Sunday, March 2, 2008

Psst...Over Here!

The cats and I have moved ourselves to the new and improved Mighty Minx site.

Please redirect your bookmarks and readers here.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Dairy Detox Day 3 (Saturday)

I now officially know I'm old because I threw a party for a friend who was launching a little side-business venture, and I stayed at her place until about 2:00, and I had to go to work this morning and instead of being buoyed by adrenaline and staying up all day Saturday and repeating the same late night again because you can always sleep it off Sunday, I pretty much just crashed after work. Like, drool on the pillow, don't remember actually falling asleep while reading the news, old lady dozing off. I have friends who've either turned thirty or who are staring at thirty head on, and a few of them party, like, three our four nights a week (granted they're partying with college students who probably look up at them for being more than a fetus when The A-Team was in its prime and I think that's a little bit sketchy but this morning I dropped a particularly nice looking Shredded Wheat out of my Ziploc baggie of cereal into the feet area of my car and I had to REALLY talk myself down from fishing for it and blowing it off at a red light so I don't get to judge anyone again until tomorrow at least), and I just absolutely cannot do that anymore. I really just need to give into the inevitable and get my Murder, She Wrote boxed set and my lap blanket and call it a life.

The party itself wasn't too hard in terms of being tempted to eat cheese or meat, but the preparation for it was just awful. The night of Day 2 and all through yesterday (Day 3) I finally started realizing I couldn't just eat the meat and cheese anymore, and as Lunabella said in yesterdays' comments, it started to make me really cranky. The only way I got around it was to imagine the summer sausage I was cutting up as little baby pigs in a pile, and the melted cheese on top of the bruschetta was glue that would eventually make its way into my stomach and work its fiendish plan to hold my poop hostage for a week or so (you know that's how cheese rolls). All day yesterday I was just HUNGRY, despite having a pretty decent breakfast and lunch. I hadn't been hungry at all the two prior days, so I think it may have been more psychosomatic than anything. I'm hungry right now, too, but I think that mostly has to do with still being a trifle hung over from the glasses of wine my inebriated guest of honor kept asking me to finish for her and also sleeping through lunch. I should probably eat something.

I bought three very promising looking vegan cookbooks from Amazon--Vegan with a Vengeance, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, and Veganomicon--all by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, who is the host of the Post Punk Kitchen show on NYC cable access, and generally regarded to be an all around awesome vegan chef. The books kind of read like novels, so I'm excited to dig into one tonight. I'm going grocery shopping tomorrow, so I may try cooking again, hopefully with better results than lass month's misadventures.

Also, I didn't make this connection the other three days, but I also stopped drinking coffee the week before I stopped eating dairy, so I'm not sure which symptoms belong to caffeine withdrawal and which are dairy related. I have had some pretty spectacular side of the head headache bursts, which I'm guessing belong to caffeine, but the ongoing dizziness, listlessness, and feeling like nasty stuff is sort of surfacing and then disappearing from my body is likely dairy related. I'm still not sure if I believe if detox really happens like that, so take it for what you think it's worth.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Dairy Detox Day 2

There are a lot of times I feel really sorry for myself for not being married with kids. It usually happens at work, where I am the only single woman without kids there, and so have very little in common with the forty women there who all seem to be either constantly pregnant or menopausal and obsessed with their grandkids. I have no C-section scars to talk about, no opinions about breast pumps, and I can't joke about planning my ovulation calendar so I can give birth the day after Christmas and stay on maternity leave until Spring Break (Which is apparently like the ultimate goal of any pregnant educator. I had no idea.) Sometimes when I get home to a quiet, dark house, and the only living things there to greet me are the cats in the living room and maybe a cricket or two in the garage, I get a little lonely and wistful.

But then, when I'm at the grocery store and am busy filling my cart with alcohol and party food and waaay overpriced organic cleaners that make my house smell like a flower shop, and I have my cell phone in one hand and a Starbucks in another and I'm clacking along with my splurge handbag and my splurge heels and my splurge sunglasses and I bump carts with a woman my age wrangling one of those kiddie shopping carts filled with five dirty, screaming, wriggling children, all under the age of seven, and all of whom answer to the name Keegan or some screeched variation thereof, I have two very clear and distinct thoughts in my head:

1) This woman is a superhero.

2) I really must make sure to get my birth control refilled.

Day 2 of veganism was way easier than Day 1. No more shaking or nausea. Just a touch of headache and the omnipresent peculiar sensation of emptiness all throughout my body. It's hard to explain, but it's kind of like the knowledge of not ever having gooey, melty, creamy stuff again kind of makes my body feel cleaned out. Or something. I think it's probably just a huge placebo effect.

Tomorrow's going to be interesting, though, because I'm having a party for some friends and obviously they're not going to be down with eating tofu bean dip. I have some regular food and I'm going to attempt to make some vegan party food for me, too. If it's not a complete disaster, I'll post the recipes over the weekend.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

It's For My Own Gouda

I believe I am many good things.

I am kind to children and animals. I will kick your ass twice over in games that involve manipulating words or letters. I make a good pot of coffee, and I think I have nice hair.

But there are, of course, skills I haven't yet acquired in my twenty-seven years on this Earth. I have a black thumb, for instance, and the only green living thing in my house right now is a very tenacious ivy plant that will not die no matter how infrequently I water it or how long I left it outside after the first October frost. I am clumsy and just yesterday found out I have atrocious balance for tango, which will be the source of a tortured, whiny, overphilosophical entry once I get the tango page up and running.

But one of my worst flaws? I have absolutely shit taste in men.

Not every single guy I've dated falls under this category, but an alarming number of them do. To paraphrase Our Lady of the Single Gal with Saddlebags, Ms. Bridget Jones, if there are any "alcoholics, workaholics, megalomaniacs, emotional fuckwits, or perverts" within a 50 mile radius, I will find and date them. This pattern started in college, after having a very respectable relationship throughout high school with a very respectable boy, but not two weeks after hanging out with Real College Boys and seeing that they would be just totally awesome at preying upon every single insecurity, obsession, and bad habit that laid dormant in my otherwise placid character, I called up the high school boyfriend and dumped him, ostensibly for being too far away, but in reality for not being abusive and emotionally retarded and so therefore boring. Just recently, actually, I realized I was falling into the same pattern over and over, and I put a stop to it by going on "dating detox" and trying to get use to liking myself before I went out and liked someone else again. So far being an intentionally single cat lady is a lot like being an unintentional one, except I shave my legs less frequently which is COMPLETELY AWESOME.

So the reason why I'm writing about this nine years later after learning this lesson over and over and OVER, is because suddenly all my bad ex-boyfriends are reminding me of cheese. Stay with me, people.

As my eating habits are getting progressively better and better, I find myself being able to talk myself down from cravings, or emotional eating, and I find the more I stay away from binging and trying to hurt myself with food, the less I want to do it. (Duh.) But I think there's one last piece of the puzzle with this, and so I'm trying to decide if there are just some bad news foods that I'm going to have to cut out of my diet because I just can't trust myself around them.

It's probably going to be dairy, and especially cheese for me. My weakness is ice cream, or nachos, or milkshakes, or bagels and cream cheese, and I can never seem to moderate those foods like I'm able to with other stuff. The other night I was driving home from work and completely worn out and disinterested in popping in yet another frozen meal, so I thought "Hey, I haven't had pizza in awhile" and rang up Pizza Hut. And I kind of knew in the back of my mind that it's never a good idea to buy a whole medium pizza for myself and really expect to ration it, so I decided to try a little experiment--I decided to let myself have as much pizza as I felt like I had to have to get over the desire to eat pizza, no matter how much it took. And seriously, it was so not satisfying as a meal, I probably could've eaten the whole thing just to get that one moment when things felt and tasted as good as I wanted them to in my mind, but I finally just made myself stop because eight pieces is just ew. Everything was just gross...the way it made me feel, the congealed cheese on the top, the way my stomach never felt satisfied and I just kept eating and eating it, and finally I had to stop with the realization that I had ingested about 1,200 calories and really hated every bite. The whole thing made me realize that if a food that I think I love so much can make me feel this nasty, maybe I should somehow stop loving it.

