Sunday, November 29, 2009

I Want To Be Smoochy

“We’ll get you off that smack, oh yes we will.”

I know the science, I know the psychology and STILL carbs are an evil temptress.

“We’re givin’ up that smack, oh yes we are.”

We watched “Death to Smoochy” Saturday night. Loved it! Smoochy is good and pure and walks his walk. If he was a person who’d lost a lot of weight, he’d be the kind of maintainer I’d emulate.

And so I aspire to be Smoochy.

We celebrated Thanksgiving on Friday because Daughter #2 worked on Thursday. Daughter #1 and I cooked all the trimmings on Thursday and we packed it all up (along with a husband, boyfriend and stepsons) and headed down to Pittsburgh the next day.

I had a plan. I was going to: eat a lot of squash; have a little artichoke dip and 4 pita chips; measure out ¼ cup of cranberry-orange sauce; and load up on steamed green beans and asparagus. When I planned this out the day before, it made perfect sense.

Here’s what I ate: twice the alloted amount of artichoke dip; some – as in I can’t remember how many – pita chips; a few bites of mashed potatoes (no ordinary mashed potatoes…these suckers included full-fat sour cream and cream cheese); a few bites of stuffing (that I’d made with real butter AND chicken broth which disqualified my vegetarianism for a few seconds); fewer green beans and asparagus spears than I’d planned; 2 cups of squash; two bites of pumpkin pie; and one or two (OK, four, maybe five) GENEROUS bites of apple cake. It was all so damn good that I…and I hate to admit this…couldn’t help myself.

Couldn’t help myself. How sad is that after five years?

Deep breath. Even Smoochy’s emotions overwhelmed him and he almost used a gun to kill his nemesis.

What kept going through my head on the way home was, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” But I know that’s not true in my weight-loss journey. Once I had a day to digest (figuratively, not literally), I realized the T-day food destruction wasn’t as bad as my head made it out to be. The empty-calorie hangover only lasted a day. I’ve not been on the scale yet, and I probably won’t weigh in until Friday, but I’m pretty sure things will be fine. Right now, I just need some distance.

I’m not kicking myself or demeaning myself because I swayed from my plan. I just temporarily forgot my mantra while picking at the T-day food – “How will I feel five minutes after eating this?” – and I didn’t place that thought-out portion on my plate. I just sat at the table and yakked with my family and stuck my fork in this bowl and that bowl and got completely at ease in the moment, forgetting my plan.

But it turned out to be a gift, an eye-opening experience! I was reintroduced to the person I was before – the one who randomly ate whatever. She still lives inside me. She hasn’t visited in awhile, but she lives nearby. OK. I can deal with that. It’s always good to know where your enemy lives.

The best news is that I couldn’t WAIT to eat a smoothie Saturday morning and broccoli for breakfast on Sunday. Just one day and I missed my food routine. So did my body. I felt sluggish and overall yuck when I woke up Saturday. Even though I didn’t eat “that much,” my body said, “WTF?”

Carbs are my nemesis, no doubt. But I’ll continue to aspire to be own superhero. My own Smoochy.
Me and my family of man:
My children:
And, of course, Claire:

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

My Thanksgiving

I’m not going to yammer on in this post about all the things I’m thankful for. Instead, I’m going to let Don Henley, Luca, and Claire do my talking for me.

First, Don Henley’s “My Thanksgiving.” It opened my eyes when it came out several years ago. Helped push me over the edge and lose weight for good. I listen to it when I forget my place in this world, forget what I’m thankful for. Below are some of the lyrics and the video. (For some reason, the video starts playing right away. You can stop it.)

Now the trouble with you and me, my friend
Is the trouble with this nation
Too many blessings, too little appreciation
And I know that kind of notion, well, it just ain't cool
So send me back to Sunday school
Because I'm tired of waiting for reason to arrive
It's too long we've been living
These unexamined lives

I've got great expectations
I've got family and friends
I've got satisfying work
I've got a back that bends
For every breath, for every day of living
This is my Thanksgiving

Have you noticed that an angry man
Can only get so far
Until he reconciles the way he thinks things ought to be
With the way things are

Here in this fragmented world, I still believe
In learning how to give love, and how to receive it
And I would not be among those who abuse this privilege
Sometimes you get the best light from a burning bridge
And I don't mind saying that I still love it all
I wallowed in the springtime
Now I'm welcoming the fall

For every moment of joy
Every hour of fear
For every winding road that brought me here
For every breath, for every day of living
This is my Thanksgiving
For everyone who helped me start
And for everything that broke my heart
For every breath, for every day of living
This is my Thanksgiving

Watching a child’s life unfold and witness their personality emerge is one of the most precious gifts we get. Seeing the world through Claire’s and Luca’s eyes is a sort of redemption because it teaches me that I, too, was once innocent and full of wonder. They soften my edges and ease my remorse and regrets.

This is Luca. He’s only six months, but he’s already pulling himself to standing. He thinks this is hilarious, apparently, as you’ll see in this video. I hope his laughter brings you joy, too.

This is Claire playing recently at my house. You’ll hear her say, “Hey Mum!” when she’s standing on the top of the cellar door.

I am ever so grateful to all of you for reading my blog and for inspiring me with your thoughts, experiences, and stories (and recipes!). I’ll be in back on the blog on Sunday. Until then, I wish you all a happy and peaceful Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Collarbones and Veins. Weight and Marriage. It’s All About Perception.

