Thursday, May 31, 2007

I Did a Dumb Thing

Many dieters complain about this same problem. You do something that sounds like a good idea at the time, only to realize that what you've done either directly or indirectly sabotaged your diet.

I did a dumb thing the other day.

I have The Credit Card that gives you points for every purchase you make. About a year or two ago, a nice salesperson convinced me I should sign up for their program, so I could earn lots of rewards. A buddy of mine signed up and just raved about the program and all the free trips he's taken as a result of the airline miles he's earned.

I should have known it was a dumb idea. I rarely travel. Even if someone gave me free airline tickets to a fabulous location, I still wouldn't be able to go, because it's hard to find a reliable (and affordable) pet sitter for my persnickety pets, and getting time off from work is like trying to pull teeth without anesthetic. Even with those facts in mind, the promises of free goodies seemed too hard to resist and I signed up.

Two years of membership fees and credit card purchases later, I ended up with about 18,000 points in my account, and I figured it was time to redeem my rewards. I went onto The Credit Card's web site and started looking around for something I wanted. I didn't find much that really interested me. Sure, there were lots of things to get, such as free car rentals (don't need that), airline miles (can't use that), or free tickets to movie theaters that don't service our area. There was a lot of chintzy merchandise and electronics that we could buy, but none of it was very inspiring. There was a clock radio with a CD player (yawn), a bathroom scale (already have one), and a pair of cheap binoculars. Finally, after I looked through the site for over an hour and found nothing, I nearly gave up. I was just about to sign out when I noticed I could buy gift cards for an Italian restaurant chain that happens to have a location about 30 miles from us.

Score! I had enough points to buy several gift cards. We'll probably have enough for a couple of dinners out. Woot!

When the cards arrived in the mail yesterday, I realized I'd done a Dumb Thing. Although this particular restaurant does have a few healthy choices, I don't go there to eat healthy. I go there to make a pig of myself. The point of going is to eat my weight in bread sticks, followed by soup, a melted cheese on bread appetizer, and a huge serving of fettuccine alfredo. By the time I'm done eating, I figure I have probably gobbled up close to 2,000 calories in a sitting, and it's so good.

But of course now I really don't need to be gobbling up 2,000 calories in a single sitting. Now I try to limit my meals to no more than 400 calories each. Just the bread sticks alone probably add up to that.


So now I have three $25 gift cards for this wonderful restaurant sitting on my desk. I look at them and imagine the flavorful bread sticks, the marvelous minestrone, and the obscene quantities of cheese everywhere. I get a little dizzy just thinking about it, and I close my eyes and imagine myself nestling up in a queen-sized plate of fettuccine.

I should have ordered gift cards for my favorite online music site instead. I should go and kick myself.

Subjective vs. Objective

The Kid knows we are dieting. Being a mostly good kid, she tries to be encouraging, but sometimes it's damned annoying.

"Oinkstop!" she'll exclaim, "You are definitely losing weight."

She's been saying this for over a month. She even said it before we were dieting. She's just saying it to be nice. She's definitely the master of telling stories constructed of bullpucky when needed, so I think she's just trying to butter me up for something. Maybe it's because she wants a new iPod for her birthday that's coming up in five months...

I wish she'd shut up. Other than my one friend noticing, I don't think I've lost enough weight to really make much of a difference. I'll agree that 12 pounds is nothing to scoff at, but given how fat enormous overweight obese I am, losing that amount just isn't going to be visible. My clothes aren't noticeably looser, and that's really the acid test for me.

I suspect that it will be quite some time before my clothes are too large to wear. Since I work from home, my "uniform" consists of sweat pants and a t-shirt. Even when I was thin, I bought large and extra-large shirts, so I won't have to replace anything. Sweatpants are pretty forgiving -- when you shrink, you just give the drawstring a tug and suddenly what's old is new again.

I'm not going to listen to the subjective comments about my weight loss from friends, family or The Kid. Instead, I'm going to look for objective measurements, like the numbers on the scale or the fit of my clothes.

Until my underwear starts falling off on its own, I'll be stuck in the "Not Really" stage of my diet.

If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say...

...don't say anything at all.

Okay, that's my post for today.


I have to admit, that's definitely how I'm feeling this morning. I woke up hungry, grumpy and tired, and I have a breakfast meeting coming up in an hour so I have to wait for breakfast. Calories are in such short supply around here that I can't really afford to eat when I'm not scheduled to do so.

I've gotten used to being hungry, and the growling in my stomach. I don't like it, but I can live with it. Usually distracting myself or taking a big drink of water is enough to at least reduce the problem. What I am struggling with are the crashes. One minute I'm doing fine, and the next minute I feel like I'm starving and all I want to do is curl up in a ball and cry.

I'm eating in the range of 1,200-1,500 calories, so I shouldn't be this hungry. I think the problem is that my body is still hanging on to the idea that I'm going to shovel food down my mouth just any old time. I'm sure this will get better, and I suspect a lot of this is mostly psychological. As soon as you decide you can't do something, you want it all the more.

Breakfast will be worth waiting for. We are having bagels, cream cheese and lox.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Eat Your Veggies - Cheap!

This is a new thing to me. It's so new to me that I thought I'd share:

Do you know what a CSA is?

The abbreviation CSA stands for Community Sponsored Agriculture, and it's a new (to me, anyway) way to buy fresh produce. Instead of going to the store or farmer's market to buy produce on-demand, you agree to purchase a share in a local farm, and you pre-buy your produce. Then, every week, you pick up a box loaded with locally grown produce, usually at a fraction of the cost you'd pay at the store.

The idea sounded cool, so I looked around, and found a CSA farm within 30 minutes of my house. For $23 a week, I can buy a family-sized box of organically-grown produce that is just as good or better than the stuff I can buy at the grocery store. Best of all, it's about half the cost of what I would pay for the same items at the store. If I decide to pay for the entire season up-front, they'll give me a 10% discount. Woot!

Although we are growing our own veggies, this year we planted far too late and planned far too poorly to be able to grow enough food for the three of us. Our garden was more of a science experiment. We wanted to learn what crops grow best in our area, teach The Kid about where our food comes from, and how hard life was for people in the "olden days." We also figured that The Kid would be more likely to eat vegetables she helped till with her own hands. So far, the garden has been a success in all of those areas, and it's a shame we don't have a bigger back yard. (I'm still craving more radishes!)

Between the CSA and our yard, we probably won't need to buy produce again until next winter. What an incentive to eat better.

Oh, and if you check out the above link for Community Sponsored Agriculture, you'll find a directory of participating farms near you.

Big Medicine = Big Discouragement

Last night, we sat down to watch an episode of Big Medicine that we'd recorded earlier. The show airs Monday nights at 9/8c on TLC, and it explores the world of bariatric surgery. It's an interesting program, but I found it pretty discouraging.

What discouraged me most was how many people try dieting and fail. All of the people on the program (with the exception of one bedridden man who was fed excessively by his co-dependent mother) had tried diet after diet and failed. These people were basically at the end of the line, and nothing worked for them. The whole idea of going in for surgery to have my insides permanently re-routed sounds horrible, and I don't want to find myself in the same position.

There are too many things that one can't eat after bariatric surgery. I don't want to give up beer, drinking with my meals, and having to worry about the possibility of dehydration or malnutrition. I don't want to have to completely give up empty-calorie, high-fat foods like ice cream or chocolate, either.

No thanks.

Even the bariatric success stories were discouraging. There was a 20-year-old woman who had lost more than 100 pounds, and her skin just sagged. Her belly looked like a 70-year-old's with unbelievable sags and wrinkles. Her breasts hung almost to her navel, and she ended up having cosmetic surgery to remove all the excess skin. Although I know my medical insurance would probably cover bariatric surgery (especially right now when I'm so overweight) but there's no way they'd cover the procedures to remove the excess skin afterwards. Plastic surgery is expensive, and I don't know how I could manage to come up with $10-20,000 to remove all my sagging excess skin.

Now I'm starting to wonder: which is worse, being overweight, or having so much sagging skin that you look like one of those Chinese wrinkle dogs?

The "Not Really" Stage of Dieting

Since my weight loss was noticed for the first time yesterday, I've been thinking about all the usual things people say when you are dieting. I've realized that I'm firmly in the "not really" stage of my diet.

Here's what I mean by the "not really" stage of dieting:

Skinny Friend: Wow, you look like you've lost weight. Don't you just feel great?

Me: Not really.

Skinny Friend: Well you definitely look better, have you noticed your clothes fitting better?

Me: Not really.

Skinny Friend: Well how is your exercise plan going? I just love how I feel after I exercise, don't you?

Me: Not really.

Skinny Friend: I always have so much more energy and I feel so much better when I eat right and exercise. Haven't you noticed having a lot more energy?

Me: Not really.

I know that when you start eating right, exercising and losing weight, you are supposed to feel a difference. The truth is, I haven't. I'm still tired all the time, my clothes don't fit any better, and I don't feel energized. After I exercise, I don't feel great, I just feel hot, sweaty, and tired. I don't sleep any better, I don't feel more optimistic, and I don't have bundles of energy propelling me forward into my day.

The truth is, other than the numbers changing for the better on the scale, the only difference I've noticed is that I feel hungry a lot of the time. I realize this is all good for me, and I'm doing the right thing, but when people ask me if I'm happy about this entire process, I have to answer honestly, not really.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Weird Craving

A few days ago, we harvested a handful of radishes from our garden. Radishes are fast-growing, and usually can be harvested fairly quickly. The ones we picked were small, but definitely hot. Had we waited until they were large, they would have been unbearable.

Since my first taste of them, I've been craving more. Today, I couldn't stand it any longer and pulled almost all the rest from the ground. They were tiny -- even smaller than the ones we harvested a few days ago -- and some hadn't even turned completely red. I ripped them all from the ground, washed them off, and shared them with my SO.

