Friday, August 19, 2011

So Close and Yet.....

I've spent a lot of time this summer at the gym. One of the perks of being a teacher and having summers off is an influx of leisure time. Yes, a lot of that leisure time is filled with reading and seminars and lesson plans, but there are also these little pockets of time where the rush is gone and you can just go spend an hour or two working out without freaking out about time. It's been really lovely. As the first few weeks of summer passed, I noticed that this "bonus" time at the gym was resulting in a pretty steady loss at the scales every week. By the beginning of July, I was down a little over 10 pounds. At that point, I did some figuring and set a goal for myself -- I wanted to lose 25 pounds by the start of school. I knew it was ambitious and yet reachable with some work. And work I have -- lots of time at the gym, being really careful about what I was eating, et cetera.

School starts Monday. I stepped on the scale today, did a little math, and realized that I have lost, since the beginning of June ...... 24 pounds.

One freaking pound short!

It probably doesn't help that I got sloppy last week. I was still spending time at the gym, but I succumbed to a terrific sale at the local grocery store on fresh mozzarella....bought quite a bit of it .... during a week when my sis was out of town the entire week ... and ate every last bit that I bought. (A not-so-little-known secret about me -- I absolutely love cheese. All cheese. Seriously, I've never met a cheese I didn't love. And that even includes Kraft singles, man. When I was a kid, my parents called me "Mouse" because I loved cheese so much. Seriously.) That cheese binge resulted in a small gain last week (shocker!). I was back on track this week and pushed just a bit harder at the gym, which was enough to get back off the weight I gained during The Great Cheese Binge of 2011, but it still left me just one pound shy of the goal.

I could cry about this. I could complain. I could throw a fit and give up. But you know what? In just about two months, I have lost 24 freaking pounds. That's like the size of a healthy baby -- and not a newborn! My clothes fit better. I feel better. I know I'm on a beautiful path to getting my health under my control and living a healthy life. So I came up short of my summer goal, but I also came up 24 pounds closer to meeting my ultimate goal, and that's what's really important. I know the next few weeks will be tough as I get re-adjusted to my work schedule and figure out where working out will fit in between teaching and directing and coaching and still finding time to just unwind and relax after long days of all that and more. (And also finding time to cook healthy, delicious meals!) I may bump up a pound or two in that transition, but keeping this all in perspective (my word of the year, I think!) will make this journey a lot less fraught with stress and a lot more filled with those tiny victories that make it all worth it.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Eyes Have It

A few weeks ago, I posted about my new Kindle and how my purchase of the very device I had once cursed was spurred partly by my diminishing vision. After complaining about it (and feeling like my ability to read was getting worse and worse), I finally broke down and went to the eye doctor last week. The diagnosis was not a shocker -- I needed bifocals.

I thought that the diagnosis would leave me feeling old and depressed. I've honestly been handling this whole "about to turn 40" thing with a little more joy than I thought I would. I mean, I know that the next decade may very well feature some things that may wrack me with unhappiness (I honestly don't know how I'm going to take menopause), but actually turning 40 has not been that big of a deal. (See me in two months and we'll see if I'm still singing that song.) After all, 40 has become kind of chic and cool. Look at all the cool people in their 40's -- the Red Hot Chili Peppers AND the Beastie Boys, for example, are all in their 40's and they are still, to me, the epitome of cool.

Back to my eyes ... I took the news pretty well. I give a lot of credit to my eye doctor, a very cute, spunky young woman (Seriously, I doubt she's 30) who was full of energy and kindness. She perkily explained to me that this is really no big deal, that the lens of the eye just gets less flexible over time, and that I'm sort of hitting that point right on schedule. It also probably helped that as we did the eye exam and I saw what my reading vision could be with bifocals I nearly cried at how suddenly clear and in focus the tiny words were. I wanted THAT vision back. Add to it that the exam also showed that, outside of the whole vision thing, my eyes themselves are actually super healthy (no signs of impending glaucoma or cataracts or anything like that), and I left the doctor feeling pretty okay with the whole thing.

I picked up my new glasses yesterday. The bifocal thing is going to take some getting used to, but just the fact that I was able to look at Facebook on my cell phone and not have to slide my glasses down to the tip of my nose to read over them was an epic moment. I'd really not realized how challenging my vision had become until that moment when my cell phone was suddenly so very clear to read. I read in bed last night without having to take my glasses off or switch to a pair of reading glasses I'd bought for a dollar at Target. I was able to read the very tiny print of a recipe this morning. It's a whole new world, friends! The Red Hot Chili Pepper and Beastie Boys may be making 40 a cool decade, but my goal is to make bifocals the cool new accessory for fall. Heck to the yeah, suckas!!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

No, I will NOT F-Y-L.

A couple nights ago, I watched a Louis C.K. stand-up special on Comedy Central. During the set, Louis began talking about the pretty incredible times we live in and our seeming ingratitude, the way that we let the smallest inconveniences become the biggest tragedies ever. (You can see a clip of Louis doing the bit on Conan">here). It's something I call the FML Syndome.

Of all the cheesy Internet/texting acronyms, FML is the one I absolutely cringe over every time I see it. For the less text-literate out there, FML stands for "f**k my life." Yeah. You read that correctly. In theory, it's one of those things that should be trotted out only in very serious situations, like when you're at the absolute end of your rope, facing death, destruction, and total ruin.

And yet, I don't think I've ever once seen someone use FML in those kinds of situations. No, I see FML's thrown around in cases like, "I have a science test tomorrow. FML" or "My favorite pair of pants are dirty. FML."


