Friday, December 31, 2010

DVD Giveaway Winners Announcement

Hi everyone! Just a quick post today to say congrats to Elise, who won the "Crunch-Free Xtreme Abs" personal training with Jackie DVD and to UmpireMom, who won the "Gorgeous Core" with Suzanne Bowen DVD. Please email me your info and I'll get these out to you right away!

I'll have a post tomorrow. In the meantime, have a happy New Year's Eve! Be safe, eat smart, have fun! See you all next year!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Video Ab Workout DVDs Review & Giveaway!

This is my first attempt at a video review and clearly I need to adjust the camera…LOL I'll get better at this. Maybe.


Anyway, if you’d like to win either “Gorgeous Core with Suzanne Bowen” or “Personal Training with Jackie: Crunch-Free Extreme Abs,” leave a comment below or send me an email at and I’ll throw your name in the hat. If you’d like your name in both hats, that’s totally cool, just know that you will only win one if your name is selected. Gotta spread the love, you know?

Good luck! I'll be back soon with a real blog and a New Year's video. Hopefully I'll have figured out the camera by then :)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Gifts Behind the Gifts

Each Christmas, I buy a gift for myself. Just a little something I pick up on a whim while shopping. One year it was a small ceramic elf, another was a Christmas cactus, and one year, while looking for a sweater for my daughter, I found the most perfect-fitting pair of pants on sale for $10. Best. Buy. Ever.

This year’s gift, though, didn’t cost a thing. In fact, I’d forgotten about this yearly tradition until I was fully engaged in it this afternoon.

My gift to me this year was…a walk.

I haven’t taken a walk since the hike in October (see “Recovered”) because it took my knee three days to get back to some semblance of normal. I didn’t know it at the time, but I’d torn my medial meniscus. While it felt OK during and right after into the hike, afterwards my knee hurt like a son of a gun. I haven’t tested it since.

When I was diagnosed last month, my doc shot me up with cortisone. My knee is still iffy (it may still need to be scoped), and the way it feels varies day to day. Yesterday I was limping. Today I felt like I could climb Algonquin (a beautiful mountain in the Adirondacks). Instead I did the next best thing. I explored my neighborhood.

Earlier this morning, I was with my daughters and their SOs and my grandkids and Larry. We exchanged gifts, ate eggs and chocolate and potatoes, and when I got home, I was hepped up on sugar and feeling like a slug. My mind said, “Take a nap!” but my body said, “Go outside!” I decided to follow the advice I give here ad nauseum: “Listen to your body!”

I was a having a rockin’ hair day, which alone would usually preclude me from doing anything to mess it up. But I was alone (and besides, who really cares?), so I put on my new Buddy the Elf hat that my darling daughter Carlene knitted for me; layered a long-sleeve t-shirt, sweatshirt and shell underneath my coat; put on my serious walking boots and my gloves; and I headed out.

I live in a working-class town north of Pittsburgh. It’s safe and quiet and much closer to the Allegheny River than I realized. I walked up my street toward the cemetery and turned north onto a road I’d not been on before. I wound around the back streets, admiring the Christmas decorations some folks had on their lawns, when then I saw in one large picture window a leg lamp. A “Christmas Story” leg lamp. Man, I laughed for half a block!

I turned another corner and was struck by the familiar western PA hill-river terrain. I knew the Allegheny wasn’t far away, but I had no idea it was just four blocks from my house. As I got closer to the homes that bordered the hill’s ledge, I felt just how cloistered I’d become in my apartment and in my routine. Since moving here, I haven’t thought outside the box of where I need to be. I get in my Jeep and I go to the store or I go to see the grandkids or I go to a doctor’s appointment or some such. I go with purpose and not with curiosity. Today’s walk shook out all the dust that had settled since my last hike. I love walking. I love looking around. I love the peace and solitude of a long steady pace. When I got back to my house, I didn’t want the walk to end, but my knee was getting quiet insistent after 45 minutes. So I compromised and didn’t go inside right away.

Instead, I sat on the porch swing and I rocked back and forth and felt snowflakes lighting and melting on my face. I watched my breath flow out my nose in a white vapor and disappear. I listened to One Republic in my ears (…“I’m sick of all the insincere, so I’m gonna give all my secrets away…”) and felt the muscle buzz in my thighs.

