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

Monday, August 29, 2016


So it’s official: I’ve been going to Zumba class about three times per week for a whole year!

I have two teachers with very different styles: one class is like dancing in the basement with all your friends in a party of youthful enthusiasm and the other is a bit more like participating in a Pitbull music video. Both of them use completely awesome music, and both of them probably get tired of me asking, “Oooo – what song was that?” so that I can go home and download it. The positivity, patience, and enthusiasm of the people who teach Zumba is infectious and something I’m eternally grateful for.

I’ve also made friends in class and met other Zumba instructors for outside events such as the two Master Classes I’ve attended, and soon I’ll be going to a special “Glow Zumba” event which takes place in the dark with black lights. I may crash into somebody, but it’s going to be awesome.

My gym is very judgment free and I’m so grateful for that as well. I’ve never felt out of place or looked down upon for being the biggest/slowest/clumsiest/weakest person around (which I frequently was during this first year and often still am).

That being said, here are some health improvements I’ve enjoyed over this past Zumba year:

Greatly Improved Stamina – I have always loved to dance, and for a non-dancer person I’ve got pretty good rhythm. When I was in my twenties I used to go clubbing a lot, not every weekend but a few times per month, and I would spend hours on the dance floor. At some point in my thirties (I don’t recall exactly when) I found myself sedentary, weighing around 300 pounds and in a situation to dance again. I found to my horror that I couldn’t dance any longer; one song in I was exhausted, sweaty, in pain, and done, and it was a heartbreak. I started Zumba after losing seventy pounds, but it was still an uphill battle to get my stamina back. When I first started I did none of the high impact movements (things that take both of your feet off the ground simultaneously). Now? I do all of them. All the jumping, all the hopping, all the lunges (and I used to really hate lunges). Also, I went to a wedding a few months ago and danced for three hours. Nonstop.

Resting Heart Rate – My resting heart rate is 60 beats per minute. I know this because I wear a Fitbit and it reports to me each day what my resting heart rate was over the past 24 hour period. 60 beats per minute for a 41 year old is fantastic, when I began Zumba I believe it was around 75 beats per minute.

Coordination and Balance – I’m naturally clumsy with poor balance due to a combination of fluid in my inner ear from persistent allergies and completely flat feet. Although I’m still clumsier than an average person (there’s no cure for flat feet) I’ve improved noticeably over the past year. Within the first few months of starting Zumba I fell in class twice, one time spraining an ankle badly enough to keep me home for the next week. That hasn’t happened in about six months now.

Confidence – Zumba forces you to get over a lot of your inhibitions. When I first started there was no booty shaking for me, just a sort of embarrassed little wiggling shimmy. Now? Yeah, I shake what God gave me like nobody’s watching. I don’t care who’s watching or what they think because I’m enjoying myself. That physical confidence actually carries out of the classroom and into everyday life as well.

What hasn’t happened this past year? Well, I’m still not thin. This is no fault of Zumba and entirely the fault of continued binge eating episodes in my life. I’ve said it a hundred times and I will again now: you cannot outrun your fork. But if I didn’t have Zumba in my life? Who knows, I may have skyrocketed back up to 300 pounds by now and beyond. My body is prepped from a lifetime of destructive eating patterns to gain weight almost effortlessly, and Zumba has been a big part of keeping my weight stable for the past year. That’s something to be extremely grateful for.

The best piece of advice I have ever received about health and fitness came courtesy of James Fell who writes the fabulous Body for Wife blog and it is this:

“Find something physical to do that you love, and then eat to perform better at it.” Truly words to live by.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Kitchen Sink Salads: A How-To Guide

I’m not a fan of the traditional Woman-On-A-Diet salad. I see them being eaten for lunch often enough: iceberg lettuce leaves, a few cucumber slices, a few grape tomatoes, and fat-free vinaigrette dressing, probably with the word “balsamic” in the name. A lunch like that for me would mean a sure trip to the vending machine an hour later looking for pretzels or chips, or more likely lead to a binge episode once I got home from work feeling half starved. A salad like that isn’t satisfying either physically or mentally and doesn’t have much to offer in the way of nutritious fuel either.

Lately, I’ve been making something I call a “Kitchen Sink Salad”. Because it’s got everything in it but… well, you get the idea.

To make a Kitchen Sink Salad you begin with a grain. Recently I made one using wheat berries which led to a lot of speculation on my family’s part as to what exactly a wheat berry is (they’re whole, unprocessed wheat kernels). Other good grains include quinoa, farro, rice, barley and millet. Pick whichever you like best, or one you simply want to try. Cook the grain according to package directions. I like to cook mine in low sodium vegetable, chicken, or beef broth as this imparts more flavor.

When the cooked grain has been relocated to a big mixing bowl but is still hot, add one to two bags of greenery. I like a mix of spring greens, baby spinach, and baby arugula – but again, it’s your salad so add what you like. The hot grain will wilt the greens down and make them take up less space.

Then as things are cooling, chop and add whatever vegetables looked appealing to you when you were most recently wandering a farmer’s market or the produce section of your local grocery store. I like grape tomatoes of all colors, bell peppers, cucumbers, Brussels sprouts, red onion, carrot, scallion, jalapeno, zucchini, and squash. (I don’t really recommend mushrooms because if you store your salad for more than 24 hours they can get weird).

Chop and add a fresh herb; basil, dill and cilantro are my favorites.

Add a sparing amount of fatty, delicious, indulgent extras; like avocado, kalamata olives (or whatever olive you like), Muenster cheese, Havarti, or creamy mozzarella. I like mild cheeses but if you like sharp, add sharp. I’ve never added nuts to a Kitchen Sink Salad, but nuts would be awesome too.

For dressing I use an acid and a base. This usually means squeezing the juice of a fresh lime over the whole thing and then drizzling on good olive oil. Any acid will do though (lemon, orange, vinegar… whatever you like).

Salt and pepper to taste, and that’s it!

The grains provide protein, the vegetables provide nutrients, there’s healthy fats involved (and some fats that are simply satisfying). This salad obviously has more calories than a traditional Woman-On-A-Diet salad, but it’s also a lot more physically and psychologically appealing, at least to me.

This is what was in the Kitchen Sink salad I made for my Dad’s birthday over the weekend:

  • 2 cups of wheat berries boiled in low sodium vegetable broth (takes an hour, they’re hard)
  • 1 bag of baby spinach and arugula
  • 1 bag of mixed spring greens
  • 1 gigantic, delicious, monster heirloom tomato that my friend grew in her backyard
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1 small block of Havarti cheese with dill
  • The juice of one lime
  • Several tablespoons of good olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Feeds: many! With leftovers to spare.