Sunday, June 29

The Return of Real Food (+ Almond Muffins)

I realized with a big shock today that every single food that I will be eating in the coming week was something I would not have eaten a few years ago.

Every. Single. Item.

Because they're weird? Because they're lowcarb?

No. Because they're REAL!


I was going through a "loosely" planned menu, so I'd know what to defrost, and basing it on what food I have since I can't shop till near next weekend. I eat a lot of the same things each day (eg usually a blueberry and plain yogurt smoothie for breakfast, and eggs, sometimes with sausage if I have it, as a second late-morning meal...) so it wasn't rocket science.

I'm gradually getting my kitchen organized so really, I pretty much always have the same foods available. I can glance at the pantry and see right off what I have few or none of. I can plan a menu without worrying about what I have (normally) because I always have about the same stuff. I can estimate costs because I buy the same stuff all the time.

Most people eat the same things pretty repetitively. I find that I do this naturally. Having menus actually helps me plan some variety, which I consider healthy, and use a little of everything. My produce varies because that has such a short shelf life. Most everything else lasts longer, or if it can be stored or frozen, a very long time.

I think food can be broken down into the following major categories (I'm probably missing something!). This is a list of what I eat/want to eat, and expect to have on hand whenever I can.

Animal Proteins
> eggs-chicken, eggs-duck, chicken-whole, chicken-breasts, chicken-thighs; turkey-whole, turkey-breast, turkey-ground; beef-roast, beef-steaks, beef-ground; pork-loin, pork-tenderloin, pork-cutlets; sausage-italian hot, sausage-breakfast hot, sausage-gourmet jalapeno-jack; bacon-ordinary

> asparagus, lettuce, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet peppers, hot peppers, zucchini

> carrots

> small organic gala apples, avocados, strawberries, frozen wild blueberry, raspberry, blackberry, tomato

Alliums and Other
> garlic, onions, scallions, mushrooms

> pecans

> almonds, flax, coconut

> cream, cream cheese, sour cream, colby-jack, mozzarella, parmesan, blue

> black beans, small red beans

> sweet potato

Processed foods

> coffee, cocoa
> seasonings (from extracts to mixed spices to GF soy sauce, condiments)
> sauces (4-cheese alfredo sauce, enchilada sauce, etc.)
> drinks (diet A&W root beer)
> artificial sweeteners (generally sucralose)


Back in the days when I worked ALL the time, and honestly thought Subway sandwiches were healthy (healthy enough to combat the bread, Dr. Pepper and Doritos and cookies??), I never ate real food. If I had anything at all at home, it was generally tortillas and bread and bagels and pasta.

My food life has changed so much it's hard to measure.

Last night I made almond muffins. I've seen recipes for this kind of thing in various places but I got this one from my LC buddy Karen.

Almond Muffins
2 cups almond meal
4 eggs
2 tsp baking powder
4 oz (1/2 cup or 1 cube) butter (you can use coconut oil)
1/3 cup sweetener (davinci works well)
pinch salt
Mix the dry stuff, stir in wet stuff, stir very well, bake in 12 muffin tins @ 350 about 15 minutes.
Nutrition counts are here.
You can add extracts, berries, etc. to this for a stronger flavor.

Despite some artificial sweetener, even this yummy "baked good" (and the texture is closer to breadish than most LC stuff) is healthier than the stuff I used to eat and seriously considered healthy.

When I list my foods like above, where the stuff I want least is near the bottom -- I'm working on getting more at the top and less at the bottom -- it really brings home how NOT REAL my eating was prior to lowcarb. There was a day I could not have even imagined eating so much 'real food' -- let alone actually cooking it myself, heh!

I feel so fortunate that I've come to this eating plan. My life is so much better in so many ways. It's almost like finding religion. But I guess the body is so profoundly affected by nutrition that makes sense.

Food is the religious doctrine of the body. You can make it bad or good, but you live with what you focus on.


Tuesday, June 17

What's so hard about low-carb?

Today I was looking at a sample diabetes association daily menu.

I was aghast. I know enough about my body to know that if I were trying to eat that, I would be starving, cold, miserable, obsessed with food, and probably either binging every few days or eventually just giving up altogether.

Lowcarb could save their life. It isn't recommended because apparently the authorities think lowcarb is just so totally impossible nobody could eat like that.

I think the most complicating factor is that there are 1.7 billion items in the grocery store that will kill you, and 200 that won't, 3/4 of which people have never eaten in their life. The situation's worse in restaurants. But that has nothing to do with the eating plan. That's environment. The environment in the home, people can manage.


When I first started lowcarb, I joked that it was "like trying to be Amish in New York City." It was HARD. I was constantly faced with the seeming impossibility of getting food together and dealing with eating out somewhere and cooking all-the-freakin-time and so on. I did it, I lost weight, but it was a major pain in the ass.

Now lately, I've been doing fine on LC, imperfect but acceptable, losing weight, as has my kid. And I'm realizing: why was this hard?

