A journey in words...

Welcome to my journey in words! A story about health, exercise, weight loss, food addiction, humor, size discrimination, sarcasm, social commentary and all the rest that’s rattling around inside my head...

I now twit, er... or tweet. Anyway, you can follow me on twitter @Aeon1202

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Tread Lightly

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of work toward adapting my personal mission statement with regards to health and body weight.

So far, this is what I’ve got:

1)      Each and every person is unique, and thus the plan that leads to a healthy life for them is going to be as unique as they are.  Individual plans may involve help from the weight loss industry, rigid exercise programs, light exercise programs, pre fabricated meals, books on nutrition, liquid food, surgery or any number of things.  A picky eater may thrive on a plan that features limited food choices in a way that someone who needs a wide variety of foods would crash and burn in short order.  The right plan for a person is going to be, like my own, 100% unique to them.

2)      For me personally, the American weight loss industry is a failure.  I got on board with it for the first time at 14 years of age.  I believe that, over time and repeated stumbles with their attendant rebound weight gain, it has turned what would have been a minor weight problem into a massive one.  It may be possible that I have simply not been motivated properly on one of these programs in the past – but at this point in my life I am unwilling to risk another 20 to 30 lb. weight gain in another potentially failed attempt.  If I don’t get off this roller coaster, it is going to kill me.  That I do believe.

That being said I realized lately that I’m harboring some ill will toward a few aforementioned weight loss industry types, and that the ill will is not helpful.  Primarily I don’t like Jenny Craig, who, as everyone probably knows by now, cost me my gall bladder.  All the others haven’t hurt me, they’ve simply taken my money and not worked – but I never wanted to give the impression that I was disapproving of them if they are the correct paths for somebody else.  I know that I personally turn into a neurotic, hungry mess when I have to obsess over, weigh, measure and write down every morsel of food that goes into my body.  That is not the case with everyone though, and those who enjoy and thrive on structure and planning should not be judged, most of all not by me.

We, women in particular, are inherently judgmental creatures.  Vegetarians criticize meat eaters, vegans think vegetarians are weak.  People who have been thin all their life can’t fathom what would make a person fat, (other than laziness and gluttony).  I have even seen one person criticize another for eating too much fruit.  I have no doubt whatsoever that sometimes, when I talk about weight loss and health, nasty things like, ‘well what the hell does she know?  She’s fat,’ are said the moment I walk away.

Sometimes we are the ones judging ourselves.  If I’m in a situation and admit that I’m hungry and would like to eat – and the person or people with me say that they are not, I immediately judge myself inferior to them.  I’m not in control, I’m weak, I’m the one who’s hungry.  How crazy is it that our body’s natural impulse to sustain itself with fuel has become a source of shame?

Real success is so rare and cherished that people can be very, very protective of their chosen weight loss methods, sometimes angrily so.  A person who has experienced success on a program is going to naturally be very happy and they will want to share their happiness by encouraging others along the path that worked for them.  That’s fine, my point is simply that we all need to respect one another.  Myself included.

I don’t want to offend anybody.  I don’t want to judge, and I don’t want to turn into one of those people who eats, sleeps and breaths nothing but their weight loss plan.  This isn’t my religion and all of it is nothing if not a learning process about living life as well as eating healthy.  In the future I think I need to put more positive emphasis on point #1 listed above, and tone down a bit on the negatives that comprise point #2.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Leftover Pasta Salad

This whole self love / self acceptance process has resulted in a bit of cockeyed optimism about my size and appearance lately.  I've been looking in the mirror and thinking, yeah - cool, not bad.

Nothing like a dose of reality from the fashion industry to cure a person of such frivolously positive self image.  I spotted a really cute, open shoulder, graphical t-shirt in the window of Fashion Bug on my way to work this morning so I stopped in on my way home to check it out.  It only comes in standard size, not plus.  No problem - since I was already there I took a look around to see if I could maybe add a few pairs to my acceptable pants for work collection.

One trip to the dressing room and two try-ons later I remembered exactly why I don't let myself shop alone.


Anyway, yeah... pasta salad!

The idea for this can be attributed to Giada De Laurentiis, not because it’s specifically one of her recipes but just because my idea for it came from watching her show where she makes such things all the freaking time.