They were delicious, and now they are almost all gone. If I'm lucky, I've got another half dozen out there in the yard, waiting to be taken.

I'm craving radishes, but not the ones from the store. I'm craving my tiny and tender morsels. I planted more; too bad I'll have to wait another month before I can harvest those.

I'm craving vegetables right now, which is a good thing. When my SO asked me what I wanted for dinner, I answered "vegetables." We ended up having baked potatoes with broccoli and cheese. We prepared them with no added fat, and a very limited amount of cheese, so they were actually pretty healthy. The little bit of cheese was just enough flavor to prevent me from drowning my potato in butter like usual.

After dinner I was stuffed, but now I'm starting to get hungry again, which is a good sign. As I've blogged about before, I seem to lose weight best when I go to bed hungry.


A friend who I haven't seen in quite some time dropped by unexpectedly this afternoon. One of the first things she asked was, "are you losing weight?"

My SO readily admitted it. I was reluctant, and finally said I'd lost about 11 pounds. We went outside, and we showed her our recently-added vegetable garden.

"You keep eating this stuff," my friend said, "and you'll lose lots of weight."

I have mixed feelings about being noticed. On the one hand, I'm pleased. On the other hand, now I'm worried my friend will start asking me about it all the time. If I fail at my efforts, then the asking will feel like nagging.

Hurry Up and Wait

During my lunch hour, I went outside and finished planting the four 2' x 4' raised beds we put in over the weekend. Planting them involved hauling, opening and dumping several large bags of compost, peat moss and vermiculite, and then mixing them together and placing them in the raised beds.

In addition to the variety of vegetables I already have planted in the ground, I planted blue potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, lettuce and some more radishes. I would have planted carrots, but I think The Kid managed to spill the packet of seeds when we were planting the in-ground garden. The packet of seeds had nothing in it but dirt, and there's a suspicious clump of carrots coming up next to the watermelon.

I'm going to leave them be and see if they'll grow enough to harvest.

All my digging as made me realize something: growing a vegetable garden is a lot like trying to lose weight.

In the beginning, there's a lot of work. You dig, you haul bags of compost and manure, you bend over and plant seeds. After that, there's not a whole lot to do. You get out there and water and weed, but if you keep up with it, those aren't huge tasks. A 10' x 20' plot of dirt isn't that big, and there's not really all that much work to do except some routine maintenance and a lot of waiting.

Dieting is similar, because in the beginning it's all about learning your new eating habits. You learn how to weigh, measure, or classify your food. You learn to count calories, points, or grams of fat, protein and carbohydrates. You learn what foods are okay to eat in quantity, what foods should be limited, and what foods you just have to stay away from altogether. You learn to make new and better choices.

After a few weeks of that, though, you've pretty much learned all you can learn. Then you just have to keep doing it. You keep making good food choices and exercising, and all that's left is to wait.

I can't go out to my garden and shout at my freshly-planted broccoli grow, dammit! (Well, I could, but it wouldn't have any effect, would it?) My broccoli will take about 60 days to grow and mature before it is ready to harvest, and there's not much I can do to speed things up. Certainly, I can create an optimal environment and make sure that my growing green babies have the right amount of sun, water and fertilizer, but beyond that I just have to sit and wait. Broccoli takes as much time as it needs to grow, and that's just the way it is.

So it is with weight loss. Certainly I can eat right, exercise, drink water and get adequate sleep to give my body the optimal environment for weight loss. However, there are limits to that environment. Fasting or going on crazy diets might make me lose weight more quickly, but in the end, it won't help my overall health if I fast all my lean muscle mass away.

Starving myself isn't going to work any better than standing out in the yard and screaming at my broccoli. Although both activities might seem like they would do some good in the short-term, they won't contribute to my long-term success.

Besides, if I stood outside and shouted at my vegetables, I'm sure the neighbor might call the police who would in turn summon the guys with the white coats and needles filled with sedatives.

I can wait.

Walking Wounded

Between the effort expended during yesterday's digging in the garden, Sunday's swimming and Saturday's scary staircase, I feel like I've put my body through the wringer, and now I am paying for it. I am one of the walking wounded, and my entire body feels like a mass of sore muscles. Getting up out of my chair hurts so much I cry out in pain; even the bottom of my feet hurt.

I am sore. Really sore.

Yeah, yeah. I know, I know. No pain, no gain. (Or in this case, loss.)

I just wish it were a little easier, you know?

I wish I could just climb into some futuristic cryogenic device, close the lid, sleep for a year or two and wake up thin. Even though it really seems like I got fat overnight, I know it didn't happen that way. Years of bad habits piled up on top of each other until one day I sort of "woke up" and realized just how fat I was. I wish I could do the process in reverse: go on autopilot for a while and "wake up" and realize I'm thin. Wouldn't that be cool?

Yeah, well if wishes were horses, we'd all be driving brand new Corvettes.

Although I've been on my diet for a bit over five weeks now, I'm still coming to terms with just how fat morbidly obese I've become and how much work it's going to take to recover from the damage I've done to my body. My current estimate is that it will take me 57 weeks to reach my goal weight. That's nearly a year and two months away.

Time always has a way of going by so quickly, and I'm sure it won't seem like very long once I'm through it. But, from the beginning of the process, it just seems like such a huge amount of time. It's hard to process when I think about the fact that I'm going to spend the next 399 days counting calories, trying to exercise more, and going hungry. It seems overwhelming.

I know. One day at a time. Still, it's hard to think about.

I'm trying to focus on the shorter-term goals. I'm trying to focus on today making good food choices. I'm trying to focus on things like right now I'm going to pass on that brownie that's sitting on the buffet. I'm trying to focus on doing the right things in the moment.

So far it's working. If I get too far ahead of myself, and even try to think about my mini-goals (the first being I want to lose a total of 39 pounds so I'll just be obese instead of morbidly obese) I feel overwhelmed. From where I am now, I still have several months ahead of me before I'll be at my first goal, and it all seems so far away.

I keep reminding myself, as I try to soothe my aching muscles and hobble around the house today, that this won't be forever. Eventually, my new eating and exercise habits will become more of a habit and I won't have to dwell on them as much. Eventually, my progress will be marked in 10-pound increments, and later 50-pound increments. Someday I'll get there. I just have to keep that in my mind.

May Day Weight Loss Challenge Weigh-In #3

This morning's weigh in results: 244.4 lbs. That's down 1.2 pounds from last Tuesday, and I'm very happy about it, because I seem to have survived the Memorial Day weekend potlucks with a loss.

I guess I can pat myself on the back. It was definitely a struggle to stay on track over the weekend, but somehow I managed it. I'm proud of myself.

I think the low point of the weekend came on Monday. I was absolutely starving, and a planned sushi dinner just couldn't come soon enough. It was a planned binge -- 850 calories of raw fish, tempura, rice, and even some green tea ice cream -- so I just had to deal with being hungry during the day.

As I was sitting there, starving, it occurred to me how lucky we are. Hunger is a huge problem in the United States, and I realize how lucky I am to know where my next meal is coming from. It also gave me a substantially different view of our home vegetable garden. This year, we decided to plant a garden for fun. We are enjoying it immensely. We've planted a variety of vegetables including tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, peas, beans, corn, cucumbers, squash, lettuce, radishes, and potatoes, so in three months we'll have a variety of garden-fresh produce. I don't think we have enough land to actually grow everything we need, but this will be a fun supplement to our diet. Now that I've experienced real hunger, I've wondered how much fun the garden would be if we were depending on the harvest

Monday, May 28, 2007

Weekend Challenge #3 - Struggling Along

Things have been a mixed bag since my last post.

We finally made it to the municipal pool on Sunday after buying the world's most expensive bathing suits. It felt good to exercise, and I spotted several people (mostly mothers with small kids) who were even bigger than me. We were the only ones swimming in the lap pool, so I felt at least somewhat vindicated. So, that was the good part.

The bad part of the pool was that my ass has grown so large that it wants to float like giant butt-shaped bubble on the top of the water, and it's almost impossible to do the breast stroke, because my behind floats so high that my face is automatically shoved underwater. That was unpleasant. The other bad part was that after I swam a few laps (I felt fine in the pool, though a little winded) and I decided to get out, all the blood ran out of my head and I could barely heave myself up the ladder. For a moment, I imagined all the life guards trying to fish my fat carcass out of the water, and that gave me renewed energy to haul myself out of the pool.

Afterwards I felt queasy, and almost lost my lunch on the pool deck. We went home early, and I took a 30-minute nap and felt better.

I am so out of shape!

I also got pretty discouraged by the news that a friend graduated from college this weekend but nobody informed us that it was this weekend she was graduating. We knew it was coming up, but nobody told us the date, and I was really bummed to get an e-mail saying that she'd missed us. I burst into tears.

If she'd only told us, we would have been there.

The fact that my other friend is going to Iraq in less than a week is also weighing heavily on my mind. If that weren't enough to make your average herd of elephants feel bummed out, it's also looking like our vacation plans will be canceled because of an unexpected, unavoidable and very large bill.


On the plus side, I managed to more-or-less restrain myself at the final potluck of the weekend. I wasn't quite as determined as I was for the first one, but I also didn't eat anything all day except for a bowl of cereal, so I figured I could indulge a little. I had some raw veggies, a jumbo-sized hot dog, some beans, and two helpings of dessert. I just can't eat as much as I used to.

My weight was up 0.4 lbs from yesterday morning, but still down a total of about 1.6 lbs from Friday. I can't complain too much about that news.

All I've had today so far is a bowl of cereal with strawberries and I am absolutely starving. My SO is outside building some raised gardening beds lined with mesh so we can plant potatoes that the gophers won't be able to eat. I should probably go out and help, but I've been laying on my bed talking on the phone instead.