What was so complicated about it previously, that it seemed hard?


I think some was a mental issue. That is, having grown up where endless varieties of crap were all expected to be put in your body for the fun of it, I had a fundamental misunderstanding of one key thing, which is this:

Food = Meat.
Veggies and fruits are nice treats, except if your meat variety is limited (you don't eat organs, 9 kinds of meat, etc.) they are necessary to add in.

Once I got my head around that, and "animal-based protein" became my priority and vastly dominant food source, a whole lot of everything straightened out on its own.

This doesn't mean that I can't make coconut popovers or flax cocoa muffins or almond cookies or lowcarb pizza or whatever. It just means that everything which is not the primary bodily need is something 'extra'. It isn't really in the category of 'food' except maybe by some percentage of it.


I think some was a physical issue.

It is stunning how radically my desire to eat--and WHAT I desire to eat--changes depending on my food intake.

If I eat sufficient protein, veg/fruit and supplements, I pretty much lose most of my cravings for anything else. I don't even think about food except when it's time to eat. And I eat until I'm full and that's fine. And it's a miracle if I can even get as MANY carbs and calories as I'm trying for in my day. I can stand right next to chocolate, cheesecake, pasta, and literally not care. I don't have any desire to eat them.

When I find myself "kinda wanting" things that aren't my basic foods, I know that I haven't had enough protein or fresh foods or supplements or something.


I think some was a habit issue.

I buy decent quantities of chicken and ground beef or roast and I cook it all at once in the crockpot or oven usually. On occasion I'll chunk up chicken and bake it with a sauce, or throw the chunks in my wok, or coat 'em with parmesan-herbs and bake, but usually I just cook it all at once. Then I drop it in the freezer or fridge. I can nuke it when I want food, I can mix it in with other foods, whatever. Now that I've started having some decent amounts of things in my freezer, often in serving-size plastic bowls, the stress about 'not having food' has dimmed a great deal.

It used to seem like a nightmare, the planning and shopping and cooking and cleaning. Now I buy mostly the same things, which takes out most of planning and simplifies shopping, I cook more seldom for 'full meals', which simplifies cleaning, too.


I think some was a cultural issue.

I grew up with the idea that a meal had several different components to it. You were supposed to have a little meat, a couple of side dishes, a drink, dessert. Except for much of my adult life, the meat took a hike or was barely-there in the midst of pasta or something.

I grew up with the idea that you ate three times a day. As I got older, I ate one time a day. Now I've completely ditched that mentality. Now:

* I have usually dairy+berries for meal 1, like a smoothie.
{1/2cup plain yogurt, 1/3cup cream, 1 egg, 6 ice cubes, 1/3 cup frozen wild blueberries or half a dozen frozen whole strawberries, vanilla, cinnamon, sweetzfree, blendered}

* I have eggs, usually with sausage, and hopefully a tiny bit of veggie, for meal 2.
{3 eggs and 2oz sausage, or 4 eggs 1oz sausage, or 3 eggs, 1oz meat, 1oz cheese, and part of a bell pepper}

* I may not have a meal 3 but if I do, it might be a bowl muffin, or a meat-centered leftover, nuked. It is usually very small (>2oz protein). It may include beans (some of the higher-fiber (lower ECC) beans) or peas, but not a lot.

* For meal 4 I have meat. Lots of it. Like 9-12oz depending on the meat and other meals of that day. It sometimes has a bit of veggie as part of it, in a stew or alongside (like bell peppers and broccoli in stir fry). Or not. Often it's just plain meat. I often make a quick little sauce of some kind for the kid for dipping.

* I may not have a meal 5 but if I do, it might be a tiny gala apple and a few slices of cheese. I only have this if I began eating early and there's at least 2+ hours before sleeping time.

* I take supplements (finally!), and I recently added a 5,000iu of Vitamin D3 from the Drs. Eades's site ( which I kid you not, within about 6 hours or so greatly improved my "sense of well-being." I think it's made a big difference. I use a potassium salt substitute to make sure I'm not getting too much sodium (I use sauces from jars/cans sometimes) and that I'm getting enough potassium. I drink diet soda, and then guilt (and zits) cure me and I drink only water for awhile, until I forget why I was doing that and go back to diet soda. ;-)

In the end I have about 20-26oz of animal-based protein a day (varies slightly), not enough veggies but some, a little fruit, a little too much dairy but not too extreme, sometimes a bit of legumes (beans or peas) and some supplements.

I'm losing weight on and the important thing is: I feel really good.

I'm deliberately eating more carbohydrates than I used to, but none of it's junk, and none is a ton at once. My highest carb intake is my morning smoothie, except the occasion when I have a meat stew that contains some beans.

I don't feel the way I do in a hard ketosis. I'd be losing weight faster if I were there, but my diet would be a lot more limited.

I don't feel the way I do when I'm eating tons of carbs (like hell).

