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What have I been doing since August 2009, you ask?

Well, having a baby who is almost 1, for one.

Thinking of loads and loads of posts that I never get around to for another.

Today I was possessed with a manic urge to talk about my lunch on Facebook. I suppressed that urge, but it dawned on me that I do have an actual, already set up, outlet for such nattering. So here we go.

Yesterday for Easter dinner, I hastily threw a pork loin on the grill and threw together a pasta salad to go with, as  we really hadn’t thought through anything and had virtually nothing on hand. I had some lemon pepper fettuccine in the cupboard, so I cooked that up, whipped up a lemon/olive oil dressing with some fresh ground pepper, thyme, rosemary and a wee pinch of sugar to offset the tartness (thinking it over, a pinch of lemon zest would not have been amiss either), and tossed that all together with about a third of a finely diced yellow onion, some fresh chopped carrots, half a can of corn and some fresh spinach. It was actually pretty darn good for something I threw together out of the pantry at 11 am Easter morning.

It’s also made for some lovely leftovers. Lunch was a dish of the pasta with some lemon pepper tuna tossed in and a hard-boiled egg on the side. I tried to add a clementine, but they’ve turned, alas. But overall, it was a healthy, refreshing lunch, especially eaten outside at a shady table overlooking the Potomac.

As for me overall, I feel like I’ve turned a corner in the past 4-6 weeks. One big change that we made when I was pregnant was to start actually having salad with dinner several times a week, which really helps get fresh veggies into all of our diets.  I still struggle to find time to work out, but I find myself doing more scattered exercise – I get out and walk with the baby a few times a week, and I stretch in off moments, even at the office. But the biggest thing that I’ve managed to do, that I never thought I could, was to cut down on my sugar intake. It wasn’t even conscious, which seems to be the way that I best make these sorts of changes. If I think too much, I obsess and get ornery. But I happened on chocolate dessert teas around Valentines Day and just kept drinking them. And discovered that if I had a cup of tea around the same time I hugely craved chocolate in the middle of the day or after dinner, the tea satisfied a lot of the same urges.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I still eat sugar (and chocolate, natch), but I’ve gotten to the point where treats are just that – treats. And where, if I have an ice cream cone with my son when we’ve walked down from the park, that’s it for the day. I don’t give into the momentary thought of baking brownies on the weekend and we’ve had two boxes of Ghirardelli mix in the pantry for at least 2 months. And there’s a big tray of Easter candy sitting not 20 feet from me right now – and I’ve not touched it and don’t feel much of an urge to.

This is HUGE for me. GIGANTIC GLITTERY LETTERS huge. I’ve always been the person who grabbed a piece of candy from any open dish I passed. I’ve always been the one who orders dessert and who absolutely needs something sweet after every meal. I’ve spent most of my adult life wondering how I could be like virtually every person around me (in my eyes, mind you) and not slavishly haunt any possibility of sweet treats. And more importantly, how I can realistically model healthy eating for my children.

A side benefit of all of this is that, yeah, I do seem to be losing some weight and yeah, my clothes do seem to fit better (or worse, in some cases where they are too big). But I *feel* better. And I feel like I have some say and control over what I put in my mouth. And that’s the real point.

I suppose the fact that I haven’t been writing over here is a good sign, in that I’m feeling less conflicted about food and my body and my ability to build a healthy lifestyle that is not obsessed with absolutely under no circumstances baking a cake if I really really want cake. (I really wanted cake Monday. So I baked one. It’s yummy and almost half of it is still in the pan on the kitchen counter. But I digress.)

I am trying to develop a love affair with exercise – as I’ve mentioned before, I do feel so much better and more relaxed and I’m sure I am more pleasant to be around when I get up in the morning and even spend 20 minutes on the elliptical trainer. The catch is getting my ass out of be early enough to make it happen.

So, I’ve started making my default for my alarm 5:30 instead of 6:30. Not getting up to exercise is now the conscious exception, rather than affirmatively setting the alarm back an hour. Getting up with time to do this for myself is my new rule. It’s not perfect. The other night when I got caught up in a book and read until after midnight finishing it (Heir to Sevenwaters, I love Juliet Marrillier), I figured I needed at least a little more than 5 hours of sleep.

For the most part it works. And I feel better, and my clothes fit better, and I feel more toned and stronger. I am a nicer person. Really. Seriously. Why don’t you believe me? I am completely serious though – even though I’m operating on less sleep, I am less snappy and more able to just roll with things, just ask my kid. And I’m trying not to let the fact that I’ve also lost some “extra” lbs be too much of an incentive, but it does get me down below a particular psychological barrier as well.

And therein lies some conflict, because philosophically, I still find myself watching the scale and still looking at clothes in my closet and thinking if I could just lose 2515 lbs, I could maybe fit into these things again. And then I think, you know, if just upping a couple of days of exercise is enough to take off some of this weight and stored fat, then maybe there’s a different point besides just size acceptance here – I’m not dieting. I’m barely trying to eat healthier – although I have been eating a lot more organic and less processed food, including more fruits and veggies.

