Saturday, December 29, 2007

Humpty de Dump, Dumb, Dumb

I have been lolling around on my humpty these last few days, thinking great thoughts and trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up. In other words, I have been doing pretty much nothing, day dreaming and trying to recover from the annual, exhausting extravaganza that is Christmas.

I just saw an online ad for Dodge cars. It was one of those "beautiful people" ads, where everyone was slim and gorgeous, and doing fabulous things like surfing off the coast of California and hiking in a beautiful forest. Ho-hum, I thought. That's not me. Then I saw the tagline on the ad and it galvanized me: "Make the most of every mile."

That's something I worry about a lot...that I let myself get so upset, so worried, so unfocused by all the dumb little distractions in my life, that I lose sight of the goals that are important to me and end up wasting most of my time in non-productive ways. I am definitely NOT making the most of every mile. But January is nothing if not a time for new beginnings, so instead of the usual 372 resolutions I faithfully trot out every year, knowing I will fail to keep any of them, I will trot out just one this year. In 2008, I intend to make the most out of every mile, no matter what that mile may be or where that mile might be taking me.

For reasons far too boring to go into here, I have been through an emotional buzz saw these last two weeks. It's not over yet but I can see that light shining at the end of the tunnel, so I am hanging on for dear life, praying for the dreaded Christmas door to close and the hopeful New Year door to open.

I live a quiet, peaceful and solitary life by choice, because I don't like conflict or an excess of emotion. My current situation is a nightmare that landed in my lap. Yeah, I know...Merry effing Christmas. I bear a little responsibility for what is going on but I've been assigned all the blame and am getting all the punishment. Psychologically, I am bleeding from every pore, but God made me nothing if not strong. Soon it will be over and I will go back to my peaceful, solitary life. The damage will be permanent, but there's nothing I can do about that except pick myself up and go on.

Many people have suggested I cut the offender out of my life, but the offender is in deep psychological distress right now, and needs a strong anchor more than ever. I am sorry this person thinks it's alright to be emotionally abusive and cruel and cold to me, but if I return this behavior in kind, then he or she sinks even further into the black hole they are swirling in. I have been so angry and so hurt I have seriously considered slamming the door, then I saw Oprah yesterday, a show about people who attempted suicide and yet, against all odds, were saved. These were not half-hearted attempts, either. One lady threw herself off a 200 foot tall bridge, a teen girl threw herself under a roaring freight train and a teen boy blew his face off with a shotgun. None of the three should be here, but they are.

Normally, I would not have even watched such a show. I think to take your own life is a sin, courtesy of the Catholic upbringing that I just can't seem to shake. But something told me that I had to watch and so I did. In all three cases, it was a rejection or a judgment by the person who has the same relationship to these people who tried to kill themselves that I have to the person who is being so abusive to me at the moment. That rejection was the trigger that sent them over the edge. So I know this person who is feeding me inch by inch into the wood chipper right now is in a lot of pain and knows no other safe way to rage than against me. And I know more than ever that I have to hang on and be there for them in their crisis, even though all their behavior is designed to crush me and drive me away. I am strong enough to do it, but the person is away for a few days, visiting other relatives, and it's only now in the last two days, as I have drifted without purpose from one silly little activity to another, that I have come to realize what a toll the last two weeks have taken on me. I feel hollow and empty and every cell in my body rings with a sort of dull ache.

For fifteen years, I wrote a humor column. It won the top award for newspaper columns in two states, and for a while there, I entertained the thought that I might make it as a nationally syndicated humorist. Then I went to New York and met with some agents and mostly got this response..."Who are you? Are you Erma Bombeck? I don't think so. No one's going to publish you unless you are Erma Bombeck."

I imagine some variation of this was told to hundreds of aspiring humorists back in the 80s and 90s, when Bombeck, Dave Barry, Mike Royko, and Art Buchwald reigned supreme and made millions of people laugh every week. We weren't needed or wanted so our work was rebuffed.

So where are our humorists now when we as a nation and individuals need them more than ever? Bombeck, Royko and Buchwald are dead, and Barry is retired. And some of the very editors who spent 20 years rejecting every new humorous voice because it wasn't one of the giants are looking desperately for a new voice now. But they're going about it the wrong way. They've forgotten the vital role that editors used to play in bring ing new writers along. Now the publishing houses and editors that used to help refine and develop talent demand that talent arrive on their doorsteps with a well-established name and millions of loyal followers already in place. And my question in this day of e-books and print on demand is, if you have accomplished that all on your own, exactly why do you need a New York publisher? Answer: you don't.

After several brutal rejections, I went back home with my tail between my legs, thoroughly beaten, convinced I was a lousy writer, even though I had thousands (but not millions) of faithful fans. Then another awful thing happened. My kids, my inspiration for all the funny columns, became teenagers, and suddenly life was not so funny anymore. Overnight, I became stupid, embarrassing and "the worst Mother in the world." Those turbulent years robbed me of my sense of humor and I found I was no longer able to produce a weekly column that made people laugh out loud. What I wrote made people want to swallow whole bottles of pills, or slit their wrists, kind of like what I am writing today. Just like that, my 10-year career as a humorist was over.

Then I met Pigassus and his lovely wife, Trina, and they made me laugh again. I reconnected with who I really was. They became my older, more loving and much more kind children. My own flesh and blood hated them with an unreasoning hatred. They didn't love me and they sure as hell didn't want anyone else loving me either, because that gave the lie to their theory that I was horrid and essentially unlovable.

Ah, motherhood. All I can say is...consider carefully before you have children.

Anyway, as kids grow older, sometimes, they realize the error of the harsh judgments they pass on their parents. I occasionally see glimmers of hope but I am not there yet. And this Christmas reminded me just how far I still have to go. And it also reminded me that I cannot let go, no matter how appealing that may seem, because it is often when people are pushing against you the hardest that they need you to stick with them the most. So stick I will, even though the battle is costing me dearly.

I find myself drifting into another day of ennui, so I think I will rouse myself, go walk on the treadmill, and see if I can do something productive today. I sure hate to let another days' worth of miles go by without making the most of them.

Feeling blue...

Planet Fat Cat

Friday, December 28, 2007

Good Luck, You'll Need It!

So Christmas is over and it is on to the next big “Ha, You’re Still Single!” event of the year, New Year’s Eve. Which means that even though I survived crawling into bed alone Christmas Eve and waking up alone Christmas morning, I now get the honor of standing alone, looking cavalier and faking good cheer at the stroke of midnight on the 31st, while my friends all do a lip smack-down on their significant others.

But hey, ya pays your money and ya takes your chances. I don’t have to go to a New Year’s party; I can sit at home watching soft-core “adult” movies on Cinemax, right? And a few days later I can go get a cat, the first of a few dozen, and start my year with all the furry companionship I can stand. Then a couple years from now, when they come to saw the door off my apartment so they can take my 800 pound ass to the hospital, cats racing to and fro for cover, I can look up with my Crispy Crème encrusted face and say to the paramedic, “Hey, at least I wasn’t alone this New Year’s…”

Heck, maybe Karl, the really strong and heavily mustachioed paramedic, will give me a lip smack-down so the horror will be complete.

Who am I kidding, that won’t happen… Karl probably has a really hot boyfriend.

But I digress.

I didn’t intend to go on about the tragedy of single-hood, I actually wanted to talk about the insanity of placing any serious meaning on the first of the year. Why, as reasonable and educated adults, do we place so much emphasis and pin so many hopes on a date on the calendar? Just another day, another Tuesday like any other, but we make it out as if we are sending off the space shuttle of our whole year and screwing the launch will bring explosive disaster. F**k up New Year’s Day and spend the rest of the year searching the ocean for flaming wreckage.

Is that really how it works? Can anyone say that the successes, failures, promises, or recriminations on New Year’s day really had an impact on the rest of the year or the rest of a life? If I want to lose weight, am I only serious on the first and just kidding today, a Friday? We must be more “evolved” as a species. Aren’t the creatures that invented nuclear reactors and comfort-adjustable beds far enough along that each and every single day has the same opportunities for greatness, glory, anguish and angst as the next? Will Pakistan wake up Tuesday morning repaired and ready to make a resolution to stop fighting and start the “healing process”?

Somehow I doubt it.

Yet as skeptical as I am, I can’t help but think there is a little magic in that old silk hat they found.

No, that’s not right, I’m behind a holiday.

I’m suggesting that we do give meaning to the day beyond the rising and the setting of the sun. The Earth knows nothing of our calendar; it will turn inexorably around no matter that we call the day “January First 2008” or we rename it “Spaghetti-O’s” in honor of the famous Chef Boyardee. But it must mean something to us. We give it some power over our lives. We invest hope in the day.

I still don’t understand why we do, but I am willing to accept that we do. I have always said my understanding or acceptance of a thing is not necessary for it’s existence. So when I wake up this year on January 1st, I too will look with new hope for the future.

Even if I had to stand there at midnight alone, faking that bitter smile, and hoping that somehow in the next 365 days I might find another wandering soul to keep me company for at least a little while.


Monday, December 24, 2007

A Year-Long Fuse

In the rare moments when I can quiet my mind enough to actually think, I think about the human condition...our virtues, our foibles, why we do the things we do, why we're so wonderful and so terrible all at the same time.

I think about life. Life has a rhythm and flow to it, just like a river. Sometimes life is joyous and flows quickly, so quickly you can scarce keep up with it. It's joyous and full of anticipation, of dreams of the possible and unexpected.