So much for being motivated today.

The past few nights I've been having all kinds of crazy food dreams. The other night, I dreamt I had a bowl of mint chip ice cream (my favorite!) but when I went to try and eat it, I couldn't because it was made of plastic. In the dream I became quite upset and cried because I couldn't eat the ice cream, and the man who gave it to me was becoming quite agitated and yelling at me in Arabic because I wouldn't eat his ice cream.

I'm starting to feel like food is becoming an obsession. I'm constantly thinking about it. I hope this will wear off after a while.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Weekend Challenge #2 - Potluck with Friends

Today was weekend potluck 1 of 2. I'm glad it's over.

On the plus side, I did get some exercise this morning. We walked a bit over two miles, which included climbing up an enormous staircase up the side of a hill. We'd planned to climb the stairs at the nearby office building, but the doors to the staircases were locked, so we had to go elsewhere. The staircase we ended up climbing was so challenging that after the first try we decided to walk around rather than go back down and up. After one long climb, I exhausted. If we'd tried the stairs again, I probably would have gotten sick to my stomach.

This morning, I had a late breakfast (a bowl of cereal, non-fat milk and sliced strawberries) and waited for the potluck. By the time we arrived, I was starving. Fortunately, I kept it mostly under control. Although I did have some treats, I still ended up feeling deprived.

I made one small plate for myself. I skipped the meat, the macaroni salad, the chips, and most of the stuff that I really wanted to eat. I had a big scoop of vegetarian, fat-free beans we'd made from scratch, a slice of watermelon, and the tiniest serving of scalloped potatoes. The potatoes were delicious, so I had a second small helping.

I drank water. I passed on the beer, soda and other stuff.

For dessert, they served a whole raft of treats. I had a sliver of key lime pie, and a tiny brownie.

I was still hungry after lunch, but I stopped eating anyway. There will be no dinner tonight, which is just as well. I've probably done more than enough damage to my diet already.

The thing I found most difficult was watching my friends fill plate after plate of food, while I stopped at one. Everyone else was groaning and patting their bellies after the meal, and I sat quietly, feeling my stomach growl. I wanted to pile my plate, too, but doing so won't help me accomplish my goals.

Nobody noticed that I wasn't eating so much, though a family member who was there noticed that I was quieter than usual. "You sure have been quiet the last few times we've been together," she said.

I just shrugged and said that I didn't have much to say because my life is incredibly boring right now. The real truth is that I'm having a really hard time sticking to my diet, and being around people is just really, really hard at the moment.

I hope it gets easier.

My friend leaves for Iraq in a week. I want to lose enough weight that she doesn't recognize me when she returns. She'll be gone for six months, so if I am good work hard, I could lose 60 pounds by then, or close 25% of my body weight.

By the time I get to my final goal, I will have lost 54% of my original body weight. I'll weigh less than half of what I did when I started.

That's a lot of weight. I wonder what it will be like to be half of me.

Weekend Challenge #1 - Unplanned Dinner Out

Now I'm convinced that this is going to be a tough weekend. Last night, we'd planned to have a quiet dinner of rabbit food at home, because we had a semi-big lunch of bean burritos and rice. Instead, our soon-to-be-deployed friend asked us out for dinner.

I love eating out, but it's so dangerous, especially when it's one of my favorites -- Mexican food.

I ended up having three chicken soft tacos in corn tortillas, but I said no to the cheese, guacamole, sour cream, rice and beans. I had only a few chips (it was so hard not to eat the entire basket) and drank water.

Although I enjoyed what I ate, I have to admit I felt terribly deprived. I lied and said I wasn't hungry because I'd had a huge lunch. In all honesty, I was starving, and I kept imagining myself taking a head-first dive into the bowl of chips and salsa. It was hard to sit there watching everyone eat their three-item combination dinners with rice, beans, chips and the works, while I nibbled at my tiny tacos, and tried to distract myself with conversation.

When I got home, I really thought I'd blown it, even though I'd tried hard to be good. I guess I passed the test, though, because my weight was down 0.4 pounds from yesterday morning. Only three more days of feeding frenzy to survive. I hope I make it.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Challenging Weekend Ahead

One of the toughest diet-related challenges for me is to take a pass on food during social situations. It's easy, when I'm at home, to eat appropriately. It's easy to count calories, figure out what I'm allowed to have, and go from there.

It's much tougher when I have to do the same in social situations. Restaurants are dangerous. Being invited over to someone's house is even worse. This weekend, I've got two friends/family BBQ/potluck gatherings to attend, and I know they are going to be tough.

Both involve really good food served buffet-style, which is the hardest to resist.

I wish I could just not go, but both parties involve gatherings for a military friend who will be deployed to Iraq next weekend. A week from tomorrow she'll be saying goodbye to all her friends and family and getting on a plane headed for one of the most dangerous parts of the world. If we are all very lucky, she'll return home safely in six months. If not, her tour of duty could be extended, or she could come home injured or worse.

Facing a diet challenge is the least I can do, given the circumstances. But I still wish I didn't have to go. I wish my friend wasn't leaving in the first place. Regardless of how one feels about the war (pro or con), it's very hard to say goodbye to a friend knowing her life will be in jeopardy every single minute that she's there.

Even if we didn't have the family gatherings, I expect this weekend will be tough, anyway. The Kid has been exhibiting some pretty challenging behaviors of late, which means the stress level in the house is high. Although I'm not prone to stress-induced binges, I do tend to be less willing to make the effort regarding wise food choices when I'm stressed. When things are tough at home, it's hard to be focused on making good choices in other areas.

Oh well, things always get better. I just wish I had a big enough freezer.

Double Digits

Today is the first day where my official weigh-in has shown a total loss that finally makes it into double-digit numbers. Although 11.2 pounds is still a small amount in the overall amount of weight I have to lose, it feels like a start. A small milestone has been achieved.

Any time someone has to lose more than 100 pounds (or in my case 139 pounds) every 10-pound mark is important. I've lost a bit more than 10 pounds in a month, so if I'm able to keep up the pace, I'll be at my goal weight in approximately 13 months. If I keep it up, by the end of summer I should be at my first mini-goal of 218 pounds. If I make that goal, then my BMI will finally be below 30, and then I'll be able to tell people that I'm just obese, instead of morbidly obese.

That sounds pretty twisted, doesn't it? "Hey, guess what, I'm obese! Isn't that great news?"

See, this is another reason why I'm not telling people I'm on a diet. Nobody would ever understand why someone is happy to be obese.

I suspect my mother would roll her eyes and say, "that's gross!"

So far, nobody has noticed any changes in my body, and in a way I'm grateful. Although it's nice to be complimented, when you lose a lot of weight, people have to mention how fat you were before. "Hey, you look great!" is really a nicer way of saying , "OMG, you were so fat before, you look much better now." Yeah, it's a compliment, but I'm not sure it's something I want to be complimented on in the first place.

The commenter I dread the most is my mother. I do have to give her credit for being honest and saying what she thinks, but sometimes I don't want to hear what she has to say. When she starts noticing that I'm losing weight, I expect to hear a lot of comments about how fat I was before. Once I've lost the weight, I don't think I'm going to want to be continually reminded about how humongous I was before. I certainly don't want to forget that I was morbidly obese, as forgetting where you came from breeds complacency, but I don't want to be reminded every minute of the day, either.

We'll see. Maybe I'm just not giving her enough credit.

Weekly Weigh-In #5

This week, my body composition doesn't look as good as it did last week, but my weight is definitely down.
Weight       245.8 lbs (-3.6)
Body Fat 48.8 % (+0.4)
Body H20 36.5 % (-0.9)
Bone Mass 7.9 lbs (+0.5)
Muscle Mass 49.1 lbs (-3.1)
For the moment, I'm less concerned about body composition as I am about overall numbers. At the moment, the sheer bulk of my body gets in the way of exercise. Last night's sit-ups went rather poorly. Although I used to be able to zap out 100 sit-ups in a very short amount of time when I was fit, last night I could barely do 30 (3 sets of 10 reps) and I wasn't able to pull my elbows all the way to my knees. Part of that problem was caused by my fat getting in my way, and part of it was that my stomach muscles are just too weak to do the job.

I guess that's just another thing to work on.

In addition to my sit-ups, I did a few other floor exercises, and it's pretty clear that before I do much in the way of sit ups, push-ups, leg lifts, etc., I clearly need to lose more weight. Although it didn't hurt, my knees and hips creaked and groaned in rather ominous-sounding ways, so I think I'll stick to walking and stair climbing for now. If my joints are sounding like old rusty hinges, that's probably a warning that I'm trying to do too much, too soon.

Overall I'm pleased with my progress. As of today, I've lost a total of 11.2 pounds, for an average loss of 2.24 pounds a week. Not bad.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

When Family Members Undermine Exercise

There are times when I really hate being a parent. Right now is one of them. We went out to eat dinner at my favorite hamburger place, and I enjoyed dinner, but I really wanted to exercise this evening by walking up and down the stairs at a neighboring office building.

Sadly, The Kid managed to screw it up. She misbehaved pretty significantly during an extra-curricular activity today, so we sent her to bed early as a consequence. Since she's in bed (and nowhere mature enough to be left in the house alone, even though we'd be walking only three blocks away) we can't go stair climbing.

Rats. I guess I'll go do some sit-ups on the living room floor, but that's not really what I had in mind.

My father used to say that it was too bad you can't put kids in the deep-freeze when they turn 13, and then thaw 'em out again when they turn 21. I'm wishing that actually worked, though the way I'm feeling, I wouldn't wait until age 13. The Kid would be going in that freezer right now, at age 11.

