Archive for April, 2010

The Weighting Game

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

Fair Warning: This post has NOTHING to do with Commuter Couples.

Why is it I can put on 20 pounds inside a few months and then spend years trying to take it off?

As you might recall, in October I developed sensitivity to gluten, which is basically anything that is made with wheat or flour. You try eating the standard American diet and not eat wheat: it is no fun. I was avidly reading food labels, interrogating restaurant service people and wondering if I’d ever eat pizza again. I was shocked at the number of processed food items that have wheat or wheat products in them, which basically means they are off limits to me.

I did a lot of research during this time about gluten allergies/sensitivity/Celiac Disease. Every book I read and many blogs dealing with gluten sensitivity talked about how much better people felt after clearing gluten from their system. They extolled the unexpected weight loss they’d had after getting wheat out of their diet, as wheat often acts as an inflammatory agent.

Not so for me.

After I went gluten free back in October, I packed on 15 pounds in a matter of weeks.

Go figure: taking out all of the wheat in your diet also takes out about 85% of the fiber as well. What are left are simple carbohydrates which turn into sugar in your body. All the calories and none of the satiation factor? No wonder I gained 15 pounds!

Gluten free felt like prison to me. Unless I minutely controlled everything that went into my mouth there was a chance that within an hour of eating I’d have gut-clenching pain and suffer the sting of acid reflux.

My sister, who has tried more interesting food plans than you’ve ever even heard of, recommended going on a “raw” food diet. Before you flip out: we both decided that steak tar-tare and sushi wasn’t our thing (not that there is anything wrong with either of those food choices. To each his own).

Once again, the research on and offline and blogs praising the Raw Food diet pointed to the fact that people who were on a raw diet were likely to return to their natural weight. When the primary sources of food in your diet are fruits and vegetables you’d think your weight would drop like a rock.

Me? Not so much. I packed on another 5 pounds.

Even still, I spent 12 weeks eating raw. The nice thing about being 90-95% raw (I just couldn’t quite get rid of the coffee) was that it felt like freedom. I could eat anything that wasn’t cooked without worrying about running into that evil gluten demon.

I felt awesome eating raw. Almost all of my food cravings went away. I slept better; I had more energy. Except for that pesky weight gain, eating raw food was much more rewarding than eating gluten free.

Then real life got in the way.

A friend was coming to town for a week and asking someone else to limit themselves to restaurants and meals that are all raw was more than I was willing to do. I reverted to being gluten free during her visit.

Now being 20 pounds heavier than I’d like to be I’ve found myself being very conscious of all aspects of eating: what I’m eating, how I’m eating, how much I’m eating, how fast I’m eating, etc.

My friend is naturally thin. While she was in town I availed myself of opportunity to observe her eat.

The difference in the way she and I handled ourselves around food was striking. While eating meals, about 2/3 of the way through whatever her entrée was, she’d say, “I’m full.” More importantly, she’d push her plate away from her. And most importantly: she didn’t touch the food again.

My first inclination is always to be part of the “clean plate club.” The starving kids in China, Africa…pick your own continent…was my impetus to eat up!

But back to today: even if I do claim to be full, I rarely push my plate farther away that my chubby little mitts can reach and NEVER do I leave it alone. Oh no: I’m going to pick and pick and pick at it until once again I am a card carrying member of the “clean plate club.”

Fairly early on in her visit I made some smart-mouth comment about her size 2 body.

She put her fork down and caught my eye and very calmly said, “Please don’t make comments about my weight.”

At first I was taken aback. What was the big deal?

Later as I reflected upon it how arrogant was I to think I had the right to comment on her weight (or the lack thereof). How furious would I be if someone commented on the 20 pounds I’ve packed on in the last few months? (Hold that thought. Later you’ll see how I responded.)

Was it okay to comment on her slight physical stature because that is what society deems as ‘desirable’? While my overweight body is the opposite of what is ‘desirable?’

I had never thought about my reverse snobbery: hating people (somewhat tongue-in-cheek, however, definitely envious) of size 2 women when the closest I’ve ever been to a size 2 is when there is another digit to the right of it and I’m embarrassed to admit it wasn’t always a “0”.

