This evening I sat down to write an inspiring but wildly funny post about My Flab And New Strategies For Getting Rid Of It.
This was an important post, because it came at the end of a day of assiduous consumption of everything in the kitchen that didn’t up and run away. I’ve become quite good at the housewife thing just lately, so my kitchen is almost completely clear of things with legs. In other words, not a lot escaped my ravenous maw.
It made me feel miserable.
I pondered the words in my last post, about wanting to “honor” my friend’s memory, and be a better person as inspired by her, and I mocked myself. Words like fat frumpy failure of femininishness came to mind.
The post I wrote was all very funny, of course, ha ha ha, not at all miserable, and then I tried to access a site that I wanted to link to the post and my computer had a fit, and by the time it regained consciousness the entire post was gone. It was one of those rambling exercises in free association that is completely impossible to replicate.
There was only one thing to do, and I did it. I drove the four miles to our nearest convenience store and bought ice cream. In a few minutes, I will take my ice cream and my book and climb into bed and call this miserable day DONE.
But first … there’s something I need to do. I hope it doesn’t make you feel used.
I need to make a promise. The promise is being made to myself, no one else, but I feel a need to make it public. I will probably regret posting this tomorrow, but I hope I will have the courage to leave it up anyway.
My promise is this: from tomorrow, I will begin to introduce new discipline into the way I nurture my body. I will nourish it with food that helps it work well. I will take it for walks as often as I can – I hope daily. And I will put it to bed in time to let it have the rest it needs. Most importantly, I will learn to stop hating, despising and resenting it.
I will do this in honor of my friend, who started running to fight cancer and stood her ground for 26 years; who rose before dawn every morning until weeks before she died because time was too precious to waste; and who regarded each day as a gift.
But just to be clear, I’m not doing this for her. I’m doing it for me. She’s my inspiration, but I am my own and sufficient reason.
And I’ll be checking in with you on my progress as I go along, in particular sharing lessons that you might find useful. I hope you’ll stick with me and share your own stories. A change this radical isn’t going to be easy, and it would be good to know I’m not making it alone.
I am halfway through at least half a dozen posts … and I just can’t finish them. I have zero energy, I’m not eating much but feel bloated and exhausted, and my weight has been stuck for several weeks. Ugh ugh ugh!
I stayed with the Daniel diet until Day 36. By that point my weight had gone down 25 lbs, then crawled back up 5 lbs for no discernible reason, and there it stuck for about 10 days. I just got sick of it! So I switched to Phase 2 – Eating Like A Thin Person – a few days early. And that’s been kinda going okay, in that I have little desire to eat much or often and few serious cravings. However, I am still inclined to stuff down more than I actually need if the food is particularly yummy and it’s a social occasion and I’m hungry. And regardless of how much I eat, I feel completely disgusting and entirely disinclined to get on a scale.
Today I realized that I’d been sitting on the couch for hours. I mean, HOURS. I would read for a while, then come to the end of a chapter and think to myself, “Okay, get up and do this, this and this,” and then sit and stare into space, and then drift back into another chapter.
People in old age homes do this. I am 56. It’s ridiculous!
So I googled “ways to increase metabolism”, and here is the list.
Green tea. Opinions vary regarding whether it’s best to take the tea or the supplements, but since I have the Green Tea Fat Burner supplements from Costco, I’m going to start with those. (They contain caffeine, which is also recommended in limited quantities, and I’m pleased it’s in the capsules since I rarely drink coffee or soda.) I think they made a difference in the past, but stopped taking all supplements (apart from thyroid tabs and a greatly reduced dose of Fluoxetine) when I started the Daniel diet.
Fish oil. Hate the fish-breath the Costco capsules give me … but hate staring into space more.
At least three veg and two fruit servings per day. I ate plenty of both while on the Daniel diet, but have cut way back recently, mainly because food preparation demands effort and I don’t have the energy. I am just going to have to battle through this one.
Protein. Apparently digesting protein burns up more calories than digesting carbs. Argh … cooking … sigh.
Spice it up. Capsicum and other spicy foods burn energy. Well, I guess if I’m cooking anyway… sigh some more.
