Sunday, April 27, 2008

The State of Texas Finally Figures Out a Way to Get Rid of My Ass

Longtime readers (I'm not going to do the easy joke here...) know that I have tried almost everything to budge the fat cells from my rear end, with little success to show for my efforts. Now, the Lone Star State has finally figured out a way to get rid of my ass for good.

As a freelance writer and reporter, I am always surfing the net looking for potential gigs. I have registered on many job sites, and posted my resume on many more. So Texas, in its wisdom, sent me a real doozy of a job last week...combat videographer in Iraq.

Boo-yah! There you go! Never mind that I'm a 59-year-old, overweight, out-of-shape woman, never mind that I have never operated a video camera in my life. My resume includes the word "reporter" and the job description included the phrase "battlefield reporter," so in the eyes of the computer, it was a match! Not necessarily one made in heaven, but a match nonetheless.

Not to seem ungrateful or anything, but I passed. I know, I know. The first surefire way to get rid of my ass in history and I lift my nose at it! I must really want to stay fat. That's all I can conclude. Or maybe I just really want to stay alive and NOT have my ass blown to kingdom come.

Okay, here's the real scoop: I think I would have had a hell of a time trying to operate a 40-pound video camera from beneath my burka.

Planet Fat Cat
Firmly planted in Southwestern North America

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Oinks on the Passing Scene 2

Since I am melancholy today because of the myriad problems that are facing my friends and relations, as opposed to the usual self pity, I am not experiencing the desire to write about losing weight and instead wish to revisit something I introduced months ago: Oinks on the Passing Scene.

In case no one remembers, “Oinks” are my poor imitation of economist Thomas Sowell’s “Thoughts on the Passing Scene”… with my own irreverent twists thrown in for effect. I hope he forgives me for aping his style; I pray I am not wrong in believing all these thoughts are at least original to me.

With that in mind:

1. The movie “Cloverfield” was better than I could have imagined only because it was obvious, if you could keep from hurling from the jitter camera work, that all the people involved actually put tremendous effort into making the movie look … real. Can any normal person even conceive of how much education, training, and artistic talent it must take to make it look like a 30 story alien actually destroyed New York?

2. The current crop of presidential candidates has me pining away for a return to an old feudal system: We would still all be filthy, starving surfs, but at least we wouldn’t have been responsible for ELECTING our own nasty, idealess, pandering, self-aggrandizing weaklings to leadership.

3. The Universe continues to remind me of the axiom that “you get what you pay for”: Although I have tried for weeks to ignore the tiny bits of bone I have found in my (now infamous) Jenny O’s Chicken Rings, today I nearly cracked a tooth on a fragment that must have been the chicken’s entire leg. It may be time to spend more than $1.99 on three pounds of frozen “chicken” product and pay more attention to what I’m putting in my mouth.

4. Two years ago I purchased a watch that was too large for my rather chubby wrist. Since then I have lost a substantial amount of weight and my jewelry now constantly annoys me by sliding down my arm whenever I look at it. But I refuse to get it adjusted because my twisted mind insists on believing that the loose watch will make me look thin to any observers… instead of like a dork who keeps checking his elbow to see what time it is.

5. Violent wind noise, leaking tops, higher insurance costs, negligible trunk space, and lower safety still can’t hamper a convertible’s ability to induce big smiles on a sunny day across an open road.

6. Yesterday while the world wrestled with mounting hunger, unrest, and political instability my buddies and I spent most of our intellectual talent on coming up with a new radio phonetic alphabet based on “porn words”. I mean Whiskey Tango Foxtrot dudes!

7. Men are pigs.

8. The rise of the middle class in modern Western society has done more to create equality between the sexes than any law ever passed.

9. Cutting edge computer operating systems and text editing software have become so damn “helpful” that it practically takes a learning annex course just to figure out how to turn them on and disable all those wonderfully “helpful” little extras that no one needs and few use.

10. My father was shocked to hear that young men today use as many hair care and hair styling products as young women do. What will I be shocked to hear about the younger generation when I am his age?


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Silk Purse from a Sow's Ear

Long time readers, both of you, will probably think that the title above refers to my efforts to make myself more appealing through the magic of diet and exercise. Forgetting a moment that I have never referred to the FEMA disaster area that is my body as a "sow's ear", I am slightly offended that anyone would assume my ideal body would in any way inspire visions of a silk purse. Jackhammer maybe, soft hand bag, no.

