Yesterday and Today

Some days the thing that needs to be written about doesn’t mesh with something so mundane and prosaic as weight loss and exercise. Yesterday was one of those days.  But because “weight loss and exercise” is the predominant focus for this project, today we are back to the pedestrian.

(Not that diet and fitness aren’t important– clearly they are. It’s just well, sometimes, it feels so damn self-centered to write about my little struggles.)

Yesterday was too much of the Chinese. We went to lunch at a Chinese buffet. (And I was reminded how much we are spoiled by Mr. Jung. The Chinese Buffet is clearly not the best Chinese food in Dayton, Ohio.) I am well able to behave myself at these events though and I chose carefully. Then last night for dinner, my Chinese-American husband cooked and so, it was Chinese again. All fine except that this morning I was aware of the less-than-salubrious effect the soy sauce had wrought. I wasn’t sick or anything, just puffy. While many restaurants offer you “Low Sodium Soy Sauce” at the table, none of them cook with it.

Started with a good number yesterday morning — 55 pounds left to go, but only walked 3911 steps and called it my day off. Morning rations of Brown Cow yogurt with granola, lunch at the buffet (4 oz. poached salmon, two egg tarts, steamed Bok choy, stir-fried long beans, chicken and broccoli stir fry, fortune cookie and a slice of orange) and dinner at home (stir fried chicken breast with oyster mushrooms and baby Bok choy.)

Today, the target number held steady at 55. Breakfast was two cups of watermelon, midmorning snack of half-cup of cottage cheese, lunch was spinach salad with tomatoes and bleu cheese. Afternoon snack was a Ritz cracker with cheese. Dinner- two fish tacos and half a cup of cole slaw. While our son was at a cello recital (he thought our being there would make him nervous) we went on a short hike 1.25 miles. I kept thinking what a great bridle path this particular trail would make– the terrain was a gentle up and down, but mostly a soft carpet through the forest, quite magical. Steps today 5515.

Of course I wouldn’t make you look at a photograph of the Beatles without providing some aural candy to go with it. And I’m off to bed– lying there and staring at the ceiling, waiting for a sleepy feeling . . .


Beauty in the Rain

This was supposed to be a day off, I think. There was glorious rain to wake me this morning– such a relief to break the heat. There were chores to do and a few appointments to keep, but the day stretched out ahead of us, like a long luxury. Then among the email this morning was a note from the president of a club we belong to– the son of a club member had died, was there still time to get it in the newsletter?  The son is my age, and I didn’t know him, but I do know his mother, Sharon, and I knew that he had a brutal struggle with cancer.

Thoughts of Sharon stayed with me through the day– while bottle feeding kittens, and taking the dog to the vet and measuring the yard for a shed. My husband and son and I went for lunch at a Chinese buffet and while we laughed over our fortunes, I thought of Sharon and the absolute unrelenting unfairness in having to bury your child. No matter what the age, your  mother is always your mother; your son is always your child. I made a space for a notice in the layout for the club newsletter and waited for the details that the obituary would furnish.

My old journalism habits are hard to shake, and after a while, I began to dig a little online, and I found the most extraordinary story. This man, the son o of our friend Sharon, had wanted more than anything to marry his longtime girlfriend. She who had stood by him through this awful business and all the rest. So their family and friends hustled to pull together a wedding for them, on something less than a shoestring budget.  The whole nine yards: dress, cake, a beautiful spot by the lake, decorations, bridesmaids, ring bearer, flower girl. It’s hard to look at the photographs without tears welling in my eyes, particularly those pictures of the bride and groom together, and of the groom dancing with his mother in his arms.

Thirteen days later he drew his  last breath.

What a remarkable thing, in the face of death, to focus instead on hope and love, to find beauty in the rain.

What I did today matters little. I’ll make a note of it for you tomorrow.

