Monday, January 30, 2006

Grey matter

It is fascinating to me (though probably not to you, but hey, my blog and all that) that the smallest little change in routine can often be enough to push me off course. I am like an overgrown toddler in this way.

Last week came straight from hell and wouldn’t go back. I was like a hunted dog at work on Thursday. Didn’t get around to eating lunch till 3pm. Friday was worse. I ate at 4:30. After I got back from the eye doctor, who diagnosed me with conjunctivitis in my left eye and prescribed 80 dollars’ worth of drops (which, by the way, taste nasty. Because they’re eyedrops, which ostensibly you shouldn’t eat, but because my eyes and my tongue are both in my head, sadly I have tasted the eyedrops. They go in my eye and down my throat and I might as well eat nail polish. Except that nail polish would, in no way, cure my conjunctivitis. Anyhow. I digress. Obviously.). I bagged the gym that night, too, because I could barely move my head thanks to a pinched nerve in my shoulder. So, no gym, erratic eating. And tracking? Oh, please.

And then we had pizza for dinner on Friday night. Because Professor Taco thought I should have some comfort food. Not supportive, exactly, but certainly sweet. And not exactly unsupportive really, because I don’t have comfort foods. I don’t eat for comfort. If I’m going to overeat, I do it because I’m bored. And by Friday night I was longing for a little boredom, you know?

In any event. We had pizza and salad and it was extremely delicious. And then Taco went to work and I managed to relax on the couch and not eat the one remaining slice. Good job, me.

Still, the weekend continued to be scattered, at best. Saturday, didn’t eat lunch till almost supper time. Sunday, same deal. And between having to wear my glasses and barely being able to move my head, there wasn’t a whole lot of working out going on. Still, I managed a walk on Sunday afternoon. I’m sure, had I tracked, I’d have been well over on my calories for most of last week and right through the weekend.

But. I didn’t go crazy. I didn’t think, oh well, fuck it. I did get a walk in, and I made an effort to knock back lots of water. We got a walk in this morning, plus I walked to work for once, and I have gym time planned for this evening.

And I was down a pound on the scale this morning. Always a pleasure.

And my bloodshot eye has cleared up (though I have to sport the glasses till Friday), and mobility is returning to my shoulder and neck.

Balance. Balance, balance, balance.

What do you do when your routine goes to hell? There must be a way to surf those unpredictable work freak outs without totally losing sight of your purpose. Is it just a matter of thinking? Of deciding, ok, things are a bit mental right now, but I still have to track, I still have to drink water? I am such an all-or-nothing person, still. Even though I’m always nagging I mean encouraging Taco to see the shades of grey that exist, instead of just the black and white.

So. Grey. How do I find it?

Monday, January 23, 2006

Having an average weekend

Clearly, I have a sickness.

I’m sitting here at my desk, swigging water and wishing it were 6:15 and time for Cardio Salsa. Because? I long to do squats.

See? Sick.

The weekend didn’t go off exactly as planned—though it was quite good in the relaxation and restoration department, and I was going to say not so good in the eating and moving department, but now that I think about it, that’s not really true. It was…normal. Like a normal person’s weekend, you know? Taco and I got up very early on Saturday and made it down to the farmers’ market, and then he dropped me off at Cardio Strip. The class was excellent as usual, and led to feelings of great wiggliness all day, which was fine by me, and from which Professor Taco later benefited. Afterward, he ran me the most perfect bath ever, quite hot water, Epsom salts and the Sex Bomb from Lush. I soaked for awhile, then emerged, sweaty and glassy-eyed. And then it was off to M&C’s house. She’s getting married this year, too—in March, actually, so the wedding presents have already started arriving. Including a panini press and an espresso machine. She called me last week, delirious, to invite me over after Strip “to eat a lot of paninis and drink too many cappuccinos.” We ended up making do with one of each, plus maybe some chocolate, and spent the entire afternoon discussing the impending weddings, house renovations and the like. Good god but I am so bourgeois. Anyhow.

