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I (heart) Frank Bruni: A Book Review

I just finished reading Frank Bruni’s memoir, Born Round. When I got to the last page I was a little choked up, feeling like I’d found a real kindred spirit. He’s like another Foodie McBody! Someone who loves and appreciates food, AND who wants to be healthy and fit. I know so many fit people who truly seem unmoved by food, or who see it purely as fuel (and not so much as a source of pleasure) OR as the Enemy. Anybody who knows me knows that I am constantly striving to find ways to have my (cup)cake and eat it too. And of course I also know the foodies who turn a blind eye to fitness or health. Please, can’t I have both?

Enter Frank! OMG. For the first (more than?) half of the book, we follow him through his childhood, where he is a ravenous toddler, and then a huge eater at family feasts orchestrated by his mother and grandmother. The descriptions of the incredible food-a-paloozas were enough to make me faint. Pasta! Italian food! Roast turkey! Frites! (fried stuffed yummy things)

And there’s Frank, simultaneously loving all the food and mortified by his plumpness. And I’m nodding like one of those dashboard bobblehead doggies with its head on a spring. Sigh.

I followed, completely rapt, while Frank joins the swim team and slims down, then joins up with his mother on endless diets (Atkins! I did that one with my dad, back in the 70s), back and forth, back and forth. Ultimately it gets into some pretty dark territory, of bulimia and then bingeing.

It’s a classic tale of Too Much of a Good Thing, when something turns and then doesn’t feel so good anymore. And I feel like I am constantly trying to find that balance. I still want food to be a Good Thing. And it is, until it isn’t. I don’t ever want to fear food or not enjoy it. So it was kind of awe-inspiring and very happy making to read about Frank’s ultimate challenge and job: to be the food critic for the New York Times. How could he manage to eat out 7-8 times a week, at amazing multi-star restaurants, and stay fit and healthy?

Exercise. Of course. Lots of exercise. And portion control. Right? Of course that’s the key. Calories in, calories out. I loved reading about Frank’s bootcampish trainer, Aaron, who sounds like a much meaner version of my own trainer. I was intrigued by his description of Pilates. It was fun following Frank on his transformation from couch-potato-dom to athlete.

The writing in this book is fantastic. Funny, poignant, honest, real. I laughed out loud a LOT, and also cringed and wiped a tear or two. And there was a crazy moment of recognition, much like when I read Kate Moses’ Cakewalk and remembered that I ALSO bit the toes off of rubber alligators from Disneyland (WHAT??? Really!). Maybe not quite as bizarre, but like Frank Bruni, I also had a mad love for cold noodles with sesame paste, something I’d long forgotten (I can’t find this stuff in San Francisco). I used to be obsessssssssssed with those cold noodles when I lived in New York, and my favorite spot was this teeny tiny hole-in-the-wall called OMei in NY’s Chinatown. My friend used to bring me those as a special treat after I moved away. It’s been so many years since I’ve had those noodles, and… sigh. Reading this book brought it all back. (Frank! if you or anybody else knows where I can find these noodles in San Francisco, pleeeeeeeeeease tell me!)

Anyway. Back to the book. I loved it. For someone who loves both Top Chef AND The Biggest Loser, it really spoke to my heart (and my taste buds?).  It made me feel like I had company, in the best way. And after I read it, Frank Bruni joined the ranks of my invisible fit-foodie-community. I finished the book on Monday and in the evening, I was contemplating going out to the cemetery to work out. But it was a Holiday. And I was tired. Suddenly, the voice of Frank’s trainer Aaron popped into my head. “Don’t be a wimpy quitter!” I went out there and did 3.5 miles, and added on 50 pushups and 480 stairs. Then I came home and looked for something really, reallllllllly good to eat.