I actually feel as if for the first time in my life since I can remember, I must be eating in a way that my body is pretty happy with.


And it isn't rocket science.

So what I can't figure out is, up until now, why has it been so complicated?


Thursday, June 5

Kitchen Metaphysics

If life is but a dream, as the sages say, then everything around us reflects us in some way.

And if the universe is holographic, as the sages and some physicists now suggest, then every reflected item or issue on one level, is probably present in myriad others.

It's not merely as above, so below; it's also as within, so without; and as here, so there; and every other possible permutation.

Most of the best advice in both practical and metaphysical terms, starts there.

While I wouldn't take this to the extreme--I'm not obsessing over the deeper meaning in a hangnail--I do think that observing 'the patterns of our reality', so to speak, can be enlightening. It's like an intro-spective activity using the extro-spective canvas. (Yes. I just made that word up.)

I'm the analogy-queen; I can see nearly anything as a dream-symbol, and correlate it to other things in my mind, heart, spirit, or other facets of experience. It doesn't really matter how objectively valid this might be, as I figure anything from 'subconscious intuition' to 'God/guides' can use this process to help me a little from the inside, even were it nothing more than my colorful imagination.


Today I started to make dinner (taco salad: kid-approved). I couldn't help but notice, as I searched for something, that yet again my pitiful old fridge was so overstuffed it was ridiculous. Welcome to lowcarb, where nearly everything is perishable!

This is its normal state, mind you. I sometimes think I compost more food than I eat, mostly because stuff gets buried very easily, unseen, and then gets out of date, or replaced because I think I'm out of it. But as inflation around me seems to make the cost of eating, driving, and heating/cooling my house a lot harder than it used to be, the waste of that becomes a bigger deal.

So, like a cat that stops mid-step to lick a foot in desperate need apparently, I stopped in the middle of making dinner and cleaned out the fridge. REALLY well.

In the back of every shelf, and in the door, were innumerable jars and bottles of stuff. Pickles, pickled stuff, dressings, sauces, jams, you name it. Most of them probably date from a long time ago; although I clean the fridge now and then I usually don't bug that kind of thing, thinking it's still probably good. Most of them are also high-carb. I got rid of all of them like that.

I found a number of things important to me -- a whole chicken, two long tubes of ground sausage, several cheeses -- that were outdated or seriously molded and made me really mad at myself for forgetting they were in there and letting them get buried before I used them. (I thought I'd put the chicken in my chest freezer in the garage.) I got rid of everything outdated.

I nearly threw out a tub of yogurt that smelled like sour cream, despite only expiring two days ago, until I realized it WAS sour cream. I swear, I'm like I Love Lucy in the kitchen!

I had five, 13-gallon trash bags filled with stuff when I was done. I honestly cannot believe there was that much stuff. That's not totally filled, mind you. I just made them as heavy as they could be without splitting; a couple were only half-full, as jars of stuff are heavy. By the time I was done, there was almost nothing left in my fridge. But what was left was well organized and in-date and low-carb.

I recently cleaned out and organized my freezer too (it's a side-by-side), so I felt pretty good about this being done.

I closed the fridge, sat back on a folding chair I'd been using for the job, and considered my kitchen.


I have incredibly little counter space. Not counting one fairly unusable (because it's sorta unreachable) corner, I have about 2', ~5', 2' (three separate counter areas). These have to hold my canisters and other things that sit on counters, coffeepot, all my non-refrigerated bottles of stuff (vinegar, etc.), dish drainer, and dirty dishes (I don't have a dishwasher), and so on. So by the time we're talking about useable counter space, there isn't much. There's enough to make a meal just fine, except if I don't clean everything up really well, or I take up a couple feet with dishes needing washed, the next meal has no place to do anything. I mourn this regularly.

Idly looking around, I realized (I knew this, but suddenly realized this in a new way somehow), that I have, count them, three substantial, nice looking sets of clear canisters. (Lovely cubic thick glass ones, spherical lucite ones, and plastic lock&locks.) Every counter in my kitchen is missing the back 8" as a result.

I considered them anew. Most their contents date from--I am not kidding--the year 2000. Think it might be time to get rid of that stuff eh! If I haven't used it by now, I'm definitely not going to be using it anytime soon--and being 8 years old, I don't think I want to use it, airtight canisters or not.

I considered various strategies to consolidate anything useful from the newer l&l's and spice shelf into the prettiest glass ones, use the l&l's for leftover/ freezer storage, and do something elsewhere with the lucite ones. This one step alone would buy me several feet of 8" back-of-counter space freed up.

Then I considered that on the small counter next to the fridge, half of the 2' space is taken up with bottles of stuff -- oils, soy sauce, vinegar, etc. It took me awhile to get the niggling in the back of my head up to the front, where it pointed out that (a) I haven't used more than a few of these bottles in at least two years, (b) nearly everything there is either highcarb, bad for me (like veg oils), or possibly should have been refrigerated anyway, and (c) was another perfect example, like my fridge, of (1) good stuff getting lost in the shuffle, and (2) me using valuable space in my life to store crap I don't use, don't want, and don't care about. This would free up not only the other foot of that counter, but that newly combined space would be a space big enough to actually work in for something like a mixing bowl or chopping mat.

