“The Thought of My Thighs”

February 24, 2011

So the Borders in the town where I live is going out of business. This makes me incredibly sad, as I like Borders better than B&N, and this Borders has always employed really decent, friendly, bright people, unlike my local B&N.

BF and I went there last weekend to take advantage of 20% off the entire store, and I gave in and bought a hardback that I’ve been wanting to read for some time now (since I read this): Portia de Rossi’s memoir Unbearable Lightness. I don’t like hardbacks, for a slew of reasons, and I didn’t really want to buy this one, but I badly wanted to read it instead of waiting a year for it to come out in paperback. Now that I’m a third of the way through, I am so glad that I caved.

For those of you who haven’t heard of it, this book is the story of Portia’s all-consuming eating disorder (interesting choice of words my brain gave me there) during the years she was on Ally McBeal. She had been coping with eating disorder behavior since she was about 12, but between 1998 and 2002, she shaved herself down to 82 pounds at her thinnest before the disorder was finished with her.

This is a fascinating book, thoroughly real, intelligently written, and as candid as you could possibly want a memoir to be. It’s given me a great deal to think about, in part because of my own long-ago struggle, in part because of what’s going on in my diet and life now, and in part because it’s just a doggone incredible piece of work.

What’s going on now is that my wedding is just over three months away, and I am not as skinny as I’d like to be. I feel loose everywhere, with a body that’s…undisciplined. Generally I’ve been feeling overwhelmed and under-prepared for life in the last three months, and this means that my ability to make healthy meals at home has slipped, and I’ve been relying on frozen foods a lot. My psychological reserves are way down, and I can’t resist comfort foods, I can’t take the energy to count calories, I can’t make myself do much of anything that my mind is resisting.

I’ve been feeling angry at myself, lazy, undisiplined. But when I read about Portia’s ironclad discipline during these awful years, it makes me wonder what’s so great about being disciplined anyway, particularly about diet and exercise. At less than 100 pounds, at 300 calories per day, she still spent hours on the treadmill every morning. Her anxiety about her appearance led her to a kind of leveled-up self-discipline that I’m not sure I ever want to experience.

I joined Planet Fitness in January and I’ve been trying to make it there twice a week, to spend gradually increasing spells on the elliptical. I like the elliptical. It’s not as hollowing and jagged as running, and I still manage to work up a sweat. Ace of Base and Ke$ha keep me company, and I feel utterly satisfied when I get home.

I have been beating myself up that I haven’t set strict goals and met them, going there three or four times a week without fail and insisting on a certain amount of time on the machine at a certain level (or working my way up to running, which I don’t really like but burns more calories), but I just didn’t think that was the way to success for me. I thought if I aimed for twice a week and made it more about the memory of how good I feel when I’m done, I’d do better, dread it less, maybe even make it more often.

After reading about what Portia put herself through, I am much surer that this was the right way to go about it. If it weren’t for the wedding, I might abandon all of my concern about how my body looks and focus only on how it feels. I wish I had a more defined midsection and slimmer hips, arms and neck. But the more of this harrowing book I read, the more I think it might just not matter, maybe not at all, as long as I have a good brain, a good heart, and good health.

From the epilogue:

I’d still like thighs the size of my calves, but the difference is that I’m no longer willing to compromise my happiness to achieve it, or for the thought of my thighs to take up valuable space in my mind. It’s just not that important.

I’m Not Faking It

December 3, 2010

I like to shop the day-old bread display at my supermarket. You can usually get about half off whatever it is, whether it’s something sweet like pastries or something savory like an “asiago sun-dried tomato torpedo” (a long piece of bread shaped like…a torpedo). We never bought that kind of fresh-baked stuff at the supermarket when I was a kid, so buying it not-at-full-price as an adult is a nice middle ground between what’s normal to me and what seems like total decadence.

This past week I bought blueberry bread, which has been much more delicious than I expected. BF has taken to grabbing a piece before he goes to work. I usually eat some as a little afterword to my dinner, not quite dessert. But this morning it just looked so good that I took a piece to eat after I was done with my turkey sausage/egg croissant, managing to convince myself that it wasn’t sweet enough for anything averse – anything like what always happens – to happen.

