January review … nothing to brag about

Well, progress it is not.    But if I’m going to spin it, the blender is half-full.  Because for the month of January I had a zero net gain.  And because the blender really is half-full, of margarita.  Or is it margaritas, plural?  Does a blender contain margaritas, or does it contain a single margarita until poured into individual glasses?  Hmmm.  I will get back to you after I consult my Spanish-English dictionary.

And yes, margarita(s) is/are not on the eating plan.  But I am celebrating.  I just finished my taxes and I’m getting a refund.

Back to the Main Topic.  I can see clearly how my physiology is the enemy.  I have been eating well and sticking to the lower carb concept,  in spite of dying to crawl into a big pile of sticky white rice holding up a bigger pile of sweet and sour prawns.  But I think changing the way I eat has just shortened the reins enough to slow down or stop further weight gain.  It’s like putting the brakes on the horse and getting him to halt.  What I want to do is get him to back up — that takes a bit more work.

I have not been as active physically this month as I am normally.  Most of the blame I am transferring to my job, which had some intensity this month due to deadlines and what-not, and which has left me a mere shell of a bloodless zombie by day’s end, and certainly in no mood to do something good for myself like ride my horse or take a walk.

So let’s review the plan and see where things stand:

1. White sugar:  I give myself a B-.  I have not purchased any more (one goal met).  I am using Splenda/sugar combination about 80% of the time.  I have not had any accidental desserts or succumbed to the come-hithering of the cupcakes some thoughtless little person in Pharmacy Customer Service keeps leaving in the break room at work.  But its okay for the Pharmacy Customer Service people to have cupcakes, since they have a  treadmill in their work area that they can use whenever they want.

2.  Breakfast:  I give myself an A+.  I didn’t think I could do it, but I can say honestly that in one short month, I have made breakfast a habit.

3.  Small meals:  C+.  Getting there.  This is harder than I thought it would be.  But just eating breakfast and lunch and one snack during the day is much improvement.

4.  Move more:  Pfffft.  D-.  I moved, somewhat.

So I am going to change nothing except actually do the 30 minutes per day of moderate exercise that I said I was going to do.  Starting tomorrow.  I’m pretty sure.


I am moved to write this because I received a package in the mail from my father’s wife Sandy today.

The package contained some remembrances of my father, Mel — a recent photo of him with his wife and her sister, and their collection of dogs and cats, some of his watches, tie clasps, and a ring.  My father passed away 26 Dec 2011, a couple of months shy of his 82th birthday.

The package also contained a bit of his ashes, in a simple, lovely memorial candleholder.

One of the first bad dreams I ever remember having as a child was one in which my father was shot and killed with an arrow.  I don’t remember any more than that.  But it has stayed with me all these years as the first memory I have of being afraid of my father dying.

I imagine I got the concept of being shot by an arrow from watching the Westerns that I loved as a little kid.  I was especially in love with Roy Rogers and Trigger.  Roy Rogers began his career in show business as Leonard Slye, singing and playing guitar in a trio called the Sons of the Pioneers.  The SOP performed on radio in So Cal in the ’30s,  featuring in their cowboy ballads a trademark three-part harmony yodel.  The original SOP trio expanded to include a few more musicians, and they appeared with Roy and Trigger in most of their movies up until the late 40’s.

The reason I bring up the SOP is that one of my dad’s favorite songs was “Cool Clear Water”, a western ballad made famous by Roy Rogers and the SOP, and written by Bob Nolan, one of the SOP’s founding trio.    I think it was the only song I ever heard my dad sing, at least all the way through.  I remember being enchanted by my dad’s singing, the song’s lyrics painting a vivid picture for me of cowboys sitting around a campfire under a star-filled sky, horses tethered and quiet nearby, sage and cactus, saddles and ropes.

It was around that time, when I was about 5 years old, I decided I wanted to be a cowboy when I grew up. Not a cowgirl, you understand.  Cowgirls were too silly and stupid.  They were always getting into trouble, in need of rescue from outlaws or a runaway horse,  or needing their ranch/gold mine/rodeo company saved from an evil cattle baron or some other bad guy.  I was not about to be that type of girl.

