Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I Have Designs on Designer Cupcakes

I'm sitting here stuffing a "designer" cupcake with four and a half pounds of icing on it into my face. Yes, it's my breakfast. I stared at the box of raisin bran this morning and decided that because I didn't have a banana to slice on the top, I wasn't supposed to eat my favorite breakfast at all. How can it qualify to be my favorite when one of the components is missing?

I never let myself run out of bananas, but I am going through one of those, "what's the damn point I've been killing myself exercising and starving and I still can't lose a single ounce so why not eat what I want?" mornings.

But here's the thing...pricey though it was, the cupcake didn't taste very good. The cake part was heavy and chewy, the icing was grainy and way too sweet and just about flavorless. So, no matter what else I did or did not accomplish over the past four months in regard to my health and girth, I did truly reeducate myself about food. The fact that this morning's attempt to comfort myself with "comfort" food did not go exactly as planned is proof of that.

I was talking to an old and dear friend last night (please note that the friend is not old; the friendship is) about my struggles and at just about the same time, the words Weight Watchers came out of our mouths. Many years ago, she used Weight Watchers to transform herself from a beautiful woman with some weight issues into a drop dead gorgeous, knock your eyes out stunner, the kind of woman who makes you crane your head around when she walks by and then grouse at God about how come you don't look like that. Okay, I know part of it is her innate sense of style and glamor that came to the forefront after she reached her goal weight, but the point is, she only reached her goal weight with a lot of support, determination and science and that's where Weight Watchers came in. Many years ago, I used the program successfully to lose 17 pounds, and those pounds stayed off for years. So we both decided we're going to join up.

My first meeting is on Friday and I feel a small tingle of anticipation. I hope this gives me the discipline I need to stay on top of the nutritional portion of my weight loss journey. I have been feeling so discouraged lately that I have been drinking soda, eating ice cream, doing all the silly things I used to do. None of it even tastes good, but even though I've only been doing it for about the past three or four days, just in that small window of time I have gained back every single pound I lost through the 90 Day Walking Program. I haven't been exercising at all except for the occasional desultory walk on my treadmill. So 90 Days of sacrifice and busting my hump loses me 4 pounds and three Coca-Colas and ONE damned ice cream sandwich and ONE damned cupcake adds all four pounds back on.

Oh yeah, right. That's fair.

But life isn't and I just wasn't standing in the "willowy" line when God handed out the DNA.

Anyway, I have a new carrot to dangle in front of myself. I have a big event coming up May 1 where I will have the opportunity to meet some people who can greatly influence the future of my career. It is absolutely essential that I look smashing when I meet these people because the way this game works, your appearance does count for a lot when they make their decisions about whether or not to take you on as a client. So no fat, wobbly old lady had better show up. I'd better look fabulous, and I'd better feel fabulous, because if I don't, then I won't project "fabulous" and fabulous is what you need to get these folks' attention.

So here's my new plan: I will get back to my plan of exercising six days a week, only instead of just walking, I will mix it up with a little strength training, some stretching, some toning, and some aerobics. I will go to Weight Watchers so that I have to be accountable to someone other than my easily fooled conscience, and I will, by May 1st, have lost at least 12 pounds and gone down another size to a size 14.

So that's my story and I'm sticking to it, at least for the next 90 days.

Planet Fat Cat
Still in orbit around The Lagging Moon

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Gravity Breaks Détente, Renews Violence

Austin, Texas

A man awoke Monday morning to find that the brokered peace agreement between himself and Gravity had been shattered by surprise fighting over the weekend. Although the man claimed he had done nothing to provoke Gravity, sources close to Gravity said the renewed fighting was a direct result of a “two-margarita” lunch the previous Wednesday. While negotiators were confident a new agreement could be hammered out, Gravity made clear it would continue to exert an increasing pull on the man’s mass at least through mid-week. U.N. officials had no comment when asked if there were any known survivors from the surrounding areas of Ego or Self-Esteem.

