I lost 40 pounds and I’ll tell you how, but you’re not going to like it

It’s counting calories and exercise, plus a little intermittent fasting, that’s how.

Ha! Told you you wouldn’t like it. If you want more details, they are below. The good news is, losing weight isn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I just had to be ready. 

I am 5’5″ and 46 years old. Here’s my current driver’s license photo, on which I lied through my teeth about being 230 pounds. 

I don’t know how much I actually weighed, but it was more than that! My size 20 jeans cut into my waist and I was breathless all the time. 

I want to make it clear right now that it’s not evil to be fat. There are so, so many worse things in the world than being fat. Furthermore, I am still fat! But on April 14 of this year, I decided to at least try one more time to lose weight, and I thought you might want to hear about how it’s going. 

So, now it’s August, and now I weigh 195 pounds and fit comfortably into a size 16. I’ve lost about 40 pounds and I’m not pushing myself too hard, and I’m still losing about a pound a week. I haven’t really set a goal, but I would like to get down to 145 pounds. 175 would be awesome. Feeling more in control is already very awesome, so that’s really what this post is about. And yes, it’s about looking better.  I’ll also share some of my food strategies with you, but it’s nothing you can’t find anywhere else. 

So as not to be coy, I’ll start with the food part, and then I’ll tell the part about my brain. Here’s a typical day:

-Coffee with half and half when I get up. 
-Go for a run around 11:00
-Lunch at 2:00 (300-400 calories and high in protein)
-A snack or two around 4:00 or 5:00, or sometimes no snack
-A normal person’s dinner at 6:00 or 7:00
-Gin and seltzer with lime around 10:00

Typical lunch: Pita with four slices of turkey, mustard and pickles, and maybe a little cup of Greek yogurt or a piece of fruit; or a big plate of salad with leftover chicken, nuts, cheese, and vinegar; or pita fried with an egg. If I’m out shopping, I often get the Wendy’s strawberry chicken salad or grilled chicken sandwich. Not gonna lie, I eat a lot of turkey and chicken.

Typical dinner: Well, if you read this site, you know how I cook. I’m cooking as I always have, and just eating slightly smaller portions. Maybe I’ll go easy on the part of the meal that looks gooiest. If I’m still hungry after one serving, I’ll go back for a little more of the lowest-calorie element of the meal. If I’m really still hungry after dinner, I’ll have a green apple, and that seems to tell my brain “that’s enough.” 

And I drink plain seltzer all day long. 

I know I said I was counting calories, but I don’t actually know how many calories I eat per day. When I started trying to lose weight, I put my age, weight, and activity level into a calorie calculator and was surprised how many calories it said I could eat and still have a deficit; so at first, I calculated everything meticulously. Then I got sick of it and just started eyeballing everything besides lunch, and I still kept losing weight, so it seemed good enough. When I get stalled out, and stay the same weight for a week, I buckle down and pay more attention for a while. 

There is also a giant asterisk next to all of this that says “WITH SOME EXCEPTIONS.” If I had to name my weight loss plan, it would be the “with some exceptions” plan. More about that in a bit. 

The thing is, I was already doing a lot of things that should have helped me lose weight. I can’t have more than one cup of coffee, or it keeps me up at night, and I don’t like sugar in my coffee. Breakfast in general makes me feel blah. I don’t really like cake or pastries. Sugary foods and drinks give me headaches. I truly enjoy fresh fruits and raw vegetables. Chocolate is a migraine trigger. And I run 4-5 times a week to counteract hereditary heart issues and blood pressure issues, and to manage anxiety, migraines, and PMS. I was even intermittent fasting most of the time. But when I was eating, I was eating a lot. 

So mostly, I had to get smarter about all the ~e~m~o~t~i~o~n~a~l~ e~a~t~i~n~g~ I was doing all day long. I had about 523 different reasons for eating things, and only one of them was hunger. Not exactly groundbreaking info, but what to doooo?

I know some people have luck by addressing overeating as a sin to be corrected, and I’m not saying it’s not, but this doesn’t help me. It just doesn’t. I find the psychological approach much more useful. 

One thing I tell myself pretty often: “Nothing bad is going to happen if you don’t eat that [fistful of Cheezits or whatever].” First I had to acknowledge to myself that some part of me did halfway believe something bad going to happen if I didn’t eat it! That was embarrassing. Who knows where such a fear comes from. Poverty, pregnancy, anxiety, being just plain nuts, whatever. Anyway, I had to firmly tell myself that I was going to be okay, and I could just not eat the thing, and move along. Sometimes I had to tell myself more than once. Sometimes, oops, I didn’t listen, and ate it anyway.

So then the other half of the equation is that I often have to tell myself it’s also going to be okay if I did eat the thing. Because if it’s just food, it’s just food, whether I ate it or not.

A big part of disordered eating is not just the actual overeating; it’s being furious at myself for eating too much, and then punishing myself by eating more, and so on. Boo. Boo!

So what I’m working on is just calming the hell down about food, whether I’m having a good food day or a bad food day. I don’t want to be one of those people who gets skinny but is still crazy, you know? (Although it’s pretty likely I’ll end up both fat and crazy.) Food is important, and it can give real pleasure, and that’s not a bad thing. But it begins and ends in a certain place, and I’m the one in charge of that. That’s what I really want: To be in charge. That’s a big part of why being fat makes me so unhappy: Because I know I’m not in charge. I’m at the mercy of food and of food feelings. 

How to stay in charge? I have found through sad experience that trying to exert very rigid control doesn’t work with me. I panic and can’t sustain it, especially when something crazy happens and makes my careful plan feel overwhelming. And something crazy always happens. 

What I want is to eat in way that I can live with, no matter what else is going on. I don’t want to have to drag around a food scale or have special powders or say goodbye to entire categories of food forever. If I go to a party and there is baked brie or lobster in drawn butter involved, you bet I would have some — and then I would just cool with calories the next day, or else have a light lunch in preparation. That’s it! Because no single meal or single day is the final word. Even if I gain a few pounds, which definitely has happened, I got time. I can work with this. I can be cool. 