I felt it all and understood the gift of the walk, that of clarity and time alone.

When I was driving to Cassie’s this morning, before the hubbub, I heard a song I hadn’t heard in ages: “Hold On Hold Out” by Jackson Browne. Listening to it with my 47-year-old ears (as opposed to my 16-year-old ears) and as someone who’s been up and down the damn scale a number of times, brought a whole new perspective to it. I’ve posted the first few stanzas of the lyrics below, and when you read them, think of how they apply to you.

Are you someone who is losing weight or thinking about losing weight? In maintenance or looking for goal? Newly in love or looking for love? Forming or achieving a goal? It’s one of the most thought-provoking songs I know, and the gift of hearing it this morning is one I will not forget.

Merry Christmas :)

Hold On Hold Out by Jackson Browne (For complete lyrics, click here)

Hold on hold out, keep a hold on strong
The money's in and the bets are down
You won't hold out long
They say you'll fall in no time at all
But you know they're wrong
Known it all along

Hold on hold out, keep a hold on still
If you don't see what your love is worth
No one ever will
You've done your time on the bottom line
And it ain't no thrill
There's got to be something more
Keep a hold on still
You know what it is you're waiting for
Now you just hold on
Hold on hold out

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Loosening the Food Chains

In the nearly five years I’ve been doing Weight Watchers, I’ve become pretty wedded to my food routine. Not that there’s anything wrong with a routine. It has and will continue to serve me well. But two things have come into play the last few months that have me loosening up the way I think about food: cooking for one and getting out more.

When I was buying food for two (or more), I bought a lot of fresh produce because it got eaten up quickly. Not so with just me. I don’t need a five-pound bag of potatoes or two-pound bag of onions anymore. A couple of bananas and apples now last more than a few days. When I first moved in to my apartment, I was buying produce like I was cooking for two and I ended up throwing things away the first few weeks because no one person could possibly eat all that I’d bought. Finally I understood what so many of you have discussed either in your blogs or in your comments, that frozen fruits and veggies are not only more economical, they have a much longer shelf life than fresh. They’re pretty darn tasty, too.

Living in Pittsburgh, I’m discovering places I didn’t know existed or haven’t been to in years. These activities often involve food, either directly or indirectly. For instance, last Saturday, a friend and I went to the Strip District. The Strip is lined with shops and restaurants, fish markets and produce stands, table after table of Steelers and Penguins items, jewelry vendors, and ethnic grocery stores. I hadn’t been there in ages, the last time being the day I locked my keys in the car and had to call AAA and the cutest boy ever managed to jimmy the lock…but I digress.

We grabbed a latte to go from Right By Nature then went to see the completed renovations inside St. Stanislaus Kostka Church where three very nice ladies were serving homemade Polish cookies. I ate a chrusciki (a fried cookie – yes, I ate a fried cookie – that looks like angel wings) and it was very yummy.

When we got to the Korean market, my friend ordered us a mung bean pancake and I ate my half with a touch of hot sauce. It was really good. At the Mediterranean market, I bought two dates and ate them while drinking a glass of wine in a bar that was hosting the iron workers union Christmas party. No one seemed to mind we’d crashed it and no one cared that I was eating dates. I can’t remember the last time I ate dates. Why? Because I always thought anything that sweet and tasty had to be “bad.” Yet two dates have 40 calories and virtually no fat. Yes, they’re higher in carbs and sugars, but like the chrusciki, they’re a once-in-awhile treat. Nothing “bad” about that at all.

At Public Market, we sampled some jams before ending our afternoon at an Irish pub where we ate cheese and bread and fruit. It was a very fun and tasty day, but after nearly eight hours, I was feeling run down. While I hadn’t eaten a lot of any one thing, my body was definitely telling me I needed real sustenance. Some veggies and protein. For dinner I had a spinach salad, steamed broccoli, and a baked potato. Within a few minutes, I felt a million percent better.