I thought, so really, here I am sorta chronically sad about how pitiful my situation with counter space is, and yet, there is a solution in several areas, and it's really my own fault the situation IS what it IS: if I simply arranged things differently, the situation would be a whole lot better.

It was sort of disconcerting to think I've been bitching about having no counter space for years, and yet, I seem to have pointedly made the problem worse. And somehow, didn't notice.

Like I sort-of-observed, but didn't become "fully" aware of in a deep way, my obesity for so long.

In an upper cupboard on the second shelf I have glasses I can barely reach. Over on another cupboard the second shelf is filled with pyrex baking pans that somehow didn't make it over to the hanging pot rack shelf and take up space I wish I had for other stuff. And the most reachable lower-top cupboard is filled with cups--most of them too small to be useful, typical coffee cups, most of them cheap and cheesy, mismatched stuff I'm not even sure where I got. Why can't I just buy a 6-set of nice, good-sized mugs? Why have a cupboard totally over-filled with ugly crap that's too small?

As my boyfriend pointed out, based on organizing his own kitchen, having tons of cheap dishes does little but crowd the good ones and allow you to make such a mess of your kitchen before you have to break down and clean it that it becomes monumental.

Under the first tiny counter there is a 'corner' cupboard. I don't drop & kneel as easily as the average person, so I only use the front; it's hard to see let alone reach anything farther back. It was looking kinda frenzied. There's probably 150 cheap storage-container lids there... and no containers. My weekly housekeeping help seems to throw them away, unless pixies are stealing them in the night. I've told her she can do that if something is really gross. Apparently many things fit this description. Given my refrigerator, I realize she probably has a point.

I looked closer into the murky depths and realized I have 3 nested metal mixing bowls in there. I forgot those even existed! And I really could have used them recently. It occurred to me all the crappy stuff I can't use is front and center, and useful things are out of sight, out of mind.

I wondered if that was some analogy to my life. Like how all the trivial crap takes up my daily time, while the fairly important stuff, like prayer, meditation, music, writing, working out, etc. get shoved to the back of my life and forgotten in the shuffle.


I looked at this white wall-unit (bookshelf) I have in the kitchen. It's the most handy, accessible thing in the whole little square kitchen. It's filled with (white) appliances. Which, when organized, looks kinda neat. But as I eyed it critically, it occurred to me nearly everything on it I almost never use. A couple I've never used, like the ice cream maker and extra bowl, or the belgian waffle iron. The yogurt maker I used twice. The dehydrator, never yet though I hope so still. The big popcorn maker I can't use now that I'm LC but don't want to get rid of (yet).

I looked closer and saw that the MP3/CD/Radio I've been looking for going on two months now, was actually stacked/ buried underneath a regular-sized waffle iron on the bottom shelf. And as I sat there looking at it with "new" eyes, I realized that while things I need (like glasses) are hard to reach, stuff I almost never use sits in the most prime real estate of the room.

Again, I surrounded myself with what I didn't need, while pushing what I did need back to inconvenience.

The impact of my whole kitchen hit me. I thought: It hasn't changed much in two years. Why am I just now noticing that it is not structured to support me?

I saw that in some respects, this is an analogy to what I was just blogging about: I have seen it, I have been consciously aware of it, but as my boyfriend pointed out, I hadn't "seen the forest for the trees": the larger pattern and its import hadn't hit me until just now.


He and I were talking about something the other night and this really fits into it. Sometimes, it's like each individual little thing seems like no big deal. Inconveniences with my coffeemaker and my knife block and other things, I just deal with, because they are such trivia, so what. Tons of things. But none are important. None are a big deal.

And yet when you combine all those trivia into one situation, you get this BIG situational pattern that is amazing and eventually, when you realize the scope of it, you have to admit it's untenable: you can't stand it anymore. You realize the situation is now "ridiculous" and "overwhelming" and frankly dysfunctional and things have got to change.

Things that are fine one trivia at a time, are not fine en masse.


They say frogs won't notice they're boiling if the water gets hot gradually. Things pile up gradually. Inconveniences multiply gradually. Weird shit stuffed in cupboards and under things breeds and multiplies until it's frankly astounding how much STUFF you can find in every imaginable area. Because it happens gradually. You see it, but it doesn't sink it. Then one day you see the whole pattern and it does.

Why do we let it go? It's not just 'things', it's 'situations'. How many times have I seen a situation a friend is in and thought, "I would never put up with that." Whether it's the behavior of a spouse or boss or child, or whatever. But you know, they probably didn't start putting up with that. First it was just one little thing. Then another. Until it snowballed into a ridiculous and even dysfunctional situation. But it boiled my friend by surprise because the increase was gradual. I've had my share of boilings myself, of course.

