What’s for supper? Vol. 384: One caprese summer (relics notwithstanding)

Happy Friday! I had a week that was just plain weird.

Let me tell you about it, and also what we ate. 

SATURDAY
Nachos

Saturday I was still in the grips of whatever it was that made food into my mortal enemy last week. I went grocery shopping verrrrry slowly and cautiously, and then came home and made nachos, but did not take a photo, because I can buy food and make food, and even eat a little bit of food, but apparently pointing a camera at it is a bridge too far. 

My nachos are not terribly inspiring anyway. I just cook and season some ground beef and sprinkle it over tortilla chips, throw some jalapeños over that, and cover it with shredded cheese, then heat it up, and serve it with sour cream and salsa. It’s one of those dishes I don’t really want to start making better, because then people will expect it, and I need to preserve some quick and brainless meal preps for myself.

In the afternoon, I rested for a bit and then to the flower farm up at the top of the hill, because the rabbits gobbled my beloved poppies up, and I was just feeling tragic about my garden and its stubs. It had been murderously hot and and humid for several days, but it suddenly turned cloudy and breezy, and flower son stood gazing at the horizon, and said, “. . . In about five minutes.” And then it started to sprinkle.

So I scurried around grabbing what I came for (perennial dianthus, tickweed, and some eggplants), but not fast enough. SUCH A DOWNPOUR. I briefly turned into Fielding Mellish

But I got my flars!

SUNDAY
Grab whatever

Sunday was a little rough. I ended up having to leave Mass early and go sit in the car because I was feeling so blehhhhh. Not too bleh to take a selfie because my hair was having a nice day, though. 

Clara and Damien went to a Bonny Light Horsemen concert, and a bunch of the other kids were doing this and that, so I couldn’t work up the enthusiasm to cook anything for the small group that was left. I may have had a bagel, but I truly don’t remember.

MONDAY
Steak and peach salad

Monday I was feeling quite a bit better, and agreed to take the kids to the library. Then on the way home, I remembered we needed duck food; and then the exit from the feed store is a weird traffic spot where it’s hard to turn left, so I decided to go right and take the long way home, and as long as we were on that road, I asked the kids if they wanted to hit the Salvation Army. 

And that is how I found the first class relics of Saint Peter, Apostle, and St. Helena, Empress. 

I am not kidding. They were in the jewelry case for $3 each and I was like, “oh, um, could I see those little round pieces, please?” and then I was like, “um, oh, I will take them, please.” I zipped them into my Vera Bradley wallet, because I didn’t know what else to do. And that is where they still are, actually. 

I didn’t have my reading glasses onat the store, so I couldn’t read the little labels until I got home. It just felt too insane to take in, and still does.

But I carefully unscrewed the backs

and saw this:

I talked to Sean Pilcher of Sacra Relics and sent some photos, and he said they are “doubtlessly authentic,” and that the wax seal inside is the seal of Giuseppe Nicolini, the bishop of Assisi who founded the Assisi Network that saved hundreds of Jews during World War II.

So. 

I have relics. Most likely.

I still have to pack them up and send them over to be cleaned and repaired, and I hope they can be documented. Pilcher said one of the major misconceptions about relics is that Catholics expect you to accept on blind faith that they are what we say they are; but actually it’s a pretty rigorous process of authentication that draws on expertise from several different fields. So we shall see!

In the mean time, it sure looks like our household picked up a couple of amazing new friends. I’m working on writing a long piece about it, and just trying to understand what it could possibly mean that I’m temporarily sharing a bedroom with some nearly 2000-year-old bone fragments of a man who was chosen by Jesus to be the rock on which the Church is built, and the woman who found the true cross. I’m open to ideas! I’m open to all kinds of things. 

My sister and her husband are making a reliquary for them, for as long as they will be in our house, and I’m waiting to hear back from my pastor about whether our parish wants and can accommodate them, and I talked further with Sean Pilcher and left some messages with Fr. Carlos Martins who hosts Treasures of the Church. My first goal is to have them as local as possible, with as much access for the faithful as possible.

I just. I don’t know. At first I was frightened and distressed, but now I am growing attached. 