And then, around 9:45, two hours (almost on the dot) after I’d eaten that blueberry bread, it happens. The shakes. The lack of concentration. The floaty feeling, the hot/cold/hot, the sweating. The instinct to stuff something, anything in my mouth, anything with substance. Hamburgers. Pasta with cream sauce. Something.

But years ago a doctor had told me that the way to cope with hypoglycemia is not to give in to that urge that tells you your body is completely empty, you have to fill it up, you have to fix this, put something in your pie-hole NOW, but just to infuse sugar into your bloodstream in the most efficient way possible. Apple juice is the best way I’ve found, but any other kind of fruit juice will do, or you can eat crackers or something else that converts easily to glucose in the body.

I look in my drawer: no apple juice box, where I usually keep one. I must’ve forgotten to replenish after the last time. There’s a box in my glove compartment, but that’s across the street and in the parking lot, which might as well be on Mars for how horrible I am starting to feel. My half-working brain feebly reminds me that I can go across to the hotel and buy some orange juice, probably, but I don’t want to go into the cold and I’m starting to feel like standing and walking a distance isn’t going to be very easy.

I go to the fridge. Somebody’s giant bottle of cranberry juice cocktail, half-empty, stands in the corner, surrounded by bottles of salad dressing that appear not to have been touched in months. The cranberry juice looks abandoned, as well. (I think it’s been there without a change in its liquid level since I started here in March.) I mentally apologize to whoever, get a glass, and drink some. And then some more.

Ah. There it goes. The shakes subside; my head clears; I feel capable of doing whatever’s necessary to get through the day, when minutes ago it all seemed insurmountable. The hunger fades, bit by bit. Last thing to go is the hot/cold/hot, but that disappears too, soon enough. I mentally thank the cranberry juice cocktail owner, whoever he or she may be. I doubt that this person would have begrudged me six ounces of juice in my moment of need, but I still feel a little bad taking what doesn’t belong to me without permission.

This is life with hypoglycemia. I always feel like an idiot telling people that I have limitations with it, like not eating sweet items in the morning (because this always happens, I always get sick a couple of hours later, no matter what), or like having to eat at certain times of day, or whatever. Hypoglycemia is obscure enough that it seems like a silly problem, and having to eat when I have to eat just makes me feel like a spoiled American. Plus, some of the time, if I don’t eat for a longer period of time, I’m fine; other times, I have to eat earlier or I’ll have an attack. It’s unpredictable, which makes it seem fake.

But unpredictable and minor as it may seem, it leads me to episodes like this morning, during which I felt totally horrible, and nothing could have kept me from drinking that cranberry juice once I’d discovered it. That’s an illness. It’s not my imagination, it’s not something I can only accommodate when it suits me. I just have to get better at standing up for myself, and for what the illness forces on me.

And at remembering to keep juice boxes in my desk.

Dairy Dues

October 13, 2010

So, recently I’ve been cutting back on dairy. I noticed a correlation between heightened IBS issues and a lot of dairy in my diet, so I decided to eliminate all dairy except yogurt for a week or two and see what happened. It improved my digestive health so much that I decided to just keep the dairy low for the foreseeable future.

This just adds to the balancing act that is required of me between my IBS, my hypoglycemia, and my low-meat diet due to my cholesterol issues and arrhythmia. I don’t presume to call myself a vegan, but my diet is starting to resemble a vegan diet about half the time. It means that I have to be yet more creative, and that “stir-fry” has to replace “casserole” as the simplest weeknight solution.

