Friday, August 28, 2009

Today's Youth, or Why I Fear For Our Future

I don't want to put down all teenagers and make unfair generalizations about them, but unfortunately, it's very rare that I meet a teenager who doesn't say or do something that makes me cringe in fear for the future of our country. I still remember the time, a few years ago, when two air-headed teenaged girls came in to the bookstore where I used to work and asked for a certain edition of a certain Shakespearean play that they needed for school. I knew that we had sold out of it earlier that day -- whenever the local schools assigned any book we sold out of that book within a couple days -- so I informed the girls that we were out of the book but could order it and have it in the store within a week. They replied, "No, thanks, we don't really care that much about English class," and then left the store. One of my coworkers had witnessed the exchange, and she and I just looked at each other in stunned silence, but I know we were both thinking, "Did they really say that? In public? In a bookstore?" Earlier today I found another paragon of teenage common sense at the local grocery store. I had a buy-one-get-one-free coupon for an item, so I picked up 2 of the specified items and headed to the express lane. As you've probably already surmised, I work in retail and have done so for several years (more years than I really care to admit, especially to myself) and I know that, with most register systems, coupons are pretty much idiot-proof: you scan the coupon's barcode and the register adjusts the cost as required. But apparently, processing the B1G1 coupon that I had was an activity that was beyond the capabilities of the teenaged girl who rang me up. She scanned the items, she scanned the coupon, and then looked at the register (which had just beeped angrily at her) in a very confused way. She scanned the coupon again, and the register beeped at her angrily once more. Not particularly surprising, that; after all, as my former Weight Watchers group leader was fond of saying, "If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got." However, it was obvious that this girl had never heard that particular bit of advice, because she scanned the coupon again. Guess what happened this time? You're right -- the register beeped angrily at her! She gave me an exasperated look and asked, "Did you notice how much these were?" I replied, "No, I didn't, but according to that, they're 79 cents each," as I directed her attention to the monitor just behind her head, on which the items I was in the process of purchasing were itemized, along with their prices. And so now I must ask of today's teenagers: Is it really that hard to think? Is it really that hard to take notice of your surroundings and process the information presented to you without having it handed to you on a platter? If you can't handle something as simple as that, how will you be able to handle Life After High School? And what will you do when running the country becomes your responsibility? I can only hope that these three teenagers, and the countless others just like them, go off to college and get metaphorically whipped into shape by a few good teachers. Otherwise, we're all doomed.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Great Religion Debate; or, "My imaginary friend is better than yours!"

I'm a very spiritual person, but I'm not particularly religious. Some people may not realize that those terms can be mutually exclusive, but in my case they certainly are. I do believe in a higher power (or a great spirit, or a supreme being, however you may choose to anthropomorphize it), but I vehemently resist whenever other people tell me how I should worship that power/spirit/being. After all, they're not living my life, and they have no knowledge of my relationship with divinity, how can they tell me that what I'm doing is wrong? For all that, how can they know that what they're doing is right? I will worship as I choose, thank you very much, but as long as you can respect my spiritual path, I will respect yours, and we'll get along with no problems.

The issue here is the whole "respect" thing. People who follow very traditional religions seem to have a hard time understanding and respecting someone like me who pretty much does whatever I please in the name of spirituality. Perhaps I should take a moment to clarify a few things about my spiritual beliefs. I mentioned that yes, I do believe in a higher power; in my life, that power has taken the form of the Goddess, so I walk a very feminist-based, New Age kinda path. I consider myself an eclectic Pagan, mainly because there really is no better term: I pick and choose beliefs and rituals from a number of different spiritual backgrounds and somehow combine them into a system that works for me. I'm into natural healing, yoga, mehndi, meditation, and divination; I'm a witch but not a Wiccan; I've studied Kabbalah and Kahuna, and learned the sacred dances of Native Americans, West Africans, and the Middle East; I'm of European descent but I mainly work with goddesses from Egypt, India, the Caribbean and the South Pacific. Oh, and I pretty much do all this on my own, although I have been known to participate in public Pagan rituals and even occasionally attend the local Unitarian-Universalist church. That's basically what's meant by eclectic: if I run across a belief or spiritual practice that makes sense to me, it gets added to the roster and becomes part of my path.