Exercise – both aerobic and muscle-burning. I was doing the 5BX exercises until I had a sciatica flare-up … but lately I’ve barely moved. Poor Argos is feeling the lack of serious training time. So … okay. As of tomorrow, I will set my alarm to go off every hour on the hour, and when it does I will get up and move for 15 minutes. Maybe clean house, maybe work with Argos, maybe do yardwork, maybe lift weights.
Frequent snacking. UGH. I am not hungry! Except when I am, and then I want a LOT. Oh well … I’m just going to have to force down five (small) meals a day, because apparently that also keeps the metabolism chugging along better than fewer meals of whatever size.
Drink more water. And it should be iced, because warming it up burns calories. I’ve been pretty good about a daily 2-3 liters, but I’m going to push it up to 4 liters per day. I Am Woman – Hear Me Slosh!
Sleep. This has been the worst. A side effect of spending hours every day sitting on my butt staring into space / at a book / at my computer monitor has been that I don’t want to go to bed, and when I do I tend to read until way past midnight. And then I sleep late, and wake up exhausted. Woe and alackaday!
Yeah, I know this is an uninspired post on a boring topic – who wants to read about someone else’s flab woes, after all? But for some reason writing it here helps me, and since this is, after all, my blog, that will have to do.
I will post something more entertaining on Wednesday. In the meantime, here’s a picture of my beautiful boy. How could I not love walkies with such a companion?
Dr Gough was a kind man with a rumpled face and baggy clothes, and everyone in that small university town knew he would give you an abortion if you needed one. I already knew I was pregnant – I felt the winning spermatozoon drive into my ovum like a comet plunging into the sun, and soon after that the morning sickness began. I’d roamed Grahamstown’s quiet streets by night, breathing fog into the chilly air, cuddling my tender breasts beneath my baggy sweater and thinking through my options. So although his announcement was a shock, it was no surprise. I had made my decision.
“When am I due?” I asked, and watched as the pools of sad expectation evaporated from his eyes and a smile spread across his face. I loved him for being happy for me, for not thinking I should kill my baby.
* * *
I’d had no idea the heart would beat so fast. It was like holding a tiny bird in my belly. Every time I visited Dr Gough, he turned on a speaker so that I could listen to it with him. Later, after I moved away to the unmarried mother’s home in Cape Town and started going to a big state teaching maternity hospital for checkups, the doctors were discouraged from doing anything that would help us bond with our babies. The pressure to give them up for adoption was huge, and relentless.
Nowadays expectant parents always share their ultrasound pictures, and every time I see one I’m a little sad that no one ever showed me ours. But then I remember the eager hummingbird beat of her new-formed heart, I remember the quivering excitement of the moment I felt her begin to dance, and I know my memories are complete.
* * *
I’d had a bit of a meltdown the year before I got pregnant. Someone I loved, in a complicated sort of way, died unexpectedly, and I had a car accident, and various other things happened and, to cut a long story short, I’d always been a bit of a basket case but all this shit pretty much filled up the basket that I lived in, suspended above reality by my beautiful balloon, and I fell out and plummeted to earth. So I was seeing a shrink, who liked me to tell him my dreams. I had been reading Freud, so my dreams were pretty interesting, until I found out he was a Jungian. I didn’t know anything about Jung so after that I didn’t know what to dream any more and our sessions became rather dull.
Anyway. When I told him I was pregnant, he said I had done it to get back at my father. I was pretty sure my father hadn’t crossed my mind at the time the getting pregnant was happening, but I didn’t argue. (I was a student, he was head of the Department of Psychology. Arguing about what was happening inside my head wasn’t an option.) Then he offered to put together the paperwork to get me a legal abortion. (Back then in South Africa, if a sufficient number of specialists concurred that you were sufficiently a nutcase, you didn’t have to give birth.)
So I stopped seeing him. Which was a bummer for him, because it turns out that pregnancy hormones give you the most extraordinary dreams.
* * *
When various well-meaning people finally quit trying to get me to give up the baby, they started in on my dog. “If you must have this baby, then for goodness sake get rid of the dog!” they said.
I told them not to be ridiculous. “She’s my first kid. I just hope I can love this new one as much as I love her,” I told them.
I really, really did love my dog. But it turned out I had vastly underestimated my capacity for loving.
* * *
I had a teeny little crush on Dr Alperstein. He was in his final year of med school, or maybe it was his first year after qualifying, but he was a little older than the other students in his year. He was stocky and pale with a beaming round face, and the head of obstetrics was tall and sallow with a long, serious face. The girls from the unmarried mothers home were all state patients, so they used us as teaching aids for the med students.