Saturday night we went to see the excellent In Flight Safety. The bar was packed and we could barely see or hear the band. It was kind of nice to be out and about, but once in a while I get tremendously crowd averse, and Saturday night was one of those nights. So I was ok for most of it, and then I just started to freak out whenever anyone banged into me, which was every 30 seconds, so we got the hell out of there, ate two skewers of barbecued meat each at Rocky’s Philipino BBQ stand (the best street meat ever anywhere) and raced home to crawl into our warm bed.

Sunday, Taco suggested going out for breakfast to use up a gift certificate to a local diner he’d been given for Christmas from one of his students. The place is actually better for lunch or supper…it’s a better Greek restaurant than it is a diner. But anyhow. We went, we ate, it was ok, but not outstanding, and I left a piece of bacon on the plate because it was too fat. Unprecedented, I assure you. I am a champion bacon-eater, or at least I was. Then we walked to our favourite bakery to buy multigrain bread, then dropped in on some friends for a cup of tea. Then I went to knit in public. Then home to cook and clean and cook and clean. Then a friend dropped by. Then two more came over for supper. Then finally I collapsed in a tired but happy heap in bed, while Taco gave me a massage. Because he is perfect.

So. Even though I ate some things that strictly speaking are not on plan, and even though I kind of didn’t track that eating even a little, and even though I drank less water than was called for, I did inherently practise restraint, and I definitely moved my body. It was, as I say, a nice, normal weekend. It is occurring to me that if I am planful, and tracky 80 percent of the time, and mindful and motivated the other 20 percent of the time, I will do alright. This feels totally ok to me, totally do-able, as a way of life.

I am aiming at dropping five pounds a month this year. That’s the hope, anyhow. It’s a pound and a quarter a week, which is completely within my grasp. The next challenge will be going to classes for the next two weeks, even though M&C won’t be teaching them because she’ll be in Toronto submitting to pre-wedding parties and events. I tend to want to go only to her classes…it’s like some gym-shyness or something. Which I should totally shake off, because the people at my new gym are quite friendly, way friendlier than at my old gym, and as a consequence, I have made, if not actual friends, then at least gym class acquaintances. People at whom I can nod and smile before, during and after class. I seem to need this, for some reason. So…I should realize I have it, and just go. To. Class!

Ok, well, that’s the end of that long, rambly post. Sheesh. Seven hundred and ninety one words, and counting, to tell you I had an average weekend.

Friday, January 20, 2006


Oh joy, oh bliss, oh wonderful day. So, I’m out for lunch and a bit of shopping with Kravitz. We stop into La Cache, a store I go weak for, because they’re having a big sale. I find a couple of super-cute kids’ shirts on the rack out front, and figure they’ll make great Valentine’s Day gifts for my adorable nieces. As I’m paying for them, Kravitz continues to browse. She finds this. Which I love. And which is on sale. I try on the extra-large, because that’s the way I roll. She kind of screws up her face. “It’s not great, to tell you the truth,” she says. “And anyway, you’re going to need a smaller size soon.” It is a little large in the shoulders, I allow. So just for kicks, I try on the large. And? It! Fits! And looks FANTASTIC. And is on sale, did I mention? And it’s completely unlike anything else I own, it’s so pretty and cool and so I buy it, and now it’s mine, and also? I had to put the extra-large back because it was TOO BIG.

Very. Awesome.

Also awesome: Taco and I had a great half-hour walk this morning, then I went to the gym for a punishing body bar class. I forgot how great it feels to start the day with a good hard workout. Tomorrow is cardio strip, right after the farmers’ market, and Sunday marks my return to yoga, and then a little knitting in public. While wearing my new jacket.

Shaping up to be an excellent weekend, I’d say. How about you?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Regular exercise

I made it to seven fitness classes last week—including two a day on Monday and Tuesday, plus a Saturday morning class. And I went for hour-long walks on four out of five days—on the fifth day, it rained.

I also ate a lot of cheese, a flotilla of pickles, and fair amount of chocolate (what, I wonder, would be an unfair amount?).