You will need:

Leftover pasta (fun shapes like bow ties are better than long strands like angel hair for this).
Leftover steamed veggies like broccoli, asparagus, kale or Brussels sprouts.***
Some fresh veggies like colorful peppers, mushrooms, raw spinach, bean sprouts or tomatoes.

Combine the above!  Chop the vegetables to bite sized bits to match the pasta.  Got some fresh herbs like basil laying around?  They’re more than welcome at this party.


How much depends on just how much leftover pasta you’re dealing with and how “dressed” you like your pasta salad, but as a rule of thumb you want to have about 40% of your acid component to 60% of your base.

Your base will be olive oil, your acid can be whichever one makes you happy – lemon juice, lime juice, or whichever vinegar mows your lawn.

So for example, for a cup of dressing you’ll want 5 tablespoons of your base (olive oil) and 3 tablespoons of your acid (juice).

Then add in about 1/4 teaspoon of salt and a few healthy shakes of pepper.  I also like to mash and mince up a garlic clove or two and throw it into the dressing.

Whisk together thoroughly, pour it over your salad, toss – and enjoy!

The carbohydrate component of this salad (the pasta) is bad for you.  To be honest pasta isn’t something you ever need to eat but, well yeah – like that’s going to happen.  One of my dietary goals is actually just to be realistic with myself, and swearing off Italian for life isn’t a realistic goal for me.  Other than that it makes for a healthy, tasty lunch that efficiently uses up some pesky leftovers.  It is still LOADS better for you than traditional mayonnaise and egg laden pasta salads.

You can use this exact same base & acid dressing style on canned tuna to improve the quality of your tuna salad as well.  I like it with white beans, grape tomatoes and scallion with a lemony vinaigrette.  Yes, olive oil still has fat in it – but you’re consuming a healthier vegetable fat instead of whatever hellish substance mayo is made from (it’s either demon drool or egg yolks – I’m not sure which).

***A note on steaming vegetables:  If you’re like me and you want them hot, bright green and retaining some crunch – you want to get your water boiling before you put them in there.  When you’re ready with a full boil and a pot full of steam – dump in the greenery and slam down the lid, then turn the heat OFF.  Wait seven minutes and then get them out of there.  They should be just right – but leaving them any longer, you’re risking mushiness.   Course if mushy is your thing then disregard this note entirely and rock on.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Small Goals List

Right now I’m working on setting and achieving small goals with my health coach (yes, I have a health coach).  This is the current list I’ve been working on over the last few months with varying degrees of success:

1)      No liquid calories.
2)      No abusing of me.
3)      No meals that consist of snack foods.
4)      Remember to write every day.

My coach liked the goals a picked a lot and asked me to re-commit myself to them once again in the upcoming month.  She also asked me to select a new one now, so here is my choice:

5)      Practice carbohydrate substitutions when possible.

Carb substitutions are something I’ve mostly learned from my friend Teddi who does not eat wheat.  She’s not deliberately trying to avoid carbs but since breads consist of them so heavily, she often does as a side effect.

A good example would be when I make a dinner of pasta with sauce and meatballs for Ted and Kyle.  For myself, I simply get a bag of pre-washed baby spinach.  Fill a big bowl with as much spinach as I want, and top with pasta sauce and a few meatballs.  By eliminating the pasta, I’m eliminating the unhealthy, carb-heavy bleached flour along with a crap ton of calories.

Also spinach with pasta sauce is surprisingly tasty, you should try it.

Another example would be ordering a burger wrapped in leaves rather than its usual butter soaked bun at restaurants.  Many restaurants are actually offering this option on their menu these days and won’t even bat an eye.

Anyway, those are the small goals currently on my plate.  What are yours?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Break Up

I’m breaking up with my chiropractor the same way a cowardly teenager breaks up with his girlfriend.  I’m simply not returning any of their calls.

It’s nothing personal; my chiropractor is good looking (beautiful office), sweet natured (friendly staff) and they make me feel great.  Really, it’s nothing personal, the broad is just too high maintenance for me.  Simply put, I can’t afford this relationship any more.

It started on a crisp, early winter’s day with a blue sky and some lower back pain.  When I nearly destroyed my right ankle two months ago, despite my best efforts not to, I limped.  This favoring of the right side shot straight across to my left lower back and made it hurt.  Bad.

