I Am That Girl Now

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Mental flossing

I've been on Zoloft for a year now, and I think I want off. Before Zoloft I was careening between getting LOTS AND LOTS accomplished and utter paralysis due to exhaustion and fear, which was a pretty uncomfortable cycle. Once Zoloft kicked in, I just... ceased giving a rat's ass. Which was a huge relief, in so many ways, but the thing is that it's just pervasive and all-encompassing and I cannot give a rat's ass about ANYTHING. I would say that I hate this feeling but that would be an overstatement of the emotional force I can bring to bear on the subject... and really, that's the whole thing in a nutshell. If I can't feel strongly about the idea that I seem to be incapable of feeling strongly, this may be the equivalent of a large flashing sign saying YOU MAY WANT TO CHECK THIS SHIT OUT, YO.

I've got an appointment with my doctor in November, and I'm planning on telling her that I want off the happy pills. I've got a sense that maybe I have enough mental balance now to want to try life without the training wheels, see how my techniques work out. If things start tipping over, then go back to my therapist; if things get bad and therapy isn't helping, then and only then try pills again.

I've got issues I need to deal with, no question. Procrastination, fear of failure, oversensitivity to criticism, perfectionism, all of that. At the risk of sounding like a total internet-age hippie chick, I've got some visualization exercises on my iPod and I'm planning on listening to them on the El, rather than reading (which, much as I love it, is still avoidance and escapism).

Life just feels like it's going on without my input, like when I was a kid and the merry-go-round was spinning a little too fast for me to hop on. Gotta just grab on and risk the fall and the scraped knees. Gotta do something and break out of the comfort zone because it's killing me, bit by bit.

Isn't that what this is all about? Food is comfort, inactivity is comfort, avoidance of change is comfort, but comfort doesn't get me anything. All it does is give me an illusion of contentment without actually being content; I get what comforts me but not what I want. That has to change.

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Monday, October 30, 2006

Time is of the essence

I hate to cook during the week. I love cooking on the weekends, but on weekdays it's a whole 'nother story. After a full day at work, what I mostly want to do is leave my brain on autopilot for an hour or so, so I hate having to figure out what's for dinner. It doesn't help that my hungry Hub will peek into the kitchen ever few minutes looking mournful and asking if dinner is ready yet, which puts a whole extra pressure on me; he doesn't want to wait, I don't want to cook, and dinner will take a certain amount of time no matter what.

I'm always looking for stuff that I can do on the weekends that doesn't mean cooking a whole meal in advance-- I don't trust us to eat a full pre-made meal before a) it goes bad in the refrigerator or b) I put it in the freezer and then we lose track of it for forever. Why? Well, because we're fickle people. What we want to eat depends on the weather, on how our days went, on what we had for lunch, on what sounds good. I'd rather keep food in easy-to-assemble components until dinnertime. The problem is that food that comes as easy-to-assemble components tends to be a) flavored in ways I don't want, b) too full o' sodium or fat or both, and c) just too fucking expensive. Seriously, the price of chicken breasts versus whole chickens is bad enough, but taking that to the next level and buying par-cooked cut-up chicken? Oh hell no. Rice is another one; we like having brown rice with dinner, and it's pretty much necessary for things like my Mexican-mess-in-a-pan (rice, tomatoes, ground chicken or turkey breast or Boca ground, black beans, taco seasoning) and stir-fry and such, but it takes FOREVER to make.

I may have made my very own kit meal.

Frozen stir-fry veggies are pretty cheap, compared to frozen stir-fry kits, so I just buy bags of those veggies. I made four batches of my favorite from-scratch stir-fry sauce (I'm big on ginger and low-sodium soy sauce so hey, what the hell), poured each into a little snack-sized ziplock bag and froze 'em. I've got a bunch of chicken breasts cooked and cut up and portioned up in the same kind of baggies, and for my final experiment I cooked a big pot o' rice and divvied it up, half a cup per baggie (we don't go with the full cup per person), pressed them flat, and froze.

I was pretty sure this would work for stir-fry assembly, and if I wanted to throw together some kind of chicken dish I could still use that portioned chicken for it, and if I wanted to make something that involved rice I could still use the rice for that. I wasn't entirely sure how it would go, though, which is why tonight was a big night: tonight was the first time I tried this stuff out.

