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Raspberry Dark Chocolate Crunch Frozen Greek Yogurt July 13, 2014

Posted by J. in Domesticity, Genius.
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2 comments

I don’t usually share the recipes I invent, mostly because I know palates vary and what makes my taste buds swoon might in someone else’s estimation be enough to gag a maggot off a shit truck.

Truth is, I’ve come up with some pretty killer meals. See, I don’t really do dieting. I eat real food and just try to combine it in ways that don’t suck and eat it in healthy portions. But today, I made something that totally didn’t suck so much, I’m actually gonna share it.

Raspberry season in NH is in full swing, and I’ve been picking every day. I have black raspberries that grow wild all around my house and we have a bumper crop of them this year. I’m planning on making the World’s Best Black Raspberry Ice Cream™ this week, but it’s super-high in calories and not much else, really. And since those little black nuggets of awesome are already earmarked, this morning, I headed out first thing and went to the pick-your-own red raspberries up at Smith’s farm.

I had "help" picking from Dave.

I had “help” picking from Dave.

It’s a bumper crop for them, too! It didn’t take long to fill two containers, and I came right home and got out the ice cream maker. I have been increasing my protein intake in an effort to really build lean muscle (long story for another time), and I figured that if my Greek yogurt is a good source of protein, freezing it would be just as good, right?

So that’s what I did. The ingredient list is short, the prep time is minimal, and the resulting confection is pleasantly tart (owing to the fresh berries and tangy Greek yogurt) with bits of dark chocolate-covered granola for crunch.

So berry good...

So berry good…

Without further eloquence…

Raspberry Dark Chocolate Crunch Frozen Greek Yogurt
Ingredients:
2.5 cups of fresh raspberries
Essential Everyday Nonfat Vanilla Greek Yogurt, 32 oz. container
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup Bare Naked Original Cinnamon Granola
3 squares Ghirardelli Intense Dark Evening Dream 60% Cacao chocolate

1. Put the fresh berries into a blender and puree them. Pour them through a sieve into a large bowl to remove the seeds.

2. Add the container of Greek yogurt and the sugar and blend well.

3. In a small bowl, put three squares of the dark chocolate broken into bits. Melt gradually in the microwave in 20 second intervals, stirring until it is smooth. Stir in the granola until completely coated, then spread out on a lined cookie sheet (or any non-stick surface of your choice) and pop it in the freezer to harden up.

4. Pour the yogurt mix into your ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. When it is almost done, break the chocolate-coated granola apart into bits and add it to the mix. Once combined, transfer to a container and put in the freezer until firm.

Serving size: 1/2 cup
Yields: 9 servings

Nutrition per 1/2 cup serving:

Calories, 165; Protein, 11g; Carbs, 25g, Sodium, 41; Fiber, 3g; Fat, 3g

Now, like I said, this makes a tart froyo, and the nutritional info is based on the brands and berries I used. Digress from that, you’ll have to run it through the My Fitness Pal recipe builder yourself with your modifications. I recommend tasting the mixture once the yogurt, puree, and sugar are blended and adjust at that time for flavor.

That’s it. It’s pretty damned easy. Enjoy!

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Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ricky Naptui, and Me February 5, 2014

Posted by J. in Domesticity, FYI, Genius.
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8 comments

Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’ve no doubt heard that a few days ago, another celebrity lost his battle with addiction. Philip Seymour Hoffman was only 46 years old. A year older than me. He was found with a heroin needle still in his arm.

Today, I read a blog post in response to his death written by a recovering addict. By the end of it, I was in tears. Not just because of how beautifully written it is, but how big the problem is. It’s a very frank, very simply put view of what addiction really is. How it works. And why people like Hoffman, who had the world by the balls, succumb to it.

I urge you to read it now, especially if you don’t deal with the demons of addiction. It gives a new, painful perspective on things from someone who lives daily with those demons. If you are an addict, I urge you to read it now, too. As the friend of mine who posted it said, “It reminds me not to be complacent in my choice of sobriety.”

Addiction, Mental Health, and a Society That Fails to Understand Either by Debie Hive

The part that struck me is where she says this:

The only way to really deal with addiction is one that is multi-faceted, one that makes us uncomfortable. It is messy and complicated and takes a lifetime of effort. It involves relapses and second chances and third chances. It involves support, sometimes sponsors. It involves therapy and counseling until whatever the root cause is has been revealed and addressed. It involves consideration of not just the physical withdrawal, but the emotional withdrawal, the social withdrawal, the psychological withdrawal. It involves a mental health system with adequate resources. It requires support instead of judgement.