The next day I took the remaining pizza for my lunch at work, and this is where the loser ex-boyfriend analogy really resonated for me. I realized as I sat down with my leftovers that I wasn't going to be satisfied with pizza and water and an apple like I had planned. Of course I needed a can of Coke and a candy bar, because that's how pizza OUGHT to be eaten. I needed the flavor combinations of cheese plus sugar plus chocolate or else it just didn't feel right. One thing lead to another in that situation, and again, for something that's supposed to be so enjoyable, it didn't feel good at all. It's like the loser boyfriend who's super romantic and sweet on the first date, but then he takes you to McDonald's for the second date, and by the fifth date you're bringing him the food to his mom's house because he moved back in with her to "sort out some things" and then by three months into it he calls you on your birthday (which he's forgotten about) while you're sleeping off a midnight shift at your summer job because his truck's run out of gas in Kansas and he needs a ride back and while you're both driving he asks you to pull over at this one dude, Tino's, house so he can "say hey to some friends" and before you can smoothe out your bedhead in the rearview mirror he's selling dime bags from his backpack to the guys who work at the local Mexican restaurant in Tino's driveway and laughing at you while you cry and tell him you have BIG COLLEGE SCHOLARSHIPS, damnit, and he's fucking everything up.

Not that ANY of that has ever happened to me. And I've digressed.

I've talked about this a little bit before, but my point is that I don't want to have an emotional attachment to my food, especially not food that makes me feel so shitty and makes me have irrational emotional attachments to other foods. So I decided to just finally bite the bullet and go vegan because it seemed right and I feel intellecutally good about it, and I think I'm on hour 26 of dairy detox. I'm not sure if there's really such a thing as dairy detox, but I know I feel like shit. Headache, joint pains, the shakes, nausea, dizziness, and I've had about 100 oz. of water today and I'm not peeing AT ALL and my stomach is swollen and hurts like a mother and I really don't know why. I apologize for the graphic detail, but I think it'll be nice to reread this in six months when I'm all vegan-glowy and shit and smiling serenely as I eat quinoa or something vegan-y.

I'll keep you updated on this if I don't die in the process, and keep your eyes open for the birth of the tango blog, coming very soon!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Bump in the Road

On President's Day I drove up to Kansas University to visit with an old professor who had recently job there. The last time I had been to Lawrence was for summer camp when I was thirteen, and my only memories of the place were how every single building in the town seemed to be at the top of this big giant hill, and no matter where you went you had to go up. I drove in through artfully planned "quaint downtown" part of the city and stopped for lunch at a regional landmark, Local Burger. If you're ever within driving distance of Lawrence, I highly, highly recommend stopping for food there. Best veggie burger I have ever eaten in my life, and the rainbow slaw and vegan smoothies are fantastic.

I wanted to visit this professor to talk about possibilities for doctoral study, and to find out what I needed to do to be attractive for the admissions committees. I posted a few weeks ago about seriously considering law school, and how I had already bought LSAT test prep materials, and I was really working hard on the test, and researching admissions statistics, and figuring out what kind of personal essay would make me seem like I had more to offer than the ability to wipe the noses, tie the shoes, and button the jeans of 15 kindergartners while singing "All Around the Buttercup" and never dropping a beat. (I chalked that up as multitasking. Also, high tolerance for snot, which I'm sure is obviously a big prerequisite for high-paying corporate jobs) But the more I looked into it, and the more I got into playing the numbers games and comparing myself against other applicants and all of that, the more I realized that's really not my bag at all. I admire people who are attorneys; I respect their ambition, and the discipline it takes to throw yourself into a high-stress job, and I really like their money. But it's not me. I don't really have that kind of desire to climb the salary ladder, or to beat out other people for recognition or promotions. When it came down to it, I think I wanted to be a lawyer for the money, and honestly, even the prospect of an entire closet full of Louboutins and fifty dollar underwear is worth doing something I'd potentially hate.

So, after realizing this and being okay with it, I moved on to my other idea of going to back to school for a doctorate in some kind of education-related field. It was exciting, because since the competition for education degrees is so much lower, the chances I would've gotten into a really good school were higher, and there were all kinds of programs at places like Teachers' College in New York and Harvard that I was interested in. And the following part is the only reason I'm posting about this, because otherwise it's not a huge deal:

When I started looking at colleges in high school, my test scores, grades, and extracurriculars were strong enough that I had a pretty good chance of getting into schools like Harvard or wherever. And I wanted to go, although not for really good reasons so much as I just wanted to be able to say I got out of our little pissant town and did that, because it doesn't happen very often. But when my parents and I sat down to have our first talk about schools, they told me there wasn't any money. Not for tuition, not for trips out there for campus visits, not even for the application fees to the fancy schools. We simply did not have the finances to look beyond Missouri for college, and I needed to go to the school that gave me the best scholarship package, and that was the end of it.

And that's what started a very long resentment with my parents about what happened with my education and my future, even though I finally realized I was really just angry at myself for not ever trying to prove that there were alternatives and ways around the huge costs of going to school. I didn't know we were poor enough to qualify for grants and Ivy League poor people scholarships, and I assumed they had researched those things themselves. When my school guidance counselor told me to stop applying for scholarships because it was rude to take money from other people who needed it, I listened, and I was embarrassed for being greedy. I still told reporters and adults in town that I was planning to go to Harvard to study political science, but I secretly knew that the farthest east I was going to go for the next four years was Mizzou, and that was the end of it.

The same thing happened with my husband, who told me I couldn't go out of state to get a graduate degree, because that would separate us. One of my professors tried valiantly to get me to move on, even making a last minute phone call to a dean of her alma mater to see if they'd accept my application late and under the table. I kept refusing, because I thought it was my job to stay here and make money so my husband could go to school. So I stayed in Missouri again, and had an okay time, and did a good job, but all with the terrible feeling in the back of my mind that I was slowly boxing myself into a life I didn't want with every single day I kept saying "Yes, okay" to other people.

My brother, who is eight years younger than I am, and who took notes while all this was going on with me, ended up going to Yale. My parents did the research that time and found out college was completely affordable in the Ivies if you're poor and Midwestern, and my brother just kept telling people what he wanted until he got it to happen. And I watched all of this and just kept silently building bitterness, mostly at myself, until my whole life was centered around being resentful of my future versus his. And it was just one of those things I had to let go, you know? Just like the being angry at my husband, and the being angry at the people who've hurt me...all those things. I had to finally get over it after two years and just plan to find a way to exploit my potential on my own terms from now on.

So the reason I wrote about that wasn't because I've gotten accepted to Harvard or Columbia or anything. In fact, my crappy day last week was because during my meeting with my old professor I found out it's not even advisable to apply for a PhD in education programs until you've taught for five years in one district (which is a long way off for me). I just wanted to write about it, because in the course of breaking the news to my parents and holding my breath for their reaction, they totally came through. They told me they didn't care where I went or what I did, but that they wanted me to do SOMETHING more with my life. That they were sorry for holding me back, and that they'd support me in whatever I chose now. And it was a big, big deal for me, because I really thought I wouldn't have been happy without some sort of pretentious diploma, but really all I wanted was their blessing to get one.

I also figured out that I'm not going to let other people stop me from getting what I want, and I know that I need to get away from this place next year. And I've found some pretty promising options that I'll write about in the future as they pan out, or don't. Or I may end up serving out the rest of my tenure here in Asshatville because I figured out a Ph.D. is the smartest option for me. Who knows?

The sweetest reward in all of this, though, isn't the prospect of Fullbright scholarships or a bigger salary. It's that no matter how much I screw with my future in the coming years, I'm going to be doing it on my own terms this time.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Tuesday, February 19th

I kind of had a shitty day today, and I'll probably write a little about that tomorrow, but I just needed to note for posterity's sake that resolving to do something constructive with bad news makes the actual bad news easier to get through than wallowing in it.

I didn't stay under 1600 calories today (closer to 1800, probably), but I also didn't binge while I was upset and I didn't even go get any awful fast food tonight, so I feel good about that.

I did indulge in a little retail therapy, but before my Favorite Person calls me up with a lecture, I can say that I think I've justified it very well. I had originally decided to use my new credit card to pay for yoga classes at the Bikram Place because they were $150 dollars and then I could pay it off every month and that would put revolving credit back on my report which would increase my credit score even more since I started fixing it after the divorce, but every time I thought about the cost of tuition, plus the driving involved I just couldn't see how it'd be a very good idea. So, since I'm not going to have that planned expense, I decided to buy one pair of tango shoes that were TOTALLY reasonably priced and would be better for my ankle than the ones I have now. I'm not really in love with the color combination, but it was the closest thing I could get to all black from a company in the U.S., and I know it's a reputable brand, and I can always send them back if they're not good. Also, I think the stilettos look killer in this picture.

And finally, just in case you haven't seen Argentine tango before and you're wondering why I obsess over it (besides the shoes, obviously), here's why. This is my current idol, Graciela Gonzalez, who proves that you can be in the Sisterhood of the Badonkadonk and still move like a goddess. I watch this video at least once a day, which is kind of like how I used to listen to the Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves soundtrack every single night before I went to bed in 8th grade, except now I don't fantasize about marrying Christian Slater at a Renaissance Festival.