Back when I was in my twenties, I was an angry Pagan. I had very little respect for people who followed traditional religions, even though I demanded that those same people respect my spiritual choices. I hadn't yet realized that respect is a two-way street. Fortunately for my spiritual evolution, a close friend pointed this out to me and I realized it was something I had to work on. A few years ago, I was working with a young man who was the same type of angry Pagan that I had been, and that helped me to realize even more that I didn't want to be that type of person. So I'm trying to be more respectful, and I think I've made some progress. I'm realizing that there is value in all the traditional religions, and I've come to believe that all spiritual paths lead to the same place, even if they take a different route. I've even come to believe that all the various deities, angels, elementals, etc., are simply different aspects of the same divine being, and that being chooses which face to show to each person based on what that person needs to learn in their lifetime and what they have already learned. So Buddha, Christ, Yahweh, Jehovah, Allah, Amaterasu, Isis, Tara, Sophia, Kali, Ganesha, they're all the same, they just take different forms and teach us different things. I understand this, and several people I know, who are also progressive in their spiritual beliefs, tend to agree with me on this. However, when I try to explain this to people who follow more traditional religions, they think I'm crazy, or misinformed, or blasphemous, or a poor lost sheep who needs to be saved, or an evil creature who will burn in hell for all eternity. Sometimes I wonder whether the fact that some people understand this means that those people are further along the path to enlightenment than those who don't, but then I worry that I might be letting arrogance lead me astray from the path.

One of my oldest friends, J., is a born-again Christian. We were both raised as Catholics, but as we grew up we (obviously) went in very different directions spiritually. This has caused a bit of tension in our friendship from time to time. Several years ago, when she had just been born again and I was still an angry Pagan, she tried the "I can't be friends with you anymore unless you accept Jesus as your lord and savior" tactic on me. It didn't work the way she expected it to work, as I am still a Goddess worshipper and we are still somehow friends. But it did add an uncomfortable undercurrent of wariness to our relationship: she couldn't accept or respect my spiritual choices and tended to treat me like a wayward child, and I resented the fact that she couldn't accept and respect my choices. Things settled down between us after that, mainly because of a tacit agreement to just not discuss religion and spirituality, but things came to a head a few weeks ago. Our mutual friend, E., has been going through a separation from her husband this year; J. insists that E.'s husband left her because Satan influenced him to do so, but I think that using Satan as an excuse for bad behavior is a total cop-out. Doing so allows the person to completely avoid taking responsibility for their behavior. I said that to J. one time when we were chatting about the situation, and she replied very condescendingly that I don't understand because I don't read scripture. Double, double, toil and trouble, rage burn and emotion bubble. I bit back the urge to bite off J.'s head and told her not to start that with me. I told her that just because I walk a different path than she does doesn't mean that I'm a lost soul who needs to be saved. She replied, still in that condescending tone, "That's OK, I'll pray for you." Ooh, that got me so mad! That's one of the things I hate the most, when a Christian tells you that they'll pray for you. It's one thing if you're going through a difficult time and you ask a Christian friend for help and they say that, because they truly believe that doing so will help you through. It's a very different thing, however, when you're just minding your own business and they say that, meaning that they think you're a sinner and they'll intercede with God on your behalf in an attempt to save your mortal soul from eternal damnation. So I asked J. why she thought I needed her prayers. Am I a bad person? Am I an evil person? Or am I stupid? Just because I don't follow the same spiritual path that she does? She got very flustered when I asked her that. I explained to her once again that I am walking the path that Spirit wants me to walk, and it doesn't matter whether or not she approves of my choices. She was quiet for a moment, and then she said "I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree." Hallelujah! She finally got it. We'll see if it sticks.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Repurposing (not really a word, I know, but I'm going with it.)

Those of you have read my blog in the past have probably noticed that it now has a new title and purpose. I want you all to know that I am not giving up on my weight loss and fitness goals (even though I have gotten severely sidetracked over the past few months), I just felt the need to expand my blog so I can write about more than just my weight loss and fitness goals (especially as it's been very difficult to write about those during this period of being sidetracked). On top of being sidetracked by school, work, and general stress, I've recently realized that my weight issues (as well as a few other psychological and emotional issues) are a direct result of trauma that I suffered as a child but never properly dealt with, and in order successfully reach my weight loss goals, I will need to first deal with and heal from that trauma. No, I will not go into detail about it here (I don't want this to degenerate into some sort of "I'm a victim, pity me" thing), and please don't ask me about it -- those who I want to know about it have already been told. I'm not giving up on my weight loss goals, I'm just approaching the situation from a different direction right now.

I feel that the true purpose of all people on earth is to seek spiritual enlightenment, and I think the best way to do so is to improve yourself. I have been working on improving myself for several years now, and I feel that I have made some progress, but I recognize the fact that I am an imperfect person and I do stumble... a lot. I get lazy, I get arrogant, and sometimes I not only stumble off the path to enlightenment, I get stuck in the mud beside the path and wallow for weeks or months at a time. But I try, and that's the important thing. I thought that repurposing my blog would allow me to write about my experiences (good and bad) on the road to enlightenment, and that writing about things that happen to me might help me to understand, life better, or at the very least, allow me to blow off steam and move on from upsetting situations. And maybe, just maybe, we'll all have a little fun along the way.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Surprise! I'm Still Here!