I’m not complaining; although it’s a serious pain in the rear, in the long run I like being forced to be more creative in the kitchen. Cutting dairy means cutting a class of food with more calories than nutrition, which is good. But it does drag up some questions for me about what exactly is wrong with my insides. I haven’t eaten cheesecake in many years, because I’ve known for that length of time that it’s a trigger food and will lead me to far more misery in the ladies’ room than the temporary happiness in my mouth is worth. I thought it was the richness of the food and not the dairy that was the problem, because there are plenty of high-dairy foods that do nothing to me. I ate a Greek dish with a 1 1/2 inch layer of fluffy bechamel sauce on top the other night with no ill effects, and I eat cheese and crackers with no problem. But the other night I made a casserole with Greek yogurt and Neufchatel cheese (like cream cheese with less fat), and the next day, oh, the suffering.

I don’t think I’m lactose intolerant. If I am, it’s a highly selective intolerance. But I might pick up some of those lactose pills, buy some cheesecake for the first time in a million years, and see what happens.

I Feel Bad About My Body

September 6, 2010

I’ll bet that’s not a title that inspires confidence about this being a cheerful, upbeat post. Well, it ain’t.

I guess, more accurately, that I feel dubious about my body. The thing is, if I hadn’t gotten into such good shape last fall, I wouldn’t be so upset about the way things are now. When I got back from teacher training in October, I was shaved of most fat, and I’d picked up a huge amount of muscle tone in my legs, my arms, my butt, and my abs. (Climbing up a steep trail on the edge of a canyon twice a day, along with hours of yoga every morning and afternoon, will do that to you.) All my clothes were loose. I felt light and quick and strong, and I was over the moon with how I looked and felt.

But of course I couldn’t maintain that. I had other things to do than keeping up my body and doing yoga. I had to work, I had to commute, I had to cook, I had to deal with life. Quickly I got soggy, and even as I fought back feebly with halfhearted aerobics and tough yoga that I really didn’t want to do, I found myself caving more and more to the siren songs of California Tortilla and Chili’s instead of the good food I’d gotten in the habit of making for myself at home. I started buying chips at the grocery store again.

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Scheduling Woe

July 21, 2010

Ideal Schedule
6.30: wake up
7.20: leave for work
5.10: arrive home
5.15-6.00: exercise
6.05-7.00: make dinner
7.00-7.30: eat dinner
7.30-9.45: chores, life enjoyment, whatever
9.45/10.00: bedtime

How often this happens: never.

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My Body and Me

June 30, 2010

Cross-posted at Mars is Heaven.

Let us just skip right over the yoga class I went to on Monday night (I write this on Tuesday morning). I bitched to BF for three or four minutes without taking a breath about why it made me so unhappy, but it’s just not worth complaining about here. The good news I garnered out of that trip to the studio is that I’ll be teaching at Lululemon for three of the four Saturdays in July. Woo! I love teaching there, and it almost definitely means three feedback forms. I’m also taking over the fourth Saturday of the month at the studio at 10:15, which is a class for which the nominal instructor has been a no-show twice now with no explanation. It’s a prime slot, and I’m glad I’m finally afforded one.

Teaching three or four times a week has given me a whole new relationship to my body. Yoga teaching is a vocation (or an avocation) that requires a strong and healthy body. It’s a vocation where the body is constantly used – for demonstration and for adjustment. The body is depended upon, not just to get us from here to there, or to lift and carry, or to be in one physical space for the duration of a workday. It must bend and twist and stretch and work for 60-75 minutes, and do these things well enough to keep the students safe in their imitation of your poses. It must do the difficult things you ask of it, or you will not be doing your job. I wouldn’t say that my job is as hard on my body as an athlete’s or a dancer’s job, but it’s the same idea: the body is your profession, and when the body breaks down, your ability to do your job is compromised.

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Not today.

June 14, 2010

I’m not going to do aerobics today.

1) I’m tired from a weekend out of town.
2) I have a screaming headache, and jumping up and down sounds very unappealing.
3) Working my body as I did over the weekend meant working the leg that’s injured, and although it feels fine today, I don’t want to push it, because it felt downright shitty last night.

These all sound like whiny excuses to me, so rather than give in when I really didn’t want to do aerobics, I decided that to compensate, this would be my dinner:

Almonds, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, and lettuce. And yes, I may have some leftover pasta later to supplement. (Carbs don’t do to me what they seem to do to everyone else.) Unfortunately, I added dressing afterward that was so salty I thought my tongue was going to shrivel up and fall out. The sodium must have calcified at the bottom; think I’ll throw that bottle out.