The things that we find to complain about kind of blow my mind. And we complain with such passionate vehemence. Things are no longer merely inconvenient; they are things filled with the power to level us with total and absolute rage. It's as if we've completely lost sight of perspective. As Louis C.K. says, "We live in amazing times." We do things now that seemed like science fiction twenty years ago, and yet we are constantly unhappy and annoyed with things if they don't go exactly as we want. Imagine what we would do if we had real problems -- or at least problems more significant than our cell phone not working.

Of course, this is another case of my hypocrisy in action. I have most definitely been guilty of complaining over inane things. A trip to Wal-Mart gives me complaint fodder to last me days. But never once have I thrown around the "FML" because, quite frankly, I don't feel like there's anything so bad in my life that warrants it being f'ed. In the grand scheme of things, I know that the problems and annoyances that I complain about are champagne problems -- the checkout line is too slow, my cell phone microphone doesn't work unless I have a headset plugged in, I have to wear bifocals to read. These are luxurious problems to have because I don't have to worry about where my next meal is going to come from or where I'm going to sleep. We need to keep that perspective in mind, though, and stop treating our malfunctioning cell phones and iPods like it's the end of the world and they are most definitely not something to f- your life over.

As I close out my 30's (a decade which, while it didn't necessarily contain all the things I thought maybe my 30's would, has otherwise been pretty darn great), I am setting a new goal for 40something Mel. I am going to try to be more in touch with perspective and not let those champagne problems become these sources of consuming rage and frustration. I am going to try to practice compassion for myself and others by letting the small stuff roll off the back. In other words, I am not going to f- my life nor am I going to ask others to do it for me. My life, friends, will become a total, un-f-able prude, and that's okay by me.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

There's a Reason They Call Us Fat Americans

The other day, I was at the gym. While on the elliptical, I usually have my iPod on (and now have my Kindle to read). The gym televisions are directly in front of me so I often will catch things but soundlessly. I'll see some headlines, flashes of information, but I don't hear what's being said. What caught my eye the other day was one of those "Only in America" types of moments. On the screen was a commercial for Jenny Craig. Immediately after it was a commercial for some new gooey, sugary, fatty concoction from IHOP. The irony of that moment struck me and I literally laughed out loud.

As the day went on, I kept thinking about that moment. I wondered what people from other countries would think of the ridiculousness of that moment. For thirty seconds, you are told that you are fat and that the way to stop being fat is to subscribe to this diet program that will provide you with specially portioned and calorie counted foods and that slowly but surely, the weight will come off and you'll be able to be strutting around in a bikini and being the healthy, active person you want to be. (I have issues with diet programs like that in that I think it's more important to just teach people how to eat and live healthily rather than selling them "quick fixes" but that's for another blog.) Literally seconds later, there is a commercial for a dish that is loaded with sugar and calories. I'm not the only one who sees that there's something at least a little wrong with this picture, right?

A couple days later, I saw a commercial for the "All-American Menu" from Denny's, a menu that includes Midwest offering the "Meat and Potatoes Sandwich." This sandwich includes prime rib and french fries covered in brown gravy, topped with two different kinds of cheeses AND mayo, and then thrown on a cheddar bun. AND it comes with a side of mashed potatoes and gravy. According to, the sandwich clocks in at about 1025 calories and has over 2800 mg of sodium, 54 grams of fat, and 95 mg of cholesterol. It's a heart attack waiting to happen.

And yet this tiny part of me watching that commercial seriously thought, "YUM!"

My struggle with my weight has been a lifelong struggle, and it's only been within the past few years that I've sort of "figured out" this food thing. I spent my formative years super sizing at every opportunity and chowing down on pizza and french fries and any unhealthy thing I could possibly get my hands on. The first time I encountered a horseshoe sandwich (which is essentially what Denny's is offering), I nearly wept with joy. I have been just as guilty of the obnoxious American food consumption as just about everyone else.

A couple years ago, I woke up and had just kind of had enough. I was tired of being fat. I had always wanted to be one of those people who ate healthy foods, and yet I never did. I had tried diet programs before and it never worked because I would eventually fall off the wagon or would get tired of counting points or turned off by the meetings where old ladies bragged about not having a piece of pie at the family reunion even though Aunt Sadie's cherry pie was her absolute favorite thing in the world. I didn't want to live a life of deprivation, which is what a lot of diet programs seems to preach. I started reading and doing some research. I started being brave and trying foods I'd never tried before (or had tried as a child and dismissed). I broadened my culinary horizons while trying to at least limit my encounters with old friends like french fries. The funny thing is that I probably now eat more different kinds of foods than I did before. Many times, I have stood in my kitchen kind of marveling at the journey I've taken as I chop up zucchini and squash and kale. (The other night, friends, I actually included onion in a recipe ... and old friends of mine will know how much I have historically loathed onion!) At the same time, I've worked with moderation. Yes, I don't eat french fries nearly as much as I used to (I've had fries once in the past couple months -- unless you count sweet potato fries) and I've almost completely cut most fast foods out of my diet. (I can't tell you the last time I had a chicken nugget or quarter pounder.) But I still have a bowl of ice cream every night -- only now, I have a scoop and I try to buy only all natural ice creams rather than the cheap, fake stuff. And if Aunt Sophie is hauling out that cherry pie, you'd better believe I'm going to have a slice because that old broad doesn't make that pie too often!

But I also know that there will always be this tiny part of me that gets a slight thrill at the mention of a meat and potato sandwich. There will always be this inner debate with myself over whether a trip through the Dairy Queen drive thru might not be a good idea ... especially when the Blizzard of the Month is a Nutter Butter Blizzard. (Holding out....) Like many Americans, I've had a lifetime of programming that tells me that bigger is better; that the more crap you load on your plate, the happier you will be; that there's nothing that a big ol' plate of fried food won't cure. After all, if you get too fat, Jenny Craig will always be there to get you skinny and fried food ready all over again.