Every once in a while, flexibility or no, I get mad anyway, and feel kind of rebellious about having to think about what I eat, and I will stomp around and stuff unauthorized corn chips in my face, and eat a leftover pop tart I don’t even want, and sit around after dinner polishing off everyone’s leftover kielbasa even though I’m full. This goes on for a couple of days, and then I think, okay. You did that. It’s not the end of the world. But is it making you happy? And of course it is not.

That’s what really flipped the switch in the first place. I was gaining and gaining, and I knew I needed to do something, but I hated the idea of counting calories or joining a program, because I didn’t want to be thinking about food all the time. It seemed so dreary and awful and petty, thinking about food all the time.

Then it hit me: I think about being fat all the time. I think about it every day, every hour, sometimes more. I already think about it constantly, and it makes me unhappy every single time I think about it. So I thought OH WHAT THE HELL, I MIGHT AS WELL COUNT CALORIES. I didn’t even expect it to work! I just figured as long as I was going to be miserable, I might as well be miserable while trying, instead of being miserable while not trying.

And then the scale started to budge, what do you know about that.

So I’ve had to start over more than a few times, and it’s okay. Every time I’ve had to start over again, the scale starts to budge again eventually. 

I have had so many weird things happen to my brain over the last few months. One minute I feel absolutely vast, like an endless piece of obscenely overstuffed furniture. Then I get on the scale and I weigh ten ounces less than I expect, and I look in the mirror and bam, instantly I look slim and willowy and angular. This is bonkers. Completely bonkers. I have just had to learn to accept how bonkers it is and just stick with the program anyway, because what else am I gonna do? 

And what I’ve found is I’m getting this whiplash less and less often. I look the same to myself more and more often. How I look to myself when I look down at my body is more and more similar to what I see in the mirror, and that’s more and more similar to what I see in photographs of myself. This . . . has never happened to me in my whole entire life. I’ve always had half a dozen different conceptions of myself. But I’m starting to feel like just one person. I don’t know how else to explain it. It is some kind of healing and I am grateful for it.

A bit more about flexibility and fasting. If I don’t eat until 2:00, I have the best chance of having a sensible snack and a sensible dinner, for whatever reason. But sometimes I just get ravenous, and I’m not interested in torturing myself to make the numbers come out right; so sometimes I have some nuts in the morning, or sometimes I eat lunch at 1:00, and just try again for 2:00 the next day. On weekends, our schedule is different, and I usually eat a bit more, and earlier. It’s okay, because it’s the weekend and it’s part of the plan for it to be different. I figure if I have a little pie on the weekend, my body won’t get too used to low calories, and it will stay on its toes or something. 

For my afternoon snack, I eat pretty much whatever I want — the key being figuring out what I really want. If I’m feeling like hot stuff, I’ll want baby carrots or sugar snap peas and maybe a rice cake with chili lime powder. If I’m feeling like I just wanna eat something, I’ll have some potato chips or peanut butter crackers or whatever. What I always try to do is eat what I want, and then stop and see how I feel. Just give myself a second to make a choice, rather than bullying myself into rushing into the next thing without thinking about it. 

And then sometimes I blow it, and just snack my head off, and gobble up everything in the house because I’m just so hungry right before dinner time and I want all the stupid corn syrup and salt in the world. And then guess what? I’m not hungry for dinner. So guess what? I don’t eat it! Because my stomach is full, because I already ate, and do not actually wish to eat more food! It turns out there’s not a rule you have to eat the food you made for dinner, just because it’s dinner time, and my stomach has learned what it feels like to be full. Amazing. 

I weigh myself just about every day at the same time of day. There is a three-to-four-pound range that I expect to be in day to day, and what happens is the range, rather than the individual number, gradually shifts down. So if I were graphing my weight loss, I wouldn’t see a straight line down unless I zoomed out. I think daily weigh ins are probably a good idea, because sometimes you have a rogue high number, and if you weigh yourself every day, you’ll recognize it as a blip, and it doesn’t freak you out as much.

Where does exercise fit in? You can’t exercise fat away, but there’s still a link between exercise and weight loss. How it works for me is that I don’t feel hungry for a long time after I work out, and it seems to keep my blood sugar more stable throughout the day; and when I work out regularly, it sets in motion all kinds of good things that lead to eating better. I feel more confident, which makes me feel more capable of taking care of myself. I’m more energetic, so I’m more likely to get stuff done, rather than moping around the kitchen scrounging for snacks. I sleep better, so I’m less likely to go chasing after sugar and caffeine to give me an energy boost the next day. And so on.

I still highly recommend the Couch to 5K program, which has no end of free apps you can download to get you started. If running is no good for whatever reason, I also really like Jenny Ford’s marching workouts.  I have also somewhat grimly purchased a digital copy of Jane Fonda’s Complete Workout for those days when it’s too cold to run but I feel the need to suffer somehow.

I was also lifting weights and using a planks app for a long while. I ferkin HATED it, but I had to admit, I liked the results, and I know old bags like me need the bone density work. For a while I was running 3-5 miles a day, up to fifty miles a month. But I’m fundamentally lazy, and it’s gross and muggy and buggy out, so right now I’m just running a mile and a half most days and calling it good enough. 

The one thing I haven’t mentioned is my husband. He started this endeavor on his own over a year ago, and has lost an astonishing 70+ pounds, and at one point he was running over 100 miles a month. He’s a private guy and doesn’t like me blabbing about all his stuff, but I’m very proud of him, and he’s very handsome, and he’s got some pretty bitchin cheekbones, too, so there. I truly don’t think I could have done it without his example and companionship. At the same time, he never pushed me or made me feel like I was anything but beautiful to him, 235+ pounds and all.

If you are going to start overhauling your food life, I highly recommend having someone you can do it with, or at least someone you can talk about it with, someone who will reassure and encourage you and maybe occasionally gently tell you when you’re being crazy. 

