised on saltine crackers, gjetost cheese and lutefisk. I have eclectically weird taste buds.

What I’m trying to say is: I discovered that the comfort of chocolate had become a rote act when it should be special. I won’t swap the calories of chocolate for the calories of a sugary vegetable. I won’t eat pickled beets every day, or any other comfort substitute to be determined. The deal is, I’m cutting out about 100 calories a day for the sake of my stomach. And for those times when I want a little comfort, I’m looking outside the chocolate box to find suitable alternatives, including non-food things like incense and candles. It might work. It might not. My metabolism may have the final say. But I’m going to try.

(Click here to watch Alton make his pickled beets recipe. Afterwards is a segment in which he talks about latex and then a demo of another beets recipe and an obnoxious but probably oh-so-delish beet greens recipe. Egg yolk, cheese, cereal topping…yeah, he’s evil that way.)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes

“All lies and jest. Still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.” Paul Simon

When I was obese, I didn’t seek out activities that required exertion. The local high school football field is built on the side of a large hill, ergo, I didn’t go to many games. Cook Forest State Park and Allegheny National Forest were beautiful places…to drive through. I even avoided sporting goods stores and bought tennis shoes online just so I wouldn’t be reminded of all the things I couldn’t – but deep down wanted – to do.

Within that mindset, I definitely wouldn’t have noticed a new sign along the road for a North Country Trail trailhead. I wouldn’t have even wondered what the North Country Trail was. Whenever I saw or heard the word “trail” I’d immediately recoil knowing my back, knees and lungs couldn’t handle a hike, even though I longed to see the forest from a place other than my car.

Fast forward five years and a sea of attitude adjustment. Last weekend Larry and I took advantage of a spectacular fall day and decided to go for a walk along the Clarion River in a remote area over the Gravel Lick bridge, located about 13 miles from our house. Along the road was this sign:

Am I, like, the last person in the northern midwest/east to know the North Country Trail existed? It’s a huge national trail extending 4,600 miles from North Dakota to New York, so if you live in North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania or New York, there’s a North Country Trail trailhead in your state. Raise your hand if you knew this and shout “hellya!” if you’ve hiked a part of it.

We parked the car down the hill (some people call it a mountain) and walked up to the trailhead. It wasn’t our intention to hike it, but we were curious about the trail and where it would lead us, so we (literally) hoisted ourselves onto the trail and started our ascent. This is what it looked like along the way:

I’m all over this North Country Trail thing and ready for the next leg, hopefully before the snow falls. I’m even considering planning a long weekend next year around the trail and hiking it for hours at a time. Me. Lynn Haraldson-Bering. The woman who just five years ago sat on the sidelines while others went swimming, played softball, rode their bikes, or hiked. To commit vacation time to physical exertion? That’s about as opposite of my former attitude as I can get.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Money-Body Connection

Last Saturday I went online to check my bank statement and was shocked when my balance was MINUS $39.09.

What the…??

Then I saw a debit for bird seed that I thought I had purchased through a different account. My husband I have two joint accounts – one that he uses most and one that I use most. Both debit cards are from the same bank so they look identical, except I’d used a black marker and his name on the card linked to “his” account. “My” debit card goes in the top slot of my wallet and “his” goes in the third. However, I’d mixed them up and when I went to buy bird seed, I pulled the card from the third slot thinking I was using “his” account and paid for my purchase, which – unbeknownst to me – sent “my” account into the red by $3.09. Had I been informed at the point of purchase that my account was going to be in arrears, I’d have realized I was using the wrong account. But because my bank “covers” overdrafts for a tidy fee of $36, my $35 bags of bird seed cost me $71.

My fault, yes. I should have been more aware of the card I was using. But sign me up for supporting legislation in which banks must obtain consent at the point of purchase before “covering” a customer’s overdraft and slapping them with a service fee. To cover my $3.09 mistake, I paid more than 10 times that much.

So THAT’S where all those CEO bonuses are coming from. And here I thought is was just my tax dollars.

I’m mad as hell and I’m not taking it anymore. Mad enough to dedicate myself to becoming an informed consumer of banking products. I’ve already canceled a few credit cards when I received letters informing me that my interest rate was going up (as in DOUBLING), and next week I’m going to interview my bank and find out how I can best protect myself from their loan shark practices. National City executives will have to find some other sucker to pay for their Chateaubriand and Dom Perignon.