Well, not often anyway.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The smell of redemption is a Taco Bell burp and Drakkar Noir.

I am very surprised I didn't die of a heart attack in high school.

Because I am an unadulterated nerd, while all the other kids I knew were busy doing authentic teenagery things, like having sex in the back of Camaros, and getting drunk on Boone's Farm, I chose to pursue things like band, speech and debate, mock trial. I matriculated through high school basically walking around with a full body chastity suit made out of marching band uniform and encyclopedia and reeking of Eau de Social Retard.

Not only were the activities I chose largely uncool, but they were also super stressful. People in debate and band took their business SERIOUSLY, and so for at least twenty weeks out of the school year I was actually at school from about 7-5 each day, and I spent my weekends bussing to and from various metropolitan areas, pushing around one of those little rolling briefcase things, and living out of suitcases in hotels so I could live out my life of pretending to be a pharmaceutical sales representative, except with cheap shoes and without the never-ending supply of those cool pens with the herpes medicine logo on them. On top of the incessant travel, the late nights and early mornings, the McDonald's for breakfast, lunch, and dinner unless our teacher was feeling generous and took us to Shoney's for "something special", and the sense of never being clean because you basically spend 36 hours of your life each week sitting on the floor of high school gymnasiums in polyester business suits and pantyhose, there was just the stress of actually performing at these things. The stomach gnawing, have to go pee RIGHT NOW oh wait never mind, body chill inducing, can't sit still or I'll die kind of nervousness never, ever went away, no matter how good I got or how many times I had seen my opponents. I was a walking nervous breakdown in patent leather Mootsie Tootsies, and I kind of liked it that way.

I can count on one hand the number of times I've been that nervous since, but it's never quite approached the restrained hysteria I used to feel in high school. I think I got shaky at my first real job interview, and I know I thought I was going to throw up during my divorce proceeding, but that's about it. I am such a cool cucumber now I'm practically comatose.

But yesterday, as I maneuvered my steamboat on wheels into a parking space next to the Presbyterian Church that hosts the weekly tango milonga (yes, THE milonga where I have been humiliated and tortured and have whined about it here many a time), I got a huge case of the old high school panic, to the point I could barely pull my keys out of the ignition because my hands were shaking so badly. I really don't know what possessed me to go, other than the prospect of my spending yet another night with my cats watching Clueless on HBO2 making me want to off myself, but there I was, hooched up with stilettos in hand and staring through the doorway at the very same man who always makes me cry every time I go. I knew tonight was going to be pivotal, because it was the third time I went to this particular milonga, and I kind of also knew in the back of my head that if I ran out tonight like I had the last two times, I wouldn't ever be back.

This time was different, though, for two reasons. First was a conversation I had with the friend who introduced me to tango in the first place, and who's endured my venting about how difficult it was for a year now. She told me that for her, tango absolutely sucked every single time she went for a really long time. It was hard. She was embarrassed about her body. She hated herself. And then one day she realized she had to get over it and it started sucking less and less. And it was very nice to hear that B had gone through the same shitty experiences I had, because I really thought I was the only one who felt too massive to do this.

I had also decided to just stop having such a defeatist attitude about everything. The big conversation with The Friend on Friday made me realize I have the right to stand up for myself, and to get the things I want, and I really want to tango. I'm allowed to tango. It's not my problem if the men in the dance hall don't like my body. It IS my problem if my body isn't in shape to dance the best that it can right now, but my appearance isn't tied to that at all. It IS my problem if I shoot myself down before I even get a chance to figure out if I suck or not, and it's my problem if I decide before I even get in the door that the night's going to be a failure.

So I decided to try, no matter what, and I decided to make sure my body language and the way I interacted with everyone communicated that I belonged there. I practiced for the hour we were supposed to practice, and then when the actual social dance part of the evening happened I resolved to sit there and wait for someone to ask me dance no matter what instead of scuttling out the door after the first five minutes and crying in the car for being a pathetic freak.

And lo, it totally worked. The panic set in after the first round of dances ended and no one had asked me yet, but there were seven women to four men and one of the pairs was dating so they were always together, and two of the other women were ballerina types , and the other three were just plain fantastic, so I was obviously the low girl on the tango pole for the evening. So I just kept sitting and smiling and trying not to look desperate when Hell officially froze over because the Tango Nemesis walked up to ME AND ASKED ME TO DANCE. In front of everyone. In front of people who might see him dance with big-assed, no experience me. Internets, I nearly shat my gauchos right up in that Presbyterian church basement.

And honestly, it was a lovely dance and he even murmured "Bravo" a couple of times to me and didn't criticize me once except to say I needed to get different shoes and we danced an entire tanda and then he ruffled my hair like he was Ward and I was The Beaver and that was that. And you know what? Since he danced with me, another man danced with me and said I did a good job, and another and another until I had danced with every single person in the room. And I was soaked with sweat and out of breath from never resting and wobbling in my heels, but it was totally awesome. Even with the guy who kept burping Nachos Bell Grande in my face and definitely was picking his nose over by the water fountain when I thought no one was watching.

I just can't get over how powerful actually being determined, and positive, and persistent really are. I always kind of chalked it up as Norman Vincent Peale self-help bullshit, but making a conscious effort to stop telling myself "no" every time I get an idea has made a monumental difference in just this weekend. I might actually dig this whole healthy, happy thing after all.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

If People Were Meant to Pop Out of Bed, We'd All Sleep in Toasters

It is beyond amazing how much more I'm accomplishing now that my body clock is resetting itself.

For the past three years or so, I've been averaging about five hours of sleep a night, which I'm certain has completely eroded my immune system, my memory, my cognitive name it. And I'm sure it doesn't help The Crazy at all. So about two weeks ago I decided I was going to actually get sleep. No matter what. I was exhausted anyway, so how hard could it be?

It turns out it was actually pretty hard to make myself sleep, and I wasn't prepared for that. Being the master worrier that I am, I usually use the hours of eight to midnight as a time for me to fret over possible life disasters that likely won't occur, ruminate over regrettable things from my past, think about how fat I must look sitting on my bed, berate myself for the mounds and mounds of lard and sugar I had ingested that evening, and so on. So when I started taking away that time from myself to just lie down and sleep, I realized I couldn't do it. It was a hard pattern to break.

When I finally managed to start going to bed at 10 and 11, I was pretty dismayed at how tired I still was even after seven or eight hours of sleep. I figured I'd just jump out of bed, sing to the assorted woodland critters gathering at my feet, whip up a perfect, nutritious breakfast, and flit out the door to work with ribbons in my hair and a spring in my step. (Okay, I would've been satisfied with time for a shower and a SlimFast) But it just wasn't happening. I was still pressing snooze four or five times every morning and on days when I didn't need my alarm, I was sleeping for 10-11 hours at a stretch. I totally went into, "Woe is me" mode, worrying that there would never, ever be enough sleep for me in the world to have energy to do anything except lie there.

I guess if I had been paying attention over the last two weeks, though, I would've realized that I WAS waking up more naturally, just in tiny increments, and that the amount of sleep I needed was starting to reduce each night. Today I woke up completely naturally at about 5:30 and I'm still not a bit tired (the triple espresso I made for myself probably isn't hurting).

There are just two things that bother me about being awake:

First, what do you DO with all this time? I've been up for almost five hours and I've still got like another twelve hours to go. If we weren't having a winter storm I'd go do stuff in the city, but alas. I don't have any hobbies, because for the last two years my hobby has been hating life and writing about hating life. I need to learn to needlepoint or something. I could make wardrobes for the cats.

Second, I'm not so good with being cheerful. It's not really my thing. I'm basically like the biggest, surliest, Gothiest teenager you could ever meet inside the body of a 27 year old woman who shops at Talbot's. Being happy makes me annoyed with myself, and if the goal of getting healthy is to promote the self-love process, how do you deal with the conundrum of simultaneously loving how you feel but also wanting to bitchslap yourself every time you actually embrace something pure and wholesome?

Also, does anyone know what the deal is with DailyPlate? I haven't been able to get on for the last three days.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

I am so much better than before.

There were a lot of big changes in my life the past week and a half, none of which are really worth blogging about, but it's why I've been gone. I also was asked to take back my 2007 title of Miss Big Ball of Infectious Diseases this week because Miss BBID 2008 got caught with racy photos on her Facebook and had to step down, so I've been enjoying the pinkeye and sinus infections that come with my old position as royalty. Attractive.