Anyway, I managed to justify not doing aerobics when, because of all the fast food and all the general quantity of food that I ate this weekend, I probably should have. But I wanted a rest, after driving 18 hours in a three-day span, and worrying about my leg, and not sleeping, and so on and so forth. Was this a good tradeoff or did I cheat?

Nutritious Mush

June 10, 2010

Last night I came home, totally unwillingly did aerobics (I’m sure the sweat I worked up wasn’t nearly as much as usual; my kicks were definitely halfhearted), and made dinner. I had planned to make broiled tilapia with a side of a bean dish in Heidi (of 101 Cookbooks) Swanson’s book Super Natural Cooking. I received this book as a gift for my birthday a couple of years ago. I looked through it once and promptly put it on the shelf, never to be retrieved until about a week and a half ago. It is totally unrealistic to the way most people in America live and shop for groceries. I couldn’t find a single recipe in the book that was both appealing and for which I could find all the ingredients without going to Whole Foods and spending a fortune – if I could even find them at any Whole Foods on this coast. (Her recipes on the website are much simpler and use far more substitute-able ingredients than those in the book – and there are also a whole lot more of them.)

I took the book off the shelf again recently to look at what was there. I still thought it was largely unrealistic, but my local supermarket made a huge expansion a few months ago to their hippie organic and natural foods section, and more of the things Heidi is nattering on about are available to me, even if they do cost a pretty penny. (Still no luck on the California farmer’s market kind of shopping that she has access to, but hey, maybe someday.) I like to give the expensive stuff at least one try and then attempt to do it cheaper. Brown rice syrup is a good example; a peanut-butter-jar-sized container of the stuff was eight dollars, and one of her recipes calls for a cup of it, which adds up to about three dollars. Would I rather use honey, a cup of which can be used for less than $1.50? Yes, of course. But maybe the brown rice syrup is better, for some reason, and I won’t know until I try it both ways.

I’m really getting sidetracked here. The point is, I found a bean recipe in Super Natural Cooking that I wanted to try this week. It called for stir-frying a large amount of white beans in a good deal of oil until they were crispy and brown, and adding chopped chard. There were other basic ingredients – onions, garlic, parmesan at the end, etc. – but I was doing this as a side dish for just myself, so I skipped all that and just fried the beans and chard. Heidi had a note in the recipe saying that using canned beans for this purpose has never worked for her, and that they’ve turned all mushy instead of frying up and keeping their shape. I have never had much success at the dried-bean thing as of yet, and besides it takes forever, and besides besides I had some leftover canned cannellini beans, so I decided to take my chances.

I fried the beans in olive oil for a significant period of time before adding the chard, and while they did indeed turn into mush as Heidi had foretold, I had left them on high heat for long enough that there were pieces of bean that had gotten that fried/browned flavor from being in the oil. The whole thing seemed kind of uninteresting to me by the time the chard was mostly wilted, so I poured a couple of tablespoons of balsamic vinegar in the pan, a flavor that’s wonderful with cooked greens. After the cilia in my nose recovered from the boiled-off vinegar, I retrieved my tilapia from the oven (more on that method another time) and dumped the beans and chard on my plate.

I poked at it. As I told BF when he got home, it looked like something you’d get in an orphanage in London in 1840. It was hideous: dingy white and dingy green, with big brown patches from the vinegar, mostly denatured and sludgy. But I knew that it had all kinds of protein and vitamins. Nutritious mush.

I took a bite, and it was surprisingly delicious, with tang from the vinegar and yummy browned flavor from the fried-up beans. The perfect addition for texture would have been some breadcrumbs sauteed in butter until golden, but that was way too much trouble just for me. Nevertheless, it was all gone before it even got cold.

