Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Go the F*** to Sleep

T minus a week 'til Thanksgiving.

Such a minefield, this time of year.

For all the obvious reasons*.  But, thanks to these months of training myself to indulge sparingly and exercise often, the tempting aisles of butter, sugar and flour are probably not going to be my undoing. If I can keep these 15 pounds off and be ready for a sprint to the finish next year, I'll be declaring victory.

What may still derail me, though, is not sleeping.  I've always been, to put it mildly, a night owl. My bed time is perpetually deep in the wee hours of the morning.  Sometimes I stay up because there truly aren't enough hours in the day to get my work done.  More often, though, I'm up out of habit, puttering and browsing, making lists and paying bills, shopping and pinning and planning.  When the house gets quiet, some deranged part of me decides to start a new project, binge watch Scandal or sort through a pile of paperwork.  Already insane, this tendency gets even worse as the holidays approach.  The to do lists get longer, the rituals more elaborate** , and my nocturnal rest becomes, at best, a nap.

Like my food mania, this sleepless productivity thing is externally miraculous*** and incredibly unhealthy.  My first Fitbit was completely flummoxed when it tried to track my sleep****  so I just stopped wearing it at night.  We were both much happier after that.

Not so much anymore. You'd think after all these years, I would be thoroughly adjusted to this not-so-new normal, but lately I'm craving sleep, and dreading the annual dive into insomnia.  I can't tell if I'm finally just cumulatively exhausted, or newly aware of how little restorative time I give myself. All the brisk walks and kale in the world won't do any good without a solid block of time overnight for my body to absorb the work.  On the rare night that I do sleep, I wake up lighter in the morning every time.  Yet even that tangible incentive isn't breaking the habit.

Caffeine is out, and has been for a while.  I had high hopes for that change*****, but so far it hasn't made a bit of difference.  As of today, I have a new Fitbit, and I am going to wear it at night. And my mantra for this holiday season is not "Deck the Halls", but, in the fine, fine words of Mr. Samuel L. Jackson:

I will, of course, be starting this program tomorrow, as this blog post was composed at 2:11 am.


* Pie.
** Clever rhyming Christmas card poems anyone?
*** How does she do it? Easy! She is a zombie!!
**** Typical report: "You have slept for 2 hours and 35 minutes and walked 42 steps.  I have no idea what day it is anymore.  Here is a flower picture for you."
***** Because it was f***ing painful as s*** to give up.

Friday, October 24, 2014

For the record, live tweeting does not burn calories

Last Saturday, something truly unusual happened.

I did a 5K.

I know, right?

Before you get too excited though, I must admit that by "did", I mean "walked briskly, jogged a little on the downhill part, took photos and tweeted" a 5K.

But I finished.*  Hooray!  

* I was a little extra motivated after a week in NY on business.  Business that included the world's greatest French onion soup, Little Pie Company apple pie, wine with dinner, and other assorted indulgences, along with work duties.  To make up for all that I'd need to live tweet the Iron Man triathlon.  Which is SO not going to happen.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The bearable heaviness of being

I've been shedding a lot of things lately.

A son, by design.
A dog, by a cruel, vicious disease.

Somehow, though, with all the loss, I feel immensely heavier.  The weight of this much-emptier house. The sadness pulling at my heart like extra gravity.  Most days I'm walking around like I'm made of stone.

Fortunately, I got my heavy, sad, stone-feeling ass to the gym and ate a lot of jicama this week.

Might as well get back on track while I'm moping right?  Less than six months to go!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

This couple walks into a bar...

A few days ago, my husband and I walked over to our neighborhood steakhouse to grab dinner at the bar.  The restaurant itself is a little stuffy and a lot overpriced, but the bar is exactly right.  The food is good, especially the bar-only items that are easily half the price of entrees in the main room. The wines by the glass are delicious. Plus, we can show up in our tennis shoes and be greeted with a gracious smile and a handshake by the gentleman bartender, as if we made his whole night by stopping in.

After the warm "Hello!" and genuinely pleased "Haven't seen you in a while!" he says:

"Hold on.  Have you lost weight?"