Told you I was having a weird week! And yes, I did go back to the Salvation Army to see if there was . . . anything else. Which there was not, except for a silly nicknack from Target or something that looks exactly like a monstrance, except with a mirror in the middle. I talked to the manager about what I had found, and she said that, if someone drops off relics again, they will call a priest. (I was like, “So, for future reference, these are human remains. . . ” and she was like, “We can’t know everything!” and I was like “OH, I KNOW.”)

But! Relics none the less, I still needed to make supper. And this is still a food blog. So.

London broil was on sale, so I got four nice cuts. I seasoned them with salt and pepper, heated a skillet up screamingly hot and melted some butter on it, and then seared each steak for three or four minutes per side. 

Very nice. 

Some of it was a little underdone, even for us, so I threw those pieces back in the pan and finished them up while I cut up a bunch of peaches. So we had mixed greens, beef strips, peaches, crumbled goat cheese, and a sweet vinaigrette. 

Superb. I was feeling extremely depleted in general, so some lovely rare beef really hit the spot. 

TUESDAY
Corn dogs and chips

Tuesday I was feeling very much better, and RELICS NONETHELESS, I scurried around getting caught up on weeding and mulching and yard work. The grass was pretty high, and that is how I mowed right over an aerosol can of bug spray, which exploded with a bang and a cloud. No biggie, I have St. Peter and St. Helen in charge of the house now. I can run over whatever I want!

I’m just talking. I don’t know what is going on, for real. 

WEDNESDAY
Caprese pasta

Wednesday was our long-anticipated annual dumpstravaganza, relics howbeit. The kids cheerfully and willingly, just kidding, helped me drag a year’s worth of clutter and horrible crap from the yard into the driveway

and then I ruthlessly cleared off the porch, and four trips to the dump later, it looks like human beings live here.

You know you’re having a wonderful day when the dump guy asks if you’re okay. I was okay! I was just hot and exhausted and deep in “WE HAVE TO THROW EVERYTHING OUT AND WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH THESE PEOPLE AND WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH THIS HOUSE” mode. You’d think a dump guy would be familiar with that look, honestly. 

Got home and decided to tear down the vines that I had spent the last five or six years cultivating to grow over the porch to disguise its shabbiness. I had ordered Concord grape vines, which arrived as bare roots. I dutifully watered and fertilized and trained them, and was so excited that they finally started putting out fruit last year! And that is when I discovered that I may have ordered grape vines, but what they sent me were actually porcelain berry, which is poisonous and invasive. LE SIGH. So we’re starting over. 

Around 5:00, I saw to my dismay that I had scheduled myself to make a brand new recipe, which wasn’t ideal for how hot and pissed off I already was, but I didn’t want to waste the tomatoes and basil I had bought. So I made this caprese pasta from Sip and Feast.

Tiny little bit of prep work

but it came together very fast, and I thought it was delicious. 

Tasted exactly like what it was, of course (you can’t see it, but there are hunks of half-melted fresh mozzarella in there, and a good amount of red pepper flakes), which is a good thing. Lovely summer dish.

And now the last three times I made pasta, I did not overcook it! I can learn. 

THURSDAY
Pizza

On Thursday (relics regardlessly) I finally finally finally got back to working on the deck. In my old age, I have gained enough wisdom to realize that nobody who is feeling weak and shaky needs to be messing with a Sawzall, so I kept putting it off and putting it off.

But Thursday I was ready, and I got so much done. I took out the bad joist and put in a new joist with different hardware (and it fit, and *ahem* I rejoist) and cut and installed some floor planks, to close up the gap between the original structure and the new platform

Before:

and after:

Then I added a post on one corner and reinforced it with a sort of sheath of two long boards; and then I put a bottom sort of kickboard thingy (I don’t know what you call anything) and a top railing on. 

So today, all I need to do is buy some spindles or something, to fill in the railing, and then paint or stain it all, and it will be DONE.

I really wanted stairs for it, but that will be next year’s project. It has a ladder on one end and a climbing wall on the other, so it’s easy enough to get up and down. I know this, because I did it approximately 927 times yesterday, because I am constitutionally incapable of thinking about what tools I will need before I climb up a ladder.

I am so pleased with how it’s turning out.  I know it still looks very much like something that most people would be finally getting around to getting rid of; but it’s quite stable and strong, and the kids like hanging out of it. Once it’s had a little sanding and it’s all one color, I think it will look a lot more reputable. I have a vision, I tell you! And my secret is being too dumb to stop even when I realize I don’t know what I’m doing. 