So maybe it all makes a difference together and maybe the only thing that is really important is that I am happy. To the extent that I feel better, it is not because I suddenly discovered that I’d “lost weight”- I felt better before that because I was taking better care of myself. And I like myself. I liked myself three weeks ago and I like myself now and I will like myself whether I keep exercising or not.

The scale does not define me, but neither does avoiding it. I have to find my own way.

I’ve been working on a new definition of being “good”, which involves things like working out 3-4 times a week andeating more fruits and veggies and less refined sugar because I feel better and am happier and less cranky and tired when I do these things. Under this new definition, “being good” also means taking time to do things that I want to do for myself, like write blog entries and short stories and novels; like pulling out my guitar and singing; like actually using the wonderful watercolor set I received from my partner for giftmas.

Good things. Ya know?

And as of last week, I was doing pretty good according to that definition. I got up and used the elliptical trainer a couple of mornings and was going to yoga for the first time in ages and was plotting out the next few chapters in my head…

Then I had a long Friday at work (contrary to popular belief and actual practice in many places, Friday is usually my worst workday because of developing crises in weekend programming. But I digress). I went into the first serious yoga class I’d been to in 6 weeks, having missed two for India, then had a heavy relaxation/light workout session, then a week off, then a migraine two weeks ago. I was tight. And tired. And stressed. And tight.  My body was telling me something was wrong through the whole class – weird muscle aches and cramps forced me to modify certain things. Then the instructor had us do a warrior 2 in a way I wasn’t used to and my center of gravity was off and I was frustrated and tired and pushing harder than I should have because I knew I could do the post better than I was. Then I heard the ripping sound. It was not, in fact, my awesome yoga pants. But rather was the sound of something awry in my inner thigh.

Sigh.

I’m still sore and I want comfort food and I’m grumpy and I’m reading things into innocent comments from my partner. I want to be active, dammit, and I can’t right now. We were supposed to go hiking this weekend – we have reservations at a lodge and everything. And now I don’t know if I can. I hate this. The smallest setback can completely torpedo my ability to easily like myself and to be proud of my accomplishments. And that is not good.

Another way to “lose weight” without having to diet or exercise. All you have to do is to spend a few hours in the cold, right? Well, maybe. The study is only in men, and the effects are not lasting, but you can lose 10 lbs a year by sitting around chilly.

The first thing I thought when I heard about this was “gee, I wonder how long until some brilliant snake oil salesperson starts charging people $500 an hour to sit in their skivvies in a 50 degree room?” Or “weight loss weekends” at fancy spas with long sits in the cold, a colonic and a juice cleanse?

Honestly, the only thing that really surprises me is that a quick google doesn’t show this cropping up yet.

Now, obviously (I hope), if this news can honestly help people, then great. But frankly, it sounds like one more way to guilt allegedly obese people into “bettering themselves” by doing everything possibly available to lose any weight they can at what will likely be considerable expense. Because thin = health. Except that it doesn’t. Eating nutritious food and moving your body is how you get healthy. Not by wearing pants in single digit sizes (hell, if that were enough, we could all just shop at Chicos and be done with it). Oh, yeah, there’s that expense again.

Also, I find it extremely interesting that this was the article linked on the front page of WaPo as “related” to the brown fat article. Hm. Exercise? What an idea.  Can I get mine with a healthy dose of body acceptance, please?

(As an aside, I’ve noticed a tendency for me to use very similar titles now and again on posts here.  Food -HA!- for thought.)

Anyway, it has long been clear in our household that exercise and mood have a strong correlation.  However, I’ve never consistently exercised for more than a few months, so it’s been less noticeable with me.

Now that I’m trying to work out in the morning, though, I notice a huge difference when I go for days without doing anything other than Friday evening yoga.  Friday evening yoga – while sometimes annoying timing, in that it interferes with things like Friday evening TKD for the Kid or certain activities at his school – is a huge boon in that it gives me something a) to look forward to all week and b) gives me a huge stress relief outlet at the end of what is usually one of the most stressful days at work. Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely love my job – but it is still work and problem solving for people that have often created their own problems.

So, Friday Night Yoga = GOOD.

Morning cardio = also good. 

Who’d have thunk it?  Getting up an hour earlier and doing 40 minutes on the bike a couple mornings a week is proving harder than I’d like in terms of the actually getting to bed earlier and thus getting up, but when I do, it is awesome.  Seriously.

Today, for example, I feel like hell.  I’ve been fighting something off for a while now and either coincidentally, or due in part to getting some travel vax last week, I’m really fighting this week.  Laryngitis, sore throat, chest heaviness. It’s ebbing and flowing, but really, no fun, and today is the worst so far.  Work has also been super stressful for a variety of reasons this week.

But even though I feel the worst physically today that I have all week, mood wise, I feel better.  I feel more relaxed.  Part of that is probably pride that I did something, anything, to try to help my body.  But part of that is a symptom of what I did.  I got to sleep before 10.  I got up at 5:30.  And I rode the damn bike.

Now, frankly, I’d like a hot bath and a long nap.  Instead I’m getting lavender earl gray and contemplating mashed potatoes and meatloaf for lunch.  Little things.