Wow, has it really been over a month since I last posted? Yes, indeed. Let's see, what's been happening? Well, during the last 2 weeks of March I managed to gain back a bunch of what I had lost. If you remember, when I last posted I had hit 43 lbs., but when I got weighed and measured at the beginning of April I had slipped back to 29 lbs. Yikes! I guess I gave in to far too many of my cravings. I've been more mindful of what I'm eating since then (getting violently ill and being unable to keep food down for a number of days last week certainly helped with that) so I've managed to re-lose about half of what I had regained. As of today, I'm at 369 lbs, 36 lbs. from where I started. I hope to be back to 43 lbs. by the beginning of May, and I promise I will post measurements and a picture then (at this point, I'm not going to bother with measurements and a picture for this month.) My goals right now are to track what I'm eating on a daily basis and to exercise daily, whether it's going to Curves, taking a walk, or doing yoga. What else is going on my life? Well, I started back to college ten days ago. I'm doing online classes through Kaplan University to get my Bachelor's in Nutrition Studies (which fulfills 2 of my 101 Things.) It feels a little strange to be back in school after 13 years, even stranger to not actually be going to a classroom, just sitting in front of my computer, but I'm sure I'll get used to it soon enough. I think my nutrition classes will help to make me even more mindful of what I'm eating, and I ultimately want to use my knowledge and experience to help other people lose weight and get healthy. So that's where I am right now. I will try to blog more regularly, even though I'm busy with classes. But doon't worry too much if you don't see regular updates, ok? I'm not giving up.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Finally Back!



Yes, I have been remiss in my updating duties. I blame Facebook. But here are my results as of last Thursday, March 5:

Weight: 366 lbs, for a total loss (TL) of 39 lbs (I weighed in again on Wednesday March 11 at 362 lbs, bringing my TL to 43 lbs.)

Bust: 57.75 inches, TL 2.75 inches

Waist: 57.5 inches, TL 3 inches

Abdomen: 61.5 inches, TL 3 inches

Hips: 61.25 inches, TL 3.25 inches

Thigh: 31 inches, TL 1.5 inches

Upper Arm: 17 inches, TL 1 inch

BMI: 55.7 points, TL 5.9 points

I'm very glad that the plateau has broken. I know plateaus happen, but they can be very frustrating (and not very exciting to blog about.)

I've been working on some of my 101 Things in 1001 Days goals. So far I've fulfilled wishlist requests for 6 people on Bookcrossing, so that puts me ahead of my goal for the year (I'll probably try to fulfill a few more once I have a job -- mailing books can get expensive.) While we're on the subject of books, I finished updating my To Be Read shelf on Goodreads, and I own 185 non-bookgroup books that I haven't yet read. I've decided that I want to get at least 90% of these books off the To Be Read shelf by the end of the 1001 Days, instead of just 75% as I had originally set. Will I read every last page of every book? Not necessarily, especially when you consider the fact that many of these books were acquired 8-10 years ago when my reading tastes were somewhat different than they are today. So I'm going to follow Nancy Pearl's guidelines and read the first 50 pages of each book. If, after 50 pages, the book is not holding my interest, I'll set it aside and move on. With these guidelines, I should have no problem getting through all my unread books.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

101 Things in 1001 Days and First Update

This is something that I discovered through my friend the Angry Redhead's blog (she stole it from our mutual friend the Stitch Witch) and I thought it was a great idea, so I decided to make a list as well. The basic premise is that you make a list of 101 goals you want to accomplish in 1001 days (approx. 2.75 years); it's kind of like making a list of New Year's resolutions, except that 1. you should be specific both in the wording of your goals and the steps you plan to take to meet them, 2. you actually make an attempt to meet these goals, and 3. you can start a list anytime you want. Now, I know that this isn't necessarily related to weight loss, but it is all about self-improvement, so I figured I may as well post the list and updates here. So here it is:

Start Date: Feb. 14, 2009
End Date: Nov. 12, 2011
Updated info in purple.

1. Get a car and get it registered. This goal may be fulfilled before I post this online (maybe even before I complete this list) but I’m listing it anyway as it’s my most important goal right now. Done! Car was purchased on 2/14/09 and registered on 2/17/09.

2. Get a job. I’d like to be idealistic and say “Get a job I love that pays well and has great benefits” but I need to be a bit more realistic right now. I've been unemployed for over 10 months now – I need to just find a job so I can get some money coming in. After I have something I can think about upgrading to something better as necessary. Side goal: update my Monster profile.

3. Go through the books I own and update my “To Be Read” shelf on Goodreads to reflect all the books I own that I have yet to read. Have at least 75% of these books read by the end date. Books that I need to read for my book group do not count toward this total, nor do books acquired and read after the shelf is updated. Shelf has been updated (185 books total), and goal has been changed somewhat: My goal is now to clear at least 90% of the books from the shelf. I don't have to read the entire book if I'm not enjoying it, but I will read at least 50 pages before deciding whether to continue with the book or drop it and move on to the next.