A Year Ago Today

Last Memorial Day, in tears, I gave up and asked my husband to take me to the E R at one of the local hospitals. I was in Day Four of the worst migraine of my life. I’d missed a cousin’s wedding, my grandmother’s 95th birthday party, and nearly 100 hours out of my life that I could never get back. I knew that just walking through the doors of the ER was going to set us back the cost of a nice vacation, but I couldn’t take it anymore.

My blood pressure, which is usually around 110/70 (even at my weight) was through the roof. I was shaking with pain, and at that point I would have agreed to anything to make it stop. I kept picturing taking a hatchet and cleaving away the left temporal lobe of my brain. That’s how I came to spend Memorial Day of 2011 on a hospital gurney hooked up to the most strangest brew ever ingested by i.v. Toradol, an antipsychotic (save your comments), Benadryl, an antihistamine and Compazine, for nausea.

God only knows how they come with these concoctions. But it worked. It worked after making me so incredibly anxious that I had to stop myself from yanking out the feed and running from the ward. It worked after 90 minutes of steady dripping, which made me have to roll the works with me to the bathroom across the hall. It worked even though the symptoms from the drugs were so disconcerting that I didn’t notice right away that the headache had stopped. (Which would have been immediately apparent with say, morphine.)

Of course, there’d been a long wait before the I.V. Miami Valley Hospital is the area’s chief trauma hospital (and this in a city that seems to have a major hospital every mile or so) and though I’d been quickly put in a dim room with a heated blanket for the chills and ice chips, I’d had to wait nearly two hours while the ER docs patched up some people who’d been brought it from a car accident.  I suppose I understand– for the longest time, the conventional wisdom has been that people don’t die from migraines. They know better now, that people with migraine with aura (as I have) are at a hugely increased risk for stroke. But I guess I wasn’t in the immediate danger of dying as the people who drove their car into a tree.

Eventually, sheepishly I pushed the call button, and when the nurse came I told her I was sorry to bother her, but that it was getting worse. Tears were rolling down my face. She rushed out and lickety-split, there was the good doctor, Harold Guadalupe, angel of mercy, apologizing for having kept me waiting. He told me something very interesting, which was that everything they thought they understood about migraines has been de-bunked in the last couple of years, and that they are starting over from scratch. He ordered the state-of-the-art cocktail, and cautioned that it might make me feel strange.

Later, after I’d been through the wringer and come out the other side clean and new, he wrote me prescriptions for Fioricet and Zofran and sent me home. Word to the wise, Dr. G., they aren’t using Fioricet anymore — it causes rebound headaches. My neurologist was adamant about this– “throw it away,” she counseled, but keep the Zofran. Something in the use of anti-nausea meds increases the effectiveness of other anti-migraine compounds.

So that was a year ago. Since this is Monday, the accounting day, I am pleased to tell you that in the year since I’ve found a neurologist who specializes in migraine headaches, and got some treatment. I also came face to face with myself and where I am in my life and made the decision to change, and here I am now.  Since I’ve started eating better and getting more exercise and taking better care of myself, I have been free of any migraine symptoms. For nearly three months. Even though this is one of the worse times of year for migraines. Yay, me.

This year for Memorial Day, I showed my dog and was not winded, even after running a few hundred yards in 90 degree heat. I enjoyed visiting with friends, I had some lemonade in the shade of a big tree. I laughed and grinned and commiserated . We didn’t do much in terms of winning, but it was a really good day.

A note about goals. I have changed the steps goal to 35,000. It turns out that 40,000  a week was simply not realistic, I was never meeting it. (Well, until today, as it turns out.) So I’m going to try 35,000 and see if that stepping stone in the middle will help me eventually get to 40,000 a week and beyond. 

This week’s tally.

The target number for today is 55. I walked 6125 steps.

Number of pounds to lose this week: 2

Number of pounds lost this week: 5

Cumulative number to have lost by this point: 22

Actual cumulative number lost: 25

Number of steps to have walked: 35,000

Actual number of steps walked: 40,248

Cumulative number to have walked: 335,000

Cumulative number walked: 426,610  (161.2 miles!)