And sometimes, even when all those things exist, it fails. It fails because addiction can take people and swallow them whole. It can rob them of everything they value, everyone they love. It can strip them of everything they care about, rob them of reason and logic. It can convince them that they aren’t worthy, that they have failed not just themselves, but everyone else. It tells them that they are broken and irreparable. Then it shoves them back down and does it again.

As I read that post, and found myself tearing up at her words, I realized I wasn’t thinking about Hoffman, or drugs at all. But I understood completely what the demons are that she talks about. About having forces and compulsions inside you that rob you of reason and logic, that shove you down and swallow you whole.

I get that. I live with that, too. I would not DREAM of putting a needle in my arm because drugs aren’t my bag.

Food is. And it’s a long, painful, goddamn slow way of killing yourself.

Like addicts, fat people get looked at with pity. Scorn. Anger. Frustration. We are called weak. Losers. A waste.

We are fat for the same reasons addicts are high and alcoholics are drunk. We use food the same way they use drugs and booze. We eat instead of shooting up. We binge on donuts, not booze.

And I wonder if any other people like me who have had a lifelong battle with weight see the same parallels.

I think the reason this blog post resonated so loudly with me, even though I don’t deal with a drug or alcohol addiction is that a month or so ago, I saw part of a show on TLC called “My 600-Pound Life.” And the episode I saw followed a man on Guam named Ricky Naptui, who at his heaviest topped out at nearly 900 pounds.

900-Pound Man: The Race Against Time

Maybe it’s because I’ve been wrestling my own demons so hard over the past year that I was able to watch this show and see it from the point of view that I did. I didn’t look at Ricky with disgust. Or even pity, really. I did get mad at his doctors. What Ricky thought he wanted and needed was weight loss surgery that would make him lose weight. The problem with that is that in order to do the surgery, he had to lose hundreds of pounds, first.

If you eat yourself up to 900 pounds, it’s not like dropping a couple hundred is going to be a walk in the park. The doctors were approaching it from a purely physical and surgical standpoint. If you eat less, you will lose weight. If you lose weight, we will do a life-threatening procedure that has more complications than benefits to help you lose weight. Convoluted thinking at best.

NOT ONE PERSON ASKED RICKY WHY HE EATS.

Maybe they just assumed it was because he was a pig.

I’m sure it’s what they assume about me.

Doctor speak for "Bitch, you fat."

Doctor speak for “Bitch, you fat.”

I use the present tense because I’m fully aware that at 226 pounds, I’m still obese. People who don’t know how far I’ve come see a fat woman, and that’s not an unkind assessment or self-deprecation. I still have at least 80 pounds to lose. That’s pretty fat, any way you slice it. I am fully aware that people look at me and have the thought cross through their mind that I should put my fork down and step away from the table once in awhile. Jesus, have some self-control.

They’re the same people, no doubt, who look at Philip Seymour Hoffman and say, “Jesus. Just don’t use drugs. How fucking hard is that?”

Fuck Forgive them, for they know not what they do.

So I watched as Ricky’s doctors expressed concern with what he eats, and how much. He needs to eat good food. He needs to eat less food. He needs to get him to the point where he can at least stand up unaided, which he could not do. They couldn’t get an accurate weight because he could not stand unsupported.

And the whole time they were telling him that he needs to lose at least 150 pounds on his own before they can consider surgery, I could see the frustration and desperation building in Ricky. He kept trying to find the words to tell them, “If I could lose that weight on my own, I wouldn’t need you. I wouldn’t be stuck in this bed. I can’t stop eating, and I don’t know why.”

But they talked over him. They cut him off. They were so concerned with pointing out the path he was going to have to follow that not one person took the time to listen to why that path seemed utterly impossible for him to even attempt.

And I wanted to reach into that TV and hold his hand and ask him why he eats. And listen to him. Because I know that helpless feeling. I know feeling scared.  I know all about not understanding why you can’t seem to eat like normal people. And I know the pain of knowing how people look at you. The pity, the scorn, the disgust, the sadness. It’s demoralizing. And I know he just wanted someone to help, and the best way anyone could do that was by listening.

Only no one did.

Ricky died at the age of 36, and the cause of death listed was “morbid obesity.”

I didn’t immediately look at Philip Seymour Hoffman and think “There but by the grace of God go I.” But I looked at Ricky and I did. Ricky needed an angel. Someone to listen to him, to help him sort out his feelings. He needed someone to talk about food with him, and help him figure out what part it plays in his life and how he could work to change that.

