eat, move, think, feel


May 2009

The Café Didn’t Change; I Did

I work on a street that, for better and for worse, is lined with dozens of great restaurants, cafes and shops. I hardly ever bring my lunch to work because… well, because I am lazy. And it’s so easy to find great food just steps away from my office.

The closest place to my office is a very Zen-ish tea shop. I love their teas but in the past have hated their food. My co-worker and I have agreed that their food was “really bad.” But what it is, is very simple, unadorned, and HEALTHY food. It used to bore us to tears. Their soups are all based on some kind of vegetable broth. Their sandwiches seemed just… meh.  We would walk way out of our way to go to other places on the street, which when I think about it now, have soups that are filled with cream or cheese, and really decadent sandwiches.

Recently I was in a total rush for time and didn’t have time to be walking all over the place for food. I went to the tea shop and ordered a chicken salad sandwich.  I wasn’t expecting much. Now normally a chicken salad sandwich is pretty rich – gloppy with mayo, etc. But this sandwich was so different. First, it’s on very dense whole grain bread. Then, the chicken itself is dressed with probably 1/2 teaspoon of mayo, total, and some herbs. And it has about pound (okay, I exaggerate!) of dark leafy greens, and also has some sliced almonds and grapes thrown in.

It’s good. It’s sooooooo good.  And I am amazed at how delicious and clean and yummy and healthy this sandwich is. Months ago, I would have sneered and called it “bad food” because I was so used to eating food that was super rich and dense with fat. Now, I see their tomato lentil soup and I think how good that sounds. I call the other cafe and when they tell me about their super cheesy chowder, it just feels like… too much.

Neither place has changed their menu at all. But I have.

And now I’m so glad that my favorite lunch spot is only about 100 feet from my desk. 🙂

Laptop Bag Giveaway!!

51WSk36dmpL._SL500_AA280_I’m doing a giveaway! The prize is this festive bag for carrying a laptop computer.  What you need to do to enter is to write a comment about how and why WRITING (blogging, freewriting, journaling, Twittering etc) is helping you in your quest for healthier living (eating well, exercise, dealing with illness, etc).

The winner will be picked only semi-randomly. I will choose the top five posts in terms of thoughtfulness. It’s too easy to just write “I love to write, and I want that laptop bag!” THEN I’ll send those top five to the random picker. The deadline for this giveaway is Monday, May 25th.

I truly believe that writing has made my journey towards health possible. I’d like to hear about yours.

What I Did On My Silent Retreat

IMG_1613Are y’all curious? If not, skip to another post, I won’t take it personally if you don’t want to read about the minutae of my weekend. But if so…

•    Arrived; silent dinner (pasta, pesto veggies, salad)
•    Group gathering. I cried. Lit individual candles and placed in chapel. I put mine at the base of a leafless tree hung with gold origami cranes.
•    Read.
•    Slept for 10 hours, very deeply.

•    Woke up. Went to yoga/meditation.
•    Silent breakfast. (veggie frittata, few spoons of oatmeal, fruit, coffee)
•    Made bed.
•    30 minute walk/run. Injuries bothering me. (shin splint, groin pain)
•    Morning gathering
•    Read poems on various walls, copied many down. Spent time in art room but didn’t do art.
•    Spent one hour in straw bale hermitage. Meditated. Cried.
•    Silent Lunch (turkey, tuna, salad, fruit)
•    Walk/ran one hour. Injuries slightly better but not great.
•    Read.
•    Napped.
•    Showered.
•    Silent dinner: chicken, Israeli couscous, salad. Wrestled with apple crisp with whipped cream. Didn’t eat it.
•    Walk, 30 minutes. Slowly.
•    Evening gathering: meditation, elm dance in courtyard garden: slow, mournful circle dance from Russia, composed to mourn death of forests after Chernobyl
•    Slept, but woke from 2-4am

•    Slept through yoga/meditation. Made bed.
•    Silent breakfast. (hard boiled egg, chicken apple sausage, honeydew, brown rice cereal)
•    Very slow walk
•    Morning gathering – re connection with nature, Wendy Johnson book
•    Silent gardening: planted 3 kinds of lettuce, kale. My first garden experience.
•    Read.
•    Very short nap.
•    Silent lunch: chicken broth with toppings (chicken, green onions, carrot shreds, lime), salad. No cookies 4 me.
•    Another slow walk.
•    Silent art: made ‘treasure boxes’ out of matchboxes, homemade paper, shells, leaves
•    Read.
•    Massage. Melted onto table. Injuries completely gone.
•    Showered.
•    Silent dinner: poached salmon, sugar snap peas, salad. Passed up the potatoes and the wine (only night it was offered). Did not pass up poppyseed cake with whipped cream. Meant to have one bite; ate the whole piece. Delicious.
•    Slow walk, 20 minutes.
•    Tested blood sugar, worried about cake. Ecstatic it was 109. (yay walk!!)
•    Gathering in pillow room. Gave thanks to H & S for 23 years of nurturing us. Cried more. Another elm dance, then meditation in chapel.
•    Wrote.
•    Slept.