But as they say, no accounting for taste.

Which is my incredibly smooth segue into the real point of today's screed: I have become a wizard at turning ordinary and inoffensive foods into somewhat tasty abominations. Now either I am like a medieval alchemist or Dr. Frankenstein, but either way I have found a gift and it's not for metaphor.

I thought of this talent today because I had just finished my take on ... some classic dish that involved chicken and broccoli and honey mustard. I am so not trained as a chef that I don't even know what it is that my trailer-park creations are mimicking. But I assume there is a Bennigan's restaurant out there somewhere that serves a breaded chicken breast stuffed with broccoli florets, covered with melted Swiss cheese and served with a warm honey mustard sauce. But since I don't have time for all that, I used Jenny O's Chicken Rings microwaved to perfection with frozen broccoli cuts and slices of mozzarella cheese melted on top. The honey mustard I believe came from Ken's Steak House brand and was not great, so I went ahead and added some spicy brown mustard.

You see, it's the little touches like those that really make it special.

The problem is that I know, no, I HAVE created the real dishes in my kitchen at one time or another. I have sauteed fresh vegetables and stuffed them into succulent chicken breast which I then baked in a flavorful homemade sauce. I have fussed over exact flavor combinations for meats and breads and rices and sauces until I almost couldn't taste anymore and then served these masterpieces to friends and family and smiled when they gobbled down the results in seconds... and then asked for thirds.

But now it is just me, and the desire to create gourmet food has ended. Expediency is the new salt; inexpensive is the new garlic; inoffensive is the new lemon.

Just remember that if I ever invite you over to my house for "veal scallopini over linguine", I probably really mean "Tyson Chicken Nuggets with warm Newman's Own Italian Dressing".

You have been warned.


Monday, April 14, 2008

My Dear Pigassus...

As always you manage to both entertain and amuse me. I love your writing. Guess that's why we're doing a blog together!

I started to make a comment on your latest post and when it exceeded the maximum allowable characters, I realized I needed to dash off a quick blog entry to make one important observation vis à vis your view of palm oil. Repeat after me: Palm oil is GOOD! Palm oil is GOOD!

My dear friend, the question you pose, "What Next?" is a question I struggle with every day, the food version of the man stranded alone in a boat in the middle of the vast ocean who says to himself right before he dies of thirst, "Water! Water everywhere, but not a drop to drink!"

That's how I feel when I go into a grocery store or restaurant. Food! Food everywhere, but almost nothing fit to eat. I am so hungry all the time but can only rarely find anything in a grocery that piques my interest or desire.

So back to the palm oil thing. You have succumbed to our government's oft published false statements about the dangerous nature of palm oil. It was all part of a campaign of dissinformation disseminated by the government when it was pushing liquid oils after World War II. Their mantra was, "Solid oil=BAD; liquid oil=GOOD!"

We now know this is simplistic and wrong. Hydrogenated solid oils are BAD; they are solid at room temperature only through chemistry, the addition of a hydrogen molecule to the oil lowers the temperature required to make the oil solid. Trouble is, these artifically solid oils don't easily melt and liquify at body termperature, so they fill your digestive system and your arteries with artificially hard particles that do real damage, causing injury like nicks in the walls of blood vessels as they careen through your body. The body's response to these injuries is to rush to repair them. The bandaid it uses to patch over these nicks is cholesterol, so eating hydrogenated oil starts the process of artery clogging that eventually results in heart attacks and bypass surgery.

As for liquid oils, read my previous post, "My Own Private Raisin Bran," and you'll see that not all liquid oils are safe or healthy either. Olive oil, yes, because the cold pressed variety is natural and doesn't contain any added chemicals or solvents. If you buy the "lite" olive oil however, look out, because that stuff is adulterated with chemicals to make it "lite."

Your body understands how to handle oils that are naturally solid at room temperature. Room temperature is usually 25 to 30 degrees lower than your body temperature, so solid oils melt and liquify when you ingest them. Even though they are solid on your kitchen shelf, they are liquid and soft after you eat them. Does this mean you can eat palm oil in huge quantities? No, but don't believe it is unhealthy. It is loaded with antioxidants and tocopherals that are natural preservatives; therefore it does not easily go rancid like some chemically extracted vegetable oils. Rancid oils are bad because ingesting them causes enormous free radical damage to the cells of your body, damage that accelerates aging and disease processes.