"Yep.  I could tell as soon as you walked in.  Lookin' good, man!*"


*  To be fair, my husband had picked up a nasty stomach bug on a business trip, so he was looking a little peaked.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Climb every mountain

Flush with the achievement of trekking miles across volcanic craters and climbing the hilly cobblestones of Edinburgh without mishap, I made my husband a proposition:

Me: How about we do that hike above Palm Springs on the 4th? The one at the top of the tram?
Him: Really? Are you serious?
Me: Absolutely! The kids won't be around, and we should get out of the house and do something. It's going to be crazy hot, so the mountains will be a relief.
Him: (Giving me a concerned look) Well, I'll check into it.

Later that night:

Him: OK. Here's the deal. It's 11 miles round trip...
Me: Great. Sounds perfect.
Him: (holding up a hand)...with an elevation gain of over 2300 feet. Mt. San Jacinto is the second highest peak in Southern California.
Me: But we start most of the way up because of the tram, right? No problem.
Him: It's a pretty challenging route. The last half a mile is all boulders. That you have to climb up with your hands.
Me: Boulders? Those are the round kind of rocks, right? No sharp points? I'll be fine.
Him: We'd have to drive out there early. No way of telling what the crowds will be like. And the tram costs like 25 bucks.
Me: It's a date!

The morning of the 4th, we load up. A veteran hiker and climber, my husband has a topo map, CLIF Bars, multiple liters of water, sunscreen, Chapstick, and several extra clothing layers in his pack. I have a tupperware with minted jicama, an apple, and my own custom trail mix, which includes chocolate covered espresso beans and these yummy dried mandarin orange slices*. I spend a good amount of time adding some mint leaves and fresh squeezed grapefruit juice ice cubes to my water sack, while he laughs his head off. At the last minute, I toss in a longer sleeved shirt, even though it is already over 80 degrees outside at 8 am. He puts hiking poles for me in the back of the car, and we hit the road.

After enjoying the miracle that is early morning traffic on a holiday in LA, we pull into the lot below the tramway and gaze at the craggy, barren rocks above. It's stunning.

The tram is packed with a mix of hikers (like us!!) and tourists, all snapping photos on their phones and marveling as we rise to 8500 feet above sea level.

We head down the concrete path from the upper tram station, and I'm feeling amazing. It is a balmy 75 degrees, with a pleasant, cool breeze blowing through the pines. This program of getting fit and healthy has made me a new person. An outdoors-y kind of hiking person who chooses to spend the day forging through the woods instead of grilling burgers and sipping margaritas. Due to a form of short term memory loss, I am recalling our 11 mile hike in Iceland as something of a comfortable stroll through the hills where I was more than keeping pace with my spouse**. This was my idea, and it was a damn good one.

We climb. Over stones, through trees, with the last of the season's wildflowers peeking out here and there. We chat aimlessly for an hour or so, but talk less as the path continues to wend upward, more sharply now. I'm finding it really challenging to breathe like a normal person, and begin to sound like a cross between my dog on a hot day and someone in the late stages of labor. Sweat is continuously dripping down from the tip of my nose in big, salty drops. Other hikers (real hikers) pass us easily as I make way and pause for them, gratefully.

My husband is kindness incarnate.  You're doing great, he says.  The altitude is tough for me, too, he says. We're in no rush, he says. I think we've already gone up at least 1000 feet, he says.  I'm grateful for the effort. We soldier on.

At least it is nice and shady, I think, as the air cools my damp skin. Actually, it's downright cloudy over there, I think, looking at a dark gray bank over the next ridge. Thank God for that. After nearly two hours, we reach a beautiful vista point, with large sunny rocks, picturesque conifer trees, and a view clear across the valley. I'm exhausted and thoroughly pissed at myself.

Me: (Barely getting the words out) I think I'll just wait here. Have my snack, listen to my book and wait for you to come back down. I can't go any farther, I just can't.
Him: Really? We're probably two thirds of the way done, but it'll still take me at least an hour and a half, maybe two, to go up and back.
Me: (Chest heaving). Really. I'll be fine. Look. I have a view, a comfy place to sit, food and water. Have fun.
Him: OK. If you're sure. I'll see you soon.