If we had more here-now focus, more sense of self, would we be more inclined to nip inconveniences in the bud, rather than just deal with it?

And while I'm at it, what kind of logic is, "It's ok, it won't kill me." WTF? So what if it won't kill you, neither will arsenic in small doses, does that justify any given thing being tolerated?!

Kinda reminds me of that digitally animated movie A Bug's Life. The grasshoppers at a bar are joking about, what kind of harm can one crazy disgruntled ant do? And their leader, Hopper, says something like, You're right, and he tossed a seed in the air as if it represented an ant, what harm can an ant be? And laughed with them--and then angrily yanked open this chute and utterly buries them in these seeds. He says the issue with ants is numbers, which makes it a serious issue indeed, even if their comparative size/strength individually is not.

His point: if you don't deal with the single issues as they arise, someday you'll have an army of issues to deal with all at once, and that'll be a lot harder to deal with.

Well in a way this perfectly describes "clutter" and "inconvenience" (and other things -- from relationships to kitchens to fat cells to whatever). We let any number of minor things and inconveniences bug us because it seems like more trouble to stress on solving it than just to accept that it won't kill us.

(Yes, I know I'm using the bad guy in an animated film for my philosophy, but stay with me here. I grew up on Disney, I can cry over cartoon movies and commercials, and I even liked the Bee Gees. I am not ashamed.)
  • I feel that keeping all the highcarb stuff represents the things I hold onto that I not only don't really want but know will harm me, but cling to solely because I have something invested in them.
  • I feel that spaces stuffed with outdated food and bowl-less lids and such represents things I have ignored that are missing or going bad in my life.
  • I feel that prime in-my-face spaces stuffed with things I don't much use, while the things I need are nearly out of reach, represents some problem with priorities and attention, like filling my life with such busy-ness that I forget to pray or sleep enough, as one of innumerable examples.

What if, like the mystics say, we actually look at our surroundings as extensions of ourselves?

What if we actually expect that everything we have we should love, and if we don't love it (figuratively speaking here), we should give it away, not keep it prisoner in an environment where it is not utilized or respected? This goes for situations, not just things.


As for the sheer amount of stuff around me:

Sometimes I feel like every single item/object in a room is taking some tiny little piece of my attention just by existing in proximity.

When I'm in very minimalist rooms with a sense of space, I tend to be more creative, more relaxed, and feel rather like more (a larger %) of my "awareness of inner self" is available, since it is not busy with my external surroundings, and not numbed and distracted by the sheer quantity of them.

And every item that is messy, out of place, uninteresting, unwanted, broken, mismatched, etc. seems to add just a little bit of darkness to the mix.

There's a reason magazine ads show large open rooms with lots of light and space. It feels good, psychologically.

So I live in a small dark box some bad architect in the 1950s designed to build cheap. I can deal. But nearly everything I have to gripe about inside my house is something that I can change, and more importantly, something that often, I've made far worse than it was to begin with, or ignored for years, or seriously failed to make even the smallest intelligent decision to resolve.

Apparently the real problem wasn't my dim and boxy little house, it was me.

And it's not that I suddenly have a problem. It's that I had a problem paying attention to the little things when they began eons ago, and went into denial of the big things when they finally manifested quite some time ago, until I just "woke up" one day recently and said, "Hold up here! I've had an unfinished painting job and no cupboard doors for years now! WTF is wrong with me? That's ridiculous! Solve that right now!"


So tonight I did the fridge. Tomorrow I'm doing the canisters and the bottles on the counter. By Friday I should have more counter space and convenience than I've ever had here in eight years.

The important thing is this: It was always there. The opportunity and option was always present. It is merely my lack of attention, intention, whatever, that kept me from observing it, seizing it, and doing something about it.

Every problem I thought of while looking around my kitchen, I realized there was a solution for. All I've seen for years is a kitchen of problems. All I saw tonight was a kitchen filled with answers, and potential too long ignored and badly managed by me.

Maybe that's a lot of my life, too. My health, body/mind/spirit, has no problem for which it does not also have at least one solution. The question is, will I look for it properly, with the open mind to find it? Will I recognize the need to bother looking in the first place? Will I put forth the effort to make it work once I see?

I have a great kitchen, really, despite how bad off it is now and how much I've complained about it -- and I have a great body, really, despite the same general situation. Both are over-stuffed, disorganized, unfinished and badly treated. But they have great potential, and if I treat things well and regularly make an effort, both might turn out to be better than I ever dared hope for.


Some people use church, ancient philosophers, or psychotherapists for analysis. Tonight, I used my kitchen. Make use of the tools at hand. :-)


Wednesday, June 4

"You Know It Don't Come Easy"

I admit it: I deal poorly with failure. You'd think I'd have adapted by now. That by this age of 42, I'd have evolved some kind of gentle but firm, persistent discipline that my friends have so often had. I so admire that. I sometimes think the people I've chosen as friends have often been people with the qualities I most lacked.