Other times life puddles into stagnant little ponds and you feel like you're going nowhere. 2007 has been one of those "puddlin'" years for me, so I will be happy to kiss it goodbye, kick it to the curb and start over again.

It's funny how we arrange our lives into years punctuated by holidays and special events like birthdays, weddings, births, deaths, anniversaries and funerals. We've all had our share of most of these occasions, sometimes more than our share. We get new jobs, new friends, new lovers, our lives spin around and flow in new directions, and sometimes we crash head first right into a wall, or stall out in a dead end alley just because we refuse to acknowledge we don't know where we're going, and sometimes, even what we're doing.

My dad always told me that to get anywhere you had to have a map. I assumed he was talking about roads because he was an engineer and loved maps with unbridled passion. But he was wise, so as I grow older, I came to know he was talking about life, too.

When I was young, I was so full of passion and fire that I was like a raging spring river, full of ideas and imagination. I was going to take 34th Street, 7th Avenue, Madison Avenue, Wall Street, Broadway and Sunset Boulevard all by storm. I was going to own the world. But looking back, I realize I never had a map. I didn't know where I was going so I had no clue how to get there. I just had these deep-seated yearnings to do something, to be something...I just never knew what. As a result, I never got anywhere.

Age and experience have taught me a few things by now. One truth that always hits me square in the face this time of year is how we human beings are like candles with year-long fuses. We light up in January, when the year is full of possibility and promise, and splutter out in December, when we are tired and our options are gone and it's getting harder and harder to lie to ourselves about what a mess we made of the year.

I will say without equivocation: 2007 sucked for me. It was probably one of the worst years of my life. I tried to make sense of it all but the body blows just kept on coming...some my fault, most not.

Still, there was no tragedy in my year, so I hesitate to complain to God too much.

Whether I muster up the strength to complain about it or not, 2007 was a sucky year in many ways. Possibly one of the most annoying was that I finally made this decision to lose weight and get fit; I found a program and stuck to it for 90 days, and what did I get out of it? Almost exactly nothing.

But I did learn I can stick to a program, and that was huge. As a result, I have ordered a significant piece of exercise equipment for myself. I didn't do it precipitously. I studied and read about all sorts of different programs and pieces of equipment and finally settled on this one as being best for my age and state of fitness and for my inclinations. I also ordered a particular exercise program on DVD to complement the equipment I ordered. Once these arrive and I start doing them, I will report my results.

There's nothing to report right now except that I am sitting on my haunches for the rest of the year, and the interesting thing is, I haven't gained any weight even though I'm not exercising at the moment. So maybe I changed my body's metabolism ever so slightly with those 90 days of walking on my treadmill, or maybe the God of Fat Asses took pity on me and is giving me a Yuletide pass.

Here's wishing all our loyal readers a safe, happy and prosperous 2008. And here's wishing myself and Pigassus the same thing.

Planet Fat Cat

Friday, December 21, 2007

Don't Eat Green Jello

First of all I would like to thank my friend Fat Cat for supplying the world with perhaps the most poignant, and funniest, rendition of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” extant. I am not really sure what “dew-laps” are, but they sound revolting, so I imagine they fit nicely in the song. Unfortunately this year I can empathize with the extra chins, stretch marks, and thunderous thighs because of the many times in the last 12 months I have stared down at my scale and screamed, “FIVE GOLDEN POUNDS?!?!”

For the sake of accuracy, please substitute “golden” in the above exclamation with a word in common usage that refers to the act of reproduction in higher mammals.

BUT don’t think this year was without some victories and I am here merely to whine again about my failing joints and expanding ass. Because in addition to those things, I can also report that the standing desk investment might in fact have begun to pay some small weight loss dividends. Last week, for the first time since I challenged Fat Cat to a “Weight Loss Mardi-Gras to the Death Buffet”, I actually lost weight!

Yessiree folks, I am now only 217.5 gorgeous pounds of man-flesh. Instead of gaining two pounds last week, as I had for the last couple months, I actually lost 1.5 pounds.

I should mention too that since I installed the standing desks and began to “waterboard” my back and feet, I actually exercised LESS than in the five or six months prior. My reluctance to actually cause permanent damage to my joints by over-stressing them with hours of pong or jogging, while also spending hours standing at my computer, limited me to just three hours of “aerobic” exercise in each of the last two weeks. Normally I would easily work out three times as much. But, and this is my unscientific belief, the incredible benefit of standing for up to 12 hours a day instead of sitting has overcome my exercise deficit and actually gone far past it. I wasn’t even really dieting the last two weeks. I just stood around and lost weight.

I don’t wish to push religion onto this blog, but as far as I’m concerned it’s a small Christmas miracle. Thank you Lord!

Now of course I am cautious since it has been only one week of a loss preceded by a week of a smaller gain, but I love the trend line. And because I am a pragmatist and also a surrealist, I am even going to assume a gain this week and next given the certainty of over-indulgence in Christmas holiday dinners and treats. But in my mind, even if I gain a couple of disgusting fat pounds, I will assume without my new desks I would have gained many many more (since I have the will-power of sorority girl on Ruffies when it comes to cookies and ham).

So although I am loathe to do so, I am allowing hope to fill my shriveled, cellulite covered heart. Next year will be that year: the year I stop being worried about my health and start being PROUD of it.

Many Christmas blessings to all and thanks for reading,

Monday, December 17, 2007

The 12 Weighs of Christmas

On the 1st weigh of Christmas, my body gave to me...a mighty trunk that looked just like a tree.

On the 2nd weigh of Christmas, my body gave to me...two thunder thighs and a mighty trunk that looked just like a tree.

On the 3rd weigh of Christmas, my body gave to me...three spare tires, two thunder thighs and a mighty trunk that looked just like a tree.

On the 4th weigh of Christmas, my body gave to me...four double chins, three spare tires, two thunder thighs and a mighty trunk that looked just like a tree.

On the 5th weigh of Christmas, my body gave to me, five golden pounds…four double chins, three spare tires, two thunder thighs and a mighty trunk that looked just like a tree.

On the 6th weigh of Christmas, my body gave to me...six fat rolls a-flubbering, five golden pounds…four double chins, three spare tires, two thunder thighs and a mighty trunk that looked just like a tree.

On the 7th weigh of Christmas, my body gave to scales a-breaking, six fat rolls a-flubbering, five golden pounds…four double chins, three spare tires, two thunder thighs and a mighty trunk that looked just like a tree.

On the 8th weigh of Christmas, my body gave to me...eight jowls a-jiggling, seven scales a-breaking, six fat rolls a-flubbering, five golden pounds…four double chins, three spare tires, two thunder thighs and a mighty trunk that looked just like a tree.

On the 9th weigh of Christmas, my body gave to me...nine stretch marks spreading, eight jowls a-jiggling, seven scales a-breaking, six fat rolls a-flubbering, five golden pounds…four double chins, three spare tires, two thunder thighs and a mighty trunk that looked just like a tree.

On the 10th weigh of Christmas, my body gave to me...ten diets a-failing, nine stretch marks spreading, eight jowls a-jiggling, seven scales a-breaking, six fat rolls a-flubbering, five golden pounds…four double chins, three spare tires, two thunder thighs tocks and a mighty trunk that looked just like a tree.

On the 11th weigh of Christmas, my body gave to me...eleven fat cells plumping, ten diets a-failing, nine stretch marks spreading, eight jowls a-jiggling, seven scales a-breaking, six fat rolls a-flubbering, five golden pounds…four double chins, three spare tires, two thunder thighs and a mighty trunk that looked just like a tree.

On the 12th weigh of Christmas, my body gave to me...twelve dewlaps dangling, eleven fat cells plumping, ten diets a-failing, nine stretch marks spreading, eight jowls a-jiggling, seven scales a-breaking, six fat rolls a-flubbering, five golden pounds…four double chins, three spare tires, two thunder thighs and a mighty trunk that looked just like a tree.

Thank you ver-r-ry much. Planet Fat Cat has left the treadmill! I've completed the 90 Day Fitness Walking Program without losing much weight or gaining much fitness. Tune in starting January 2nd for my new and improved exercise program, whatever that may be. It will include walking, but won't be only walking.

Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukah! Happy Holidays!

And may 2008 weigh less on my mind (and behind) than 2007 did.

Planet Fat Cat

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Biggest Loser - (Hint: it's not me...)

When my dear little Piggie and I started this blog, we were both full of the fervor of the naive and deluded. We truly thought if we reduced the number of calories we took in each day, and added vigorous and sustained exercise, our bodies would follow the laws of science and slowly become smaller.

Hah! We were wrong. So much for what we thought.

My body has become smaller, but only by a miniscule amount. 4 days from now, I wrap up my 90 Day Fitness Walking Program without much to show on my body change-wise. I will have those 90 deceptively cheery little check-marks in my journal. Sorry, but that's cold comfort.

My inspiration, as I have said right from the beginning, was the contestants on The Biggest Loser. While I sweated and starved and lost 5 pounds, they sweated and starved and lost anywhere from 50 pounds to more than a hundred pounds in the same time frame. Okay, so I didn't have Jillian Michaels or Bob Harper beating my hump, but I did a decent job of beating my own hump, staying faithful to the program I had chosen. I just didn't understand the program I had chosen wasn't going to do me much good.