The next day, I went to a Buddhist temple for a luncheon. I sampled curried lentils and milk rice without scrutinizing their exact contents, something I used to do all the time. I even ate a small sliver of carrot cake because I wanted to. Later that night, dinner was light – just a salad – and I was satisfied and very happy I’d tried something new and let the food sphincter unpucker just a little.

Today I read what Anne at Smaller Fun Pants wrote in her blog “Intuitive Eater’s Holiday Bill of Rights”: “Eat the meal you want. Eat what you truly want. If that’s carrots and celery sticks, great! If it’s a rich food, that’s okay too...because if you’re really tuning in to what your body needs and wants you won’t always want the rich foods. You won’t always fill up on cookies.”

My body wanted the carrot cake and chrusciki and the pancake and the dates. It also wanted vegetables and protein and fruit. And the balance I struck without going into a food coma or having a mental breakdown was quite amazing. It’s taken me five years, but it seems I’m developing a trust between my body and mind. No doubt there will be times when I still have to get all Mom on myself and say “No!”, but it’s all part of the learning process, isn’t it?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sorry For the Hiatus

Hello all. I'm so sorry I haven't posted anything since Thursday. I've been unexpectadly out of town longer than I thought, and then yesterday lucky me caught the stomach virus going around. I'll post soon, but in the meantime, I hope this finds you well and not going too crazy getting ready for the holidays. Take good care of yourselves.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Finding Your Adjectives

Last night, my mind was so cluttered and loud I knew there was no way I’d get to sleep without a bath. I was being slammed in all directions and feeling this way about this and that way about that and everything else about every other thing. Yikes! I had to sort it all out.

I lit candles, filled the bath with almost hot water, sunk in to my chin and thought. No iPod, no other distraction. Just me and my head.

I identified three things that wanted my attention the most: 1) Who am I? 2) What do I want? and 3) Will I ever be warm again?

The answer to #3 is probably not until spring and #1 is an ongoing process, so let’s move on to #2.

What do I want? Well, the bath helped me see that I want things that I really don’t want, but it was late and I let it be and fell asleep. Then riding the recumbent bike today, I read the latest column by Martha Beck in O Magazine, “Words to the Wise,” and I pursued the question further.

Beck writes that we can say, “I want to lose weight” or whatever other goal we think we want to pursue, but the real question is why? What’s behind that goal or dream?

She suggests we first identify a goal. A typical noun-verb one. (If you’re playing along, make sure you pick your most ambitious one.)

Second, create a fantasy about what your life would be like if you realize your goal.

Third, identify at least three adjectives that describe this fantasy. As Beck says (and she’s right), this is not easy. You can’t say, “Well, it’s hard to describe” or “It’s hard to explain.” List three adjectives that you think will define your accomplishment at the end of your journey. What would happen and how would we feel if we really achieved our goals?

“They don’t have to be eloquent,” says Beck. “Use simple words like 'energetic,' 'focused,' 'delighted' and 'fine.'”

Finally, drop the fantasy you imagined and concentrate on the adjectives.

“You might notice that these three words bring your stated goal into shaper focus. For instance, if your New Year’s resolution is to lose 10 pounds – a noun-verb goal – but your adjectives are “strong,” “confident” and “healthy,” you might realize that your actual aim is to get fit.”

Ah…that’s the kicker. My goals often aren’t the goals other people envision for me, and I need to take back ownership of what I want. That’s what this exercise showed me today.

When I was in the tub last night, I realized there are many things I think I should want to do or be. But today, when I stepped back and gave them a noun-verb identification, some of them just rubbed me wrong. They didn’t feel right to me.

As I moved on to the fantasy, I felt the reality in my gut. Then in step three – the adjectives – most of the “whys” of my goals became pretty clear.

“So if you find yourself longing for some idealized goal, take a moment to go fishing for adjectives. Then use them to identify the aspects of your life that are already drawing you toward your heart’s desires.”

When I reflected on my adjectives, I realized many of the things I do in my everyday life already fulfill many of the goals I’d set for myself. They just don’t necessarily reflect what others think I should want to do.

The bottom line is that I like the way my life is grooving right now. I like the way things are working out. I like feeling who I am from the inside out. Adding other people’s goals to my agenda doesn’t feel right. Does this ever happen to you?