It all balanced out…I’m down another pound this week. Despite the pre-time of the month snacking and subsequent possible water retension.

I’m still not crazy about the sight of myself in the mirrors at the gym, but as I walk today, I can feel my ab muscles moving my legs, and that always gets me high. I don’t feel as doughy as I felt two weeks ago, and I’m definitely crazy about that.

I want to write about the beyond-morbidly-obese woman I saw at the drugstore today, and also about the clearly anorexic woman who works out at my gym, but I haven’t quite figured out what it is I want to say about them, and about myself as I relate to them. I find myself taking what could be a clinical view of bodies these days…I see such extremes as exactly that—extremes on the spectrum, and as extremes, evidence that something has gone terribly wrong. On the other hand, I may just be really judgemental. Because I stare furtively at the super-skinny woman in the change room, and I look away quickly from the morbidly obese one at the drug store.

The struggle, as always, is to fit myself in on this spectrum and not get too hung up on it all. They’re just bodies, after all, but being as I am such a fervent believer in the mind-body connection, I can’t just see them as bodies, or better yet, not see them at all. For me, those bodies, and mine as well, are manifestations of what goes on inside.

I do wonder, though, at the strange calculus of bodies, the way that I (we as a culture, or am I the only morbidly curious one?) am compelled to stare at a body the smaller it gets, and look away from one so large. The smaller the amount of space a body takes up, the more it disappears into thin (heh) air, the harder I want to look at it. The more space it takes up, the more visual landscape it chews (someone stop me), the harder I will pretend it doesn’t exist. Perhaps it’s different for people who aren’t newly obsessed with bodies and body image. Perhaps my slender friends don’t notice and don’t care. I don’t know, I’ve never asked them.

As for me, I think I always notice what size people are. It’s part of how I experience the world. I evaluate them—and myself compared to them. I would like to think I don’t make value judgements about their human worth. But when it comes right down to it, I’m probably fairly shallow.

The body part of this weightloss thing is relatively easy. Eat healthy food and go to the gym every day. It’s the mind part that’s freaking me out. Who knew I'd have to work my mind at least as hard as my body?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Balancing act

Why the hell did I ever stop tracking, working out and drinking lots of water? I don’t find it particularly hard (...right now, anyhow...) and goddamn but it makes me feel good.

Especially the part where I lost two pounds. That part, in particular, rocks.

I guess the answer is probably that at some point, I did find it hard. I guess that’s the part where life gets complicated. Some house guests, some travel, a couple major holidays, a temporary job change, a little family related stress, and the whole thing goes to hell. Because, as I say, that’s life.

If I could, I would dedicate the next twelve months to my health regimen. Ninety-minute workouts every day, three litres of water, perfectly balanced, fresh and delicious meals. But there’s the little matter of my need to work for a living, plus look after the house, have a relationship, see my friends and family, knit, read magazines and look out the window.

And what with me letting go of the idea of perfection, it would seem I don’t need to dedicate every moment of the next twelve months to my health regimen. In fact, the smart money would be on finding the middle ground. Getting in as many of those 90-minute workout days as I can, making sure I move my body in some way, even if it’s just a half hour walk and a few minutes of yoga on the other days. Having and executing a plan for my meals 80 percent of the time, making smart choices on the fly the rest of the time. And working in regular treats, because who am I kidding otherwise. Continuing to put “drink water” on my to-do list every day, so that when I consult it to see what’s next, I see that notation, and it pushes me to the water bottle.

It’s still an incredible amount of stuff to manage. The house, the job, the health, the window-staring, plus the novel, the podcast (stay tuned for more details on that, and a link to the site), the relationship and oh yeah, the wedding. Do nothing by halves has always been my motto. Perhaps I should be looking for a different motto.

One thing I am actively looking for is balance. I have terrible balance, in yoga and in life. All the time I’m encouraging other people to see all the lovely shades of grey that exist, and yet when I check my own responses to the world around me, boy howdy I am one black-and-white mofo. Time, I think, to go back to those heady successful days when all I had to do was look myself in the eye in the mirror each morning, say out loud, let it go, just let it go, and off it went — my stress and the weight.