Hard to believe, but in 90 days of greatly increased physical activity and greatly reduced caloric intake, I have managed to shed exactly 5 pounds. Now 5 pounds is something, and I'll take it, but I was reading some ads for exercise programs last night, and one woman who started out a bit heavier than me at 215 pounds, claims she lost 41 pounds by doing nothing but this exercise for 90 days. She didn't even go on a diet and lost 21 inches and 41 pounds.

Needless to say, I ordered the DVD right away and will be reporting if it works or not. That's not such a self indulgence as it may seem. One thing I have proven to myself over the last three months is that I do have the will to stick to a program. I truly do want to change my life and remake my body; I just haven't found what works for me yet and that is frustrating. So I guess I made the wrong choice; I walked and dieted for 90 days and lost five pounds; this lady did an exercise tape for 90 days and didn't diet and lost 41 pounds. So she will go to her Christmas celebrations a new woman at 163 pounds and I will go to mine looking like the same old marshmallow in a dress.

Doesn't seem fair to me.

Anyway, on to the topic at hand...The Biggest Loser. Isabeau finally won a challenge, dragging the 73 pounds she had lost so far across the desert faster than anyone else on the team. When she dumped those pounds into a trench and raised her flag, she won $10,000. I was really happy for her. She has grown up a lot since the show began. At first, she was kind of a whiny baby, but with Jillian beating her regularly and forcing her to confront the issues that made her overeat, she finally accepted responsibility for her own health.

Tuesday's show can be summed up in two words: poetic justice. When Neil weighed in and it was revealed he had lost 10 pounds, my heart sank. I thought there was no way he was going to fall below the yellow line with that double digit weight loss. So it looked like he had made it to the finals, and from there, I think he would have been a shoo-in to win.

Then Holly weighed in and lost 5 pounds, a pretty good result for her, but still dicey. Then Bill weighed in with a loss of 9 pounds, and as a percentage of his body weight, that made him beat both Neil and Holly. Then Julie weighed in, and was told she had to lose at least 7 pounds to stay above the yellow line. I was sweating bullets because Julie usually only loses 2 to 4 pounds a week. I thought sure she would fall below the line, but she came through with a loss of 8 pounds, catapulting her to the top of the chart. Finally it was Isabeau's turn and she lost 8 pounds, too, pushing Neil and Holly below the yellow line.

The Black Team did it! Rejected and left alone in the desert, they came back with the guidance and leadership of their kick-ass trainer, Jillian Michaels, and totally eliminated both the Red and the Blue Teams, a first in Biggest Loser history. They stuck together and voted Neil out, which is where the poetic justice comes in. Neil finally paid for his cheating ways and no one could be happier about that than me. If he had ended up being this season's "Biggest Loser," I'm not sure I could ever bear to watch the show again. For once, justice triumphed!

Anyway, I have a dumb business meeting next Tuesday night so I am going to have to tape the program, but I am still anxiously awaiting two things...the arrival of my new exercise tape, and the outcome of The Biggest Loser. I will actually be happy no matter which one of the four Black Team members win, but my sentimental favorite is probably Isabeau.

Planet Fat Cat

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Oinks On the Passing Scene

One of my favorite columnists is a gentleman named Thomas Sowell, noted economist and professor. Although I appreciate reading his well written and erudite articles and books, my guilty pleasure with regards to his works, given my excruciatingly short attention span and limited retention, are his “Random Thoughts” columns – bulleted lists of short observations about life in general. I am far too small a person, in stature and metaphorically speaking, to pass upon the opportunity to clamber onto the shoulder of an intellectual giant and try my hand at something similar. I shall call my inconsequential observations "Oinks On the Passing Scene"... which I hope is not already in use and likely to provoke legal action.

* This Monday, after a full week of standing at my new desks, I have several squealings and oinks to report.

1. My feet and back hurt badly enough to make me wish for an immediate morphine addiction and a subsequent treatment program that includes more morphine and a private room with Lindsay Lohan. Actually, screw it, just more morphine.

2. The simple act of standing at my desk has given me the impression that even unproductive, pedestrian activities such as playing World of Warcraft suddenly feel more important and useful. Now when I kill goblins and orcs, it really seems like I am accomplishing something and am not just a huge freaking dork.

3. The pooling of blood in my legs and subsequent starvation of my brain has made me delusional enough to think online video games are not the life-sucking wastes of time they really are for huge freaking dorks.

4. I gained one pound this week (now 219), but since the previous two weeks saw gains of two pounds each, all this delirious standing around has at least slowed the rate of “massivication”, my new word for becoming fat enough to scare children to tears and repel woman fast enough to provoke skid marks even from high heels.

* Having watched the “Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show”, I can agree with Fat Cat that those women have 14 feet of legs… 14 happy, awesome, gorgeous, tasty, yummy, sexy, beautiful feet of WHERE CAN I GET ME SOME OF THAT??, legs. My question: what exactly are they selling again?

* As Christmas approaches, I can’t shake the feeling that everyone I know personally must be damn blessed (see what I did there?) if the main problem this year is that they’re hard to shop for because they already have almost everything they could use or want.

* There is so much partial nudity, sex, foul language, and amorality on television now that I am seriously tempted to start watching again.

* Our society took another step towards Hell this week now that Michael Vick has been given 23 months in prison for promoting dog fighting while O.J. Simpson walks free. What has happened to proportion in this country?

* The women at the pharmacy where I get my prescriptions for prostate medication look amused (and damn unprofessional!) that someone my age might have trouble of any kind “down there”. I also can’t think of a good way to legally convince them that I don’t.

* With any luck, the Writer’s Guild strike will put a big nail in the coffin of the Hollywood studio elite network that is designed to reward producers, agents, and stars to the detriment of the people who actually create the stories and characters we all love to watch on television, the computer, and especially the silver screen.

* If the aforementioned strike goes on too long, however, the national I.Q. will drop to historically low levels as the entire network television line-up becomes “reality” programs such as “The Hills” and “Kid Nation”.

* Winter is magical and wonderful not because of the holidays or the vacations, it is awesome because fat people can finally wear clothes that manage to hide some of the pounds they have packed on the first 10 months of the year.

* Because your mirror lies, don’t be fooled that your enormous overcoat is hiding ALL of those extra pounds. People still kinda know, with or without the furry muumuu you call a “jacket”.


P.S. Did I mention my feet and back sorta hurt? Like crazy, tears-in-my-eyes, hurt?

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Okay, Now I'm Really Going to Kill Myself

Sometimes I do things that are just inexplicable. For example, if you were an overweight older woman, trying desperately (and unsuccessfully...) to lose weight, would you willingly torture yourself by watching The Victoria's Secret Fashion Show?

Probably not, right? So you're already much healthier mentally than I am. But everyone expects writers to be a little loopy anyway, and I sure would hate to disappoint my fans. So I watched it.

But see, I didn't set out to watch it. I dutifully watched this week's edition of The Biggest Loser and then cast about for something different to put on. If it sounds like I watch too much television at night, you're right, but I don't just watch television. I watch television and write, or pay bills or yack on the phone, or wash dishes or cook, or walk on my treadmill. So see? I'm a real multi-tasker.

Okay, the real truth is I don't watch TV so much as listen to it. After years raising my children in a house full of activity, and more years spent in newpaper and television newsrooms, the noisiest places on the planet, my quiet, quiet, empty house seems strange. So I turn on the TV to provide my accustomed level of background noise and forget I am alone.

Back to the topic at hand. All my male friends are always going on and on about Victoria's Secret models. I have a special pair of earplugs I keep just for when this happens. I can nod and look interested when in fact I am on the verge of slipping into a coma. So I never knew what the fuss was about until I turned on that TV. Did you know there existed anywhere in the human genome DNA for women with 14-foot-long legs? I didn't. Did you know there were women with skin that looked like molten honey? I didn't know that either.

Now, I've never really watched a fashion show except for the mini shows on Project Runway, so I wasn't prepared for the full blast of music, style and color the highly produced Victoria's Secret show provided. I've never seen women stomping down a catwalk like they did, keeping perfect rhythm with the music while wearing these wildly elaborate but still stunningly skimpy outfits that no woman I know would wear under any circumstances. I mean, I don't care how festive you're feeling; would you dress up like a Christmas tree complete with floor length cape covered with fake needles and nothing but a teeny bikini underneath?

Of course you would, if you looked like these girls. Once again I must make a note to talk to God about where I was standing in the pulchritude line. Yes, he gave me brains and a kind heart, two wonderful children and a wonderful family and friends, and that's a lot of blessings for anyone, so I feel bad complaining. But in the beauty department, um, I was not close to the front of the line for anything except maybe my eyes, and before childbirth ruined it, my navel.

But my body? Let's just say I am Sophia Loren struggling through the age of Twiggy. I am zoftig, with big, curvy hips, big thighs, and a relatively small waist...the classic hourglass. Nobody seems to like hourglass figures anymore, especially not after they go soft. I am most definitely NOT a Victoria's Secret model type. My legs are only 12-feet long, way too stubby for the runway. And my skin is a splotchy, pasty shade of blue-white, not molten honey.

Here's another funny thing about the fashion show. The camera kept cutting back over and over again to three celebs in the audience: Neil Patrick Harris, Ryan Seacrest and Joey Fatone. I kept asking myself, "Are these really the only three recognizable faces in the whole audience?" If so, and I'd been producing that show, I wouldn't have had my cameras cut to them at all. First of all, except for Ryan Seacrest, they're not exactly A list. Second, there seems to be this conceit in TV Land that all Americans breathlessly wait to see what their favorite stars do before making a move, but I think a conceit is all it is. I personally get tired of seeing the same names shoved into my face, as if what they thought was important to me and could actually influence how I live my life.