But all they wanted to do was push him into a diet. They wanted to cut him up and hope for the best.

What Ricky needed was help with his addiction. He needed help with his demons. But as Ms. Hive pointed out in her blog post, our mental help resources are lacking. We want to be able to cure addiction with rehab or prison, and when those things don’t work, we are left with waiting for death to take them. In the same way, obesity isn’t solved with dieting or gym memberships or obsessively counting calories. It’s certainly not solved with surgery.

It’s solved with change, and that change happens inside your mind as much as inside your body. And it’s hard, and not everyone can do it alone. Hell, maybe no one can do it alone. I’m not doing it alone. I have an amazing support system who should get gold medals for getting me through this.

I have a best friend who listens to me without judging and only reminds me of the things I already know to be true. He offers me the reason and logic that my demons try to take away, putting back the bits that break apart from time to time when the battle leaves me damaged.

I have a husband who knows that he is the one person who can make me feel beautiful in this world at a time where my self-esteem is at an all-time low. He supports my efforts and puts up with me when the battle gets to be too much. He is my safe, soft place to fall.

I have a sister who knows what it feels like to have never been an athlete in her whole life, but has done the work to become one. She tells me that I am an athlete, too, reminds me that my daily workouts are training, and keeps me reined in when I get too far ahead of myself, and holds me up when I fear I’ve bitten off more than I can chew.

My support system grounds me and keeps me tethered to sanity. And I’m not exaggerating when I say that my sanity, my own sobriety, is tenuous at best. I have people to talk to. I have people who support me.

Ricky didn’t have that. His wife didn’t know what to do to help him. Hive says in her post, “Until you’ve had to tease out where the line between believing in someone and enabling them is, you can’t know what it is like.” She wanted him to be happy, but the only thing that made him happy was the thing that was killing him.

People who turn to food for comfort, for happiness, for friendship–we have a lot in common with addicts. We want to feel better, if only for a little while. Food helps us cope. And sometimes, the food just calls to us and we can’t stop eating, even when we want to. We hate ourselves for bingeing for no reason at all. We hate that we just can’t stop.

We hate ourselves for it.

We hate ourselves.

Much like drug and alcohol addiction, people with food issues habitually need more help than what we get. We don’t really need another diet plan. We don’t need another 7-minute workout. We don’t need another app for our phone. We certainly don’t need surgery, and we don’t need a magic pill that makes the fat go away.

We need someone to listen. We need someone to talk to us. To talk with us, not to us. We need professionals, from doctors, psychologists, therapists, and nutritionists who understand that the problem with our fat is not in our bodies, but in our heads, and if we work on sorting through our issues and get guidance with battling our demons, we can and will find a way to lose our weight.

And even if we get that help, there are no guarantees. Addicts relapse. Hoffman had been clean for 23 years before he relapsed. He was considered a sort of guru in AA because he helped so many other people. You can’t cure addiction. The fight never ends.

I know as well that this battle of mine will never be over. I fear relapse. I know people are watching me and seeing my progress and many don’t know what it takes for me to do this. If I fail, if I put weight back on, they won’t understand why. Some will. Or maybe some will just shrug and say “What a waste.”

There is hope. There are addicts who make it. There are people like me, and even heavier, who make it. I don’t believe I’m doomed to failure, but I know the odds are not in my favor.

It’s my hope that this fight gets easier at some point, but I kind of doubt it ever will. I’m not expecting it, or counting on it. I suspect it’s more likely that it will be as it has been for the past year: some hard stretches, and some easy stretches. Sometimes the demons will beat the shit out of me, but I’ll get back up, bruised, but stronger for the fight.

That thought is exhausting, to be honest, and after 23 years of it, I can see why a talented actor who had everything to live for put a needle in his arm.

He was tired. He was bruised. He was battered. He just wanted the demons to leave him alone, just for a little while.

Ricky never had a chance against his demons, because “the system”–whatever that is–failed him. Food was all he had, and in the end, it killed him.

There, but by the grace of God, go I.

What Doesn’t Kill You September 9, 2013

Posted by J. in Domesticity, Genius.
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2 comments

I had another one of my epiphanies the other day, and because my occasional flashes of dubious brilliance seem to resonate with people I thought I’d share. So, as I sat here last night and started this, it’s poetic that on a chilly Sunday night, the smell of chocolate chip cookies was filling the kitchen. I’d worked out, I’d had my healthy, filling meals, but the smell of baking cookies was wiggling into my very soul and crying out my name.