I don’t think my father saw me as that type of girl, either.  He applauded my enlistment into the Air Force and was proud of my service, especially of my Expert Marksmanship ribbon, and later always supportive of my career and encouraging of my interests, and he liked that I had dogs and horses.  We did, however, have our share of dysfunction.  For many years I avoided him. Later, we figured things out and I am thankful to say we forged a pretty good relationship out of it all.

From my dad, I got my love of animals and the outdoors and rainstorms, a good part of my sense of humor and brains, and a bit of a flash temper besides.   One key lesson he taught me, whether he meant to or not, is to not keep bitterness and regret alive in my heart.  He did a lot of that, you see, and for many years …  I don’t believe he saw the folly and self-imposed misery of it until much later in his life.  But over time he became a different person, a nice man, content with his life, and so proud and thankful for his long and happy marriage to his beloved Sandy.

So with that, here’s a little gift for him, courtesy of YouTube and one of us few remaining who remember the Sons of the Pioneers.   Cool Clear Water

Rest in peace, Dad, and say Hi to all of your dogs for me.

The fast lane to instant gratification …

On my planet, effective procrastination is an art form.  Not only am I Queen, I am also the Head Lady Of Waiting.  Putting off things I should do now until later gives me the freedom to do now the things I want to do now.  Voila.  Instant gratification.

This is why I own a Honda, the most forgiving kind of car there is.  I can put off the servicing appointments until I find a few extra Saturday hours to wait in the dealership’s lobby and wonder if the stale popcorn in their popcorn machine is worth the guilt I will pack on for eating it.

Procrastination is one key reason why I keep extra weight around.    I wait to eat until I’ve skidded past the merely hungry state and slid headlong into the totally ravenous state, fully capable of eating like a hog.  Or just eating a hog.

It is why I don’t have a solid financial picture.  Why I buy instead of shop, and why I prefer on-line buying to driving to some brick-and-mortar place where you have to find a parking spot, then walk to a store, then walk some more to find what you want to buy and then mingle with people who like go shopping.  Who give me the heebie jeebies.

… Why finding clothes to wear to work is a daily trip to the  Twilight Zone.  Since I wait until I absolutely must get dressed to locate work-worthy clothing, which naturally could not be hanging up in the closet, already pressed and ready to wear.

… Why I have a great horse instead of a nice kitchen.   While I was thinking about how to avoid shopping for a way-past-due kitchen remodel, Mo the horse came up for sale.

… Why I have an enormous, gorgeous collection of cotton fabric for quilting, and only one enormous, gorgeous completed quilt.

… Why the sheriff deputy stopped me because of expired registration on my car.  When I had the current registration and tag buried in a pile of about two weeks of mail laying on the passenger side floor.  Which, incidentally, is why I now own two USPS tote baskets — the USPS guys give them to you as a prize for going all the way to the post office to pick up the pile of mail that gained too much weight to fit in your mail box.

I am not a doer by nature.  I am a thinker.  I think first, do later.  Preferably never.  This type of wiring means that first I must think about what needs to be done until I have thought it through fully and I have convinced myself that yes, it does need to be done.

Next, I write out a to-do list.   First a draft, and then a final version.   In calligraphy script.  This allows me some more time to think about what needs to be done, and I get the instant gratification of seeing my words in pretty lettering.

Next, I make a to-buy list of the items I need to buy to do what I need to do.  Since, naturally, I never have what I need on hand, since, naturally, I don’t buy more stuff just because I ran out of it.  I buy more stuff some weeks or months after the need initially presents itself and just before the need blows up into a screaming catastrophe.

I think about this now because I’m out feeding the ranch this morning and double-checking my to-do list of winter chores that still need to be done.   Thinking  I can wait until spring to do them.  Which means they might get done next fall.

Instantly gratified, I head out to ride Mo.

Are you up for a ride with my dark side?

So I’m still reading about the pork-packing effects of Paxil.  Haven’t found a single solitary definitive solution in all the hours I’ve spent lurking around webspace on the chat boards frequented by fat people with personality disorders.  Who write very disturbing yet amusing posts.

Anyway, I’m determined to make a solution of my own.  Just think, if I figure this out — that is how to lose weight without sacrificing the mostly calm psyche I’ve downed around 20 years worth of anti-anxiety meds to maintain — I will be able to sell my solution and become wealthy.   And therefore able to get a car that is cute and doesn’t have to be so dependable as my beater Honda (that just turned over 255,000 miles and will apparently go many miles without any engine oil, sort of like a camel, only metal and Japanese-American. ) And, with finally enough money leftover for meaningful  redistribution to the needy downtrodden, many of whom more than likely suffer the exact same disorders that I got rich on.