Anyway, back to the show again...there were some interesting outfits; well, actually they were more like costumes. But even though the costumes were skimpy and outrageous, they weren't cheesy or skanky, quite an accomplishment.

I watched for the full hour, my hands never once touching the keyboard of the computer on my lap. I didn't get up, I didn't talk on the phone, I just watched dumbly, the little green monster of envy growing in my heart. Why couldn't I look like that? If I looked like that, wouldn't I have a great boyfriend, or several great boyfriends?

Well, not necessarily, but probably. More than likely. Alright, yes. Who am I kidding? I'd have my pick of great boyfriends.

After seeing those models, I really had to struggle with my self esteem for days. Even in the bloom of my youth when I had a perfect figure, I never looked like those girls. They were all teeth and legs and massive heads of billowy hair they kept flipping over their shoulders. If I was a man, I imagine I would have had to take several cold showers during the show. But I'm a woman so I felt a different kind of cold...the cold, green fingers of envy that were squeezing tight around my little jealous heart.

So briefly, I thought, "What's the use?" Then I remembered I have a different mission in my life than tromping up and down some runway in 7 inch heals and acting like I was enjoying it. And sometime before I retire, I truly hope I figure out what that is.

At least I know what it isn't.

Planet Fat Cat

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Last Stand

A few days ago I read an article that suggested if a person only stood more they could improve their health and maybe, with exercise and diet of course, lose weight. Although I am a card-carrying cynic, I took the advice to heart and vowed that I would quickly find ways to sit less in my waking hours. By the weekend I was on the hunt for a “standing” desk and today I finally found one I could afford. In less than five hours this afternoon, I even managed to inexpertly put it together.

And there it towers over in the corner looking pretty and tall while I sit at my short, comfortable little computer desk writing this column.

Of course more story stands between me and my new furniture than just a general reluctance to start doing all of my writing and computer work off my enormous ass and onto my feet. Like feuds and families, a history makes the simple complex. My old desk means more to me than just the place that props up my monitor. Even with its chipped paint and scuffed legs, the heavy, squatty, dark and simple little beast has more meaning to me than its use warrants.

You see, my wife painted this table for me by hand years ago as a way of customizing it just to my liking.

Almost nine years ago when I “inherited” the desk from a friend who was buying “up”, the very plain, cheap thing was solid wood, but with a faux-grained laminate and an unattractive light-brown color. I hated the way it looked, but it was exactly the height I desired and had just the right amount of surface real estate for my needs. A lack of one of those annoying under-desk pull-out keyboard trays or shin-mashing bottom braces made it safe and extremely comfortable as well. It never fit in with our other office decor, and I was always a tad ashamed for people to see it since most of our other furniture was fairly attractive or new… and usually black or silver or grey, my colors of choice. I tolerated it, but always vowed to get a better looking desk when I could find one I could afford.

Then one day, out of the blue, I came home to find my desk in the garage and Trina bent over it, blasting the heck off the top of it with an electric hand sander. As I walked up I could see her just muscling that sander back and forth with a look of pleased determination in her eyes. As I approached and screamed a hello, she pulled down her dust mask and gave me one of her trademarked grins, maybe just a little bigger.

Turns out she had decided that if we couldn’t afford a nice desk that met all my requirements but looked modern and flashy in a shiny black paint, then by God she would make me one.

It took her the better part of a week to completely strip, sand, paint, repaint, and seal the desk, but when she was done it was beautiful. Sleek and dark with a durable finish for my heavy use, it was awesome and I loved it. I couldn’t have bought a more perfect desk for me, but she had made it happen with her own effort, blood, sweat, and bone. It was not possible to be more blessed than at the moment she proudly set it up in my computer room and the two of us gazed upon such a fine piece of work.

I have had that desk ever since and loved it every day.

But now time has forced me to try something new; some of the old won’t work any more. The truth is that I DO sit way too much at the computer and force my body to go dormant for most my waking hours. I know I won’t magically transform into an underwear model overnight, but I know this will help. And I will enthusiastically embrace all the help I can possibly manufacture right now.

But still I am sitting here.

It seems like such a small effort to just get up and sweep clear the junk on this old thing and make way for the new one. It’s only wood and paint and screws and nails. But more every day the new buries the old and week by week Trina grows fainter in my memory. I know I need, for physical and probably mental health, to take a stand at that new desk, but part of me doesn’t want to go.

I will get up soon and set up that shiny new four-legged metaphor; I have to do it.

But for a few more minutes I think I’ll sit here and run my fingers over the chipped and fading black paint, just me and these little memories.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Can It Be This Simple?

I sat yesterday in my comfortable chair reading health-related articles on the Internet and wondered why my body seemed to have relegated the responsibility for fat loss to someone else, someone I didn't know and who refused to share. I mused that this person, who was very fit and probably sexually active to the point of perversion, didn't realize I had given him perpetual thinness and he didn't care. Just like a man, he pocketed my precious gift and went on, unaware that I was now hideously fat so that he could make dozens of booty calls and eat whatever he wanted, when he wanted, even who he wanted.

I became so enraged at the thought that maybe it was Shia LaBeouf who had stolen my health and fat-melting metabolism that I very nearly got up off my extra seat cushions and made myself a snack. Almost. After all, I needed to finish reading my health articles so I could finally figure out how I had inadvertently transferred my sexy athleticism to another person.

I shifted in my chair and looked at a promising article titled "A New Way to Control Weight?"


I wasn't particularly excited by the title since I had seen dozens of very similar ones before. Heck, most of them did without the question mark and went straight to dramatic and fat burning exclamation points. Those were called "advertisements" and usually shilled for products that made you soil your pants but did promote a loss of weight along with your dignity (see "Alli Oops!").

But unlike many research articles I had read in the past that claimed, at least preliminarily, to have created a new substance for fat loss, this one had a simple premise instead: Stand up more.

That was it. Stand up more, or sit less, and creatures big and small burn more fat.

Could that really be the key? The scientists claim that although we have known for some time that standing and walking use more bio-chemical energy ("food") than sitting, they only recently discovered that it isn't just sheer numbers of calories that changes with position. Apparently your body chemistry profoundly changes when you sit for long periods of time and the actual fat metabolizing process SHUTS DOWN if you sit for too long. Even if you have exercised earlier in the day, once you sit for a while, whatever fat-burning machine you thought you turned on by jogging for two hours simply TURNS OFF.

The implications of this are enormous and of course they need more study to determine exactly why the body ceases lipase production when you park on your giant ass for extended periods of time (lipase is the chemical that allows your body to "burn" stored fat). But the message they say is clear: in addition to regular exercise, you MUST stand and walk around more and sit less if you ever wish to lose weight.

It seems too simple to work, but I must say even anecdotally I know I was always thinner when I had a job or just hobbies where I sat at my computer less. I weighed 130lbs when I worked as a theater usher at the age of 16 and it wasn't because I vigorously "ushered" anyone. Mostly I just stood in one place and took tickets. But I guess the key was I "stood" there bored and unhappy, trying to imagine sexual relations with my cuter co-workers in skirts at the concession stand.

Years later as a night club manager, I spent most of my time walking around talking with staff and guests and, after closing, drinking thousands of calories in alcohol. I was maybe 150lbs. When I left club management and took a job as a director of marketing and advertising for clubs (I really liked clubs...) I gained thirty pounds in less than a year. I actually stopped drinking and snacking and had regular meals, but I also spent most of my work day behind a desk and a computer, wedged into a soft chair. At the time I convinced myself that it was my new-found sobriety that had caused the fattening... you know, because I was running marathons drunk.

But now I am not so sure.

For years I have contended that something was taking place that made it impossible to lose weight even though I exercised and controlled my diet. If this new research is true, it will still be my fault that I have gotten, um, less sexy, but at least I will have a better idea of what I can do to change my current condition. Just the idea that I can regain control over my own body fills me with an excitement I haven't felt in years and is for once unrelated to skimpy clothing draped suggestively over hott, easy models with loose morals and poor taste in men.

What if I can actually change my whole life for the better by just buying a tall desk and doing all of my computer research and on-line writing while standing? I already do the exercise that gets my body burning fat; what if I keep that healthy engine going by limiting my sitting?

What if it really is that simple?

I don't want to get too hopeful as I have become very comfortable with cynicism and frustration. I wear those two like an old sweater, soft and warm. But maybe this time things will be different.

Just maybe.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Biggest Loser - Hanging by a Pole

This past week has been busy, so I completely missed the opportunity to vote on a favorite challenge for the competitors. But when they announced the winner, I was happy because I wanted the pole challenge. It seemed the least dangerous and the best test of how far the contestants have come strength-wise.

Here's how it worked. The contestants went out onto a temporary cat walk and wrapped themselves around a large metal pole. Then the walk was removed and they had to hang onto the pole for as long as they could. The prize was a nice family vacation at a ski resort.

The way it went down was somewhat predictable...Isabeau was off that pole in a matter of seconds. Then surprisingly, Neil, followed by Bryan, Hollie and then Nicole. That left Julie and Bill hanging on...both wanted the vacation for their families. Julie put up quite a struggle but finally fell off. So Bill won, again. That man has been winning everything, but I am happy for him. He works very hard and earns what he gets.