It's Hard to be Good on Thursdays

For me, Thursday is the hardest day of my diet. Every Thursday, I face my strongest incentives to stay on track because my weekly weigh-in is the following morning. Yet, at the same time, I have the strongest temptation to over-indulge, because it's the night we almost always go out to eat.

Every Thursday, for at least the past 15 years, a local hamburger restaurant has featured Swiss Potato Soup. Although I've looked on the Internet for recipes, I've never been able to quite duplicate the taste. This particular soup tastes exactly like clam chowder, minus the clams, plus a whole heaping lot of Swiss cheese. It's creamy, it's cheesy, and boy is it tasty. I have no idea how many calories the soup contains per serving, but I'm sure it's a lot. The soup is rich and creamy, probably made with whole milk and/or cream, and bucket loads of cheese.

I love the stuff, and I can only get it on Thursdays.

This particular restaurant also has some of the best hamburgers in the world. You can order your burger any way you like, even if you have odd tastes. The chef will happily add things like peanut butter or pineapple to your sandwich if you are so inclined.

If the burgers weren't good (bad?) enough, there's also the problem of their French Fries. They are golden, delicious, and served piping hot. Their "regular" fry order is more than enough to feed four or five people generously. A half or quarter order is more than plenty for two. Their regular fries make McD's super-sized fries look positively stingy in comparison.

It's a dieter's nightmare, but a tastebud's heaven.

Nearly every Thursday, we go to this restaurant, because I just can't live without my favorite soup. Back in the old days, My SO and I would each order a bowl of soup, a fully-loaded hamburger, and split a full order (sometimes a half order) of fries. This would come on the heels of eating a full breakfast and lunch, plus perhaps a snack.

These days, we go easy on breakfast and lunch (shooting for less than 500 calories total) skip the fries (cry!), split a burger, and still have our bowls of soup. We walk away quite satisfied, but every Friday morning I know that if I hadn't had my favorite Thursday meal, I would see better results on the scale. Every Friday morning I say to myself, we shouldn't have had soup and burgers last night.

The sad trend that I've been noticing lately is that dinner seems to affect my weight the most. If I go to bed hungry, I'm guaranteed to see a drop on the scale. If I go to bed satisfied, I'll probably see an increase in my weight from the day before. Two nights ago, I went to bed so hungry I wanted to cry and I saw a 2.5 pound drop overnight. Last night, I went to bed full, and gained 2 pounds back.

I shouldn't go out to eat tonight. I should stay home and have a salad. Instead I'll go out and have my bowl of soup and regret it in the morning, simply because they don't make swimming pools filled with the stuff. If they did, I'd swim in it.

Maybe this week I'll have a cup of soup instead of a bowl.


Heavy Healthcare

I'm sure this has already been reported on, but it's worth mentioning again. According to a recent study, obese women are less likely to be screened for cancer than their less-heavy counterparts. Although it's certainly an interesting question, the study didn't come to any stunning conclusions as to why people didn't get their exams like they should.

I have a few guesses of my own.

First off, there is a link between poverty and obesity. At least in part, the American obesity epidemic is linked to the fact that it's often cheaper and faster to go to the Golden Arches and buy yourself a McMeal on their two for $2 menu than it is to go to the store buy healthy food. In my own experience, it's more expensive to buy healthy food. If someone is on a tight food budget, I expect that medical care is an unaffordable luxury as well.

Secondly, I expect that a lot of women don't go in simply because of the hassle factor. I hate going to the doctor's office because it's a headache. I have a stressful job and missing work means I have to pay for it later. I haven't had a real vacation in years, mainly because I'm indispensable, and if I'm not there, people get stuck and can't do their jobs. If I'm going to take time off of work, I want to do it for something I enjoy, not for the simple displeasure of having to be weighed and hassled by my doctor. (In all fairness, though, I should note that my last visit to the doctor was not all that bad, and she didn't even bring up the issue of my weight.)

I imagine going to the doctor when you are thin isn't much fun. Let's face it -- getting up on that table to get your private area poked and scraped for an annual exam isn't on anyone's top ten fun things to do list. It's even worse when you know your doctor or the office staff is thinking bad things about you, even if you are lucky enough that they don't say anything.

Sobering Thoughts

DVRs are the greatest invention since sliced bread. Well, maybe not. I think there have been several pretty cool inventions since then, like the toaster, the food processor, and my favorite car of all time, the first-generation Scion xB.

But for the moment, my DVR rules the world as the best invention of all time, because it allows me to watch television programs when I wish, and it allows me to fast-forward through the commercials*. Woo! No commercials means I can zoom through a 1-hour program in 45 minutes. What a time saver.

One of the programs I watch regularly on my DVR is Inside Brookhaven Obesity Clinic. I watch it, partially because it gives me a lot of motivation to stick to my diet, and partially because I have a sick fascination watching people who are at least twice my weight. Although the whole thing makes me a little ill, the more I watch, the more I see the people on the show with a great deal of sympathy.

For those not acquainted with the series, it's a show based on the lives of patients housed in a New York obesity clinic. It shows their successes and dismal failures, and gives a pretty clear picture of what life in an obesity hospital is like. The most recent show covered a 410-pound woman who decided to go to Brookhaven when she could no longer use the bathroom by herself, and a 700-pound man from Illinois who was transported to Brookhaven because he'd spent the last nine years in a nursing home because he was so large.

The show was pretty sobering. They filmed a nurse helping the woman clean herself while she lay on her back hoisting her enormous stomach out of the way. The man was so heavy he couldn't even get out of bed. By the end of the show, he'd lost more than 50 pounds and was walking, but during the final credits, there was a short announcement saying that the episode was dedicated to him because he had died shortly after filming.

It's a pretty scary thought -- the guy lived for nine years, completely bedridden, and then died after starting to lose weight and get back on his feet. It's both incredibly sad and scary. It reminds me of my own mortality.

Could I croak from my own diet?

If that news wasn't sobering enough, yesterday's post from Tales from the Scales was equally frightening. Beth reported that "a post menopausal woman doubles her risk for breast cancer if she gained as little as 20 pounds before menopause."

Okay, so if I don't drop dead from my diet, or get breast cancer because I've been overweight, maybe I'll have a chance at a good life.


* Well I fast-forward through all of them, except for those awful Geico Caveman advertisements. I can't help myself -- I just have to find out what they will say and do next. It's too bad ABC has decided to make a television series out of these attention-getting advertisements, because they aren't using the original commercial's actors, and after watching the preview clip, I'm sure it will be a horrendous flop.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Here Kitty, Kitty, Kitty...

Since I know I have readers of varying backgrounds, and I try not to be deliberately offensive, I figure if I'm going to talk about something that's borderline in the tastefulness department, it's only fair I give warning to people who might find a post objectionable.

Consider yourself so warned.

This is something that I've been thinking about for a while, but haven't really articulated it to anyone because, well, it's just not the thing you talk about in polite company.

I know a lot of dieters complain that they can't see their feet. Well, I can't see my feet either if I stand straight up and look straight down. My stomach blocks the view better than my kid standing in front of the evening news, so I can only examine my feet if I sit down, and hoist one up into my lap.

So here's how my regular examinations go: First, I sit down. Hup! Foot is in my lap. One, two, three, four, five. Yup, all my toes are there. I should probably clip my right toenail because it's a little long, but otherwise everything is okay. Now, check the other side. Hup! One, two, three, three and a half (oops, toe jam, flick) four, five. Check. Everything is normal there. Sniff. No smell. Good. Now that I've had a happy visit with my ten toes, I don't have to worry about them for a while. Everybody is clean, happy and wiggly.


So I can pretty much examine all parts of my body. I can look down and see my front, I can stand in the mirror and see my back (frightening though my butt may be) and of course I can see my face, my hair and my hands. That's all good. I can see everything, except for one thing.

What part is that you ask?

Well, it's that place below my...


I just paused in my blog entry to look down to see my next door neighbor's cat, Oscar the Orange, rubbing himself on my ankles. Apparently he's managed to sneak into our house again. "Meow," he says amicably to everyone.

I have to kick him out because my SO is allergic. "Bad puddy!" I scold him as I gently toss him out the back door.

Okay, now where was I?

Oh yeah. Body parts. The ones I can't see.

Well I'm sure by Oscar's appearance, you can figure out what body part I'm talking about.

"Meow!" Oscar is offended and scratching at the door.

So my fat rant for the day is this: I am getting really tired of having to lift my big fat stomach out of the way to pay a visit to my undercarriage. What's weird is that my stomach never seemed to be in my way, and then all of a sudden, there it was. When I stand in front of a mirror with nothing but my underpants on, my stomach obscures the entire view. Unless I look beforehand, or turn around and aim my bum to the mirror, I'd never be able to guess what color underwear I am wearing.

I'm tired of having to hoist my gut up out of the way to wash, and I'm tired of the skin irritation caused by the bottom of my stomach rubbing on the top of my...

"Fur!" my SO just exclaimed. I guess Oscar left his calling card. "Achoo!"

I wonder how much weight I'll have to lose before this annoying problem goes away.


No, not you, Oscar...

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

No Swimming After All

Warning: Gross post about female bodily functions ahead.

Well, the best of intentions got waylaid.

Swimming didn't get canceled because we chickened out. It didn't get canceled because we decided we were too fat to go. It was canceled because of The Kid. We were all ready to head out the door in our swimsuits, with our towels in hand when The Kid says, "but what do I do about my period?"


Her period started last week, so I thought she was done with it already. Had I known she was still in the middle of things, so to speak, I wouldn't have suggested swimming in the first place. She's been getting her period for about a year now, so I figured now was the time for her to learn menstrual lesson #2: how to use a tampon. Off to the bathroom I went, where I dug in the cabinet for supplies. I pulled out a box of Tampax, removed one from the box, and unwrapped it. I showed her (using my left hand to form a pseudo vagina) how to insert it, and where the string should end up. After that demonstration, we got online and I showed her pictures of a woman's vulva to explain exactly where the "right" hole is located. After that, we went to the Tampax Web site, and viewed the handy dandy Tampax instructions and video.