The sauce and rice packets got thrown under cold running water for a bit to thaw out, and then I emptied the rice packets into a bowl and threw 'em in the microwave. Two minutes later: fluffy hot rice. (I'm sure it's not exactly the same as fresh-cooked rice, but I must admit I couldn't tell the difference and neither could my Hub.) Hot wok, frozen chicken tossed in, then after a minute the frozen veggies, then after they were all thawed I added the sauce. I grabbed the nubbin of fresh ginger from the freezer and grated off about an inch into the whole mess, which really upped the scent profile. Let it get nice and hot and then served over the hot rice.

Pretty darn tasty. Not perfect, but better than take-out from down the street, significantly less greasy, less expensive, and it actually took less time to throw together than it would have taken for delivery or take-out. And I didn't have to think or work very hard after work. Hooray!

Other things which have come out of my "do ahead and freeze the fucker" mentality: the stuff my sister calls "garbage broth", made from the scraps of vegetables thrown into a freezer bag and eventually turned into vegetable (or chicken, if we've also been saving chicken bones) broth, and the made-ahead mire-poix (carrots/celery/onion, which serve as the base of many a dish) which I chopped up en masse and froze. My Hub was very dubious of both these ideas and has since decided that both of them are fabulous. My new rule of thumb, I think, is that if a sauce can be mixed and frozen ahead of time, or a meat can be cut and cooked and frozen ahead of time, or a vegetable can be chopped up and frozen ahead of time, then by God I'm going to do it. As long as something will be cooked anyway and thus won't mind the cellular damage due to freezing, then why not? Freeze stuff as flat as possible so that it can be defrosted as fast as possible, and voila: homemade convenience foods.

Future flat-bagged freezer experiments: pasta sauce, vegetables for roasting, soups, chopped onions (I may have, um, accidentally purchased a second bag of onions when I forgot we already had one), chopped apples (we always get a few apples badly bruised in each bag and this way I could cut off the bruised parts, chop and freeze the rest, and have ready-to-go apple-crisp apples) and pears (same with bruised pears), scallions... I'll try anything, what the hell. It's getting on winter, which means that more of our food is hot, even the fruit.

I'm going to beat this cooking-on-weekdays thing. Seriously, I am.

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

In which I go off on a bit of a rant.

I didn't grow up in a family that walked places, or who went out of their way to frequent small, local businesses. In my home town, you can tell exactly which areas were developed before the 1970s and which were developed after, because the newer areas have no sidewalks and big parking lots. This is a town of about 15,000 people, and you'd think that urban sprawl wouldn't be a problem for such a teeny place, and yet, there you have it. If my parents wanted to walk to the grocery store, they'd have to walk two miles, part of which would be along the highway. And speaking of the grocery stores, in the twenty years my parents have lived in that town the two grocery stores have moved to the outskirts of town, one on each highway; instead of being located in areas where lots of people could walk to them, now they're surrounded by undeveloped land and giant parking lots. Twenty years, and things have changed drastically.

My parents own three cars. They use two of them on any given day. They walk nowhere. If pressed to use a pedometer, I'm pretty sure they'd log less than 3,000 steps per day.

We are built to adapt to our environment, we humans, and we do it brilliantly. If something is a pain in the ass, and there's an easier way to do it, we usually do it the easier way. It really comes as no surprise that nobody back home goes to the grocery store on foot; they take their cars.

I fervently believe that half the obesity problem in America is due to the fact that we have built our environments to make cars practically the only form of transportation. My general rule of thumb to determine the livability of a neighborhood is this: if it's more than half a mile from a grocery store, if I have to cross anything resembling a highway, if I have to walk on a street because there are no sidewalks-- if any or all of those things are true, then that neighborhood is designed to encourage obesity. It's probably a very nice neighborhood and very quiet and very private, but it's set up in such a way that the people who live there will not be pedestrians, and a pedestrian neighborhood has a leg up on keeping weight down.

My grandmother shopped at a grocery store that was four blocks from her house. I remember it very well; I used to tag along. There was a small parking lot, but for the most part it was foot traffic. When they closed that grocery store, Grandma walked a lot less, and it had a noticable impact on her health.

It frustrates me greatly that this is somehow so difficult. It's easy for people to push the idea of walking 10,000 steps per day-- and I'm a big proponent of it, myself-- but this is significantly easier for someone in my position, where I get about half those steps every day just from walking from our apartment to the El to work and back again. On the one hand, I'm lucky; on the other hand, I've very cold-bloodedly made the decision to live where I live for this specific reason, to live in a city with good public transportation and to live close enough to that public transportation that it's easier to take the train than to drive to work.

