May 24th, 2016
Looking back at my Appalachian Entropy blog posts, I see that I’ve been returning to post here once or twice a year for five years now. It’s kind of funny to see how much the same I always seem to feel, how little my weight ever moves, and how I have basically been doing the same thing all along when it comes to diet and exercise. I give up sugar for a while; I give up snacks for a while; I cut alcohol down to twice a week for a while; I exercise a little daily, or hit the treadmill three or four times a week. Then I’ll get tired of working so hard and seeing things just staying the same, so I’ll slack a little, acknowledging that this is called living my life.
And that, in condensed form, was my early mid forties.
Having settled solidly into my late forties now, I recognize that this is the body I am going to have, and I’m being reasonable about it. I’m doing all right for this age. I have to take care of my health by exercising regularly and limiting sugar and alcohol, or I will gain enough weight that my clothes won’t fit right. But unless I get really sick at some point, I’m not likely to see my weight go under 140 again. I’m just too old to be able to lose weight easily.
I have concrete evidence that a substantial rear end is in my genetic legacy: my aunt Lilli. You can see her this summer as ever before, in her eighties now, swimming and playing tennis with her great grandkids, sharp as hell, and she never worried about what her wide ass looked like in a bikini. She wore what she liked and she looked fantastic all along the way. More importantly, she has always been a powerful person. She’s energtic, gregarious, charismatic, and always made everyone feel like they belonged. Widowed in her thirties, she got her MBA and took over her husband’s manufacturing business. Her eight kids all worked for her at some point, after taking stabs at careers in finance and dance and fashion marketing, and they all settled in the area to raise their big Catholic families. With their kids and now grandkids, they flock to the family estate with its pond and cabana and hot tub every summer. All the women are at ease in their fabulous swimsuits, and while every one of them had an enviable physique right through their twenties, most of them filled out by their late thirties. They don’t all have Aunt Lilli’s broad beam, but most of them do. (And all of them have the lined faces to show for those seasons in the sun, which is one problem I don’t have; if there’s one benefit to geekdom, there you have it.)
I return to this blog when work slows down, I’m spending a lot of time at home, and I have time to reflect on where I am in life, while I try hour after hour and day after day to resist the pull of the couch and the cookies. This round, I’m trying to accept what this age means for my shape and appearance. I make the effort to take care of my hair and do my makeup on a daily basis; I know I look better in some things than others, and try to wear things that make me look good every day, not just when I have work. I know I’m likely to be carrying around pretty much this same level of weight for the foreseeable future, so I have to use the tricks that are available to me to make the most of what I’ve got. Mind your posture; you don’t have to go around smiling all the time, but avoid settling into a scowl (it makes you look like the devil).
The truth is that at this age, people don’t give much of a fuck about appearance anymore. What matters is what you have done, and what you have to offer. People expect you to have dome something with your life. That’s been on my mind a whole lot more in recent months, since I’ve been feeling pretty much a big loser. But I’m making progress. I’m building on the success of my shows last year, making new work and getting more exposure for the work I’ve already done, making connections, building new classes, and spending more and more time writing. The progress isn’t consistent; it’s one step forward and two steps back, a lot of the time. But I’m considerably further along professionally than I was when I started diet blogging here. I know a hell of a lot more about photography than before; I have a clear sense of direction as an artist, and a clearer one than before profesisonally; I’m less nervous about writing and putting my stuff out there. People know who I am, and I have a much clearer understanding of how universities, nonprofits, and the art world run. I’m still not board material, not even artist member board as it turns out (sorry Filmmakers, I think you’re better off without me). But I’ll keep networking and keep moving as steadily as I can.
M. B.: 45. Constantly going on about her age. Made of awesome; graying at the roots and a bit angular, but still hot. Built a media empire on the strength of her vulnerability.
T. M.: 47. Running her own business building artist-run design cooperatives with communities of women in Kenya and Native reservations. Just posted online about her onset of hot flashes. Looks 35, with that gorgeous dark skin and gigantic eyes.