Unfortunately, the other contestants, particularly his Black Team teammate, Hollie, weren't very gracious. Hollie definitely seems to have an attitude problem, and Jillian even talked about that on the show, saying she didn't really know how to approach Hollie. She got upset if Jillian honored her wishes not to train very hard because of an injured ankle, then when Jillian realized she was upset and offered to train her, she got snippy and refused to train. So she is basically one of those people you can't win with.

At the weigh-in, it came down to Bryan and Hollie, and I really wanted Hollie to go home, but I knew the Black Team would keep Hollie as a strategic move. So Bryan went home. He looks amazing now; he's lost a total of 118 pounds since starting The Biggest Loser. His departure marked a Biggest Loser first; it was the first time an entire team was eliminated. The Red Team is no more. I think Kim needs to look at how she trains because the reason the team got down so far is that they never could win a weigh-in. Her team pretty consistently lost the least amount of weight, even with the Blue Team cheating at the weigh-ins.

So another of my favorite players goes home, and we're another week closer to the finale. I can't wait to see what happens and who goes to the final four.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Fat Philosopher

I shall start today with a quote from Voltaire:

"One day everything will be well, that is our hope. Everything's fine today, that is our illusion."

I don't know what that means, but it had the words "hope" and "illusion" in it, so it seemed germane to the topic of weight loss and good health.

Far be it from me to suggest that most good health is a fantasy, but anecdotal evidence continues to mount that after the age of 30 we are really just delusional beings praying that we don't get sick. And don't even get me started on the insurance industry here in the States praying along with us that we never take ill or, Heaven forbid, stop making monthly payments.

If it sounds like I'm bitter today, or bitterer (more bitter?), then I have done an effective job of communicating my mood. You see yesterday was weigh-in day and let's just say things aren't "fine", even in an delusional sense:

I am now an Earth shattering 216 lbs.

When I walk across my apartment floor, the support beams now groan with the effort to keep my enormous ass from breaking through and landing on the downstairs neighbors. The walls literally rattle if I cross my kitchen quickly, say to get a healthy snack or return a small plate of cut vegetables to the sink. If I have a notion to exercise in front of the television, I have to alert the local emergency response personnel so they will not issue earthquake warnings.

And perhaps worst of all I am sick of my own complaints. I simply wish to be thinner and need to get down to the serious business of getting fit and healthy. No more whining; a lot more exercising.

Problem is, that's what I've been doing all year. I know it to be true because I keep a very detailed log of what I eat each day and how much I exercise. Since January when I weighed 219lbs., I have exercised, on average, 8 HOURS (up to TEN on some weeks) a week and consumed between 2000 and 2500 calories a day. Yet here I am, 11 months later, three pounds lighter... and gaining.

I would throw up my enormous, flabby arms in a sign of frustration and confusion, but the sudden change in air pressure in my apartment might blow out a window.

Instead I will sit and think, one of the things I am best at. My hope, it seems, is that I can one day figure out what I need to do to feel young and healthy again. My illusion is that time will stand still for me while I arrive at my answer.


Figuring it Out

Any regular reader knows I have a habit of complaining about my nefarious, back-stabbing body that always contrives to lose weight during the week, only to gain it back and then some just in time for Monday weigh-in. This week was no exception; I made it through Thanksgiving weighing in at 201.8 pounds, only varying up or down by a few ounces every day last week.

Knowing my history of weight gain just prior to weigh-in, I doubled my walking time on Saturday and Sunday to one hour instead of 30 minutes...and was especially careful about what I ate. I was so happy to have made it through Thanksgiving without a weight gain that I felt pretty good about the upcoming weigh-in. No such luck. Despite eating very lightly on Sunday and walking almost 5 miles over the previous two days, when I weighed in yesterday morning, I had gained two full pounds. I wasn't bloated or swollen so it wasn't water weight; it was just pure stubbornness on the part of my body; it's undying refusal to cooperate at all with my weight loss and fitness program.

Then I started thinking about it scientifically. I looked over my weight loss and exercise logs and realized that every single week, I weigh the least on Tuesday. For the 70 days I've been on this program, Tuesday is consistently the day of my lowest weight.

So I did what any right-thinking dieter would so...I changed my weigh-in day.

Now, as for why I always seem to gain weight over the weekend...I think it's because my Saturday and Sunday schedule is so radically different from my weekday norm. Monday through Friday, I wake up, walk on my treadmill, eat breakfast and get to work, which means I walk to my computer and start writing. I also do phone interviews and run a bit of laundry, wash a few dishes, go outside and pull a few weeds, rake some leaves, anything to keep the creative juices flowing. Writing is not a linear process. I don't get writer's block, (thank goodness), but over the years I have figured out ways not to get bored as I write. Sometimes that means a quick phone call to a family member or friend; sometimes that means a walk to the mailbox to see if the check really is in the mail (freelance writers live for mail delivery); sometimes it means a run to the grocery or the post office, or another 20 minutes of walking or exercise to get the old brain jump-started again.

Now, contrast that interesting, self-directed schedule to what happens on the weekend with my part time job. First I pack a dinner, then get in my car around 12:30 pm, and proceed to battle traffic over 42 miles of hideous major city Interstates. I'm surrounded by insane , enraged or chemically impaired drivers, drivers on the road with no citizenship papers, no knowledge of or respect for the English language or the laws and customs of this country, no legal drivers' license (they buy theirs at flea markets for $50.00), no drivers' training, no concept what a blind spot is, drivers who have 8 unrestrained children and 4 dogs bouncing around the bed of their pick-ups.

I can feel my blood pressure racheting up over the hour to hour and a half of the drive. I am sitting totally immobile, strapped into a seat as I fight to get to my job alive and in one piece. Sometimes I see horrible things. On Sunday, the Interstate was totally shut down. I called to work and they told me there was a major accident...a pickup driving wildly and at high speed on rain slick roads, weaving in and out of lanes, hit a puddle, lost control and flipped over.

I jumped off onto the service road. It was like swimming through molasses in January, but at least I was moving. The Interstate had been turned into a parking lot, full of police cars, two fire engines, wreckers...a real mess.

What I didn't know and the people at work didn't know since the police were being tight-lipped, was that when the pickup flipped over, the two unrestrained children in the back were ejected over the wall of the overpass down to the pavement 25 feet below. First of all, who makes their children ride in the back of a truck during a rainstorm? Secondly, as we learned later, who puts their children in their truck and then gets behind the wheel dead drunk in the middle of the day? The answer is, the guy who was driving this truck.

As I saw later on the tape at work, he was sitting hand-cuffed in the back of a police cruiser. But his children? Let's just say it was the most awful thing I have ever seen. As I crept up to the intersection, I began to see pieces of truck scattered all over the service road, and then I saw the blood. There was blood everywhere, dripping down the walls of the overpass, down the curbs, puddled in sickening circles on the pavement. It was a scene from a nightmare, one that is forever burned into my brain, one I would never have chosen to see in my lifetime.

By the time I got to work, I am sure my blood pressure was through the roof. But unlike at home where I can check it instantly and take some medication, do some breathing exercises or hop on the treadmill to bring it down, I was locked into an eight hour shift at a highly stressful job, producing the same amount of deadline work that just two years ago, they had three employees to do. Now there's just, because after all, the multi-billion dollar international conglomerate I work for needs to make even more money.

Mark my words: unbridled corporate and personal greed will be the downfall of this country.

While at work, I don't sit there knoshing all day or guzzling Coca-Cola. I drink water and eat the healthy dinner I packed and snack on an apple or pear or grapes.

When I get to work, I sit at my desk, close my eyes, do some deep breathing, try to recenter, refocus and calm myself, and plunge in. I sit unmoving for the next eight hours while news breaks all around me, the producer reorders the show and stories change. I write about murders, rapes, robberies, beatings, attacks on the homeless, and this past weekend, about a heartless 19-year-old mother and her Internet boyfriend who beat her 2-year-old daughter to death over a period of a few days, then stuffed her body into a tackle box in their storage shed just feet from their door, and then tossed the box into the Gulf of Mexico a few months later where a fisherman discovered her. Baby Grace. I couldn't sleep last night because of Baby Grace, and the terrifying, disheartening knowledge there are people like her mother and stepfather in this world.

There's hardly any time to eat at work, much less go to the bathroom. You're bombarded for eight hours with the worst of humanity, the violent, seamy bottom of the barrel dregs of awfulness. When it's all over at 10 pm, I am totally collapsed emotionally...a bleeding psychological wreck of a human being, my normal happy-go-lucky self completely turned inside out.

I still face the hour or more drive home, frequently in blinding rain (got to love these coastal climates) with a highway full of Saturday night drunks, thugs, gang members out to show how macho they are, rapists, robbers, and the odd, frightened older woman like me, just trying to get home.

Then on Sunday, a traditional day of rest, I get to do it all over again. It's no wonder I weigh so much on Monday morning. I've just been through two incredibly stressful days, driving through horrible traffic, (which I hate) and driving myself mercilessly to get my job done accurately and well before that red light goes on and we hit the air.

I need the entire week just to recover.

So, now that I have all that figured out, I have set some new goals. Within one year, I want to be well enough established as a free lance writer that I can give up my stressful weekend job. I am changing my weigh-in day to Tuesday, which may seem like a cheat to some, but to me, it seems a cheat to myself to weigh on Monday when my weight always spikes on that day.