4. Stop buying so many books. Until my “To Be Read” shelf has decreased by 50%, institute a rule that I may not buy a book until I've read at least 5 books that I already own. Books that I need for my book group will be exempt from this rule.

5. Complete the Artist’s Way program that I started a few weeks ago but let slide over the past week.

6. Once I have completed the Artist’s Way, do the Right to Write program.

7. Continue with my healthy eating program and strive to reach my ultimate goal of losing 245 lbs by the end of the 1001 days. Only 205 lbs to go!

8. Get back into the habit of going to Curves 3 times a week.

9. Get back into the habit of doing yoga at least 3 times a week, aiming to increase my flexibility to the point where I can easily do flow yoga. Strive to be able to master Cyndi Lee’s OM Yoga DVD by the end of the 1001 days.

10. When the weather is good, go for regular walks of at least 1 mile. Build stamina by gradually increasing the length of my walks over time.

11. Finally learn to speak Hawaiian. I know there’s not much practical use for this, but it’s something I've wanted to learn for a number of years. I already have the language CDs, dictionary, and grammar books, I just need to put them to use.

12. Find out how one becomes a dietician/nutritionist. I had some nutrition courses as part of my program in culinary school, and I've certainly learned a great deal over the past few months as I've lost weight. I don’t yet know whether this is something I’d want to make a career out of, but it certainly wouldn't hurt to get more information. I can use my sister’s friend Andrea as a resource on this goal. Progressing -- I have gotten info from Kaplan University about their online Bachelor's Degree program in Nutrition Science. If I can get enough federal aid, I will be doing the program.

13. Find out how one gets certified as a yoga instructor. As with #12, I’m not sure if I’d like to make a career out of this, but it wouldn't hurt to get the information.

14. Fire walk. Give myself the opportunity that I missed out on a few years ago due to rain. Research whether there are people in this area who provide this service, find out whether they provide the venue or if I would have to provide it (pray they have their own space as I doubt Daddy would allow me to build a fire pit in the back yard.)

15. Finish the scrapbook I started 3 years ago for the vacation I took 9 years ago.

16. Finish the 3 cross-stitch projects that I started last year.

17. Learn how to sew buttonholes. Enlist Erica’s expertise on this.

18. Once #17 has been accomplished, use my new skills to finish the throw pillow that I started last year. Also make the runner for my console table for which O bought the fabric last year but never got around to making.

19. Take a trip somewhere with Ericka.

20. Take a trip somewhere with Barbara.

21. Take a trip somewhere all alone.

22. Get my passport.

23. Attend the Bookcrossing Convention in Amsterdam in 2010.

24. Attend the Travel Channel Academy digital travel filmmaking course. Consider attending a session in a city I've never been to before (although NYC is always a great destination.)

25. Get my own laptop so I can stop using Ma’s. Do plenty of research before buying to make sure I get one that properly meets my needs.

26. Upgrade my current iPod to one with significantly more memory. Gerald has been a wonderful companion for the past 3 years, but 30 GB just isn't doing it for me anymore (I seem to have become a technoslut!)

27. Listen to at least one podcast episode per day until I am caught up with all my podcasts. Once caught up, stay caught up; also look into other podcasts that may be of interest to me at that time.

28. Get over my fear of singing in public. I’m not quite sure how to go about this without doing karaoke on a regular basis, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out. Maybe I should start by singing in the shower when I know other people are in the house.

29. Try Thai massage. If I like it, and if my income permits once I find a job, set up regular appointments.

30. Treat myself to another Watsu session. This will probably have to happen on one of my trips as I have yet to find a spa in the area that offers it.

31. Learn to follow through on my ideas, especially my business ideas. I will devote a notebook to these ideas where I will write the ideas and then record all the research I do into the idea. Once I research the ideas, I will take steps towards implementing them.

32. Do some general research into forming and running my own company, such as registering a business name, setting up a business account, and writing business plans and proposals.

33. Grant at least 5 wishlist requests per year on Bookcrossing. Goal has been reached (exceeded, actually) for 2009.

34. Host a challenge on Bookcrossing.

35. Frame and hang some of my grandmother’s paintings which have been languishing in the closet for the past 11 years.

36. Pull my box of Erte collector plates out of the closet and figure out which ones will look best in the guest bedroom. Buy some plateholders and wall hooks and hang the plates up.

37. Figure out why the TV and DVD player upstairs have suddenly decided not to play nice anymore. Fix the problem once I've figured it out.

38. Figure out how to hook up the VCR to the new TV downstairs and then do it. Buy any needed cables to complete the project.