I pull out my jicama*** and sip my extremely refreshing citrus water, frustrated and disappointed. Who was I kidding? I am still massively overweight, with lungs the size of circus peanuts, apparently. I'd so wanted to be able to do this. Visions I had of my husband and I companionably following in John Muir's footsteps after both kids are in college crash and burn. I throw a delicious sesame covered cashew to my new chipmunk friend, who is subsequently very sympathetic.

My phone dings.
While digging for it, I realize I have left my earbuds in the car, and I can't even listen to my book. Shit.

Sighing, I haul the pack back on, grab my pole, and head off after him. I hit play on the Audible app, letting the story unfold out loud from my pocket as I go, alone on the narrow path. He was right. The trail has leveled off a bit, and is now traversing gently up the side of the mountain through lovely fields of low lying bushes and flowers. I am above the tree line and can see clearly in all directions.

I'm trudging along almost happily when the first raindrops hit. That dark bank of clouds is now directly overhead. I hear a clap of thunder, the sky opens up, and it is suddenly pouring. The spreading sweat patches on my t-shirt are instantly subsumed in the deluge of water that is soaking every inch of my body. I look in vain for a sheltering limb or branch, but see none. Now being above the tree line is a lot less appealing. Hikers are streaming down the hillside, staring at me slogging up with pity and puzzlement. It almost seems poetic when the hailstones start hitting me on the head.

Forty five sopping minutes later, I pass a small hut, just as the rain and hail stop.

Damn. There are the big ass boulders.
No husband, though.

I begin to scramble up the rocks with all the grace of a soggy cow. An older couple are nearby, having the same conversation I am having in my head.

Him: Wow! It's great up here, honey. Wait until you see!
Her: I hate this.  Stop talking.

Shivering uncontrollably, I pull myself up the last few feet. I have reached the top of Mt. San Jacinto, 10,834 feet high in the sky. The entire desert stretches out below me. There is an eagle-eye view of the storm moving away to the east. I am ready to concede. It's spectacular.

"BRI-AN!" I yell.
"I MADE IT!!!!"
Hmm. I pull out my sodden phone, take the obligatory selfie, and miraculously, I have a few bars of reception.

Just for fun, note how my hat and shirt, light gray in that happy shot at the beginning of this story, are now deep black with water.

Me: Where are you? I'm at the top of this mountain, looking for you!
Him:  (Breathing heavily)  I got a little lost. I'm not sure exactly where I am.
Me: What?!?
Him: Hey, good for you, babe! I had no idea you'd follow me up there.
Me: Are you kidding me right now?
Him: Look, when you head back down, be sure you see that hut. I missed it.

We agree to meet at the vista point. I pick my way down through the field of giant stones, and make a beeline for the hut, stopping briefly to throw on my extra shirt, which somehow stayed dry in the backpack. Defiantly, my teeth continue to chatter.

Wrapped up in an exciting deep space battle sequence in the book, the time and miles almost (but not quite) fly by on my way back down. I keep peering ahead hopefully, scanning for my husband. Nothing.

What seems like hours pass. I'm nearly at the meeting point. Ding.

Weak with relief, I make it to the vista area. My small furry friend is waiting for me, and seems delighted by the Thai Chili almonds I pull out. No sign of Brian and I barely have batteries or service on the phone. I sit and try to dry off.

Another hour goes by. The path is deserted. It's getting late. I've never felt so alone in my life. Did he pass me? Did I misunderstand his last text? I try calling, and get no answer. All I can do is wait.

If I thought hiking was bad before, this is terrifying.

Then, at last, he's there.

We talk as we head back, my frantic heart calming as we go.  He's hiked up and down two extra miles through thick brush to find his way, after going down the wrong side of the peak in the mist after he reached the top.  When we get on the tram almost seven hours after we started, I'm shaking and sore and so happy I almost cry****.

The obvious moral of the story is to never give up, of course. Mountains can be scaled by grumpy self-pitying people. Husbands can find their way back with google maps on their iPhones.

And I can still do this, one pound at a time.

