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

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Birth Story - Teddi and Calli

Women share birth stories to support and teach other women.  Birth is a natural function to all of us whether we choose perform it, or not.  When I was young, I was willfully ignorant about birth because I've always known it wasn't going to be something I would do, but as I grow older (and hopefully wiser) I understand there are things I can still learn from and about the process.  It's a part of me even if it's something I will never experience.  In a perfect world, there should be no fear.

My close friend, Teddi, had her first baby last October.  Her birth story (shared below) could be seen as one of Murphy's Law: almost everything that could go sideways seemed to go sideways with regards to getting Calli out into the world.  That's one way of looking at it.  A different, and better way, is to see that there is self awareness, acceptance, and surrender to be learned here.  We may plan, but ultimately life will take over and have it's way.  In the end, it's only the love that matters.

Thank you for sharing this, Teddi!


It had been a wonderful pregnancy.  I loved carrying my little girl and just her presence inside me made me happy and joyful all the time.  It was not until eleven days before my due date on Friday, October 5th that the idea of wanting her to come out became significant, and that was mostly due to discomfort and the inability to stand or walk for any extended period of time.

I was sure she was to come a week early on Shabbat, but she did not come out.  Then I thought Sukkot (that Monday), which was a full moon, as did my doula, but no baby.  I made it through the last week at school till my due date on Oct. 5th. All my regular life stuff was done, and here I was at home with no baby… now what?  So the following week went by sometimes at a snails pace, using my maternity leave for relaxing, nesting, Doctor’s appointments and lunches with friends.  One appointment, the ultrasound, showed she looked good for fluid and that the baby was happy and active in the womb.

A week after my due date, October 12th, my midwife called me and told me they wanted to induce me on Sunday Night, which would be 41 & 3/7th weeks.  I crumpled on the inside, since I truly believe that babies choose their own birthdays, and to advance hers was wrong.  She warned me that the baby was going to be big, and seemed over 8lbs. She was concerned about the shoulders getting stuck and a few more things.  I told her that I didn’t want to be induced, the ultrasound was fine and I knew my exact conception date, but she felt it was best.  I sat and cried with my friend who happened to be there and she didn’t leave my side.  I told my dear sweet husband (DSH), who was incensed and called the midwife as soon as he got home and championed my cause.  We would get another ultrasound on Monday, October 15th and reevaluate on Tuesday, October 16th at my scheduled appointment.

Saturday, October 13th I went to the school’s fall festival and saw my students, colleagues and many parents.  It was fun, I was on my feet and had a wonderful time with lots of stories of other mothers being late, which made me feel so much better and at ease with my decision to hold off induction against my midwife’s advice.  That evening I went to a party.

1AM Sunday morning – I woke with some discomfort.  Was the baby at a weird angle? Did I just need to pee?  Either way I got up, used the facilities and went back to bed.  The same thing happened at 2, 3, 4, and 6AM (I slept through 5).  It felt like menstrual cramps, but due to the timing, I knew it was the beginnings of labor.  I let my DSH sleep, and slept though them as best as possible knowing it would be a long day and I’d need my rest later.  The day continued with these cramps, and I notified my doula, Yael, who was performing that day at a bellydance event.  I told her to go and enjoy and I would keep her up to date, knowing she would have cancelled in a heartbeat if I asked her to. 

10:15AM to 6PM Sunday – They came at 15 minute intervals this whole time.  In the beginning, they were like having your period, but as the day progressed they became more intense and I knew this was true labor.  To help things along, Josh and I walked outside to the corner, but it was too much work to stay upright and not release onto the ground at each contraction, so we walked back.

Sunday Night – By the time Yael came I had been laboring for some time. I had already been in the shower to ease the pain. Now, with each contraction I would fall to my knees, legs splayed wide apart, head usually on the bed, moaning through it.  I remember Yael helping me to make low moaning sounds instead of high-pitched keening.  I remember this from class, but the help made it easier to remember through the contractions.  At one point Yael pressed on my back and I was in acute pain due to my sacrum and coccyx being so tight.  Between Josh, Yael and her apprentice, April, they had hot compresses on my back the whole time.  I remember them putting a towel under my knees for my comfort, but I didn’t seem to notice the difference.   As the night wore on, I labored, always with legs spread and using gravity to help the baby down. I envisioned each contraction bringing her closer to me.