It’s all about staying present. Well, about staying present and about the freakishly good fake meat product I just ate for supper. Jesus gay, now that’s some delicious naughameat. Seriously, I love me some steak, and I could happily forgo it (nine times out of ten, anyhow, especially if the tenth time involves a barbecue, in which case, make mine real, please) in favour of these [] lower fat, lower calorie, cholesterol free faux beef tips. Tonight, we had them in a stirfry with broccoli and other veg, with brown rice and an orange ginger sauce. If the present always included such a meal, it would not be such a trial to stay in it all the time, you know?

Almost as good as fake beef tips? This recipe from Dr. Andrew Weil, bless his boots: 1/2 cup ricotta or cottage cheese, 2 tbsp cocoa, 2 tbsp honey, 1/2 tsp vanilla, 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Combine food processor and blend till smooth. Or, in my case, combine in bowl and attack with wand mixer till wand mixer starts to make high pitched whirring sound. Cease mixing, though mixture is far from smooth. Spoon into two dessert dishes. Devour happily, as you have just found a better-than-good substitute for chocolate cheesecake, that sets you back about a hundred and fifty calories. Oh, and I may have added a wee shot of amaretto. It’s not required, but is certainly recommended.

Use it to find balance, friends. That’s how I plan to use it.

Friday, January 06, 2006

The realm of the possible

I used to go to the vending machine all the time. As if it were a perfectly appropriate place to go every single day to buy food. Today, someone mentioned the vending machine, and I had to think hard about whether the building I work in even has one. That, my friends, is progress.

Or, more properly, it’s regression. There was a time I wouldn’t have been caught dead at a vending machine. i am so simple sometimes, it drives me nuts. Because it’s not like I wouldn’t have been caught dead at a vending machine because I would have been embarrassed to be seen there or something like that. I wouldn’t have dreamed of eating vending machine food because it was clearly bad for me. i was tremendously overweight, mind you, but at least I knew vending machine food was not a good choice. But then I’d see other people eating it with abandon—skinny people—and I’d think, well, they’re doing it, it must be alright.

No, literally, that is what I’d think. Seriously, honestly, no irony.

Well, the irony, I guess, is that many many people mistake me for smart. I still can’t get over how absurdly stupid I was. Or maybe not stupid. Maybe I just lacked the ability to make connections. Strange also, because I would say that’s one of my strengths—I am uncannily good at making connections, figuring out people’s motivations, deducing and analysing and the like. But where food and I are concerned? Not so much.

For a few years I’ve been punting around an idea for a book of nonfiction that would be about food and how we relate to it. Personal essays of a sort, which I started writing when my brother was sick, when the stomach cancer that eventually killed him first took away his ability to eat. Like, for the last six months of his life. I started thinking about how elemental food is, how it’s something we supposedly all have in common, except some of us don’t. And if you are what you eat, what are you if you eat nothing? Eventually, the idea broadened to include more than just my personal experience and theories and ideas. I started interviewing people who had interesting relationships with food. And I remember talking to a friend, another writer, about the project, and she said something like, “and have you figured out what your deal is with food?” And I was actually confused. Couldn’t figure out what the hell she meant. My deal with food? I don’t have a deal with food.

Riiiight. I just happen to be a hundred pounds overweight. My deal with food? Uh....

Thing is, I still couldn’t tell you. What exactly is my deal with food? I can tell you that I think that a lot of my eating in the past was typical middle-child stuff—eat it fast before someone takes it away, and make sure you get a taste of everything anyone else might be getting. I can tell you I’ve never, ever, ever eaten an entire pint of ice cream or big bag of chips or family sized anything. I can eat a lot of pizza, but not a whole one. I’d feel sick, for starters, and just like with the vending machine, I know it’s bad for me, so there’s no way I’d do it. I can’t stand pop...maybe once a year I’ll have a few sips of rootbeer, enough to remember that I really don’t like it.