39. Either get a camera phone or start carrying my camera with me so I can take more pictures. Done! After my father ran over his Palm Pilot with his van, he upgraded to a Blackberry and gave me his old phone. Date completed: 2/16/09.

40. Look into how much it would cost to replace the carpet in my bedroom. If the cost is reasonable, do it.

41. Do some research into my travelogue ideas (which I won’t mention here as I want to keep them secret.)

42. Go play mini-golf at least once a year.

43. Get my last loan paid off.

44. Start an ING Direct account. Contribute to it regularly.

45. Invest some money into a CD. When the term of the CD ends, roll that money into a new CD. Repeat.

46. Create a regular spiritual practice.

47. Journal on a daily basis. Blog at least once a week.

48. See a Reduced Shakespeare Company show live.

49. Learn to Rollerblade once I've lost enough weight to do so safely.

50. Learn how to manage my time more effectively so I won’t be chronically late anymore.

51. Take at least one step towards my goal of hosting my own women’s festival by doing research into locations/venues, costs, liabilities/insurance, and other practical considerations; also brainstorm/research activities, artists, vendors, etc., to have at the festival.

52. Reconnect with friends from high school and college with whom I've lost touch. Progressing, thanks to Facebook.

53. Donate my excess stuffed animals and coloring books to the children’s section of the hospital.

54. Donate blood more often. Look into the possibility of donating platelets.

55. Improve my sewing skills. Consider taking a class; perhaps convince Erica to tutor me.

56. Design and construct a winged cape and headdress so my Bast costume can do double duty as an Isis costume.

57. Come up with a design for a Kali costume. Do not begin construction until all craft projects previously listed have been completed. Feel free to begin sourcing materials.

58. Learn archery.

59. Go through my desk and the big plastic bin that’s been sitting on the floor of the library for the past 2 years. Discard or donate (as appropriate) items I no longer use or need. Once purge is complete, put the items from the bin into the newly-created space in the desk. If there are items that don’t fit in the desk, find appropriate homes for them elsewhere. Store plastic bin in an out-of-the-way place until needed for something else.

60. Organize and host a fundraiser for a charity. The fundraiser doesn't have to be a big, complicated affair, it can be something as simple as a bake sale, neighborhood yard sale, or craft fair. Just pick a worthwhile charity and go for it.

61. Take day trips into Boston at least twice a year when the weather is nice – once in the spring and once in the fall would be ideal. Visit the MFA, the Gardner Museum, the Museum of Science, the NE Aquarium, the Arnold Arboretum, or any other places that strike my fancy.

62. Visit the library in my town at least once to check it out (I've lived here for 15 years and never been.) If I like it, make a point to go regularly.

63. Visit the bead shop I recently discovered on Rt. 111 in Hudson.


64. See at least once “arty” film per year at the Wilton Town Hall Theater.

65. Organize a craft supply swap, where crafters can trade their unused craft supplies with other crafters. This could also be done as a drive with craft supplies being donated to a school or other youth organization.

66. Discover which museum houses the Venus of Willendorf. Income permitting, take a trip to the museum to pay homage. It's housed in the Naturhistorisches Museum in Vienna. I could possibly combine this with #23 if there is rail service from Amsterdam to Vienna.

67. Same as #66 with the artwork in question being The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago.

68. Start learning another language, other than Hawaiian, that actually does have practical applications in the modern world. Possibilities include Italian, French, Portuguese, Spanish, or German.

69. Try Barbara’s secret flan recipe. See if I end up with actual flan and not just cream of flan soup.

70. Finally return Barbra P.’s beads to her. Mail them to her c/o her church if necessary.

71. Play around with watercolors sometime and see what I can create. Make bookmarks out of the results and offer them free to Bookcrossers.

72. Find out if Terry Pratchett will be doing a U.S. book tour when his next book is released. If he is, find out when and where he’ll be appearing and attend at least one of his signings. If he won’t be touring, pick another author of interest and go to a signing.

73. Find out whether the light fixture currently in my bedroom is properly wired to support a ceiling fan. If it is, purchase and install a ceiling fan that will match my d├ęcor. If it isn't, get a new fixture that will accept energy-saving bulbs.

74. Buy an Isabella Fiore handbag. Try to track down the Gypsy Fortuneteller or What’s My Sign? Libra designs on ebay.


75. Work on the purple lotus design that I want for my tattoo. Get the tattoo when I reach my goal weight.

76. Seriously consider going back to college, either to get certified as a dietician/nutritionist, or to get a degree in another field. Possible fields include business, marketing, and broadcasting. Even if I don’t go for another degree, taking some basic business courses would probably be a good idea. Request catalogs and enrollment info from colleges in the area; also look into online colleges. Progressing -- see #12.