What’s your idealized goal (and you don’t have to write it here…just think about it)? Is it really something you want or does someone else (or society) want it for you?

This time of year is about peace. I’m choosing to find it within myself. That is my wish for all of you, too. Do what you want to do because it’s what you want to do, not because someone else says you should.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Going Nuclear

Last night while I slept, my body went nuclear, the weather went nuclear, and worst of all, my Blackberry went nuclear.

My body: The progesterone had kicked in, and I swear I slept on my head given the level of bed head I was sporting.

The weather: I looked outside and 8 inches of snow were piled up on the driveway. I couldn’t see across the street. I checked the weather forecast and learned we’re under a lake effect snow warning until tomorrow for 18 additional inches and lots of wind.
The Blackberry: I can take the cramps and the cold, but Advil and an extra pair of slippers couldn’t cure my Tour. Sometime in the middle of the night, it was sucked into a black hole, and no matter what I did I couldn’t break the loop of reset, restart. Reset, restart. I pulled the battery, tried reloading the OS…nothing worked.

I looked outside and sighed. I wasn’t going to spend the day without a phone, particularly one that doubles as a modem here on the tundra. Ergo, I had to find a Verizon store.

With my hair matted to my head, no makeup on, cramps that would choke a horse, and a total lack of self-esteem, I put on a hat, a big white sweater, my big brown boots, a scarf, and gloves and headed out to this:

It was snowing so hard, I could barely see the road, let alone store signs. I turned into an Auto Zone and asked a man putting a new windshield wiper on his car where Verizon was. He said I’d gone about two blocks too far and was looking for it on the wrong side of the road. I thanked him, got back in my car, started it up and was on my way. At a stop light, a red pickup truck pulled up on my right. I heard yelling and turned to see what was going on. The pickup driver was yelling and gesturing at me. I rolled down my window and he screamed, “Turn on your f*@&ing lights!”

In my defense, I had my lights on when I first ventured out. I’d turned off my car and lights at Auto Zone a block away, so it’s not like I’d had them off very long. I just forgot to turn them on is all. But this guy acted like I’d plotted to ruin his day by not turning on my lights.

Still, what did I do? I apologized! Ugh. I hate when I do that. He dropped the f-bomb and I was the one apologizing? He was the jerkface, not me. Didn’t matter, though. I had Armageddon going on my uterus and his words made me want to cry.

I didn’t, though. I rolled up my window and journeyed on to the Verizon store. I expected there’d be one, maybe two employees tops who’d made it to work, but heavens no! When I walked in, I was greeted by 9 young sharp-dressed men, many of whom snickered when they saw me. I was covered in snow, you already know what my hair looked like, and – flustered – what did I say to them?

“I don’t normally look like this!”

‘Oh I didn’t just say that,’ I thought.

But I had. And they laughed. My FFG was humiliated.

Why did I feel I had to apologize for how I looked?

While one of the guys took my phone away to try and fix it, I sat down and started writing this blog on a couple of deposit slips. I thought about what was really going on. First of all, I was in the throes of hormones, and as such, every little thing in my world felt like it had gone nuclear. OK, I could accept that. Second, just because the world around me felt estranged, it didn’t mean I had to abandon myself, too. Yes, I apologized for things that didn’t need apologizing, but I caught myself before I did it again. Go me!

When Junior came out with a new phone because he couldn’t fix the old one, I thanked him, looking him straight in the eye. What he saw may not have been very attractive, but I didn’t care. How I looked in that moment was neither here nor there. That a guy lobbed the f-bomb at me because I forgot to turn my lights on didn’t matter anymore, either. Junior asked if I knew how to set up my email. I said I did. He smiled and said, “Wow. You don’t know how many people have no idea how to do that. That’s awesome!”

Suffering uterus, bad hair, snow, nuclear Blackberry… There are worse things, and life is what it is. It’s how we react that makes all the difference. Today, as in many days before, I realized that my weight still has a lot to do with my self-image and self-esteem. As I’ve said many times here, just because you lose weight doesn’t mean you lose the baggage. "I yam what I yam." Today was just another one of those reminder days.