Sadly, since my friend’s departure I’ve kind of fallen off of the wagon. I’ve reverted to some of my higher fat, lower fiber choices, eschewing the wonderful green smoothies that I enjoyed all of January and into March. I no longer want the spinach salads that I was drooling over a few weeks ago.

While visiting my doctor last week she pointed to the steady weight gain since last year. “Do you realize you’ve gained 20 pounds from your lowest point?”

Was she serious?? Do you think you can hide 20 pounds? Do you think I haven’t noticed that I only have two pairs of slacks that fit (or are fit) to wear into the office? “Yes, Doc, I noticed. It is kind of hard not to when your underpants are cutting off your circulation!”

So what is the deal? Why do I struggle so much with my weight. Why is it a dragon I just can’t seem to completely vanquish? I’ve spent many hours pondering why I’ve struggled with my weight all of my life. Is it because I like food too much? Rich food too much? Is it portion control? Is it that I don’t exercise? The answers to those questions by the way: Yes. Yes. Yes. No – I do exercise.

Let me tell you a story:

Recently my mother visited a friend whose health has deteriorated to the point she can no longer live alone. My mother found the visit very depressing and she had a hard time shaking off the sadness she felt after leaving her friend in the assisted care unit. She called me a few days later and I was surprised at how upbeat she sounded.

“What changed for you?” I asked.

“We went for a drive today and ended up around the lake. We stopped at that frozen custard shop we always like. It reminded me of vacations we’ve taken together, Lara. Somewhere between the dip of vanilla and chocolate I started feeling better.”

“Gosh,” I began, tongue securely in cheek now. “All these years I’ve wondered how it was I’d become an emotional eater. Now I know I came by it legitimately.”

“Very funny,” she said her tone dry.

“Truly, Mother: the only thing I’m waiting on now is for you to tell me you smothered your ice cream in peanut butter.”

She was silent a moment.

And another.

I wondered if I’d gone too far.

Peanut butter is my mother’s answer to everything! It is her Ultimate Feel Good Food.

“Lara – if I’d have thought about it or had peanut butter handy, I certainly would have glopped it on top and relished it as it went down!”

Indeed.

Mystery solved.

Okay. In all honesty being an emotional eater wasn’t news to me. Like many people, I don’t treat food like it is nutrition or fuel for my body. It is there to comfort me when things are tough. It is there to celebrate with me when times are great. Food is my fair weather friend. No matter what happens: food is always there for me.

When I started this blog in July 2009 I swore to myself that it wouldn’t devolve into another blog about food and food issues (again: not that they’re anything wrong with them). Yet here we are. I appreciate your indulgence in this and I promise to keep my food drama to a minimum.

Lastly, just in case you’re curious: Unless you’re my immediate family (sorry, you’re fair game) I always run any portion of my blog past whoever I’m including stories about. When I sent the story about monitoring my thin friend and her eating habits to her for her approval she responded: “I’m not a size 2. I’m a size 4.”

I don’t know about you but that didn’t make me feel any better. In fact, basically she can never come into my house again. I can’t afford the liability: her skinny butt might slip between the cushions on my couch and she might suffocate! Of course the pillow I might hold over her face might factor into it as well…….

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The Upstairs Bath

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

As I mentioned previously, at the end of February I decided to de-clutter the house. Mr. J and I are both packrats and now that I work from home, I was really feeling hemmed in by all of the “stuff” that we had accumulated since we moved into the house six years ago.

I decided that I needed a neutral place to start getting rid of all of the junk that had seeped into my life.

Since Mr. J moved out, the upstairs bathroom gets little use. It seemed like the ideal place to start de-cluttering. I mean: after all, how much stuff could there be in an unused bathroom?

Well, as it turns out: TONS of JUNK.

The bathroom upstairs has a vanity that spans the entire wall and was packed solid not only with all of the towels, toiletries and toilet paper you might expect to be under a vanity but also: multiple bags of free make up giveaways (gift with purchase sort of deals), candles of all shapes and sizes, lace sheer curtains and if that wasn’t strange enough there were various insoles from approximately ten pairs of shoes.

The two drawers that the vanity has were completely filled with jewelry, hair products and pint-sized toiletries taken from luxury hotels: such as the bed and breakfast we stayed at on our wedding night and the Wynn in Las Vegas.

I was horrified when Cyndee said, “Everything has to come out.”