77. Mail a secret in to PostSecret. Done, and I may do another one.

78. Find out how one goes about registering patents, trademarking images, and copyrighting written works. Find out if one can patent a product for which one only has an idea (as opposed to having an actual product or a design for a product.)

79. File my personal papers at least once a month. Go through my personal files at least once a year and shred all papers that are no longer needed.

80. Expand my knowledge of crochet to include bead crochet and thread crochet. Learn to make doilies and snowflakes.

81. Compile a list of travel tips gleaned from my own travel experiences and from other sources such as travel books (guides and memoirs) and travel shows (TV, radio, or podcasts.) Computerize the list and organize by subject.

82. Re: #81, consider starting another blog or registering and creating a website for these tips so that others may benefit from my research.

83. Once I have a steady source of income, work out a budget. Figure out how much I spend monthly on necessities (gas, car insurance, Curves membership), figure in a small but reasonable weekly allowance, and divide the rest of my income between paying off my last loan and investing in high-yield savings.

84. Research government grants and find out if there any for which I qualify. Apply for the grant(s) if I qualify.

85. Find out what my credit score is and take steps to improve it as necessary. Check my credit reports regularly (yearly at the very least.)

86. Make some new playlists on my iPod. Try to use songs that aren't played as often.

87. Do something fun at least once a week. This could be anything from going to a comedy club, to going to an arcade and blowing $10 on playing pinball, to playing board or card games with friends.


88. Go to a water park once I've reached my goal weight. I've always wanted to do this but have always felt too self-conscious about how I look in a bathing suit.

89. Expand my wine horizons in one or more of the following ways: go to a wine tasting event; once a month, buy a bottle of wine of a type I've never tried and share it with someone; visit a vineyard. Whatever I do, I will keep a log book of which wines I try and what I think of them.

90. Get a PDA of some sort (or learn to use the organizer functions on my phone.) Consider upgrading to a Blackberry or iPhone for that all-in-one convenience.

91. Have at least one yard sale during this time.

92. Go to Fenway Park. Ideally to see a Red Sox game, but at least take the tour if I can’t make it to a game.

93. Go to a day spa at least once and treat myself to the full package: manicure, pedicure, facial, and massage.

94. Have lunch at Pickity Place at least once a year.

95. At least twice a year, go to a restaurant that I’ve never been to. If I like it, post a review on Google, Yahoo, and other such sites.

96. Become more aware of what’s going on in the world by reading more than just the comics page in the daily newspaper and by regularly checking news online.

97. Find some good recipes for low-sugar jams. Make low-sugar strawberry and mixed berry jams every summer.

98. Learn to be more tolerant of people who have views/opinions/beliefs that are different from mine, esp. religious/spiritual.

99. Dance more. Make use of the dance fitness videos & DVDs that I already have, and also consider taking a class in hula, bellydance, or some other type of ethnic dance.

100. Get together with friends more often.

101. At the end of 1001 days, review list to pinpoint any unattained goals. Assess whether those goals still fit my lifestyle. If they do, roll them onto my next list of 101 things. If they don’t, either rewrite them to fit my lifestyle and add them to the next list, or discard them completely. Write up a new list and start again.

As you can see, I've already completed a couple of my goals. I will continue to update as more goals are completed. For more info, check out the Day Zero website.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Plateaus and Chocolate

I know it's been over a week since I last posted (in fact, it's been 10 days) and I had originally promised to post weekly at least. But I seem to have hit a plateau immediately after reaching my 40 lb goal, and it's pretty boring to blog about not losing and not gaining. I'm not too worried about hitting a plateau, they happen whenever you try to lose a large amount of weight and I was prepared to hit one eventually. Everything will be fine as long as the plateau doesn't last too long, and as long as I continue to eat right and exercise it shouldn't last long at all.