Grandbaby Claire was here last week for an overnight. Just before bed, we snuggled on the couch, ate a dish of ice cream, and talked about our day.

“Jake is happy, Mum,” she said, referring to our Golden Retriever panting next to her, hoping to lick the ice cream bowl. She calls me “mum,” I suspect, because that’s what my daughters call me. Every day she’s more aware of the world and people around her.

Wrapped in her blanket with her head resting against my arm, Claire rubbed her fingers along the veins in my hands. Then she climbed on my lap and rolled her fingers over my collarbones. She was mesmerized by these protrusions. I didn’t stop her, even though I was embarrassed. After all, I did the same thing to my mother and grandmother, and they didn’t stop me.

When I lived in younger skin, and later an obese body, my veins and collarbones were hidden. I didn’t realize I had them or pay attention that they were there. Now that I’m older and have lost a few pounds, my veins protrude like a blue river under my pale skin and my collarbones are a tempting teething ring for grandbaby Luca.

My grandkids aren’t the only ones who notice. Several people have written to me over the last few years (a few more recently) and told me I’m too thin, otherwise my bones wouldn’t stick out like they do. Reading this, I feel exposed, and I almost (almost) feel like I should apologize for getting older or losing weight (that’s Old Me thinking, I know, but it’s still so strong). My genetics are what they are and I can’t change the way my body has evolved. So like I’ve done with excess skin and wrinkles, I can either learn to accept what is or appease the perceptions of other people and gain weight/apologize/live in aversion.

I choose to accept.

Public perception’s a bitch, and I’m as guilty as the next person of jumping to conclusions. For instance, I watched an interview with James Cameron tonight on “60 Minutes.” Morley Safer mentioned Cameron had been married five times. Five times? What a flake, right? Only losers get married that many times!

But wait. I’ve been married four times. Four. Times. One less than Cameron’s five. How does that make me, in the public eye, any different? Most people when they hear I’ve been married four times conclude I have commitment issues. While that is (was) part of the story, it’s by no means the entire truth. Knowing that about myself, I should also know there’s more truth behind Cameron’s five marriages, too. And yet I make snap conclusions.

Then there’s morbid obesity. When I was 300 pounds, how many people probably thought I was that way simply because I ate too much? Again, that’s part of the story, but hardly the entire truth. Yet when I see morbidly obese people, my first thought is they eat too much, too. Geez oh man. I don’t want that conclusion dumped on my plate and yet I dish it out to others! How perverted is that?

To fill people in on our entire truths 24/7 would be exhausting if not impossible. People are going to think what they will. But my terse conclusions of others is needs to change based mostly on my finally confessed fear of being misunderstood.

I’m a bony, middle-aged woman who formerly weighed 300 pounds and has been married four times. If that’s all you knew about me, what would you conclude?

I know what I’d think, and it’s narrow-minded and wrong. But I know that this jump-to-conclusions mindset is something I can change, unlike my collarbones and veins, fat history and four marriages. There’s always more to our stories and the entire truth is probably way more interesting than the story based on our initial conclusions.

Here’s to no more false perceptions! *clinkingglasses*

Friday, November 20, 2009

A New Tea Day and T-Day

As I wrote last March, I’m a tea freak (see Tea Time) and from that, learned many of you are, too. Thanks to Lori and Kimberly, I have both SensibiliTeas and Teavana in my Favorites file and will try both companies this winter as soon as I’m off my holiday high from Celestial Seasonings Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride and Candy Cane Lane.

While I normally wouldn’t buy more tea until the SCSR and CCL were gone, Joy Bauer mentioned on her Facebook page that her office had received a sample of Double Dark Chocolate Mate tea from The Republic of Tea. Chocolate tea? I had to check that out.

My order arrived yesterday and I made a pot this morning with which to experiment. Here’s my review:

By itself: Eh…it’s OK. Smells divine, though.

With stevia: Very good. The sweetener brought out the chocolate flavor.

With ½ cup plain soy milk and stevia: Very good, however I suspect it would be even better with vanilla soy.

With 2 T fat-free half-and-half and stevia: A little better than plain, but a little on the funky tasting side.

I’ll have another cup tomorrow with just stevia and see if it grows on me. Chocolate tea is different; not at all like my usual teas. Plus this one has caffeine – not much, but some. I didn’t feel any effect, though.

The Republic of Tea catalog lists 17 “Be Well Red Teas.” I know many tea companies blend teas for specific ailments or to enhance wellbeing, but I’ve never tried them. Have you? Do they work? I’m particularly curious about the blends that promise a “sensual nudge” (their words, not mine), a healthy heart, more energy, better skin and a good nights sleep. Let me know your experiences.

I roasted a pumpkin the other day just to test its consistency. I was also curious what it tasted like and discovered it’s MUCH better than canned. More alive, less bland. Mix it with a little butter and maple syrup…heaven.

I’ve also clipped several roasted pumpkin recipes and thought I’d use roasted pumpkin in place of canned in soup recipes. I also want to make our T-day pumpkin pies just as my grandmother Katinka would have made them 100 years ago. Actually, I don’t make the pie. My daughter Carlene does. That’s her domain. However, she’s baking with au naturale pumpkin because I’m the one paying for the ingredients. I told her she can blame me if her pies turn out like crap. That’s only fair.