Sadly, The Kid couldn't figure out how to insert the tampon, which in turn canceled our swim plans.

I'm trying to be sympathetic, because I do remember how hard inserting a tampon was the first time. I had to figure it out on my own, because my mother never used them, and I wanted to go swimming with friends. It was do or die, and I sat on the toilet cursing while I poked around at my unmentionable bits trying to shove that funny little tube literally where the sun don't shine. Eventually, I figured it out, and went happily to the swimming pool, after half a box of aborted attempts ended up in the trash can.

I am trying to be sympathetic, but frankly I'm a little annoyed. The Kid has been a huge baby about her period from the very start. She's somehow got it in her mind that she's not going to grow up, and if she wishes hard enough, the whole thing will go away.

"Just stuff it in there and let's go," I wanted to tell her. Instead, I pretended to be sympathetic and supportive.

No swimming tonight.

Taking the Plunge (Literally)

I use a well-known checkbook management program that can download credit card transactions from the web. This morning, as I was reviewing the transactions, I noticed the charge for the two bathing suits I bought this weekend.

Even with discounts, I spent a whopping $148.86 on swim wear. I was appalled when I walked out of the store. Now I'm even more appalled. It's one thing to walk out of the store with a huge receipt, because you can just stuff it in your pocket and forget about it. It's another thing entirely to see the transaction sitting in your credit card register in the harsh light of day.

What are those suits made of, anyway?

Gold? No.
Platinum? No.
Silk made from hand-raised silkworms? No.

I checked the label. They are made from your everyday, garden-variety nylon and spandex.


So now that the overpriced shmatas are sitting on the dresser, we'd darn well better use them.

There's only one teeny-tiny problem with that: Using the swimsuits means we have to put them on, drive over to the municipal pool, and swim, in public in front of G-d and everybody.

Did anybody hear the sound of my hysterical screaming echoing across the blogosphere?

I know that G-d isn't going to care one way or another. If G-d has eyes, She/He/It has already seen me naked (which is a far more terrible experience than viewing me in a swimsuit) so that's not the problem. The problem is everybody else who will be looking at me.

When I was thinner, I'd look at people when I was out in public and make comments to myself about what I saw. When I'd see people who were really overweight, I'd think some pretty scathing things about them as they walked by. The fatter they were, the worse I'd think about them. People with the dreaded stomach butt [warning: ugly picture!] got the worst.

So now the tables are turned, and I'm the jello-butt that's going to be walking across the pool deck. I'm just glad I won't be able to hear what people are thinking. If I'm lucky, I won't be the fattest person there. Then at least I'll be able to say to myself, "Yeah, I'm fat, but the lady in the striped bathing suit over there is way fatter than I am!"

Ugh, what a lousy comparison.

When I see people larger than I am, I go through a list of emotions: fear, disgust, pity, and relief. I feel fear because I'm afraid that if I don't do something, I'll end up looking like them. I feel disgust because no matter how often fat advocates try to argue otherwise, fat just isn't attractive. I feel pity because I know what it's like to be fat, and it's not fun. I feel relieved that I am not as fat as some other people, and think, "There but for the grace of G-d go I."

So I'll get in the the pool this evening, suck it up, and pretend nobody can see me.

Debating Medically Supervised Weight Loss

Although I'm pleased with my current weight loss progress as far as it goes, I have to admit to giving some thought to joining a medically-supervised weight loss program for at least a little while to jump start my progress. I've been doing pretty well, but I wonder if I might feel better about my overall progress if I went on one of the supervised VLCD (very low calorie diet) programs for a while.

Although I should be happy with what I've lost, I'm still feeling a bit discouraged. I wonder if dropping a big chunk quickly (say maybe 30% of what I need to lose) would boost my motivation. At the rate things are going, it will be more than a year before I'm at my goal weight and that's just pretty darn discouraging to think about. If I joined a medically-supervised VLCD, I could drop 30-40 pounds in a relatively short amount of time, and then the total time to my goal would be a lot less.

Of course I recognize that there are a lot of disadvantages to that approach. First off, VLCDs, even the protein-sparing diets, have the big disadvantage of lowering your metabolism after a period of time. When you go back to eating regular food, it's very easy to put the weight back on. The biggest disadvantage, though, is the cost. I talked to the folks at the weight loss center at our local health clinic, and they tell me that their basic food program costs $87/week. That's their basic program -- the lady said she'd have to call me back with information for their VLCD program because they only administer that program to their heaviest patients the fattest of the fat.

$377/month is a lot of coin to spend on special diet food for one person, especially when you still have to buy your own fresh fruit and vegetables along with it. I've already blogged about the high cost of dieting, and the more I research it, the more I realize there's no inexpensive way to do it.

I realize that a medically-supervised VLCD isn't going to be a quick fix. I'm still going to have to stick to a diet and (blah) exercise program over the long term. I just wonder if getting a quick boost might be a way to improve my attitude towards the entire process.

A lot will depend on what they say about costs. The idea of drinking meal replacement shakes for weeks or months on end sounds pretty unappealing, but maybe the results might be worth it. We'll see what they have to say, I guess.

May Day Weight Loss Challenge Weigh-In #2

Well today marks week two of the May Day Weight Loss Challenge. I'm happy to report that my weight this morning was 245.6, down 0.8 lbs since last week. I've lost a total of 11.4 lbs since I started my diet, and 4.2 lbs since I started the challenge.

While my 0.8 lb loss is not a stunning drop, it's progress in the right direction, especially since I attended several parties during the week, including a Hawaiian luau where I consumed (gasp) two Mai Tais.

Boy, they were good, too! I didn't regret a sip, though I noticed the bartender was extra-generous with the rum. Wee!

Uh oh. Now I feel the disapproving stares from all the non-drinkers out there in the blogosphere. Sorry if I offended anyone. Heh*.

The nicest part of the luau was that my family members who were there didn't know I'm on a diet. Therefore, I didn't get the usual disapproving looks when I decided to indulge myself. My mother decided to join me in the Mai Tais, and we ended up doing a fair amount of giggling together. Had she known I am on a diet, I expect she would have been asking me, "Should you be drinking this?"

(My answer would have been, "No, but I'm going to anyway.")

Overall, I'm pleased with my progress, and I've definitely managed to ditch the lousy mood I was in yesterday.

I'm still waiting for, but haven't noticed, changes in my body, the way I feel or the way my clothes fit. Everything still feels more or less the same. The only thing I have noticed is that my bed seems more comfortable than before. I used to wake up every morning with a dreadfully sore back, and I had to get out of bed quickly because I hurt so much. Sleeping in on a Saturday morning was definitely not an option. My bed has mysteriously become more comfortable, and I see that as both a good and a bad thing. The good thing is that I won't be tempted to spend money I don't have on a new mattress, but the bad thing is that it makes it harder to be motivated to get out of bed during the week. Let's face it, I'm an inherently lazy person, and a comfy bed gives me one more excuse not to do what I'm supposed to be doing.

* Truth be told, I'm not a very big drinker. I'll be the first one to admit that I love my adult beverages, but I don't consume them very often because of the expense and empty calories. It's a good thing that alcohol is expensive, because if it weren't, I'd be even chubbier and I'd look even more like Homer Simpson than I already do. "Mmmmmm, beer," is pretty much how I feel about the stuff, too.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Hardest Thing About Weight Loss

I know a lot of dieters complain that the hardest thing about losing weight is sticking to a food plan and staying motivated with their exercise plan. Most people have a lot of trouble with uncontrollable cravings which for the most part don't trouble me.

Now I'll admit I hate to exercise, so that part is somewhat hard for me. Even when I was in good shape and able to swim and run several times a week, I just wasn't into it. I hated every minute I was exercising, and that hasn't changed the heavier I've become. But truly, that's not the hardest part of weight loss.

The hardest part for me is just all the waiting around you have to do.

It's easy to count calories. It's pretty easy to be more active (even if I hate it), but once I've eaten what I'm supposed to eat, and exercised like I'm supposed to, there's nothing else I can do but sit around and wait. There's nothing I can do to rush the process more than I'm already doing, so the rest of the time I just have to try and find something else to do. Sure, I can surf the blogosphere, write in my own blog about how I'm feeling, or pretend to work, but really that's just a time-killing effort to distract myself from the fact that I'm waiting to lose weight.

It's kind of boring, really.

Yeah, I suppose there's something to be said about going off and just living the rest of my life, but in a way it feels like it's on hold. Losing weight has moved to the top of my priority queue, and I don't care as much about other aspects of my life. Add to that the fact that there are a lot of activities that I might enjoy that I'm just too heavy to do right now. I used to love horseback riding, but there's no way I can do it now. I doubt I could get on the horse, and even if I did manage to climb aboard, I'd probably break the poor beast's back.

Even though I despise exercising, I also realize that some of the fat has to come off before I can do much in that department. At this point, running would probably give me a heart attack or an irreparable knee injury. I think it's a bad idea to pound my femur into the top of my tibia while trying to jog down the street. Besides, even if I didn't die (literally or figuratively) doing it, I would probably frighten all the small children or be chased by neighborhood dogs. What is that hideous monster rolling down the street? Is an ostrich, is it an elephant? No, it's just Oinkstop pounding holes in the sidewalk, while trying to get in shape.

Right now, my exercise regimen is pretty much limited to walking or stair climbing at a nearby office building. I could go swimming if I could just get up the courage to go to the municipal pool in my new bathing suit. I just don't know if I can stomach that, though. Although the suit fits, I look pretty bad in it.