How do you respond in the moment of distress? Do you apologize? Run away? Eat? Make excuses? Beat yourself up? And if you catch yourself doing it, how do you work through the moment?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Farm Years Part 1: Minnesota Snow

In “honor” of the snow my family is getting back in Minnesota (and will soon be in Pennsylvania), I’m reposting a blog I wrote four years ago on ZenBagLady. It’s not weigh-related, but not everything I post here is, as most of you know. Hope you’re all safe from the weather, wherever you are.

March 2007

According to reports from the folks back home, southwest Minnesota is getting the kind of snow it had back in ‘81-‘82 and ‘82-‘83, what I fondly refer to as “The Farm Years.”

When Bruce and I were engaged during the ‘81-‘82 winter, I’d go out to his family farm before a blizzard hit because I didn’t want to be snowed in for three days with my grandmother and her canasta buddies in the old folks apartment complex, even though she did keep a stash of Southern Comfort in the vegetable crisper.

I loved my grandma and was grateful she let me live with her until I got married, but I took every opportunity I could to avoid watching the “Lawrence Welk Show” and living with the stifling smell of Skin So Soft.

Blizzards were – in a word – fun. While Bruce’s parents stayed on the main floor, Bruce and I took over the upstairs. We put together jigsaw puzzles, played Rook and backgammon, watched The Muppet Show and Dynasty, drank Seagram’s and 7-Up, and listened to music. It could have snowed for weeks on end and we could have cared less.

We were married in April 1982. In June I became pregnant with Carlene, making her due in March, prime blizzard month in Minnesota. We had moved to the family farm in October when his parents retired, and that year, the snow started in earnest in November. One after another the storms came, dumping two, five, 10 inches of snow at a time, and on that part of the prairie, the wind starts somewhere in the middle of South Dakota and doesn’t stop until Wisconsin. It was a mess.

Carlene’s was a complicated pregnancy. Doc Strand referred me to a specialist in Sioux Falls, 40 miles away. That was all good and fine when the roads were clear, but it wasn’t going to do me a lick of good during a blizzard. Even the nearest hospital 11 miles away would prove as futile to get to as Sioux Falls when the snow fell and the wind blew. So good old Doc Strand came up with a plan. If I went into labor during a snowstorm and if Bruce could get me to town, he’d do his best to deliver our baby in his office.

That offered me a little comfort, but I knew the only way I was going to get to town, or even to the end of our half-mile driveway, was in a tractor. At least our International Harvester had an enclosed cab, but getting into it when you’re nine months pregnant would be no easy feat.

Gone were the days and nights of blizzard bliss. Before bed, I’d look out the front door window. If I could see the neighbor’s yard light three-quarters mile away, I knew the snow and wind weren’t too bad and I could make it to town if I went into labor. If I couldn’t, I spent most of the night curled up in a ball in a chair reading, trying to keep my mind off the weather.

The forecast looked good the week before Carlene’s due date, so I decided to do everything I could to go into labor.

There were dozens of empty 50-pound feed pellet bags piled up in the silo room, so one day I hauled them to the burn barrel and burned every last one of them. It took hours. I was exhausted. That night, my uterus cramped like a Charlie horse. ‘Ah ha,’ I thought. ‘I’ll be in labor by morning.’ No such luck.

I moved on to Plan B: sex. That didn’t work. Plan C: driving on the washboard country roads for an hour. Zip. I had a doctor’s appointment on my due date, the day before another snowstorm was forecasted, so I planned to ask my doctor what else I could do to get this kid out before I worried myself to death.

Before I could ask, the doctor said Carlene had been in there long enough and that come hell or high water (or blizzard, as was the case), she was going to be born the next day. And she was, with a little help from pitocin (the most godawful drug ever invented, but that’s a totally different blog for another day).

The snow came and went several more times in those 11 days before Bruce died, but it was beautiful and comforting and I was the happiest I’ve ever been in my life.

Stay safe if you’re encountering bad weather these days, but try to enjoy it. Read a little, drink a little, fool around a little. Make some good memories.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Drip By Drip, You'll Get There

When my kids asked me to buy them something when they were younger and I told them no, their usual retort was, "But Mom! It only costs $____ dollars!"