I’m pretty sure Katinka didn’t pick up a can of pumpkin at the grocery store or buy a pre-made crust in a tube. She cooked the pumpkins herself , and probably grew them, too. I had the good fortune to learn from her and my mother how to make a pie crust, so hopefully I can pass that on to my daughter. We tried an unusual recipe last year that turned out very well, but for the life of me I can’t find now. So much for being organized. Guess I’ll rely on the old Betty Crocker cookbook this year.

Pies are as far as I’ve gotten in my Thanksgiving preparation – although I do have a free-range turkey on order that I can pick up on Monday. $2.49 a pound was too good a price to pass up. While I don’t eat turkey anymore, when I did I was always disappointed in the sodium-laden Butterballs and other store-bought frozen turkeys. I’d love to cook a wild turkey for the crew. I’d even eat a bit of that.

I’m sure our menu will include the usual: sweet potatoes, party potatoes, stuffing, orange cranberry sauce, crescent rolls, and black olives. Oh, and green bean casserole. Why, I’m not sure since no one really eats it. It’s a carb-laden feast, yes, but if I broke with tradition, my family would disown me. It’s once a year. I love to cook for them. So there you go.

As for me, I’ll probably eat some sweet potatoes and cranberries. Maybe a sliver of pie. I know if I eat the stuffing I’ll feel like crap because my body’s not used to it, so I’ll avoid that. My joy truly is making the meal. I also cherish our “table time” before the meal. Everyone goes around and talks and/or prays about what they’re thankful for. And they all know they can’t just say, “Thank you for everyone” and pass it to the next person. Nope. They know to come prepared. Carlene even warned her new boyfriend who will be joining us. No one escapes the spotlight, she told him. If you can’t handle it, you don’t belong in our family. //word

This food attitude is a complete reversal from last year. I’m not approaching the holiday with the same angst I wrote about in 2008 (see Because I Said So). Another year of maintenance, another year of learning, I guess. Life’s too short for me to be pissed that I can’t eat potatoes in mass quantities! LOL

I hope your holiday plans are free from the stress of wondering what you “should” and “shouldn’t” eat. Remember your reasons for wanting to lose or maintain your weight and let those be your guide. Be good to yourself and have a sliver of pie if you want. Don’t let it derail you and send your head into a major self-persecuting meltdown. You’re worth WAY more than that.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Lynn “The Refrigerator” Bering

I spent a lot of time in the kitchen last night. One thing I did was make a fabulous new recipe I found on Veggie Venture . I made it while g-baby Claire sat on the counter playing with spoons and whisks and plastic bowls. Who knew kitchen utensils could be such good babysitters?

This Curried Squash recipe (if you love curry) is to die for. (It was so good I had leftovers for breakfast this morning.) Also, while the squash roasted in the oven, I made a fabulous veggie soup using my first-ever homemade vegetable broth. I have to say, it’s better than any boxed, canned or cubed veggie broth I’ve ever bought. I’m not sure I can go back to the store-bought. Dammmit. Now I’m destined to make veggie broth every other week.

All this time in the kitchen meant frequent trips to the refrigerator, which started me thinking, “If you want to get to know someone, look at their refrigerator.” A refrigerator speaks volumes about who a person is and what’s important to them. Besides, if you want to know a little something about someone, looking at their fridge is way less intrusive than looking in their medicine cabinet.

My refrigerator tells the ongoing story of my life. There are photos all over it that I rotate every few weeks depending on if there’s been a birthday, holiday, get-together, or just random silliness.

Holding the photos in place are magnets from businesses I use and places I’ve been. Included in my collection is a magnet photo of Socks the Cat I bought at the Clinton Library in Little Rock; one from Chincoteague Island I bought when I was married to someone else; random magnets from Minnesota, New York and California; and a few from the Andy Warhol Museum. There’s one from the salon I go to and one from the vet’s office. Calendar magnets from our insurance company come in handy when I hang paintings by Claire because they’re big.

As for the inside of my refrigerator, it’s a fairly healthy testimony to how I eat. You’ll see the random frozen yogurt container, perhaps scoff at the sticks of butter, maybe wonder what I’m doing with so many types of jam (I’ll never give up the jam), and think, “She drinks boxed wine?” (yup, I do). But my refrigerator is a picture of health compared to six years ago when my fridge was stuffed with fat-laden leftovers and condiments as well as take-out I forgot were there.

I’m amazed by how many people are like the old me, who have no idea what’s in their refrigerator. These days, I have the contents of mine memorized, including most sell-by and use-by dates. This doesn’t make me a saint or anything. I just have a good memory and the desire to keep tabs on all the food I consume. If I slice a tomato, wrap up the unused part and put it in the crisper, I remember it’s there and create a sandwich or omelet around it before it goes bad. At least I usually do.

There’s always the occasional food that I open or have made and not liked much, but I’ve kept it anyway “just in case.” I know it’s there, but it gets pushed further and further to the back. By the time I throw it away, it has died a natural death and I feel less guilty for letting it go. (It’s a mind game, I know. But I have to tell myself that two tablespoons of peanut sauce or the year-old jar of barbecue sauce won’t feed the world.)