In case anyone missed it, the above blurb was my way of reporting that after a few weeks of good news, I have returned to gaining weight. Monday morning I stood motionless and hopeful on my scale and discovered that I had in fact gained 2.5 pounds in the previous two weeks (incidentally the last time I posted). For those keeping score that means I am now an eye-popping 219lbs. and exactly the same weight as I was on January 27, 2007. You read that right: In one calendar year of diet, exercise, and fervent prayer, I have lost NO WEIGHT.

I should add that if I hadn’t spent months ruining my joints with rigorous exercise or draining my bank account with specialty foods and supplements, I wouldn’t complain. After all, most people in their 30’s gain two pounds a year. But I did do those things and all I have to show for it are some ever-so-slightly-more-tone muscles and an extremely unpleasant disposition. Wait, I also have a lot less money.

Further I should note that over the course of the year I fluctuated from a high of 231 pounds to a low of 203 pounds and every point in between. Pity I couldn’t have settled into a weight range (as I seem to be doing) that was closer to the low end. Double pity I couldn’t have figured out what I was doing right at 203 and kept doing that! Since I don’t remember any long battles with dysentery, whatever it was must have been willful and behavioral. Oh, the humanity, and another spectacularly dull flop.

My only prayer is this: Dear Lord, thank you for that year; I ask only for another; I promise I shall do better for myself and you.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Biggest Loser - Trying to Gain a Foothold

I'm having a hard time getting into this season of The Biggest Loser with the couples. When I get wrapped up in a reality show, a big part of the draw for me is keeping up with the show online via blogs - both fan and official. The official blogs let me know what happened on the show, or at least, their version of what happened. The fan blogs let me get into it with other rabid least, get into it in my own mind.

For whatever reason, maybe the television strike that is keeping them "writer-less," NBC has utterly failed to provide an up-to-day website and blog for this season of The Biggest Loser. When you click on it, you'll still see the contestants and the winner from last season. The lack of a current website where I can go read after show updates and preshow teases has really diminished my interest in the show. I like reading blogs to see if other viewers share my concerns and opinions. The lack of a website and viewer blogs reduces my level of participation and my level of interest, even thought the only blog I ever actually commented on was the Top Chef season 2. That's when the producers let an emotional assault on one contestant by several of the other contestants go on way too long, even with the fans screaming about it. The emotional assault eventually and predictably evolved into a physical assault that was videotaped by the contestants with a camera given to them by the producers. Oh yeah, like that was spontaneous.

Ugh, icky, and it the resulting fan outcry almost killed the show and led to parent company NBC threatening disciplinary action against Bravo TV and the show's producers. I'm happy to say the next season featured much nicer contestants.

A similar thing happened on Project Runway season 3. There was a really nasty, emotionally abusive guy on the show, but the producers LOVED him, so not only did he stay, but was eventually awarded the win over two much more talented designers. The show took a big hit in viewers and popularity after that and this season, the contestants are all pretty nice people. The one drama queen was pretty severely chastised by the judge's this week for pitching a hissy fit and being ugly to his teammate on the design challenge.

So what I guess I'm saying is that I don't like to see nasty, ill-tempered, abusive people on reality shows, but having said that, nor do I like to see boring people. For whatever reason, this season of The Biggest Loser is boring me. Even though I am using the concept of the show to help myself stay motivated and on my own exercise and nutritional plan, I haven't yet found any heroes in this particular cast. My favorite couple was voted off last week, and I am feeling sort of "ho-hum" about the whole season now.

Two of the eliminated couples needed to go - the father who didn't really want to be on the show with his daughter, and the lazy, whiny husband who lost weight even though he did next to nothing and then made fun of his hard-working wife when she didn't lose much weight. Nice guy.

I guess I am struggling to find someone I can relate to. There was a moment between the mother and daughter from the pink team when the mother apologized for bringing home so many "uncles" after her divorce and leaving her very young daughter on her own while she pursued a wild sex life, but it was an embarrassing moment. At least it got the two of them talking and made the daughter confess to something I could relate to...she said she thought she used her excess weight to protect herself...probably from the "uncles."