Is There More To Life Than Weight Loss, Fitness & Food?

photo credit: Nardell at Flickr

Until January of 2009, I kept a very regular blog, for almost five years, over at ReadingWritingLiving. I saw myself primarily as a writer, a writing teacher, an editor, a mom, someone involved in the world of adoption and books. But when I was diagnosed with pre-diabetes, I went underground and began this blog, at first very much in secret (and shame). Gradually I have come into the light, and as I became more and more immersed and focused on my health, on food and losing weight (and maintaining that loss) and fitness, all the other parts of my life sat on the back burner.

I recently realized that I miss my writing life. A lot. As well as other aspects of my life that have been patiently waiting around while I got healthy. And I think I would really like to give more attention to those things. Not everything is always necessarily seen through the lens of food, fitness etc.

It is a bit of a risk, a bit of a leap of faith – to hope and believe that if I do not spend AS MUCH time thinking and focusing on food, weight, fitness etc., that I will not take a big backslide. This blog, and this community has given me SO MUCH – my very health and life! and running, and performing, and friendship and so much. But it has also taken away from many things in my life.

I want to try, to see if I can do it. Starting this week, I have decided that I am going to alternate blog posts. For every post that I write here, I will write another post (about a completely different Something) over there. I want to get more balance back in my life, and I think I finally feel secure enough that I can stop gripping the wheel so tightly.

And hey Foodie McBody readers and friends, guess what? There’s more to me than just what you see here. Come on over and check it out.

Guest Post: Terre asks “What’s YOUR Goal?”

I’m thrilled that Terre Pruitt, awesome Nia teacher, has agreed to guest-post for me this week!

So what is YOUR goal?  I had a goal, I met it but I wanted more.  Then I kept aging and my “additional goal” kept slipping further away.  See my original goal was to get/stay/be healthy.  Then I decided I wanted to look like a super model.  Yeah, I know.  You don’t even have to know me or see me to know that is ridiculous.  Number one, who really wants to be THAT thin?  And I will never be that tall.  And really, honestly, right?  “C’uz that’s what we do here on Foodie McBody’s blog — is be honest, most people can’t achieve that state of thin.  It is a certain body type that can be a supermodel.  I am NOT that type.  I am of the shorter stockier version.  I started on my “health” kick rather late in life too.  I mean, certainly not too late to be healthy and fit . . . . never to late for that . . . but too late to not have gotten the sag here and the stretch mark there, ya know?  No swim suit runway modeling in my future.

My model goal kind of got me off track.  I started just giving up a bit because I know I could never be like that so why bother, right?  Wrong.  I think they work really hard at being that thin.  I don’t think that most people are supposed to be as thin as our models and celebrities so they have to work really hard.  It is hard work.  I want to enjoy my life and I CAN by eating sensibly, exercising, and being healthy.  Health is so important.

I once knew a woman who said to me one day as we saw someone scootering by, “That’s my goal.  I wanna scooter.” What?  Huh?  Uh . . .   My goal–really, my goal when I started this was to get healthy to stave off having to medicate.  At the time I started working out and eating better,  I knew too many people that were going on the hypertension drugs.  I don’t like to take medication.  Then on top of the medication they had side effects.  See, to me the less you have to take the less side effects you have.  So my goal is to stay off the meds and out of the scooter as long as possible.

Recently I got off balance (heartburn) but all my other tests came out good.  Average.  I think there is room for improvement, but I am basically healthy.  High five!  That is such an important thing.  Often time when getting healthy or staying healthy is the goal some of the others things follow suit.  Some of the other goals might be losing weight, having more energy, feeling better.  It is amazing.  I need to remember that my true goal is being healthy and concentrate on that more and not let the other stuff get in my way.  So what is YOUR goal?  What are you doing to achieve it?  Are you keeping on track and not getting side tracked like I did?  Health is one of our greatest assets.

Terre Pruitt is a Nia Teacher and a certified personal trainer.  When not teaching Nia she is sharing her passion for it on her blog and her website.  She “met” Foodie on Twitter, so she can be found there too@HelpYouWell

Week 2 of Foodblogging: What I’ve Learned, Part 2

I’m still at it. I’m having fun. I’m liking it. And I’m still learning new things.