Breakfast yogurt with granola, banana. Lemonade. Lunch was a large chicken burrito (chicken, black beans, pico de gallo, corn salsa, a bit of sour cream and guacamole. Later: half a cup of blueberries and half of an iced coffee.

Heat Wave


For the third day in a row temperatures here were over 90.  That’s pretty hot for the last weekend in May. It’s supposed to be the same tomorrow, though the weather guy promises cooler temperatures at the end of the week.  (Meanwhile, back in the place where we used to live, they’re having a snow storm.) I’m not sure what officially constitutes a Heat Wave, but this seems hot enough.

It’s difficult to exercise in hot weather. Maybe I’m overly squeamish, but I’m just not a fan of sweat rolling down my forehead, into my eyes, down my long nose, along my upper lip. It stings. It’s messy. My hair sticks to the back of my neck and my clothes stick to me.

What’s to be done? I suppose that gyms have air conditioning. We have air conditioning in two rooms, but the electrical system won’t support the treadmill and the window a/c at the same time. But it’s more than just the practical aspects of exercising in the heat. The weather makes me feel like just lying around and watching Restaurant: Impossible marathons. Or reading detective novels with my feet up and a cold glass of ice tea at my side. Or napping.

Which is what I did today after I came home from the dog show, which is how I came to miss the high school graduation party of my friend Martha’s son, Benny. Congratulations, Benny! I’ll put your card in the mail. Mea culpa, Martha, I’ll make it up to you.

This is also how I came to drink half a can of Coca-Cola, thus ending my sugar fast. Doing my best to stay virtuous I did drink several bottles of water at the show this morning. But there was my son (6’2″ and 145 pounds) with an ice cold can of Coke. Which he handed to me. And I drank it. And really enjoyed it.  I was just trying to cut down on the mindless consumption of sweet things anyway– and the weather makes me yearn for Italian ice, so I may slip off the sugar wagon again tomorrow. Being it’s so damn hot and all.

Target number is 56. Steps today 7072.  Consumed: half a can of Coke, a cheeseburger, two cups of watermelon, spinach salad, one ear of corn, 12 oz New York strip.

Wynken, Blynken and Nod

Minnie Dibdin Spooner’s 1906 illustration for Wynken, Blynken and Nod.

It’s late, the day has sped by. I intended to write about Bad Diet Advice and hope to get to that tomorrow. But I have an early morning tomorrow, and I finished off the night by sprinting home from the grocery store so that I could get in the full measure of 5000 steps on the treadmill– because the pedometer stops at midnight, no matter what I’m doing.

So tonight, I leave you with a lullaby, a poem written in 1889 by American poet Eugene Field. I found it spellbinding as a child. Each night I drifted to sleep thinking of my bed as a boat, sailing through the inky sea of the night, careful to make sure that Bloopy (a stuffed dog) and Whiskey George (a stuffed lion) were safe next to me, along with Cybele, a real Doberman, who insisted in sleeping in the absolute center of our boat bed. No matter, I just curled my legs around her and slipped away to dreamland– which is where I’m headed now.

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night
Sailed off in a wooden shoe—
Sailed on a river of crystal light,
Into a sea of dew.
“Where are you going, and what do you wish?”
The old moon asked the three.
“We have come to fish for the herring fish
That live in this beautiful sea;
Nets of silver and gold have we!”
Said Wynken,
And Nod.

The old moon laughed and sang a song,
As they rocked in the wooden shoe,
And the wind that sped them all night long
Ruffled the waves of dew.
The little stars were the herring fish
That lived in that beautiful sea—
“Now cast your nets wherever you wish—
Never afeard are we”;
So cried the stars to the fishermen three:
And Nod.