Trying to describe this dark side of mine is very difficult.  This is because acknowledging It gets me over- thinking about It, which It sometimes interprets as an invitation to assume the role of Boss of me.  But here goes …

Imagine two trains, running on parallel tracks, one on top of the other.  The top train is like a brand new Amtrak train — sleek and shiny, with comfortable clean cars, extra wide seats with new upholstery that hold people who bought tickets and want to go where the train is going.  There is a nice dining car and friendly Stewards in every cabin who see to the passengers’ comfort and enjoyment of the trip.  There is an wise and experienced Engineer driving the train and a gracious Conductor who merrily calls out the destinations as they approach, tells great stories about where the train has been and where it is going, and sings and plays the banjo.

The bottom train is weather-beaten, decrepit, graffitied on the outside, on the inside gloomy, dim, lit only by bare, flickering lightbulbs swinging from the ceiling.  Most of the seats have been torn out, the ones that remain are threadbare, filthy and comfortable as tree stumps.  The windows don’t open,  and the air inside is stale, damp, over-warm,  smelling faintly of gasoline.   There are no Engineer, Conductor, nor Stewards.  Sometimes there may be a few passengers, but mostly there are just shadows … vague, faceless threats lurking in dark corners.  The train bumps and grinds along the track, suddenly accelerating to impossible speeds, then just as suddenly jerking back to a crawl.   On this train there is no comfort, there is only dread.

The top train is my bright side – comfortable with life, going somewhere I want to get to, with people I want to get there with, mostly enjoying myself.  With my travelling companions Paxil and Xanax, this is me most of the time.

The bottom train is my dark side – moderate to severe anxiety,  sometimes coupled with some depression.  Bad butterflies, a bit of vertigo or sense of imbalance, a mild earthquake continuously rolling through my head.  Nameless, faceless fear.  And if the bottom train goes out of control, I can get tossed around inside and get thrown back  into the caboose,  dragged helplessly behind the train as it screams down the track, holding on for dear life.  That is the consuming, debilitating terror of panic.

The top train is where I try to stay, of course.  But some of its cars have trapdoors in the floors, and sometimes I fall through them and land in the bottom train.   Sometimes I fall through just because I have been staring down through the hole into the bottom train, in so much fear of ending up there that I get shaky and lose my balance and fall right in.    Other times I fall through for no reason – a  hole just appears out of nowhere and catches me by surprise.

The medications I’m on have saved my life, you see.  So now you can understand why I’m concerned that they cause weight gain.  It’s important to me to be able to lose weight and still keep them around.

Shall we rumba?

To set unrealistic expectations and then see them unrealized just as expected is so reassuring.

I am assessing my progress, three weeks into FFFF.  I expected to lose 6 pounds by now, which I know is wholly unrealistic.  I have not lost 6 pounds.  All is right with my planet.

Almost exactly ten years ago, 2002 New Year’s Resolution:  To lose weight and get fit.  At that time I weighed about 15 pounds less than I do now.  I changed my eating habits.  I joined the local gym.  I got myself a professional personal trainer, who I later discovered was also a waitress and bartender at a local Mexican restaurant.  I pretended not to recognize her, thinking she might be thinking it incongruous if not downright hypocritical that she served tequila, rice, masa, and lard to one of her fat clients.  Who, come to think of it, as a person carrying too much lard already, really had no business being a customer of a Mexican restaurant and/or its bar in the first place.  Which, I suppose, made us even.

Anyway, in January 2002,  I lost 10 lbs the first week just drinking water, not eating rice and lard anymore, and getting my TV fix while remaining stationary on a stationary bike in the gym’s cardio room.  I didn’t have TV at home at the time, so it was quite a treat.

Even though my intellect acknowledges that the scale is fickle and on any given day it will display whatever weight it feels like without any sense of obligation to actually measure my real weight,  I am feeling a teeny bit betrayed by the scale’s display of a half-pound gain.  After all, I have been doing darn good on the eating part of this project.   I am starting Week 4 and still haven’t seen a tortilla.  On the other hand, my activity level has been, admittedly, not very.  I have some pretty good excuses, as far as work and other demands, but I did promise 30 minutes of exercise five days a week.