We're reaping the rewards of fifty years of development focused on automobile transportation: we're trapped in environments that stack the deck toward getting fat, and that make us utterly dependent on a form of transportation that both pollutes the environment and hamstrings our ability to deal rationally with oil-producing countries. There's so much that would have to be done to reverse this that it's just overwhelming, and in the meantime we have to live in this world, have to choose between spending a ton on mortgages in an environment condusive to pedestrian traffic, or spending a ton on car payments and gasoline and have to work in exercise time on top of all the time spent in the car.

This? This sucks. I feel horrible trying to encourage my mother to work more walking into her day when walking anywhere means dodging cars and where walking to the grocery store will make people pull over to ask if you need a lift, because they assume your car broke down. Worse, it makes it into an all-or-nothing sort of thing for her; it's not like she can just walk a block or two to get to a store, she'd have to walk TWO MILES.

My parents once lived in NYC for a few years, and while they were there they were avid pedestrians, both because they loathed driving in the city and because everything they needed was within half a mile or so. They tried to keep this up when they moved back to the Midwest-- I remember that when I was a tiny kid they still had a little metal cart that they'd used for groceries back in NYC-- but the environment just made it too challenging to continue. And this is in a small town, for pity's sake; it's not a suburb (a whole other mutant species of town), you'd think that it might be different there. It's not.

I don't have the faintest idea where I'm going with this. It can't be a call to action, because I don't have a clue what anyone can do about it. Mostly, I think, I'm just-- just sad about it. It grieves me. I had this sudden flash of what my hometown could be like if they'd made all of it pedestrian-friendly, instead of just the pre-1970 parts, and, man, it could have been gorgeous. I wish, I wish, I wish.

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The case of the suspicious tummy dents

My Hub kept poking at his belly yesterday. "There are DENTS in it. Here on the sides. DENTS. It's like I'm a car door. It is WEIRD."

"Yeah," I said, "I noticed them last week. Your belly starts lower than it used to, and ends higher. I think it's shrinking from all sides and converging on your belly button."

"That's totally screwed up."

"Dude, fat recedes from all your parts at the same time. It's like you're a particularly knobby kind of onion and are peeling off layers."

"Can't it just deflate my tummy first?"

"No. But your neck is already starting to look thinner, and you've got definition in your calves--"

"Where?" He cranked his head over his shoulder and practically chased his tail, trying to look.

"--and your arms have less fat and more muscle. Not bad for five weeks of exercise and three weeks of healthy eating."

Which is true. He's also improving his flexibility and strength by littles, thanks to his wacky yoga, and I swear to God he's taller. Maybe his posture is improving from the yoga, maybe it's just that he's got less horizontal mass to distract from the vertical length, but he looks taller. I'm getting a bit nervous about this. I've always loved him regardless of what form he chooses to take, and I've always been attracted to him, but I don't know what will become of me if he turns into a hottie. I may just melt into a little puddle.

He had a bit of a crisis this past weekend when, after a burrito and nacho and beer dinner at a friend's house (for what he terms EATING NIGHT), he weighed in the next morning at exactly what he'd weighed three weeks ago. Much wailing and gnashing of teeth resulted and I had to reassure him a hundred times that he had water retention and several pounds of slowly-digesting food, not magically-recreated fat. After four days he was right as rain again, and today he hit a new low, six pounds below his starting weight.

Happily, the fact that I was correct about his burrito-weight being temporary means that he's willing to grudgingly accept my notions on how the whole diet thing works. He started panicking yesterday about Thanksgiving. I told him that a) it's not what he does on Thanksgiving that he should worry about, but about what his habits are on the other days, and b) he may want to resign himself early to not losing weight that week. This did not please him, but he's mulling it over.

A momentary YAY for two momentous occasions: 1) I weighed myself for the first time in forever on Saturday, thus confirming my suspicions about where my weight was, and 2) I weighed myself again on Wednesday and came in a pound and a half lower. Which is undoubtedly just due to normal fluctuation, so I'm not getting too excited; given that I'm not going crazy hardcore it may take me a few weeks to regularly clock in around that level. Slow and steady, yadda yadda yadda.

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Monday, October 16, 2006

Fuck the scale.