All night long their nets they threw
To the stars in the twinkling foam—
Then down from the skies came the wooden shoe,
Bringing the fishermen home;
‘T was all so pretty a sail it seemed
As if it could not be,
And some folks thought ‘t was a dream they ‘d dreamed
Of sailing that beautiful sea—
But I shall name you the fishermen three:
And Nod.

Wynken and Blynken are two little eyes,
And Nod is a little head,
And the wooden shoe that sailed the skies
Is a wee one’s trundle-bed.
So shut your eyes while mother sings
Of wonderful sights that be,
And you shall see the beautiful things
As you rock in the misty sea,
Where the old shoe rocked the fishermen three:
And Nod.

Target number back to 56. (Hooray) Steps 5188, and I hustled to get them. This is the fifth day without sweets. Breakfast: banana,  yogurt with granola. Lunch: two beef empanadas, 1 cup cottage cheese, cherries.  Snack: stalk of celery with peanut butter  Dinner: spinach salad with half a grilled chicken breast, peppers, half-avocado, 3 cocktail tomatoes, and afterwards two cups of watermelon.

Inch by Inch

Last month, upon measure of the usual three girths, I discovered I’d lost 11 inches– cause for great celebration. I only measure once a month because I think that otherwise the progress might be so slight as to go unnoticed. Given that clothes seem looser and I haven’t seen so much progress on the scale, I was thinking– ah, it’s being transformed to muscle. So I looked forward to today: May’s Measuring Day.

Except I was busy and away for most of the day and by the time I could get my hands on a tape measure it was nearly 6 o’clock. I was quite disappointed to see that the measurements were only a total of two inches less overall. Two inches. And yes, that’s two inches farther ahead than I might have been, and still a step in the right direction, even when the pace is an excruciatingly slow inch by inch. It’s still progress.

I was curious about this though, so I did a little digging under “losing weight but not inches.”  There’s more there than you would expect. (Also “losing inches but not weight,” but most people understand that transforming fat into muscle makes for a denser flesh, and thus somewhat more heavy. Fat is actually very buoyant, which is why so many of us chubby people like to frolic around in the pool. But I digress.)

This “losing weight but not losing inches” turned up all kinds of things I didn’t know, or at least hadn’t thought about. Like this, from Livestrong:

“When you lose weight you lose it from throughout your body. Fat is drawn proportionately from wherever it is stored. If you carry fat in your hips and buttocks, then you will draw more weight and inches from that area. However, because you draw from fat throughout your body, measurement of inches lost in one particular area, such as your belly, will show loss more slowly than your weight will. Keep dropping weight, and you will eventually see the results in your tape measurements.”

When people lose “weight,” they lose fat, or water, or muscle. If it’s fat you’re losing, you’re taking away more bulk and thus you will see the change reflected in small measurements. But if you lose muscle mass, you lose inches at a much slower rate.

Many dieters don’t consume enough protein. If you don’t feed your body enough protein, you lose muscle mass, which — say it together now “means more weight loss than volume loss.”  Sedentary lifestyles, injury and illness all contribute to muscle atrophy, where again, you’ll see a measurable decrease in weight, but little change in volume.

Apparently, operator error (of a tape measure!) is also a problem in the “losing weight but not inches” phenomena. Apparently, it’s not just our weight that changes during the day, so do our measurements. I guess I knew this– ever try on shoes in the late afternoon? But I didn’t think about the effect that water retention and meals consumed would have on the measurements taken at 6 p.m. So tomorrow morning, first thing, I’m going to measure again.

But the most surprising fact about the failure to lose volume was this one: your dietary and exercise patterns can cause you to lose muscle mass and gain fatty bulk. That is, the very thing that you’re doing to try lose weight and gain fitness may be pushing you in the opposite direction.