“Pooooooops. Eeeeeeat meeeeeee. I’m deeeeeeeelicious! You know you want me!”

God, did I want you. I wanted you like no one has ever wanted a chocolate chip cookie in the history of ever. But I didn’t have you, you seductive demon. I resisted your siren song.

Now, lest you think I’m some sort of superhero (which is patently untrue, unless I’m wearing my Captain America thong, but that’s another post for another time), allow me to explain how this heroic act of strength happened.

It occurred to me that one of the things I did right from the start to help myself commit to this new, healthier way of eating is not having the things around that give me the kind of cravings that make me want to cut a bitch for just a single bite. I think it’s one of the first ways most people who are trying to lose weight cope with the constant cravings for shitty food. In my house, 10 months into my dietary overhaul, Larry still only buys snacks (like pretzels and Nutty Bars and Cool Ranch Doritos) that he knows I couldn’t care less about. He knows and appreciates what I’m trying to do, and he supports me by not doing things that will intentionally derail me. To his credit, he doesn’t bring home Girl Scout cookies (sorry, GSA) or Ben and Jerry’s because they’re so hard for me to walk away from.

But because a thing is hard doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

I was talking with a friend over the summer, at the height of ice cream season, and she said, “I don’t know how you do it. I’m powerless against ice cream. I just can’t say no.”

I didn’t think much of it at the time, to be honest. It’s the kind of thing people say when they want to lose weight but the food always seems to win, and I don’t think I really heard the words. Not to mention that ice cream isn’t one of my trigger foods. But later on, recounting the conversation to my sister, it hit us both at the same time. That attitude–I can’t say no, I’m powerless–that’s why I’ve always failed, and why so many other people do. So you banish the foods that cause you trouble. You know the ones. The ones that you can’t have just a bit of and put back. The ones that call your name from the cupboard. The ones that are so very bad for you that they’re a gateway drug to getting in the car and hitting the McDonald’s drive-thru like a sailor in a whorehouse.

I’m not knocking it as a strategy. It’s a good one, a solid one. But sometimes I think it does a disservice as well.

Like last night, there were fresh baked, homemade cookies staring me down. There they were, only a few feet from me, and Larry walked up with the broken off bit of a cookie in his hand, the chocolate melted and gooey, the little wisps of steam barely visible in the cool kitchen, and he offered me a single, small bite. “You worked hard today at the gym…”

And with a smile, I gently turned it down. I explained that I know myself well enough to appreciate that one bite will just make me want more bites. A cookie turns into three. Or five. And then I’m saying “fuck it” and looking for what else I can stuff in my head. That bite could well be a one-way ticket to Binge City. For me, because I’ve had a lot of time to think about this kind of thing, I know myself, and I know that I’m better off not even taking that first bite. Some people can take a bite and be happy with it, feel satisfied. And I can do that with some foods. I can take a bite of ice cream and walk away, but not fucking homemade chocolate chip cookies, man. Down that path leads a binge it’ll take two weeks to atone for. *shudders*

I’m not sure if I’ll ever eat another chocolate chip cookie still warm from the oven again. I know for the longest time that I just couldn’t bring myself to say, “I can’t ever have {insert tasty food item that makes life worth living} again.” The idea of a life without a slice of birthday cake, or a wedge of that first apple pie in fall, or my mother’s fudge on Christmas Day made me give up my will to live. Or more accurately, my will to diet.

But what do you do when saying “no more, ever” makes you want to kill yourself, but at the same time you know that there are foods that will send you spiraling out of control? When experience tells you that one cookie will lead to a whole batch, or a handful of potato chips will mean eventually grazing through the pantry and eating everything but the baking soda?

If I sound like an alcoholic talking about a drink, you aren’t far off. I’ve done a stint in Overeaters Anonymous, and I have friends who are in AA. I think about a lot of foods the way alcoholics talk about booze. I remember one friend in recovery who used to tend bar. We asked how she could stand to be surrounded by booze and she says it doesn’t usually bother her. The only thing that affected her was seeing unfinished drinks. If someone left a drink on the bar and there was some left in the glass, she said the urge to finish it was almost painful.

I feel that way when someone scrapes the frosting off a piece of birthday cake and says it’s too sweet, and then leaves the glob on the plate. Or eats half a piece of cheesecake and says they’re full. I look at the food on the plate and the urge to just finish that dessert kills me. It’s nearly crippling.