Anyway, during my mid-February Period of Personal Tribulation (I tried to hire a man to follow me around and sing "Nobody Knows the Trouble I Seen" but all the good baritones are booked into barbershop quartet gigs around Valentine's Day) I started reading a book by Dave Pelzer called Heal Yourself. If you haven't heard of him, he's the guy from the book A Child Called It, which is an autobiography of his life primarily from birth to age 13, when California authorities took him out of his alcoholic, mentally deranged mother's home and put him in foster care. Pelzer was subjected to, and survived, what is believed to be the third worst abuse situation in California history, including being stabbed, poisoned by bleach and ammonia fumes, beaten, starved, isolated from his brothers and father, and forced to endure ritual humiliation every single day for eight years. His Help Yourself book still recounts some of those gruesome details, but also provides insight on how he survived those attacks simply by the force of his sheer will and determination to not die. It's pretty incredible stuff considering he was just a little kid.

Pelzer's main point of the book, though, is to offer advice for people who find themselves, for whatever reason, unable to thrive and succeed in their own lives. For me, there were two chapters of the book that especially resonated. The first was that sometimes you just have to walk away from things and people that are hurting you, forgive them, love them if they need it, but not let the events eat away at your life. Pelzer cites seeing his mother at the last stages of her life, completely overtaken not only by her alcohol addiction, but also by the sheer amount of hurt and rage and hate she had for her own parents, her husband, her children, and anyone who ever crossed paths with her. She was pathologically angry, to the point it drove her insane before she died.

I don't know if I've ever been perpetually angry like her so much as a relentless Pollyanna instead (a fact that I know causes a lot of chagrin over at AFG, since AngryFatGirlzPlusOneGirlWho'sOnlyAngryAtHerselfForVariousDeepSeatedReasonsIncludingUnnecessarilyLowSelfEsteem
is just not a practical new URL possibility. So my thing that I can't let go is how disappointed I get with situations and people when they don't turn out to be good in the way I hoped they'd be. And moreso than any of the things that have transpired over the last year of my life, way more than the divorce, or the financial strain, or the not so stellar weight loss has been dealing with people and situations where I've been dying for some sort of happy closure or resolution and not getting it. It got so bad by this month that I would come home from work, go straight to bed and obsess over the problem, gorge and gorge myself with food until I couldn't move to get my mind off the problem, and then obsess about it again until the waves of nausea passed. The inertia and not moving thing I was having so much trouble with? I finally figured out it was really more because I couldn't stop ruminating on these couple of people and how to deal with them and their toxicity.

Yesterday after one of the more determined, spectacular binges in my personal history, while I was lying on my bed and gasping for air like a goldfish out of its bowl, feeling my stomach debate whether to accept all this food or to reject it right onto my lovely new sheets, and wishing I could just die from the shame and the stress and the physical and mental pain of it all, I finally finally FINALLY why I was doing this, and I decided to stop it right there. I contacted one of the people, asked one last time for a conversation where we could resolve the conversation, and I ended up getting what I wanted. Sort of. It wasn't the happy, friendly resolution I was looking for, and I was pretty disappointed how things turned out, but at the same time I knew there wasn't anything more I could do to change the person, the situation, or the closure to our relationship. I don't think I was in the wrong, people who know both of us don't think I was in the wrong, but even so, no amount of begging or demanding or sulking was going to get the apology I thought I had needed so desperately for so many months. I had done all I can. It was time to let the hurt, the disagreements, and the person go, because they were all toxic, and they were all seriously messing me up.

And you know when they say "a weight lifted off my shoulders"? I had never felt that before yesterday. It was really nice to feel it.

The second thing I took away from Pelzer's book was judging life by this one criterion: Is your life today better in some small way than it was yesterday?

I kind of puked in my mouth a little bit when reading that, because it was just SO Chicken Soup for the Soul and I'm just not down with touchy-feely optimistic things. But seriously, it's a good message, even though I like to rephrase it as "Does your life suck less today than it did yesterday?" Yesterday, prior to that conversation, while I was collapsed on my bed, using a pizza box like a pillow, hearing my cats crunch around on the box of Bran Buds I had accidentally spilled on the kitchen floor on Wednesday and still hadn't bothered to clean up, I decided I had reached a new rock bottom. (Even though I think I've reached rock bottom about 14 times at least in the last year) But this time was different; a new low, a new level of spiritual, emotional, and physical bankruptcy I didn't think I'd fix this time. But I did, at least part of it.

Things can and will get better for me. I think they'll get better for all of us, no matter what we're struggling with. I think we have to believe that, or what's the point in getting up in the morning? The other day I started an opening paragraph to what I guess was supposed to be a book on recovering from binge eating and depression, but I only wrote a few sentences before I realized I didn't have anything to write about. I was still too upset, and all I could see myself writing about was how shitty I felt each and every day until I died and then someone would fill in the epilogue with "And then she died, and her cats ate her eyeballs. The End."

But I don't know. I think, right now at least, it's doable to find at least one thing I can do to recover and feel better each day. I could start with picking up those Bran Buds, although I kind of like how stepping on Bran Buds is like popping whole grain bubble wrap with your feet.

I'll try blogging about them here, so even if I don't have good news to report on the weight-ridding front, I'll at least have something else to write about. Prepare to get intimately familiar with my glowing revelations about disinfecting trash cans or not freaking out and kicking the bank building when the ATM cash mouth thing eats my money but doesn't deposit it.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Weiner Poopie

I am beyond distraught that we are getting dry-slotted for our third winter storm in a row here near KC, so I'm posting a video that makes life still worth living. Via Dooce:

Sunday, February 3, 2008

211.2 and counting

Thanks everyone, again, for pulling my head out of the cyber-oven. Doctor Andy asked me last night if I felt encouraged to keep writing after all the wonderful comments, or if I was frustrated because I really wanted to quit and honestly, it encouraged me a lot. I kind of view this blog as just a chronology of what I'm feeling at the time, and sometimes the things in my head like, "I want to give up" are more just vocalized frustrations than actual wishes. Sometimes, though, things like, "I want to eat four peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and wash them down with a bottle of Hershey's syrup" ARE actual wishes and more often than not come true. Sometimes I'm afraid I'm too honest here; that the more I write about being upset and trying but failing over and over again, the more you'll think I'm crying wolf. But as whiny and ugly as my thoughts are at the time, they're really what I'm thinking and I learned during college and the course of my marriage that pretending I don't feel that way never helps the situation either.

I guess I haven't been doing as terribly as I thought, because I managed to lose a couple pounds in the course of all this wasting away in bed. I feel good about that, because I could tell there was something not right happening with my body when I was circling around 215-220 over the last couple of weeks. It just felt distended and toxic and wrong somehow, so it's nice to see the numbers came down when my body started feeling better again. I have had two straight days where I haven't eaten anything nasty--that fancy new grocery store with the fancy organic convenience food is really going to be a life saver, I think--and I'm heading up to the Bikram yoga studio to try out a class this afternoon. I wrote an email to the guy who owns the studio at the beginning of this week asking a few questions about whether the practice is too strenuous for really heavy people and whether I could maybe trade tuition for helping wash the mats or doing secretarial work and he wrote back IN ONE GIANT RUN-ON SENTENCE ABOUT HOW EVERYTHING WOULD BE JUST FINE AND I SHOULD DEFINITELY COME AND DON'T WORRY ABOUT A THING and I was like, "Dude. Whoa, dude. " and then I wiped the blood from my poor assaulted eyeballs and reread the message and it was very encouraging and nice, so I'm feeling pretty good about this afternoon. I hope I don't pass out and die in the room, because then when my parents come and clean out my apartment my mom will find the episode of Louis Theroux's Weird Weekend: Swingers I recorded off BBC America and I just couldn't bear the thought of her finding out her heroic efforts to avoid ever exposing me to the idea that people actually touch their bodies together for any other reason than to pass on the love of the Holy Spirit across the pews in church hadn't succeeded.

A lot of the reason I've been freaking out over the past month especially is because I'm kind of coming to this weird juncture in my life where I'm finally getting my shit together here, but I'm also trying to figure out what to do next. Like, on Tuesday, when I go down to my hometown to vote, my parents are also taking me out to dinner because I paid off all my debt this month. My mom said she was proud of me. She actually said she was...proud of me. That's really huge, because I think the last time my mom was proud of me was in 1997 (or maybe during Thanksgiving 2001 when I poured a glass of milk from a full gallon jug and didn't spill any of it on the counter, which had never happened before and has never again happened since). But at the same time that I'm pretty proud of having fixed my financial situation, there's the overriding sense of shame that I got myself into that mess in the first place and shouldn't have, and that I could very, very easily slip up and do it again. I applied for a credit card, at the advice of a friend who is really good with money, only because I know I need to have some sort of revolving debt to rebuild my credit, but I am beyond terrified of even activating it for fear that somehow just HAVING the card in my wallet will mean that I'll pass out and wake up the next morning somehow having purchased a Dyson vacuum, a Shetland pony, and $600 worth of lip gloss. You snicker, but I have empirical reason to be concerned.