I think my excess weight serves the same protective purpose, but for a different reason. If I am a normal weight and no man looks at me with interest, then I have to deal with the awful question of exactly why that is happening. But since I am overweight, I don't have to answer the question because it is answered already. I am fat, therefore I am unattractive, therefore, I have no interested men in my life.

Funny thing is, it's been that way for so long it actually feels comfortable to me now. So I really have to fight to get out of my comfort zone and keep pushing forward, because I want to lose weight and get fit NOT to attract a man, NOT to please anyone else, NOT to look sexy or attractive, but to feel healthy and strong again. I think when I have achieved my goal and feel that way again, all the other things will just fall naturally into place and take care of themselves.

Planet Fat Cat

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Wind That Shakes the Blarney

Although late, today’s update is supposed to be about the dreaded Monday weigh-in. The title is completely stolen from a movie, albeit badly, because I believe the actual title is “The Wind That Shakes the Barley”. But I never understood what that meant, and I like the silly sound of “blarney”, so I never looked back.

I am so daring that Chuck Norris is afraid to hang out with me!

Back in the real world, however, I can confidently report that Monday morning I weighed an astounding 216.5 pounds. Astounding because human beings under six feet in height should simply not weight that much, and also because it indicates a two-pound loss in one week. Two pounds! I am seriously at risk of not being a scary lard ass… in ten or twenty weeks or… months or… sometime in the dark future world where robots have declared war on humanity…

Pardon, I drifted off imagining thirty years from now when my cyborg body will be AWESOME, like with ripped muscles, and I will have lasers for eyes and all the cyborg honeys will see me and exclaim, “Oh Pigassus! Your mini-life-support fusion reactor is SO BIG!”

Of course you’ll probably need to be rich not to get stuck with the extra small fusion reactor, and it occurs to me it’s never too late or too early to start saving for that bad boy. If I had more than half a brain, I would stop eating and put all that money into some Chinese Internet start-up IPOs and sit back and wait for Nirvana. But, sadly, I have only one frontal lobe, having sold the other half for an over-sized novelty Hershey’s kiss last Valentine’s, and so my extra cash this month is already marked for a new rowing machine.

I’ll let you know how that experiment works out in a few weeks when I am back from the hospital.

You know, the one I’ll be sent to when the “Clean and Jerk” goes bad on the rower. Or whatever it’s called.


Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Biggest Loser - Taking All the Fun Out of Being Fat

Tonight's edition of The Biggest Loser was somewhat surreal. They had a sequence early on that looked like a scene out of Soylent Green, only instead of people seeing videos of beautiful sunsets, flowers, butterflies, land- and ocean- scapes as they drifted into the crematorium and death, the contestants were shown disgusting close-ups of the unhealthy foods they indulged in prior to the show. Instead of death coming quickly as it did in the movie, it comes slowly, mouthful by large mouthful through continually making poor food choices.

As the contestants looked up at the unappetizing food flashing across the wrap-around screens, a disembodied voice intoned the annual calories, pounds of sugar and pounds of fat that daily indulgence in these foods adds on. It was actually nauseating. Instead of dying humans being harvested and processed into soylent green to feed their starving fellow humans, the contestants seemed to morph into oreos and corn dogs intended for self-consumption. The brown team got the message...the husband, Curtis, started crying and said, "We are killing ourselves with what we eat."

Yeah, we are. All of America is.

Then they had the first temptation, with the team that consumed the most junkie calories set to win $5,000. But it was the day before the weigh-in so teams that went for the money and the food were likely to have bad results on the scale. Mark from the grey team surprised me; he had threatened to hurt his younger brother if he succumbed to the temptation, but it was okay if he did it? Yeah, I suppose. Once Mark heard the guy from the yellow team blurting out that he had about 900 calories left in his daily allotment which he planned to eat to win the money, Mark decided to go for it, too. And why not? The yellow team guy telegraphed his plans, which I think means if he ever planned on working for the CIA, he should probably think of choosing another career.