There is a little part of me that is protesting: Why is it that the thing making me so happy is that there’s less of me? But truly, it’s not about diminishment. I’m starting to see my cheekbones again, too, and I feel like I look like myself again. Sometimes shifting calories around is like a little game: I’ll skip having french fries now, and maybe I’ll have a little fancy cheese later. Exercising self control feels like flexing muscles. It’s fun. It’s fun being able to zip my pants without it being a whole production. And you know, I pick up a dress I could barely zip up last time I tried it on, and now it just floats down over my head. It’s the best feeling.And that’s my story. 

Happy to answer questions if you have them. As you can see, I have zero training or professional information of any kind. All I have is a few months of some hopeful-looking success after a long string of failures in my past, brought on mainly by emotional immaturity, I suppose. And as I said, I’ve probably doomed myself for making this public, and now I’m going to swell up like a diaper in a kiddie pool, and now this essay will turn up in my Facebook memories every year to haunt and and taunt my fat ass forever, and then we’ll see who’s body positive and who’s just another yogurt-eating bitch. The truth is, I don’t have anything else to write about, so I’m writing about the forty pounds. You didn’t really want another essay about covid anyway, right? 

 

Non-scale victories for your spiritual life

Like half the country, I would like to shed a bit of weight. Before you send me a V.I.P. discount code for your amazing protein shake, let me assure you: I do know how to lose weight. I have done it many times before. There was the time I ate only coffee, ice, lettuce and horrible pre-mixed whiskey cocktails from the gas station. The pounds melted off, and I was an emotional wreck. Then there was the plan where I spent countless hours on the StairMaster while reading Wordsworth and crying. I know they say you cannot lose weight by exercise alone, but what if you are too dizzy to eat? You just have to know how to work it.

With this glory-free history of hitting my goal number on the scale, I am fairly content to be what I am now, which is fat but more or less happy. If I am neither wasting away nor in danger of knocking out close friends when my arteries violently explode, then I feel like I am doing all right (and so does my doctor).

Here is what I have discovered: I have a much better shot of keeping my weight in reasonable check without losing my mind if I think less about the scale and more about “non-scale victories.” Instead of focusing solely on numbers, I accept credit for achieving things that are harder to quantify but are worth so much more—things like reaching the top of the stairs without wheezing, shopping for clothes without sobbing, or finding out the garlic bread is all gone without flying into a rage.

A non-scale victory is when I painfully resist a second helping and realizing once I have cleared my plate that I really am already full. Or when I give into temptation and scarf down far, far more cheese than any sensible being should ingest—but the next day I simply start over with my target plan, rather than spiraling into a black vortex of self-loathing.

What makes these victories both poignant and powerful is they do not reduce me to a clinical number, but instead they acknowledge and rejoice in the specifics of everyday life. Yes, the number on the scale matters, but I am more than a number. And when I see myself as a whole, worthy person with some flaws, rather than as a giant, walking flaw, it is easier to build on what is good.

So let us imagine, for a moment, that my problem is not that I am overweight but that my spiritual life has gone rather flabby. Imagine I look into the mirror of my soul, and I really do not like what I see. What to do?

Read the rest of my latest for America Magazine

Image via needpix

Healing vanity and self-loathing through selfies

On Monday, I wrote about the pressure women feel to be aesthetically pleasing. It’s one thing to recognize it for what it is, and to reject it as unjust; it’s another to stop feeling that pressure. I can’t change what people expect of me, but I can change what I expect of myself.

I know this guy who used to be a gay porn star. Now he’s not, and he is trying very hard to lead a life that’s completely different from his old life. He constantly posts photos of himself on social media — so many that someone finally asked him why. He explained that there are countless photos of himself from his porn days, and that’s what people see if they search his name. He can’t get them taken down, but he can outnumber them out with these new photos that show him as he is now. He wants people to see him as he is now — which is more like who he wants to be, who he thinks he was made to be.

I realized I do something similar — not for the sake of other people, but for my own. It’s not vanity, exactly, and it’s definitely not confidence. Just the opposite: It’s because I’ve spent so many years terrified of looking bad, and I’m tired of it. 

Sometimes I look in the mirror and I see . . . nothing. I see nonsense, like a scrambled photo I can’t make heads or tails of. I literally can’t tell what I’m looking at, when I look at myself. Am I shapeless and obese? Am I shapely and strong? Do I look professional and tidy, or do I look like a rat that got into his mother’s makeup? I simply can’t tell. My self-image is too garbled. One time, I had been beating myself up for the ten pounds I had gained in the last few weeks because of my slovenly ways. Then I actually got on a scale, and it turned out I was actually down half a pound.

And immediately, the mirror obediently showed me someone who looked about half a pound prettier. 

This is how I know mirrors are garbage. There is no such thing as “half a pound prettier.” Yet that is what I saw. And I know this happens to other people, not just people who’ve been through the pregnancy olympics. 

In truth, mirrors can only tell you very specific, limited things, like, “Am I wearing pants right now?” or “Do I have jelly on my face or not?” They can’t tell you, “Do I look nice or terrible?” and they certainly can’t tell you, “Am I acceptable as a human being or not?” Just as it’s really your brain, and not your eyeballs, that see the world, it’s your idea of yourself, and not the mirror, that tells you what you look like.

Now, what we look like is not the most important thing about us. I protested mightily against the idea that a pleasing appearance should be the thing that earns us respect and a place of dignity in the world; and scripture is clear: The Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.  

But unless we’re babies or very elderly or in some other unusual circumstances, it’s not possible or even admirable to give no thought whatsoever to how we look. It’s okay to want to look nice! You want to be able to present yourself appropriately, so you can feel reasonably confident and secure, and can then go on to focus your time and attention on other things. 

So how do you learn that sense of proportion? How do you learn to care for yourself without being overcome with anxiety about yourself?

I’m fairly skeptical about advice to simply bellow, “I AM BEAUTIFUL! ALL WOMEN ARE BEAUTIFUL!” Maybe it works for some people, but for me, it just fosters hypocrisy. I don’t need to feel that I am stunning and gazelle-like and desirable to all mankind. I just need to have my self-imaged healed so it stops howling like a wounded dog. I need to have it retreat to normal proportions, rather than swelling up and throbbing grossly at unexpected times. I need, in short, to know more or less how I look, and to be more or less okay with it, so I can forget it and think about something more interesting. 