Midnight – My water broke in the bedroom by the bed, and I grabbed the towels nearby to clean it up.  This made me happy because I knew I had progressed.  I was also at 5-1-1, the magic number (5 minutes apart for over an hour, each contraction one minute apart) and we could call the midwives.  They told us to come in.

1AM Monday – We were seen at the birthing center.  For the car ride there I was in the back and I remember the cool air helping, giving me strength and comfort as I was in my own world and unaware of my surroundings. 

Once at the birthing center, the Midwives checked me and told me I was only ½ centimeter dilated.  I thought they must be mistaken!  This could not be true.  So they sent me home to take Benadryl, which I did and I got some sleep.  Josh stayed with me the whole time and I was able to get some fitful sleep between the strong contractions. I remember squeezing his hand as the contractions came in my sleep.

6AM Monday – I was up and surfing through the contraction waves as they ebbed and flowed over and through me.

8:30AM Monday – Yael had returned.  I labored through the morning.  At one point I wanted to know how to help the contractions to be more productive, and Yael mentioned lunges, like the ones we did in bellydance class.  She put on the class’ warm-up music and I lunged through the contractions, mind over matter.  The music invigorated me and gave me strength as I laughed through the contractions.  The whole time, Josh was there supporting me and never left my side.

10AM Monday – The contractions were so strong that I was having trouble breathing between them.  I was ready, and I was sure that I was dilated enough to go to the birthing center again.  It turned out that they had another mommy in labor at the hospital, and that is where we needed to go instead.  I knew Josh would have a fit going to the hospital and not the birthing center, but the baby was on her way, and I wanted to be there when she came out.  The contractions were so strong that I was sure that now was the time.

Monday Morning – We waited a while longer then headed out since less time at the hospital was best.  My DSH took a wrong turn getting there so it took a bit longer and he needed directions while I was struggling with contractions. Argh! But once again the cool air was a help and godsend. When we arrived, I was dropped off at the entrance, and we went upstairs. I remember the hallway seeming to never end as the contractions hit, and everything stopped.  I joked that I was probably 5 centimeters but I’d be happy with 2 to 3. We were admitted right away since they knew we were coming.  At the room, I was checked and found to only be 1 centimeter.  I was angry, and infuriated.  They then said since I was not progressing that they should put me on Pitocin.  That meant hooked up to monitors, an IV and I’d be forced to stay in bed!  That was exactly what I didn’t want and the reason I had decided to go with a birthing center and not the hospital in the first place. Something inside me snapped and I knew that after all this work and time, something was wrong.  Part of me believed that I could do this without intervention using gravity as my aid and the other part of me knew at that point that I was going to need a cesarean, so they should probably start it now and save us all the time.  They thought I was crazy when I told them this and told me that the Pitocin was just to get things started.  I was so angry and incensed that my labor actually stopped and I didn’t have any contractions for almost an hour while they were getting the Pitocin ready.  (It is at this point in the story when my baby daughter gets fussy and unhappy, possibly at the idea of Pitocin).

Monday Afternoon – Once on the Pitocin was introduced the contractions were more intense, and hurt more.  Less like waves and more jagged than flowing.  It was not fun, but I continued to breath through them. My DSH continued to be by my side, my doula and her assistant had hot compresses on my sacrum the whole time, which made a huge difference in my level, of comfort.

5PM Monday – The midwife had checked me and I was only at 2 centimeters.  Again I was angry.  What was wrong?  So much work, pain and pressure for a stinking one centimeter?  I told the midwife since she was already there to pull the cervix open since it “didn’t want to move on its own”.  She laughed, but I was deadly serious, she should use her fingers to open the cervix manually.  She did and told me she opened it to 3 to 4 centimeters.  She also said the baby had a lot of hair, and when she opened me most of my fluids started to really leak out. Again I commented that I knew this would end in a cesarean, but they assured me that I could still deliver naturally.

Monday Afternoon/Evening – As each new contraction hit and with each breath, I spent most of my energy visualizing energy coming in from the universe. The energy of Reiki, of life, and of G-d would enter my body through my head like a funnel, and then envelop and flow through me.  It would push the energy down on my baby and flow out through my cervix, back into the earth.  I felt at one with the universal energy. I was part of the current of life as a cord is part of a circuit.  I spent most of my time hovering in that place, riding the waves of contractions, and allowing the energy to be my surfboard, easily floating on the choppy waves.  Occasionally a wave would hit when I least expected it, throwing off the rhythm of my breathing.  I would feel like an ocean wave that leaves you sputtering with saltwater in your mouth.  I would loose my flow and cry out (or was it whimper?)  As time continued, more of these rogue waves would hit with the Pitocin leaving me unable to catch my breath. Several times I came out of the trance that allowed me to ride the contraction waves and exclaimed that I needed to pee.  I’d get unhooked from the monitors and pee, but then I would labor on my knees, using gravity, my friend, to help me push this baby out.  I would stay that way as long as possible before being strapped back in and forced to lie on the bed. 