The fun thing about having to do part of my healthy-lifestyle journey over again and regain all the ground I lost is that there's a lot of stuff I don't have to re-do. This time through, I'm checking in with the scale occasionally, but for the most part I could give a damn.

I am not going to get obsessed this time. I am not going to beat myself up when I re-discover that 130 lbs. is pretty much the limit without making myself sick. I am not going to count calories. I am, however, going try my best to eat healthy at least 80% of the time, and I am gonna kick the YRG workout's ass if it kills me. No way that thing is beating me. No way.

My Hub had his "free day" meal on Saturday, and after consuming a giant burrito and several beers and some nachos and cookies, he woke up Sunday morning feeling lousy. He also woke up with his weight right back where he started a few weeks ago, and sought reassurance all day that he had not, in fact, screwed everything up in one day. I reminded him that he was the one who enjoys weighing himself pre- and post- bathroom time, and so he should know better than anyone that waste has a direct effect on weight. Not to mention he took in more sodium in one night than he has for the past two weeks, so there's a bit of a water retention thing going on, too. This, too, shall pass-- literally.

Back to the YRG workout thing, though. I am becoming infatuated with it. (Girls, if you want to see if you can get your guy to work out with you, get him to try this. I am so very serious.) It focuses on all the weak spots and inflexible spots that develop as a result of spending all day at a desk, and it really gets the ol' heart rate up while simultaneously working on flexibility and strength. The only down side is that it really kicks my ass. I switched up to the 40-minute workout, rather than the 20-minute one, on both Saturday and Sunday, and it completely whipped me. My Hub fell asleep on his mat during corpse pose ("deadman") at the end of the workout on Sunday, and I fell asleep on the couch shortly thereafter.

Bonus: thus far, no injuries. My trick ankle had a twinge on Saturday, but that's about all. Usually by this point I'll have done something to my ankle, and the opposite knee, with an optional knot over one shoulderblade and kink in the back. Hooray! I've still been using the exercise bike on non-yoga days, so altogether I've got a whole low-impact thing going on.

I am putting an image in my mind of my goal that isn't willowy at all. I'm short and when I'm in shape the shape I'm in is like what would happen if you take a tall fitness model, add several more body fat percentage points, and compress lengthwise. All body parts in proportion to each other, just thicker than I tend to think is attractive. I hereby vow to find this attractive. If I get in shape and still hate what I see, that does nobody any good, particularly my darling husband who thinks I look awesome in whatever form I assume, and particularly me, because it'll just get me all discouraged. Hell with it. I am built like a woman who's meant to head-butt her way through walls, regardless of body-fat percentage, and I am going to rock that look and love it, by God. This is going to be my ideal; what good is it to want to look like some other chick? This is MY body and it RULES, thank you, and all other bodies can just go do their things 'cause this is MINE.

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

What, now I'm shy?

I still haven't figured out what to do with my free month of time at the fancy gym. I mean, yay, but what do I do about my Hub, who would be sad and bereft without me now that we're actually working out together on a regular basis for the first time in... ever? (I'm not counting the time I desperately tried to get him to jog with me. That never worked out right and never happened regularly.) I should call the lady and hash this out with her.

Truth be told, I'm a bit nervous. I still haven't lost my depression-era (har har) poundage, although since my Hub got on the diet & fitness train I've noticed my rings getting loose again; the point being that I'll have to disrobe in a locker room, which I've always felt fairly odd about. I have been a solo exerciser ever since I started this thing; once upon a time I belonged to a gym, but it was underground and windowless (two things I violently dislike), and far enough from work that it was a hassle to get there and impossible to get there during lunch, get a workout, shower, and get back without running over the lunch hour, so I quit. It was also a pretty basic gym; nothing fancy. The one I've got the month-long freebie membership to, though, is one of those INSANELY AWESOME gyms that has a pool and a climbing wall and everything under the sun, and it's aboveground and sunny.

The main thing is, I'm not sure what I'm going to do there. I'm stunned by the possibilities and options, and also kind of scared. It's been a while since I've had to risk making a fool out of myself in front of other people, so this makes me pretty nervous.

In less nervous news, my Hub is utterly crazy about the Yoga for Regular Guys workout. Word for word quote, here: "This is the first time I have ever enjoyed exercise in my entire life." (I think this may not be quite accurate, since he used to do judo, but I suspect he doesn't qualify that as exercise in his head.) He's working his ass off and I suspect he's lost at least five pounds in the past two weeks. He's a happy camper. I'm pretty happy about this, myself; I'm kind of wondering what the hell he'll look like after a month or two of this. I've never seen him without his beer gut.