I lay on one of the examination couches behind flimsy curtains until the professor and his gaggle of students pushed them aside and clustered around me. “Open wide,” the professor always said, and as I let my knees flop apart I’d look for Dr Alperstein. He always focused on my eyes, with a nod and a smile and a “Good girl.” I felt as though he thought I was good because, of all the girls who were due when I was, I was the only one planning to keep my baby.
* * *
I glared at the med student. “I don’t know why you have to induce me. I’m not overdue,” I groused.
“There’s a big golf tournament starting tomorrow. Nobody wants to miss their game because you come into labor,” he said.
“Well can’t you wait a couple hours before starting? I really wanted a leap year baby.”
He snickered. “Don’t worry. You’ll have your leap year baby.” It was 6.00PM on February 28th.
He waited while the nurse strapped my feet into the stirrups, then leaned forward between my legs with a look of cold disinterest. Something bright flashed in his hand, there was a moment of invasion and not-quite-pain and a gush of fluid, then he stepped back and watched the nurse adjust the flow of medication through my drip. He glanced at me. “So how come a nice girl like you is so fat?” he asked.
I had no idea how to answer him, but it didn’t matter because at that moment the pain roared through me like a locomotive and carried me away. He chuckled, nodded to the nurse to undo the stirrups, and slapped my butt. “I’ll check on you in time for leap year,” he said, and strolled out through the swing doors. He was in a good mood. There were four of us there from the home, and he needed to catch just four more babies to be done with his obstetrics rotation.
I had gone from wondering what the fuss was about to hard labor in the space of a few minutes. I couldn’t remember how to breathe. It was too bright, the fabric of my gown was too coarse, and everything stank of antiseptic. The nurse turned out the lights, but would not open the window or let me remove my clothes. And then, after an endless time that took no time at all, a great hand took hold of me and squeezed. I opened my eyes and I was alone. “Nurse!” I called. “Nurse!” It was dark, and I had no idea where the call switch was.
“NURSE!” as the swing doors parted and she wandered through with a cup of tea. “The baby’s coming!” I yelled.
Her teacup smashed to the floor. “No! No! You mustn’t! It’s too soon!” she shouted, and scurried off to get help. (I think she must have been a student too.)
She came back with a midwife, and 20 minutes later we were done. It was 10.20PM on February 28th, not yet leap year day, and I didn’t mind at all. By the time the med student came back from his supper break he was too late even to catch the afterbirth. I smiled sweetly at him. “I guess you might just have to miss your golf game,” I said.
* * *
Lynn was a writer known for her acerbic wit. She was not the maternal type, so it was quite a surprise when she appeared abruptly at the foot of my hospital bed. In retrospect, she had probably taken me under her wing – one of several people to do so. In their different ways they fussed over me and fed me and wondered what on earth I was thinking, to insist on raising a child on my own, with no savings and no job.
The girl child was two days old, and I was surrounded by three or four women, all cooing and oohing and aahing, and passing her around between them. Lynn looked at them with a worried expression, sighed, and fetched herself a chair. She leaned forward to peer into the baby’s face.
“Would you like to hold her?” one of the ladies offered.
“Good God, no!” Lynn exclaimed, rearing back. They stared at her disapprovingly, and she looked embarrassed. “So. Um. What have you called it?” she asked me.
I told her, and one of the ladies gushed, “Isn’t it pretty? She’s named after the Greek goddess of joy!”
Lynn, however, roared with laughter. “Larissa?” she guffawed. “That’s the name of a dirty little railway junction in the middle of Greece. I’ve been there.” She never did get a foothold in the conversation after that. Moving as one, the ladies turned their backs and froze her out, and she left after a few more minutes. I was sorry to see her go … I was feeling a little scared, and she always made me laugh.
We have YouTube now so I checked it out online. Looks like they’ve cleaned it up since Lynn was there.
Your turn! Have you ever stood by a decision, and been glad that you resisted well-intentioned efforts to change your mind? Do you thing being pregnant is a reason to give up your dog? Have you ever been to Greece?
My bathroom scale and I are friends again. In 20 days of the Daniel diet, I have lost at least 21 lbs. It’s actually probably more, because around 10 days before I started this my scale went on strike, causing me such despondency that I crawled into a hole and binged until I scared myself enough to go public with Phase 1 of a practical plan to change.