December 14th, 2015
I don’t exactly have any sad pants of abjection anymore. The whole practice of keeping unflattering pants, just to wear them as a symbolic gesture when dieting, grew to seem more and more unhealthy. I mean, I haven’t given up my weird sense of humor or anything, and in general I’m still pretty much a schlump. But over time, when clearing out my closet, I’ve increasingly opted to weed out the clothes that made me miserable just to look at them. So this time, when my weight reached that sad pants tipping point, I realized that when the jeans felt too tight, i was basically just wearing yoga pants, which really don’t look all that sad. They’re just sad to me, because I know I’d much rather be wearing any number of much cuter pants that have to stay in the closet for now.
With that said, it’s another season of the sad pants right now. Not easy, because it’s Christmastime, and the kids are really into the cookies this year. Working at home during the day, it is really hard to stay away from them. Food wise, I was doing very well earlier in the fall. I never eliminated sugar entirely, but I did eliminate most desserts and snack foods, and I was only drinking alcohol on the weekends. I slipped up only ever so gradually, and only after realizing that even when I was doing an outstanding job sticking to the food and exercise routine… I was still not losing weight. Right hand to the man, I was doing everything I should, even writing down everything I ate. And my weight never came down more than three pounds, over a period of months. That was quite discouraging. I can only take it to be an aging issue; I’ve turned that 45 corner, so it was bound to happen eventually that it would become harder and harder to keep the weight down. That discouragement was the strongest contributing factor to starting to eat sweets again. It really felt like it would not make any damn difference. So over time, I’ve reverted, and now I’m drinking when I feel like it, and eating chocolate and snacks. Those things make my sad sack loser life more enjoyable, and I am loathe to give them up. For what would I give them up? To look hot again? Not going to happen. The last rays of pretty have faded from the sky of my world. Those days are simply over. To continue to fixate on appearance in the language of my teens and 20s feels increasingly regressive. It doesn’t sit right with me now.
I don’t believe that I associate overweight with lack of discipline in other people; some of the most productive, successful, admirable people in my world are no gym bunnies. Beyond a certain age, one has to accept that time is working against you where appearance is concerned, and it’s part of being an adult to adjust one’s priorities. I know not everyone sees it this way; in a lot of industries, it is an accepted part of a woman’s personal responsibility to keep fit and stylish. It’s not an either-or proposition, and I don’t feel like I’m in a position to judge other people’s priorities, or how they maintain their sense of self worth, satisfaction, enjoyment or anything. But in my own case, I just don’t want to spend so much of my mental energy on fighting the impulses to eat foods that I like, or keep thinking about how I’m doing with my diet, or maintaining stupid diet routines like writing down the things i eat. Even when they work — even when I do keep the weight stable or even lose some — I feel like i only have so much mental energy and time in a day, and it just seems silly to be thinking so much about these things. As if I am using them to shield my mind from much more difficult challenges, whether professional or personal. As if I am keeping my mind filled with challenges that are familiar, with consequences on either side that are equally familiar.
With that said, I do associate overweight with lack of discipline in my own life. When I have trouble fitting in my clothes, those are times when I am not living in a disciplined way. To eat too many desserts is to not be able to say to yourself, no, hold off, that’s a bad idea. To eat the snacks is to give in to the moment instead of looking at the big picture. It’s eating the marshmallow, over and over again, on a daily basis. Does lack of discipline in the food department reflect lack of discipline in other areas? I honestly don’t know about that. It’s one facet of life where meeting one’s standards has visible results, and in that respect it is unlike writing or making art or doing well at your job, where there are no visible indicators of any kind as to whether you’re doing well. In my own little world, there’s no positive feedback for doing work well, and positive response is entirely arbitrary. You keep on keeping on, and keep putting your stuff out there, and at some point, someone notices who likes it and has a use for it. But until that day, you just have to keep going, and there really is no objective measure to tell you how you are doing. You really have to count on yourself. You have to be your own best friend, coach, mentor and sparring partner.
To do that, you have to stay sharp. Being fat, even a little fat, even just enough fat that my work wardrobe is just a little tight, is a sign that I am not staying sharp. I don’t have a whole lot of indicators, but I take that to be one.