Clara kindly made pizza for us. One pepperoni, one cheese, and one with leftover goat cheese, leftover basil, and red onion, which was fantastic. I forgot to eat all day, so believe me when I tell you. That was some good pizza. Relics notwithstanding. 

FRIDAY
Fish tacos

Just tortillas, frozen breaded fish, avocados, salsa, and sour cream. I just this moment realized this is supposed to have shredded cabbage on it, which I forgot to buy. Maybe I will chop up some collard greens, which are coming in nicely and desperately need thinning.

Oh, and fish tacos are supposed to have cilantro and limes. WELL, maybe I will go to the store. Maybe I’ll go to Aldi and find the Ark of the Covenant, who knows? 

Also, in relics notwithstanding news, I think I can say for certain that the weight loss I experienced when I was in full on NO FOOD NO HOW mode was not “just water weight.” I lost nine pounds when I was super sick, but I’ve been back to eating normal food for several days now, and, deliberately riding the wave of encouragement from having lost nine pounds, I lost another three pounds, meaning I’m back under The Terrible Number once again. 

My only regret is that I’m still revolted by even the idea of shrimp. Shrimp used to be my all-time favorite luxury treat, and now it feel like more of a threat. But you know, when I was about six, I had some Crackerjacks and then threw up out the window of my grandfather’s Toyota on the New Jersey Turnpike, and it was years and years before I could even think of Crackerjacks again. But now I can! Crackerjacks, crackerjacks. See? I’m fine. So I’m sure someday I’ll live to shrimp again. 

And that was my week! Headed to adoration in a bit, and I will ask St. Peter and St. Helena to watch over all of you, and make your collards grow or your power tools behave or your fat melt or your kids be helpful or whatever it is that you need. It’s on the house, especially if you’re too dumb to stop when you realize you don’t know what you’re doing. What a world. 

 

 

You gonna eat that?

Can you stand to hear more about food? Because I guess until I’m worm food myself, I’m gonna have to keep thinking about it, and if I’m thinking about it, I’m talking about it. What a to-do. 

I wrote about how I managed to lose forty pounds, and I kept that weight off for about a year and a half. Then I got a little sloppy and gained back seven or eight pounds, but that was okay; then I started taking Lexapro and gained an additional 15 pounds, and that was less okay. Then I felt so rotten about the extra weight that I put on another ten. Then my therapist told me she thought I had achieved my goals and was pretty functional and maybe we didn’t need to meet anymore, unless there was anything else I wanted to work on? 

And I was like actually, there is this one big thing. And it is my ass.

But seriously, it’s not really food that’s the problem. It’s how I think about food. Believe it or not, it’s fairly crazy. It’s like I’m living in a house that I’ve been working on renovating for the last several years, and some of the rooms are pretty great, and all of them are basically functional . . .  except for this one room, and I have to tiptoe past it and not think about what’s inside, because if I open the door, absolutely anything could be going on in there. And that is the room called “food thoughts.”

So, starting about three weeks ago, I’m starting over again, yay! Yay. But this time, with therapy. And an APP, which I HATE. But it is WORKING. Which I HATE. I’m slowly losing the weight again, in a sensible, mindful, presumably sustainable way, this time with much bigger focus on my emotional processes around food and eating. There was nothing wrong with how I was doing it last time, but I was mainly figuring out how I was gaining weight, but this time I am figuring out why. People said the last post was helpful, so I thought this follow-up might be, as well. I’m not actually giving advice, I’m just . . . I don’t know what. I have a Halloween-themed shopping bag with a cat on it that says “CREEPIN’ IT REAL” so I guess that’s what I’m doing. 

Quick, logistical rundown: It is sort-of intermittent fasting plus calorie deficit and regular moderate activity, because that builds on the way I was living anyway; this just sort of codifies it, so I don’t fool myself that I’m doing more and eating less than I think I am. Plus a food journal (more about that in a minute.) 

A typical day: I have coffee with cream in the morning, do a yoga workout in late morning, have lunch (usually a lot of vegetables, a little protein, and container of Greek yogurt) between 1:00 and 2:00, have a snack around 4:30 when I get home from picking up the kids, and eat a normal dinner around 6:00. We don’t drink alcohol anymore, so that’s it for the day. I really only drink seltzer, and very occasionally a Coke Zero. On weekends, I have more snacks and maybe dessert. I don’t count calories very strictly, but I squint at it and aim for a calorie count that puts me in a deficit for my age, weight, height, sex, and activity level. 