This weekend, for example, I learned that it is possible to take photos of your food and still gain weight! (ha) Saturday was a perfect example of Too Much Of A Good Thing. (well, actually, NOT too much, but perhaps too much to LOSE weight) I don’t regret a single bite of anything. I don’t feel like I binged. But I know, and especially looking back, that that was a day that I ate really healthy food (perhaps with the exception of the bread and butter, and the cream puff at the end!) but more than was necessary, um, physiologically speaking. I mean: grilled vegetables! Salmon! Shaved zucchini salad! It was all good good food. It was delicious. I ate “in moderation.” All in all, I’d consider it a Success. I did  not feel deprived; I ate good things, I was happy.

I also learned that it is possible (well, I knew THIS one already) to eat not enough of Not Very Good Food. This was pretty much yesterday. I was still really full from Saturday AND I was really busy so I did not eat very much. But what I did eat wasn’t the most ideal stuff. A lot of carbs, not enough produce.

Last week I took some photos of lunch while at work. I think my co-workers thought I was a little, um… special. As my daughters would say. But I took them anyway.

I’m excited that since I’ve started this process, a few of my blogging buddies have joined in and are photoblogging too. I’m having a great time following their food, and learning all sorts of things. Here’s Karen’s, and Pubsgal’s, and Sweeter’s. Welcome to foodblogging, friends!

The process is continuing to fascinate me and every day I notice more and more new things. Onward!

It’s Working.. And I Didn’t Even Ask It To

Remember my “wish” to lose ten pounds maybe, like sort of?  Well, after much deliberation I decided to not sweat it or “try” to do anything; I’d just keep doing whatever I was doing, and whatever happened, would happen.

Then Mary came to visit and I watched her take pictures of all her food. For the first 3 days, I just watched her, and I ate all the yummy things she was eating PLUS MORE. The weight started creeping up. Then on her fourth day, I started foodblogging as well.

See what happened? That’s my weight up there. From the very first day. This was not on purpose, ie I wasn’t “trying” to lose weight, I was just trying to be more mindful and accountable for what I ate.

The one little uptick you see there is the day I forgot to take my medication which allows me to not look like a watery bloated sausage.

The difference between the top of the graph and the bottom of the graph (today) is 5.2 pounds.

Just sayin’.

I’m taking my camera with me EVERYwhere from now on. 🙂

EDITED: Hmph. Facebook tells me that this blog post has been rated as “abusive” by Facebook users and so they have disabled the link. What is THAT about? Am I being boycotted by anti-scale people??

It’s An “Energy Imbalance”


balance

Originally uploaded by hans s

Back in June, I went to a staff training for Weight Watchers; it’s part of a series on the science of weight loss. How awesome is this, I ask you? It was hard to get excited about a 12-hour work day especially on a Friday, but I was hoping to learn a lot and learn I did.

On one hand, it was simple and basic and nothing I hadn’t heard before, but on the other hand it felt totally illuminating. Or maybe confirming.

There was a lot of talk about metabolism. What IS “metabolism,” anyway? It seems like this mysterious and complicated mechanism that nobody seems to clearly understand. But as we learned, metabolism is actually a NUMBER. It’s the difference between the calories that one burns and that calories that one takes in. That’s it.

And if we are trying to lose weight, then we want the numbers IN to be fewer than the numbers OUT.

It was kind of stunningly simple. My mind was kind of whirling around like crazy, thinking of my own understanding of my own numbers in the past few months. I’ve been wearing this little gadget called a Philips DirectLife which measures the calories OUT every day. For the first few weeks, I was going gangbusters and burning 150-180% of my goal every day. I was knocking the socks off that thing.

Then I hurt my ankle. Again. Everything slowed wayyyyy down. I could see by the charts on the gadget that even when I tried to walk, I was averaging about 200 calories less per day (burned) than before. On top of that, at the same time, I started a new job that was kind of mentally exhausting. I was going out for coffee 1-2x a day more than previously. And you know, I put cream in my coffee. So there’s 100-200 calories more IN per day. Even if everything else stayed the same.