I also am minorly freaking because I've finally settled here, and it's been a long time since I've been settled anywhere. My junior year of high school, we moved out of the house I was born in to a brand new house and ever since then I've been moving. I haven't lived in any one place longer than two years; this address is the first I can count as a permanent one since 1998. I have a coffee grinder, a 401K, a garage, and a lovely collection of cleaning supplies that make my house smell like an English garden. I'm very settled in my job right now. I have friends I can drink a beer with if I'm so inclined, and other than a few little dips into despair, I'm not really THAT depressed. Things could definitely be worse.

It's just that this isn't where I want to be settled, and so I'm looking for ways out. I'm going to take the LSAT in June, and I'm thinking very seriously about law school for 2009-2010. I went to St. Louis last weekend to visit some friends, and I loved the neighborhood around Washington University. I'm going to visit another friend in NYC for a week in March, and I'm going to check out Fordham and maybe Columbia. I could see myself in DC, too, or even Chicago after I start giving myself testosterone injections so I grow enough body hair to handle the winters. I have lots of possibilities. But as much as I'm excited about movin' on up and doing something challenging and intellectually stimulating in fabulous places like DC or New York, I am beyond terrified. How do I pack up four years of work and life and all this stuff and cram it into a studio apartment in Harlem? How do I even begin to afford a studio apartment in Harlem? What happens if the cats go insane from being cooped up in a single room for three years and I get evicted because they won't stop meowing? What happens if I go insane because there's a cockroach in my bathtub? I will move if I see a cockroach, I swear to God. What if I become a lawyer and realize I hate it way more than I ever disliked teaching? What if I don't even get into a decent law school and I'm stuck here for the rest of my life?

And I know, intellectually, that if I want a different life I have to start from ground zero to get there. I know I have to take a chance and just do it. I know moving to a different city with millions of cultural opportunities and where my friends are would be infinitely more rewarding than my life here in Asshole, Missouri where "cultural opportunity" means someone hired the remaining two members of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band to play on a trailer in the Wal-Mart parking lot for March of Dimes week. I also know that I'm creating my own perfect storm of anxiety and inertia by worrying about things that aren't even close to transpiring yet, and I should just be focusing on the things I can control now instead of pricing 5th floor walk-ups in Washington Heights that won't even be available in 2009.

I guess sometimes when I get this way I'd like to be able to put my head on someone's lap and tell them I'm really tired from working so hard to make everything better and not being sure what to do and then maybe that someone would just let me lie there for awhile and they'd even let me watch Ugly Betty while they played with my hair. So, in the absence of that, I put out my frustrations here and then I feel better and then I can go back to the really important things in life, like figuring out how to wash out the stench of gasoline and regurgitated Fruit Loops from my work shoes before tomorrow morning.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Are You There, God? It's Me, Erin.

I am very close to giving up and shutting down this blog.

And I don't want to quit, deep down, but I don't know how long I can string out more and more blog entries about dieting and losing weight and getting healthy when I'm not doing any of those things. I'm getting worse, losing momentum, and I just really want to pull the covers over my head and do the easy thing and just give up.

I know I'm setting myself up to fail. I realize this every single morning when I wake up too late to make breakfast so I grab a doughnut or an Egg McMuffin on the way to work. I know it's my fault whenever I succumb to my usual post-work malaise and burrow in my bed with some kind of junk food and stay there until it's time for to actually go to sleep. I know it's my fault that I don't exercise, and I don't try to make myself cook the food I buy. I know all this.

But I swear, if I COULD make myself do these things I would. I really would. I hate this inertia more than anything in my life. My body has been screaming with pain over the past few weeks because I haven't been moving it, but the idea of exercising or even standing for more than few minutes at a time is exhausting.

I've caught myself praying over this a couple times, and I don't really pray. It's more of a "Dude, help." kind of plea, and I don't know if Jesus or whoever even thinks that counts. But I also know that something has to be pretty bad for me to even subconsciously be praying about it, so that's telling me something has to change. I need something to change.

The more I think about this, the more I'm starting to become convinced that all the problems in my eating disorder, the almost comatose state I go into when I get home, the depression, the anger...they're not the problems. I really think they're just symptoms of some sort of enormous spiritual deficit that I haven't ever identified before. I feel empty. I think I eat and eat and eat because there's a hole inside me that I try to fill in all the wrong ways. I feel like I need more. I just don't know what that "more" is.

Sometimes, even though I'm really cynical about it, I think there is a God that watches over me. I believe this for purely circumstantial and silly reasons, like the time in college when I had thirteen cents in my checking account, and I owed $225.00 in rent by the end of the week and then I received a random profit sharing check from a summer job for $226.00. Things like that tend to happen to me enough that I think there's more than just coincidence to it, although that really doesn't seem to be much of a basis for religious faith. If I wanted to be so precious as to say that God's answered my prayers for help yet again, I guess I should mention that a huge grocery/health food store opened up about ten miles from my house, which means I'd only have to drive 15 minutes to get decent food instead of 30. I also noticed a Bikram Yoga studio had opened up in the same area, which also means I could drive there in 15 minutes instead of 45 or an hour. I don't know why I think those are my only chances to fix this, but right now I do. The yoga classes are hideously expensive; $150 a month, which I cannot afford at all right now, but feel like I need to purchase anyway. I emailed the man who runs the studio and he said he might be able to cut a work study scholarship deal with me if I would commit to going for awhile. I am terrified that yoga will end up just like tango, or aerobics classes, or Jazzercise or the old yoga classes, and when faced with the site of my enormous bulk in the studio mirror, I will leave after the first class and never come back. It'll be another opportunity I couldn't sustain because of the cost, or the driving, or because of my own stupid insecurities. It'll be another disappointment and if it ends up that way I'm just giving up.

Every night when I get home from work and I lie here on this goddamned bed with my laptop and my phone and I slip in and out of a fitful all-night nap before bed I think "This can't get worse. You will never be more emotionally bankrupt than you are tonight. Tomorrow will be better." And then tomorrow's worse. Something has to change. I need to figure out what that something is. Jesus, if you've got me on your Google Reader, I could use a little help. Thanks.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

213.5 and Food Debacles

So last week, in my endeavors to continually pinch the penny (that phrase always reminds me of pooping, which tells me I probably shouldn't have ever been entrusted with the education of young children), I decided to make two giant, inexpensive casseroles and eat them for lunch and dinner, three days each. This attempt to both simplify and budget my life was, of course, an unequivocal disaster. But it's cool.

The first casserole I made wasn't horrible. It just wasn't that great. I got both of these off Aimee's Adventures, and I need to take a moment to say that I don't believe the nastiness of last week's food was in any way the fault of her or her recipes. I'm just a sucky cook, for various reasons. Anyway, I started off the week with this casserole, which from this picture kind of looks like a glistening square of grasshopper abdomens and maybe some postnasal drip but I promise looked pretty awesome when actually prepared. You can click on the picture for the recipe if you want to try it on your own (and then send me some in individually portioned containers so I don't have to cook next week):

It was mostly just kind of bland, probably because of the fat free cheese and the whole wheat rotini that tends to make everything else in casseroles taste like whole wheat rotini, and also because I accidentally grabbed a cream of celery instead of cream of chicken, but in general I it was not completely horrible and I dutifully ate my six servings of it.

Then came this:

And this, my friends, was simply pure evil in a crockpot. I do not know what the shit I did to it, but when I woke up the next morning the chicken chunks had turned kind of a grey-brown, and the squash and the parsnips had kind of congealed into this burnt sienna colored blob. The only things I really recognized were the carrots, and they were just kind of bobbing there in the sea of mush, numbed by the indignity of having to spend an evening in a crockpot with the rest of it. I didn't have anything else to eat, though, so I scooped some into my Gladware container and gamely tried it out for lunch that day. And seriously, when the first glob of it passed over my tongue, I swore out loud. I've eaten food I didn't like, and I've tasted things I'd rather not taste again, but I've never actually eat food that tasted BAD until now. And I know probably 105% of it was because I Rachael Ray-ed the portions and kind of played fast and loose with the seasonings, but still, there was just something unholy about it that a mere human couldn't have caused. That casserole just twarn't right.