* Since I don't spend much time on actual trails (obviously!), the proper name might be "snacking around the house mix".
** He was super sick at the time. Conveniently forgot that part.
*** Which was still cold because I'd used my colorful party ice balls to keep it chilled. Who's laughing now, smart guy.
**** In addition to being proud of both of us, I was elated because we were going from there straight to In N Out and I knew for SURE that I'd burned enough calories to even get fries and not feel guilty about it in the least.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Loaves and Fishes

We are just back from a spectacular trip to Iceland and the UK.  The adventure was marvelous, in the true sense of the word.

Before we left, I was most excited about the wild, unexpected natural landscapes we would see: glaciers and deep water lakes and rugged coastlines, bathed in clear northern light at all hours of the day.  I harbored secret hope of capturing puffins with my telephoto lens, and artistic shots of craggy volcanic formations against a backdrop of clouds and sky.  I planned to become an intrepid hiker (this was more of a delusion, but bear with me), summiting mountains with my delighted and grateful offspring behind me (again, I was definitely fuzzy here, given that I am highly unlikely to a) summit anything; b) do so ahead of my athletic, long-legged children; or c) be thanked for making them climb up hills in nature). 

There would be quaint crafts for purchase at the end.

All of that (mostly) came true.

What I did not expect was the food.

Every meal began with freshly baked bread, each different from the next, and all of them delicious. Breakfast with seeded rye, lunch with a crusty baguette, dinner with a crunchy whole wheat round.   From a roadside farmhouse.  From an otherwise completely nondescript motel dining room.  From a gourmet restaurant in Reykjavik.  Hearty, heavenly bread, with that glorious European butter and homemade jams of all kinds.  

We ate gelato made from the milk of cows we met that day, and lamb straight out of the wild meadows all around us.  

And, oh, the fish!  Arctic char that practically fell from the boat onto a grill. Gently smoked trout. Flaky, tender, utterly fresh salmon with a simple creamy herb sauce.  It was so overwhelmingly good that we could only open another bottle of wine and toast to our good fortune nightly.

Yes, I'd planned on taking a break from this program while we travelled.  But I had not planned on eating with so much joy.  That will stay with me even longer than the images of the icebergs and the cliffs over the sea.


Perhaps joy is a metabolism booster.  Or maybe if you mountain climb, slabs of butter are less fattening than usual.  I'd been prepared for a massive step back when I got on the scale this morning, and instead...

As they say in Iceland, Húrra!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


I weigh the same as I did last week and the week before*, but I have to say that I'm feeling a definite sense of progress nonetheless.

Reason #1:
We went to the movies Friday night. I caved in and split a container of that really good Arclight caramel corn with my husband.  It tasted like heaven...salty, sweet, buttery, almost-but-not-qute burnt, crispy at first and then melt-in-your mouth later.  This was literally the perfect taboo food, everything I'd been craving and denying myself for weeks, and I relished every single bite.

Image from Foodspotting

10 minutes later, I felt awful.  Not guilty-awful, but physically ill.  The overload of sugar, which would previously have been a non-event, was getting a resounding "Ugh!" from my newly junk-food averse stomach.  Shortly after that, a nasty headache took hold, and I was miserable in the dark for two hours.


Reason #2:
I was sitting in the bathroom late one night before bed (TMI, but there is a point here, I promise!).  After losing yet another round of Level 245 on Candy Crush, I lifted up the iPad, looked down at my leg and freaked out. There was a big old dent in it!  The leg didn't look bruised, but clearly I'd been resting my elbows on it too hard or something.  Cautiously, I poked at it and discovered the hollow was caused by a muscle I'd never seen rising gently all by itself beneath the skin.  Skeptically, I checked my other leg, and damned if that leg didn't have a muscle-dent in it, too.


Reason #3:
My son graduated from high school on Monday, the day I weighed myself for this post.  I'd truly been hoping to have crossed the 10 pound mark in time for the ceremony, so that I might avoid appearing in the pictures in my "forgiving dress" that stretches generously around various bulges.  No such luck.  Out came the dress, and I sighed as I pulled it down over my head.  I looked in the mirror, and was deflated immediately by the familiar sight.  But then I realized the dress wasn't actually stretching over any bulges (other than the boobs, which are supposed to bulge).  In fact, there was (a little!) air in there for a change.  How about that?  So, even though I still appear to be in the late stages of pregnancy in every picture, I can chalk it up, in part, to my somewhat loose-fitting tent.