How bipolar is the word “only”? I mean, it can make you feel really good about something or it can make you feel really bad. In terms of weight, “I only gained a pound!” is the positive “only” I hear a lot this time of year as people navigate holiday parties and family get togethers. It’s the negative “only” – “I only lost a pound” – that I hear said most often, though, most recently from none other than me.

The other day I got on the scale and saw that I’d lost a half a pound of the five I want to lose, and the first thing I thought, felt and said was wrapped up in the negative “only.”

“I only lost a half pound? Ugh!! When will this stupid weight come off? What am I doing wrong?”

I decided I needed to write myself a quick little pep talk.

“With dripping drops of water, even a water jug is filled.” Dhammapada 121-122

I remember I used this quote in a blog I wrote in January 2009 (“A Slow Steady Drip”), and after stepping off the scale the other day, I meditated on it for awhile before looking back at my weight tracker on Weight Watchers.

I lost 1.386 pounds, on average, every week between Jan. 1, 2005 and March 12, 2007. Many of those weeks were “point-something” losses, but obviously those “only”s added up to some serious poundage.

I wish I had a dollar for every time I said to someone, “You can’t lose 100 without first losing a pound, and you don’t lose a pound without first losing .1, .2 and .3.” Now I have to add a dollar to my own coffer because I need to say it to myself right here, right now.

“Lynn, you’ve challenged yourself to lose five pounds. You’ve lost .5 in a month. That might kick up, or if the trend continues you’ll lose five pounds by August. August is going to come whether you’re losing weight or not, so you may as well settle in, do what you’re doing, stay diligent, and allow the weight to come off the way it wants to: point-something by point-something by point-something.

"Try taking ‘only’ out of your vocabulary and see what happens. Don’t let ‘only’ ruin your efforts or negate what you’ve achieved. Say, ‘I lost a half a pound! Woohoo!’ Drip by drip, you’ll get there.”

Pretty smart, eh? Now let’s see if I follow my own advice…

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sometimes The Headline Is Enough

There’s nothing like a good headline. Good as in clever, odd, or hilarious when it doesn’t mean to be. (Ever watch the Headlines segment on the "Tonight Show"?) It’s not easy summing up a story in 10 words or less while also making the headline compelling or inviting enough to lure readers.

Here are a few of the ones I’ve collected from online stories over the last year, headlines that actually made me open the story and read it:

Tyra Banks likes to be naked

Old lady finds fawn, beats it with a shovel

Microwaved baby scarred, but thriving

Kitten kicked like football by teenagers

Preacher killed wife, stuffed body in freezer, police say

Man shoots lawn mower, police say

Stripper, 80, still taking her clothes off

Brother to be jailed again for sex with sis

Man escapes from jail after losing weight

Where are the worst teeth in the U.S.?

Oklahoma may allow students to carry guns

Wife with 5 dead husbands investigated

Police shoot man as he beats toddler

5th severed foot found on Canadian coast

Girl divorced at 10

No more skinning seals alive, Canada says

Ad placement is also critical when putting together a newspaper page. I’m not sure if the irony was intentional, but this was page A5 of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on Saturday:

“FDA backs expansion of gastric band surgery” alongside an ad for G&G Fitness.

I’m not anti-gastric band surgery per se (click here for a link to the FDA story online), but I’m a little concerned over the new recommendations by the FDA that patients with a BMI of 35 (or 30 if the person has high blood pressure or diabetes) be eligible for the procedure, reduced from the current standard: 40 BMI. This would make 27 million more Americans eligible for gastric bands. 27 million. I can’t fathom.

My hope is that people like me with high blood pressure and who have a 30 BMI (at 5’5”, I would weigh 180 pounds) would maybe look to the right of the page and see the ad for treadmills, ellipticals and bikes and consider diet and exercise before surgery. When I was 180 pounds, I needed to lose 30 pounds to be at a normal BMI of 25. I won’t say “just 30 pounds” because I know losing 30 pounds can be very difficult for some people. But is the reason it’s difficult physical or emotional? I would guess the majority of the time it’s emotional.