9PM Monday –I was checked again and only found to be at 5 centimeters.  4 hours for 1 centimeter? I cried, this was wrong. Something was not right!  I asked the midwife about what it looked like time wise to have this baby.  She said textbook is 1 centimeter per hour on Pitocin.  In my head I knew that it would be 2AM normally or probably 6AM or 7AM for me before I would need to push, which could last 20 minutes to 2 hours.  How could this be? I had been at this for so long!  It was Monday night and I had started on Sunday morning!  The midwives said I should think about getting an epidural.  I had promised myself I would not do that since it SLOWED labor and could stop it altogether.  Yael said I would need sleep and rest to push later.  I knew she was right. I had very little energy left, and felt beaten.  I had been laboring hard and needed a break to get this baby out.  I don’t remember if I joked about a cesarean again or if I just knew that something was really wrong especially to be on Pitocin this long and only be 5 centimeters. I heard Josh argue for my defense as he had several times during my labor to advocate for what I wanted with the midwives. I was on the fence, but when Yael said this is what you really need and this is what an epidural is really for, I agreed. 

9:30PM Monday– The anesthesiologist was there.  He explained everything and I was sitting up, needing to remain 100% still even through my labor.  I leaned on Josh and Yael.  Yael started singing a Jewish tune from my Chochmat days, which had the name of G-d in it, and I joined in focusing on the tune and words.  I was lost once again in the music and able to relax so I didn’t move a muscle.  The epidural was heaven and was done perfectly. Once it kicked in, I could feel my feet, the pressure of the baby and the contractions, but ZERO pain.  I started to laugh and hold conversations.  I felt like a person again, all happy, giggles and smiles.  I finally understood why people choose drugs.  Then they informed me that I needed two probes, one to monitor contractions that would be placed in my uterus, and another to monitor the baby’s heart beat.  That heartbeat monitor is pin like and punctures the baby’s head.  I was mortified, no way they would hurt my baby’s head, and I fought it but they said that was the consequence of the epidural. Also the external monitor had not worked well for most of my visit and was difficult to get and keep working. The contraction probe was fine, but they tried three ties (pokes) to get the heartbeat monitor to work and stay connected.  At that point I believe the baby said “enough!”  The uterus was her domain and she would not have any part of this.  Her heart rate started to drop.  They rolled me to the right and then to the left while having an oxygen mask on my face.  Nothing worked.  The baby was in distress and a caesarian section needed to be done to save the baby. When I heard that, I knew it was the right decision.  I had seen it coming, knew in my bones this would be the outcome and I was at peace with the result.  I also knew that the baby had given me this gift, knowing that her mom had done everything in her power to bring her into the world the natural way.

10:30PM Monday – They rushed me into the operating room, Josh was garbed and there to keep me company.  They put up a sheet so I could not see anything and a heating bag to keep me warm.  I shook with the cold and shock of being open, which is apparently normal.

11:12PM Monday – Our baby was born. She was 7 lbs. 2 oz.  In a few minutes, which seemed a long time, they handed the baby to Josh.  She was so pink and beautiful. My perfect little girl.  I was shocked to find her head covered in long, straight raven black hair.  I was sure she’d be blonde and curly like me, but she was dark like her dad.  When I was closed and wheeled to recovery, I put her on my chest. I was so in love, and never wanted to let her go.  She found my breast right away and started to nurse, which relieved me. We stayed in recovery for 90 minutes and my baby and I were wheeled to our new room. Josh brought all our stuff, and our new family stayed together the night.  Josh slept on the couch.  I was unable to sleep, looking at her, hearing her breath, and feeling her skin next to mine.  Skin on skin the whole night.  Every 30 minutes then every hour they checked on us, they never asked me to let her go, but asked if I wanted a break. All I wanted was her.  I held her tight, stroking her back, touching smooth skin especially on her face, and enjoying her feather soft jet hair.  Tears sometimes streaming down my face with love, joy, and gratefulness for all that had happened. My sweet little girl, Calliope Simone was in the world and in my life.  I stayed up till dawn, watching the sun come up and enjoying this amazing bond of motherhood.