In one of those moments where life just comes together perfectly, I discovered an unopened container of chocolate-flavored whey protein from my aborted stint on Body For Life. Since my Hub has been drinking whey-protein smoothies for his "second dinner" and occasionally mixing it in with his cereal milk in the mornings, he's been going through the Trader Joe's protein powder pretty quickly, and that's more expensive (and more chalky) than the All The Whey stuff. If it turns out he likes this brand, we'll order some more, just in time to get in on the sale on ATW.

We need to get the boy some red meat, though, and soon. He is tiring of chicken breasts in a big hurry.

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Friday, October 06, 2006


First of all, awesome thing re: our office-- they brought a bunch of companies in for a health fair today, including flu shots (which I missed, unfortunately) and chair massages and free lunch from Whole Foods. All of this was totally awesome. I got to chat with a trainer from this health club next door to our office, and ask him questions on how I could achieve better form with my squats, with my screwed-up hamstrings and all.

And then, I won a free month worth of time at the fancy health club! TOTALLY AWESOME! I'm not sure how we're going to swing this, since my husband won't be able to come in with me, but OH DUDE, I get to play at a fancy health club!

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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Oh, my, it's been a while.

I'm back!

In the past several weeks, many fun things have occurred:

1) I utterly gave up on vegetarianism because my husband couldn't ever figure out what to cook, so we ended up eating out entirely too much. New plan: I'm going to try to buy free-range chicken and as little red meat as possible.

2) We've permanently adjusted our work schedules so that we get to work at 7:30 AM and leave at 3:30 PM, thus avoiding most of the commuting traffic and making it so that we have time to collapse for about an hour before either of us has to think of making dinner. It is most sincerely awesome.

3) We finally saw Supersize Me. WOW. Okay, more on that later, but suffice it to say that as of right now neither one of us ever wants to eat McDonald's again.

4) My husband the pro-wrestling fan discovered Yoga for Regular Guys. He bought the book, which alone amazed me. I was more amazed when, a few days later, he tried the 20-minute routine. He was in pain for several days after that, since YRG completely kicked his ass, and I kind of figured, "Well, now we're screwed, he's not going to do that anymore." Never let it be said my Hub cannot surprise me, though, because by golly after four days of rest he did the routine again, and since then he's not only done it every other day, but he's trying the 30-minute routine, too. Now he's purchased the DVDs, and a second yoga mat, so we will be doing yoga together. I cannot possibly overstate how much this has surprised me. I am BOGGLED.

I had absolutely nothing to do with this, either. He found the book, he bought it, he did the routines by himself (hiding in another room) for two weeks, then he started teaching it to me. He's pushing himself. He's started figuring out the ins and outs of nutrition, has started eating breakfast, and taught himself how to poach fish. He has purchased (and drinks) carrot juice. He is trying to figure out how much he should be eating, and consciously trying to eat healthier. Wow.

Thank God for all of this, because I was completely out of oomph. Three years of being the solo source of healthy-living motivation in our household had drained me to the point where it was all I could do to drink my water for the day and strap on my pedometer. Thank God, thank God, thank God.

So, now on odd days I pedal the exercise bike while playing video games, and on even days I do power yoga with my Hub. It is everything I ever dreamed of. I am the happiest (and sorest) woman you've ever seen.

5) My mother (MY MOTHER) has purchased a yoga book, Yoga For Wimps. She's tentatively considering trying it out. My father is being a jackass on the subject, loudly predicting that she'll never touch the book. I need to get him on the phone alone and kick his ass, I think, because Mom does enough of doubting herself, so having Dad do it, too, is twice as much doubt and too much for one person to handle. I must also get Mom on the phone alone and talk her around Dad's assitude, and be gentle and supportive.

The hilarious thing here is that our downstairs neighbor got rid of a yoga mat right after we bought a second one, so now we have three. I'm sending one to my mom. I have this amusing vision of the whole family doing competing yoga routines at Christmas-- my sister and her boyfriend doing one kind, me and my Hub doing another, and my mom doing a third. I will have to impress upon Dad that in the event that happens, he'll have to learn this stuff, too; not only does he not like being left out, but he's got a bad back and yoga would help.

So. Welcome to October, eh?

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