And suddenly it became glaringly obvious (in a way that just had not clicked before) that this was WHY I was unable to just shake off the last 5-10 pounds I was wanting to lose.

I mean I KNEW it, on some level, that walking was just not the same as running or banging out long sessions on the elliptical. But my little DirectLife was ticking away and showing me in very graphic terms exactly what was going on. Add the extra coffee and there you have it.

So now, my ankle is feeling better and I am able to do more again. AND I’ve been tracking my food carefully on my food blog. And… voila. Happy scale days again.

There was more good stuff in that metabolism lecture; about the different ways we burn calories, and metabolism as we age and metabolism in men vs women, but I’m going to save that for a later post.

Changing Goal Weight???????


Vintage bathroom Scale

Originally uploaded by totalrod2

So I’ve been virtually at the same weight for almost a year now. YAY.

And now that it’s been a year, I’ve been pondering/musing/obsessing over the idea of changing my goal weight. Ie, trying to lose the “last ten.”

I have some major ambivalent feelings about it. But it’s been on my mind a lot. It’s sort of like declaring a major, you know? It’s a commitment. And it’s not something I want to commit to unless I am sure.

Why do I/would I want to do this? Well. A few reasons. One, I’m beginning to realize that I’m not quite as fit and trim as I used to think I was. I mean, for much of the past two decades I would have DIED of HAPPINESS to be at my current weight. In fact, it did not even seem remotely in the realm of possibility. In fact, it did not even seem possible to weigh what my driver’s license says. (which is 13 pounds more than my current weight)

But now I’ve been hanging out here for a year. It’s good. It’s fine. I wear clothes that range from size 4 to size 12. (and yeah, I fit into all of them. How crazy is that) Also clothes that range from size S to L. I’m within a “normal” BMI. But that’s the thing. I’m very close to the ceiling of that range. Once or twice I’ve come close to hitting my head on it.

I weigh 10 lbs more than I did on my wedding day. I was hardly SKINNY on that day. I was like, regular.

I still have something of a spare tire. I still can grab large handfuls of belly fat, wayyyyy more than “pinching an inch.” I know that belly fat of any kind is not good for one’s health, and especially for diabetic people. So I think the less of that I have, the better. It’s never gonna be flat and i’m never wearing a bikini again. (those days were over 35 yrs ago)

Is it health? (a little) Is it vanity? A little. Is it a combination? Yeah.

That’s what I’m struggling with. I have problems with vanity dieting. Which I have said before. At the same time, I cannot deny the pleasure of shopping for and finding cute clothes that fit me. So vanity has become a weird part of my life.

It is weird when people MY HEIGHT come in to Weight Watchers. They weigh the same as me. Or LESS than me. And they are all, “UGH! GROSSSS! HOW DID I EVER GET TO THIS POINT!?” We are trained to be supportive of every member no matter their height or goal, as long as it is within the Healthy Range. But inside I am cringing and thinking, this person will never have faith in me. How can I be a leader or role model when they are so freaked out to be MY weight? I don’t say a thing. I support them. But still.

I’m never going to be at the bottom of the range. I don’t know if I will ever even be in the middle. No, I don’t think that’s in the cards either. But if I could get my head just a little fraction of a distance away from that ceiling, it would probably be a good thing.

The thing is, I’m nervous. (as if you couldn’t tell) I’m afraid of upsetting the apple cart, tipping the boat, you name it. I’ve actually gotten pretty comfortable with maintenance and I am afraid to get back onto the weight-loss road again. What if I fail? What if I try to lose and end up GAINING because I’ve put too much pressure on myself? What if I can’t do it? And my head goes smashing through the ceiling AND the roof?

All these things make me ponder. Should I let sleeping dogs lie? Should I make peace with my belly fat? Should I Go For It? (losing the last ten)

I know that people will probably have all sorts of ideas about this. And at the same time, I know that the only person who can ultimately answer this question is me.