This is an odd thing to admit--and will just make me sound like an egotist--but I was blessed, or maybe it's cursed, with a seeming gift for naturally acquiring skills. Just about anything I've ever wanted to do in my life, I decided to do, and it turned out I was pretty talented in that area. From sports to music to intellectual topics to creativity of many kinds, it didn't matter. It's always just been a given.

When I was 12 at the skating rink they made me race the 18 year olds and start halfway back the rink and I still beat them. When I was in 5th grade my teacher used my SAT scores to talk with the class about 'potential' because I'd scored at college level in every area (I think Math was slightly lower). (Irony: I nearly failed 5th grade. My mom died late the year before and I wasn't real happy then.) In high school I read the textbooks the first couple days, aced most the tests the rest of the year that were based on it, to the fury of my friends who studied and did more poorly, and I read science fiction the rest of the time. (Not surprisingly, I nearly failed most of high school, too.)

When I decided to teach myself guitar as a teen, my friends, who'd had years of lessons and were working on the same music I was, practiced daily in earnest. I played around for 15 minutes, ignored it for a week, and was better than them by the next weekend, as if my subconscious were working on it. They'd get furious at me, at how unfair it was. They were right: it was. When I decided to enter the local (today they'd call it "Indie") scene with my original music, people were so ridiculously nice to me I kept looking at them suspiciously. Musicians better than I'll ever be would just unfold from the woodwork to talk with me and play with me and invite me to stuff. From trivial skills like soul-train dancing as a kid to more useful stuff like subtle language skills for hypnosis/NLP, to a long list of business skills and insert-anything-here, I've had it remarkably easy in life.

My life has been significantly difficult in other areas. Maybe the universe is compensating.

And so... I didn't learn to practice. I didn't learn much discipline. I didn't learn anything about persistence. And because anything I bothered trying to do, I did well with remarkably little effort--and I didn't do things that I wasn't good at I suspect, and didn't need to since I had plenty of other choices--I never learned to deal with failure.


When I gained a couple hundred pounds quickly, and dieting by the high-carb standard didn't do anything for me (except make me so miserable I didn't think I could survive it), I was at a loss. I was 24 and for the first time in my life I had utterly and completely failed. Not only had I become terminally uncool -- so much that the career in music I planned since I was 5, my hundreds of songs in a binder from the time I was a teen, were all for nought -- but then as if to nail that case closed, my diet efforts failed abysmally to change it.

I didn't know what to do to fix it. I did everything by the book, hard and perfectionist, and failed. Given no female in my mom's family had successfully avoided being huge, I figured that was it, I was doomed. Baffled by my failure, and having no idea how to handle it, I went another way: after deciding (barely) not to shoot myself, I just immersed myself in my work and personal interests--generally those which did not require being physically seen by another human being.


There is a thing sometimes called state-specific consciousness that refers to memory being associated with certain states of mind. For example, if in one state of mind you had experience A and learned skill B, then for some people, in a different state of mind, they might have a fairly minimal grasp of that memory and skill--but if they shift their state of mind back to where they were 'present' when those experiences happened and skills developed, the memories and skills are fully accessible to them. It's a bit of a phenomenon.

I'm a high hypnotic and I've got a good deal of this. Half of what I've done through my adult professional life I probably couldn't do today, without regressing to a mental state much like I had when I did that work (by imagining myself in that situation/etc.), and I assume that as usual, I'd pick up the memories and skills again. In some areas of my personal life -- including my obesity -- this has an odd way of surprising me.

(Aside from that: there is a TV show called The Pretender that I always felt was a more-advanced version of some innate skill humans have access to, and that's like a secondary part of the phenomenon: the ability to put oneself in a state of mind that is so highly 'receptive' to every kind of subtle information, memory and more, that one can do more than the objective time/info-invested would imply they should be able to. Some would call this psychic; others would just consider it having access to a vast database of mnemonic, subconscious information.)


I recently attempted some half-squats, and had dismal luck with them. I'm sure with something firmer to hold onto I will do ok. I can do a full squat but my knees feel terror. (Literally, and speaking of 'phenomena': the sense I have is that the fear is felt by my knees, not my head for my knees. Odd!)

I was SO ANGRY that I couldn't just DO it, that I ended up just stomping out, this was days aog, and haven't gone back to my weights room since.

Because: I really have a problem with failure.

I just need to accept that I am not a 19 year old tennis playing windsurfing judo throwing California girl fashion zombie performer anymore... I am a 42 year old mega-morbidly obese midwestern mom now. It just keeps pissing me off!

So the reasonable question is: If you're 42 years old, and you've been insanely fat for nigh on 20 years, why aren't you used to it already? Why is a full mirror or store window a ghastly, horrifying shock? Why is who and what you are now surprising in any way? What part of the last 20 years didn't prepare you for your condition of today?