So Mark ate 925 calories and snatched the money from the yellow duo, but he enraged his brother by doing it. Still, why did the guy from the yellow team blab? If he'd just kept his mouth shut, he'd be $5,000 richer.

In typical male fashion, even though Mark pigged out the night before the weigh-in, he still lost 7 pounds, whereas two of the women who busted their butts all week and didn't eat a single calorie at the temptation lost only 1 pound each, and the wife from the white team who sweated bullets lost nothing and Mallory, the wife from the brown team who ate 215 calories at the temptation, actually gained a pound. That eventually sent her and her husband home, but the good news is they have successfully continued their weight loss program.

Jillian Michaels practically burst a blood vessel screaming at her team members for eating at the temptation, and Bob Harper looked pretty ticked off, too. There were hints that the pairing of Jillian and Bob into a training "couple" may not last. The weight loss results were pretty low this week; I would have been thrilled with them but compared to what contestants lost when they were being trained separately, the numbers were way down. Bob was grousing about it, so I wouldn't be surprised if he and Jillian go back to training their couples separately next week.

NOTE: Sorry I don't know all the teams' names yet. For reasons probably related to the writers' strike, NBC is not currently updating The Biggest Loser web site and all the contestant bios on the site are actually from the last season. So I'm struggling a bit with the names.

It isn't easy to eat a healthy diet, even when you are in a controlled situation like The Biggest Loser house. It's not because healthy food isn't delicious, it is; it actually tastes much better than junk food. But you really have to work in the grocery store to find healthy food. You have to plan ahead and figure out what you want to eat and how much cooking and prep time you can fit into your schedule for the week. You have to read labels; it's ridiculous how many foods you wouldn't think of as being unhealthy are bad because they are adulterated with completely unnecessary ingredients.

For example, a famous New Orleans dish that I grew up eating, Red Beans and Rice, is actually quite a healthy meal what with its perfect mix of beans and brown rice, and a little bit of sausage. Nowadays, just try to find sausage that doesn't have high fructose corn syrup as it's second, third or fourth ingredient. High fructose corn syrup! What the heck is THAT doing in sausage? Sausage doesn't need sweetening; it's a savory food – not a dessert item, candy bar or soft drink. But EVERY commercial brand of sausage, Hillshire Farms, Hormel, Oscar Meyer, even HEALTHY CHOICE, has a lot of corn syrup in it.

Fortunately, there is a very good little local sausage company in my neck of the Texas woods, and they make their sausage the good old-fashioned way, with meat, salt, water and spices, so when I have a hankering for red beans and rice, I buy that. Even though sausage is salty and fairly high in fat and I would never just eat "sausage" by itself, each serving of red beans contains only 5 or 6 small pieces of sausage, so you're not getting an overload of either sodium or saturated fat.

Because so many foods have been ruined with unnecessary additives and high doses of salt, sugar and saturated and hydrogenated fat, grocery shopping is no longer enjoyable like it was in the past – it's become real work. Making it through a grocery store is like running a deadly obstacle course, with hapless shoppers forced to dodge a barrage of hidden sugar, fat and sodium bullets as they try to make it to the checkout in one healthy piece.

I think that was the point of the whole weird Soylent Green routine on tonight's Biggest Loser, they want to take all the fun out of being fat. I know it worked for me. After I finish this butter cookie and shake all the crumbs out of my keyboard, I know it will be at least a day or two before I eat another one.

Planet Fat Cat

What Lies Beneath

The holidays have officially come to a close and another round of resolutions and recriminations have passed with the usual effectiveness. I resolved this year to be kind to the young and leave only footprints and take only memories, but since I ate all my brother-in-law’s cookies at Christmas dinner while ignoring his children, I have botched those already. So back to the tired stuff that provoked me to write in this blog last year.

This morning at weigh-in I was… (drumroll)… 218.5 pounds!