That, by the way, is the aesthetic aspect of what Christians mean by humility. It doesn’t mean thinking you’re a useless, worthless worm. It means knowing who you are, accepting it, and getting on with what’s important. 

I don’t have gay porn photos of myself that need outnumbering, but I do have weird fears and fantasies about how I look and who I am; and it doesn’t help when internet trolls gleefully join in to point out my undeniable physical flaws.

That’s where the selfies come in. I show myself how I look. I plaster my Facebook wall with photos of myself that I will come across when I’m not expecting it, when I’m not preparing myself to see myself. I share flattering photos, but also less-flattering ones, with my stomach bulging or my teeth sticking out. Do you know what happens then?

I do not die.

The more photos I share, the easier it gets to see them, and the less I worry about how I look in real life. It used to be that someone could ruin my day or even my week by posting a bad photo of me. The week I got my wedding photos back was hellish. I felt like my handsome husband had made his vows to a walking double chin and overbite. It sounds funny, but it was crushingly painful. I was that vulnerable; and it only got worse over the years.

But now I’ve seen overwhelming evidence that sometimes I look bad and sometimes I look nice; and now the stakes simply aren’t that high. Even if I see that I look crummy in real life some day, if my skin is broken out and my hair is weird and I remembered too late why I never wear this shirt in public, it’s … like … not the end of the world. Not because I can look at pretty photos and reassure myself that those are more accurate, but because I have a more comprehensive understanding of what I look like overall, and of who I am. Bad days are just bad days, and no longer feel like a revelation of what I truly am inside.

When I see photo after photo of myself all with my unavoidable flaws, I don’t zero in on those flaws, but I see myself as just another person. I’m not a supermodel, and that’s okay. Most people aren’t. I have a pleasant smile. I dress okay. I don’t demand that everyone else be flawless before I consider them worth my time, and I’m learning to stop demanding it of myself (and to stop being crushed when I can’t deliver).

So many women, and men, too, have a self-image that’s been skewed and distorted literally past recognition. So many live in genuine fear of finding out what they look like — and that fear shows that it’s about more than aesthetics, but it’s about self-worth. We need many kinds of healing from this kind of wound, but healing of our physical self-image is not an insignificant one. No one should feel fear at the idea of showing their face.

Selfie culture can be poisonous, and can foster narcissism, envy, and crippling anxiety. But if you use it intentionally, it can help you heal from self-loathing and the anxious vanity that goes along with it.

Still fat, still running, still bugging you to do Couch to 5k

A little over a year ago, I told you how great the Couch to 5K program is. I describe why I started the program, exactly what it entails, and how it helped me physically, mentally, and emotionally. Here’s an update in our transformation from sad blobs to happier, somewhat more toned people with some blobby aspects.

It turned out that having a built-in babysitter was the lynchpin for regular physical fitness, and once those babysitters left for college, it got super hard to keep running regularly. We did try. We ran separately, and it was lonely. We tried running at night in the winter, and that was horrible.  I also tried these marching workout videos, and they were pretty good, but I slacked off after several weeks. In January, I consoled myself by writing a satirical news story about how I was fooling myself, but that only takes you so far. Then we got a Y membership so we could stow the baby hobbit in childcare and run around the track, but man, it is not the same. You have to make twelve circuits for a mile, and the air is dry and weird, and you can’t have loud, panting conversations about NFP when you’re running at the Y. And then some lady runs right in front of you wearing bright pink running pants with a thong-shaped pattern on it, as is her constitutional right, and you get mad your husband, which isn’t fair, but that’s how it is.

So, with less and less exercise, I slid further and further into blobby despond. Our whole household is terribly sad over the winter anyway, so it was not a good scene. People were making caramel popcorn with entire sticks of butter before 11 a.m. We were scrolling through Facebook with our noses, because it was too exhausting to move our thumbs.

Then the college kids came back home, and . . . now we can go running again. And that’s how it is! We’re running anywhere from three to seven times a week. To our delight, we didn’t have to start from zero, even after taking so much time off.  We’re not as fit as we were by the end of last summer, when we were topping four miles sometimes, but we’re well on our way, and can easily do two+ miles.

The kids, age 9 and up, will be starting Couch to 5K when school gets out in a few weeks. I highly recommend it!  And do get outside as much as possible. I’m glad we used the treadmill when we first started, because it was better than nothing, and I know the track at the Y kept us from losing too much ground; but being outdoors is fantastic. I’m trying to learn more about the ever-changing flora and fauna that surrounds us. So far, we’ve identified a pretty little friend called an arctic starflower

By Jason Hollinger (Arctic StarflowerUploaded by Amada44) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
we’ve brought home, looked up, and abruptly threw away some fascinating, luminous objects called spongy oak apple galls

which look like magical seed pods, but are made by gall wasps out of oak leaf tissue to cushion their developing larvae. Eek!

. . . and, with the help of friends, discovered that that weird sound that almost sounds like an alien toy, like one of those plastic tubes you whip around in a circle over your head, is actually the song of a hermit thrush:

We see wild turkeys, just birding around, and meandering deer, and flame-red salamanders. I don’t know how I’ll ever be able to figure out what weed produces that intoxicatingly wild, dusky, spicy smell, but I can’t get enough of it. Best of all, Damien and I have regular time together that’s just for us. That’s my favorite part of my life right now.

I still eat too much to be losing significant weight, but getting regular exercise does so much to put food back in its rightful place, as fuel rather than hobby or master. I’m much happier with my shape, my posture, and my energy levels and confidence than I have been in many months. I bought a frickin’ two-piece bathing suit yesterday. Even if I never wear it, the fact that I thought I might is a big deal!

My blood pressure is great. I have zero back pain and haven’t had a single migraine since we started running regularly. Since my migraine meds were messing with my heart, this is a relief.

I’m not a great runner. I’m very slow, and my form is inefficient and silly. It’s hard to start, every single time, and I generally feel very strongly that the first 1/8 mile is bullshit, just bullshit. But sooner and sooner in each run, I’m hitting that moment where I feel strong, competent, and optimistic, and that feeling sometimes lasts for hours.