I wanted to talk a little bit about chocolate. Valentine's Day is tomorrow (not that that really means much to little-old-perpetually-single me) and I'm sitting here alternatively blogging and watching an episode of Modern Marvels all about the history and production of chocolate. I have always been a big fan of chocolate, and even though I am very serious about eating better and losing weight, I have no intention of giving up chocolate. I don't think there's any need to give chocolate up completely in order to live a healthy lifestyle, you just need to be smarter about which chocolate you eat and how often. First of all, if you're going to eat chocolate (and this goes for regular people as well as people who are trying to lose weight) you should eat good chocolate. Low-quality chocolate will usually have more sugar than high-quality chocolate, and may also contain more artificial ingredients, all of which adds up to chocolate that just won't taste that great. Yes, really good high-quality chocolate will cost more than your typical supermarket-checkout-line candy bar, but trust me, the cost will be worth it. Why? Because when you have good chocolate, you won't have to eat as much to be satisfied. No, really, you won't. I bought a $4 bar of Green&Black's Organic 70% chocolate a couple weeks ago. According to the label, the bar was 2.5 servings of chocolate, but I made that bad boy last all week because I had less than half a serving each time I had some. I could've bought a Hershey bar for less than $1, but I would've eaten the whole bar and had nothing left over for later. Second, if you are trying to lose weight, you should eat mainly dark chocolate, solid (as in unfilled) preferred. You don't need high-sugar fillings adding carbs and calories and distracting your taste buds from the chocolate. Choose dark chocolate with a cacao content of at least 60%. These days, you can find eating bars with cacao content up to 90% (anything over 90% won't contain enough sugar and should be used strictly for baking) so what you choose will depend on your personal taste. If you usually eat milk or white chocolate, you'll probably want to start with 60% cacao chocolate and go up from there. Personally, I usually aim for 65%-75% cacao content; more than 75% is too bitter for my taste. The best way to figure out what you like is to try different brands and different cacao content levels. You could even have some fun with it and get some friends together for a chocolate tasting. My personal favorite is Ghirardelli, but I also found a great product made by Dove called CocoaVia. I found it in the health food aisle of the grocery store. They're little 100 calorie dark chocolate bars that come in a box of 5 (they have a couple other varieties, but this is the only one I've tried) so you can have a little bit of creamy dark chocolate whenever you need it. Which brings me to my last point: how much and how often you eat chocolate is just as important as which chocolate you eat. Having a large portion of chocolate every single day is simply not conducive to good health. Having a little bit of chocolate a few times a week is a smart way to satisfy cravings while still following a healthy eating plan. Yes, you can eat chocolate while losing weight and eating healthy. Just be smart about it.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Goal!


To your left, you see a woman who has lost 40 lbs. Woohoo! If you remember, this was the first goal I set for myself as it was approximately 10% of my starting weight. Reaching this goal is significant in a couple other ways as well. Firstly, I am now at the weight I was 12 years ago when I started Weight Watchers. Secondly, and more significantly, this is the most weight I've ever lost at any one time. When I was on Weight Watchers all those years ago, the most weight I ever lost was 33 lbs. When I first joined Curves in 2006, by exercising regularly I was able to lose 25 lbs. without dieting at all. However, each time, I would lose my focus and regain the weight. One of my fears when I started my program in September is that the same thing would happen, but the fact that I've been able to get this far proves to me that I can do this, plus it motivates me to go even further.
So here's where I am now:
Weight: 365, total loss (TL) 40 lbs.
Bust: 57.75 inches, TL 2.75 inches
Waist: 57.75 inches, TL 2.75 inches
Abdomen: 62 inches, TL 2.5 inches
Hips: 61.5 inches, TL 3 inches
Thigh: 31.5 inches, TL 1 inch
Upper Arm: 16.25 inches, TL 1.75 inches
BMI: 55.5 points, TL 6.1 points
Imagine how much better my results will get once I get another car and can get to Curves more than once a week!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Let's Get Ready to Yoga!

First, the update: I weighed in today at 371 lbs, which puts me at 34 lbs, which is 2.5 lbs up from where I was last week. I'm not too surprised, nor am I too concerned, as the gain results from being sick. We had a round of stomach flu hit our house early this week, and all I wanted to do was rest and eat toast. Now that I'm feeling better, I'll get back to being more active and eating better. And now, here it is, as promised, my guide to yoga products for the beginner.

I think yoga is a great form of exercise, especially for people who are somewhat out of shape, because you can start slow, go at your own pace, and modify the poses to suit your body type and level of flexibility. Yoga increases strength, stamina, flexibility, and balance, and I find it an enjoyable form of exercise (and I am easily bored by most forms of exercise.) So, how does one get started? Well, the first thing you need is a yoga mat. Since yoga is practiced barefoot, the yoga mat gives cushioning and, more importantly, traction to the practitioner (after all, you don't want your feet to fly out from under you when you're balanced in triangle pose.) Yoga mats come in a standard size, usually 2 feet wide by 5.5 feet long, but you can get them in almost any color, and even in patterns. You can also find longer, wider, or thicker mats, even antimicrobial mats, if you feel you have a need for one. In most cases, the standard mat will do. If you're going to travel with your mat, such as to a class or on vacation, you may want to invest in a mat bag or a harness strap for carrying. Other props that I recommend for beginners are a strap, a small blanket or bath-size towel, and a brick or block. The strap and the brick or block are helpful for modifying poses, and the blanket or towel can be folded and used for extra cushioning under the knees for kneeling poses. You can sometimes find starter kits that have a mat, a strap, and a block or set of blocks, or you can purchase items separately. You could also improvise props from items around the house: an old necktie or belt could be a strap, a small, sturdy box could be used as a block. I'll put some links to various sites that sell yoga supplies at the end of this post.