For those of you keeping score, that means for the holiday season consisting of three weeks in December and the first week of January, I actually recorded a loss of one-half pound! Since I read that the “average” American gains two to four pounds over that same month each year, and I was gaining at least a pound a week previously, I consider my half-pound loss a minor miracle. Heck, I thought about celebrating with a Tootsie Roll and two Ritz crackers, but I didn’t want to give back all my hard-fought losses.

Anywho, Men’s Health magazine published an interview with a doctor from the Mayo Clinic who recounted the medical staff’s behavioral changes engineered to promote better health and weight loss. In addition to impractical measures such as “walking meetings”, the doctors and nurses also threw out their old desks and replaced them with… (drumroll)… standing desks! Seems after extensive research they determined that the average male burned one calorie per minute while sitting at a desk but burned two each minute if standing instead. And although it seemed like a small increase, when assuming a six-hour “desk day”, it turned out a “stander” could burn an extra 360 calories relative to a “sitter”. In one work month (twenty days) the total extra calories amount to nearly two pounds of disgusting fat. So all things being equal, like not increasing caloric intake or sitting more at home, a man could lose 24 pounds in a year just by making that one change.

I plan on being that man.

Only less of one.

Because it sure would be nice to obsess about what’s below that Pallid Acreage other than the angry red numbers on my bathroom scale.


Saturday, January 5, 2008

A Psychological Pit Stop

I was lying on my humpty today...watching HGTV and thinking impure thoughts about Carter Oosterhouse when I realized that other than work, I haven't accomplished much of anything for the past couple of weeks. I think I am in a sort of psychological pit stop, just trying to make it through the holidays in a few small pieces, rather than shattering into bits of dust.

I have big plans for next week, though. I will start my new exercise regimen then, a little walking, a little resistance training, a little stretching and flexing and some breathing exercises, as well. I am trying to finish one book and outline another one, plus I am trying to convince one of my publishers to let me update one of my medical books. I am determined that 2008 is going to be a good year, and equally determined to do every thing in my power to make it so.

Slowly I feel myself coming back to life, feel energy and the desire to succeed and excel percolating into my cells. It's just the tonic I need. I have been in a month-long coma, but then, it's that way every Christmas. This year just turned out worse than usual.

I am particularly encouraged about my new exercise plan since I did such a good job of sticking to the 90-Day Fitness Walking Program. That showed me I can stay with and complete a program, which was a big unknown when I started. I only hope my results are more noteworthy this time around. I believe they will be since I am incorporating a variety of activities into the program.

I only lost five pounds over those first 90 days of walking, and have gained one pound back over the holidays...not bad considering I haven't exercised in almost three weeks now, and have been doing a bit of indulging in eggnog, pumpkin pies and such.

Then there's that going from the size XL down to the size Large pants thing. That is a major accomplishment. I don't know how I did it without really losing much weight or many inches; I guess the three months of walking just sort of toned and tightened my body all over.

I was talking about my new plan at work tonight and this cute guy told me he didn't think I needed to lose any weight, and I think he meant it, too. I am tall and big-boned, so my excess weight is pretty well distributed over my frame and of course, I dress to hide the worst of it. Still, it made me feel good when he said it. Then it made me feel a little dirty too, because I am 20 years older than he is. Kind of like I feel when I ogle Carter Oosterhouse. That guy gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, "men with tools."

See what I mean? Naughty. If losing four pounds makes me feel this frisky, God protect the poor men of the world when I reach my weight loss goal.

Anyway, time to get out the WD-40 and lubricate the old synapses. Time to come out of my coma, inhale the hopeful air of a new year and prove that old adage: "Today is the first day of the rest of my life."

Happy New Year, dear readers.

Planet Fat Cat

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The Biggest Loser - Couples

Seems like just a few weeks ago we had The Biggest Loser finale, and now here we are already again, starting off a new season. I guess we can thank the ongoing television writers' strike for that, but I for one hope they stick to their guns and hold out for a fairer distribution of the wealth. Did you know writers only make 4¢ for each DVD sold of their movies? So, for example, when Pirates of the Caribbean did 5 million dollars in business on the first day of its DVD release, the two writers took home an astounding $6,700 in royalties and they had to split it between the two of them. So from the five million dollars in sales and rentals, the writers got $3, 350 each while the producers and the video stores that wouldn't even have a product to put in theaters or to rent without writers and their ideas, well, they got millions. I would say that is a way lop-sided distribution of the profits but the producers are determined to keep it that way.