Being the analytical type, I launch an analysis of my project and look for overruns and underruns.  The big glaring underrun is exercise.   The only overruns are coffee and sugar.  But I might be getting all of 30-40 grams of carbs per day even with sugar or Splenda/sugar mix.  That is pretty darn low carb, if I ask me.

The next thing I ask myself  is  “What else can I be doing that can help jump-start some real weight loss around here?”   From the corner of my bedroom my recumbent bike answers, forlorn, sniffling.   “And what am I, chopped liver?”    I promise the bike I will pay it a visit, sometime soon, but first I need to do some research.  I head to my computer in a different room, thankful to be out of range of the bike’s doleful stare.

I start googling.  I google middle-age weight loss, menopausal weight gain, how to get 30 minutes of exercise without actually doing it, homeopathic remedies for low metabolism, how to get effective physical exercise from anxiety disorder and panic attacks, and finally homeopathic remedies for anxiety and panic, which gets me some links to YouTube.

In my planet’s year-round summer carnival, YouTube is the official Fun House.   Where the weird and creepy parts are the fun kind of scary.  Where you go in and then find yourself in a hall of mirrors and then can’t find your way out.  Where I get to watching videos of people exercising their anxiety away, which leads me to people dancing their anxiety away, then to people dancing the Argentinian tango, then to Latin dancing in general, and finally to my all-time favorite episode of I Love Lucy, “The Diet”, where Lucy and Ricky do the “Cuban Pete” number.

By the time I finally stumble out of my research, I have picked up a lot of interesting information.  The most interesting and useful to me in my present mindset is that some anti-anxiety/anti-depressant medications cause significant weight gain.  The medicinal culprit most interesting to me is Paxil.  This is because Paxil is one of my favorite companions.  More on why later.

The news is disappointing, but oddly not defeating.   This is just going to be harder than I thought.

Hell Hath No Fury Like a Woman’s Hormones

I think mine are in full-on rage.  Or, completely gone.  Or, I contracted malaria in the jungles of my farm.

Trying to change one’s eating habits at this age is no picnic.  But, looking back at my food journals, I’m doing pretty well overall.

Exercise, not so much.  What is complicating matters as far as exercise goes is the fatigue that has settled in my body over the past week.  That, and symptoms that I’m just about to have a visit from cousin Mary.   Or whatever it is that happens when we are too old to put up with Mary, but, in God’s Infinite Wisdom, He decides that instead of just ending menstruation, period, we need a gentle, gradual withdrawal phase to ease the transition.  As if stopping cold-turkey the sore boobs, bloating, melancholy and feminine hygiene products will be too traumatic for us to endure.  Which is odd for God to decide that, given that in that same gentle weaning phase, He throws in some fresh new traumas like hot flashes and night sweats.

In a word, menopause.  The pause between men-strual cycles  and o-thank God that’s finally over.

As hypochondriacal as I am not, the fatigue has been sufficiently life-impacting that I was thinking flu?   hypothyroidism?  mono?  spinal meningitis?   I Google “menopause fatigue” — And I discover that there is something called “crash fatigue” as a symptom of menopause.  That is what it feels like, a total crash-and-burn.  No survivor.

Since I have already decided that I’m not going to do hormone-replacement therapy, I next Google “menopause fatigue treatment.”    I get “get more and better sleep” as the Number One treatment.   Oh, please.  Tell that to Lulu the Hurricane in a Dog Package who adopted my bed quicker than she adopted the freshly baked whole turkey breast  left on the counter by the stupid Human Treat Dispenser.

Lulu is the black thing guarding the pillows

But with help from Google’s Infinite Wisdom, I find some supplements, estrogen replacement via plants or something,  not an illegal weight-loss drug per the Commandments.   I’ll try it.  I’ll try anything to get back the Human part of the Treat Dispenser.  Not that Lulu will care.  She has the bed.  And a cat.

Step Four – Move More and Fun with Math

Math Quiz: How many wild horses does it take to drag a beached whale from its contented repose in the warmth of sunbaked sand, back out to the frigid waters of the Pacific where it is expected to join other whales on their arduous migration north, thousands of miles, to the even more frigid waters off the coast of Vancouver Island, B.C., where my fabulous friend Lynda owns a B&B?