On the down side, the growing demand for palm oil in the United States is leading to the massive clearing of natural habitats in Malaysia and Indonesia to make room for more palm plantations. This is of particular concern in Indonesia where the clearing threatens both the Orangutan and the Sumatran tiger.

Like anything in life, there are trade-offs, but my one inviolate rule is, I NEVER put anything in my mouth that came from Dr. Frankenfood's chem lab.

Eh, so what's for lunch?

Planet Fat Cat

Sunday, April 13, 2008

What Next?

On the journey of self-discovery, one crosses many uncomfortable truths: I will never be a rock star, my hair follicles don’t find my temples as hospitable a place to live as they once did, and although I posses a fertile mind, I generally react more creatively than I create. Thus I am easily inspired, but not usually from within. Am I a “brilliant mimic” as Drew Barrymore describes her character in the underrated romantic comedy “Music and Lyrics”? No, forgiving the call and answer, I would suggest I am more like a really clever earthworm: stimulus and response on a much higher plateau.

Great. And if I ever decide to crawl around naked, digesting soil for the benefit of America’s beleaguered family farmers, perhaps society can find a use for me. But oh how I have digressed.

The reason for this recent examination comes from a reaction to another writer’s work. This evening I read Fat Cat’s latest post “My Own Private Raisin Brand” and it prompted me, as usual, to write a column. How I wish the idea had come to me “organically”, but alas it did not. No, if credit is due, Fat Cat gets a prize; if blame should be necessary, Fat Cat done it!

You see, what on Earth am I supposed to eat now?

I LOVE raisin brand. In fact, I love high fructose corn sweetener. Just a few weeks ago I actually bought a bottle of Caro Syrup. I did so despite the fact that I KNEW it was essentially bottled demon’s bile. Not surprisingly, the whole section of sweeteners was behind glass and I was forced to call the manager to come open the display. The mandatory counseling session that preceded my purchase seemed like overkill, but what was a ten minute lecture on the near-radioactive nature of the syrup compared to its delicious and Heavenly flavor?

Yet despite my desire for tasty yummies, all the warnings about my imminent death from carbs finally got to me: I threw out the Caro last week in a fit of pique and dread for my health (I could actually hear a Celestial Chorus sing out as I did so). I also threw out my ketchup, my cereal, my tiny little bag of white sugar (near to spoiling for age), my strawberry jam, and my half-used bottle of chocolate ice-cream topping (never once poured on actual ice-cream). All of them had some type of vile sweetener in them or a palm oil or worse. Heck, the ketchup was probably made from tobacco! Though mostly unused in my kitchen, and only very sparingly at that, they HAD TO GO. Like lead paints of old, these foods could kill me and I wouldn’t even know it.

But after the rapture of my liberation from the Evil Additives, I felt vacant and, well, hungry. What was I supposed to eat? Carbs are bad, saturated fat is bad, low fiber is bad (as so is too high a fiber I hear), palm oil is bad, preservatives are bad, packaged foods are bad, fried foods are bad, bleached food is bad, meat is bad, mercury-laced fish is bad, unwashed organic vegetables are bad, tap water is bad, IT’S ALL BAD.

What next, they find crack cocaine and unprotected sex with hookers is bad too??

Assuming you could find uncontaminated soil and create your own untainted fertilizer, the only thing left to do would be to grow your own vegetables at home. Finally! Good food to eat at every meal and healthy living for decades to come…

Until the radon gas got you.

So do what you will, I am heading to the Quickie Mart to get some Twinkies, a fifth of Jim Beam and a carton of Lucky Smacks brand unfiltered smokes,


P.S. Apologies to my good friend Fat Cat! Generally in all things health-related we agree, but sometimes the useless rebel in my lashes out. Know that the whole time my tongue was firmly in cheek, and I only pretended to enjoy a Hershey’s Bar while I wrote. Or did I!?

Friday, April 11, 2008

My Own Private Raisin Bran

Part of my plan to get healthy includes eating healthy. The breakfast part of that is easy, or at least I thought it was until I started reading nutritional labels. Ever since I was a little girl, raisin bran has been my favorite cereal. It didn't matter whether it was Post or Kellogg's; I just loved the stuff. I felt like if I ate a bowl of that with a sliced banana and 1 percent milk every morning, I was doing my body a big favor.