But anyway, the strike means more reality programming because reality writers are not covered by the WGA contract, another thing producers DON'T want. So we get our next season of The Biggest Loser speeded up and delivered to us in double time.

This season features 10 "couples." Some of the pairs are married, one is divorced but still friendly, there's a mother-daughter couple, a mother-son, and a father-daughter, plus two brothers, two former football teammates, two fat camp counselors who were shamed into applying for the show and two strangers, a young woman and a young man who were randomly selected and paired.

Even though it was the usual two-hour season opener, for some reason it felt rushed and I didn't feel like I got to know much about the contestants. Of course, it didn't help that my phone kept ringing, either, so maybe I missed stuff that would have made me feel like I knew the people better. There are 20 contestants instead of the usual 12 or 15, and that's a lot of folks to keep up with.

For the first challenge the couples had to race up a hill, touch a flag pole and race back down. They chose their trainer by crossing the finish line into that trainer's camp. This year it's back to Bob Harper and Jillian Matthews, the original two trainers from season one. Most of the people chose Jillian so poor Bob was left standing there with only 2 couples while Jillian was almost instantly up to her limit of 5 couples. The three couples who came straggling in weren't not all exactly happy about being on Bob's team instead of Jillian's. But I tell you, if I had a choice I would take Bob. I think Jillian is a terrific trainer and you can't argue with her results. But she and I would not get along one-on-one.

Jillian was kind of making fun of Bob saying people think he is nurturing but he's really a monster. But the fact is, he comes across as emotionally nurturing, and he takes care of his team's emotions almost as well as he takes care of their training. Now Jillian does deliver a bit of encouragement, a few pep talks here and there, but her style is mostly loud screaming and humiliation. That works well for a lot of people; it wouldn't work for me. I don't mind watching it; I couldn't bear to live it.

Sure enough, one of the couples that chose Jillian went into full tilt rebellion after the first workout. The wife did fine, but the husband was rolling around on the floor whining and crying like a baby, saying it was too hard. But the worst was the father on the father-daughter team. He refused to work out and went and took a nap instead. Of course, being a man, he still managed to lose double digits, then made fun of his hard-working daughter for only losing 7 pounds.

7 POUNDS! I would be thrilled with that. In 90 days of walking on my treadmill I only lost 5 pounds, so 7 pounds seems like a lot. Anyway, that's the team that was voted off, because the father had a negative attitude and was nasty to his daughter. I was so happy to see she kept it up and changed her habits for the better once she went home. She's now enlisted her friends to support her weight loss efforts as her father wasn't interested in helping either her or himself. She's lost another 14 pounds since she's been home for a total of 20 pounds shed. Her father has only lost 4 pounds, also for a total of 20 pounds lost. But considering he lost 16 pounds in his week on the show and only 4 pounds since coming home, I think it's pretty clear he doesn't take the thing seriously enough even though he's pushing 400 pounds.

Jillian said something really funny about not liking the set-up of this year's competition with the couples, because the arrangement allowed contestants to bring their "fat enabler" with them to the campus. She thinks it will be much tougher for her and Bob to keep the contestants on the program since they've all got their fat buddies there to keep them company and help them think up excuses. In fact, on the previews for next week, there was even a funny hint about Jillian and Bob becoming a training "couple," so they could keep their workout couples in line and on track.

It's a little too soon to pick favorites but I like the interactions between the man and woman on the team picked at random. They did well this week. And the mother-daughter team is interesting to watch, but the mom's so prone to hysteria (and daughter is not far behind) that I think they won't last long, but who knows?

Planet Fat Cat
No longer XL; now just L