What?

What I would soon find out was Cyndee wanted everything out of every drawer, every cupboard, every shelf, etc. of the bathroom (and later every room in the house). She pulled all of the shampoo, conditioner, and soaps out of the shower and as she began to wash down the tiled shower area I felt my face burn crimson as I realized not only was I a packrat, I don’t know how to clean a house!

I wanted the floor to open up and swallow me. Who teaches you to clean a house?

My idea of “cleaning” is vacuuming and dusting.

I’m not trying to throw my mom under the bus here, but seriously, where do you learn to clean a house?

I’ve walked into people’s homes and been shocked to find NOTHING on their kitchen countertops; nothing on their bathroom vanities; nothing on any surface in their home.

I don’t get it!!

As I stood in the middle of the upstairs hall surrounded by more mini-bars of soap than anyone could ever need, I knew that unless I (wo)manned up and got with the program the whole de-cluttering was going to end in ashes before I even got started.

Cyndee looked at me with kindness on her face and said, “I’m not here to pass judgment. You decide what you want to keep. We just have to find its place.”

And that became the mantra as we worked our way, room to room, upstairs to downstairs. “Find its home.”

So tell me: who taught you to clean? What does cleaning mean to you? How deep do you clean? And how often?

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Life Lessons

Sunday, April 11th, 2010

I thought I’d interrupt the de-clutter fest to talk about some very valuable life lessons I learned this past week:

1 – I don’t care how much fun you are having with your writing buddy: do NOT drink an entire bottle of wine on a school night and forget to drink gallons and gallons of water to offset the dehydration. No Bueno.

2 – Do not schedule your annual physical on a beautiful Friday afternoon when you still have work to do at the office and then proceed to get into a ‘discussion’ about hormone replacement therapy (Dr: Pro; Lara: Con) and expect to get back to work in time to finish up your work and then leave by 5pm. This will result in your being inside on the most beautiful day of spring until well after 6pm. You will be ticked.

3 – Do not run out of your estrogen patch. (See #2 above and note the irony that I was arguing “con”.) More specifically: do not run out of your estrogen patch and then flip your lid at an email at 8pm and shoot off a zinger of an email, cc’ing your boss.

4 – Put zinger emails, cc’ing your boss, into a “draft” folder in your email software. Sleep on it. Check it in the morning. See if you still feel the way that you did when you wrote it or if you just sound like a crazy witch who has been off of estrogen for two weeks. (Don’t laugh: some of you know you’ve been there!)

5 – Do not try super gluing ANYTHING after two bottles of Hard Cider. Trust me: you will end up with every finger glued together and/or skin all over whatever the heck you decided to fix. This sounds gross but: skin does not come off of wood, particularly after being affixed with super glue. (Cyndee: I hear you: “You can’t super glue wood!” You can if you mix a little human epidermis with it.)

6 – Do not keep peanut/almond butter in the house if you plan on drinking an entire bottle of wine and/or two bottles of Hard Cider and you know you are susceptible to eating the ENTIRE jar with a spoon even without being hammered. (Mother: this one falls squarely on your shoulders!)

7 – Do not watch your favorite home shopping network after drinking aforementioned wine/cider and then wonder why all of these packages are showing up at your front door. (The same could be said of Ambien but that is a whole other story.)

8 – Learn how to say ‘Thank You” when you’ve received an awesome compliment. Cyndee, who is helping me declutter, is one awesome chick. I sent her an email telling her how much she meant to me and how I wished I had more of her energy, her positive attitude and her eye for design. I said I hoped her family knew how lucky they were to have her.

She responded to me and said, “Are you drunk?” Since there seems to be a lot of “Life Lessons” revolving around alcohol I’m going to say that just for the record: that night I wasn’t drunk.

9 – Noting that there are several of these lessons that do involve alcohol, I’d like to point out that lesson number nine is: First you have to admit you have a problem……

Just kidding.

No really.

I’m fine.

Hey! Give me that bottle back!!!

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Packrat? Hoarder?

Saturday, April 10th, 2010

One of the main differences between my commuter hubby and me revolves around cable television: I don’t have cable. I think it is ridiculously expensive and frankly I’d rather spend my discretionary income on high speed internet and “presents” from my favorite home shopping network.