•    Woke.
•    Breakfast: scrambled egg, toast, peanut butter, grapefruit.
•    Changed bed linens. Packed.
•    Morning gathering
•    Went to art room and hand-copied several pages from Tomato Blessings and Radish Teachings
•    Event closing
•    NONsilent lunch! Made some new friends. Beautiful cheeses, salad, lentil soup, crackers.
•    Drove home. Stopped at Spirit Rock bookstore on the way to buy One Bowl and Mindful Eating.

My Mother/My Daughters/My Body

Green Mountain at Fox Run is a spa, healthy eating and fitness center in Vermont that I’ve wanted to go to for many years now. I recently started following them on Twitter and discovered they are holding a writing contest in honor of Mother-Daughter Month (May).  The rules are:

simply write a post on your blog about how your relationship with food and/or your body image has shaped your child’s. Alternatively, you could write about how your mom’s relationship with food and her body affected your attitude about the same.

Simply? A blog post? I could write a book about these topics (and maybe someday I will). There’s so much to say on this topic. But I’m going to give it a shot.


When I was growing up, our family was all about the food. Food was a big connector for our little family (I was an only child).  We took long driving trips, traveling from New Jersey to Florida every summer, and there were favorite food markers along the way: Morrison’s cafeterias, which seemed very fancy in my eyes (suited and white-gloved waiters would carry your trays to the table!), Krispy Kreme hot doughnut stops in North Carolina (before they spread everywhere, these were Very Special places), and of course, the ubiquitous roadside Stuckey’s (gas station/gift shop/fast food). Our family was especially fond of Stuckey’s because my father made his living by selling souvenir spoons, pennants, keychains and other memorabilia to the gift shops. So we’d stop at every one to make a sales call, and to check out their sausage biscuits and pecan rolls.

My father was a traveling salesman. Which meant that when we weren’t traveling with him on summer vacations, he wasn’t at home. It was just my mother and me, and it took me decades to realize this, but she was lonely. She was, by all measures, acting as a single parent 80% of the time.  I think for her, it “wasn’t worth it” to cook for just the two of us, so most of the time we chose our dinners from the frozen foods aisle at the A & P. Macaroni and cheese or chicken pot pie for me, salisbury steak or fried chicken for her. We’d stack towers of frozen meals in our cart and at dinner time, heat them up, and eat on TV trays while watching I Love Lucy.

My mother also worked in the office of the elementary school that I attended, so we kept the same hours. After school, we’d sit at the kitchen table for Snack: a glass of milk and a plate of Hostess cupcakes, Oreo cookies, Ring Dings or miniature apple pies. My mother was not big on “health food” and has considered whole wheat bread and brown rice somewhat offensive.  When I was young, she’d always ask me, “Vegetables or tofu?” and I’d always opt for the tofu. (cold, plain, with a splash of soy sauce) I think she believed that these “healthy foods” interchangeable and if I ate one, I didn’t need the other. At any rate, salad was iceberg lettuce with her homemade “French dressing” – a combo of mayonnaise and ketchup. I was probably better off with the tofu.

To her credit, my mother never dieted in my memory, except when she was medically ordered to after her quadruple bypass surgery, but I was in my late 20s by then. She never criticized her own body or spoke about wishing to be thinner. When I look back on photos of her, she was neither slim nor heavy, but just right.  I was also pretty “average” but when I was an adolescent, I started getting mixed messages.  I remember her remarking, “Those pants are getting pretty tight, aren’t they?” or slapping my rear end when I walked by.  After we’d just sat down to a Snack of milk and Mallomars. That was when I first started to “diet” (or try to; I had no clue what I was doing) and “exercise.” (my father and uncle set up my banana-seat and high-rise handle bar bike on a stationary rack in the basement)

But if I could name the biggest legacy from my mother, it would be the messages that food=comfort, food=reward, food=solace and talking about food was more important and easier than talking about just about anything else.