Now that you have your mat and props, you need a workout to follow. Here are some of my favorites:
Yoga Journal's Yoga for Beginners featuring Patricia Walden. This is a great dvd to start with. Patricia Walden takes you through a number of basic standing poses, some bends, and some seated poses, and also shows you some modifications to the poses. She takes you through the poses slowly and gives you time to learn each pose correctly, which is an important first step, especially if you intend to eventually move on to flow yoga. I have this on VHS, and I understand that the dvd has more content, so I may have to upgrade soon. I also noticed that there's a companion dvd, Yoga Journal's Yoga for Beginners II, that focuses more on seated poses and twists. I might have to check that one out.
Yoga Conditioning for Weight Loss featuring Suzanne Deason. This has been my workout of choice lately. It's a longer workout -- I think it's about 45 minutes in all -- that's broken into 3 parts. The warm-up focuses on establishing a breath-body connection through seated twists, a standing sun-salutation-type sequence, and some kneeling poses. The main section consists of a number of standing poses and bends, and she has you stay in the poses for a long time. The final section is mostly floor poses and more seated twists. One of the things I really like about this workout is that there are 4 people on the screen: Suzanne Deason does the full poses, but she has 3 other people demonstrating modified poses for people of different fitness levels. One thing to remember with this workout is to only do what you feel you can do. If you can't do all the poses at first, or if you can't stay in them as long as the instructor does, do what you can and gradually work up.
Yoga: Just My Size with Megan Garcia, and MegaYoga by Megan Garcia. Megan Garcia is a plus-size model and yoga instructor who saw the need for modifying yoga poses to suit larger bodies. This dvd and book are the result. The dvd workout takes you slowly through a number of poses and then repeats the sequence a little faster; it also allows you to go directly to each pose, the warm-up, or cool-down from the main menu and access modifications to the poses. The book features even more poses with modifications, and has recommended pose combinations for 30-, 60-, and 90-minute workouts. These products are great resources for plus-size yoga practitioners.
Yoga for Back Care featuring Rodney Yee. As a plus-size person, I am prone to lower back pain, but I find that doing this workout always helps. Rodney Yee takes you through a gentle workout focusing on stretches, using a chair and strap to modify poses.

One last thing: whenever you get a new workout dvd, I recommend that you watch it once before you try it to familiarize yourself with the workout sequence. That way you'll know which props you may need and when. and remember, never try to do more than you're ready to do.

Yoga product sites:
http://www.yogaaccessories.com/
http://www.gaiam.com/
http://www.barefootyoga.com/
http://www.wailana.com/
http://www.everythingyoga.com/
http://www.yogamatsplus.com/
and, of course, Amazon.com.

And no, I'm not getting paid by anyone to mention these products or sites.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Trying to Beat the Winter Blahs

I hate winter. When I was a kid, a snowstorm meant getting the day off from school and playing all day in the snow, so of course I loved winter back then. Now that I'm an adult, however, a snowstorm means having to clear the cars and driveway, as well as driving to work in crappy conditions (at least, it did when I had a car to drive and a job to drive to.) Even when it's not snowing, you have ice, wind, and severe cold to deal with, not to mention the lack of sunlight, all of which leaves me feeling generally apathetic. Some days, the only thing that persuades me to leave the warm, comfy cocoon of my bed is the call of nature. This winter, I'm trying my best to not slip too deep into the winter blahs. Eating a healthier diet is helping, as it's giving me more energy; making sure I exercise regularly also helps. If the weather's too crappy to get out to Curves, then I'll do yoga at home (I'll rate some of my favorite yoga products in an upcoming post.) But what's really keeping me motivated is seeing my continued progress: as of this past Tuesday, I'm at 368.5 lbs, a total loss of 36.5 lbs! Woohoo!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

It's a New Year, It's a New Day, It's a New Life...


and I'm feeling pretty damn good! (Apologies to Nina Simone.) I did gain a bit of weight over the holidays, probably about 10 lbs., but I've taken off most of what I gained. Here's where I am now:
Weight: 373 lbs, for a total loss (TL) of 32 lbs.
Bust: 55.5 inches, TL 5 inches.
Waist: 59 inches, TL 1.5 inches.
Abdomen: 63 inches, TL 1.5 inches.
Hips: 63.5 inches, TL 1 inch.
Thigh: 31 inches, TL 1.5 inches.
Upper Arm: 17 inches, TL 1 inch.
BMI: 56.7 points, TL 4.9 points.

I was looking in the mirror earlier this evening and trying to figure out whether I could see the difference now that I've lost over 30 lbs. I could see it in my face a little but that was just about it. Then, as I was uploading this month's photo, I happened to see it next to my start photo. Wow, what a difference! I know I'm still a long way from my ultimate goal, but it's good to see progress on the way. It helps to keep me motivated.