So if you’re feeling bad, this is me pestering you to try Couch to 5K. If I can do it, you definitely can. You guys know me. I’m not a go-getter or thing-achiever, but I’m telling you, this program changed my life.

 

Protected: Podcast 44: Some degree of martyrdom

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Cash in on curvy before the bubble pops!

Listen! Did you hear that? It was the floopy sound of body fat peaking as a social issue. In about ten social media minutes (which is the equivalent of forty dog years. Unless they are dogs who know how to surf. Then it about evens out), not even grad students blogging in pale yellow letters with a black background are going to want to talk about fatness anymore. Quick, while it’s still a tiny bit trendy, let’s cash in and corner that curvy market.

Okay, maybe it’s a rounded corner. Which is every bit as beautiful as right angles. Every. Bit.

Here are my ideas, and you can have ’em:

Curvy Spirituality I don’t know what it is, but it will make a million dollars. The gift pack comes encased in a pink naugahyde binder with a little inflation valve so you can Plus Size Your Blessings™. Other possibilities: a Biblical cookbook expansion pack. From Eden’s Fruit to Ezekiel’s Poop Cakes: Salivating Your Way Through Salvation History. Something something milk and honey. I dunno, this needs some work. You’re smart, you’ll figure it out.

Beach Towel Bellio. It’s like a little patio for your belly, see? You want to lie down on your side on the beach like all the normals, but your belly floops over the edge of the towel and gets all gritty in the sand because you just had to listen to your husband and get a tankini, which does come with high-waisted bottoms but which is not magic. No bueno!

Well, no más. Just affix the terry cloth Bellio (believe it or not, that name has not been trademarked yet. I checked) to your beach towel with the velcro tabs (included), spread out your accommodating new Bellio, and your tummy stays comfy and dry, at least until someone accidentally steps on it. Bellio is not responsible for stepped-on bellies.

BMI Bechdel Test. I guess this could be an app or something. If you want to bring in that coveted demographic of females size 18-32, your movie must include at least one woman with pants size in double digits, and, if she is in a relationship with a man, his attitude toward her pants size must not be featured as a major part of his character development. Seriously, he doesn’t get any medals for being in the same room with the gal sporting a bra extender.

Also he can’t be gay. Nice try, loopholers.

Curvy Music. Again, I don’t know what it is, but I know people would buy it. If there’s a market for German Reggae and Horror Country, then there’s a market for Curvy . . .

You know what, just stop everything and listen to this German Reggae.

Is . . . is that a dulcimer?

Curvy Barbies. Oh, wait, we already have these. Everyone was very enthusiastic about them last year, because these dolls were going to Fix Our Daughters. Right after they were done being fixed by playing with dolls that shriek, “STEM is cool!” every time you pat them on the ass.

So I was at the Walmart yesterday with some time to kill, and what did I see on the clearance rack? Rank upon rank of Curvy Barbies, all proudly hippy, all sporting thighs that were physically capable of supporting a torso, all tarted up just as whorishly as their rail-thin sisters, all beaming mindlessly into the stratosphere . . . and all unsold.

Dammit, I think I missed the wave. Hold me! Comfort me! No, not like that! Bring me some sour cream, you fool.

***
***
Image: decal on Amazon. Please do not buy this decal.

I kinda look pregnant, and I kinda don’t care.

Warning: Lady essay ahead.

Today, while we were running, I asked my husband, “Okay. Do I look pregnant?”

He got that blissful expression on his face that husbands get when their wives ask neutral and in-no-way-dangerous questions like this. I added, to ease up on the poor guy a bit, “Sometimes. In some clothes. Do I?” And he said, “Yes.”

Message me for our address, so you can mail him his medal for courage.

And then he told me how beautiful I am, and how much progress I’ve made since we started running. Which is true, and which I expected him to say. The thing that surprised me was how little it hurt to hear him say that I look pregnant.

I gave birth to our tenth child almost two and a half years ago. I had a bad year last year and gained a bunch of weight, and now I’m working on losing some of it. I’m running several times a week, eating less, and correcting a lot of bad habits and bad attitudes surrounding food. But I have this solid, poochy belly. I see people glancing at it, wondering if I’m pregnant again, and I don’t blame them.

I guess I have diastasis recti, or separated abdominal muscles. All those little unborn savages weren’t content to eat all my nutrients, suck the calcium out of my teeth, permanently jack up my hips, and turn my brain into gruel; they had to tear apart my muscles from the inside, too! The ingrates! And now they want a ride to the library!

There are special exercises you can do to heal your diastasis recti. They’re not terribly hard. I’m already in the habit of exercising, so it wouldn’t be that difficult to do some abdomen work. But I just, deep in the heart of me, don’t feel like it. I don’t feel like I need to be “healed” of having a poochy abdomen. It’s not that I’m proud of my belly. I’m not big into that “Yeah, bay-bee, I EARNED these tiger stripes and if you don’t say my stretch marks are BEAUTIFUL than you are RAPING MY SELF WORTH and I WON’T LET THAT HAPPEN DO YOU HEAR ME?” stuff.

At the same time, every cell in my body, every corner of my soul utterly lacks the motivation to make it appear that I haven’t had ten children. I don’t enjoy being a fatty. But there are so many worse things I could be. I could hate my body, or be filled with self-loathing, or feel that I don’t deserve love because I’m a size 18. And I don’t do any of that. I’m taking care of myself, and I feel pretty good.

This is by no means a condemnation of women who are working hard to get back into pre-baby shape. I think you ladies are amazing. I will freely admit I’m mostly just too lazy to even look up the exercises, much less do them faithfully. I don’t think there’s anything morally superior about leaving my tired muscles alone, and I don’t think that losing belly fat is a sign of self-hatred. For some women, taking on the challenge of getting back to pre-baby shape is the right thing for their mental health, maybe even for their spiritual growth. Maybe they just want to look nicer. Yay, ladies! I’m sincerely impressed!

But for me, at age 42, married almost twenty years, sending the first two kids off to college . . . I’m moving on to the next stage of my life. Where I am, it just doesn’t seem important to erase all evidence of the previous stage of my life. I had a bunch of babies; I look like I had a bunch of babies. So what? I’ll buy brighter lipstick and go out anyway.