When I was kid, my mother would take me grocery shopping. Every once in a while, she'd spot someone who was 100+ pounds overweight. "Oh gross," she would whisper to me, "that woman is so obese!" She'd hiss out the words like they were something vulgar and despicable.

I didn't realize it until I looked at my bathing suit pictures yesterday. I have become one of the people my mother used to insult under her breath.

Dieting Destroys Sex Drive

My mood is much better after reading the following story I found on an UK site:
Dieting can lower a woman's sex drive and wreak havoc on relationships, according to a new survey.

The study found that half (49%) of females experienced a decreased libido after going on a diet.

Watching your calories can also put additional stress on a relationship as just under half (48 %) of women surveyed admitted to lying to their partner about their weight.
I just about laughed out loud when I read this news. The irony is not lost on me, because I always thought losing weight was supposed to improve your sex life.

I guess this falls into the damned if you do, damned if you don't category. On the other hand, there was one tid-bit mentioned in the UK article that makes me feel a lot better. Apparently, every British woman is believed to diet for 31 years on average.

At least I haven't been at it that long.

Ebb Tide

This morning, I'm feeling like I'm at an emotional ebb tide. Although the news on the scale this morning was good, I'm worn out. I didn't sleep well last night, and I found out this morning that we have unexpected, unavoidable and really big bill coming our way. I expect we are going to need to come up with a payment that is equal to, or slightly greater than, our mortgage payment on very short notice. This is really going to mess up our finances.

Yeah, I know everyone should have three to six months set aside as emergency savings, but we just don't have it. Housing in our area costs so much that it's not funny. Add to that health insurance premiums that equal about 2/3 of our mortgage payment every month, and it's pretty much guaranteed that we run out of money long before we run out of month. We are on a financial diet as well as a calorie-restricted one, but there's some realities one just can't avoid.

I feel like I'm caught in some crazy middle-class kind of poverty. We make decent money, but by the time we cover our mortgage, insurance and utility bills, there's not much left over for anything else. Of course we are lucky in that we don't have a lot of debt. We owe on our mortgage, of course, and we have one car that's not paid off, but we have no other outstanding bills, and most importantly, no credit card debt.

I look around at my neighbors, though, and I wonder how they do it. They buy new cars every several years (we bought our first new car in 17 years last summer), they remodel their homes and their yards, they wear fancy clothes, and their kids are in expensive extracurricular activities that I only dream of affording. I wonder if they are just up to their eyeballs in debt, or if they are just making a lot more money than we are. One family just added a second story to their home, for a total of $100,000 in remodeling costs. Unbelievable.

Looks like we'll probably have to put this monster bill on one of our credit cards and tighten our belts to make sure it gets paid off quickly. My guess is we'll have to cancel our summer vacation plans.

Losing vacation yet another summer in a row isn't a huge surprise. Although I'm disappointed, I'm not that disappointed. I haven't been able to take a vacation in 10 years because I've found myself stuck every year between one of two problems: either I have time off but no money, or I have money but no time off. This year the problem is a combination of two problems -- I only have a week off, but the money I planned to spend on vacation (and then some) has suddenly evaporated.

Don't worry, we'll get through it. We always do.

At least this isn't as bad as some of the financial crises we've been through in years past. Ten years ago I was in far worse shape than we are now. Ten years ago I was technically homeless, living in substandard housing because I lost my home to foreclosure. This is a very small crisis compared to that.

I do wonder, though, how much of my weight problem can be attributed to years of living in that middle class poverty zone. For many years, I made what seemed like a relatively good salary, but after all the mandatory bills were paid there wasn't much left over for food or gasoline. I cut corners, I skimped, and I ate a lot of macaroni and cheese and ramen noodle soup. I didn't shop for clothes, shoes, or anything. If I desperately needed something, I'd buy it at a thrift store. My underwear was all full of holes. I can remember remarking to someone that I was getting fat on food I didn't even like, and I understood why so many poor people were obese.

Things are better now that our household consists of two wage earners and only one child, but I look around and it seems like a lot of people are doing much better than us. I wonder if they are actually doing better than we, or if they are just up past their eyeballs in debt.

My emotional ebb tide wasn't caused just by the money issue. Last night, I decided it would be a good idea to take pictures of me in my new bathing suit so that I would have them to compare to my later "after" pictures. When I look in the mirror, I can see that I'm fat, but the photos make me seem so much larger. When I look at myself in the mirror, there's no question that I need to lose quite a few pounds. When I look at the photos, I feel a little grossed-out.

That's me? I think when I look at the pictures. How could that be?

I haven't decided whether or not I'll post those pictures online. I'm embarrassed and disgusted. I don't even recognize myself.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Swimsuit Shopping

Just the title of this post probably raises most readers' blood pressure by one or two posts. In my experience there is nothing worse than shopping for a bathing suit if you are overweight obese.

This morning, though, everyone in the house decided we had to buy bathing suits. Our kid likes to swim, and she already has one. However, the two adult lard balls chez nous have no such attire. The kid has been complaining, "you never take me to the pool!"

Her accusations are fair enough. After all, it's not a lot of fun to pay for our kid to swim for two hours while we sit on the rock hard benches watching her have fun while we breathe the over-chlorinated indoor air. We did it when one of our daughter's friends had her 10th birthday party, and it was a drag. We did it grudgingly in support of the birthday girl, who happens to be the daughter of a dear friend. We haven't been too eager to pay money to be bored ever since.

When we set off our our swimsuit shopping adventure, I expected to blog about the trials and tribulations of finding a swimsuit. I expected to blog about all the stores we visited, all the ugly suits we didn't buy, and the endless frustration in finding that the largest suits on the racks were still at least 10 sizes too small.

I mentioned to my stepmother (who is also large but shrinking) and she suggested we save ourselves some frustration and just drive up to a chain specialty shop that carries only large women's clothes. Since it's close to a specialty grocery store chain my stepmother loves, we brought her along for the ride.

With a minimum of fuss and hassle, we found swim suits that fit. I bought a suit that was a two-piece set where the tops and bottoms were sold separately. The bottoms looked like Lycra running shorts, and the top was kind of a shirt-looking thing with spaghetti straps. I'm glad the suits were sold as separates, because I had to buy the bottoms in a larger size than the top. I was lucky, the first set of bottoms I picked off the rack fit (they were the largest size) and I only had to try on two tops to get the right size.

I'm not thrilled with the suit, but the worst of my ugly bits are at least covered. I won't look any worse than the other whales we've sighted at the pool. When I jump in, I'll just become another one of the pod. My suit is mostly black with a blue stripe, so perhaps I could pretend I'm a blue whale or something. I just hope I don't confuse the lifeguards -- I wouldn't want them coming after me with a harpoon.

The only really bad part of the swimsuits were their price tags. We paid $70 each for the swimsuits, and that was after the 20% discount. Unbelievable. I have never spent so much money on swimming clothes in my life. When I saw the price tag, I thought about putting the suit back on the rack, but decided against it, only because the amount of whining my kid can exude is probably more than the hassle of paying so much for a pair of swimsuits.

Oh well, at least mine is really stretchy. Hopefully I won't shrink out of it too soon.

Note to self: Now I have yet another reason to lose weight. Stores charge an arm and a leg for plus-sized swim wear.

Q & A

Shannon has asked quite a few questions recently that I think deserve answering in the blog (as opposed to a private e-mail) since I'm sure others will ask the same questions. So here are her questions, asked and answered, for all to see:

Q: What kind of scale do you have? It sounds like that thing should be bringing you breakfast in bed!!

A: I'm using the Homedics Health Station 560. Using electrical impedence, the scale calculates your weight, amount of body water, lean muscle mass, bone mass and body fat. I use the National Institute of Health's Body Mass Index calculator to figure out my current BMI. The scale seems pretty accurate, and usually doesn't give fluctuating readings if you step on the scale 72 times in a row like most digital scales do. It has a maximum capacity of 350 lbs.

Q: Where did you get your caloric intake number?

A: Based on the research I've done, 1,200 calories is the lowest number of calories one can consume on an ongoing basis and still be safe. Given my past weight loss experiences, I know that unless I go to the low end of the calorie ranges, I won't lose an ounce and I'll just frustrate myself. I'm hoping to lose somewhere between 10-30 pounds relatively quickly, and then I may look at upping my calories a bit more, especially as I get into better shape. Right now, when my percentage of body fat is hovering near 50%, there's just not much lean muscle to burn calories.

Q: What kind/type of exercise(s) are you doing?

A: Right now I don't have an organized program. Some days I walk, some days I climb up and down stairs at a nearby office building, and some days I don't do a damn thing. Truth be told, I hate exercising. Yeah, I know it's good for me, yeah I know it will preserve my lean body mass, yeah, yeah, yeah. I still hate it. Even the two times when I was in the best shape of my life (sophomore year in high school when I was on the swim team and college when I was swimming several days a week and running several times a week) I still hated it. Every stroke I swam, and every step I ran, I literally counted the minutes until I was done. People always say, "don't you feel better when you exercise?" My answer has always been a resounding "no."

No Weight Loss Groups for Me

As I mentioned as an aside in my post The High Cost of Losing Weight, I have somewhat of a reputation for not playing well with others. It's not that I don't try, it's just that by some quirk of nature I don't usually fit in with groups very well. I'm the square peg that just can't be pounded into a round hole, and as much as I might try to be like everyone else, people recognize me as being the zebra with no stripes.

Add that to the fact that I'm cynical, I laugh at my own jokes, and I'm ruthlessly honest, and I just don't fit in.

A few months ago, my partner and I had to attend some training classes that were taught in a group setting. I was the one that asked the tough questions, the questions that brought up unpopular or uncomfortable subjects. In a way, I became the class hero, because I was asking the questions everyone else was thinking but was too afraid to ask (several other students thanked me after class) but it made the teacher angry because I was thoroughly trashing his pre-defined world view about certain subjects.