This is what I was already doing last time. The difference this time is that I’m also logging every bit of food I eat, and I’m stopping and noting what I’m feeling and thinking before I eat.

I’m using an app called Recovery Record that’s designed for eating disorder recovery. I don’t have an eating disorder, but I wanted something that focused on the psychological aspects of eating, rather than the calories or carbs or whatever. I chose it more or less at random just to force myself to get started, because I was massively, massively resisting the idea of starting a food log, and I just had to pick something.

The app is fine. It’s not intrusive, and you can set it to give you gentle audible reminders to eat and log various things, if you like. It offers copious  affirmations and coping skills you can collect or reject, so they will either pop up again or not, as you like, and the background images change week to week, which I’m sure is motivational in some way. You also have weekly goals you are prompted to review periodically, and you win prizes which I think are music downloads or something (I haven’t really investigated). Overall, it’s basically dignified, a tiny bit goofy but not over the top, and you can customize it in tons of ways that I’m not using. If you’re familiar with the twelve-step idea of “take what you need and leave the rest,” this is that: You acknowledge that some of it is going to be annoying or irrelevant, but you’re in it to help yourself, so you’re on the lookout for useful stuff, and some of it will be very useful indeed, if you’re not a baby or a snob. 

Anyway, I’m finding that having this log is giving me an essential foothold to stick with my plan every day. It’s sort of like when you are tempted to commit a sin, and you know you shouldn’t, but you wanna. But then you imagine yourself having to confess it, and you really don’t wanna do that. So you don’t do it, just because you don’t want to confess it. And then as soon as you make up your mind not to do it, the power of the temptation goes poof, and you’re left feeling kind of dumb for how hard it was to resist, but mostly you’re just grateful to be on the other side of it. This is what the kids used to call “very imperfect contrition” (not just fearing the pains of hell, but dreading the pains of having to say you-know-what in front of Fr. Stan). So this is very imperfect healthy eating or something. 

So once you get past that “I’m not going to die if I don’t eat that cold grilled cheese crust sitting on the table” moment, then maybe you can take a minute and think about your feeeeelings. If you want. 

Some of my feelings around food are:

“I can’t get anything done today! Aughhhh, aieeee, grrr, I can’t get anything done! But I can get THIS done [::CRONCH::]”

“Oh shit, it’s been such a crappy day and everything is terrible, but you know what’s not terrible, is food”

“Here, fatty fat fat, you’re so fat, have some more fatness for your fatty fatness”

“Perfectly good food going to waste” (and some subsets: “I made this and nobody appreciated it!” and “This is the last [whatever] of the season and everything is dying and nobody else cares!”)

“A TREAT THAT MIGHT DISAPPEAR FOREVER. What if my big sisters get there first! What if there is never another treat again! Poor poor poor! Grab it quick!!!”

“I can’t have this? I’m sorry, you’re gonna tell me I can’t have this? Who the hell are you?

“o i am so tired”

“If I don’t eat now, they will know I already just ate a lot, so now I have to eat twice”

“You’re already off the rails so far, what’s the point, who are you fooling?”

and so on. (Wow, this is so much fun.) I don’t write down all those things in the food log, but I will think about what’s going through my head, and maybe what kind of counter-argument I make, and make a mental note of it all, and maybe note down “tired” or “sad” or whatever. And if the same thing keeps coming up at a certain time of day, then I will realize that I can make it easier on myself by adjusting my schedule or tweaking my plans. Or even just acknowledging, “Ope, this is the time of day you always feel X, and you’ll want to deal with it by eating chips. But remember, you don’t have to!” A lot of these thoughts are VERY primitive, and they do not stand up to even the tiniest amount of scrutiny. Sometimes all you have to do is go, “hello, I see you” and they go “eek!” and run away. 
 