Check back with me in a couple of weeks, and I’ll probably be all teary and desperately scrolling through shape wear reviews. Right now, though, I feel kind of like a moderately strong, moderately attractive, moderately confident woman who doesn’t spend a lot of time thinking about belly fat. It feels pretty good.

I’m sharing this because maybe you don’t have anyone in your life telling you that it’s not the end of the world to be fat. So here I am telling you: It’s not!

Couch to 5K lives up to the hype

Here’s an entire post about the Couch to 5K running training program. You’ve been warned! If you don’t want to read the whole thing, here’s the short version:

I was just about ready to lie down and die, but now I feel much better, physically, mentally, and emotionally, and you can, too.

How it works: We downloaded the free app onto our phones. You go out three times a week, and it tells you exactly what to do, on the screen and out loud. Like: “Begin warm-up! Walk for five minutes.” “*BONG!*Start running now!” “You are half way!” “*BONG!*Start walking now.” And so on. It begins and ends with a five-minute walk, and alternates walking and running for varying lengths of time, increasing the total running time week by week. By the time you get through the whole program, you can run five kilometers, which is just over three miles.

You can upgrade the app to play music, keep track of calories, and other stuff, but the free version is fine.

Why we started: As with the beginning of so many great things, I was sitting on the bed crying because I’m disgusting and nothing will ever change and it’s just all so horrible. So my husband goes, “Let’s do that Couch to 5K thing.” And I sniffled, “Okay,” because it sounded better than sitting on the bed crying. I probably would have agreed to go away to Organic Rollercoaster Engineer school at that point.

We both used to run many, many years ago, but now we are both 42.  I have done various kinds of workouts over the years, but it’s been harder and harder to do anything consistently. We were both feeling very much like it was the beginning of the end, and like every aspect of our lives would just get harder and cruddier and more pathetic, steadily and inexorably, until we were dead. So, this was our way to fight back and see if we could do something else, instead.

In the beginning, I was terrified. I was so sure that I was going to embarrass myself, let my husband down, and just be pathetic and gross in some way, and end up feeling even worse because I had failed one more thing. This is not commensurate with reality. I’m actually fairly accomplished in a lot of different areas, and have done all kinds of difficult and frightening things, and am surrounded by supportive, appreciative people. But my stupid rat brain was pretty persuasive about me being a repulsive loser blob.

How it’s going:  It’s going great! It has been hard every week; it has gotten easier every week. Every week, we’ve been very conscious of getting stronger, which is incredibly encouraging and motivating.

We repeated a few days when we felt like we just barely got through them. One week, we peeked ahead and freaked out at how hard the next week looked, so we repeated the same week until we got a little stronger and more confident.

And that is fine. We intend to run a 5K eventually, but we’re not in a huge rush. As long as we don’t lose ground, it’s fine.

So now, six weeks later, we’re starting week four, which is a 31-minute workout. It’s a brisk five-minute warmup walk, then jog for three minutes, walk for ninety seconds, jog for five minutes, walk for 2.5 minutes, jog three minutes, walk ninety seconds, and jog five minutes, and then walk another five minutes to cool down. We talk and laugh while we jog.

There is no way I could have done this a month ago. Nooooooo way. I would have thrown up and collapsed and spent the rest of the day laughing at that that alien species of people who waste their lives moving their limbs around like idiots, rather than enjoying life like I was *sob*.

But I’ve gotten stronger, my stamina is much better, and most of all, I have more confidence. I woke up this morning feeling awful, with a sinus headache, a stuffy nose, and a heavy, congested chest. But rather than looking for a reason to skip, I decided that I would at least try and see what I could do. Nobody pushed me into it; I just decided on my own to try.

This . . . is kind of a big deal for me. I find that I’m spending less time looking for excuses not to do things, and more time looking for reasons to make things possible, or at least to give it a shot. Not just running, but all kinds of things. All kinds of things just seem more possible. I feel more capable. I’m looking forward to the future.

This is kind of a big deal for me.

Physical changes: I don’t own a scale, so I’m not sure if I’m losing weight. When I’m getting regular exercise, I find it much easier to eat reasonably, both in what and how much I eat. I’m focusing on just eating when I’m hungry no more than five times a day, stopping when I’m no longer hungry, and trying to get plants and protein and avoid sugar; so I know I’m healthier than I was six weeks ago. My days are less centered around hunting and gathering. The gin, however, stays in the picture.

I feel a lot less shame about my body. Even when I look in the mirror and see a body I’m not happy with, I see it as a working body, a trying body, and not the body of a loser. It’s not that fat people are losers, or that women who look like they’ve borne children are losers. But my body was, objectively, the body of someone who had given up. I had stopped trying to feel better, and that was no good, no matter how I looked to outsiders.

I’m definitely getting more toned. My belly is a little flatter, my hips are less blobby, and my legs and arms have more definition. I’m still fat. I will probably always be fat. This does not seem terrible to me (or to my husband, which helps a lot!).

And I’m sleeping better.
And I have more energy during the day.
I can be active longer without strain, and I can stay awake and alert for longer in the day.
And I’m setting a good example for the kids, who are thinking of doing the program themselves when school lets out.
Any my back doesn’t hurt all the time.
I think maybe my skin is clearer?
My mood is better, especially on running days.
And my posture is better. It’s easier, and it feels more natural, to sit up straight.
I’m looking forward to the summer, thinking about hiking and swimming and running around with the kids, rather than dreading feeling guilty about wasting the warm weather but feeling so draaaaaaained all the time.

I no longer look at running as some kind of alien, unreachable thing that people who are very, very different from me do. The program is really well designed, not pushing too hard or too fast, so you not only get your body in shape, but you gradually come around mentally, too, and start to think of running differently. I really admire the way it’s set up, with a good understanding of human psychology.

Things that help: We drive a little distance and then run in a secluded country road, where there is almost no traffic and it’s mostly level. This pic is from April 5. There’s less snow today!