-Teddi Banks Matisoff

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Going For It

My personal eating plan no longer includes constantly counting and tallying every calorie in every morsel of food that I eat - I learned a long time ago that this leads to failure and neurosis on my part.  After so many years, it's become pretty easy for me to maintain a mental picture of when I've gone overboard and how balanced my nutrition was for the day, and I know that staying as active as possible as often as possible is the healthiest way for me to live.

I'm home sick with the flu right now, and I was re-watching a Julia Roberts movie called Eat Pray Love.  It's a quintessential "chick flick" filled with scenic locations and beautiful ideas, based on a book I haven't read which is essentially about the concept of finding oneself in the world.  It's a pretty film and I recommend it, but this one scene I just watched summed up how I want to approach food in many ways.  It's a scene where two characters are sitting in a bistro in Naples, Italy eating what appears to be an incredibly sumptuous brick oven pizza - and one of them stops because she recently discovered that she's gained ten pounds.

This dialogue follows:

Liz: Let me ask you something. In all the times that you’ve undressed in front of a gentleman, has he ever asked you to leave?
Sofi: No.
Liz: No – exactly! Because he doesn’t care. He’s in a room with a naked girl. He’s won the lottery! I’m so tired of saying no, and waking up in the morning and recalling everything I ate the day before – counting every calorie I consumed so I know exactly how much self-loathing to take into the shower. I’m going for it. I have no interest in being obese, I’m just through with the guilt. So, here’s what we’re going to do: we’re going to finish this pizza, and tomorrow, we’re going to buy ourselves some bigger jeans.
I'm not advocating throwing health and good nutrition out the window and neither is the author who wrote the scene, it's simply a statement about how in certain moments in life it's more important to eat and drink deeply of where you are right now than it is to micro-analyze every bite you take.  Life is short, and it grows shorter with every passing day.  I don't want to live it dragging around a useless weight of self loathing anywhere.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Rethink Salad

Most people view salad as a plate of leaves topped with some stuff.  Frequently the leaves are iceberg lettuce and your standard top stuff includes some tomato and cucumber, with a few croutons and maybe carrot strips.  It’s boring.  Nutritionally you’re not getting much there – iceberg lettuce is the equivalent of eating hard water.  Also, if you top your salad with a thick, mayo based dressing like Ranch, Caesar or Thousand Island you’re actually doing yourself more harm than good by eating it.  Croutons are made by soaking bread in butter and then baking. Traditional “Caesar Salad” with its romaine, croutons, Parmesan cheese and fat-bomb dressing is in fact a complete dietary disaster.

Those big, tasty looking salad bars in grocery stores can be real pitfalls for people trying to eat healthy.  You load up your container with greens, sure, but then on top goes cheese, hard boiled egg and way too many tablespoons of dressing and at that point you honestly would have been better of just having a sandwich.  Same goes for a lot of salads listed on restaurant menus.  Notice how some restaurants will offer some healthy options these days, listing them in a separate spot on the menu?  Notice also how their salad offerings are almost never on there.

At work, my salads usually consist of grape tomato, cucumber, carrot, mushrooms, celery, broccoli, asparagus… basically whatever vegetables I’ve got in the house that can be easily grabbed and chopped into bite sized portions.  I lightly salt, and eat.  That’s it.

Fresh raw vegetation is really good all by itself, it doesn’t need to be swamped in dressing.  I eat this as a side dish for my lunch and it provides crunch, fills me up, and adds some nutrition and fiber to my day.  Leaves and dressing need not apply.

There are some leafy vegetables that have a lot of nutrition, like kale – but I don’t make a salad on top of kale because it’s a tough little plant and can read bitter when uncooked.  No, I just skip the leafy bed and the dressings and I’m good to go.

That being said, there’s something to be said for a nicely dressed salad too.  On occasion I like to make my own vinaigrette using olive oil and either vinegar or citrus (acid and base).

Yesterday I had a restaurant salad that I both enjoyed and felt was fairly nutritionally sound.  It had some fatty elements, but taken in moderation a little fat (particularly certain types of fat) are a valid portion of any balanced nutrition plan.

Here’s a recipe for a nice, filling, non-lettuce based salad if you’d like to give it a try.