Anyway, while I was trying to figure out what to eat for this week, Anne posted this awesome book summary on AFG over the weekend. It got me inspired to see if I could stay within my budget, but also make sure I had a good variety of entrees to choose from, interesting snacks (one of my downfalls last week was not to budget any extra food beyond meal preparation), and as much organic and natural stuff as I could get. No fat free, no lite, no Splenda, no high fructose corn syrup. It takes longer to shop that way, and people give you funny looks when you're holding a canister of bread crumbs up to to the light to read its ingredients, but I've found that it seriously reduces the number of impulse buys I make, and because I'm generally a lot happier with my food I don't go out to eat as often. Here's the weekly grocery list and food plan.

And since I manage to screw up other people's recipes last week, I decided to try screwing up one of my own this week instead. There is a restaurant in Kansas City called Eden Alley, and if you're ever near the Plaza you should definitely go eat there, because it's incredible even if you're not a hippie. The food there is beyond delicious and everything's reasonably priced and you get a ton of it and it's just great. When I was there last time, I had a mushroom and spinach loaf that made me forget ever missing real meatloaf in the first place, and it seems straightforward enough to make so I'm going to try it. There are surprisingly no closely related recipes online for this, so I kind of cobbled a recipe based on Eden Alley's picture and description and some similar tofu loaves on the Interweb. I'm going to make it tomorrow night and I'll let you know how it turns out. The idea of combining natural, simple foods into a recipe seems, to me, to follow the logic of eating simple foods by themselves: it's really hard to mess it up if you're sticking to the basics, right?

But as I figured out with Satan's Savory Squash Stew, the road to Hell is often paid with good intentions, so we shall see.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

I Will Never Blog About This Again

I've been sans blog because I've been really struggling with this entry, but can't quite find the appropriate words to finish. My other entries about the recipes and sundry other thoughts have had to take a number, so they're on deck and will be posted throughout the next week. This is a very long, badly organized, rambling blog. Get a stiff drink and a sherpa before you begin reading:

I had another conversation about weight loss, specifically my lack of it, with The Friend the other day. Yeah, that same friend from this entry. You'd think I'd have learned my lesson at this point, huh?

And I need to preface all of this by saying I'm not writing this for sympathy, and I love you all for how supportive and wonderful you are and how some of you emailed in and offered to gather up an angry mob with pitchforks the first time I wrote about this, but for this entry I just want everyone to kind of think about this, because I'm seriously sort of stuck on what to believe.

It doesn't matter how the friend and I landed on the weight conversation again, but the gist of what he said is distilled down to the following:

1) Losing weight is absolutely nothing more than a matter of burning more energy than consuming it. There's nothing hard about calories in vs. calories out, and people who say it's not that easy are whining.

2) Anorexia and bulimia are real diseases but addictive behaviors like binge eating (or alcoholism, drug addiction, etc.) aren't, because we make the choice to eat the food, or start drinking the alcohol. Likewise, depression or other mental illnesses don't count as a disease, or as legitimate reasons for overeating and gaining weight, because the choice is always there to improve the depression, and therefore the weight.

3) The fact that I've lost about 25 lbs. only means that I've gone from morbidly obese to slightly less morbidly obese (with the subtext of that statement being I crow about it like I've won Biggest Loser, when I haven't really done shit)

4) He doesn't believe I'll ever really lose enough weight to be normal sized.

And finally...

5) I make a hobby out of being fat. That if I seriously ever tried to lose weight, and I got thin and healthy I wouldn't have anything to bitch about, and so wouldn't have this blog, or these people who read it, or anything to say about myself or my life. So I don't lose weight, because if I did no one would feel sorry for me.

Of course it embarrassed me to read those things, especially because I was reading them in a Panera in Johnson County (it's the 90210 of the Midwest, if that helps) during last Saturday's brunch rush, sitting in a huge, overstuffed leather armchair, and wiping big, rolling tears off my cheeks while a table of college girls in North Face jackets and Dior sunglasses gave me funny looks in between sips of their I.C. Cappuccino Chips. But for a week, I tried to be really, really objective about what he said, because I think there's at least a little truth in it. I don't know if I use my size as an excuse, but I know I DO use it for things. I know Pasta Queen's talked about this in an entry before; I use being fat as a litmus test to sort out the kind people from the unkind, and the shallow from the worthwhile. I use it to be invisible, so I can watch how people really are when there's not a pretty girl around to distract them. And yeah, a huge portion of my entries in this blog are about what it's like to be fat, instead of always what it's like to be losing weight. I write them because I feel them every single day, and I write them because I see other fat people going through the same thing, and I read that some of you go through it, too. I write about it because what happens to people as they lose or gain weight is not right. Society wouldn't fathom of telling someone to be a little less Methodist, or a little more white, but our fat, or our lack of it, is everyone's business; the skinny girls get told to go eat a sandwich, and the fat ones are told how much prettier they'd be if they'd just TRY a little harder.

I've been overweight since time immemorial...this part of my life has become my identity, my struggle, and it has colored my view of the world in a way that a normal person simply couldn't understand. I don't expect to be able to tell my friend that I'm scared of abandoning that identity for a new one, because I don't think he'd ever understand it.

I say these things not as reasons for why I'm not currently losing my 2.5 lbs. per week, but because I didn't know before last Saturday that normal people feel contempt for obese people who try and don't do so well. I wondered if maybe there was some sort of fundamental "go get 'em" characteristic that most thin, active people have and most overweight people don't. I know The Friend would call it laziness or self-pity, but I also know I am not a lazy person. I'm a workaholic, and a to-do listaholic, and, well, I'm not the lazy sack of shit he seems to think I am. I know plenty of obese people who run circles around their skinny counterparts during the day, with their families and their careers and their lifestyles. It's not laziness, dude.

So, what is it? I keep calling it the lack of a "Rudy gene" in my head; that ability to take criticism or adversity and just plow through it no matter what. I know in the past when The Friend has goaded me about my weight, he did so with the intention of inspiring me to get up off my ass and exercise, or to remember it as I made a choice between a healthy lunch and an indulgent one. I don't know if he was planning the same thing when he said he felt disdain for me and "all my excuses for not slimming down". I don't know if he wanted me to pull a Bridget Jones and say "Fuck you!" and then spend hours pedalling a workout bike while Chaka Khan blares in the background. I know I didn't; I sank back into the Panera armchair and took another bite from my bagel and chewed and considered what he had to say. I didn't really expect myself to...I've always been one of those people who take the criticism and store it away to beat myself up with it later, rather than using it as an impetus for change. That part IS a character flaw, I know.

So, this is what I've been trying to figure out for the past week: What is it that causes me to be this ambitionless? Why do I get little ten minute flashes of inspiration and then they die out just as quickly as they started? What characteristic causes me to get motivated to make changes in my body, my career, my relationships for about a day and then I'm sucked back into that same feeling of inertia when the day is over? Why have I allowed that inertia to control my entire life, in everything from from choosing a college to choosing a husband, when I know that ultimately it's really messing me up?

I landed on depression, obviously. When I hear teachers or parents berate a kid at school for being lazy or listless or uncaring, I am never surprised to hear that two or three months later the kid's been evaluated and diagnosed with depression. Because depression isn't that kid's personality, it's what's drowning it. I know it's been drowning me for at least twenty years.

And this is where yesterday, at the conclusion of the week-long series of conversations between The Friend and me, that my jaw hit the floor. Number one, as I listed above, was that he believes depression isn't really a disease, and that it can be fixed by making the choice to get better. The Friend used his own case of depression as an example; that it simply was a mental disorder he improved by giving it the good ol' college try, manning up, and overcoming the same way he'd climb a rock wall, or negotiate a business deal, or make a particularly difficult pasta sauce or something. This is where our conversation sort of broke down, because I got all high school debatey and pulled out sections of the DSM-IV where the doctors say depression IS a disease, one that essentially starts out with a badly mixed cocktail of brain chemicals that ultimately erode your brain's structure and ability to cope with stressors or even with the day-to-day trivialities of life. The Friend said he didn't agree with the research, because it just didn't "feel right", I may have said something nasty about the lack of med school diplomas on his wall, and we both threw our hands up to one another and said goodnight.