In many ways, my refrigerator is a lot like me. After many soul-searching years, the person I am now on the outside reflects who I am on the inside. My outside shows happiness as well as age (i.e. refrigerator has photos and magnets, and I have grey hair and wrinkles, but a big old smile). On the inside is maturity (i.e. the refrigerator contains no more double cheese pizzas, and I’ve quit, for the most part, the negative self-talk).

I’m no longer embarrassed by my “refrigerator.” Anyone who visits or attends my parties is welcome to take a look. Just don’t look in the medicine cabinet. That might be a little harder to explain.

P.S. Apologies for reverting back to the other way of leaving messages. I keep forgetting to click on that super secret button when I post. This will most likely happen again, so bear with me.

Also, thank you for your responses to my recipe post. Lori, the Brussels sprouts recipe sounds challenging, only in that while shredding those little buggers I know I’ll shred my knuckles, but I’m going to give it a try. Blood adds no calories, right? Debby, my husband (your kindred spirit) gauges his veggie taste on how “British” they are, as in boiled just right or boiled to death. Lynn, thanks for the sprouts recipe! McLauren, LOVE cauliflower that way! And Pat, your okra story…so sad. I would sit in a chair for days if it meant I didn’t have to eat it. It’s like snot on a fork.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Four Veggie Recipes. That’s All. No Real Insights.

I’m a vegetarian married to a carnivore who prefers “traditional” veggies. Oh, and okra.

Larry grew up in the south, far removed from the vegetables I grew up with in Minnesota. He’s also partial to steamed veggies, and he considers peas, corn and lima beans “vegetables.” I personally don’t consider the starchy variety “real” veggies because of their carb content, but if Larry wants a side of peas and corn and call it a veggie, I’ll still love him. I refuse to eat okra, so that makes us even.

Because of Larry’s penchant for steamed veggies, I’m always looking for ways to jazz them up so he doesn’t fall asleep during dinner. Here are four of my favorites, and I admit I’m posting this to generate perhaps a few more steamed ideas from all of you? Please? I can only be so creative on my own!

Broccoli in Spicy Orange Sauce (From the Mayo Clinic Cookbook)
6 servings

2 pounds of broccoli, or pre-cut broccoli florets
1/2 C orange juice
2 teaspoons honey
1 t of Dijon mustard
1 t of grated orange zest (you can substitute orange oil if needed)
1/2 t of reduced sodium soy sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 t red pepper flakes
1½ t cornstarch
1 T water
1 t of toasted or raw sesame seeds

Trim the broccoli into small florets so that each one is around 4 cm each. If you want to use the stocks, trim them so they are about 1/2 inch thick.

Place a steamer basket into a large pot, bring 2 inches of water to a boil. Add the stalks to your steamer basket and cover and steam for 2 minutes. Add the florets and then steam for an additional 3 minutes. If you don't have a steamer basket, you can also microwave the broccoli in a bowl with a couple of tablespoons of water.

While the broccoli is cooking, add the orange juice, honey, mustard, orange zest, soy sauce, garlic, and pepper flakes to a small saucepan and boil over medium high heat.

In another bowl, combine and whisk together the cornstarch and water. Once the cornstarch is dissolved, stir this mixture into the orange juice mixture, and cook both until thickened (should take about 1 minute) stirring constantly.

In a new bowl, toss the broccoli with the sauce. Sprinkle sesame seeds to taste.

Asparagus (From Taste of Home)

1. Cut 1 pound of fresh asparagus into 1½ pieces and sauté for 2 minutes in 1 T light butter with one (or more) minced garlic cloves.
2. Stir in ½ C chicken broth (I use vegetable broth), cover and cook on low until crisp-tender.
3. Remove to serving dish with a slotted spoon and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Sautéed String Beans with Almonds (from Weight Watchers)
8 servings (or if you’re me, about 3 or 4 servings)

2 t olive oil (I leave this out and sauté with 1 T vegetable broth)
½ C slivered almonds
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
8 C green snap beans, fresh, trimmed, or thawed if frozen
½ C canned chicken broth, or vegetable broth (you know which one I use)
¼ t black pepper, freshly ground, or to taste
½ t table salt, or to taste (I leave this out)

Place almonds in a large dry skillet and place pan over medium heat. Cook until nuts are golden brown, shaking pan frequently, about 2 to 4 minutes. Remove nuts from pan; set aside.

Heat oil in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook , stirring, 1 minute. Add string beans and sauté 1 minute. Add broth to pan; cover and steam until string beans are crisp-tender, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper; stir to coat. Remove from heat; stir in toasted almonds. Yields about ¾ cup per serving.

I just discovered this one last night:

Spicy Carrot Coins (from Taste of Home)
4-6 servings

2 pounds carrots, sliced
1¼ C water
1 cinnamon stick (3 inches)
1 t ground ginger
1 t ground cumin
½ t ground coriander
¼ t salt (again, I left this out)
1/8 to ¼ t cayenne pepper
¼ c honey
4 t lemon juice

In a large nonstick saucepan, combine the first 8 ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Discard cinnamon stick. Add honey and lemon juice to carrots. Bring to a boil; cook, uncovered, for 5-8 minutes or until carrots are tender and liquid has evaporated (more or less).

And this one isn’t about steamed veggies, but it’s still one of my favorites.