So ultimately, that is why I need to keep my weight down. It is one sign that I am doing what I can to stay on top of the nebulous range of challenges that constitute my life right now. I want more of a feeling of being in control. And yes, I want more energy, and I want to look better in my clothes. But mostly I want to feel like I am in a position of keeping my shit together.
July 2nd, 2014
This year’s diet blogging begins on an up note. I’ve been off of sugar for a week now, with two alcoholic drinks during that week and not a single bite of a cookie or ice cream or anything. The weeks I spent off of sugar in April have paid off in the sense that I don’t feel particularly deprived; I barely miss it. My energy level was terrible for most of the week, though. No amount of sleep has been enough most days; I was always ready for a nap and sometimes had more than one in a day. I have exercised every morning this week, religiously, alternating yoga with a seven minute workout before breakfast. Meditation has been sporadic, but the relationship to weight loss there is debatable. Coffee has mainly been before noon; it really doesn’t help anyways. And I’m keeping the general activity level up, making extra trips up and down the stairs, walking to do local errands, etc. As a result, I’ve lost a couple of pounds. Once again, I had to invest in a better scale since my old one broke, so I don’t even know what my weight was ten days or a month ago, but a week ago it was 145, and this morning it was 142. I am nowhere near ready for the ol’ skinny jeans yet, but it’s all skorts and cotton shirts this time of year anyways. And in a swimsuit I don’t look particularly fat; what I look like is called flabby, which happens at any weight to a lady of my age. It’s part of the deal; you get to live this long, you get used to getting a little uglier every year. Carpe diem, bitches!
The weight is actually not my number one health concern this year. I’m kind of worried about my energy level, and that’s the number one motivator for trying to get my diet in gear. I just feel so fatigued all the time, and it’s absurd, because I hardly do anything. Until the end of August, I’m between jobs. NOT, I must remind myself, unemployed. My job classifications were rewritten such that I am not eligible to teach in the summer anymore, so instead I must spend the summer doing what I wanted to do with my life in the first place: making art! Which I am doing, and it’s great, and it takes time and thought and planning and persistence (as well as lots of money). But I would not dream of claiming that that is anywhere near as stressful as actual work. And yet, here I am, limping along through the day, doing fuck all but basic housework, looking after the kids, and whatever photo work I can sneak away to do for an hour here and an hour there. Congratulating myself when I do a half an hour of yoga and write in a journal. It’s ridiculous. I’m not that old. But I feel like I’m retired. Part of it is psychological; the isolation, losing the network and the routine, having no one really notice or care what I do or how I do it, knowing that the sun has set on anything resembling the academic career I used to think I was working on. Some of it is surely physiologial, though, in ways that I must have some influence over through life habits. Hence the summer get-it-together effort.
I actually had a good energy day today. It was not remarkably productive, but it was better than the rest of this past week has been. Maybe I am adjusting. I’m sticking to the lower carb diet as well as I can manage as we move on. As soon as I think I can handle it, I aim to ramp up the exercise a bit, but I’m going to try to really make the daily practice a stable thing first. Consistency is what makes the greatest difference.
September 10th, 2013
New season? Yes: it’s fall. When I diet blog, it has typically been in the summer, but I was blogging elsewhere on non-diet-related issues this summer, so these pages were left untouched. And of all things, I went the whole summer without losing any weight at all. It bounced around a little, but wrapped up pretty much were it started. The reasons are predictable enough: it was summer, and I just did not care enough to work out or stop eating carbs. I had fun. I read things, I did things, I fixed things, I watched things sometimes (not much compared to the average American, but a lot by my standards: watched the entire run of Orange is the New Black *and* the last few episodes of the Mad Men season, plus internet videos here and there). And I ate things. Things that were baked, with sugar in them. Not to excess, of course, but for me to have any at all is incompatible with weight loss. So, I kept an even keel.