Then I had two daughters. Even though I had managed to incorporate healthier food into my own life (real home cooking, a bout of vegetarianism), I seemed to regress when it came to my children. I found that I wanted to comfort them the way that I’d been comforted. Of course I introduced them to the standard kids’ dinner of macaroni and cheese (and felt better because it was “all natural” and had a certain bunny on the box). I took them to McDonald’s because the giant hamster tube and the free plastic toys gave me a few minutes of peace and rest. I sent them to preschool with microwaveable Spaghettios and Lunchables. I gave them cookies when they were good, and when I wanted them to be good. I potty trained them with M & Ms. (I swear! all my friends were doing it too!) I did it because it was easy, because they liked it, and because I was a stressed young mother in graduate school who couldn’t deal with going to the farmers’ market or making food from scratch.

Meanwhile, I was eating the leftover chicken nuggets off their plates, eating the cookies we made together, bonding over brownies and lemon bars. I started gaining weight with my first pregnancy and kept on going.

Then I was the one on diets, going to Weight Watchers, hating my body, not knowing what to do. And they were watching, for pretty much all of their growing-up years.  They would be able to tell you more clearly what they learned from me, but I can tell you that the food=comfort and reward was handed to them like a gold baton. With a little dose of “I hate my body” thrown in for bad measure.

I can’t say it hasn’t affected them. I know it has. I know that it has pained them to see my self-disgust, the way I hid myself in giant pajama-like outfits, the ugliness that I felt I was. I know how much better it would have been if I’d been big AND thought I was hot (but I didn’t). Or capable (but I wasn’t).

So maybe we can add a nice big dose of guilt remorse to that pot. (just remembered, that in Buddhism, remorse is a healthy response to previous mistaken action, that spurs us to reflect and do better. Guilt is just about fear and beating up on oneself. I’m remorseful, not guilty!!)

But I have hope that it’s never too late. In January of this year, I was diagnosed with diabetes. Suddenly, I woke up. I realized that it just wasn’t about what size I was wearing, it was going to be about what hospital room I was in if I didn’t turn things around and soon.

I woke up. I started listening to messages that have been floating around for decades but that I didn’t really understand. And I’m getting that it isn’t JUST about “move more, eat less” but that it’s really about compassion for oneself, patience, nurturing in ways that don’t have to do with food. I’ve lost 28 pounds since January and am in a normal BMI range for the first time since either of them were born. I intend to stay that way.  I trained for and ran a 5k race a few weeks ago. I was shocked when, after I lost weight,  parts of my body resumed their appearance of twenty years ago. I had thought that shape of my face, that my muscular legs, were gone forever. I thought that I was just getting “old.” But it wasn’t “old” at all, it was simply “overweight.”

I intend to continue on a healthy path – emotionally, spiritually and physically – so that I will be around for a long time, to see THEIR children grow up. I intend to stop beating myself up for the many years of unhealthy living and wrong messages. I intend to live the new story that love is love, and food is food, and that there is plenty of both to go around.

Into the Silence

IMG_0926Tonight, I am going on a silent retreat at one of my favorite places on earth. I have been taking retreats at this place ever since 1987 or so, when they used to host an annual retreat for the Friends of Calligraphy. I would go with my inks, my special paper and drawing board, and set up in the “scriptorium” with other calligraphers, where we would do our calligraphy in silence for a week. There were short breaks in the silence, where master artists would give seminars on how to make the perfect “B,” or brush calligraphy or some such. I felt like some sort of ecstatic monk. It was heaven.

After I had my first child in 1990, I pretty much gave up calligraphy – all those inks and pen nibs were too hazardous for grabby little fingers – and by that time I had switched to writing. I started yearning for a place to get away to just think. Thanks to the wonderful support of said child’s father, I began taking 24-hour writing retreats at the same place.

This place is the most peaceful place I know. It used to be a convent for nuns, and is now used for spiritual and other quiet retreats. There is a beautiful chapel, lovely spare little rooms, a courtyard garden, a strawbale hermitage (for when one wants to be a “hermit”), a yurt, several gardens. But the best part is the silence.

I recently received a (beautifully calligraphed) card to confirm my spot at the retreat. It almost made me cry from happiness.

Within each of us there is a silence, a silence as vast as the universe…

When we experience that silence, we remember who we are, creatures of the stars,

created from time and space, created from silence…

Silence is our deepest nature, our home, our common ground, our peace…

Silence is where God dwells. We yearn to be there.

The experience of silence is now so rare, that we must guard and treasure it. This is especially true for shared silence.”