Fancy Salad:
Chop the following…

Sugar snap peas (as much as you’d like to eat)
Lightly steamed asparagus spears (as many as you’d like to eat)
English cucumber with skin (as much as you’d like to eat)
Roasted red pepper (again, as much as you’d like)
¼ of an avocado
¼ cup of crumbly blue cheese
2 slices of thick cut apple wood smoked bacon

Additions and substitutions:
Adding ½ cup of black beans will add some extra protein, and to pull the fat content down simply eliminate the bacon and cheese.  Avocado is a fatty fruit, but in small amounts it is very good for you and brings up your important HDL cholesterol score, helping to protect a healthy heart.

1 & ½ tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
1 & ½ tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients together, then mix up the dressing and toss the salad with it very lightly.



Tuesday, January 15, 2013


For years I have been known to say how much I want to love sushi.  Its a beautiful food: you feast upon it with your eyes before it ever even gets to your mouth.  It’s filled with good things: like fish, avocado, fruits and vegetables.  Its super fun to eat: there’s wasabi paste and candied ginger to play with, there’s sauces to dip with, and then to top it off you usually eat it with chopsticks.

I’ve always wanted to love sushi – and I never have.

The problem is a dark green paper-like substance that holds almost all sushi rolls together.  It’s called nori, or seaweed paper.

When I was around twelve I was swimming in the ocean when a large and unexpected wave knocked me down so hard and fast that I actually took a mouthful of sand, grit and other miscellaneous matter off the ocean floor.  Choking, I managed to sputter to the surface and spit it all out in favor of air before I drowned, but it was a near thing.

That flavor of ocean floor mixed with near death is exactly what nori tastes like to me.  When I put it in my mouth, my brain insists that it’s not food and I begin to gag.

As an adventurous and non-picky eater this was absolutely appalling to me the first time it happened, so I tried again.  And again, and then again.

I couldn’t get past it.  I absolutely hate nori and I always will.

Today: a revelation.

A co-worker had suggested to me that it’s possible to get sushi rolls made with something other than nori.  I was skeptical, but today at a local Japanese restaurant I asked, and the waitress informed me that yes – rolls can be made with substitute soybean paper, also called mamenori.

Cautiously optimistic – I immediately ordered a plate of Hawaiian roll.  Crispy tempura shrimp, creamy avocado and sweet mango slices soon arrived in front of me with a mango drizzle on top like a little piece of edible artwork.  Nowhere could I see the dark green menace of nori lurking about in my food, instead there was a hint of a light, orangey colored wrap holding everything together.  Damning the torpedoes I picked up an entire piece and went for it, simply popping the whole thing into my mouth.

And my taste buds exploded with pure happiness.

Sushi is SO GOOD!  I didn’t know!  All these years, I’ve been missing out!

I kept wriggling in my seat at lunch like a maniac but I just couldn’t help myself.  I’m a foodie, and now a whole new realm of unbelievably tasty food is mine all mine to explore!


Sunday, January 13, 2013

My Narrow Fellow

I’ve always liked snakes.  They’re so strange, and different from us mammals.  Their movements are both alien and graceful, they have tiny flickering tongues, and their skin feels like something unique and expensive.  I’ve always thought there was something inherently cool about a snake.

I harbored the idea of keeping one as a pet for most of my adult life.  Nine years ago, on my first wedding anniversary, my husband bought me a baby banded California Kingsnake as a present.  Might seem like a strange anniversary present to some, but I loved him right from the start.  He was about six inches long, adorable, and colored in beautiful alternating stripes of chocolate brown and butter yellow.  We brought him home in a brown paper lunch bag.

I named him Lovecraft.  Lovie for short.

Over the years, he grew from that cute six inches to an impressive three and a half feet in length.

He escaped once and spent two weeks hiding out in our basement underneath the hot water heater.  I don’t think he liked being on his own much because when Ted went down there to put a load of laundry in he stuck his head out from beneath the unit and stared at Ted with an air of expectation.  We successfully lured him the rest of the way out with a mouse, and once I had my hands on him I was so relieved that I cuddled him.  Cuddling a snake is tricky, I admit, but possible.

I kept trying to institute “bring your pet to work day” at the office.  My co-workers kept protesting that this was not a good idea, because they knew I owned a reptile.

Some people were afraid of him, some thought he was awesome, some he and I were able to teach that snakes are not slimy and are, in fact, very nifty creatures.