Here's the thing: there is the kind of depression that comes from losing a job, or breaking up with a girlfriend, or of course being overweight, and then there is the kind of depression that starts for no reason at all when you're a child. I've had the latter since I was about five. I've spent more than one of my own birthday parties locked in a bathroom crying uncontrollably, my seventh because I couldn't stop thinking about all the children in orphanages or old people in nursing homes who didn't have anyone to celebrate their birthday with, my ninth because my mom got irritated at me when I told her I wanted a different Cabbage Patch than I'd received and she said I was ungrateful and I decided I WAS ungrateful and I had ruined my birthday for her, and a couple other ones in recent years for various twentysomething angst reasons. I was carried out of Epcot Center when I was 10 because a week of hearing my parents fighting in our hotel room and throwing up in the bathroom every night from the stress of it all finally wore me down until I decided the Laser Light Display was a nuclear bomb attack and I went beserk. I've spent entire days in bed, not sleeping, not really thinking...just unable to move because the sadness in my body weighed a million pounds and held me there. I was labeled a "high strung child" and a "neurotic teenager", and the thought of depression never crossed anyone in my family's mind until my mother found me collapsed on the floor of our kitchen one day during a Christmas break home from college, unable to do much more than laugh and cry hysterically. She called a local psychiatrist, and started referring to my depression as "my little problem" from that point on. For the past two weeks, "my little problem" has manifested itself in half of my brain, very calmly, urging me to eat at least 4,000 calories a day so I wouldn't give The Friend the satisfaction of seeing I lost weight after our conversation. It's funny, because the normal part of my brain shrieks out the warnings while the crazy part encourages me to eat, and by the end of the 4,000 calories I've been so preoccupied with the Wagnerian chorus of insanity in my head, I haven't tasted one bite of my binge. Don't expect a loss on Monday, by the way. :)

I'm not writing these things to shock you, or to garner sympathy. I'm writing them because I want The Friend, and other people who might read this and not get me and why I sort of fritter around at all this, to understand that sometimes depression is not a choice. Sometimes, you take your medicine and go to you therapy and do quite well for awhile, and then one chemical decides to take the day off and suddenly you're right back to where you started. And in the course of battling through the depression...of getting your head back above water for the 3,679th time in your realize some things, weight loss for instance, have to take a backseat until you do. You're just happy when you eat poorly like a normal person would, instead of binging your life away.

I'm writing this, finally, because anyone who thinks it's a choice to live a life like this; to be that unstable for decades of your life, to have to admit to your parents why you haven't paid bills or cleaned your house for a couple weeks, to walk into work without a shower or makeup because you couldn't make yourself just do it, to be a hundred pounds overweight not because you're not really trying, but because the messed up part of your head won't LET you, to dutifully take your meds and go to therapy and do all the homework and the journaling and the roleplaying and the self-affirmations until you practically have a psychology degree of your own and still you haven't quite found the right combination to keep you happy for more than a few days at a anyone who would seriously think that I, or anyone else like me, MADE THE CHOICE to live like this? You're welcome to go fuck yourself. Seriously.

I'm done talking about this now. I promise I won't ever write why I'm not losing weight again, unless it has something to do with finding out that a grocery store prankster somehow managed to fill up all the fat free yogurt cartons with Ben & Jerry's or whatever. I'll post the exercise logs, and the food journals and the recipes and the product reviews, and maybe if I go through a stretch where getting out of bed seems as unattainable as base jumping off the Chrysler Building, I'll write about other things, like how the front entryway of the Wal-Mart always smells like farts, or how I can't find a vase big enough to sit by my fireplace that doesn't cost a thousand dollars. I'm through trying to justify something that I barely understand myself to a person who doesn't care to even try to understand. My meds feel like they've kicked back in again, because I see the silver eye floaties and that's always a good sign. I'm getting more sleep, and that means more energy down the road, and since I've figured out I'm a wretched cook, I'm going to go back to the original plan of getting entrees and salads from restaurants and splitting them up throughout the week. I have a plan. I stumbled, but I'm getting better. I'm TRYING. And now I'm done bitching.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

213.2 and Linky Goodness

A friend of mine, who's lost about 65 lbs. through Weight Watchers and who looks utterly fantastic and also knows how to do eye makeup better than anyone I know, introduced me to the below sites. They're cool, and there's a buttload of recipes and I pre-made two of them tonight for the week ahead, so I'll let you know how they go when I post my food plan tomorrow.

Hungry Girl

Aimee's Adventures

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Well played, Girl Scouts. Well played, indeed.

Yesterday at work I realized Girl Scouts of America brilliant evil empire.

Have you ever noticed how Girl Scout cookie pre-orders start in early December when all of us, freshly buzzed off Thanksgiving tryptophan and flushed with the holiday spirit, are just absolutely thrilled!!! to buy tasty, tasty cookies!!! from apple cheeked little girls in beanies!!! And as you're writing your name in the little grid on the order form you notice no one else on the list bought fewer than two boxes and Deb in payroll bought seven whole boxes of Samoans and what would it say about you and your commitment to self-empowering and supporting the physical, intellectual, and moral development of girls the world over if you copped out and only bought one measly box of Shortbreads? THINK OF THE LITTLE GIRLS.

And then, three weeks after Christmas, when the holiday spirit packed up and took off for its timeshare in an artists' commune in Taos, and your pants are still straining across your hips, and the only thing you have left to remind you of the October-December orgy of goodwill and snack items made out of Marshmallow Fluff are the remains of pine needles still stuck in the loops of your harvest wheat colored Berber, and when you have completely forgotten you ever had an encounter with the little cherubs in their brown jumpers....THEN is when they extort the money out of you. It's ingenious, really.

I stumbled toward my classroom door on Friday morning, a banana kind of obscenely clenched between my teeth by its stem, strong black coffee sloshing out my little titanium travel mug, and an armload of books and lesson plans and a Real Simple that promised to help me organize my work life by spring. As I rounded the corner to my little classroom alcove, I saw a plastic grocery bag hanging from the doorknob. Inside it were two, ugh, boxes of Girl Scout cookies and a Post-It that said "Ms. Mighty Minx owes Jasmine $7.00".


And, seriously, for a day I was followed around by Jasmine and her Girl Scout posse like I was Lloyd Dobler and she was the paper boy until they finally cornered me during my planning period and stood there until I walked out to my car, dug around for seven dollars, and threw it at them and ran the other way. And now I have one box of Thin Mints and one box of something I swear I didn't order appear to be wafers of fat and sugar dipped in chocolate. I've always followed kind of a slash and burn philosophy with the Thin Mints, because seriously there is just no way that they can sit in my cookie jar without me thinking about them constantly. So, I just kind of take a hit off the box whenever and hopefully the sweet, sweet torture will be done by February.

Seriously, though, considering the frightening levels of childhood obesity and diabetes in America, is the GSA being responsible in promoting stuff like this as their fundraiser? I know they have a good thing going, and they've been doing it for years, and it's a tradition, and if you don't want to get fat off eating your Peanut Butter Patties you can just say no, but I overreacting in saying it sends kind of a sketchy message to tell their scouts to be physically active and nutritionally responsible but to peddle cellulite in a box to everyone they know?

Perhaps a Thin Mint will clear my mind.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Kick to the Back: Or, How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Embrace the Jam

Since the flyover states get exposed to trends about 20 years after the coastal states (Missouri just discovered Jordache jeans and recreational cocaine use...exciting!), I hadn't really heard of Turbo Jam until just recently, even though it's apparently been around for at least a decade. I mentioned in a previous post that my mother gives away a substantial portion of her disposable income to, which is the parent company of a bunch of TV infomercial exercise video sets. Perhaps you've been sitting at home, brushing Flamin' Hot Cheetos crumbs off your chest and flipping between Golden Girls and Judge Joe Brown (it's okay to admit it now...we've all been there and we've all had the grimy, orange stained fingertips to prove it) and you've come across the somewhat painful rap stylings of Shawn T during a "Hip Hop Abs" commercial? That's the same company.

Anyway, being the proficient exercise dilettante that I am, I had tried every Beachbody exercise program available and hadn't really fallen in love with anything. Everything on there is great, and I really appreciate how Beachbody makes sure to market only really quality videos that can produce significant results, but there was never any Holy Grail of exercise for me on there. Until now. At least I hope.

Turbo Jam has been around for a long time, and its original incarnation was as a kickboxing/dance class taught in some small gyms around Orange County, CA. The creator of this program is named Chalene Johnson, and originally I avoided Turbo Jam because I was fairly certain I would hate her guts. She looked like a miniature version of Denise Austin and everyone on her infomercial was always hopping and smiling and looking like they...enjoyed life. Gross. What eventually finally persuaded me was the number of success stories on Beachbody who used TJ as their primary workout. I very reluctantly obtained copies of a few of her videos, and now I'm pretty much hooked. It helps that I am a total hermit during the winter and would very happily hide in my house with some canned soup and HBO until April if I could, so not having to drive to the gym is a huge bonus for me.