Like I say, I don't fit in.

There's a reason, though, that I don't want to join a weight loss group. In the short term, I think they can be very supportive and helpful. In the long term, though, I run out of patience with people because they tend to gripe about the same five problems. I've made a list of the common gripes, and my sarky, but usually unsaid, remarks.

  1. My boyfriend (husband, family, friends, etc.) aren't supportive of my weight loss efforts, and they keep undermining my diet.

    Well, if your boyfriend (husband, family, friends, etc.) aren't supportive, you can either dump them, or go live on a desert island for a while. Remember girls, it's you who decides what does into your mouth, not your boyfriend.

  2. I don't understand why I didn't lose weight this week, I exercised, drank my water, stayed on my food plan, and didn't cheat (well, except for the entire box of Oreos I ate last Tuesday) so I should have lost at least something.

    Quit whining. You didn't stick to your food plan for the entire week. Oreos, especially in such a large number, are guaranteed to stick to your butt.

  3. I ate an entire raft of jelly beans. I just couldn't help myself.

    If you can't control your own behavior, you are never going to lose weight. Throw the damn jelly beans out so you aren't tempted, or lock yourself in a room for the next six months until you can get past your cravings. Sorry gals, you are responsible for your own behavior.

  4. My family won't eat the healthy food I'm preparing for myself.

    See item #1 from the list. If that fails, tell them "too bad" and they can go out to McDonald's every night on their own. You can bid them a fond farewell as they head out the door, "Bye, enjoy killing yourselves!"

  5. I just can't make myself stick to my diet this week!

    Then maybe you should go home and not waste your money. See item #3.
Now, in all honesty, I can't say that I've never been guilty of doing any of the items on this list. I've complained about all of them at one time or another, and I'm sure that pretty much every dieter I know has done the same. I guess the point is that I get tired of listening to other people talk about the things that I hate the most about myself.

For some people, listening to others who have similar problems is helpful. For me, it serves as a further reminder of my own failings, and I despise myself for it.

Oinkstop's report card for the week:

Works well with others: F+

The High Cost of Losing Weight

I know other people have blogged about this before, but there's something that I really don't understand in the way our government subsidizes farming. The government and health watch industries have been complaining for years about how obesity is exploding in the United States, but the way our economy works, it's cheaper to be fat unless you have serious health problems.

Wheat, rice, tobacco, dairy, soybean, peanut, sugar, and honey farmers, among others, received over 8 billion dollars in farm subsidies in 2004. Although it's great those farmers are getting help, because farming can be a really tough business, I also wonder what it's doing to our health as a nation.

Take, for example, the results you see at the grocery store. The last time we went to the store, we discovered we could buy instant ramen soup, which is high in fat, sodium and calories for 33 cents a cup. Bananas, on the other hand, which are actually healthy, cost 89 cents a pound. The last bunch of bananas we bought cost about $3.50 for about 6 servings of bananas. The same number of servings of ramen was only $2.

Now we are a solidly middle class family, so we can afford the $1.50 price difference. Still, over the course of the month, when you start making comparisons across dozens of products it adds up. Here's another scary comparison:
Tropicana 100% Orange Juice (64oz)$4.89
Sunny Delight (64oz)$1.99

Sunny Delight, for those not familiar with the product, is an orange-flavored drink made from the following ingredients: Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup and 2% or Less of each of the Following: Concentrated Juices (Orange, Tangerine, Apple, Lime, Grapefruit), Citric Acid, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Thiamin Hydrochloride (Vitamin B1), Natural Flavors, Modified Cornstarch, Canola Oil, Sodium Citrate, Cellulose Gum, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Hexametaphosphate, Sodium Benzoate to Protect Flavor, Yellow No. 5, Yellow No. 6.

It leaves me shaking my head that our government is so busy complaining about how fat we are becoming as a nation, yet they are subsidizing unhealthy products like tobacco. When unhealthy kid-friendly snacks like a 10-pack of Twinkies is priced at $3.99 while 3-packs of healthy carrots and dip sell for $2.49, it's no darn wonder that kids (and adults) eat crap and people get fatter and fatter and fatter.

If if we forget the costs of eating healthy, there's still the cost of getting fit. In our area, gym memberships add up quick. If you are lucky enough to be heterosexual and married, you can get a family gym membership at the YMCA for $55 per month. If you aren't, then you have to buy individual memberships for everyone in the house for a total cost of $84 per month for two parents and one kid. Our municipal pool charges $3 per adult and $2 for children for a 2-hour swim. They have no discounts and no monthly fees, so if we take our kid swimming 3 times a week, we'd be forking out almost $100/month for the privilege. Another local gym which doesn't take kids wants $59/month if you are willing to let them electronically debit your account for a year. If you don't have a checking account, or you don't have a steady income and can't deal with electronic debiting, then you pay $78/month for two people. If you aren't willing to sign a 1-year contract, they'll let you use the gym on a month-to-month basis for $75 per person per month, or a whopping $150 for a couple.


If the cost of healthy food and gym memberships haven't ruined your monthly budget, the cost of joining a weight-loss plan can be even more astronomical. The Annals of American Medicine published An Evaluation of Major Commercial Weight Loss Programs in the United States (Adobe Acrobat required) in 2005 and discovered the estimated costs for a 3-month program were pretty steep:

Weight Watchers$167
Jenny Craig$1,249
Health Management Resources (medically supervised)$1,700-$2,100
Medifast$840 (doctor visits extra)$65
Take Off Pounds Sensibly$26
Overeaters Anonymous$0 (donations only)

If you are lucky enough to have medical insurance to cover it, medically-supervised programs like Health Management Resources, OPTIFAST and Medifast might be worthwhile, but you still have to figure in the cost of food, which can be pretty expensive. NutriSystem has been advertising heavily on television and in print. If you sign up for their program on an automatic renewal, you'll shell out a whopping $293.72/month for food for one person. Oh, and lets not forget that on their program you still have to buy your own fresh fruits and vegetables.

Although we are solidly middle class, and we don't have to make scary choices between ramen and fresh vegetables to feed our family each month, our budget isn't infinitely elastic. We can't afford to add $600/month to our food budget so we could join a program like NutriSystem, and we definitely couldn't afford a medically-supervised plan. Weight Watchers* is a maybe, but at $12/week for the two of us, the cost would add up fast, and I'm not sure we'd get much more benefit than going it alone.

It's no wonder we Americans are so fat. Given the way our economy is set up, we'll probably continue to be that way, too.

* As an aside, I joined Weight Watchers before (several times) and after a while the meetings got pretty boring. I got tired of listening to fat ladies bitch about the same five problems over and over. But then again, maybe I'm not cut out for weight loss in a group setting. After all, I got an "N" (needs improvement) on my report card in the category "works well with others" when I was a kid.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Inner vs. Outer Voice

This afternoon, my mate took our kid on a school field trip. After the outing was over the phone rang. Here is the conversation that took place:

Mate: We just got done with the school field trip. Kid wants to stop at [Mexican Fast Food Place] and get something. Would you like us to get you anything?

Me: (inner voice) Oh yes! Yes! YES! Bring me back a dozen burritos, some tacos, and some guacamole and sour cream. I'll just spread it on my thighs directly to save myself the trouble of eating it.

Me: (outer voice) Oh, no thanks.

Mate: Would you like us to stop at the store for anything?

Me: (inner voice) Yes you ass, bring me something healthy and suitable from the store. You know we are both supposed to be on a diet.

Me: (outer voice) No, I don't want you to go to any trouble. I'm sure there's something I can find here at the house.

Mate: Are you sure? It really wouldn't be any trouble.

Me: (inner voice) Yeah you are just saying that because you feel guilty that you get to eat more calories than I do, and you've lost twice as much weight as I have. Fine, I'll make you pay for my suffering.

Me: (outer voice) Well, if you really don't mind, I'd like a large mound of broccoli for lunch please.

Morbidly Obese

This morning, I updated my weight loss progress sidebar (now called Oink Stats) to include my goal weight, total pounds lost and BMI numbers.

When I started this program 4 weeks ago, my BMI was 47. According to the National Institute of Health's BMI Calculator, a BMI of 30 or more is considered obese. A BMI of 40 or above is considered morbidly obese, which places me at a 75% higher risk for mortality than people of normal weight.

Such encouraging news for a Saturday.

The good news(?) is that at least I don't fall into the super-obese category. Those are folks with a BMI of 50 or more. To achieve that dubious honor, I'd need to tip the scales 274 pounds, or another 17 pounds higher than where I was when I started, or another 25 pounds from where I am now.

25 pounds. That's not all much weight. It's pretty sobering to think about.

The other good news is that I don't have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes, the big three health problems of overweight obese people. As far as I know, I don't have sleep apnea, but it's too late for my gallbladder. I lost that sucker in my early 30's, though looking back I was having symptoms as early as my 20's. (I wasn't really overweight back then, but I suspect years of dieting may have contributed to the problem.)

I have noticed (recently) that I sometimes snore at night. Hopefully, losing weight will eliminate that problem, since I think snoring is one of the most unforgivable acts a person can do. It's noise pollution at it's worst. When I was a kid, my mother (not overweight, but used to be a smoker) would fall asleep on the sofa while watching TV. She'd lay there and snore, eventually becoming so so loud she'd wake herself up. She'd snort, raise her head, and then glare at us kids malevolently, thinking we were responsible for the abrupt end to her nap.

Okay, so now that I have all the bad news about my weight, I guess I should go do something about it. Since going off and sitting in the corner and crying about it won't help, I guess instead I'll just go eat a big plate of broccoli, and hope my next weigh-in is better.