I’ve had overdrafts in the past, but this time it’s different. If I had an overdraft in the past, I’d beat myself up, call the bank and beg to have the charges removed, beat myself up a little more and then promise I’d never let it happen again. To my credit, it’s been several years since I’ve been overdrawn because I actually started balancing my checkbook. However, I didn’t fully understand what kind of checking account I had and didn’t realize that the bank would allow a debit transaction to take place even when I didn’t have enough funds in my account. Why? Because I was not fully engaged in my relationship with my money.

For years I was the same way about my relationship with my body. I recognized the similarity to my money dilemma yesterday when I was looking through one of my journals. Here’s what I read: “Journal to lose weight. Maybe that’s how I’ll do it. Force myself to write instead of eat, write down my goals, the food I eat, the exercise I do. I know that will work. Do I have the will to keep it up? Yes. As long as I work to change my attitude.”

Those of you who’ve known me for awhile know that this sounds like something I’d have written when I began this last journey down the scale back in January 2005. I’m always yammering at you about journaling, right? Well guess when I wrote that particular passage? July 22, 1999 – a full 5½ years before I started my last “diet.”

So the idea was there, but the will wasn’t. It was like there was an “overdraft,” but all I was willing to do was promise it wouldn’t happen again. I didn’t sign on then to become an informed consumer of food. Whay? Because I wasn’t ready. It took me five more years to commit fully to myself and my well being. I had to WANT to become informed. I had to WANT to take care of myself and do whatever it took to reach my goals.

Now it’s time to do the same thing with my money. I WANT to become informed. I WANT to take care of my money because, like my body, it’s mine and my responsiblity. No one else’s. I’m finally tired of treating it with so little respect.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

I Guess You Could Call This A Commerical

Like a lot of bloggers, I get asked to review things on my blog like scales or books or weight-loss “products” (which I stay FAR away from…DELETE, bye-bye email). However, other than once reviewing a scale once and a few books, I usually decline these offers. (Of course, some companies don’t ask and just plaster my photos on their website implying that I used colon cleansing or acai berries to lose weight. *sigh* I hate when that happens.)

When I mention products here, it’s (sadly) not because the manufacturer asked me to; it’s because I love or don’t love them and want to tell you why or why not. However, if anyone reading this is the person who hires spokespeople for the following products, I’m your blogger woman. Why? Because I’m cheap. I don’t want your money. Just product. Lots of product. Heck, I know I’m not Michael Jordon or Mia Hamm and wouldn’t make you millions, but I bet I could gain you a few converts and new customers. (Enough to justify a year’s supply of ketchup, Heinz…Just sayin’.)

Here are a few of the companies I want to prostitute myself for support as a spokesperson blogger: Skechers (best shoes ever for my messed up feet so please don’t tell me they’re hand sewn by 5-year-old children or tested on puppies), Heinz No-Salt Added Ketchup (I can have my Bocas AND condiments, too, without crossing my sodium threshold), Tic-Tacs (greatest stress relievers ever), Celestial Seasonings tea (yum), Mossimo Tissue Tees (put me in a padded bra, I could totally model those shirts), Hanes ankle socks (stink-free feet, baby), Furmano’s Pizza Sauce (for when I’m too lazy to make my own), Cabot 75% Reduced Fat Cheddar (melts like buttah…), and Lifetime Fitness (I could use a treadmill), Shirataki Noodles (wait…HungryGirl has that covered…dammmmmit).


Arnold’s Sandwich Thins (for making me believe in bread again, plus it makes awesome French toast), Skinny Dippers Organic Spelt Crackers (made in Canada, my second favorite country), whoever makes Trader Joe’s nuts (that’s not a sexual joke) and stevia, RealLime and RealLemon (I have a hard time squeezing juice from fruit due to arthritis), Land ‘O Lakes Light Butter (I grew up in Minnesota!), Pam cooking spray, all of McCormick’s spices, Werther’s Original Hard Candies (my nightly snack), PB2 (goes well with the Arnold’s. And bananas. And HungryGirl’s Sesame Treat, which is cooling in the refrigerator as I type), Mori-Nu Silken Light Tofu, Eden Organic beans (especially the pintos), Silk Light Soy Milk, AND….

Advil LiquiGels.

So now you know (like you asked! LOL) a few of the products that are mainstays in my house.

What are yours? What would you willingly promote without anyone twisting your arm? I’m always looking for new products to make my life tastier and easier, even if they’re not free.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

I am a slug? No, Just Feeling Lazy.

I haven’t worked out since Thursday. Friday was my day off, but Saturday and today I offer no other excuse than I just didn’t feel like it.