Here's kind of a breakdown on what it's like and why I lurve it:

What You Get: The basic set comes with five workouts on two DVDs. Chalene bases her choreography on 11 specific moves that she details in the introductory workout, "Learn and Burn". The meat of the DVD is the "Cardio Party", which is the 45 minute kickboxing/dance workout. In my research online, most people say it counts as moderate to high impact exercise, and the Beachbody claims it can burn up to 1,000 calories an hour. The other long workout in the set is called "Turbo Sculpt", and it includes free weights and other weight-bearing exercises for 40 minutes of toning plus low-impact cardio. The final two additional videos in the set are a 20-minute quick workout and a 20-minute ab toning workout. Also, every video has modifications to make it either high impact or low impact, depending on your fitness level and preference.
There's some extra footage where you can get cast biographies and watch an interview with Chalene. Beachbody offers the starter set for $57.95+shipping, but of course you can get it from Amazon or eBay for a lot less. Turbo Jam has recently come out with a "Maximum Results" series that is exactly the same except they send you weighted gloves along with the shipment. Don't be fooled into paying their price for them, as you can buy the cheaper set and get gloves at a sporting goods store much more cheaply.

Schedule: Since I'm now trying to get all my exercise solely from workout videos, I combine stuff to make sure I'm getting an equal balance between cardio and toning. My plan is to work out six days a week, with an off day on Monday and a light day on Thursday (the nights where I travel to my second job). I usually combine Cardio Party with Ab Jam, and Turbo Sculpt with the 20 Minute Jam as a warm-up. On Thursdays I try to get in either 20 Minute, Ab or both if I have time. If you order the full package from Beachbody, they will send a recommended schedule for both sedentary and active exercisers, so that may help you if you decide to jump in with this.

Extra Information: There are a bunch more TJ products available, including extra Cardio Parties and some different options for circuit training and toning. They're all available on Beachbody and on the other sites I've already mentioned. Also, if you're located in a large city with a pretty decent gym, it is likely that the live Turbo Jam classes are already being held there. They're called Turbo Kick, and they are exactly the same thing as TJ. My gym offers Turbo Kick plus a Turbo Sculpt session back to back once a week. It might be a good idea to go to meet other enthusiasts or to get help on moves, form, etc.

Why I Love It: It's just really freaking fun. It's like Jazzercise but with better music, or like Taebo without the impending feeling of death. Seriously, every single kickboxing or just plain aerobics video I've ever tried has made me feel worked out and completely exhausted. TJ makes me feel worked out and uplifted, and I'm not the kind of person who gets uplifted very easily. The music is awesome...lots of old school hip hop and rap and Chalene edits each track herself to make the moves fit the music. I cannot tell you how many videos I've shoved to the back of my shelf because the music was either shitty or it didn't line up with the choreography.

Another reason why I love this is because Chalene and the cast seem to transcend the stereotype of typical aerobics video people. Sure, they smile too much, (I once tried to maintain a frozen grin for as long as one of the featured exercisers did and I had to stop because my gums were drying out and I wanted to bitchslap myself) and there's some unnecessary hamming at the camera and there's this one horribly awkward older lady who makes my eyes bleed when she tries to get her freak on, but for the most part they're pretty cool. There's a good range of ages and body types and at least two of them lost a significant amount of weight with TJ before they became instructors. Chalene, of course, is the star of the program and as much as I wanted to hate her initially, watch a tiny blonde woman from Orange County jumping around to LL Cool J and talking she's straight outta Compton is pretty endearing, and I personally think her running commentary makes the workouts go much faster than they would've without it. Her counts and cues are like 99% right on, her explanations are great, and she's inspirational without being saccharine, and I appreciate that.

Some Caveats: If you are a person who gives up on exercise videos quickly because it takes too long to learn the moves, this might not be for you. I'm a pretty coordinated person, so I tend to gravitate towards videos that change up the choreography a lot, but I know a few people who hate it for that very reason. It also might not be an ideal workout for people with knee or back trouble. I hurt both my knees and my back pretty badly in a work injury several years ago, and I definitely feel twinges while I'm working out with TJ now. Chalene offers a lot of tips and reminders for avoiding that, but if you're really really weak down there, I'd stay away. Finally, if you don't like a little bit of silliness during your workout, then this might not be good, as Chalene spends a lot of time being goofy and encouraging the at-home exerciser to do the same.

The only single thing I've found that I really don't like about TJ is the "Turbo Sculpt", partly because it's HARD and I start dripping sweat during the warmup and I'm embarrassed that I fall over when I do lunges and sometimes I tell Chalene and the awkward lady to suck it after I've done that and then my cats give me disapproving looks, but mostly because it lacks the same sort of exuberance that the other videos have. I think it's probably unavoidable, since it moves at a much slower pace and is entirely based around weight training. Somehow it just seems interminably long compared to Cardio Party, and it's disappointing when Chalene stops being Chalene and lapses into the run of the mill aerobics instructor cadence for Turbo Sculpt. It's a very, very minor issue, though, and I use Turbo Sculpt regularly despite it.

Bottom Line:
I'm addicted, and the majority of people who try it end up that way, too. I can't wait to get my hands on the other videos, even though I doubt I'll get tired of the original ones soon. I'll report back on if it actually reduces the size of my ass in a month or so, but even if it wasn't a phenomenal calorie burner, I'd still probably use it to burn off stress and have fun. I've included links to some shorter segments of the workouts below in case you want to check it out.

Kickin' Core Turbo Jam Ball Workout

The Elite 11 Moves

Turbo Kick Success Story

Turbo Jam Success Stories

Happy Balloon Ascension Day, by the way.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Eleventy hundred million point five

Dealing with the interruption in my meds was much harder than I anticipated, to the point that the only thing that would stop the low rumble of insanity in the back of my brain was sleep. Or food. Or a combination of both that left my body and brain feeling like twice-microwaved death mixed served with a side of fresh-baked despair.

Anyway, today was a significantly better day than the last several were. Missouri managed to purloin California's tropical climate for a few days, so I got to open the house up to warm, fresh air and sunlight. I did a little housework, exercised, drank water, took my meds, and ate reasonably well. I realized, also, that I'm going to have to change a few things about the way I'm living right now in order to make any more progress at getting healthier and happier. I think, during winter break, I was doing really well despite the lack of meds because I was getting an adequate amount of sleep each night. The shitty thing is that I tend to average around 9-10 hours of sleep when I'm allowed to stay in bed as long as I want, and I'm just as exhausted after 8 hours of sleep as I am after 5. It would probably make sense to go for the 7-8 hours anyway, even if I don't feel it immediately. I also need to stop bullshitting myself about the types and amounts of food I'm eating. Honestly, the reason why I lost so much weight in October and November was because I wasn't eating much, probably because of the initial effects of the Wellbutrin. When I started getting hungry again around Thanksgiving and later in December, I tried to supplement my diet with high-carb vegetarian foods. When stuff started getting out of control around the holidays, my tofu and salads turned into grilled cheese and potato poppers, and no matter how much I tried to spin it, I was eating copious quantities of shit. No wonder my body revolted.

The thing that really kicked me in the ass (aside from my epiphany yesterday afternoon that I hadn't actually moved my body in several hours and that maybe I had actually, finally died from being a miserable wreck and if that was the case my mother would find out I had expired next to an open bottle of vitamin water and a gift card to an adult toy store I won at my faculty Christmas party and she would NOT BE AMUSED) was a set of photos from the New Year's eve party I attended with some friends. The party was the most fun I had had in years, probably, and I met some really nice people, and danced like a madwoman and I thought maybe...MAYBE...I actually looked really good. The jeans I had on were a size smaller than I could've worn previously, and I had a killer pair of red pumps and I actually took time on my hair and makeup and I kind of thought that even if I didn't look good, at least I looked better. But when I got those pictures from my friend a few days later, I realized that the same pasty, double-chinned, and tree trunk-legged Erin who started this whole thing a year ago didn't look a bit different 25 lbs. later. And I think I cringed the world's biggest cringe right then, realizing that everyone at the party must've been kind of taken aback by this tub of lard who was dancing too hard, and laughing too loudly, and maybe flirting when it wasn't her business to flirt because there were prettier girls with smaller asses. God, it sucked to have to realize that.

But it gave me some perspective on how stuff really ought to be going for me, because it's going to be a long, long time until I can look at a picture of my whole body and feel like I look like everyone else. It's going to take months, maybe years, of screwing up and stumbling and fighting not to be miserable when I just want to go back to bed and not wake up. It'll be a process of working day after day to make the right choices, and to talk myself off the roof when I've made some bad ones, and looking any further past the current day will probably drive me crazier than I have been recently. It's such a long fucking road...all of it...and the only thing I really feel like I can do is just take it one step at a time.