If you engage in strenuous resistance workouts in the morning before breakfast, or following periods of fasting, you promote the breakdown of muscle protein. If you eat sporadically, you starve your muscles of energy for much of the day, promoting protein breakdown. Then, when you do eat, especially if you eat a large number of calories to compensate for the prior calorie deprivation, you flood your body with glucose which can’t be used, so it is converted into fat. In this way, you can deplete lean muscle mass and replace it with bulky fat.

Why Am I Losing Weight But Not Inches?

I am guilty of all of this. I have engaged in strenuous workouts before breakfast. (Advice from elsewhere on Livestrong, on how to jumpstart your metabolism.) I have engaged in strenuous workouts following periods of (unintended) fasting, and I rarely gorge. I always eat sporadically, but I am trying to do better. It seems like if I was eating as much as I am supposed to as often as I am supposed to that I would be eating constantly.

So tomorrow, I measure again, first thing in the morning. And eat more. Dieting is such a conundrum.
Today’s target number 57. Steps walked 8150. This was the fourth day with no sugar. Breakfast: banana, yogurt with quarter cup granola. Lunch: Western Omelet, half cup of home fries, Dinner: stalk of celery with peanut butter, two stalks of celery with whipped cream cheese, six mini sweet peppers, cup of fresh cherries. Unsweetened iced tea, lots of water.

Potty Mouth


Tonight, while out shopping here and there with my son, I stopped to use the ladies’ room in the farthest most corner of TJ Maxx. The first door revealed a toilet still draped in ribbons of toilet paper, some not looking all that clean. Why do people leave those kinds of messes behind? If they feel they have to wrap the toilet seat, don’t they think they should clear it away for the next person?

The next stall looked okay, and I sat down, did my thing, flushed the toilet and proceeded to the sink to wash my hands like every good American does.  Now I don’t have any peculiar notions about my own poop– like everyone else’s, it stinks. (Which is why it’s particularly nice when there’s a can of air freshener handy to take the edge off. But there wasn’t in this instance.)

As I was washing my hands, the door opened and two black women about 40 walked in. They both sported $25 weaves and velour sweatsuits, one pink, one brown.  They looked like matching velour sausages.

“Woooo-eeee!” the first one said. ‘It done smells like somebody died in here!”

“Lawdy, Lawdy, mmm-hmmm, that is bad,” the other responded. “I jes’ don know when I lass smelled something’ like that. Oh, Lawd.”

I finished drying my hands and left without comment, though I felt embarrassed, shamed and just a tad furious.

Nobody comments about the smell in a public restroom, especially when the person who created that smell is standing right there. Occasionally, you might hear a small child say something, but they are instantly shushed by the adult accompanying them.  It simply isn’t done.

This would be like two guys standing at a urinal and one looks over and says “Gee, mate, haven’t got much there, have you? You can keep the wife happy with that?”  I understand in some circumstances guys look, but I bet they sure as hell never comment.

It’s not even manners, it’s part of our social compact. Everybody’s shit stinks, so let’s just deal with it and get out of the restroom.  And we’re not the only ones with such niceties. In Tokyo, a department store had a huge water bill. After a little detective work, the problem was found to stem from the practice of Japanese ladies constantly flushing the toilets to mask the sounds of excretion. Some genius there came up with an idea of mounting a button inside each stall, which produced the sound of a flushing toilet when pressed.

I told my long-suffering son about the incident in the restroom, and he sighed and said “That’s the problem with ghetto.”  “Ghetto” doesn’t refer to your zip code or even the color of your skin. It’s a culture that exists outside the social norms, a kind of loud mouthed, hateful, mocking sense of entitlement. You’d think those kinds of people would get knocked down often enough to learn, but I guess they don’t. I guess their shit must smell like roses.

Today’s target number is 58. Steps taken 5216. This was my third day without sugar.  Breakfast was an egg and beef burrito, with two ounces of orange juice. For lunch I had a banana and three tiny tea sandwiches cucumber and whipped cream cheese. Dinner was half a chicken quesadilla, and six little sweet peppers.