Occasionally I’d have dreams about him.

Last night, Ted, Kyle and I found that he had passed away.  He was half inside, half outside of his little house – like an old man sitting on his porch watching the world go by.  I have no reason to believe he didn’t go peacefully in his sleep.  When I picked him up for the last time, he felt like one of his discarded skins – except this time he’d managed to discard his entire body.

It was exactly one year to the day since we lost my cat, Wish.

I do not like January 12th.  I think I’ll skip it next year.

A narrow fellow in the grass
Occasionally rides;
You may have met him—did you not
His notice sudden is,
The grass divides as with a comb,
A spotted shaft is seen,
And then it closes at your feet,
And opens further on.

He likes a boggy acre,
A floor too cool for corn,
But when a boy and barefoot,
I more than once at noon
Have passed, I thought, a whip lash,
Unbraiding in the sun,
When stooping to secure it,
It wrinkled and was gone.

Several of nature’s people
I know, and they know me;
I feel for them a transport
Of cordiality.
But never met this fellow,
Attended or alone,
Without a tighter breathing,
And zero at the bone.

-Emily Dickinson

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Strong is Beautiful

“Strong is Beautiful” is the exercise motto I’ve adopted for 2013.  I’ve borrowed it from some of the American Olympic Women’s Weightlifting team – some really nifty girls that you can read about here.

I don’t need to be quite as powerful as they are, nor will I be.  In order to achieve their level you have to dedicate yourself to training like it’s a full time job.  Same goes for professional bodybuilders.  We ordinary girls who put in a half hour of weight training three or four times a week can expect to reap the benefits of weight loss, toned limbs, increased endurance, increased strength and healthier hearts all around.  All good things.

I have no fear whatsoever of getting “bulky”.  I’m already bulky – I can only see myself getting sleeker, fitter and stronger.  A few years ago a friend of mine was proudly showing me the fine, graceful curve of the bicep muscle she’d developed from the hard work at training she’d been doing of late, and all I could think was: “wow – that looks awesome.  I want that!”

Last year my fitness routine primarily included cardio: dancing and walking.  These are great, and they make my blood sugar great and help keep my cholesterol perfect – but alone they are not giving me the appearance change that I’m looking for.  The more research I do, the more I find that toning and muscle development needs to be added in a serious way, so I set about trying to figure out what I could add to my home routine that wouldn’t take up too much space or break the bank.

This is how I discovered kettle bells.  I’d seen them before and always thought of them as this intimidating, spine damaging thing being thrown about by scary, growling guys at public gyms.  These things:

But the more I looked into it, the more great things I was hearing about workouts that included them.  Nobody seemed to be throwing their back out during use either, so off I went to the store to investigate.  I wound up purchasing the 3-in-1 Kettle Bell sold by Empower Fitness.  It costs around $40.00, something my workout budget could handle, and comes with a DVD containing workouts and instructions as to its use.  It’s a pretty innocuous looking device, shown here:

As the name suggests it can be adjusted to weigh five, eight or twelve pounds depending on your level of fitness.  After figuring out how to detach and reattach the weighted parts correctly and how to safely stand while wielding it, I launched into my first workout.

The DVD has a warm up portion that’s seven minutes, three training sections that range from eleven to fifteen minutes, and an eight minute cool down.  Since it was my first time, I did warm up, the eleven minute cardio/strength combo, and then the cool down – resulting in a total half hour or so of exercise.  I kept the bell on its lowest setting, which is five pounds.

It wasn’t easy, but it was doable even for a beginner like me.  The instructor on the DVD is pleasant to watch and work with.  The only parts where I had difficulty keeping up where when she went to the ground and did squat thrusts off the kettle bell.  My stomach and thighs literally get in the way when I’m trying to perform a quick move like that, but obviously I’ll keep at it in the hopes that shrinking stomach and thighs will cease to be a problem eventually.  There are also some high/low impact jumping jack type maneuvers that were tough, but I managed to get through and felt good about it when I did.

I’ve suspected for a bit now that I don’t push myself hard enough when I’m just dancing on my own, so having an instructor to push me along is helpful.

Afterward my hands were pretty shaky.  This is normal for me since I have ET, and it went back normal (for me anyway) within an hour or two.  I suspect that as the muscles in my forearms grow stronger this workout will actually improve my general shakiness a bit, since physical therapy with hand weights is a recommended treatment for ET patients.