Fall has come and I’m back to work. My pants aren’t fitting me right, so I’m back in the fat pants again. Actually, it’s more often skirts, since I have a number of skirts I can look presentable in when a little over, and the fat pants are too shabby to go to work in. I’m exercising on a daily basis, and that seriously means six days a week. it’s the third week of that business, and it’s a habit again. But I’m still on the sugar, and I need to get off the sugar. It’s a demanding semester, every day feels like a hamster wheel all day long and I’m just exhausted all the time. I was hoping the exercise would help with that, and it might yet if I do more of it and really get in the habit, but so far, I’m still exhausted all day long, even on weekends, even when I’ve had ten hours of sleep. I’m hoping that if I really wrestle myself back down to GTD habits and eliminate sugar, I’ll make some progress on the energy and productivity front. Those things, frankly, are much more important to me than a slight weight gain right now. But I always feel healthier when I’m low-carbing. I do get more done, and I feel better. And I lose weight.
So here I am, in a new season of the sad pants, tracking food, trying to wrangle myself into some form of discipline. The goal at this point is to get below 140 by October 3; I have an event to look forward to. The energy level is a hard thing to quantify, and it’s really what matters more at this point. If I had to quanitify success in that area, I’d say I was doing great if I could put Natalie to bed without falling asleep in the process, for several days straight. That’s when I tend to crash, and when I do, the evening is shot; forget about work, I’m not even going to read at that point, it’s all over until the next morning. So I’m going to work on getting to bed consistently by 11:00; exercising each morning; and eliminating sugar (whilst opting out of other starchy snacks when I can stand to).
January 1st, 2013
I’ve sort of let myself go somewhat over the holidays … beginning with that holiday in October, the one with the candy. The weight is back up around 145, and I’ve really gotten lax with eating chocolate and having a drink in the evening. I’ve lost my discipline with snacking and sleeping, too, and also with social media. Oh also and spending, I’ve really spent way too much on clothes and books over the past few months. What else? OK, running off my mouth with the husband and kids, I’m a total nag. And work, OK, I really could have been more structured with my work time. Writing: meant to do that. Didn’t, really. And I haven’t been calling my mom, or donating to the church. Or helping out the union guys at work. Seriously. OK, is there any aspect of my life I haven’t been completely slovenly about in the past few months? Exercise? Haven’t been doing much of that. The house is in decent shape, but I haven’t been washing the floors and I really need to clean the bathrooms more often. You know what, though, I have been bathing regularly. So there’s that. But for the most part, I’ve really let things go.
So I have some catching up to do with the new year.
Good Christ, I look at all I just wrote and I think what I really need right now is to go to bed, immediately. Geez. I make it sound like I’m one pizza box shy of an episode of Hoarders over here. In all honesty, I’m not that much a wreck. I’m just a lot more lax than I need to be in most aspects of my life.
It would be nice, at this point, to have a life coach. I dream of having somebody make up a meticulously crafted schedule for me and berate me when I don’t keep it. But I have to get the reins in my own hands here. I feel like I just gave up over the past year. Once I didn’t get into grad school, and that has been a year ago now, I felt so adrift, and such a failure, that i just couldn’t seem to muster the energy on a daily basis to make any kind of progress towards getting some kind of direction in my life. And eventually instead of inching towards that kind of progress, I just started letting more and more things slide, a little at a time, not with a “life sucks and I don’t care” attitude so much as a “this makes absolutely no difference in the long run so I am going to eat that damn cookie because I want to” attitude. (Subtle difference.)
I really do need to go to bed; the kids are back to school tomorrow and i’ve got a long tedious day of work to look forward to. I’ll get back to this, really, seriously, I mean it this time, no slacking, really. TOtally.
June 28th, 2012
Just checking in to say that I’m still working at it and slowly, slowly losing weight. The scale has been bouncing around 142 for the past two days, which makes it ten pounds that I’ve lost since this time last year. Clothes are a little looser, and I’m getting more accustomed to that hungry feeling as a normal feeling. Although I have eaten sugared things from time to time, I don’t crave them like I used to. Mainly when I screw up, it’s because I’m either upset or tired. It is surprising what a difference a good night’s sleep can make. I can get by on significantly fewer carbs when I’m decently rested. Off to bed, then.