We use the treadmill when the weather makes outdoor running actually dangerous (like when the road is covered with a sheet of wet ice), but the treadmill adds a whole level of difficulty and unpleasantness. Fresh air, room to move, and something to look at make a huge difference.

It would be harder to stick with this on my own. My husband and I encourage and motivate each other, and keep each other on track. Talking and laughing while we run also makes the time go by so much faster.

Music and distractions like Facebook help a ton on the treadmill. I prefer talking to my husband and listening to the birds and streams when we’re outside, but it helps a lot to have a song in my head, to keep to the beat.

General running tips that I remember from long ago. Correct me if I’m wrong about these!: keep your movements as smooth and gliding as possible; use your whole body, rather than just trotting with your legs; roll from heel to the ball of your foot when you step; try to extend each stride, rather than running faster; tip your chin up to keep your chest up and shoulders back, so you can get more air in your lungs; keep your hands low and your fingers and arms loose, rather than tightening them up around your chest like a fricking dinosaur; breathe in through your nose and out through your pursed lips, to keep the oxygen in your body as long as possible. Don’t forget to stretch before and after. Drink water!

My friends, I was circling the drain, but I’m fighting back! If I can do it, you can, too. (It doesn’t have to be Couch to 5K. It could be any firm decision to get moving and keep it up indefinitely.) I’m not special. I’m not radically reorganizing my life. I’m just ready to stop feeling terrible about everything all the time.

 

Hup!

Today, I am super so far behind on stuff I absolutely need to do, so here is something I wrote four years ago on this day. I’m even fatter now than I was then, but my back is all better, and I bet I could kick Jane Fonda’s titanium ass.

Look, this is us smiling after running (well, running and walking) for half an hour this morning!

Sheesh, I need to do something about my teeth, though. Oh well.

1.  I don’t know how successfully I’ve hidden this in the few photos of myself that I’ve put online, but I am 5’5″ and in the last fifteen years, I’ve put on average of seven pounds of permanent weight for each baby.  This is what happens when all you do is sit down.

2.  I was having stabbing pain, excruciating burning from my lower back down to my toes, tingling, numbness, and general unpredictable sciatic misery, which finally sent me to the doctor, because I couldn’t believe that I could become that debilitated just from doing nothing.  The x-ray revealed that I have “mild to moderate degeneration” between the discs of my spine, brought on by age, weight gain, and inactivity, or, in layman’s terms, being a loser.  I am adding that phrase,  “mild to moderate degeneration,” to my list of possible new names for the new blog I’ll never start.  Other possibilities I’ve gathered over the years include what Mark Shea called me one time (“History’s Greatest Monster”), what an outraged reader told my editor (“Fisher Is Unrepentant!”), and what my mechanic wrote about the van (“Misfires Badly Under Any Significant Load”).

3.  A sad little drama recently played out in a shopping plaza nearby.  First there was nothing but a Curves Gym.  Then Five Guys Burger and Fries moved in next door.  Curves held out for a while, but one day the windows went dark, and they packed up and moved away, presumably shaking their chubby fists in rage, with an embarrassing amount of flappy movement around the upper arm area, as they went.  And then, in the space where Curves used to be, Rick’s Gourmet Ice Cream moved in.

4.  This is not going to become one of those tedious blogs that does nothing but record how many reps or grams or kilos or whatever (wait, I think I’m talking about cocaine now) of cardio I accomplished and which variety of kale I like to add to my puke smoothie.  (Sorry, I just friggin hate the whole smoothie thing.  You still have teeth, people.  Use ’em.)  I will try not to make a big deal out of it unless I think it would be genuinely interesting to someone besides myself and my doctor.

5.  I picked out an exercise DVD that looked like a reasonable place to start.  Today, I did it for the first time, and had two shocks:  one is that it’s designed for senior citizens; and two, it wasn’t easy to keep up.  Argh.  Yep, ol’ Jane Fonda is going on and on about her titanium hip and how great it is that we’re doing so much to combat memory loss, and I’m screaming on the inside “ISN’T TWENTY MINUTES UP YET, YOU HOLLOW CHEEKED BITCH?”

6.  I used to be able to run five miles.  Cursing the whole way, but still, I used to be able to do it.  Now, I can’t even curse for five miles straight, running or not.  I don’t even have profanity stamina anymore.

7.  In the week that has passed since I wrote #1-6, I have put off reading what Pope Francis said about people who complain about 73 distinct times. Because look,  I got the flu, which meant that I was too weak and feverish to do my back exercises, which meant that I couldn’t sleep because of back pain, which meant that the baby decided this would be a fine time to give up sleeping.  Like, just quit, flat out.  She goes to bed at the normal time, but wakes up at 1:30, ready to play.  The next two hours are spent with constructive thoughts like, “WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME” and “HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO FUNCTION” and “I THINK I HAVE TWO FRIENDS NAMED LYDIA BUT MAYBE ONLY ONE I’M NOT SURE ABOUT THAT BECAUSE THERE IS THAT ONE LYDIA BUT THEN THERE IS THAT OTHER ONE ALSO AND THAT MAKES TWO BUT ON THE OTHER HAND I’M NOT SURE HOW MANY FRIENDS I HAVE NAMED LYDIA.”  (See, fever.)  Then I went to throw up, but my back hurt too much to reach the toilet.  Also, I took a shower and it turned out the soap had a bug on it, and I was washing myself with bug.

And THAT’S why I say sometimes it’s okay to just go through your medicine chest and see what you can find.  Because, sheesh.