Broccoli Slaw Sauté (From Health, Jan/Feb 2007)
3-5 servings

1 T olive oil (tastes just the same with or without oil)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 julienne-cut red bell pepper cut into 1/4-inch strips
1 sliced green onion
1 (12-ounce) package broccoli coleslaw
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or 1/4 teaspoon table salt (again, I leave this out)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Warm oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the garlic and cook, stirring 1 minute or until garlic is fragrant. Add the red bell pepper and onion; cook, stirring, 2 minutes.

Add the broccoli coleslaw, salt, black pepper, and vinegar. Cook, stirring 4-5 minutes or until the slaw is tender but not mushy.

Transfer mixture to a serving bowl, and sprinkle with grated cheese, if desired. Can be served warm or cold.

If you’ve got some favorite “traditional” veggie recipes, I’d love you more than chocolate if you’d send them! Well, maybe not more than chocolate, but definitely almost.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

‘Recycling’ Food and A New Breakfast Favorite

Arthritis Today magazine is always filled with great articles about the latest arthritis research, drug and supplements information, and arthritis-friendly gadget recommendations (you know how I LOVE gadgets). Also in each issue – like the toy surprise in Cracker Jacks – I find an article not directly related to arthritis but is just so darn interesting. In the latest issue (Nov-Dec ’09), the little gem was an article called “’Recycling’ Recipes.” I thought I’d share a part of it here. (My comments are in red.)

“Americans throw away roughly 96 billion pounds of food each year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Yet much of it is completely safe and healthy to eat.

Before you toss those leftovers into the compost pile, trash can or garbage disposal, consider transforming them into dishes on the advice of chef Hinnerk von Bargen,
an associate professor of the Culinary Institute of America’s San Antonio campus.

Overripe Fruit
Fruit spread: Peel and dice apples, plums and pears that are past their prime. Cook in a pot over low heat until thickened into an all-natural fruity spread.
(I’m wondering if it would need a little water?)
Smoothie cubes: Overripe bananas, cantaloupe and peaches can be pureed in a blender and frozen in ice-cube trays. Toss the cubes into the blender with milk and yogurt and whirl. (Cantaloupe smoothie? Hmmm…not sure. Your thoughts?)

Vegetable Scraps
Soup stock: Simmer 2 to 2 ½ pounds of mushroom stems, wilted cabbage leaves, tomato trimmings, carrot and celery ends – even aged cheese rinds – together in a quart of water for one hour. Strain through cheesecloth and use the stock as a base for soups and stews.
(I’d add some spices to it before cooking like cloves, basil, tarragon, rosemary, bay leaf, or thyme.)

Potato Peels
Potato crisps
(my personal favorite): Place peels from potatoes that have been washed well in a single layer on a baking sheet. Mix with a little vegetable oil (I’ll use cooking spray instead) and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes or until crispy. (I can taste them already. Just need a little condiment action and I’m set.)

Pineapple Skin (This one might be even more fun with a little rum, maybe?)
Sweet-tart cooler: Place sliced pineapple skin in a pot with a quart of water, one cinnamon stick and ¼ cup sugar. Simmer for 15 minutes, strain and serve over ice with a splash of lemon or lime juice.”

So there you have it. Recycled food. Let me know if you try any of them.

You know how you go through food cycles? I’ll go months and months eating a certain kind of roasted potato or making the same kind of soup. Then it gets boring and I latch on to another kind of food and eat it for months.

Recently I’ve grown tired of smoothies, but I still love Greek yogurt and have been looking for ways to jazz it up a bit. The other day I was on Weight Watchers online and saw a link to a post on one of the discussion boards about adding “seasonal” spices to yogurt. The person who posted said she adds apple pie spice, vanilla and Splenda to her plain yogurt. Sounded tasty.

I don’t have apple pie spice, so I substituted pumpkin pie spice and oh my, it was fabulous! I mixed it all up with stevia (not a Splenda fan), a banana and 3 T of Grape Nuts and it’s now (with or without the cereal) my new almost favorite breakfast. My favorite (albeit once-in-awhile, as in a few times a month) breakfast is still Arnold’s French Toast. I made some this morning along with a side of leftover steamed cauliflower sprinkled with a little parm. It’s another North Country Trail hiking day – another 63-degree afternoon on tap – and so I loaded up on protein and carbs to keep me going.

Happy Sunday, all!

Friday, November 13, 2009

To Weigh Or Not To Weigh: That's Not Even A Question Today.

(WARNING: Possible TMI inside for non-female types.)

It was tempting, but I put on my underwear instead. I stayed off the scale this week, just as I promised myself and my Divas last week when I started the HELLmone…excuse me…HORmone.

Fridays are my “official” weigh-in day (even though I typically weigh myself three or four times a week), but today, standing naked in front of the scale, one week into a 10-day progesterone regimen and bloated and crabby as hell, I chose to be good to my head and get dressed instead. My doctor friend Barbara told me I’d gain weight temporarily and so I don’t need to know that number this week.

I don’t need to know it because I know it’s not “real.” But my head won’t see it that way. My head will say, “What the….? What did you do wrong, Lynn? Did you overdo the carbs this week? You just HAD to have that Hershey Kiss yesterday before your massage, didn’t you? Cryin’ out loud, Lynn, have you no self control?” Never mind that I have way more exercise minutes in this week than usual and I had a near perfect food week. Oh no. I see a number I don’t like and the blame game begins. Even now. Even after years of “figuring it all out.”