Finally, despite my less than stellar results, despite the fact that my legs hurt all the time from the walking, despite not losing any more weight or inches even though I am faithfully sticking to my walking program and nutritional plan, I am going to keep walking and keep exercising and keep trying to lose weight. I am on Day 70 of my 90 Day Fitness Walking Program, and I am not about to give up now. I sometimes struggle to finish things but I will finish this program. I will get all 90 check marks in my journal.

And I will probably still weigh 206.4 pounds.


Planet Fat Cat

Friday, November 23, 2007

Happy Thankspigging!

Fact: Between Thankspigging and Christmas, adult Americans gain an average of 7 pounds each.

Declaration: Between Thankspigging and Christmas, I will not gain a single pound. In fact, I will do my darndest to lose a pound. And seeing as how it's taken me more than two months to lose 4 pounds, that's quite a feat.

Ah, Thankspigging. As I lie here in my recliner, spread out in all my somnolent post-prandial stupor...ah, I mean, splendor...I reflect upon how I fared turkey wise. I went to a neighbor's, fully intending to be disciplined...and proceeded to behave myself for the most part.

During the appetizer course, I had one cracker with spinach dip...ONE! During the meal itself...small servings of turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, beans, cranberry sauce or bread other than the stuffing.

Good, huh? But then came dessert. I had been eying the groaning dessert table with something akin to disdain; everything looked like it had trans fats in it and trans fats are something I have avoided like the plague for years; you might as well drink concrete as far as your arteries are concerned. And the weird thing is, ever since I found out how detrimental they are to your health, I have had no trouble passing on foods that contain them. That has nothing to do with trying to lose weight and everything to do with trying to prolong my own life.

Anyway, all the desserts looked greasy to me so I was more than able to pass them up until they opened the refrigerator and brought out a homemade-from-scratch Southern Banana pudding in a big old midnight blue ceramic bowl that reminded me so much of my mama's cooking I almost started crying. Well, what was I supposed to do? I couldn't disrespect the memory of my mama by turning down the pudding, now could I?

The problem was, this particular banana pudding is legendary in this particular crowd. The second the refrigerator door swung open, I was surrounded by rabid men and women swinging knives and forks through the air before them as they battled their way to the front of the line. Okay, they were plastic knives and forks, but it was scary I tell you. For once in my life, I was standing in the right place at the right time, right next to the refrigerator (Okay, again. I stand next to the refrigerator a lot, but usually, it's not such a good thing).

However, on this particular day, it was a very good thing indeed and I was handed one of the first servings of banana pudding. That elicited such shrieks of dismay from the crowd that I consider myself lucky to have gotten out of there alive, much less with my clothes still on and my banana pudding mostly intact. One lady may have stuck her thumb in it as I passed by; I'm not sure. But she didn't pull out a plum, just a piece of banana.

Oh, my God! What can I say? That banana pudding made from scratch was the single most divine thing I have ever put in my, creamy, just the right touch of sweetness, with the bananas firm and fragrant and the Vanilla Wafers still crisp. I have no idea how she did it.

All thoughts of a second and even third helping went out the window when I walked back to the kitchen and found two grown men wrestling on the floor in a sort of Banana Pudding Death Match 2007, to see who would get the last serving. Meanwhile, the extremely popular creator of this ambrosial concoction was staring at the empty bowl and saying, "Well, I declare. I made a triple recipe," like the good Southern woman that she is.

A triple recipe, ya'll. And it disappeared in 3 ticks of the clock.

All I can say is, I'm glad some of it disappeared into me.


I mean, meow.

Planet Fat Cat
(still licking banana creme from her whiskers...yum!)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Biggest Loser: Hooray for Hollywood (aka: A Legend Goes Home)

It never ceases to amaze me what the makeup wizards in Tinseltown can do to an ordinary Jane or Joe with just a few pots of eyeshadow and blush. I mean, I have those items sitting on my vanity, too, but somehow, even after I slap them on, I still don't look ready for prime time. Yes, last night on The Biggest Loser, the remaining contestants were transformed into stars with nothing more than a little flick of cunningly applied powder. And the funny thing worked.

Not that I claim to be any different, but as a group of human beings, this year's contestants are fairly average -looking. I don't say that to be mean but as a statement of fact. Most of us, myself included, are average-looking (still, I'll take that over being dog-butt ugly any day). But after these average people underwent their Hollywood transformations last night, they looked amazing...especially Isabeau, Nicole, Bryan and Bill. I mean, what do they put in their makeup out there in Hollywood...fairy dust?

No, wait. I forgot. It's star dust.

The makeovers were a special treat with a purpose; Prevention magazine was looking for a cover girl or guy for this month's issue. Bill looked like he could have just stepped off the cover of GQ and Isabeau's transformation was so startling I almost couldn't recognize her, but I think if I'd been doing the picking, I would have chosen Nicole. She looked completely different and so happy in her photos. But despite her success thus far, Nicole is still significantly overweight and looks it, so in the end, I was not surprised to see the editors chose Kae for their cover. At that point in the competition, she'd already lost 30 percent of her starting weight, and she looked the most "normal" among the contestants, many of whom still had a long way to go to reach a healthy weight.

They flashed a nanosecond shot of Kae's cover, which is on newsstands now, and I thought, "Wow! Aren't airbrushes great?" because she looked way smaller than what she was on the show. Turns out the picture wasn't shot then, but much later after Kae had lost a total of 88 pounds and gotten down to 137 pounds. So Prevention's offer to put a "fat" person on the cover of their magazine was a bit bogus I think.

The nice part was after the makeovers when one-by-one, the contestants checked themselves out in a three-way mirror. After they had ogled the stunning transformations for a while, the mirror opened and a significant other walked through, every one from spouses to brothers to best friends. The reunions were great and seeing the reactions of the S. O.'s to the contestants' progress was pretty cool, too,

Now on to the challenge. The contestants had to hoist themselves up on a pulley and a rope and physically hold their bodies above a line of yellow tape strung 3 feet off the ground. The winner got a $5,000 shopping spree from Prevention. It was a challenge that obviously favored lighter people. Nicole, Isabeau, Holly, Neil and surprisingly even Julie fell down pretty quickly, the first four because they had a lot of weight to keep up in the air. Julie's well under 200 pounds now so I was surprised how fast she fell down; I guess she just doesn't have much upper body strength.

That left Kae, Bill and Bryan holding on for dear life. Kae immediately hoisted herself all the way to the top of the rig, about 50 feet above the ground. Though he couldn't get himself quite as high, Bill did the same. Bryan never got himself very high up the rig but maintained where he was with sheer guts and intensity for quite a while. Finally, Bryan dropped down and slowly, slowly, Bill lost his grip, too and there was Kae, the smallest person in the competition, the heroine of the weekly weigh-ins, still hanging on doggedly way up in the air. It was nice to see her win the money.

When it came time for the weigh-in, most of the people I worry about, Bryan and Isabeau, people who have posted pretty low numbers regularly, stayed above the yellow line easily. When Nicole fell below the line, it wasn't shocking. She's been there before; she just doesn't seem to lose weight as easily as some of the other contestants. But when Kae fell below the line even though she posted her usual 3 to 4 pound weight loss, it shocked me. She's physically the strongest of the contestants, the most consistent and the biggest threat to win it all, so I knew instantly she was going home. Nicole is a threat to no one. Kae was the one to beat.

Her transformation at the live weigh-in was miraculous. Even though she only lost another 19 pounds after going home, that put Kae down to 137 pounds and she looked fabulous. Her trainer, Bob, grabbed her in a bear hug and wouldn't let go. I was afraid they were going to have to pry him off her with crow bars. I was afraid Kae's husband was going to have to call him out in a duel to the death for Kae's tiny little hand. He finally let go for a few nanoseconds so Kae could weigh in, then he grabbed her again. She probably has like three or four broken ribs this morning, but when Bob Harper's grabbing you, I guess it has to come under the heading of "hurt so good."

On a personal note, I finally quit staring with horror at the horrid pink balance ball, got it out of the box, blew it up and did the beginner's exercise routine. The good news is I didn't fall off and kill myself. The bad news is that I hurt in places where I didn't even know I had muscles. Actually, I guess that might be good news, too.

Anyway, I'll tell you all about The Big Pink Ball...tomorrow.

Planet Fat Cat

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Some Things You Don't Forget

It's funny what you remember about the people you love.

My wife Trina, for instance, used to love soft sugar cookies with sweet pink icing. She was a wonderfully beautiful girl with a great, athletic figure on her small frame, and she did not usually indulge in sweets or fatty foods. But she had a weakness for the tasty, happy-looking little cookies with the multi-colored sprinkles and a thick layer of colored butter and sugar we call icing. I remember so clearly it was her favorite: I can still see her eating one, little cookie crumbs lining her mouth; a huge smile lighting up her whole face.

How I wish I could see that smile again.

It would have been Trina's 33rd birthday today, and the fourth I have had to commemorate without her. I don't have any huge parties in her honor, I don't reminisce with friends. I just sit and try to remember what she was like and how much she could enjoy all the simple things in life. I think of all the things she made better just by being around.

Trina tried so hard to stay in shape; she was a master at denying herself indulgences like overeating and laziness. She inspired me and others to try harder and sacrifice more. When I was with her I don't recall having any problem with losing weight or finding the motivation work out. She kept herself in shape through diet and exercise. She kept me young.