Friday, May 18, 2007

More Motivation

A shout-out goes to Shannon for telling me about the following blog:

Pastaqueen, over at Half of Me, reports that Leonard Nimoy (aka Mr. Spock from Star Trek) is taking nude photographs of obese women. If you visit Pastaqueen's blog, you'll find a link to a New York Times story about Nimoy's project, and a link to the actual photos themselves. Although the pictures are what I would consider tasteful nudes, I found them very disturbing.

Our culture has made fat ugly. When I looked at the pictures, I was disgusted. My first unedited thought was, "how could someone let themselves get so large?" I felt like I was watching a train wreck. I wanted to turn away, but I couldn't. With sick fascination, I viewed every picture, every sagging breast, roll of fat, and over-sized pair of buttocks.

Then I realized the painful truth:

I look just like the women in those pictures.

I am disgusted with myself. I don't want to look like those women.

Weekly Weigh-In #4

As I feared yesterday, my weight was up this morning:
Weight       249.4 lbs
Body Fat 48.4 %
Body H20 37.4 %
Bone Mass 7.4 lbs
Muscle Mass 52.2 lbs
This morning's weigh-in was pretty frustrating. When I first woke up, I stepped on the scale and got a weight of 248.2. That weight was up from Tuesday's weigh-in, but still down from last Friday. When I weighed again a few minutes later to measure my body fat percentage, my weight jumped a whole pound. My official weight is +0.2 from last Friday.

Oh bother.

I went back to bed to sulk for a while, drank some water, got up later and went to the bathroom again, and my weight dropped to 248.4.

I hate weighing in.

On the plus side, I can see that my percentage of body fat is down by 1.4 percentage points and my lean muscle mass is up 3.1 lbs from when I started. I can also see that my body water percentage is up almost 2 percentage points from last week, so that could explain why I have the less-than-happy numbers on the scale.

Still, I'm a little disappointed. I was hoping today's numbers would be lower than Tuesday's.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Bodily Functions

When I started this blog, I planned not to talk much about bodily functions. I've noticed a lot of bloggers, especially those blogging about weight loss, tend to write about female cycles or their bowel habits, and it kind of squigged me out a little bit.

But suddenly, it all seems so relevant.

About seven years ago, I discovered, most unpleasantly, that I had gallstones. After one night in the emergency room with the most excruciating pain, vomiting and diarrhea I've ever experienced, I ended up on the operating table, and the offending organ was removed. Sadly, I was not one of the folks who escaped the surgery without post-surgical side-effects. I'm one of the unlucky 10% who ended up with symptoms that mimic Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Although my surgeon assured me that the problem would go away quickly, I've made frequent trips to the bathroom for the past seven years. I make so many trips that I have to buy the softest (and most expensive) bathroom tissue, so that I don't rub my poor and overworked behind raw. It's pretty typical to see me making a mad dash for the potty 20-30 minutes after I've eaten, and I know where every toilet is within a 50-mile radius. I've also learned the importance of skipping meals when I'm traveling so I don't get caught short.

The problem sometimes is better and sometimes worse, but it never completely goes away. When I'm having a particularly bad spell, I can go days, sometimes as much as a week, without being able to leave the house. A few years ago, I had to get my doctor to write me a letter to get me out of jury duty, because there was no way I was going to be able to sit through a trial without leaving at unpredictable moments. I told the jury commissioner I'd be happy to serve if they could provide me with a PottyTron (think JumboTron television for the bathroom) but they declined and instructed me to get a note from my doctor instead.

I've tried all sorts of different remedies that are supposed to help, but nothing worked for long. I've tried supplements, increasing my fiber intake, spacing my meals, decreasing my fat intake, increasing my fat intake, and even jumping up and down and saying "wubba." Nothing worked. My doctor has tried to get me to take a prescription drug that is supposed to help, but the medication in question tastes nasty, and it's just another expense to add to my usually-overstretched budget. Most of the time it's something I can manage with just a little bit of planning ahead.

The good news in all of this is that I never get constipated, and I never get food poisoning. Stuff moves through too quickly to make me sick. My mother and I went to a Chinese restaurant once and she got infected with e. coli. We ate the same stuff, but she was sick for a couple of weeks until she went to her doctor. I had tummy trouble for a couple of hours, and chalked it up to a bad no-gallbladder day.

Tomorrow, I'm supposed to check in for my weekly weigh-in, and I'm not looking forward to it. I expect that I've gained weight.

Why, you ask?

Well it's not because I've done a horrible job with my food plan this week. With the exception of Wednesday night, I've been right on target with what I planned to eat. One day shouldn't wipe me out, and the truth is I didn't stuff myself to extremes. I ate more than I'd originally planned, but I didn't single-handedly clear the buffet table.

The reason I'm expecting my weight to be up is, well, I seem to have developed the opposite bathroom problem than is usual.

Yes boys and girls, there's a serious log jam in Oinkstop's rear that's been going on for several days now.

I expect that my weight is going to be up (as it has been slowly climbing over the past few of days) because I'm going to be weighing all that food that has nowhere to go.

Don't worry, I'm not suffering or anything. I'm not uncomfortable, nothing hurts, and if I don't see some movement in this direction soon, I'll probably have to take measures to clear the pipes, as it were. But I expect tomorrow I'll be weighing a whole lot of stuff I don't want to weigh, so it's going to make for an unhappy Oinkstop at the scales tomorrow.

Oh poop. Literally.

Follow Up to G-d and Weight Loss

Although I have no plans to turn my weight loss blog into a religious outlet by any means, Shannon from Shannon's Weight Loss Journey asked an interesting question in response to my post G-d and Weight Loss. In her comment, she asked:
Do you think that praying for something (health for someone who is ill, etc) is actually heard?
Before I get down to answering Shannon's question, there is a little background that I should cover.

An interesting fact about Judaism is that it requires very little from the faithful in terms of belief. To be a good Jew, it's perfectly permissible to have one's doubts and questions about the existence of G-d. Being a good Jew is more about behavior and a code of conduct than believing a certain set of ideas. In Christianity, the focus is on faith. In Judaism, the focus is on action.

Hillel probably summed up Judaism best when he said, "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn."

The focus on action versus thinking is further reflected in the Jewish attitude about prayer. Prayer is important, but the actions people take are much more important. The quote, "pray as if everything depends on G-d; act as if everything depends on you" pretty much sums up the Jewish attitude about prayer quite nicely.

Jews have always wrestled with G-d. Although the Torah says we are the chosen people, it also makes numerous references to how stubborn, disobedient and naughty we were (and still are). We are not infallible. We are human. We make lots of mistakes. We mess up, and are expected to do better next time. Unlike many religions, however, Judaism encourages questioning, debate and argument. One doesn't have to unconditionally believe in G-d to be a faithful Jew. One simply has to follow the law as if G-d exists.

Of course even the law is subject to interpretation. Jews have argued about the Torah and what it means for centuries, and not everyone agrees. What makes Judaism different is that when two Jews disagree on a point of Torah, it's perfectly acceptable. I've seen (and remember fondly) people getting into huge arguments during Torah study, where they get really worked up. They argue their points passionately, but when the discussion is over, they pat each other on the back and say, "good argument." We debate, discuss, and wrestle with Torah. We don't always agree, and it's not a requirement.

So now, to finally answer Shannon's question, my answer is I don't know.

In a sense, I think that prayers are heard, simply because I've noticed that "the law of attraction" as described in books like The Secret does seem to work at least some of the time. I've had it happen in my own life, and I've seen in happen in my friends' lives. Whether that should be called prayer, positive thinking, or just creative goal-setting, it seems to work at least to a degree. There have been studies that suggest prayer may actually help heal the sick, so it's hard to know for sure.

It might help, and it certainly can't hurt. Sending positive thoughts and energy out there into the universe certainly can't do any harm.

I don't think, though, that G-d has a Request Department. G-d doesn't sit around waiting for, listening to, and evaluating the merits of, prayer requests. There aren't a group of angels sitting on a cloud somewhere separating the wheat from the chaff, the worthy from the unworthy. My view of G-d is much more faceless and impersonal than the commonly-held Christian ideal. I don't see G-d as a "personal" god. If I do the right thing, G-d isn't sitting back in his cosmic lawn chair applauding. If I do the wrong thing, G-d isn't sitting there scowling, trying to think of the best way to punish me. I see G-d as an energy, something closer to The Force from the movie Star Wars, not as an omnipotent man keeping score of my good deeds and sins as I go through life.

Rather than prayers being granted explicitly by G-d, I think we hold the burden in making our wishes come true. Prayer does more to focus our attention on what we should be doing. If I pray to find a new job after I've been laid off, what I'm really doing is focusing my attention on the task at hand. As I pray, I clarify the steps in my mind that I need to take: I need to get a resume together, to start researching companies, to make phone calls, and start responding to job opportunities.

In the case of the blogger who prayed not to eat candy, I think her prayers simply focused in her mind the fact that she really didn't want to be munching on unhealthy food, and she herself decided she didn't need it. Because of my own beliefs, I have a really hard time with the idea that G-d heard her prayer, waved his hand, and the urge to eat a Snickers bar simply vanished. It's just too magical for my world view.

When it comes to my own weight loss, I don't see a lot of point in praying about it. I'm fat because I ate too much and exercised too little. I wasn't paying attention to that aspect of my life, and for a long time I didn't care. Now things have changed, I suddenly do care, and it's up to me to do something about it. Even if G-d did listen to my prayers, the onus is still on me. Let's face it, I could pray all day to be thin, but if I'm sitting on my wide backside eating bon bons all day, I'm not going to lose weight. There are no miracle weight loss solutions. Prayer or no, I still have to eat less and exercise more over a long period of time before I'm going to be at a healthy weight.

I own my weight problems, not G-d.