…and the weight just fell off!

If I read one more person’s story about how they quit eating sugar or wheat or meat or dairy — or all four — or started walking or gave up pop or got a divorce or took up belly dancing “and the weight just fell off,” I’m going to, well, I don’t know what, but the point is, I’m tired of reading that.

In my experience, nothing I do will make weight “fall off,” short of lopping off an arm or leg with a chainsaw. Not that I’ve tried that, but I’m pretty sure it would work.

However, no amount of diet modification, calorie counting, dread-inducing exercise, mind-over-matter attitude, spiritual awakening or ANYTHING I’ve ever done has resulted in weight “just falling off.”

Maybe if I was significantly overweight to begin with, this shedding would happen. But losing 5 (or maybe 10) pounds has been next to impossible for as long as I’ve needed to.

Yes, 20+ years ago, I followed a strict low-fat diet for health reasons, and I was pretty darn skinny. But I was pretty thin when I started, so that hardly counts.The diet didn’t make me feel any different, so I stopped.

Yes, I did a pretty strict diet for a few months a couple years ago and lost weight. It made me look old (ummm, I didn’t really need to lose weight in my face and neck, thank you), and it was a drag since it was virtually impossible to find anything to eat at restaurants — at least the restaurants we frequent.

Yes, every Lent I give up something — most often sweets — and I do lose a few pounds. Maybe 2 or 3 over the course of 6 weeks. It comes right back on when the sugar-fast is over. Like, say, at Easter brunch with my in-laws.

Yes, I go on exercise kicks. Exercise makes me ravenous, so I eat more. No weight loss through exercise. Ever.

Yes, I often try to eat four 400-calorie meals a day. A 400-calorie meal usually seems like a snack.I think I just had one — light whole grain flatbread tortilla wrapped around a few tablespoons each of hummus and cottage cheese and a handful of spring mix with a cutie orange on the side. I’m busy now thinking about what else I can eat. Preferably something that starts with potato and ends with chips — even though I know we don’t have any because I ate them all a couple days ago.

I often think I could be REALLY happy just eating 1600 calories a day of junk. Potato chips mostly, with some chocolate occasionally to balance out the salt with sugar. Maybe some nachos once in a while.

I also love healthy food — brown rice, tofu, roasted veggies. I could live on that, too. But Mike can’t, so I’d have to make 2 different meals all the time, and it’s enough of a drag just making one. But, yes, I was thinner when I lived alone. And no, that weight-loss tactic is not on the table!

So that leaves me where I am. Needing (OK, wanting) to lose 5-8 lbs. Trying to watch what I eat (I know it’s an issue of quantity rather than quality, most of the time). Trying to force myself to exercise a few times a week. Feeling frustrating that short of following a super restrictive diet that makes me unhappy, those skinny jeans will likely stay buried in my drawer forevermore.

And that just sucks.

She looked as if she had been poured into
her clothes and had forgotten to say “when.”

~ P.G. Wodehouse

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The number doesn’t matter

So the countless health & fitness articles I’ve read would have you believe. It matters NOT what the number on the scale is; all that matters is how you feel and whether you are healthy and fit (or rather, whether your clothes fit).

I’ve bought into this for many years. In fact, I’ve never purchased a scale before. Before yesterday, that is.

It was mostly curiosity. I’ve been on a diet and exercise jag for a couple months now, and I know it’s been working somewhat. Some of my clothes that didn’t fit anymore do. And I’m able to do longer and harder workouts than before I started. But still, I’ve been wondering just how much that scary number I saw on the scale at the doctor’s in January has changed.

Plus I just read this short article in Prevention that advocates weighing yourself daily.

So I bought the scale and did the weigh-in. I’m still not sure it’s a good idea. For one thing, I don’t really trust the number — every scale is different. And of course, I weighed myself at the point in the day I was likely to weigh the least, without a stitch on, and I think I let all the air out of my lungs first, too.

Surprisingly, I wasn’t unhappy with the number that came up. But it certainly wasn’t the “magic number” goal weight I’ve had in my head all along. Far from it.  And if the number is true, why don’t those gray pants fit well enough for me to want to wear them? Why don’t I feel a lot thinner? Why is no one saying, “Hey, have you lost weight?” Why, when I was trying on clothes to wear to a reception last week, was it so hard to find something that looked OK? Why didn’t that outfit I had on just a few months ago fit yet?

So, now I’m not sure if I’m happy about the number, discouraged by it, or just meh.

I think meh. Turns out, the number doesn’t really matter after all. I care more about how I feel, how I look, and how my clothes fit.

But now, of course, I’ll keep the scale. Stepping on it will be a little like spinning the wheel at the carnival to see if the magic number comes up. (Except the scale is digital and doesn’t spin.)

No one will be more surprised than me if it ever does. And no one will be less surprised than me if it comes up and those darn gray pants still don’t fit. I’ve never been good with numbers.

In the Middle Ages, they had guillotines, stretch racks,
whips, and chains. Nowadays, we have a much more effective
torture device called the bathroom scale.
~ Stephen Phillips

A lot of little things…

…that don’t add up to any more than a lot of little things.

We’re getting a refund. I can’t believe it, since I didn’t even pay the full estimated quarterly taxes our accountant recommended (because I just couldn’t afford to). I was afraid I’d be penalized for not paying enough. So, I guess there’s an upside to having your income cut in half from one year to the next. Although I hope it doesn’t happen again this year.