June 21st, 2012
I have some wonderful, practical insight to share from my experiences of the last couple of weeks. Here it is. You know what really shakes off those stubborn pounds? Getting sick! I finally got to enjoy that longed-for sight of seeing the scale report a four and a half pound loss, and all it took was two days of not being able to keep anything down. Oh, it was a beautiful morning, the morning that I could get out of bed and change into nice clean clothes again. My stomach looked so flat! The world was born anew.
OK, yes, I know, it was really all water weight. The pounds are just hanging around, probably behind those bookcases over there, waiting for me to eat a really good meal again so they can hop back on board. So I’m not even updating my weight ticker for another week until things stabilize. It is an illusion. A lovely, cheerful illusion. I was seriously wondering if time had condemned me to a weight that was as unmovable as a mountain. But seeing the numbers on that scale finally roll down is giving me the hope that maybe, just maybe, the weight is more like a cranky old mule.
Back in high school, we used to talk about “shrinking the stomach,” getting physically used to less food in the belief that the effects would last. Fasting was particularly good for this, we believed, but anytime you could get by on as little food as possible for some time, you could be sure to have shrunk your stomach for a while as an additional boost for the diet. It’s true that my appetite has not yet returned to normal, but I credit that more to not being quite well yet than to a smaller stomach. But in keeping with the old way of talking, I’m gonna claim that! Consider my stomach shrunk. Let’s see if we can get a little more momentum into the weight loss this way.
At the very least, seeing the magic 140 on the scale is a morale booster. Maybe just the apple that the old mule needed to get moving.
June 6th, 2012
I’ve been continuing to work on the snacking habit, using the method described in the previous post (from Duhigg’s book). It’s been two weeks, and I’ve been doing all right, in that I’m snacking a lot less and paying more attention to what I eat. I’m completely off of Diet Coke and chocolate, and I haven’t had any alcohol except on weekends. Most days I don’t eat any baked things with sugar. There were a number of days when I ate baked treats in the first week, mainly when I baked them for one occasion or another. I can’t just stop making stuff for potlucks, bake sales, and the kids, just because I don’t want to let myself eat the stuff; unfortunately, what I bake I have a hard time not eating. These were the main transgressions in my “yes” column, and there were several. So, about the results? I haven’t lost any weight. My scale is unreliable, but it’s bouncing around the same weights it was bouncing around two weeks ago, so I have no reason to believe I’ve made any progress there.
That’s not going to do.
Now, part of Duhigg’s deal is that he puts a lot of emphasis on consistency during the month of establishing the habit. So I’m not quitting the checklist and substitution strategy. I’m just going to be a little more strict with the rules I’m notating. I’ll continue to check the “no” column every time I’m able to resist temptation and keep my mouth shut instead of eating something, and I’ll still keep finger-food vegetables on hand to snack on instead as a substitute. But I’m going to make notes in the “yes” column each time I eat *standing up.* I think I’ve getting out of the habit of just stuffing my face at will, but I still have way too much of a tendency to take a bite or several when I’m cooking or cleaning up. And when I bake, it’s really not hard for me to say “no” when the baked thing is finished, cleaned up and put into containers; but I cannot seem to resist when I’m actually baking or when it’s fresh out of the oven. Those are bad habits, and they put real food into that stomach! So, while I’m not making changes to actual meals right now, I’m going to work on extending the ability to say “no”, and try to eat only when I am sitting down with food on a plate. Let’s see how I do with that.
I’m going to work on cutting back on the late snack, too; if I could get a little more control of the late evening practices and get to bed earlier, I’d be eating less at the late snack, and eventually could maybe eliminate it entirely. More importantly, it would be easier to get up to exercise on time regularly, which is a practice that needs some work too.
May 31st, 2012
Summer is here again. It’s that time of year when you rotate into the clothes that suddenly dispel any ambiguity about what kind of shape you’re in. At the same time, you’re stuck at home with the kids, hour upon hour, day after unemployed day, just a quick grab away from endless quantities of tempting carbohydrates. Such a magical time. Well, why not make the diet blog a regular summer activity?