A few logistical things: 

I’m eating all normal food, and as much whole food as possible. You just get the most bang for your buck (the most volume, the most nutrition, feeling fullest, and getting the fewest calories), if you skip the processed food, in my experience; and I feel more deprived if I have a small amount of food than if I have to substitute one food for another, so I go for volume. The few special “diet” foods I get for myself are 100-calorie packs of nuts, which I keep on hand for times when I am undeniably stomach-growlingly hungry, not just feeling bored or sad or munchy; and 100-calorie bags of microwave popcorn, which registers as a really nice treat for me, and cheers me up, if I don’t have it too often. Frozen mango chunks are surprisingly low-calorie (100 calories for a cup) and they are very sweet and creamy, and really taste like dessert to me. Tart green apples are also really good, eaten a slice at a time, if I’m done with dinner but I just feel like I still want a little sumpin’.

Lunches that clock in around 300-400 calories, that I eat all the time:

-Two eggs sautéed in spinach with cooking spray; Greek yogurt 
-Giant heap of spinach with 3-4 pieces of deli turkey or ham and or leftover chicken breast with balsamic vinegar; apple
-hummus and carrots; Greek yogurt and small pita pocket
-Banana, Greek yogurt, nuts, a heap of sugar snap peas
-Wendy’s parmesan chicken salad

Where I run into trouble is when I don’t let myself think. I do a lot of mental. hand-waving and tell myself I’m upset or rushing or confused, and I’m not able to stop and think, and then oh nooo, I ate more than I meant to! This is a silly but effective trick I play on myself so I don’t have to think. I am never actually so hungry that I can’t stop for a minute and think, “Okay, what do I actually plan to eat right now?” and then I make a decision about it, and imagine writing it down in the log. I never plan to eat stupid things, so as long as I give myself three seconds to actually plan, I’m good. 

My trickiest time of day is before dinner, when I get home from driving the kids home, everyone is being their loudest and most obnoxious and demanding, I am in the kitchen finishing up making dinner and helping the kids make their lunches, and I also have a lot of residual historical anxiety from all the years when I was doing all these things with a baby and/or toddler hanging off me and my husband wasn’t going to be home for another six hours. (This isn’t the case anymore, but the “time to panic” cue really took root.) If I don’t pay attention, I will easily eat an entire meal’s worth of snacks before dinner, one little handful of this and that at a time, mostly out of frustration.

I have done what I can to mitigate the frustration — cleaning the kitchen earlier in the day, doing more dinner prep so there’s less actual cooking to do, stepping out of the kitchen unless I actually need to be in there — but mostly I have landed with just leaning into the sensation of wanting to kill someone with my teeth, and letting that someone be sugar snap peas or raw cabbage shreds or baby carrots or broccoli spears. I know that sounds really lame and diet culture-y, but for me, it’s acknowledging that I’m not always going to have this perfect, zen-like attitude toward nourishing myself, so at very least I can avoid fucking my calorie count, and I can emerge with my self-respect more or less intact, and still enjoy dinner.

I also get a lot of mileage from going ahead and admitting how disappointed I am that I’m not eating whatever-it-is. I will stand there in front of the fridge and have a tiny mental temper tantrum because there is a cup of rice pudding right there and I want it but I’m not going to have it and I’m mad. Then I go ahead and choose the bag of carrots instead. And I almost hate to admit this, but sometimes the little explosive emotional discharge that just went off is . . . . actually what I wanted, and I don’t care about the rice pudding anymore. Maybe I nibble a few carrots just for the hell of it, but just a few. It turns out I am five years old and that is why I am fat. I don’t know. Anyway, at least it’s just food and not hookers or heroin. Anyway, I didn’t eat the rice pudding. Maybe I’ll have some this weekend (rice pudding). 

My therapist also said that, statistically speaking, people are more successful if they buddy up with someone to lose weight, which makes sense. I’m not doing that, but I did tell Damien what I’m up to, so at least he knows. And I’m telling you! Several thousand of my closest friends. Thanks for listening, hope this helps. 

I can’t believe how much I like yoga

Yoga story! Who wants to hear my yoga story? 

The short version is: I used to be a runner. Then some muscle and gait problems caught up with me, and my hip started to hurt so much, I could barely walk. So I was looking for something non-jarring to keep me active while I slowly healed with physical therapy. I randomly chose yoga because it looked easy, and was amazed to discover I love it, it’s the perfect exercise for me, and I hope to do it for the rest of my life. 

Disclaimer: I’ve only ever followed one instructor, someone named Julia Marie Lopez whose videos are currently on Amazon Prime. (They are also on YouTube.) All my experience with yoga are from her classes, and I’ve only been following them for a few months.  