The answer in a moment.  But it is approximately the same number as the number of wild horses it would take to drag me into a Regular Exercise Program.

Although riding my horse a few times a week is some exercise, it is not apparently not enough.  After all, I have been riding regularly for several years and look at me.  The pork packs on no matter how forcefully I am able to make assertions as to the moderate level of horse-driven physical activity I enjoy.  Or am terrorized by, depending on the kind of day Mo the horse is having.

To be fair to myself, 2011 was not a great year for riding. I sprained an ankle during a riding lesson in January. Pop-zing, a little swelling, recuperation with a few weeks.  Then in May, I sprained the same ankle again twice within a span of about 2 weeks.  Full ankle inversion with searing pain both times.  Summer spent with podiatrists, xrays, an MRI – diagnoses:  sprained ankle, torn peroneous longus tendon.  Orthotics and physical therapy for ankle instability and foot supination.  Significant decrease in the amount and difficulty of riding I could do. Getting better, slowly, I think, with the help of splints, braces, arch lifts, and heel tilts.

But I’m ambulatory, insofar as a penguin is ambulatory, so no excuses.  I must get more exercise.

Since I am forbidden from joining a gym, I take inventory of the equipment I have laying around that could be useful for my personal exercise program:

  1. Recumbent bike in my bedroom.   But I need the extra storage space for clothes that haven’t yet figured out how to put themselves on hangers and go into a closet on their own.
  2. Set of hand weights.  But it is filling in for the love seat’s missing leg.
  3. Hula hoop.  But it is busy being handlebar decoration for the recumbent bike.
  4. Yoga DVDs.  I don’t know.  Haven’t gotten past the first scene.  There was this girl, clad only in her underwear, sitting cross-legged and chanting about ohms and who knows what else.  Gave me the heebie jeebies.
  5. A large pile of oak pieces that need to be carried to the house and stacked next to the woodstove.  Again and again and again.
  6. Two dogs.  Both glued each to her own couch at this moment, but I’m thinking W-A-L-K might get me some doggie brownie points.
  7. A wheelbarrow and some horse manure begging for a ride in it.  Again and again and again.

Next I take inventory of the outfits I have for exercise.  Pajama pants to wear for yoga.  A visor for the recumbent bike.  A men’s wifebeater tee-shirt, 3 sizes too small, for the hand weights.  Leotard and leg warmers for the hula hoop.

The leotard and leg warmers are circa 1983.  Too bad my body is circa way bigger now …

Speaking of whales, the answer to the question is 160 wild horses.  I had to break the No Recreational Math rule for this one.  If the whale is a blue whale it can weigh 400,000 lbs.  A well-trained two-up team of Belgians or Shires (big draft horses) can pull over 4000 lbs.   I’m guessing that a two-up team of really wild Belgians or Shires can pull more like 5000 lbs,  just because of the adrenalin rush that horses appear to get when someone puts a harness on them while they are still wild.

Ok, now on with it already.  30 minutes per day of something, five days a week.  I promise.

Rib-eye steak topped with dark chocolate sauce and olives, and guacamole for dessert

I have decided to go with an eating plan that combines these concepts:

Low Carb:   Primarily lean protein and veggies … some complex carbs … eliminate simple carbs – sugar, white flour, etc. – for the most part.  I say for the most part because I expect a flour tortilla will sneak its way in there now and then.     Unbeknownst to me.

  • … I am reading a new book on the low-carb topic …”Why We Get Fat:  And What To Do About It”, Gary Taubes.  Thanks to my friend Laurie for the referral … Laurie has had significant success on this program so far.  Maybe she will send me pictures.  She can be the first inductee to the Fat to Fit in Our Fifties Hall of Fame.

MUFAs:  Monounsaturated fatty acids … the good fats — oils, avocados, dark chocolate, nuts.  In a nutshell, the Fat Belly, I mean Flat Belly, diet.  And this diet has my belly written all over it.  Supposedly, this diet has advanced target detection  to search out and destroy belly fat without any collateral damage to other fat, like boobs, I guess.  I hope.