I see that it has been almost a year since I posted here, and that my weight when I stopped was pretty close to where my scale says I am right now. This particular scale, for what it’s worth, is not reliable; yesterday it said 142.5, and today, 147. Repeatedly, in both cases. So, damn the scale. But the clothes don’t lie: I know I’m in a little better shape than I was at the end of last summer, but only a little. I’ve been in and out of regular exercise over the past year. My standard is around twenty minutes of yoga and pilates first thing in the morning; sometimes treadmill instead of the yoga. I haven’t put in more than twenty minutes at a time on on the treadmill for several months, mainly because last summer, when I was on the treadmill four nights a week for four miles at a time, I never saw any results. Even after three weeks of daily work with a personal trainer. My endurance went up, over time, but I didn’t lose weight.
The failure to lose weight last summer, I think, comes down to a few things. One is that I never really gave up sugar and alcohol; I cut back, but I didn’t eliminate them entirely. The other is that I was going off of Prozac at the time. I really did bust my bumpus at the gym and at home, and I really did cut back on food quite a bit, so I think that if I hadn’t done those things, going off the drug would have resulted in some weight gain. Yet, I’m still looking pretty much like how I looked last year. I look at pictures of myself from last summer, and I think about how hard I was working at it, and it’s very discouraging. I doubt I look much better now. My muscle tone and posture are better (and my hair is longer) but I’m wearing the same clothes, so I don’t think I’m looking much better in reality. I keep one of last year’s vacation snapshots on the fridge to remind me that I need to step it up if I’m going to see results this year.
What’s on the slate this summer: I’m one week into a month-long effort to eliminate snacking. That seems like a small thing, but it’s such an ingrained habit that I am putting some effort and strategy into stopping it. I’m using techniques I picked up from Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit: each day I write up a little table and I make a mark every time I put something in my mouth outside of meals and scheduled snacks. I make a mark in a different column every time I am tempted to eat something but do not. In a third column, I make a mark when I put something in my mouth that is a vegetable. (This is inspired by somebody’s standup routine (or was it the Onion?) that suggested Americans could benefit from eating a goddamned vegetable every now and then: when you want to eat something, instead of stuffing your face with cookies, you stick a goddamn carrot in your piehole. This struck me as sound advice.) That column doesn’t have as many checks in it, for what it’s worth. But in any case, I’m making progress; I’m breaking the habit. Duhigg argues that it takes a solid month of consistent work to really change a habit, and that it’s self-defeating to try to change more than one at a time. So, this month I’m working on not snacking. I’ll check in on how that goes.
June 25th, 2011
It is becoming increasingly apparent to me that the universe wants me to accept something: that I am Middle Aged.
This week has been busy as hell, and I’m completely worn out. My three year old even let me sleep in until 9 this morning (and I literally can not remember the last time I slept in that long, literally) and I still feel like a weak, tired old lady. This week I started working with a personal trainer, doing a mix of cardio and strength training. She’s very good, I feel like I got a good balance in and I’m pressing my limits. But four solid workouts later, I feel pretty bad. Not better. Not more energetic. This, after five weeks of diligent work on the treadmill. Not better, and I sure as h-e-double-toothpicks have not lost any weight. In fact, I had to change my “ticker” to raise my weight by a few pounds. That part is because I finally shelled out for a more accurate scale, but still, I don’t seem to have lost more than a pound or two since this whole thing started.
Is this middle age? Is that what’s going on here? Maybe it has more to do with going off the drugs; maybe my body seriously wants to pack on the pounds, like a lot of people do when they transition off of antidepressants. Maybe this struggle has been a struggle to stay normal, all along, and I didn’t know it because I actually wanted to get better. I don’t know. In short, this is all getting kind of frustrating.
But getting older is frustrating. When you’re thinking about weight and dieting, you’re building on all this experience that says that if you work hard, discipline yourself, do the right things … you will get better. Be healthier. Be prettier. Wear nicer clothes, be more confident, and have people treat you better. But aging doesn’t work that way. Aging is not reversible. You can mitigate some of the effects, for a while, but you will get old, you will get ugly, it will not go away.