If I could hear her now, she would probably tell me I shouldn't celebrate her birthday as I have been, it isn't good for my health. But I don't care. I know she would join me if she could.

Which is why this day of the year, as the three before, I light a candle on a pink sugar cookie and sing Happy Birthday to her.

I certainly hope there are no calories in Heaven so she can have as many of those wonderful cookies as she wants. I hope each year she is eating one with me and grinning that big grin.

I hope she knows for the rest of my life I will never see one of those cookies and not think of how much I love her.

Happy Birthday, Trina

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Poundstone

A few days ag0, I reached what I like to call a poundstone. Other people might call it a milestone, but since it involved me reaching a particular weight loss goal, I call it a poundstone.

I finally broke through the 200 pound barrier to 199.8 pounds. Yes!

Of course, when I woke up the next day, I weighed almost 202 pounds again, but the general trend is slo-o-o-owly...but down. And I have proven to myself that I can break through that mythological 200-pound barrier.

That means that one not too distant day I will break through that barrier permanently. I know that for sure. And that means my motivation to keep going is stronger than ever...important since my results weight loss results so far certainly have been less than stellar.

Now all I have to do is make myself inflate that awful pink balance ball and get going with that program. Then I might really start seeing some more significant results and see them more quickly.

I just have to keep this vision of myself as a Goddess in longer the porcine Goddess of Blubber, but a Goddess of Healthy Fitness (and of course, slamming hotness...)

Gentlemen, start your engines.

Planet Fat Cat

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Mirror Is In Cahoots With My Scale

Being a sane person, at least in the absence of alcohol, drugs, woman, chocolate, select ethnic foods, fast cars, tennis, ping pong, or online video games, I don't actually believe that a random office mirror can conspire against me with the help of my scale. I mean for the six or seven seconds a day when I am away from the above-mentioned "distractions" I am of such an even temperament and solid, rational mind-set that I couldn't possibly imagine an inanimate object made of reflective materials and cheap glass would be out to "get" me.

Yet, apparently it is.

This morning I agreed to drive one of my friends to his optometrist's appointment and therefore was required to shower and dress in a manner acceptable to the general public. I make it sound as if that were a burden or that such activities were rare and arduous, but I assure all that at least once a week I undertake such adventures. At the end of the "dressing" period, I stood in front of my bathroom mirror (we'll call him "Cindy") and gazed upon my image in contemplation and examination. I explain this procedure as if aliens from the nearest galaxy were reading this blog, because you never know; everyone else should understand that I was "checking myself out".

I looked pretty hott.

Granted I was wearing some fairly inexpensive cargo pants, a very inexpensive and plain blue shirt, a worn (with love!) baseball cap, and some comfortable but undistinguished black shoes. But since the raw material of my awesome body was underneath the ratty clothes, I made the rags look intentionally stylish in a street-urchiny way. After all, you can sprinkle dust on a Ferrari and it will still go fast. So it was with me: My mirror showed me an image of an Adonis dressed unpretentiously yet with just enough style to flatter my obvious assets.

But something went horribly wrong.

Later as I was waiting in the optometrist's office for my friend to finish his eye examination, I happened to glance at a wall-length mirror and catch sight of my reflected image. Actually at first I was sure some aging, fat, low-life had walked over and I had become invisible, so I wasn't positive it was me. But since I only ACT like a vampire with regards to my sleeping habits and perhaps my affinity for black, I was pretty confident that I wasn't invisible. Which meant, ipso facto, that the aging, fat greaser was ME!

I was so shocked for a moment that I actually turned around to make SURE no one so... so... unsexy had gotten between me and the mirror. But aside from the three people sitting in the waiting room staring at me spin around like a tail-chasing dog, I was alone. It was me in the Wal-Martesque clothes and the somehow oily-looking mopish hair poking unbidden from the nasty old baseball cap. It was me with a couple of really solid "love" handles and a few extra chins. That guy without an ounce of sex appeal was me.

Well that just wasn't possible. Something demonic must have designed and manufactured that awful mirror.

And then it hit me: THE SCALE DID IT!

Yes, you see that same morning the devil-made scale had told me that I had in fact lost a pound of something and it was feeling vengeful. Forced by the laws of physics to finally register a lower weight, it cast about for a fellow diet saboteur to trick me into an unreality... one where I was fat and icky.

But I was on to the plan.

I straightened up and looked into that false and nefarious image and gave it my biggest, toothiest grin. It's power wained against the might of my conviction that there is no way to hide all this hott. I closed my eyes and remembered what I really looked like, the REAL me behind that scary, dreary guy.

And VOILA! When I opened my eyes again I was back, sexy and youthful and smiling like always. Crisis averted.

After a second or two checking myself out to make sure no love handles had survived and I only had my original, artist-sculpted chin, I looked around the waiting room to see who was simultaneously checking me out. Sure enough both women and even some guy were staring at me, doubtless wondering if I was single and available for romance and whatnot. I sighed. It's an nice ego boost, but sometimes the attention can be tiresome.

Anyways, wanting to stay away from a possessed mirror I quickly sat down on the floor of the office where a huge stack of Legos was left out, ostensibly for children to busy themselves with while nervous parents were getting laser-corrective surgery. There were no kids to spread germs to me, so I gathered all the blocks and made myself a nice multi-colored Lego city.

If you thought the other patients and staff stared at me with lust before, you should have seen their expressions then!

It's a cross I'll have to bear.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Biggest Loser - Shaping Up in More Ways Than One

Well, things are finally beginning to shape up on The Biggest Loser. Despite NBC hinting breathlessly at more Neil drama to come, he actually behaved himself for the most part last night, especially after his trainer, Bob Harper, called him out for voting out his "friend," Ryan, last week. I'd be lying if I didn't admit I enjoyed watching him squirm, and kudos to Bob for not letting Neil off the hook.

Talk about squirm-inducing...that little scene with Amy and Kim was bad. I'm not a huge Amy fan, but I thought Kim over-reacted when Amy said she was hurt by Kim telling the Red Team to vote her off right in front of her face. Kim also lost points with me for her use of the "f" word; that wasn't professional at all. It seemed like the two of them were trying to out-whine, and out-accuse each other, and both did a really bad job of trying to portray themselves as a victim.

Kim, you threw Amy under the bus in a very pubic way. Step up and own that and stop feeling sorry for yourself. It's unattractive.

You had conflicts with Amy, and even with David, who seemed like an absolute sweetheart. He got off the treadmill and left the gym rather than listen to your mouth any more. So maybe you have some soul searching to do about how you interact with your team members?

Amy, the reason Kim picked you to go is that you did nothing but complain from day one. You didn't ever want to do the work; you always had some cry baby excuse about why you couldn't do your share. Last night, instead of being happy for Julie to get picked to go home, you whined and cried and complained that you didn't get picked. Why would you have been picked? Did you and Hollie have some great friendship? No, you didn't. But congratulations on successfully continuing your journey at home. You look great, and I hope you have learned a few lessons about your own character as a result of being on the show.

Now on to the challenges. I continue to be stunned by the ongoing junk food challenges. On a program where contestants are supposedly being taught new ways to look at food and better nutritional and exercise habits, to force them to eat the worst possible food in order to win some prize or benefit is downright sadistic.

This week, contestants were faced with a sea of doughnuts, thousands stacked one upon the other and inside one, a wooden disk good for $5,000. The catch was, in order to be able to dive in and search for the disk for 60 seconds, the contestants had to eat one 300-calorie doughnut.

No one found it, so they had to eat a second donut to search for another minute, and then a third to be allowed to search until the disk was found. Every single contestant went for it instantly, except for Kae. She was the only one with the intestinal fortitude to pass the temptation. The others inhaled their donuts, willingly downing 3 each in order to be able to search for the disk. Bill finally found it and won the money, leading some contestants to complain about his luck since he won the car last week, too.

Okay, I would have been jealous, too. I don't understand karma, how some people just seem to have good luck and good things happen to them over and over again.

I think it's disgusting that all that food went to waste. The temptation was like a college cafeteria food fight. With all the hungry people in the world, the idea that probably several hundred dollars worth of donuts simply got destroyed is disturbing.

But what really makes me mad is that ever since I watched the show, I can't stop thinking about donuts. I am probably going to have to just go and eat one just to remind myself how bad they make me feel.

Hint to The Biggest Loser producers: I watch the show for inspiration on my own weight loss journey; not to be reminded that there are bad but wildly tasty foods out there I have purposely eliminated from my life.

Congratulations to Bill who reached the 100 pounds lost mark this week! I think he and Bryan are probably my two favorites out of the remaining contestants.

In the end, Amy went home. I was amazed that Jillian Michaels tried to get her team to vote out Bryan and keep Amy. I think Jillian was just trying to be supportive of Amy and keep her word, but Amy was dragging the Black Team down.

As for my own weight loss challenge, I'm back down to 201 pounds again, not in time to be able to post it on weigh-in day, but a hopeful sign that some day I will get below 199 pounds. I have this weird mental thing that once I break 200 pounds and stay there, my weight loss will somehow accelerate. Probably a goofy thing to think, but that's my fantasy.

I'm glad The Biggest Loser is shaping up to be more entertaining and less gag-inducing than the last few weeks, but I do wish they would either cut way back on the product placement or do it in a less disingenuous way. Bob Harper seemed truly ill at ease when he advised a contestant that eating instant oatmeal loaded with sugar, salt and preservatives was a good idea for a weight loss program.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Dangerous Territory

Four days ago, I blogged with a great deal of excitement about reaching 200.8 pounds, and pledged that I would reach 199 pounds by today. To that end, I doubled my walking time from 30 minutes to one hour, and was especially careful about what I ate.