Maybe going public is what made the difference. I didn’t want to go on here – even with my pathetically few (albeit hugely valued!!!) followers – and admit that I’d failed. Again. Plus, your words of encouragement really helped – thank you! More than that, something inside my head has clicked. I just, quite simply, don’t want to live here any more.
The good news is that my head continues to be clear. No more brain fog! This morning, just for the heck of it, I did a Mensa quiz – just a fun thing I found online – and I was able to do most of it in my head, while lying in bed, using my not-smart-enough-for-Mensa phone. Then I had to get up to work something out using algebra, and my phone took the opportunity to check out, so I have no idea how I did on the test … but the point is, I was thinking clearly enough to enjoy the challenge.
Also, various body parts – in particular, ankles – don’t hurt any more. The relief of being able to move without pain is huge! (Despite not being young and beautiful or having a handsome prince handy (sorry, Honey), I acquired a whole new insight into the suffering of The Little Mermaid, who felt as though she was walking on knives.)
And I’m no longer hungry. When I started this, no matter how full I stuffed myself with veggies and fruit my body screamed relentlessly for MORE. Now I’m satisfied by a large bowl of oatmeal or fruit and almonds for breakfast, a generous serving of veggies with rice, couscous, sweet potato or potato for lunch, and fruit and almonds for supper. I try to remember to eat in between – just a few pieces of dried fruit or a few nuts – because my blood sugar tends to crash with little warning, but I’m seldom actually hungry.
The lack of variety – due mainly to my unwillingness to spend hours in preparation time – is boring, but the only real craving I’m experiencing is for latte. This is odd because I don’t really care for coffee, but I miss meeting friends in coffee shops – and my emerging body would like to celebrate these times with just a plain latte, not one of the cream-and-caramel-infested concoctions I used to choose, and no need for a cookie.
The big challenge continues to be low energy levels. I am eager to be up and doing and it doesn’t hurt like it used to, but I run out of steam in no time at all. This is partly because I’m taking in few calories (although I eat as much and as often as I want to), but I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s also because I have absolutely no muscle tone.
Tell people you’re involved in dog rescue, and the picture that comes to their minds is of someone who spends a lot of time going walkies and throwing balls. This can be true for dog foster parents, but not if you’re running the rescue. For five years, my life narrowed down to my computer (lots and lots and LOTS of emails, plus endless paperwork), my phone (calls started at 6.00AM and were still coming in as late as 2.00AM – “I just picked up a dog and I think it’s hurt and I don’t know what to do!” “My dog is having puppies and one seems to be stuck and I don’t know what to do!” “My neighbor’s dog is chained up and it can’t get out of the rain and I don’t think they’re feeding it and I don’t know what to do!” “I’m moving to another state tomorrow and I can’t take my dog and I don’t know what to do!”), my car (picking up dogs, transporting dogs, taking dogs to the vet), and the vet’s office. Sitting and stressing and stressing and sitting.
By the time I burned out at the end of last year, I was no longer capable of doing much beyond reading, eating, sleeping and sobbing into my pillow, so that’s how I spent the first half of this year. Result: muscle tone as close to zero as it can be without my arms and legs falling off.
So today I pulled a battered little book out of my bookshelf. It’s called Physical Fitness, and my cousin passed it on to The Aged Crone when I was a teenager (this was before she was really a crone, of course) and I can remember chugging through those exercises with no trouble at all. They’re based on something developed by the Canadian Air Force and take only 12 minutes to do, so not an insurmountable challenge – or so I thought.
This morning I started at the very simplest level and two of the exercises just aren’t possible. Stand on one leg while lifting the other knee to my chest? You have got to be kidding me! Run? I managed a fast march, and after the required count of 50 (that’s 100 paces) I was a wobbling wreck. Jump 10 times? I have no shadow of doubt I would break something if I were ambitious (silly!) enough to try.
But I worked through the exercises anyway. And I will do so again tomorrow. And the next day. And every day. Because this person who has to rest after every. Single. Chore … this person who couldn’t keep up with a terminally ill friend when they went shopping together (happened yesterday) … is not the person I want to be.