6 Week Body Makeover:  6 small meals per day, primarily low carb but a bit of fruit, grains, starchy veggies, meals customized to body type to maximize metabolism, targeted exercise.  To do this I need to stock up on food on a regular basis, and then remember several times per day to eat it.  And also figure out how to use the suspiciously-deviant-looking targeted exercise device that came with the program.

Now I have enough of the general guidelines to manage writing a grocery list.  If only I had enough Xanax on hand to manage a trip to the grocery store.

My Commandments for Weight Loss Programs

Any weight-loss program on my planet must obey these Commandments to have a chance in Hell of success.

The program shall:

1.   Not require weekly purchases of freeze-dried chemical substances branded {Program} Cuisine masquerading as food.  Which are supplemented by weekly trips to the supermarket to buy actual food for actual nutrition.

2.  Not require me to purchase a membership to a gym where moms deposit SUV loads of excess mouth-breathing teenagers to pile into the weight rooms to gape at nicer-looking teenagers posing on the exercise equipment.

3.  Not include regular daily doses of fat-melting “vitamin supplement” capsules touting a secret metabolism-boosting ingredient just recently discovered deep in the remote rainforests of Costa Rica.  I have already hit the maximum number of drug and food interaction messages my pharmacist can print on one Rx label.

4.  Not include portable exercise equipment that I am free to use anytime in the comfort of my own home.  This assumes that [1] there is comfort in my own home and [2] I am free to use it at any time.   These assumptions are invalid.  I share my home with five or so outside cats,  Lily, a turbo-tailed Golden Retriever, and Lulu, an F5 tornado that resembles a bloodhound .

5.  Not have counselors who want to counsel me weekly on how to assure the program’s Maximum Effectiveness in support of my weight-loss goals.  I don’t like counseling.  It forces me  to sit and talk  to people I don’t know.  If I’m going to be forced to sit and talk to people I don’t know, I am going to do it in near proximity to a Margarita and a bartender on stand-by.

Step Three – Small Meals

3.  Eat 3 or so small meals per day (plus breakfast)

To accomplish this, I must have a Program consisting of menus made up of healthy and delicious food choices.  Perhaps recipes to build my own food choices.  Then I have to make grocery lists of ingredients.  And go to the grocery store and buy them.  And cook them.   All or any of which flies in the face of all of the Instant Gratification for which I stand.

Which program to follow?  Surely there is a magic program for me that will be easy to stick to, with decent food choices like Mexican food and croissants and linguine and sticky white rice and the occasional frosted brownie with ice cream.   Most importantly, it will feature super-fast weight loss results without any physical activity other than that required for food prep and consumption.

First, let’s refresh my memory of past pop-culture-diet experiences, so that in the future I will be able to recognize history repeating itself:

1.  Weight Watchers, 1982.

2.  Jenny Craig, early 90s.

3.  Atkins-ish low carb, 2002.

4.  Nutrisystem, 2006.

5.  Medi-Fast, 2011.

6.  Sensa, 2011.

7.  The 6-Week Body Makeover, 2011.

You can see that Year 2011, compared to prior years, was fairly productive for me  in terms of the number of different recipients of the hard-earned income I handed over in exchange for sheer crap.  In fact, it was my second best year ever.  The first best was the year that I got captured by eBay and made the prisoner of numerous amateur auctioneers trafficking in the Collectibles>Entertainment Memorabilia>Movie Memorabilia>Westerns>B-Westerns of the -30s and -40s>Singing Cowboys>Roy Rogers and Trigger category.

Next, whittle the list down to What Worked Or Is Most Likely To:

1.  Atkins-ish low carb:  A fairly easy and painless weight loss of about 20 lbs, helped along by daily gym workouts and the natural appetite-suppressing effects of domestic violence.  (more on that later)

2.  The 6-Week Body Makeover:  6 small meals per day, lean protein and green veggies, a little bit of fruit and some starchy vegetables allowed, some whole grain.  Plus a targeted exercise plan with a companion over-the-door-hanging exercise device that could double as movie prop in an S&M murder scene.  I liked this program.  The food allowed on it sounded like what I typically eat anyway.  And it came with a free toy.  So I ordered it.    And would have started it except that it conveniently arrived the week before Thanksgiving.

My analysis complete, I think I’m ready to pick my program and get going.  But I need to set some ground rules first.