Wrong. The Post raisin bran delivers a whopping 46 grams of carbs and Kellogg's 45 grams of crabs, all thanks to a relatively new ingredient that doesn't even need to be there in the first place....high fructose corn syrup or HFCS.

Regular readers know that last fall I went on a 90 Day Walking Program. Despite sticking to it faithfully, eventually walking a half hour a day on my treadmill for six days out of every week, and despite really cutting out the junk, including soda and, I thought, sweets, I didn't lose any weight. It was one of the biggest puzzles ever.

Recently I got serious about eating organic and realized I was going to have to find an organic brand of raisin bran. To get a sense of where to start, I read the labels on my old faithfuls, Post and Kellogg's. That's when I got the shock of my life. Both brands were loaded not only with sugar, but also HFCS. What? What possible earthly reason could there be to adulterate a healthy cereal with HFCS? It's a substance that's been linked to unexpected increases in body weight, problems with satiety and hunger resulting in higher caloric intake, rapid increases in fat mass, and problems with the hormone signaling system the body uses to regulate food intake. Since HFCS is now a key ingredient in most packaged foods, it's harder than you think to avoid. So maybe that's the hidden reason why the mass of my ass won't budge.

HFCS is not just in foods where you would expect to find it. For instance, would you believe that almost all sausage contains HFCS as a major ingredient? Now why does something piquant and savory, that's flavored with garlic and onions, need sugar of any kind? It's bizarre. It's also in ketchup of all places, fruit juice (like that needs to be sweeter!), yogurt, premade pasta and piza sauce, canned soups and fruits, salad dressings, (another weird place for it to be...who needs sweet dressings?) breads, and sad to say, even breakfast cereals.

HFCS is the only sweetener in soda, so when I gave up my huge daily soda intake at the beginning of my walking program, I got rid of lots of HFCS. Yet, that didn't lead to any weight loss, probably because I was chowing down a huge jolt of HFCS every morning with breakfast, right along with my "healthy" raisin bran.

So, I went on a hunt for a healthy raisin bran to replace my Kellogg's and Post brands, one that had bran, raisins and little else. But I didn't have much luck. All the organic brans didn't have much fiber, which was weird, but worse than that, many brands had raisins coated with safflower or sunflower oil. It's amazing to me how companies that purport to be manufacturing "healthy" organic foods are so ignorant of the basic tenents of nutrition. Sunflower and safflower oils are among the polyunsaturates that contain a dangerous imbalance of omega fatty acids. Ideally, Omega 3 and Omega 6 should exist in a 1 to 1 balance. But in many polyunsaturates, the ratio is more like 20 units of Omega 6 to 1 unit of omega 3. If you ingest these oils as a regular part of your diet, this imbalance leads to a chronic inflammatory state in the body. So what? you may be asking. Well, chronic inflammatory states lead to disease...specifically heart disease, stroke, arthritis, cancer, kidney failure, fibromyalgia, pancreatitis, lupus and Alzheimer's Disease, among others. When you listen to the so-called experts and try to "lighten up' your diet by removing hydrogenated oils, which are truly deadly, and replacing them with polyunsaturates, which some uninformed journalists and even some doctors mistakenly call healthy, you are putting your body in a chronic state of inflammation, which, I assure you, is not a good thing.

So, to keep my brain from becoming even more inflamed than it is normally, I stay away from polyunsaturates that are high in Omega 6. So no raisins coated with oil for me. Once again, a manufacturer adds a bizarre ingredient where it isn't even needed and once again, I was unable to find a raisin bran to suit my needs.

Time to get creative. I quickly found some wonderful organic raisins by Tree of Life. The wheat bran flakes were harder to find, but I finally settled on Nature's Path Heritage Flakes, which have 22 grams of carbs per serving and 100 calories. Then I add two tablespoons of raisins which add another 15 grams of carbs and 65 calories, for a total of 37 grams of carbs and 165 calories. Now I know that's not all that much lower than the 45 and 46 grams and the 190 and 187 calories in the national brands, but I'm putting much higher quality food in my mouth by doing this. It's like I have my own private raisin bran, which I would take over my own private Idaho any day.

Planet Fat Cat
Trying a new orbit

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Production Junction, What's Your Function?

Today marked the end of the “messy” phase of my year that began maybe nine or ten months ago. Back then I moved my computer out of the spare room and placed it, quite controversially, in the living room and squarely in front of the large plasma television that my mother purchased for me at Christmas, 2006. Showing my gift for rationalization, I thought I would be more productive if I had the distraction of hundreds of overpriced cable television channels, and so I abandoned my ersatz office and turned it into a temporary “storage” area.