We’re trying not to spend it in 15 minutes. Nothing like a little unexpected cash coming in to set all kinds of spending gears in motion. So far the plan is to make a hefty contribution to my IRA (since I couldn’t contribute anything last year) and stick the rest of it in the bank. Although this morning Mike mentioned something about setting a little aside for a vacation this year, since we didn’t go anywhere last year. I grunted and frowned (though inside I was screaming “YES YES YES” as I watched the commercial for Disney World on The Weather Channel).

I’m feeling a teensy bit optimistic. So far, business this year is looking up (crossing fingers, legs, and eyes, throwing salt over shoulder, knocking on wood, spitting à la My Big Fat Greek Wedding). I have several projects in the pipeline and the hint of a few more on the horizon. Amazing, given the sorry state of things in ’09. If it holds, I have to be diligent about setting extra aside to pay this year’s taxes, since I won’t be paying enough each quarter to cover having a normal year.

People (like me) are tired of being frugal. You can just feel it. Everywhere I go, people are out and about, shopping, eating, driving through Starbucks. We stopped being a frugal nation a long time ago, and trying to pick it up again, even in a terrible economy, is tough. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Our economy depends on people spending money (responsibly, not stupidly). Mike and I are pretty good about not frittering money away on little things, but we have been picking up a few unnecessaries here and there — like a very nice garden flag and holder (an American flag — with stitched stars and everything, made in China of course) for $9.99 at Home Depot and the watering can I’ve coveted for a few years, in orange, for $10 less than this at Marshall’s (I passed on it when they had a couple last year and wanted to kick myself. This year, I bought one when I saw it — they only had two.) I’m sure the money experts would say we shouldn’t buy what we don’t need (especially given my statement above about not putting anything in my IRA last year). I have no good answer. Sometimes my soul needs it, even if my brain doesn’t. Life is short — except for that part about being old and infirm with no one to care for us and no money for health insurance. I’m betting that part will seem far too long, whether or not I spend $25 on stupid stuff now.

I’m having a little fun dieting. As hard as it is to stick to a diet and exercise regimen (right now I should be doing Callanetics — more on that in a bit), I’m enjoying trying out new recipes. Like this amazing vegetable broth from The Splendid Table — no salt, tons of flavor. I used up 3 quarts in no time and just made another batch over the weekend. I’m using it in soups like this peppery Butternut-Parsnip Soup from Southern Living (my copy is an older one that omits the crockpot step, as the first commenter notes — not sure why that was added) and this Lemony Lentil Soup with Greens from Better Homes & Gardens. Part of my diet involves avoiding wheat and most dairy (I still cheat and have cheese now and then, but not milk, yogurt, or sour cream), so I’m experimenting with not using those ingredients (I’ve used soy milk for years, but now I even have Mike drinking vanilla soy with his cereal!). Eating out is the hardest — bar food just doesn’t lend itself to this kind of eating. My biggest cheat — still having a beer at our local hangout once a week. I tried their red wine once — it came ice cold, straight out of the fridge. YUCK!

I love my immersion blender. I had a banner year this past Christmas and scored 3 items on my wish list — 2 from the person who had my name in our family exchange (microplane graters and a pizza peel), and another — the blender — in the random grabbag. It’s great for making soups because it eliminates that annoying step where you have to process it in batches in a blender or food processor. Just stick the immersion blender in the pot and have at it. I love it. It also has a whip attachment that I’ve yet to try (I imagine you can’t make whipped cream from soy milk).

Callanetics works for me like nothing else does. Do you remember Callanetics? It was a hot exercise program in the ’80s and early ’90s. My sister had the book and I had (and still have) the video that promised “10 years younger in 10 hours.” It’s similar to Pilates and is the hardest exercise program I’ve ever done. My legs shake for a while after. But it’s also the only thing I’ve ever done (including NordicTrack, aerobics, step aerobics, walking, Pilates, yoga) that I can actually see results from in the mirror. I’ve done it off and on for years (the original program and the advanced version, Super Callanetics, when I work up to it). The ’80s workout clothes are a hoot (and I’m embarrassed to say I still have my own leotards, etc., from that era), but the results are anything but laughable. I love this program as much as I hate doing it. I should be doing it right now.

I just want to powder my nose already. We are still being kicked in the butt by our roughly 3′ x 4′ powder room project. It’s so close, I’m reaching for my compact, but not Mike. He has no impatience whatsoever. I just had to put 3 coats of stain (waiting a day in between) on the last bits of wood trim (I would have stopped at 1), and then he will spend 3 days putting on 3 coats of shellac. We started painting (of course, a special paint treatment instead of something normal), but it has all the makings of a disaster — more on that in a future post. Don’t be surprise if the room ends up being wallpapered instead of painted. I’m so tired of it. I’m sure it being finished will coincide with spring and the need to move outside again without accomplishing anything more indoors until next winter.

I bought a book. I’m embarrassed by my business Web site. I did it myself years ago in FrontPage — a program Microsoft doesn’t even sell anymore — and it desperately needs updating (or “updated” as I and everyone else in Pittsburgh would normally say). I can’t afford to pay someone to do it, so I’m going to attempt to learn CSS (how Web sites are properly constructed these days) by reading this book and doing it myself. I’m not very good at learning this way, so we’ll see how it goes. I’m only mentioning it because maybe committing the idea to virtual paper will force me to do it. I’ve always been more of a stick person than a carrot person.

That’s entirely enough little things for one day. Four hundred crunches and 400 leg lifts (for starters) aren’t going to happen while I’m sitting here typing.

My formula for living is quite simple.
I get up in the morning and I go to bed at night.
In between, I occupy myself as best I can.
~ Cary Grant