I did the normal busy American thing and ignored it for a few weeks, but finally a profound lack of decent sleep sent me to my Mom’s Chiropractor’s office for some help.

Walking in I was smitten right away.  The place was lovely; decorated in dark woods with comfortable, posture friendly furniture, soothing lighting and spicy scented holiday candles.  An attractive young man with a hip, celestial name checked me in and I was soon given a tour of the facility.

At that first appointment they just talked to me at length and then took a lot of x-rays.  The real fun began a week later.

Bringing me back my x-rays were placed up on a light board.  I squinted at slightly blurry pictures of my own spine with zero comprehension of what I was looking at.  My neck, I was told, was very bad.  Apparently the vertebrae are squishing together and sending me into a headlong spiral that will one day turn me into one of those scary, hunchbacked, little old women.

But my pain, I argued, was in my lower back…

Apparently my lower back has something called a “bifida” which, logically caused me to point out that I thought a bifida was a spinal condition which caused ones spinal cord to be exposed to open air.  That, apparently, is the severe form of it.  There are very mild cases like mine that are usually never even diagnosed because they do not cause any problems.

Well, you learn something new every day.

Not to fear about any of these problems, they can be fixed – or at least helped.  I went out to the adjustment area and was twisted, pushed and tapped upon for about ten minutes.  The adjustment itself was a little uncomfortable but to be completely honest I felt wonderful afterwards.  Pain eased, mood lightened, I felt limber and a bit giddy.  It was like being tipsy on fine food and wine at the end of a first date.

Then I got left with the check.

I was told that I would need three visits a week at first before tapering off to two and then eventually one.  This process would take months during which my spine would be retrained to exist in a healthier shape (it’s natural one, apparently, is to be deformed).

I did the math…

I have health insurance, in fact I have very GOOD health insurance.  So my co-payments would only be fifty dollars a visit rather than full price.  So… $150.00 per week, or $600.00 per month.  Almost as much money as the rent on my first apartment.

I’d already been sat down and informed via helpful instructional video of the myriad health benefits I could expect, everything and anything could be assisted on the road to good health via chiropractic care.  And really, how much was my health worth to me?

Apparently not enough.  After that first visit I regretfully went into hiding.  Two weeks later they’re still calling me, trying to coax me to return before I turn into the Hunchback of Notre Dame for good.  I honestly would love to go back, but when given the choice between the attention of this high maintenance medical significant other and paying my mortgage – my mortgage won.

My lower back pain is gone.  Since by their own admission they can’t heal me with a single adjustment I can only assume that time and having resumed a regular walking stride has done the trick.  But now I will forever know what horrors lurk in the unnatural “S” shape of my neck bones.

Good health is priceless, existing in ignorance was kind of nice too.

Weight loss note: I lost a pound this week.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Homecoming - A Very Short Story

A bond snapped loose and he was himself again, pulling free of the broken shell and worming out like a moth shucking off its cocoon.

When the shell broke everything had gone very wrong; looked wrong, smelled wrong, felt wrong.  Now suddenly everything was clearer than it had been in a long time.  The gnawing inside had gone, the aches, weakness, the moments of confusion.

There was a girl motioning to him from the back-most part of the car, and she smelled familiar, like his girl, so he went and climbed neatly into her lap.  He was big again as he used to be, so he took up all the available space and curled his long tail neatly about his paws.

“Hi,” she smiled.

As always he thought it a very goofy human expression.  “Hi,” he said, and for once one of them seemed to understand exactly what he was saying.  That was nice.

“It’s time to come home now,” she said.

He looked into the backseat and realized that his own girl was sitting there.  She was trying to peer into the holes at the top of the box, where his shell was, and frowning because it had gotten so quiet in there.  The boy was all the way up in the front seat, reaching back to her with one of his long arms – both of them were focused on that awful box.  Much as he wanted to go to them there was no way he could get back inside of it.

That dratted sister of hers was there too, the one who always seemed to show up when something uncomfortable needed doing.

He looked back up to the girl in whose lap he sat, “but they still need me.  She still needs me.”

She nodded, “I know – but they’re going to have to learn to be without you for a little while.”


She lifted one shoulder and stroked a hand over the broad of his head, “it’s the way of things here.  There are others for you to meet though, my granddaughter loves cats.”

“You don’t smell old enough to be a grandmother,” he noted with some skepticism.