I’ve known two people who’ve died from gastric bypass. I’ve also known two people who successfully lost and are maintaining 150-pound losses from the surgery. We could debate the pros and cons ad nauseum, and when someone is morbidly obese (such as I was when my BMI was nearly 50), it might be the right course of action. But 30 pounds? 27 million more people? I’d much rather see us first attack weight issues from the inside out rather than the outside in.

Stepping down off my soap box and opening the question to you. Do you think the FDA is right in recommending lowering the BMI requirements for gastric band surgery?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

I Confess: I Ate The Rubber Egg

Yesterday I did something I don’t usually do: I grabbed breakfast on the run at a gas station.

I’d been out with friends the night before, and rather than drive the 80-mile trek home in the dark, I stayed overnight. I’d not brought along any of my standard breakfast-on-the-go foods, assuming they’d have something I could grab to eat before I headed home the next morning. However, fast forward to 7 a.m. and let’s just say there are a few folks in NW PA who need to go grocery shopping.

I didn’t have time for a sit-down Egg Beater veggie omelet at Bob Evans, so I stopped at Sheetz because I recently discovered I love Sheetz coffee. Yes…coffee.

As many of you know, I’m an avid tea fan, but a few weeks ago I had to drive home from Clarion early in the morning and needed a bit more caffeine than tea provides. Sheetz was about the only place open. I poured a huge cup of half hazelnut and half decaf, dumped in a couple of chocolate and caramel creamers (another unfortunate discovery…they are waaaay yummy) and by mile 10 I was perkier than Sandra Dee cheerleading in a poodle skirt. So when I saw Sheetz conveniently located on my way home yesterday, I stopped in for a coffee fix and something edible.

I could have gotten yogurt. I could have just bought the grapes and been on my way. But no. I had to look at their sandwiches. It’s like I left my head in bed because something about their egg/muffin/cheese thing spoke to me and I followed the voice like a zombie.

When I got on the road, I unwrapped the foil, and the moment I took my first bite, I remembered what it felt like to drive to work after hitting McDonald’s and eating two Egg McMuffins and two hash browns in the car. Something about the taste made me comatose then and now. I kept thinking, ‘The egg looks like rubber, Lynn! There are no redeeming qualities in that white flour English muffin! Don’t eat it!’ and yet the more bites I took, the more bites I wanted. Aaaaach! I consumed that faux sandwich in less than a minute and man, was I paying for it an hour later. I don’t remember my stomach hurting like that after consuming my typical McDonald’s breakfast at 300 pounds, but then, I was hardly in tune with my stomach at the time except to never let it feel hunger.

I cleaned up my act when I got home, eating leftover lentil stew for lunch and a spinach salad for dinner, but all day I craved salt and simple carbs. It’s like that sandwich set off an avalanche of triggers, leaving more than my stomach miserable. I was a bit of an emotional wreck for awhile, trying to work through the reasons why I ate the way I did back in the day and facing how I profess to not be swayed by those reasons now when clearly I am on some level.

Today is a new day and I started it with yogurt and blueberries. It felt almost self-righteous to do it, but I did it anyway because I know if I don’t get all Mom on myself, I’ll listen to that zombie voice and seek out Sheetz or McDonald’s and in a few days be struggling with poundage gained from food triggers rather than something I consciously planned to eat and enjoy.

I’m sure this sounds familiar to some of you, right? I hope? Well, no, I don’t hope you struggle with food triggers, but I know some of you do. How do you respond to your inner zombie comatose voice?

Congrats to nawrockifamily (Heidi) for winning the Denise Austin DVD giveaway. Thanks for the warm welcome you gave my sister and her review. She’ll be back with more, I promise!

One other thing before I go, I want to give a shout out to a new blog that three of my Refuse To Regain blogging partner Barbara Berkeley’s clients write called "The Refuse To Regain Maintainers: A community of successful weight loss maintainers looking for the answers while finding themselves." Maintenance, as you know, is tough enough without doing it alone. I love that more maintainers are finding community online. Check them out if you get a chance.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Another Family Review, Another Denise Austin DVD Giveaway!

When two Denise Austin DVDs arrived in the mail recently, I knew just the person to ask to review them: my sister Debbie.