“Temporary” eventually became the word worthy of quotation marks.

Over the course of many months, the one or two boxes in the room became intimately familiar with one-another and uncontrollably spawned dozens of children. Apparently the spectacle of boxes making dirty cardboard love also attracted a multitude of unused pillows, blankets, picture frames, computer accessories, books, compact disks, tables, weights, papers, and “nic-naks” (which I do not esteem but have because of well-meaning friends and relatives). Whatever the actual cause of the congregation of loose and untidy objects, eventually the room became a jungle of “crap” that was neither too useless to throw away nor too important to be used with any regularity. Finally, something in my life was disorganized and for months I couldn’t have been happier with my progress toward filthy.

I should mention that at some point last year I actually became determined to be less compulsive in an attempt to spark some long-buried creativity. Reasoning that rigid organization of my general life and apartment somehow had stifled the random thoughts that birthed creativity in writing, I vowed to scramble my living space. By yesterday, the apartment looked awful and no one could claim that hadn’t become less “anal” (or enamored of quotation marks to be sure).

Pity it turns out anality doesn’t stifle creativity as much as lazality. Which is to say that after ten months of being uneasy at the deteriorating condition of my home, and possibly attracting rodents, the only thing I had started to create with greater regularity was garbage. It was time to chuck the whole “amateur behavioral psychologist” stinker and just get on with some spring cleaning.

So now, still honoring my mother’s generous gift, I am standing here in front of my computer and simultaneously watching “The River Wild” on some Encore cable channel. My spare room has morphed, through hernia inducing physical and mental effort, into something resembling a clean and tidy work-out room/storage area. Though not aesthetically appealing from a design perspective (and what around here is?), the room is organized enough to afford a space in which I can weight train. You can never go back to Eden, apparently, and so mystically the room will be partially storage until I move. But such price, wisdom.

Now so far I haven’t mentioned anything related to losing mass on my body, but I think on the balance I shed a great deal of weight off my mind. For in the process of cleaning today I threw away a great many things that at one time I considered memorabilia too precious to abandon. The junk, indescribably varied, simply ceased to haunt me or pain me or in some cases interest me. Although one day I may pine away for those things I released into Infinity today, overall the paring of my accumulated belongings was cathartic.

Now to pare down my ass.

If only THAT were as easy as throwing out some old boxes.


Thursday, April 3, 2008

Two Bagger

If you were really tasked to think about it, what would make you happy in half-pound increments? Would a half-pound hamburger delight you? Perhaps a half-pound of cocaine? Solid gold, a little gleaming ingot?

For me, this last week I was made slightly happier with the removal of a half pound of something rather than its addition: I now weigh a Slyph-like 223.0 pounds. That’s right, apparently all the whining and complaining about being a whale managed to burn away at least 1700 kCals of stored energy in the form of human adipose tissue. And you thought the groaning on about inspiration and disappointment was wasted time!

But not one to rest on my laurels, I fully intend to bitch and moan some more until another half-pound melts off my ass. Actually, if it’s true that just being really pissed about obesity burns calories, I intend to go around being angry all the time and just grouse my way to Nirvana.

If nothing else, imagine the conversations at the grocery store:

Underpaid Teenaged Clerk Named Candy: “Hello sir, did you find everything you needed today?”

Me: “Yeah, and about fifty more pounds of it in the ‘Disgusting Middle-Aged Phenomena Isle.”

Candy: “I’m new to the store sir, is that by fresh produce?”

Me: “Trust me, Cindy, there is nothing fresh OR tasty about a bitter, fat guy.”

Candy: “My name is Candy, and uh, do you need any stamps or ice today?”

Me: “Only if a bag of ice can sooth the disappointment of not having a date in several years.”

Candy: “Oh God… I uh, have a boyfriend. Two! Big ones. Oh man, Mom told me this was a bad idea… uhm… what was I supposed to do… oh yeah! Paper or plastic?”

Me: “Any chance I’ll ‘accidentally’ suffocate in a paper bag while checking the bottom for loose change?”

Candy: “…”

Me: “Plastic. And don’t forget to double bag the ice cream, please. Last time it fell out and I had to bend over to pick it up. Which, trust me, that ain't something anybody wants to see."

Candy: “Manager to checkout 7…”

Hey, could be fun!