She chuckled, “I used to be.  Your girl is my great granddaughter.”

That was met with a silent moment of feline surprise as he looked back at the others again.  His girl was saying his name quietly, over and over again.  “Who’s going to look after them?”

“They’ll have to learn to look after themselves.”

“They’ll be so sad…”

“I know.  But you can’t stay, can you feel it?”

There was a pause as he evaluated the question.  Then, “yes.”

Despite his considerable size she gathered him up closer and warm against her chest, tucking him under her chin the way his girl had always done.  He settled in against her in a boneless fashion and gave a little sigh about it like he always had.

“Then I’ll take you home now,” she said.

“Will you carry me?”

“Of course.”

Friday, January 13, 2012

Goodbye Wish

My cat, Wish, died last night.

He was with me for a little over a decade and I think he was sixteen or so when he died, but it’s hard to say since I wasn’t his first owner.

He was my first cat.

I had pets growing up, of course – but those dogs and cats were my mom’s.  This was the first one I decided as an adult to bring to live with me in the apartment where I first lived alone.  After I’d finished with all the human room mates of my early 20’s it was just me and Wish.

At first we eyed one another with wary speculation.  He seemed to decide that despite being considerably shorter he was the boss in our relationship and thus it was appropriate to wrap himself about my leg and chew my ankle when I came home from work.  A lot of yelling, hopping around, and finally cat treats and thorough brushings convinced him that it might be okay to let me stay.

Eventually I got married and Wish grudgingly accepted the presence of a husband in our lives.  Still, he never quite stopped giving Ted’s ankles the occasional gnaw just to prove that although I was at the top of the pack, he came second and Ted had to rank third.

I’ve never read an animal’s moods as well as I read his.  I knew exactly when it was okay to pick him up for an extended snuggle, when he was feeling bitey, when I could touch his paws and when a fit of cat insanity was coming on.  I never had to worry about a session of petting turning into an unexpected swat, because he never did that to me.  In truth, he did it very rarely at all despite it being a common feline tendency.  He was an outgoing, friendly, and funny cat.

I loved the way he smelled.  At night, Wish let us sleep in his bed but during the day it was all his.  I would frequently come into find him stretched luxuriantly among the covers and I would lay down and use his warm side as a pillow.  He smelled like sunlight on clean fur.  Ted would yell at me, “stop snorting the cat!”  But I’m not allergic, so what do I care?

He acted a lot like a dog at times.  When I came home from work he would be there – rolling around on the floor in a fit of apparent glee upon seeing my return, expecting a belly rub.  When I went upstairs he followed me.  When I sat on the sofa he assumed his rightful place in my lap.  It’s going to be very, very strange to use a bathroom unescorted again after all this time.

I keep hearing his claws clicking behind me on the kitchen floor.  The pillows in the dining room where he slept are still dented in the shape of his body and although it hurts every time I look at them, I don’t want to smooth them out.  He was my constant companion in my house and everywhere I look is covered with the ghost of him.

When he first started to show signs of age, like little bits of silver fur mixed in among all the black, I would grow fearful of this day and lean close to one of his big ears to whisper to him, “stay with me… stay with me...”

The end though, must always come.  It happened mercifully quickly.  He had been losing weight as older cats do.  My sister calls it ‘fading’.  He used to be huge, with glowing gold eyes and a lustrous coat of thick black fur; like a panther in miniature.  Of late he was starting to feel more like a cat skeleton with a thinning pelt stretched over it.  Still – despite not being as limber or cuddly as he used to be, he was still my Wish.

I got home from work and fed him as usual.  We ate our dinner and afterward he climbed into my lap awhile before assuming a spot just next to me on the sofa.  I ran my hand over his back and again noticed the pronounced angles of his spine and hips through the fur.  Eventually he went upstairs.

Ted called me because something wasn’t right.  At some point shortly after going upstairs, I think Wish had a massive stroke.  At that moment the bright spirit that I’ve loved so long left us.  The body was still there and moving with frantic confusion around my bedroom making bizarrely humanlike sounds, but the feline mind so familiar to me had completely fled in an instant.  He was just… gone.  Just like that.  It was as though the brain had irreparably broken but the malfunctioning body hadn’t yet caught up.

My sister and mom came over to help me get him into a carrier.  He died next to me, in the car on the way to the vet.  I’m glad it wasn’t at the office.  They’re a great vet, but he really hated that place.