–Gunilla Norris, Shared Silence

I have been very, very busy, and very active these past months. I am longing for some quiet and some rest. The next few months are going to be even more hectic as my day job heats up to its peak event in July. This is the biggest gift I can think of to give myself, to contemplate all that has happened this year. I plan to write, read, sleep, walk, meditate.  I’m going to try and lay off the Twitter a bit, although I won’t be completely gone (twittering is silent, isn’t it?). I do believe that this is one of the biggest and most important and yet most ignored aspect of a weight loss journey – the peace of mind that is necessary for all the other pieces (food plan, exercise) to work.

I’ll be thinking of you all and how very grateful I am for the support that has surrounded me since I began this journey, not so very long ago in January. Have a peaceful weekend.


The Interview and Biggest Loser

Yesterday was my interview with the WW regional manager. It was actually a group interview, me plus another prospective leader, and also a prospective receptionist.  The interviewer kept apologizing for asking us “dumb and boring questions” which seemed like not a very helpful or professional thing to say, but whatever. I thought it was actually kind of interesting. She’d ask a question and then I’d answer, then person B, then person C. She kept looking at the clock and towards the end started saying, “OK, answer in ONE WORD.” I was like… okay. I think she just wanted to make sure we were not total psychopaths or idiots. Then she had me and the other wannabe leader get up and use the flip chart to talk about the 4 points of the Momentum program. Then we had to pick our favorite WW product and try to sell it to them.

I picked the magazine. Partly because I am a magazine junkie, and partly because I am not familiar with or a huge fan of many of the other products. I think I did OK. She kept saying, “Perfect! Perfect!”

The receptionist person seemed very unhappy. When the interviewer asked us to “What one word would your co-workers use to describe you?” I said, “Enthusiastic.” The other woman said, “Serious.” You’re not kidding, lady. She looked like she was about to get up and throttle someone. The other woman was extremely calm, professional, responsible seeming. She reminded me of Michelle Obama, very cool and unflappable, yet friendly. I felt a little scattered in comparison, but I did have the Enthusiasm thing going for me.

They said they’d get back to me in a week.

I’m finding it all interesting and somewhat amusing. I recently found a blog that detailed the horrible compensation/pay/conditions that WW employees have to endure. That’s no surprise. It’s basically a few millimeters up from a volunteer job. I’m just… curious. I will wait and see how it all pans out. Meanwhile, I think I am going to not tag or categorize these posts regarding this topic. I have the feeling that the Powers That Be over there would not be totally jazzed about me blogging my experiences.

I wore one of my new dresses from The Shopping Spree on the interview. (btw, some of the things I bought on that shopping trip are now too big!) I was feeling all trim and pretty. When I got home, I asked my daughter to take some pics of me. I was stunned that the photos looked NOTHING like what I thought I looked like in the mirror. Not particularly trim and maybe only marginally pretty. Hmph. This whole camera/mirror/real life thing is confusing. What DO I look like? I have no idea.

On to Biggest Loser. I started blogging when the (3 hour!) show came on. I was going to go on and on about how this season of the Biggest Loser has felt so personal to me, because they started when I did, and here we all are, blah blah blah. Of course they all began much heavier than me, and many of them are wayyyyy fitter than me. I have generally cried during each episode of this season.

But as the episode wore on (yawwwwwwwn) I realized that it was boring the poo out of me. It was really nothing more than a 3 hour weigh-in. Blech. I realized that one of the things I love most about BL is watching them do their workouts and challenges. Those things inspire me so much. The weigh-ins and dramatic game stuff, not so much. Ugh.

I was appalled when I saw Helen. She looked so good when they last were on the ranch, wearing this skinny little black outfit. Now she looks emaciated. I was horrified. I read somewhere that she is only one pound over being in the BMI “underweight” category. That seems so wrong. I also read that earlier seasons of the BL calculated winners based on a combo formula of pounds lost/fat percentage lost, but they are now doing strictly pounds. WRONG.

I was so disappointed. I have been such a loyal fan of this show, in spite of its many flaws and mistakes and stupid ideas, but I felt really let down last night. The healthiest, fittest people were not rewarded.  And that seems wrong. Ugh.

Reality Check AGAIN

I went away for the weekend and did a lot of activity – 2 days of running, one day on the hotel elliptical. I was feeling quite virtuous! But I was not quite as careful/aware as usual of my food intake. Today when I was back on my home scale I discovered I had gained a few pounds.  But I had done such a good job of my exercise!

My food, not so much. I decided to go to the Weight Watchers Online site and track my points from yesterday, retrospectively.  HOLY TOLEDO. I was… er….. about 24 points OVER my daily limit! AEEEEEEEEEYAHHHHH!! And I was thinking I had not done “all that bad.” WRONG.