Maura over at Maura’s Toolbox wrote that one of her goals this week is to not punish herself with food. I decided to take her advice and not punish myself with the scale. Talk about the ultimate Non-Scale Victory!

My doctor put me on Provera for 10 days (3 days left, thank god) to see if we can't get a period going. It's been nearly three years since I've had one and all the blood work shows I'm not in menopause or perimenopause. It's like my female parts are stuck.

Most women, when they hear I haven’t menstruated in almost three years, will say, “Why do you want to start one now? Are you nuts??!”

Two words: endometrial cancer which I don't yet have, so ergo, we’re cranking up the uterus like an old Model T.

I’m pretty sure I have no pads or tampons in the house. My daughters have no doubt used up or taken the last of my stash. It’s been so long since I’ve bought them, I don’t know where they keep them at WalMart anymore or even which ones to buy! I’m a little old to be asking a clerk, “Um, excuse me, but could you recommend a tampon?”

If nothing happens in two weeks, we’ll go to Plan B, which, as of this moment, is unknown to both my doctor and me. She’s hoping Plan A works. It didn’t two years ago when I took Provera, but that was two years ago and she’s hoping things have changed. We’ll see.

Extreme weight loss is listed as a cause of secondary amenorrhea (the irony of the first four letters of that word isn’t lost on me), but there’s little information to be found about what women should do if they stop bleeding.

I know a lot of women who, while obese, spent years avoiding the doctor. After they’ve lost weight, it’s not like all of them suddenly embraced their health and found their voice. They know the medical community isn’t always a warm and accepting entity, so finding the self-esteem necessary to ask questions and investigate one’s health takes more than losing a few pounds.

So today’s question: How many of you who have or are losing weight: A) went to the doctor regularly at your heaviest; and/or B) have become more in tune with your health?

I wish I could have a conversation with my ovaries. Instead, I bug the heck out of my doctor and take the pills. And I stay off the scale. And I try not to bite anyone’s head off. I’ll let you know, sans details, if the female parts start working again.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Wind Beneath My Bike Pedals and Hiking Boots

My apologies for double posting this on both my blogs. I just want to give dual props to my husband.
As you know – and why Barbara and I write the blog Refuse To Regain – it’s not easy finding people who can relate to weight maintenance. Like many of you, I’m more than familiar with reaching goal. I’ve done that dozens of times in my life! But I’ve always been a big rubber ball, bouncing back up the scale the minute I hit that magic number. “I can eat again!” was always my mantra.

Why this time at goal is different has many aspects, but one of the most important reasons is that maintenance inspiration is right here in my own house. My husband is maintaining a 22-pound loss since July 2005, and has introduced me to a way of life I never aspired to: fitness.

Larry’s story is a familiar one. Thin – as in really thin – in high school and college, he gained more than 20 pounds when he went to graduate school. He says it was a change in metabolism, but he also had quit smoking and wasn’t as active as he’d been before. At 23, he took up running (a little known sport at the time) and Purdue had an indoor track (which saved him from freezing to death during the winter). Within a year, he was an avid runner. It was his legs that first attracted me to him in 1996. I’d known him for several years, but didn’t realize he was hiding such bodacious legs under his professor style Land’s End khakis until he ran past my apartment one afternoon. “Damn…he looks good!” I thought as I watched him until he turned the corner.

Fast forward several years.

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that our risk of obesity increases 37 percent if our spouses are overweight, 57 if our friends are overweight friends and 40 percent if our siblings are overweight. I don’t know if any of my friends or siblings can “blame” me for being overweight, but Larry certainly could. As my weight increased by leaps and bounds from 1999 to 2004, his crept up, too. Much more slowly, but an increase nonetheless. By the time I began losing weight in January 2005, I’d gained more than 100 pounds and he’d gained 25.

Bending over was tough, he said, because he could feel the weight in his mid-section. He went from a 31-inch to 34-inch waist. Unbeknownst to me, he declared his gain “ridiculous” at the same time I started losing weight. We never talked about my weight and I didn’t share with him that I was losing weight until I’d lost 15 pounds (which, starting at nearly 300 pounds, wasn’t noticeable). When he “confessed” that he wanted to lose weight, too, he started eating like me.

Six months later, he was down 22 pounds and back into 31-inch jeans.

Larry and I had a few things in common, but no real uniting or consuming interest. Losing weight together brought us closer and eventually we turned into the one thing I never envisioned myself to be a partner to. We became a “fit couple.”

Before 2007 (well after I’d started this journey), if someone had told me I’d look forward to physical activity as a couple’s pastime, I’d have said, “Exercise? Together? Larry and me? Blech!” Being together meant dinner, a movie, a party. Vacation was spent with my butt firmly planted in a lawn chair. But two years ago when he got me in a canoe for the first time since summer camp in 8th grade, and especially when he bought me my first bike in 28 years when I reached goal, our relationship changed from “You go your way, I’ll go mine and we’ll meet back here in a few hours” to “Let’s hit the trail!”

Now we plan our weekends around the North Country Trail. We’re hoping our next big vacation will be a return to the Adirondacks where rather than me sitting on shore watching him fish in a boat, I’ll be in the boat with him AND accompanying him on the mountain trails instead of driving all around them.