Here’s what I like about yoga:

It is a challenging, incredibly efficient workout. It uses every part of my body, and has made me much stronger, improved my posture, and has also improved my balance, which is something I didn’t realize needed improving (apparently it seemed normal to tip over while putting on pants or socks). I noticed a big difference during my recent renovations projects that involved a lot of getting up, getting down, reaching, scrambling, ducking, etc. I have so much more control and elasticity in my movements, it’s just easier to do all kinds of work. I expect gardening will be a different experience in the spring, too. 

It is just as effective as running for losing or maintaining my weight, together with my loose plan of modified intermittent fasting and counting calories. I started doing yoga just to do something, anything, until I could get back to “real exercise,” by which I meant something violent and sweaty. Changed my mind! I do often break a sweat with yoga, and I’m clearly building muscle and losing fat. But a lot of it a subtle, isometric, and efficient, so you don’t necessarily feel like you’re being wrung out like an old rag. 

It has shaped my body amazingly quickly. I’m 47 and was kind of resigned to just becoming more and more sack-like even if I lost more weight, but it turns out that I’m still kind of cute. And that’s all I’m gonna say about that. 

It’s been awesome for my mental and emotional state. I sleep better, and I feel energized and invigorated when I do yoga regularly, and it’s as effective as running for keeping migraines away. I have better posture, which feeds into a better mood. I apologize in advance for this, but at the end of a class, I feel like all my fluid-filled sacs have been replenished. Seriously, it’s just easier to be chill and even-tempered and confident when I get my yoga in regularly. I feel more put together as a person. This probably has something to do with lymph, but who knows. 

It’s fun, which I was not expecting. There’s lots of variety, lots of different modes of action, and the class flies by. It keeps my attention in a way that no other form of exercise has (and I have tried MANY many different kinds of workouts).  When I was running, I always craved that state where I would forget I was running and my body would enter a lovely automatic flow. With yoga (at least as I’ve done it so far), it’s kind of the opposite: You’re hyper-focused on the physical experience, and you get a lot of satisfaction out of achieving it. And you know, it’s kind of like playing. How often does a 47-year-old housewife get to be a warrior, or a cactus, or a swan? This is not something I realized I wanted to do, but now I know. I also very much enjoy how non-western some of the poses feel. It’s cool to be doing things with my body that just aren’t part of my normal body movement vocabulary. I also like learning words in a language that I’m completely unfamiliar with. 

I have not gotten even a single demon. (Yeah, this was a bit of a concern for me. More about this later.)

Now some specifics about this series. 

As I said, the videos I’ve been following are by Julia Marie. First I did her 30 Day Yoga for Weight Loss challenge, and today I’m finishing her Couch to Confident 14-Day Yoga Challenge, both of which are on Amazon Prime. They are thirty-minute classes, and there is quiet mood music playing throughout all the class. She has several more courses on Prime as well, but I may just go back and re-do these when I’m done. I think you can pay to follow live videos on her site. The classes are half an hour each, and the Weight Loss ones have little bonus chats with advice about losing weight (which I skip, because it seems to be stuff I already know). The Couch to Confident series is about getting more proficient at various yoga practices. 

I like her overall approach very much. I went into it never having done a single bit of yoga in my life, and she does an excellent job of easing you into familiarity and proficiency with the various poses, and explaining exactly what you’re supposed to be feeling, and how to correct if it you’re experiencing something amiss. Some of the poses are pretty subtle, and it looks from the outside like you’re doing it right, but you need to make an interior, isometric shift that makes a significant change in your experience. 

This is fascinating to me — because of the newness of the practice itself, and also because of her skill in describing bodily gestures and sensations. I don’t know what most yoga instructors are like, but I’ve certainly tried taking classes from other fitness instructors who are not this articulate, and it’s so frustrating, trying to play catch-up to what you see on the screen. I have a lot of trouble following left/right body commands. With this instructor, though, I rarely feel confused. Even if I can’t perform the pose, I understand what it is. (She does occasionally fill up some long spaces with talk, probably to take your mind of the discomfort of holding the pose, and a few times I’m pretty sure I caught her starting a sentence that she had no idea how she was going to end. It was suspenseful for a few seconds, but she pulled through!) 