Debbie introduces herself below in her review, but as her little sister, I grew up wanting to be her – to look like her, to dress like her, and to be overall cool like her. One of my favorite memories of Debbie was when we’d go camping in what our family fondly referred to as The Bear Coffin (see “Camping Adventures in the Bear Coffin.”)

As I wrote, Debbie was always kind to me, even when I stole her crutches after she’d injured her foot and after she busted me tape recording her and her boyfriend’s private conversation. She was politically active and tried explaining Vietnam and Watergate to me even though I was more interested in watching Captain Kangaroo and hanging upside down from our backyard elm tree. Mom often made us matching clothes, and during a trip to South Dakota, we both wore what I called our Wonder Woman shorts. They had white stars on blue and purple stripes and I remember being jealous of my beautiful sister who was tall and thin and filled out her shorts in a way my 8-year-old body could not (and never did, for that matter).

So now that you know her a little from my perspective, here’s Debbie and her perspectives on exercise and Denise Austin’s DVD “Quick Burn Cardio.” To throw your name in the hat to win this DVD, leave a comment or send an email to I’ll draw a winner on Sunday!

From Debra’s Mat: Exercises You’ll Actually Do

My name is Debra Haraldson, the 54-year old sister of Lynn, who asked me to review some exercise DVDs she receives on occasion. She knows to send me only those appropriate for my age and, um, mature body type. If she sends me a kick boxing, Tae Bo, cardio fat burning, boot camp DVD, she’s off my Christmas card list. I’m not a stranger to exercise but sometimes it eludes me, especially on those cold, dark mornings when the only work out I get is hitting the snooze button and pulling the quilt over my head.

Exercise is a necessary evil. When people say “I love to work out” or “I live at the gym” they are lying liars who tell lies. OK, well, perhaps they aren’t but they are INSANE. My exercise of choice is walking. If it’s light and dry at 6:15 a.m., I’m out walking. Plug in my iPod with my NPR podcasts, and I’m good to go. But when October rolls around, it’s dark and usually raining (I live in suburban Seattle) so I have to dust off the dreaded DVDs, move the ottoman to the side, open a window, turn on a fan and start my step aerobic routine.

I prefer step aerobics because the step really gets the heart pumping, and it offers low impact versions of the moves, as demonstrated on the DVD either by the woman still retaining her baby fat or the woman who just this week started an exercise program and is sweating just warming up. I used to do high impact step aerobics but then, well, I got old.

Lynn sent me Denise Austin’s “Quick Burn Cardio” to review. I like Denise Austin. She can be too bubbly at times but I like her common sense approach to working out. “Just do what you can – this is for you” she repeats often enough that I believe her. Some instructors act like drill sergeants. Been there, done that, hated it. This DVD has a 5-minute warm up and a 5-minute cool down. Just enough time for both. In between you can choose either a 20-minute “Interval Training” or a 20-minute “Cardio Weight Training” routine. Or, if you are truly crazy, both.

There’s plenty of high impact moves in the Interval Training but you can certainly convert them to low impact if your joints can’t take the blows or if you are tiring too soon. One women is there to demonstrate all of the low impact alternatives so I tended to watch her. There are also moves where you are fully standing up, then suddenly, on the floor. That isn’t so bad – it’s the getting up that’s hard! I compromised by meeting my knees halfway.

For the “Cardio Weight Training” portion, I suggest standing on thick carpet or an exercise mat. Use small weights, 1 or 2 pounds and you’ll need two of them (of the same weight.) I made the mistake of grabbing a five pounder and practically separated my shoulder from its socket. Work up to a higher weight if you want. Her floor routines were hard on my hips and knees, and I don’t have problems with them normally. Just use common sense. When the pushups began, I took that as a sign from the gods to take a break and have some water!

In my experience with exercise DVDs, the instructors have you doing a routine so long, you’ll see it in your sleep. Denise reduces these to several very short routines so that they don’t become boring. You can also follow the routines with or without her voice instructions, listening only to music.

Overall, I liked this DVD. Some instructors get so fancy with their moves that I get frustrated because I can’t keep up. Exercise should be fun (OK, so I’m a liar too) and not a modern dance audition.

Until next time.