And yet here I am in this particular body. With a history of gently disordered eating. Certainly I have eaten to the point of discomfort. That was the norm for me rather than an exception. I have eaten when I was not hungry. I have eaten when I have just eaten. I have done these things with a kind of wilfull blindness. Sometimes now, if I eat too quickly and mindlessly, when I come out the other side, I realise that I’ve had a kind of roaring in my head while eating. A storm of white noise. These days, despite that white noise, I mostly don’t overeat. Mainly, I think, because it hurts physically to do it. And also because I’ve recognised that it, like the vending machine, like the pizza, it’s bad for me. Unhealthy.

Maybe I’ll never know what my deal with food is, and maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe all that matters is that I keep in mind what’s good for me and what’s bad for me. What’s healthy and what’s not. What causes the white noise, and what lets me stay mindful.

Take exercise for instance. Oh, sweat, how I missed you. Kravitz and I went and joined the gym after work today, and then got right down to business on the treadmill and elliptical and sweet jesus how good it felt to do what’s healthy. Just those 40 little minutes, so easily passed, have made a world of difference if not actually to my body (though I’d argue they have), then certainly to my state of mind. I’ve reminded myself it’s possible. Possible to forget where the vending machine is. Possible to not even care to know. Possible to reach for sneakers after work instead of Snickers.

Possible to keep chipping away at whatever my deal with food is. And possible to keep chipping away at this avoirdupois. Possible to succeed.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Once more, with feeling

And a very happy new year to you.

I have emerged, blinking and somewhat confused, from the holiday fog. A fog that involved chocolates and bread and cheese oh my, and hardly any walking or other physical activity. So, that whole coming-out-the-other-side-of-Christmas-weighing-what-I-did-going-in thing…uh, not so much.

As far as I can tell, I’m about four, maybe five pounds up. Not fantastic, but not as bad as it could be. I can feel it though, oh lordy, can I feel it. I can feel the extra pounds jiggling when I walk around naked, which is often. I can feel them at day’s end when I take off my pants (as a prelude to walking around naked) and notice a red ring around my waist. I can feel them making me sluggish. It’s time to put the boots to those stupid bachelors*.

(* bachelors = my new favourite slang, after my middle niece mistook the word bachelor for bastard during a bed-time reading of Anne of Green Gables. Hee!)

I started today. I tracked my food for the first time in…oh god, the first time in months. Since August, maybe? And I’ve managed to drink an entire litre of water so far today, which isn’t enough, but is more than I’ve been drinking for…again, for months. Taco and I got up this morning and went for a quick walk, which I’ve decided does not count as exercise. It’s extra. Gravy, as they say, though healthier than that, to be sure. I will do some yoga this evening, because I can feel my muscles shortening by the minute.

And tomorrow, I will get out of bed, walk with Taco, eat a good breakfast and do it all over again. The tracking and the water…those are key for me. Keys that have been lost lo these many months. And the sweating, that’s key too. I look forward to sweating again. I’m about to switch gyms, something I should probably make official tomorrow, as it helps to have a place to sweat. Mean and Crazy is away right now, but they second she’s back, I will deliver myself into her hands so she can brutalise the fat right off me.

It is too easy to fall back into mindless eating. It is too easy to stop making time to work out. On the other hand, today it was perfectly easy to track my food and remember to drink water. If both are easy, then it’s a matter of which one I choose. It always comes back to that, it seems.

Well then, I choose health.

I choose whole foods, well prepared.

And I choose occasional high quality treats.

I choose at least 45 minutes worth of exercise six days a week.

I choose sweating and stretching.

I choose deep breathing.

I choose fresh water.

I choose keeping track of how much I’ve eaten and how much I’ve moved, and I choose to balance those with each other.

I choose to esteem myself at least as highly as I esteem all those I take care of.

I choose to approach it all with rather a lot more humour than is evidenced here!

I know I can do this. I’ve done it before and I am hella stubborn. And while New Year’s resolutions don’t totally resonate with me, today seems like a great day to recommit.

I’m off to hit the yoga mat. Namaste.