Me capable of maintenance? Me an avid hiking and biking enthusiast? These are things I never thought myself capable of or interested in. But I have a secret weapon.
I’m glad they flashed to Larry’s smiling face during my appearance on the Today Show last week. He deserves every bit of recognition for my success. He is my hero and maintenance inspiration.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

I’m So Vain. I Probably Think This Blog Is About Me.

I totally stole this from CHUNK: The Blog (Hi, ladies!):

Gertie’s entry, The Usefulness of Exercise, links to a recent New York Times article (“Why Doesn’t Exercise Lead to Weight Loss?”) about how exercise doesn’t equal weight loss. We could argue this point for hours, I suspect. You all know I didn’t start exercising until I’d lost 110 pounds, so clearly weight loss can be achieved through diet only. However, I’d like to think exercise caused my weight loss to excel for about a month after I began to walk regularly and again a few months later when I started strength training. Of course that could be due to my renewed energy and commitment to my weight loss, plus the fact that I didn’t and still don’t eat extra calories on the days I work out. Well….almost every day.

But stepping away from the exercise is or isn’t necessary for weight loss argument for a moment, let’s discuss its other benefits, namely the cosmetic value.

On workout days, I put my tennis shoes on in front of a mirror in the dining room. The mirror is too heavy to hang on the wall, so to make the room appear larger, we put the mirror on the floor against the wall behind the dog dishes. (It kind of freaks the dogs out because they don’t understand that they’re watching themselves eat. They think other dogs live in the house.)

I could put my shoes on anywhere in the house, but I sit in a chair in front of the mirror because…(Oh vanity of vanities!)…I can watch my calf muscles flex.

A few years ago, my calves were smaller than they are now, even though I am the cardio queen of the arc trainer and elliptical. My skin still dimpled because the muscles weren’t very pronounced or strong. So I took matters into my own hands (well, legs, actually) and began doing calf raises two to three times a week.

I started slowly – just three sets of ten on a flat surface. Then I purchased a step like they use in aerobics and began lifting each leg individually and increased the number of reps. The step increased my range of motion, offering a more challenging exercise. After a few months, I added holding a 10-pound weight as I lifted. This week, I began holding a 15-pound weight. I hope to increase that to 25 pounds by spring.

The results? My calves are no longer scrawny and – bonus – my ankles are much stronger. They don’t feel wobbly anymore. Also, my toes are more flexible which is awesome considering I have arthritis in both my metatarsals. And honestly, I really like how they look. I only wish I could wear high heeled shoes. Alas, my toes scream “NO WAY!” every time I try.

As long as I’m being vain, I’ll tell you that I flex my chest muscles before I take a shower, admire my forearms while I type, and wear sleeveless shirts that emphasize my shoulders. I’ve worked hard for this body, as wrinkly and floppy as it can be in spots, so why not give it a look-see from time to time? It’s not wrong to appreciate the bodies we create and mold. Not wrong at all.

I know exercise can be a pain in the ass. But the payoff can be really cool calves that you admire in a mirror. Cosmetic is just as good a reason to work out as health in my book. If I worked my calves like I do and still had dimpled skin, I wouldn’t do it. If I strength trained like I do five times a week and still had scrawny arms, I wouldn’t do it. If I worked the cardio like a mad woman and couldn’t climb a flight of stairs without being winded, I’d stop doing that, too. I want physical proof of my work.

Exercise yields results beyond weight loss. And after years of obesity, I want to admire all my hard work. It makes me happy. Vain? Perhaps. But I highly recommend you take a look at all your hard work from time to time. After all, what’s it all for if we don’t feel good about it?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Losing Weight Is EASY! Now Shut Up About It.

Thanks again for all your support while I was in New York. I read your comments and emails on my phone as I traveled home and they helped me feel less like a goober in the spotlight and more like myself.

I smiled when I read MizFit’s comment: “Can’t wait to read about what you were feeling inside as you came across as calm cool collected and CONFIDENT.”

Ah…a tale of two Lynns: What I present on the outside versus what’s going on inside.

Other than armpit sweat which cleared up once I was dressed, thank god, I really wasn’t as nervous as you might think. The producer, Joy, the director, the stage crew…all of them did everything they could to make the segment successful. They know a nervous guest can spell disaster. No one wanted a Cindy Brady moment on their hands. (Remember the quiz show episode?)

Other than seeing first-hand how hot Ralph Macchio is, what I’ll remember most about my two hours at 30 Rock are the weight-related stories I heard from the woman in wardrobe, the woman having her hair done in the chair next to me, and the cameraman. Everywhere I go, when people find out I’ve lost weight they almost inevitably have their own weight story, either about themselves or someone they know.

Like love, weight is a universal language (although “love” and “weight” are usually never used in the same sentence). We all deal with it to some degree all of our lives. And I’m a firm believer that the more we talk about it, the easier it will be to deal with it no matter what we choose to do: lose, gain, stay the same.

However, not everyone would agree.

The thing about the media is that when a story shows up in one place, it eventually shows up in other places. One friend saw my Today Show story and clip on her AOL homepage. Another found me on a fitness site he subscribes to. I usually avoid reading the comments on websites I didn’t agree to be on mostly because, to put it nicely, some folks have no filters. But I did go to the fitness site and read some of the comments. Most of them were advertisements for weight-loss drugs and colon cleansing products, but a few were positive and encouraging.