This is one of the helpful things about points. It’s a reality check. If I had been aware of how many points I was eating, I would not have made those choices. I assumed that they were much lower than they really were. YIKES. I mean YIKES.

I’m lucky the damage was only “a few” pounds.

I’ve been reading that weight loss is a LOT more linked to food than activity level, and that sure was true for me. So even if you run miles and miles, if you’re not conscious of your food intake, you can still do a lot of damage, weight wise.

(Sigh) Tomorrow is my WW leader interview. I’m not feeling very stellar or confident right now, but I guess I will demonstrate how one can get back on a horse after falling off.

And tonight was supposed to be my IOU Mother’s Day dinner (also for my mother) since we were traveling all weekend. I wish I could avoid going to a nice restaurant, but it is her favorite choice. I’m just going to have to make some good choices even though we are at a good place.

WOW. I’m still shaking my head in disbelief over the # of points I ate this weekend. Kind of amazing.

On the Road

Sorry I haven’t posted a more upbeat post since my last downer. I’m doing a lot beter now! I’ve been traveling with my daughter’s crew team – they are at their regional championships this weekend and I am in charge of all travel details: hotels, dinners for 300, etc! so I’ve been a busy bee.

I’ve been really so busy that I forgot my blood testing kit. I am hoping that I’m OK but I feel good and I just have to trust that I’m not going out of control. I have to say it’s kind of a relief to be without the thing for a few days and to let myself feel a little “normal.” Of course, I don’t have a scale either and it is really nice to have an escape from the numbers for a little while. I contemplated going to a WW meeting while here – my normal meeting day is Saturday- but I think I will wait till I’m home on Monday.

Did I tell y’all I went to that WW leader recruitment meeting last week? It was interesting. I think I’m gonna go for it. I love and miss teaching (I’ve been teaching writing since 1994 but recently have not been teaching so much and I miss it). I have a formal interview with the regional director of WW on Tuesday. I’ve been thinking a lot about how teaching writing and teaching healthy living/weight loss are similar, or could be, or here is my pitch about why I think I’d be a goood WW leader!  So many people say they’ve “always wanted to write” but don’t believe they can.  Same with weight loss/healthy lifestyle, right?  Well I know I’ve been very capable of breaking things down for beginning writers, to help them feel excited and successful very soon. I am really good at validating peoples’ positive efforts and for showing them what they are doing right. I think so many of these same things are important in weight loss. So I hope it works out. We shall see.

I’ve been running a bit along the lake where the races are being held. Both yesterday and today I noticed that the first 10 minutes or so of a run are killer. I am full of pain – my groin, my feet, my shin, and I’m out of breath. It pretty much feels awful. And then BAM, after I hit the 11th minute or so, ALL of my pains just VANISH, my breathing is easy, and the running truly feels effortless. I feel like I could go on forever. Yesterday I ran about 35 minutes, and today around 25, and walked a bunch. Both times the same thing happened.

Anyway, busy times around here. Tonight, Chevy’s is catering dinner at our race site for 300. I am not worried about it at all, in fact I am excited about it. Things have really changed.


So it happened again today. I went blithely into my cardiologist’s office, practically SKIPPING because I was so over-the-moon proud and happy about my weight loss, my lowered triglycerices, my NORMAL BMI, my fantastic A1C levels — and while he was duly impressed (or at least acted sort of impressed), he zeroed right in on my cholesterol levels.  They’re like borderline high. My “good” cholesterol, HDL, is not quite high enough, and it has not budged an iota in four months, despite exercise and weight loss, etc.

He said, “I want to put you on a statin.”

He was just going by his medical protocol, but for me it was great clanging alarm bells and red lights and “YOU FAILED!!!!!!!!!!!”

Once again, I left a medical appointment, sat in my car and cried.

I called my physician husband and he gave me all sorts of pats on the back (vebally) and validation and explained the lunkheaded ways of doctors, and I still cried.

I felt once again like I was five years old and was getting a finger wagged at me, you know that old “NOT GOOD ENOUGH” voice.

Bleh! Feh! UGH!

He (husband) also gently reminded me that perhaps I had had unrealistic expectations, ie that by “doing good” (and you all KNOW the good I’ve been doing!!) I would be able to outrun all my diagnoses, throw away all medications, etc. Instead, I got MORE medication. It just feels like failure to me. I know I have to turn my head around. I am not the kind of person who shuns medication at ALL, I just wasn’t ready for MORE. I was at peace with what I was already taking, but I felt like I was going in a good direction and I was going to be rewarded for that somehow.

I’m probably going to have to take insulin one day. I am probably more prepared for that eventuality than I was for the statin. Ugh.

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