In the end taking the decision about what to do next out of my hands was the last gift of countless many that he would ever be able to give me.

So long old friend.  I love you.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Deep of Winter

As a lifelong East Coaster I can be as prone to complain about the weather here as any of us.

It’s freezing.  Everything is dead.  I hate driving / shoveling this stuff.  Or my personal favorite: “I have not been warm since October.”

Truly, I hate being cold.  I’m very cat that way.  I’ll even occasionally sit Sphinx-like in front of the heater staring into its glowing red wires with a mystical look on my face.

September arrives in the East with a riot of spectacular color and Autumn related fun.  It’s crisp, clean, everything is colored in brilliant hues and there are hayrides, haunted and otherwise to attend to as well as pumpkin patch visits and the bounty of a warm Thanksgiving shared by family.  Then Christmas arrives with a blur of activity, color, food and merriment.

And then it all ends.  Ahead of us stretches three icy months of brown, white, grey and pale blue.  Scraping off a freezing cold vehicle to get to work and dreading any stretch of time spent outdoors.

This year my holiday decorations were neatly tucked away a mere week after Christmas.  My home was left clean, quiet and warm.  Unlike the normal seasonal defective disorder (as my Pastor calls it) that one might expect I felt only a sensation of nostalgic relief.

All the shopping, cooking, running, decorating, un-decorating and wrapping was completed for another year.  Now I could settle into the welcome stillness of a long winter ahead.  I knew there would be snuggling up on my sofa with my cat and a mug of hot chocolate to watch a movie.  Being tucked into a bed thick with pillows and coated in flannel beside the warmth of my husband as a chill, snow smelling breeze drifted in through an inch of open window.  Soon I would be waking after an ice storm to find my world thick with a coating of crystal glass; a transient beauty that can’t withstand the touch of the rising sun.  There will be a snow day when we tumble late from bed completely trapped in our house and I go outside to jump off my back steps into a deep pile of white, then tramping inside after shoveling to a bowl of hot soup that waits within.

Winter is still not my favorite season; I still prefer the bursting of life and brilliant flare of death that accompany Spring and Fall, but over the years I have learned to appreciate it’s homey comforts as well as it’s chilly splendors.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

British Adventure Food, Part 2. The Sweet

I've been holding back on posting Part 2 of my British food adventure for one reason: I haven't had Christmas pudding. There's one in the house but as it takes a long time to warm up (slowly over steam) no one is inclined to make it. I'm sorry to fail you Carolyn! However, I've had a lot of other cakes, pies and sweets that I wouldn't normally have in the States.

While we were visiting the Lake District in October, I had sticky toffee pudding. It was a very moist date cake which I had served with custard. Oh. My. So. Decadent. Want. More.

About custard. I need more of that in my life, too. But I've been saying that for years. I'd far rather have custard on a pie or cake rather than ice cream or whipped cream.

Now, there's chocolate. I already have a thing for trying regional candies and the ones that you'd think would be the same, taste different. So yeah, I've had a lot of chocolate. Luckily, it's the season for variety packs of miniature bars of candy. We've gotten a few from the main candy producers.

Nestle makes Quality Street. Graham called them "A British tradition, some of which are actively unpleasant." The plain chocolates and caramels were fine, but the creme filled ones weren't too great. There may still be an orange creme at the bottom of the box.

Mars has a collection called Celebrations and Cadbury has a collection called Heroes. I'm becoming attached to several of the Cadbury candies, Crunchie and Eclairs in particular.

I didn't go looking for Turkish delight, but there was some in a box of chocolates I received for Christmas. They were terrible. It's a rose flavored jelly candy, and in the case of the terrible ones I had, covered in chocolate. I generally like rose flavored things, so I wonder if I'd prefer Turkish delight that is the jelly simply covered in powdered sugar. I don't know.

I really need to lay off the chocolate.

Mince pies are available at home, but they aren't nearly as popular as here. We had a homemade mince tart after dinner on Christmas Eve, and a few meals have ended with miniature mince pies from the supermarket.

I may not have had Christmas pudding, but I have had Christmas cake. This particular one is fruitcake (sultanas and nuts mostly) with a layer of marzipan and white icing on top. It is dense, sweet and pretty nice.