In celebration of this milestone (my son's commencement, not my breakthrough with the stretch dress), we leave tomorrow for a family adventure in far away places, and I'll be away from the scale for two and a half weeks.  I'll be taking my discerning tummy and my unexpectedly sturdy legs with me, so it's sure to be an incredible trip.

Back here on June 30 with a full report!

* I actually lost half a stone this week, but with rounding, we're still at 9.
** Painful progress.  Both because my head really hurt, and because I truly love that caramel corn and will really miss it.  Hoping I can negotiate a truce with my tummy and just have a bite every now and then.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

How long can you tread water?

One of the best comedy bits ever.

The routine continues:

I just wondering, What would be the effect of an Ark on the average neighbour? Now, here's a guy going to work, 7 o'clock in the morning.  Noah's next door neighbour and he sees the Ark:

Hey! You up there!
What you want?
What is this?
It's an Ark. 
Aha. You wanna get it outta my driveway? I gotta get to work. Listen, what this thing for anyway?
I can't tell you. Hahahahaha! 
Well, I mean can't you give me a little hint?
You wanna a hint? 
Yes, please.
How long can you tread water?

And concludes with this:

'Course Noah had a heck of a job, really. He had to go out and collect all the animals in the world, by two's. Two mosquitoes, male or female And, uh, he had to keep telling the rabbits, only two, only two, only two. So we find Noah pulling up the last two animals. Two hippos and he's really in a hurry to get 'em up because he's afraid that the Lord's gonna call him and ask him to do something else. And his nerves are shot. This is one heck of a job for a man 600 years old.  So we find him pulling up the two last hippos. And of course the Lord does call him there.

Come on fat hippos, hurry up.  Come on will you please? 
What? What you want?
Gotta take one of those hippos out and bring in another one.
What for?
'Cause you got two males down there and you need to bring in a female.
I'm not bringin' nothin' in.  You change one of em'.
Come on! You know I don't work like that.
Well, I'm sick and tired of this! I've had enough of this stuff! I've been working all day. Working on it for days and days. I'm sick and tired of this!! 
How long can you tread water?

My personal record for treading water? About a week.


Instead of getting right into the Fast Metabolism groove as planned, I flatlined this week, as this endeavor took a back seat to a few other things I had going on.  I'll have tales to tell and loads of new recipes to go with them over on Cheesy Pennies in the next few days.  Meanwhile, be on the lookout for any neighbors building arks.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


I was prepared to be tempted by cocktails and cookies and crackers and cheese, and to lose a few of those battles.  Sure enough, that's happened.  

What I wasn't expecting was the lure of drastic change.  Now that the needle has moved a little, I really want it to move a lot.  And fast.  

Let's just say I've caught myself lingering a little too long on those late night weight loss infomercials, even after a week of healthy eating and a decent amount of exercise.

Yep. I'm irrationally dissatisfied that I'm basically on track.  

In Dr. Doolittle, there's a miraculous beast called a Pushmi-Pullyu.  The one in the story is quite graceful, even doing a little dance number, if I recall correctly.   But if she tried to run? It would not have been pretty.

Likewise, I'd be setting myself up for failure if I tried to cheat by taking shortcuts, as enticing as a diet of nutritious protein shakes and Insanity videos might be.   I'm still way too tangled up with old habits that will pull me right back up the scale if I push too hard.  That was the old me...a two headed contradiction moving one way first, and then right back the other direction*.

I'm aiming for the new me to be a cartoon tortoise instead, hopefully with a few hare-like moments along the way**.   To that end, now that I'm slowly moving in the right direction at last, I'm goint to try giving my metabolism a boost with the Fast Metabolism Diet.   Yes, it has that dreaded word "diet" in it, but the program seems to be a doable combination of good, healthful eating and moderate exercise, along with a rotating schedule that keeps things both interesting and manageable.  It's been fantastic for a good friend of mine, who looks and feels amazing after a couple of months of following the plan.

No more Pushmi-Pullyu.  Call me Speedy Tortoise!!  Ready, set, go!

* Not for nothing the guy's name was Doolittle.  Am I right?
** Watch the whole hilarious episode here.