One, however, really stood out, and I’ll explain why in a minute. Judith wrote: “Why does this woman get an article about her? She is a 46 year old GRANDMOTHER who lost weight? BFD. I lost 60 lbs two years ago - am a size 6, and weigh 150. Where do these numbers come from? Oh yea, it was like Kirstie at 145. BS. The numbers don't mean that much until you factor in the height and body type. Muscle weighs more than fat, just takes up less space. I am 5'6", good sized girl, but tiny now. Guess what folks? Eat the right foods and walk around the lake - 2.5 miles in 38 minutes will do it. Good grief. This is not rocket science. Quit whining and complaining about your weight. Lose it! jeez.”

If you look beyond the underlying anger and the fact that she doesn’t believe I’m “real,” Judith voices what I think a lot of people – both normal weight and overweight – believe: that if you just eat less, move more and shut the hell up, you’ll lose weight.

If only it were that easy.

In almost every story I hear and read, weight isn’t just a number. Weight brings up feelings of inadequacy, stress, fear, self-doubt. It is challenging, thrilling to lose, a bitch to get keep off. It sometimes molds us and plans our menus. Weight is how we relate to food and our bodies and our selves on a daily basis. You know how gung-ho you are when you first start a “diet”? The energy is incredible, but difficult to sustain day after day. Commitment wanes, doubt sets in, schedules get screwed up, and Chinese take-out starts sounding really good.

Eat less, move more, shut up about it? No, Judith, it’s not that easy. And by the way, I AM 46, I AM a grandmother, I HAVE lost 168 pounds, and if you have any questions about my muscle to fat ratio, I’ll show you some arms that will do my talking for me.

If losing weight was so damn easy, we’d all be thin and content, Judith. But we’re not. And until we are, I won’t shut up. I’ll keep blogging, keep telling my story, and keep listening to other people’s stories. Yeah!! (Where’s Howard Dean when I need him?)

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Quickie from New York

What a day, what a day. Here's the link to the Today Show/Joy Fit Club segment: Tinkerbell and Annette Benning's sister....(Kathy Lee's words, not mine).

Here we are after the show:

And here's me exhausted but so very happy in Central Park when it was all over:

And a random photo of two people who keep me centered - my grandkids. Luca's on my lap and Claire is figuring out how to eat Smarties. This was Saturday after trick or treating:

There's so much to tell you, but I'll need to do that in a few days. I'll get home tomorrow and sort it all out.
Thank you all so much for watching the show and especially for your kind comments. I really thought that dress was too tight and I felt pretty self-conscious, but I guess it all worked out. I didn't fall off my boots or say something too stupid except to call the bone test I had by the name of the drug my Golden Retriever is taking for his arthritis. (I said Deramax when I meant dexa scan. Duh...But I was nervous!) Anyway...again, thank you for being such thoughtful and forgiving readers.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

NYC Day 1

Remember how I said I was swearing off chocolate? Well, that was before I went to the Lindt Chocolate store on 5th Avenue, just around the corner from my hotel. In a word: Yummy! No, it deserves four words: Oh-my-god-yummy.

And speaking of yummy, Manhattan is full of yummy healthy stuff. I put together this salad in Rockefeller Plaza and ate it next to the skating rink. I saved the Greek yogurt for later. I had a bite of Larry’s pretzel, and tonight for dinner, I had a little more onion roll than I would normally have had, but it was too delish to pass up. Heck, I walked for hours today!

Of course, my walking was nothing compared to the New York City marathoners. Holy crap. I admire anyone who can run 26.1 miles. Wait, admire is too weak. Training to run a marathon is beyond my comprehension. Losing weight is one thing. Conditioning your entire body to move at high speed for 3-4 hours is a whole other ball game.

It was much chillier here than the Weather Channel anticipated when I was planning this trip. I didn’t pack a jacket and so had to duck into H&M and buy a scarf and gloves.

The first time I was in NYC in 1991, we stayed at the Marriot Marquis in Times Square. It was the week before Christmas and New Year’s and our room was on the 42nd floor. This did not bode well for me, who is really afraid of heights. It also didn’t help that the elevator was glass. Oh yeah. Hell on cables. Anyway, I’d like to come back to NY (and not stay on a floor above 15 or so) and see the play “White Christmas,” one of my favorite Bing Crosby movies.

In anticipation of the Today Show tomorrow, I packed a LOT of stuff. In fact, an entirely separate suitcase filled with clothes that I no longer feel are appropriate. Why, you ask? I spent the day among beautiful women walking around in gorgeous clothes and fabulous boots and I feel incredibly intimidated that I packed a dress, a sweater, some jeans and ONE pair of boots – boots that I didn’t actually buy but wore on Oprah TWO years ago. They’re so, well, not what I saw on the streets today. Am I that out of the fashion loop? Sadly, yes I am. I like comfy pants and soft cotton shirts. No logos, no midriffs. Nothing that makes a statement except “I can breathe and have no panty lines because my pants aren’t skin tight.”

I realize this sounds paranoid, but more than a few of you will be watching tomorrow and I am – bottom line – nervous. I’ll be OK once tonight is over and I’m at 30 Rock in the morning getting prepped and getting used to my surroundings, but right now, anticipation, as Carly Simon sang, is making me late, it’s keeping me waiting.

The journey continues. I’ll be in touch.