The reality is that I have deliberately paid so little attention to myself for the last 20 years that it seems like there was the me that was 'aware' all that time ago, and then the me that is just waking up to being more aware of myself today... as if the 20 years in the middle, in terms of my perception of self, have been bizarrely condensed into a few weeks of moments of attention separated by long duration periods of denial.

So now that I am finally "paying attention to myself" more, it feels like, "Whoa, what the -- what?! You have GOT to be kidding me!"

I can't believe I can't do a squat. I can't believe that my eight pound dumbbell weights are plenty. I can't believe I wear a 5x (if slightly stretchy) pants size. I can't believe that horrible image in the pictures is me. I can't believe that reflection in the store window is me. I am stunned, even dumbfounded at times, as if I woke up one day in the body of someone different, and the dreams got me used to life and the history, but the conscious self is completely unadapted to my new reality.

Because I quit paying attention. When I realized (or believed) that I could not change my weight, that I could not salvage the future I planned until then, that I could not bear the horrible fact of my rather swift and profound obesity, the ghastly spectre of it overwhelmed me, and I just . . . tuned out.

And so, the realization, and the frustration, and the coming-to-terms, that I should have done at the age of 24, I am now doing at the age of 42.

And despite that I consciously understand my condition--I don't even try to run, for example--still, the dominant part of me thinks that I should be as tough and athletic as I was last time I knew me--last time I was paying attention.

That part of me thinks that it ought to be easy, like everything used to be. That I ought to be able to go in there and lift weights, or whatever else I might want to do, and do very well with it. That I should pick an intelligent eating plan like the one Regina outlined and within days, weeks, months, be the poster child for nutritional good sense as a result.


I am regularly amazed that eating low carb, AND eating healthily, AND getting exercise, are only easy until they are hard. Too often so far, on the day something gets hard, I quit doing it. Because somehow I have managed to so effortlessly be good at things throughout my life, that I haven't developed the persistent discipline you'd expect from a well-raised farm boy of 10.

So I am also learning, as if I am a small child, about staying with something that is hard. Aside from the business environment (where all those adaptive traits abound in me for some reason, probably for the same reason other skills come easy), I haven't got that trait in my personal life yet.

I'm learning about having to work at something, like my friends did. About having to be persistent, and having to deal with failure -- repeatedly -- and pick myself up, dust off my butt and get back to what I know I want to be doing.


The good news is, low-carb has given me a doorway to success. There was no hope, I thought, all those years ago. There was no point to trying, or to paying attention to myself, if it was hopeless. I used to say, "Only optimists kill themselves. Pessimists aren't surprised their life sucks." I was pessimistic enough about the outlook of my obesity to turn my attention elsewhere, to something I thought I could make a difference with, which was "anything but my body".

Maybe for men looking to lose 20 pounds, lowcarb is a quick fix. But for someone starting at over 500 pounds at one point, even the best eating plan in the world is going to be a very long term effort to lose that extra weight--and it's entirely possible that it will never fully come off. As a result, the "persistence for the long term" becomes more critical in someone like me. Anybody can do some-big-deal for a limited duration. But for the morbidly obese (and diabetic), the lowcarb eating plan is a rest-of-your-life thing.

Lowcarb isn't really a wagon to fall off. There is only one true failure point in low carb eating: when you die. Until then, you have another day, another meal, another hour, another chance to do it right, to drag up the energy to eat well enough to feel well enough to move well enough to lose well enough to change your life. You gotta start somewhere. For some of us it's a lot higher than others.

But no matter the reason someone eats lowcarb, one truism exists: on lowcarb ketogenic, the eating part is the easy part. It's the wrapping your head around yourself and where you really are and all the changes you go through, that merely attempting to lose weight (let alone succeeding!) bring on.

It doesn't come fast. It doesn't come without a monumental learning curve about nutrition and metabolism and your own unique body--and mind. It's a long hard road, and it takes persistence -- and the ability to deal with occasional failure in one respect or another -- to succeed.

It doesn't come easy. But it comes.

Sunday, June 1

Center of the Universe

It was a dark and stormy night.

Really. Northeastern skies were filled with electrical storm lightning, these constant flashes of diffused white intermixed with jagged sharp bolts, playing on the screen of the sky without any sound at all from that distance. It was like God's Tesla-ball above my Sharper Image world... seen from the Wal-mart parking lot.

Maybe it was because it was so humid I was sweating three steps out of the house at nearly midnight, after carefully hiding from the outside world all day for exactly that reason. I hate being hot, and having enough thermal layering for a walrus does not help.

Maybe it was because my nearly-12 year old is starting to get more exasperating and our mutual frustration level suggests she is heading for teenager far too fast. I feel near despair sometimes at the emotional trauma of it on my end.

Maybe it was because I hadn't had enough sleep, or was irked at myself for the growing list of things I "should" do and haven't, or some other dissatisfied sort of reason.

But whatever the reason, I started thinking about "selfishness"; and about autonomy.