What’s for Supper? Vol. 8: Pan Roasted Woodchuck with Autumnal Vengeance

whats for supper

Question of the week:

What’s your “Yay, It’s Finally Fall Weather!” dish? Something that you only cook or bake or eat at this time of year. It’s okay if it’s some kind of pumpkin spice bullshit. This is a safe space. Here’s what our week in food looked like:

SATURDAY Cheeseburgers; homemade fries; salad; cookies

Today it’s raining, and we’ve had a few frosts already, and have turned on the heat for the year. Love that cozy smell of toasted dust. But last Saturday, it was still warm, and Mr. Husband cooked the burgers outside:food blog burgers grillAbout a month ago, Aldi had this American cheese on sale for ten cents a package, so I bought an armful. Check it out: it has pictures on it. Not only that, but it looks like this one one side:food blog cheese 2and this on the other side:food blog cheese 1THESE ARE THE SAME TWO PIECES OF CHEESE, FOLKS. God bless America. I made fries using this cold oil method I just heard about. It’s supposed to be easier, less smoky, and just less hassle all around.food blog fries cookingThe first batch definitely was less hassle; but then I had to make about five more batches, and the oil was already hot, so no more newfangled cold oil method for me. But they were good! And I never would have taken the plunge if I hadn’t thought the recipe would make things easier, so I’m glad.food blog friesSome of the kids sprinkled vinegar on their hot fries. Here I am, dealing with one of the slightly overdone ones:food blog burning fryIf you squint, it looks almost liturgical.

SUNDAY Beef stew; popovers; apple pie

Beef stew and apple pie are my “Yay, it’s Fall!” dishes. For stew, I use a pretty basic recipe: Cut beef into small chunks, and shake them up in flour seasoned with salt and pepper. In a heavy pot, fry up some crushed garlic in a little oil, then throw the floured meat in, plus the extra flour. Fry it up until it’s slightly browned. Add some combination of water, beef broth, and red wine*. Add in cubed potatoes, chopped onions and carrots, diced tomatoes with juice (canned is fine), and string beans (frozen is fine). Add a few bay leaves, and add more liquid if necessary; or, if it’s not thick enough, make a little roux (flour and butter paste) and stir that in. Cover and simmer for several hours. If you have mushrooms, add them in an hour or so before serving. Oh, here’s a tip for feeding hot foods to babies: mix in a few frozen vegetables. This cools the food without diluting it:food blog corrie stewTried this popover recipe for the first time. You make the batter in a blender. I ended up using the standing mixer with the whisk attachment, because a triple recipe of batter didn’t fit in the blender. Popovers are supposed to be light and airy, and they are supposed to puff up to great heights and then collapse when you pull them out of the oven. Mine were kind of dense and hearty, and just kind of sat there looking eggy. Everyone loved them anyway, and they sure were easy to throw together, so I will probably make them again, even if I don’t get the hang of it.food blog popoversI have now used that mini muffin pan exactly three times in six years: once to make mini quiches for a baby shower, once to make bacon roses for father’s day, and once for these popovers. I can’t use the spots in the middle, because I drilled holes in them to let out the grease for the bacon roses. I should have a TV cooking show called “The Stupid Kitchen.” So, pie! I had to make at least one pie before we ran out of apple orchard apples. I think Cortland apples are technically best for pie, since they are flavorful and keep their shape, but I love the taste of Mackintosh the best, so that’s what I use, even though they get mushy. I have plateaued in my pie crust-making skills, so I just bought some frozen ones and threw in a bunch of apple slices with sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, a little flour, and some butter. Irene helped with the apple prep, but quickly discerned that there were too many damn applesfood blog irene applesand went to watch Spiderman. *Pinecroft. It’s crazy cheap – maybe $3 a bottle – and it tastes completely okay for all your okay-wine-drinking needs.

MONDAY One-pan roasted chicken thighs with fall vegetables

A new recipe for me from Damn Delicious. I had to buy Brussels sprouts, which are unreasonably expensive, because a woodchuck ate pretty much everything in my garden this year. I planted peas, beans, tomatoes, lettuce, radicchio, spinach, basil, pumpkins, cucumbers, and Brussels sprouts, and every time I went out to weed or water, something else would be gone. Just chewed into oblivion, everything except one pumpkin. It was infuriating.garden pumpkinNext year, I’m buying a gun, and I’ll share my recipe for pan roasted friggin woodchuck with the vegetables of vengeance. Anyway, this recipe was a big hit.  My family loves anything with a balsamic vinegar taste. I associate balsamic vinegar with light, summery, Italian dishes, but it went really well with this cozy, autumnal meal. It was a really good dish for putting together in the morning and then chucking in the oven in the evening. And it looked GORGEOUS. And it’s a smorgasbord of vitamins, too. I felt like sending a picture to my pediatrician with the heading, “SEE?”food blog fall vegOh, so butternut squash is much easier to peel if you cut the shaft off the round part, and peel them separately. I tried peeling the whole thing, and Benny thought it looked like a phone. I wanted to take a picture of her talking on the squash phone, but she wouldn’t let me, and insisted that she take a picture of me talking on the squash phone. So I let her, while thinking, “This is the kind of precious, overstaged nonsense that makes people hate mommy bloggers.”food blog squash phoneI’m posting it here because the dog intervened. Also, plus, real reason: look how skinny I look! This is a trick of perspective. I’m super fat right now. Hey, here’s some chicken:food blog chicken and veg

TUESDAY Taco Tuesday!

Just regular old tacos with ground beef and spice from a packet, nothing to write home about. I stopped taking pictures at this point in the week, because it was mainly me driving around for hours and hours, and then me lying down and playing Tokyo to Corrie’s Godzilla:food blog kids

And yes, that is a treadmill with clothes draped on it.

WEDNESDAY Penne with sausage, peppers, and cheese

Cooked up some sweet sausages, fried up some peppers and onions, added a few cans of diced tomatoes, and mixed it up with pasta, jarred sauce, shredded mozzarella, and grated parmesan, and heated the whole thing in a casserole dish. We ate this meal approximately 946 times after I had the baby, so I’ve shied away from it for a while, but I think it’s time to put it back in the rotation. Another good make-ahead dish.

THURSDAY Hot dogs and beans for the kids; bruschetta and calamari for the adults.

We went out on the spur of the moment. Three cheers for having four teenagers in the house!

FRIDAY Ricotta spinach pasta

This is what we’re having today. It’s a Budget Bytes recipe. Her recipes are really reliable — they turn out just as described, and are usually fairly easy to put together. The ricotta gets creamy and yummy, and it is cheap, and you can totally use frozen spinach. Phew. Made it through the week. What’s you eat this week? And don’t forget the question of the week, la di da: What’s your favorite fall dish?