It’s the last day of my first week on the Daniel diet, and I am beyond sick of it. I am sick of being hungry, and desperate for the taste of brie on my tongue. Will you think less of me if I just quit? Why should I care what you think? And yet … I do. It’s disappointing not to get more comments and messages of support, but that’s a new blogger thing, I guess. And every now and then there is a comment, and that’s how I know you’re watching. I’m not just shouting into the void; there’s someone out there. Plus, my mother reads this blog. So does Himself – and he expects me to fail; I shouldn’t blame him (although I do, of course) because he’s seen it happen so many times before. But not today.
So instead of eating, or thinking about eating, or writing about eating, I will tell you a story.
I got involved in dog rescue the way I make pretty much all the major changes in my life – on blind impulse. First there’s the growing pressure of dissatisfaction with the status quo, then an opportunity emerges, promising change. Maybe something better, certainly something different. I teeter on the brink, pushed one way by fear of change and the other by fear of not-change. I remind myself that I need to “seek God’s will”, think strategically, weigh the odds, seek advice. And then I leap, and deal with the consequences as they march up and smack me.
Hey, it’s a method. It works. And yes, I get bruised and quite often I break, but I also see glory.
So … Dude. Actually, there’s nothing all that special about Dude’s story. He’s just one among thousands. He turned up at our local shelter, an unclaimed stray (in other words, dumped). And there he sat, for months, until we bailed him out. I was responsible for evaluating the dogs our rescue took in, and it was clear from the start that he would never be adopted from the shelter. He’s kinda funny-looking in a pop-eyed way, and although he has the softest coat, you couldn’t know that when he was incarcerated. First, he wouldn’t let anyone touch him; he was one desperately scared boy. And second, he stank the way all shelter dogs do – of pee and shit made of cheap dog food and harsh cleaning chemicals. No normal person would want to cuddle that.
Fortunately (sometimes), rescue people aren’t “normal”, so he got to go stay with a volunteer foster mama. She had a securely fenced yard that he couldn’t escape from (he tried), and a couple other dogs who showed him the ropes once he quit showing them his teeth, a cat who made him feel safe, and an unending stream of teenagers who just kept treating him like a normal dog until he learned to behave like one.
One of the things I was especially proud of with our rescue was that we never rushed our dogs through the process. Sometimes a dog that’s been unkindly treated or injured needs extra recovery time. If you’re lucky you might find an adopter who’s willing to put in the work, but most people want their new dog to be ready to fit in with their family. We also took our time about ensuring that the home we chose for each dog was the best fit we could manage. If a family wasn’t the right fit, they didn’t get that dog.
Dude was with his foster family for a whole year before he went home “for good” to an older woman who lived with her 50-year-old daughter. I drove him to their home myself, and it was just perfect! A big yard with trees full of squirrels, a cozy little house with a dog bed in every room, and two active, healthy moms to dote on him all day and every day. I checked in a couple times in the months that followed, and he was happy and well-loved.
But sometimes forever doesn’t last. A few weeks ago I got a call from Dude’s adopter’s other daughter. Something happened to her sister earlier this year – something bad; I don’t know what. (Yes of course I googled her name.) She’d moved out of the home. And then mom started failing, and moved into a retirement complex near the other daughter. She had her own apartment and Dude went with her, but within weeks of moving in she slipped into dementia and had to go into a high-care facility. Dude was homeless.
The daughter told me, “When I went to help Mom get packed up, your business card was on the fridge, with Dude’s name on it. Can you help?” Well, retired or not, we’d made a promise to that dog – and to every dog we rehomed. We promised they would never be homeless again. So he’s back with me, until the people who now run the rescue find someone else who promises to love him “forever”.
I should be glad to know he’s okay. Well of course I’m glad! But … I’m also haunted. In the five years Himself and I ran our rescue, we placed at least 600 dogs, all with the same promise. Are they okay? What if something bad happened to their people, and whoever cleaned up their mess didn’t know about us? What about all the refrigerator doors that don’t have our card?
That saying, “If you save someone’s life, you are responsible for them for the rest of their life” – it’s not real. It’s a literary construct – fake Confucianism – and anyway, I’m not Chinese. But.
I saved their lives. They’re lodged in my heart.
Are they okay?
Your turn. Have you saved any lives that have then moved on to be lived away from you? What about the creatures who depend on you – is there a plan in place if something bad happens to you?