So, ultimately, a happy ending. I even rewarded myself with some ice cream, because I knew it was a pretty low-cal meal and I could afford a decent dessert. I’ll have to stay on the aerobics bandwagon, of course, but it’s worth it for a good bowl of vanilla to top of a dinner of nutritious mush.

More Tofu

June 3, 2010

My hiatus on my own blog is not much affecting my desire to write here. I made another delicious 101 Cookbooks concoction last night, and as I’m eating the leftovers for lunch today, I can’t let this one go by without sharing it. It was super-delicious and another great gateway tofu dish.

Asparagus Stir-Fry

My notes:

  • I used pre-cubed tofu here (don’t forget to prep!), because although she says “cut into slices thick as a pencil”, I just don’t see slices working in a stir-fry.
  • The fact that tofu is so flavorless actually works extremely well here, because the recipe has so much flavor that a mouthful of bland is a welcome respite.
  • I used whole almonds which I blanched and toasted and chopped a little, and if I didn’t know that Heidi gets a zillion emails from minds more culinarily talented than mine, I might write her to suggest that she make this change as well. Almonds are more nutritious than cashews and the more intense crunch was great. I also used more than a handful, probably more like 1/2 cup or almost that much.
  • Use fresh mint and fresh basil here. Also, use a nonstick pan and a decent amount of oil to cook the tofu. Trust me.
  • I mixed some sesame oil with some olive oil for the tofu-fry, because in my area sesame oil is somewhat expensive.
  • For those of you who don’t do Asian food at home very often and may not know this, you CANNOT use ground ginger in place of fresh ginger! Ground ginger is a baking spice and doesn’t work in savory dishes. To solve the fresh-ginger problem, I buy jarred chopped ginger in water and drain it a tbsp-full at a time to use in stir-fries. I had to get my last batch at a Chinese grocery, but that was months ago and I’m only halfway through the jar. (Fresh whole ginger is, IMHO, a lot of trouble to keep on hand and even more trouble to mince yourself.)
  • I did not use any hoisin, because I don’t like hoisin. I also used a tablespoon or two of bottled lime juice instead of squeezing the hell out of the lime I zested, and I’m not a bit sorry I did.
  • If you don’t often stir-fry, know that you have to get the pan, as Alton Brown puts it, “rocket-hot” before you can add ingredients.
  • This recipe is vegan, and really puts to rest any complaint about vegan recipes sucking.

The only other thing I would add is that the batch made with this recipe is not really much food compared to most stir-fries. This will feed two hearty appetites and that’s about all. You can serve it over brown rice to up the degree to which it fills you up, or you can just double all the quantities and have enough for lunch tomorrow. I ate my dinner portion with some leftover miso soup and it was just right. As always, enjoy!


June 2, 2010

One of my favorite bloggers, Linda of From the Back Nine, wrote a post recently about weight and dieting. She closed by saying that she was choosing to go back on the diet wagon again.

Nonetheless, I’m going to put on my flappy feet and strap on my honky horn and clown around once again. Here goes nothing.

This was pretty much exactly how I felt yesterday afternoon, when I jumped around to Kathy Smith for the first time in a couple of months. That time a couple of months ago was the first time probably in almost a year. I’d been keeping fit enough with yoga, but since my life accelerated back in the winter, I haven’t been doing as much or as vigorous yoga. Gradually my hips and waist and bust have expanded, and now what I see in the mirror depresses me. Flab. Here, there, and everywhere.

20 minutes of aerobics and 120 crunches later, I felt better about myself (even though I felt like toxic waste was coming out of my pores, and I thought I was going to throw up the dinner I’d eaten upon coming home from work), but I know that I have a ways to go before I look as slim as I want to look in my wedding dress. “A ways” meaning in this case that I have to eat out even less than I already do, do aerobics at least three or four times a week and possibly every day, and, seriously, get back to the yoga. When I look close to how I looked at the time I came back from teacher training – I don’t expect that I’ll be carved out of wood the way I was then, but I want my pants to be loose, y’all – I will let up, with the understanding that I must maintain that appearance until June 13, 2011.

Wish me luck. Honk honk.


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