In general though I felt good.  I could tell that my body was going to be sore the next day by the slowly gathering ache, but I can confirm today that it’s the right kind of ache – the kind that tells you you’ve had a workout that did you some good in all the right spots.  Also, my back seems perfectly fine.  Today I’ll do some cardio, then pick the weights back up on Monday.

I plan to add “belling” to my routine at least three times per week in minimum half hour sessions, and continue either dancing or walks with Ted for another two sessions – for a total of five workouts per week or cumulative 200 minutes of workout per seven days.

Strong is beautiful!  Rhar!


Update:  I received the following nice letter from the Marketing Coordinator at Empower shortly after I emailed them to tell them I'd written about them on my blog.  I must say, really liking this company!

"Good Morning Carolyn!
I wanted to send a quick note to tell you I really appreciate you sharing your post with us!  We are very honored when someone writes a review about our products.  It’s a wonderful feeling when all of the hard work that went into making specifically the 3-in-1 Kettlebell pays off.  What I mean by that is... you completely understood and got exactly what we were trying to do with it.  Show women that Kettlebells are not something to shy away from.  They are amazing tools and my team and I are extremely happy that our product can help women see how unintimidating they can be so they can move down their road to a healthy lifestyle.  So thank you again for sharing and keep up all your hard work… It is worth every minute of it!"

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


(Warning – post contains conversation about poo.  We’re all adults here and I’m going to try to be as discreet as possible, but you’ve been warned.)

Everybody’s got misconceptions about everybody else.  I’m most acquainted with the ones that go along with being a bigger girl because that’s what I am – but I know that we as human beings pretty much judge everybody badly when given a chance.

Girl in a short skirt?  Must be slutty.
Super slender?  Anorexic.
Drive a Hummer?  Tool.
Plus sized?  Fast food scarfing piggy.
Got money?  Must have hurt someone else to get it.
Poor?  Lazy.
Older?  Out of touch.
Younger?  Annoying and possibly dangerous.
Tattoos and piercings?  Criminal.
Gun owner?  Definitely criminal.

Etcetera etcetera ad infinitum.

They’re all unfortunate and I doubt anyone has escaped getting hit by one at least once (but most likely much more than that) in their lifetime.  My husband thinks I’m paranoid but I believe I’ve been turned down for jobs on more than one occasion because the person doing the interview took one look at me and did the following equation in their head:

Lazy + Undisciplined = Fat.  End result?  No job offer.

There’s no way to prove whether he’s right or I am.

I digress.  Today I was exposed to a fat assumption (or misconception) that I’d honestly never heard before.  Fat people must poop bigger than average sized people.

I need to stop listening to trash morning radio shows.  I’m not even going to mention which one was having this conversation because at this point I don’t want to promote them.  However, this is the second time these yahoos have managed to offend me when all I’m trying to do is get a laugh while attempting to not die on the PA turnpike in the morning.

And this one is just… ridiculous.  The justification behind it is that fat people must be gobbling down so much food so frequently that it’s amazing we don’t have to stay in the bathroom all the time as it re-emerges.

Sweet merciful crap.  Literally.

If anyone out there is suffering under this particular ludicrous (and offensive in a way I cannot really explain) delusion, allow me to explain something.

Waste volume is largely determined by how much fiber your diet contains.  What this means is, that healthy people eating those high fiber diets are going to be the ones leaving a larger deposit at the porcelain bank.  People eating a lot of fast food with its high saturated fat and salt content are, ironically, a lot likelier to be constipated.

In addition to that, many overweight people do not necessarily have a problem with consuming too much food but rather they are consuming the wrong kinds of food.  Which is why it’s easy to by mystified over why you’re heavier than the people around you when you feel as though you’re eating the same volume as everybody else (or possibly even less).

Here’s an example.  At Christmastime the Oreo company releases a white chocolate covered Oreo cookie.  They are very slightly larger than the regular cookie.  I absolutely love these things.  One of them (one!) contains 110 calories and 6 grams of saturated fat.

This means that a person only has to consume a few of these cookies to start drifting over the red zone for how much fat should be consumed in a single day (let alone a single sitting).

Allow me to reiterate – it does NOT take a huge quantity of food consumed to be overweight.  Some people are overweight and / or type 2 diabetic entirely because of drinking sugar filled soda.  That alone is enough to do the trick.