New Day

It’s really hard to believe how one can feel SO DOWN one day and then the next day, it’s all new and different. (one of the great things about life, right?) Yesterday was truly a huge low. But it caused me to really dig INTO that lowness, to feel it and try to understand it and to make some changes.

One thing that changed immediately is that I vowed (with the help of my spouse AND my friend) to go to bed earlier. I am such a night owl but staying up until 1am was just not feeling good. So last night I went to bed early. And it made it so much easier to get up early (6am WITHOUT the alarm clock!). Mr. McBody and I went for a beautiful sunrise walk/run in the park near our house. It was so nice.

The weight that I was so freaked out about has left me, making me think it was probably restaurant-induced water retention from sodium. So I’m back to where I’ve been basically all year. Whew.

And my blood glucose? Not so great right now. But I’m going to see my doc next week and we’ll get to the bottom of it. I don’t feel like I’m the world’s most epic fail, like I did yesterday. I’m just ready to deal with it.

A Hand Up

So my little downward spiral continued to have its way with me until I landed with a huge THUNK this morning and ended up sobbing my brains out in my car. I guess you could call that a pretty “rock bottom” point. I really felt unbelievably hopeless, helpless and also shocked that I had gotten into this state, so quickly.

This was set off in part by my taking my blood glucose this morning and finding it HIGHER than it has been since I was even diagnosed. This stunned me. Then I went to the lab to get my blood drawn for my appointment this week. I was mortified. Here my endocrinologist came to my SHOW last week, and I’ll all woo-hoo-look-at-me!! Poster Star Diabetic Patient!! OMG how BOGUS can I be?!?!?

I sent off a flurry of desperate texts to a friend who sent me a ton of support which I could only partially receive given the pit of self-loathing sludge I was drowning in. But I did hear a little bit of it and of course the one thing I heard was, “If this was me you would not be beating me up,” or something along those lines. It was so true.

I made my way to my trainer’s gym. He asked me how I was when I walked in the door. I burst into tears. We spent the entire session stretching out my incredibly tense and misaligned body. Which was necessary. He was also extremely kind to me. Which didn’t hurt either. After I finished there, I felt like I reallllllllly needed to sweat, so I went up to the gym and killed the AMT machine (elliptical-thingie) on level TWENTY (the highest) for 30 minutes. The sweat felt good, really good.

Briefly ran into my spouse. Who had read my blog post from yesterday and offered to 1) support me in going to bed earlier so I am not so freaking EXHAUSTED and 2) take a walk with me early in the morning.  Now that’s what I call spousal support.

Went to work. Brought my new ball which is going to function as my new chair. We’ll see how this goes. Allegedly sitting on a ball is a hundred times better than a chair, and burns a lot more calories. My DirectLife was not WILDLY impressed, but I do think the little green spikes were higher than my chair-sitting hours.

Went to Weight Watchers. I sort of slunk in there, feeling like, WHO THE HECK ARE YOU to be doing this, when you are so completely messed up?!? Well. I’ll tell ya.

A member came in. She had gained (less than me). She burst into tears. Then she told me about the VERY BIG THINGS she has been dealing with lately. I said to her, “If this was one of your dearest friends in this same situation, would you be beating them up and berating them?” (Hmm, sound familiar?) I gave her some Kleenex. I almost started crying myself. It was the biggest mirror ever. In fact, it turned me right around. When she left later on, I felt like she was going to go home and be nicer to herself.

After the meeting, I met with another good friend.  She asked me how I was doing. Amazingly, I did NOT start sobbing my face off. I told her. She listened. It was so good. She told me some stuff back. We pledged to support each other. Once again, honesty (especially in the hardest times) rules.

I am so very very fortunate for my friends and community. The church I (occasionally) go to has a prayer that says “we are weaving a tapestry of love we call community” and that is how I feel about the people who are surrounding me and holding me up on this journey.  Thank you.

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