Now mind you, I am logging everything I do, good or bad, keeping track of my food intake and exercise in a journal so that I can study what I do and when I do it and see if there are any patterns emerging that might help me tackle my weight problem a little more effectively. When I slip off my diet, I say so, both in my journal and on this blog.

Saturday night, I made a conscious decision to eat something I normally don't eat, french fries. I truly don't enjoy them all that much; I prefer my potatoes mashed and slathered with butter. But Saturday was a very busy day and I had no time to prepare a healthy, delicious meal to take to work as I usually do. I had skipped lunch altogether because of time constraints, again, an unusual thing for me to do. By seven p.m., I was starving. I had my most immediate deadlines out of the way, so I asked my supervisor if I could run pick up a sandwich or a salad; there's a healthy market about two miles away from where I work, but he was expecting something new to come over the wire any second, so he asked me to make it quick. There's a burger joint a block away, so a burger it was.

I got the small meal, really not happy about doing it, but so hungry I probably would have cheerfully gnawed on cardboard at that point. I calculated the calories, then wolfed down all the fries, ate half the burger and drank half the soda, the first I'd had since starting the program.

The soda tasted sticky sweet, the burger was grey mystery meat on a gluey, pasty white bun that looked like someone had sat on it. The lettuce was limp, the tomato flavorless and I had just downed 956 calories, even with halving the portions. Bad choice and I knew it.

Eating that disgusting meal was like swallowing a hand grenade. No sooner had I finished than the yucky stuff started expanding like a hot air balloon, churning precipitously around in my stomach. I felt nauseated, not from guilt or shame; I had made a conscious choice based on expediency, not desire. But I was actually nauseated from the food I had eaten.

My body is used to me treating it better. I just have to ask, why doesn't it return the favor?

Yes, I ate a bad meal, but my calorie count for the day was still under 2,000. With all the regular physical activity I now do, a nutritionist I consulted told me it would take 2,300 calories a day to maintain my weight. If I eat 1,800 calories a day, a perfectly reasonable plan, I should lose a pound a week.

Should lose. Should lose.

I eat about 1,800 calories every single day, some days closer to 1,700, and that one day just a little over 2,000. Remember I have doubled my exercise time from what I told the nutritionist I was doing. And yet, on the morning after that one fast food meal, I weighed FIVE POUNDS MORE than I had the previous morning. I was swollen like a bad melon and just a few ounces away from my original starting weight.

That was yesterday, Sunday, and I walked and walked and walked on my treadmill until I was dripping sweat from every pore. I ate a small breakfast, large lunch and no dinner, so by this morning I had it back down to 203.2 pounds, meaning that I gained weight this past week, didn't lose it, and my blood pressure has sky rocketed, too. It also means I can kiss 199 pounds goodbye, at least for several more weeks.

I still simply cannot make myself believe I gained five pounds overnight from just one heavy meal. Did the rest of the week not count at all? Did I really negate all my hard work by going through one drive-up?

Yes, apparently I did.

I ate 20 reasonable meals over the course of last week and 14 healthy snacks. Even on the day I ate the yucky meal, I still stayed within 200 calories of my daily goal. And yet my weight shot up to almost 206 pounds overnight after that one meal. How is that possible? How can two months work of work and sacrifice be wiped out by a single meal?

Yes, I learned a valuable lesson. But my frustration level is almost unmanageable. I am drifting into dangerous territory, the "dammit, if I'm going to weigh 205 pounds or so for the rest of my life, I might as well enjoy it."

Then I have to remind myself...I weighed 206 pounds and was gaining weight, 6 pounds in as many months. So maybe my reality is that I have to keep exercising and watching every bite just to keep from turning into The 700-Pound Blob.

I am a geek girl, a science-based writer who knows quite a bit about health and wellness. So what I know intellectually, is that what I am doing should work. I should be losing weight and getting more fit and healthy. But here's what my utter lack of success is doing to me.

I suspect most of my friends don't believe I am exercising 6 days a week even though I am, and I suspect they think I am a midnight snacker or closet binger, because any time someone has stuck to a well-designed, thoughtful program for two months and produced no measurable results, well, they think the only answer is, I must be cheating or lying, or deluding myself. I can assure you I am not cheating or lying, but I most certainly am deluding myself...because I thought if I stuck to a good diet and exercise program faithfully I would be rewarded with some positive physical changes.

I have seen none. Yes, my resting heart rate is now down to 60, and my blood pressure is usually under better control. But guess what? You don't walk into a cocktail party and get rewarded with admiring glances for lowering your resting heart rate. That hot guy in the corner isn't going to look at me and say, "Hey, that chick has a slammin' resting heart rate."

No, he's going to look at me and say, "Oh, my God! Look at the size of her ass! I better get out of here before she knocks the whole planet out of orbit."

So, I am discouraged today. More than discouraged. I haven't lost an inch in weeks, my weight keeps going up, not down, and I have been at it for two months. I know it's going to take time to see real results, but this much time?

I really just want to quit, but I won't let myself. I have to believe that if I keep going, some halcyon day I will wake up, look at myself in the mirror, and like what I see...not just who I see.

Planet Fat Cat

Friday, November 9, 2007

Anticipation is Gaining Me Weight...

The only reason I ever like rules is that I then have an excuse to break them or, more likely, make fun of people who are caught and punished for breaking them. So when I set a "rule" for myself that I would avoid the dreaded scale except at weigh-in on Monday morning, I fully expected that eventually I would, you know, weigh myself at other times, perhaps constantly.

Because I live on the edge folks. Watch out!

But what I didn't expect was that the damn thing would keep disappointing me by claiming that I had gained weight. Come on, people. It was supposed to be something more like, "Golly I'm sorry Fat Cat, but every day I get on the scale it keeps going down... maybe I should get that checked out while I'm buying some new, smaller, sexier clothes down at the Abercrombie store and auditioning for that GQ cover model thing."

It was NOT supposed to be: "Congratulations Fat Cat for losing fifty pounds while I continue to baffle medical science by proving that a human body can in fact create matter out of nothing. Goodbye conventional physics! Hello, Sea World's newest attraction, Pinky the Flesh-Colored Whale!"

Which is a long way of saying that this morning I weighed an ass-tounding 215.5 pounds, dry.

Since declaring that I would, for snickers and doodles, lose weight along side Fat Cat, I have gained five pounds.

Now I haven't come each day to explain what I have done to promote weight loss, but I assure any skeptics out there that I have made an effort to do so. I exercise, vigorously, at least ten hours a week. Already this week I had four days where I exercised 2 hours each or more and included both aerobic and muscle building activities. Since some people are squeamish, I won't detail my exact training methods, but I promise that my program is legal, strenuous, and exceptionally sweaty.

But I am not losing weight... and that disappointment makes me want to eat a candy bar... factory.

So instead of taking Saturday and Sunday off to rest my aching joints, I will go ahead and exercise another few hours and try to pull off a miracle for Monday morning. Any prayers to that effect would be most appreciated.

Unless prayers have mass, in which case keep them to yourselves.


Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Biggest Loser - This Week, Not So Outrageous

Well, I have to admit I liked this week's two-hour edition of The Biggest Loser. My favorite part was the challenge. It was amazing to see all the refuse that junk food generates, especially the mountain of 148,000 soda cans.

I am a big recycler and have been for almost 20 years. In fact, I have to watch myself to make sure I don't take it overboard because when I get busy and can't get to the recycling center, it does clutter my house. I recycle plastic bags, bottles and other containers, clear and colored glass, cardboard, paper and aluminum. One really nice thing about giving up Coca-Cola other than the health benefits is that I don't have dozens of cans to recycle every week. That used to take up a lot of space in my utility room. I know I am only one person but I figure I will do what I can as an individual to help the planet. Most people can just throw stuff away but I practically have to appoint a standing committee before I can decide if something is garbage, trash, compost or recycle. I am very careful about what I put in the garbage.

Well, enough about recycling. On to the show. When I heard Julie's story about giving up her car so she and her husband could afford for her stay home with their new baby son, my opinion of her immediately shot up. I used to feel rather neutral toward her; she seemed very nice but didn't really stand out. But on Tuesday night, I really wanted her to win the car. She and Bill busted their butts to win, in fact, Bill was almost superhuman, with the result that they gathered 96 pounds of cans, more than twice what the two lowest teams each gathered. I was really glad they won the cars. I feel like the two of them are really deserving. When I saw Julie's emotional reaction to finally having a car of her own, I felt even happier for her.

I was glad Ryan got booted instead of Isabeau. It's about time that one of the cheaters went home. But Neil seems to stay on week after week. And the promos don't augur well for next week because NBC breathlessly hints that Neil again does something funky to "change the game." So I guess he'll just be allowed to cheat and get away with doing whatever he wants to do, just because the producers like the drama he creates when he cheats. Ugh, it makes me sick but I can already see them setting him up to be the big winner. The Biggest Loser winners are supposed to be inspiring people; not cheaters.

I just saw the promo for The Biggest Loser again and it's nagging at me like a thorn in my shoe. I know its probably nothing; just something the promotional people cooked up to lure viewers, but it sure does seem like they are hinting that Neil does something bad again.

I guess we'll see next Tuesday.

Planet Fat Cat