However, Mr. J, being very much of the male persuasion, has every cable channel imaginable in his apartment. When I’m ‘in residence” at his pad I admit to ‘jonesing’ (pun intended) for a few channels: A&E is one of them. In January A&E started a new season of “Hoarders.” In case you aren’t familiar with it, the name is pretty explanatory.

Each episode showcases two separate people whose inability to let go of things is so out of control that they are headed toward disaster: the house is unsafe and they might lose their children (‘lose’ as in: taken away from them, not ‘lose’ as in they can no longer find them in the mountains of junk); a loved one has fallen down stairs, breaking bones, and is now threatening to leave them unless the clutter is cleared. The show considers hoarding a disease and cleaning out the house is only the beginning step to change the person’s life.

After watching two episodes in February I turned to Mr. J and said, “We are about 2.5 steps from being hoarders.”

Now I might have been exaggerating just a little (and I hope anyone who has ever seen my house is nodding their head in agreement right now) but I am serious in my concern.

Both Mr. J and I are packrats. We tend to keep everything: books, plastic containers, electronics that are completely outdated, clothes from the 1990s and my personal bugaboo: paper.

Paper breeds in my house, multiplying like bunnies. Paper slays me: I don’t know what to do with it and I can’t let it go.

To piggyback on the problem of being a packrat partial to paper, I struggle with organization as well. Historically my bosses have complained about my desk being piled high with folders, industry magazines (an occasional copy of Oprah! thrown in as well, but they couldn’t see it, now could they?) and paper.

Yet, if anyone needed something I could lay my hands on it immediately. Eventually, tired of the comments, I’d give in and clean my work area. Of course, the minute I’d either tossed or filed something I needed it within days.

Like everyone who has been through any sort of time management course, you know the number one mantra: “only touch paperwork one time.” You are supposed to: Deal with it. File it. Trash it. All at the same time. Unfortunately for me, once it is filed it is lost to me forever, like a black hole: I have no idea where it is.

Just to pile on: I also have a family history of clutter: my parents’ house has been known (occasionally) to have a tiny, tiny bit of clutter. My grandparents who lived through the depression tended to stockpile non-perishable goods: coffee, aluminum foil, soap, etc.

With those two and one-half strikes against me (not even I would be so negative as to claim three strikes):
Predilection to hang onto everything
No innate sense of organization
Maternal (thus the one-half) family history of hanging onto or hoarding “stuff”

I felt justified in my comment to my hubby: we are about 2.5 steps from being hoarders.

We might not be hoarders today, but where would we be 5 years from now?

It was time for an intervention!

Stay tuned as my friend Cyndee first comes into our house and we begin to declutter what should have been an innocuous room: the mostly unused upstairs bathroom.

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Airing my Dirty Laundry

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

1. Deodorant
2. Greeting Cards (unused)
3. Holiday Cards (unsent)
4. Envelopes: any size you can imagine
5. Bath products
6. Body lotion
7. Make up
8. Tea: Herbal or otherwise
9. Cellophane Tape
10. Candles (all unburned, of course)

What do the things on this list all have in common, you might be asking yourself? Well: they are things I never need to buy again. Ever. Ever. EVER.

You can add to that list:
1. Dish towels (3 ratty. 20 unused.)
2. Shoes
3. Binder Clips
4. Purses
5. Wrapping Paper/Gift Bags
6. Paper Clips

It would be relevant to note that you don’t see “Cleaning Supplies” listed anywhere on this list.

A few weeks ago I decided changes had to occur in my house. Spring fever had set in.

Generally in my neck of the woods we don’t see spring until mid-May. By the end of February I was climbing the walls of my house/office and desperately needed a change.

Now traditionally I change my hairstyle or color as February is on the wane but since I’ve started working from home and basically being in the house 24/7, I decided a more substantial change was needed.

I suckered a friend whose house I always love walking into because it looks like it belongs in Better Homes and Garden into helping me declutter and redecorate.

“Redecorate” might be the most liberal interpretation of that word ever as I’d never really decorated.

While shopping for sofas, easy chairs, ottomans and nifty decorative accoutrements was the most fun part of the job, the back breaking labor of decluttering was an amazing (and sometimes shameful) learning experience which you’ll hear more about in the next couple of weeks.

More to come!

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