Is that bad?

This morning I was up at 5:45 for no apparent reason, and all morning (while playing WordTwist and online spades) I kept thinking, Lynn, for god’s sake, you’re a slug! Get up, girl! Do something! So I went for a walk – OK a very pisspoor walk with no hills and no sweating, but a walk nonetheless – and came home and made pickled beets and hummus. I’ll know in a few days how they turned out. Both have to spend time in the fridge.


Since I didn’t have anything better to do *actuallyIdidbutIdon’tfeellikedoingit* I looked up “slug” on Wikipedia and now I’m really confused. Why do we refer to slovenly, lazy behavior as “being a slug”? Slugs are quite busy little creatures, and they participate in one very distinct act that I’m sure no (sane) human would want to.

I’ll let Wiki ‘splain it.

“Slugs are hermaphrodites, having both female and male reproductive organs. Once a slug has located a mate, they encircle each other and sperm is exchanged through their protruded genitalia. A few days later the slugs lay around 30 eggs into a hole in the ground, or beneath the cover of an object such as a fallen log.

Apophallation is a commonly seen practice among many slugs. In apophallating species, the penis curls like a cork-screw and during mating often becomes entangled in the mate's genitalia. Apophallation allows the slugs to separate themselves by one or both of the slugs chewing off the other's penis. Once its penis has been removed, the slug is still able to mate using only the female parts of its reproductive system.”

Yeah…’nuf said. I’ll no longer refer to my lazyassself as a slug.

My arms and glutes are going to HATE me tomorrow, but I can already sense the drill sergeant in me waking up. Bring! It! On! I’m ready with my new t-shirts. It was time to replace the Old Navy workhorses with on-sale American Eagle cotton classics because after all my sweaty workouts, a few stains and smells moved into the fabric and never left, no matter how much Secret I put on.

I’ll be slug-less…I mean less LAZY tomorrow. No chewing off body parts going in my household. But there will be a whole lotta lifting going on.


I want to give a shout out to someone new to blogging but not new to weight loss and maintenance. Shira Miller lost 50 pounds back in 1992 and has kept it off for 17 years. Talk about defying the odds! A writer, Shira is writing a book that focuses on maintenance success stories and is looking for successful maintainers. Here’s what she told me: “I’m looking to interview a diverse group of women who have maintained a 50-pound weight loss or more for at least five years, and who are willing to share their before and after photos. Anyone who is interested can contact me at, and check out for more scoop on my background.”

Send her an email if you’re interested. In the meantime, enjoy her blog. It’s always good to add another maintainer to the posse.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Good Love Is Like a Good Roasting Pan

Tomorrow (Oct. 3) is my 11-year wedding anniversary. (That's us 3 years ago dancing at Cassie's wedding and back when I had cleavage.) It's hard to believe 11 years have gone by, especially if you know my history. Let’s just say a good man is easy to leave. Well, some of them. My choices haven’t all been stellar.

Until Larry, that is.

Larry’s been with me – literally – through thick and thin. I met Larry in 1992 when I weighed 149. He told me he used to stare at my legs in church when he should have been listening to the sermon. We were just friends then, but he was and still is a guy and I get all goose-pimply when he reminds me, no matter how much time goes by.

Anyway, we started dating in 1996 and I weighed 180. I ate a little more, and by the time we married two years later I weighed 200. No matter, Larry still loved me (and my legs). By 2004, I weighed 300 pounds and wasn’t real fond of myself. Yet Larry was still loving me, even when I didn’t understand why. But in 2005, I trusted his (our) love and used it to get me through the next few years of losing weight and dealing with all the crap I’d shoved under the rug for years.

Now here I am at 120-something and nearly six years from 300. I’m still married to Larry because I figured out that good love is like a good roasting pan. The longer you use it, the better it gets, even if it looks rough around the edges and you can’t get all the gunk out. That gunk adds flavor because it forms a barrier to the newness. New is good, but seasoned is better. Patience is rewarded with the sweetness that comes from longevity. Like an aged roasting pan, a relationship can better handle new ingredients because of all the time spent curing the foundation. The end result is a more seasoned product – one that tastes better than originally imagined and despite any imperfections.

The only way I know to describe all this musically is the second movement of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 8 (Pathetique). So I’ll leave you with this interpretation and bid you a good night. I’m headed to the Gateway Lodge for dinner tomorrow night for a romantic dinner, the place Larry and I spent our first married night together. I’ve decided we’re having the Guinness Chocolate Cheesecake for dessert...among other things.