Yes, many overweight people are so because they consume a high volume of food, but I believe most overweight people are so simply because their diets are too rich in pre-processed garbage and restaurant meals.  Processed foods are made as cheaply as possible (thus the cheap cost) and many restaurants basically dip each entrĂ©e in butter before sending it out.  Many people are sadly unaware of how badly this stuff can be hurting them.

Your best friends are fresh ingredients and your kitchen.  Know them, love them, learn how to use them.

And please, ditch the silly misconceptions.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Inadvertent Activist

I never set out to be a size activist.  I make a lousy one since I’m still fully engaged in a lifelong struggle to possess and maintain the lower body weight that I find aesthetically pleasing, and yet I seem to have stepped in it anyway.

I’ve mentioned before that I utilize a service that my company provides which assists with health care (rather than sick care) – providing advice and resources to achieve and maintain good health in day to day life.  I genuinely think this benefit is a great thing.

Once a month, my health coach calls and checks in with me to see how I’m doing and provide me with advice, encouragement, and resources.  I’ve mentioned her here before too and she’s very cool (and deserves a raise for putting up with me).

What happened is this…

I noticed that I was being called more than the other people around me who I knew were also participating in the program, and I got curious as to why.  A lot of them told me they were contacted once and then were done for the year.

My first thought was that my coach called me once a month because I’m a cool health blogger and amateur nutritionist and she enjoyed talking to me and giving me some extra attention that I deserved!

Deep down though, even as I thought this, I knew it probably wasn’t true.

So at my last session – I asked.  The truth is that yes, my coach does think I’m cool (score!) however, the number of calls received is based on a computer algorithm that classifies you according to a grading system.  Since the computer classifies me as a “C” for health I get labeled as “high risk” and receive the maximum number of calls per year, which is twelve.

No offense was meant by this whatsoever, certainly not by a computer algorithm that can’t even think for itself.  But when I found that my suspicion was true, my heart literally sank like a rock.  Both my regular physician and the independent company’s biometric screeners had registered me as having textbook blood work (check out this post if you’d like to see the numbers for yourself).  Which left me with the ugly truth that none of those numbers made a difference – the BMI registered me as obese, ergo I needed extra attention.  The suspicion that this might be the case had been bugging me for some time, but as a bigger girl I’ve been taught to accept things like this as my due, I’ve earned being singled out by choosing to be overweight.

And then something in my brain simply said: “No.  No, I won’t accept this.  No I’m not okay with this.”  So that’s exactly what I said.

Believe me, pushing back is not my normal behavior, normally I’m quite the mouse.  There’s also the fact that I volunteered for this program of my own free will, a decision solely motivated by my cheapness and the fact that my company offered me a significant break on health insurance costs if I joined.  So in a very literal sense, I really did ask for this.

However, I’ve dedicated the last three years to studying, cooking, exercising, and even teaching others about how to be a healthy person.  Along the way, I’ve had to accept that although my education and hard work has indeed made me into a healthy person it has not (yet) made me thin.

It may seem like a small thing to some, but I danged well deserve to be classified by that stupid computer as “healthy”.  I have earned it.

So I said all of this to my coach (okay, maybe I whined it but that’s besides the point) including letting go with both barrels about my disappointment that they as part of the medical community were still clinging to the useless BMI score as an indicator of good health.

And something happened that I didn’t expect: she agreed with me.

Apparently the system just isn’t set up to account for healthy fat people – whoever designed it didn’t compute for the possibility that we exist.  I had, quite simply, fallen through the cracks in the system.  In addition to this I admit I have a lousy perception filter, I was seeing myself as the only person who gets a monthly check in – and I was reassured that this is absolutely not the case.

So she agreed to go talk to her management about me and asked if I could be contacted to discuss this issue further at a later date.  To which I think I may have stammered a bit, but ultimately I said yes, of course I would help – that’s the goal after all: to make the system optimally useful to the greatest number of people, even those of us who buck the norm.

All this being said, it still holds true that I quest to be thin.  However, that quest is aesthetic at this point, not health based.  I genuinely enjoy talking to my health coach and I want her advice – but her checking in on my weight at this time is the equivalent of her calling to inquire about whether or not I’ve yet gotten that nose job I’ve been wanting.

Maybe it’s my mental health about my body image that could use some assistance now?  I can’t argue that this is a possibility.

Still, I feel hopeful and positive about what occurred.  They seem to want to work with me, even use me to make the system better – not just for people like me but for everyone.

Maybe being an activist isn’t so bad?