She’s encouraging, but not patronizing, and it’s more or less a dignified experience overall. That means a lot to me, because I get embarrassed and discouraged easily.  She’s pretty open about not liking certain poses or actions, and being okay with that, but also honoring your body’s limitations, and being content with doing what you’re ready to do on any particular day. There’s no “oooh gurl, feel that burn, it hurts so good” stuff, but I still end up feeling motivated to try hard to do the best I can, because I usually end up feeling so dang good at the end of the class. She gives brief pep talks about the importance of making time for yourself, and allowing yourself to take up space, and I didn’t think I needed to hear that, but I did. I also kind of rolled my eyes at the part where you spend a few seconds in fetal pose before getting up and starting your day again, but you know what? Now I do it. Because if you can be a fetus for thirty seconds, why would you not? I even did the class that was just about resting, because I figured she must know what she’s talking about. (My normal approach would be “aw, screw this, lady, don’t waste my time!” so the fact that I listened to her will give you some idea of how much respect I’ve gained for her.) 

There is some stuff that is too hard for me. She’s very good about suggesting a modification, if you’re not feeling up to it (or, as she phrases it, “if [such-and-such] isn’t available to you today”). In a few cases, I just skipped a whole class and did an easier one, and then returned to the challenging one when I was feeling more ambitious. 

For instance, she started doing this, and I just noped right out of it, stopped the video, and went back to an easier class. A few days later, I was ready to try this pose, and I did it! I didn’t look cute, but I did it.

I was joking when I said earlier I was afraid I might get a yoga demon, but I am also Catholic and do not want to participate in something that could be an expression of a different religion, whether that’s Hinduism or Buddhism, or some kind of nameless New Age spiritual practice. What I have learned is that yoga, as it’s practiced in the United States, is actually a quite recent invention, and not an ancient religious practice at all. However, modern or not, there is most certainly such a thing as yoga that invites you to participate in spiritual practices that are foreign to Christianity. What we do with our minds matters, so I get a little annoyed at Catholics who scoff at the idea that any yoga class could possibly be spiritually harmful or inappropriate. I would not take a yoga class that included a spiritual element. (That includes yoga classes that try to be explicitly Christian yoga, because that’s just weird. Just exercise! Or, do whatever you want, I don’t care.) 

This particular class, though, is almost entirely about physical exercise, breathing, and occasionally spiritually neutral emotional things like gratitude or calm. She very occasionally slips in some quasi-spiritual stuff, and I just ignore it. She says bring your thumbs to your third eye, I think, “Forehead, though.” She says to close your eyes and express gratitude toward the spirit of whatever, I think, “Jesus Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” But it honestly very rarely comes up, at least in the classes I’ve done so far. It’s usually just about breathing, muscles, where to look, where to shift your weight, what to do with your fingers and toes, and so on. 

She also mentions some stuff that may or may not be medically accurate. I don’t know what she means by “shadow side of the heart,” so I just ignore it. She mentions what effect breathing and stretching and being upside down has on your body, and I have no idea if she knows what she’s talking about or not. I’m not in it to learn about biology. I see that it’s making me feel better and be stronger, so if she says get on the floor and be a pigeon, I’ll do that.  

The weight loss classes incorporates some HIIT (high intensity interval training), so you will be doing mostly yoga, but also some classes that have terrible things like bicycle crunches and mountain climbers and even burpees; but she keeps it quick and doesn’t make you do endless repetitions. She also tends to count in breaths, rather than in repetitions, which makes it more tolerable, somehow. And I have to admit, it works really well. 

Anyway, about my hip. The physical therapist said that my glute and core muscles were weak, and I was compensating for them by using some muscles I wasn’t supposed to be using, which was putting strain on my hip. Or something. The solution was to do some boring, unpleasant exercises to strengthen my glutes and my core. 

WELL, guess what yoga does? At first I was doing my PT exercises and then yoga, but now I’m just doing yoga, especially yoga with a lot of planks, and my hip is feeling fine. Yoga is not a substitute for real physical therapy, but it’s great for maintaining the gains I made in PT.

I use an exercise mat and occasionally a yoga block. The “Couch to Confident” class has one session where you need a roller, which I don’t have; but you could easily get along through both classes just using a mat. I recommend wearing a close-fitting top, because you spend a lot of time upside-down.

And that’s it! Happy to answer any questions, although I only know what I’ve seen and learned in these videos. 

Image is a screenshot from Episode 31 of 30 Day Yoga for Weight Loss with Julia Marie

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?