About this dilemma that most all of us have in some respect, where priorities between our eating plan and others around us, our time for various activities vs. what others want or need us to spend time doing, come into conflict.

My buddy Sara had been talking about it in her journal and I guess it just took several days to incubate in the back of my brain. My subconscious kicked it till it worked, repainted it with my own issues, and when it was presentable, dropped it into my conscious mind against a backdrop of stormy sky. So one minute I was minding my own business, and the next moment some life-sized "personal issue" was staring back at me.

I hate it when that happens. I resist evolution, dammit. Single-celled organisms are happier from what I hear, and I'm all for simplicity. But sometimes it's like my body, mind and spirit are several meshed identities, of which my surface personality is just one. It's like they let me be King and face for the world and feel all cocky about how I'm in charge but really, they just move on with doing whatever they feel like doing regardless of my opinions.

Such as "dealing with personal issues." I think I'd be ok with not worrying about those until about 17 minutes before death, when I plan an accelerated chant through a rosary of apology to God and the Universe for everything I've screwed up in my life. I grant that doing this correctly would take vastly longer than 17 minutes, given my genuine gift for screwing up, but that's the glory of impending doom, you see. It'll be too late to worry about the fact that I'll be behind schedule for yet another thing right up to the moment I keel over. As long as "Sorry I'm out of time, Lord" gets in there before the final moment, my bases are covered.

I don't really feel like dealing with all my personal issues before then. What I'd like is for them to shut the hell up so I can get on with my life already.

But it has now come to my attention that I spend an inordinate amount of time doing completely useless things with my mind, such as:

* Feeling guilty about everything I didn't do
* Feeling guilty about everything I'm probably not going to do
* Feeling guilty about why I'm feeling guilty rather than doing them
* Feeling guilty about what my kid wants to eat vs. what I want to eat
* Feeling --

-- well you get the idea.

I realize the Virgo x4 thing is a born curse. But it's more than that:

I'm starting to realize that a good chunk of my life that should have been devoted to my own self improvement, has instead been repressed, suppressed, marginalized, ignored, and shifted aside for things like what someone else wanted, or I thought they needed, or for what my job demanded (I felt), or what my family was pressing for, what "seemed" acceptable, what seemed like "should" be done or would be "reasonable" of me to expect of others.

It's my life. My reality. My subjective universe. I'm supposed to be at the center of it. Yet it seems like I have spent a lot of my life almost apologizing for being at the center. And seldom doing a proper job of protecting that center.

I don't think I've given myself enough space. Privacy. Autonomy. I've based far too much of my life, and this includes lowcarb, on what people around me wanted to eat, wanted to do, or thought I should be doing.

This manifests up-close in small ways.
* Whether I need to resist crappy food in my kitchen because someone else wants it.
* Whether I need to allow myself to be interrupted constantly, any waking (and many sleeping) moments of my life, when I'd like to be left alone to DO something.
* Whether I am truly obligated to various social obligations.
* Whether I have to sit through food that tempts me somewhere.
* Whether I have to argue with stupid people I cannot avoid who think 'gluten intolerance' is a food fashion statement I should get over, who think it's nearly child abuse not to give my kid pasta, who want to lecture me on why I should be having a variety of bizarre invasive 'tests' just to see if I have cancer for no reason than besides they want to project it on me.
* Whether I should be not listening to music lest it wake up someone who wants to sleep during the day.
* Whether I should be cleaning the kitchen instead of doing something I want.

The list is endless, and up close it's trivial, but when you back off and look at the macro picture, it's a life of self-imprisonment through "shoulds".

Maybe some degree of really taking your life back requires "grim determination." Not anger exactly, but a merciless recognition of the mercy you've never shown yourself and now actually NEED to, for your own good.

And if that's selfish, and self-centered, then maybe it should be. Maybe any plan for true health eventually has to look past the nutrition numbers, the scale numbers, and take a hard look at the genuine personal space and autonomy and focus that a person is allowing themselves.

Maybe demanding that carby food and gluten leave my life and veggies join it, is just an analogy to demanding that people who want to project their stuff on me, or family members who want to force me to stay in the mold they're comfortable with, deal with it. Maybe telling the world to stuff it and doing what I choose with my time no matter who it pisses off or how, is an important part of moving past the occasional blues I seem to get. Maybe more of me and less of others would be a good thing.

Have you ever noticed how people who are serious weight lifters or marathoners or musicians or whatever, seem to put their focus first, even when it drives the people around them crazy? Is it coincidence that I'm a fat woman having trouble with that? If I had more ease with that taking charge of being selfish when it's needed for my health and sanity, would I be less like me and more like them in some way?

I had the quirky thought, "I am the cheese that stands alone."

(Reminds me of the time I woke up from a dream where I'd been singing a song I wrote in the dream world, and had just finished singing, I am colored outside the lines...)

I am the center of the universe. Mine, anyway.

I think it's time I started acting like it.