And like an alcoholic, I know I can’t eat the way I used to. Of course with food, you have to eat. You can put booze out of your life, but you do have to take nourishment. In OA, sobriety is measured by sticking to your diet plan. OA doesn’t promote or endorse any particular plan, and most people define their own sobriety in terms of that. For someone on Weight Watchers, sobriety might mean staying within their points range. For someone counting calories, it’s staying under their limit. For someone who has identified as a food addict, it might be completely abstaining from white flour and refined sugar, or staying under a carb limit per day, or whatever the individual food addiction is. 

That’s where OA helped me the most. I had to identify what my issues with food really were. I’ve had to figure out if I have trigger foods and what to do when I encounter them in the wild. (Or behind me on my kitchen counter, as the case may be.) I know my biggest issue is with bingeing, and I know there are foods that can bring one on. I need strategies to deal with those foods so that I can move forward towards my health and fitness goals. But I also know that I can’t avoid crap food forever. It’s there and part of life, and it’s a matter of figuring out where they fit in.

Avoidance only works for so long. Eventually you’re going to have to say no. If I was to move forward, I had to stand up and assert that I am NOT powerless over any food. So I changed saying “no” to saying “not right now. Not today. Maybe tomorrow, if I still want some.” There’s a world of difference between “never” and “later,” and I’ve discovered that when later comes, it’s not that hard to put it off again. Eventually, I don’t want them any more. I can have them, but–and here’s the difference–I choose not to. Saying “later” to something I reallyreallyreallyreallyreally want but know I shouldn’t have becomes easier every time I do it. It’s become a habit of mine.

Is it hard? Honestly? No, not much anymore. At first, yes. Hence the avoidance policy. But there’s something to be said for resisting what’s under your nose. When you have to turn down something that is always right there, you get good at saying no. The food loses its power over you. You practice, and eventually you get stronger.

Case in point: this is a picture I get sent to me on more than a few Fridays.

You should know that I would eat the fuck out of these. Seriously doubt I'd even taste the first three...

You should know that I would eat the fuck out of these. Seriously doubt I’d even taste the first three…

Every Friday is Krispy Kreme day at Bill’s job. He sends the pic for moral support. He curses the bastard unto seven generations that brings them in every. single. Friday.

And then he walks past them, and has been walking past them for almost a year now. I asked him if saying “no” to those donuts got easier as the weeks have stretched into months, and he said it has. It’s become easier to resist them because he’s practiced resisting them every week. He’s become stronger than the donuts.

There’s a school of thought when it comes to changing the way you eat that says that you should have some of what you crave so that you don’t obsess about it until you go on a mad binge. Advice to Bill would be to allot the calories so that he could have a donut on Friday.

Only here’s what Bill knows, and what I know. Friday Donut Day will become a weekly occurrence. That weekly donut is no longer a treat. It’s a habit. And a bad one. You know what donuts are? Fat and sugar. That’s it. They’re fucking delicious, but they’re useless for anything but building fat. And when what you’re trying to do is get rid of that last little bit of fat and build lean muscle, donuts are only counter-productive. They are a step backwards in every sense of the word.

I also think it’s horseshit that cravings don’t go away if you fail to indulge them. They most certainly do go away. Granted I’m still not in the habit of saying that I can never have chocolate chip cookies again, but I know for sure that I don’t need them. I can’t honestly say I’ll never have another donut in my life, but I can say with every ounce of certainty that I’ll never eat four of them for breakfast again and think nothing of it.

First of all, I’d puke. I can’t imagine what they’d do to my system now and how dreadful I’d feel.

But that aside, in the past, I’ve never been able to do that. I’ve never been able to stop mourning the loss of the foods I love that are just horrible for me. In the past, when I realized that things like cake and cookies and chips were eventually going to keep me from getting to my goal, I gave up on my goal. I chose the junk foods over my own health, over looking good, over everything, really. The idea of never again sitting in front of the TV with a bag of Cheese Doodles and eating the entire bag made me want to cry.

The morning I realized that I’ll never again eat four donuts for breakfast again and felt really good about it, that’s when I knew things had changed for me. I have changed my way of thinking. Practicing those new thought patterns has made them stronger, and they’ve replaced the old ones. I don’t know for sure if they’re gone entirely, but it’s been awhile since I’ve turned down something shitty-but-delicious and felt sad or angry about it.

That kind of denial hasn’t killed me. Putting crap food aside for later has been a good practice for me. It has made me stronger. Walking past those donuts every Friday has made Bill stronger. There comes a time when you just can’t avoid the things that tempt you the most. You have to say no. Or you say “later”. Or you just give twelve boxes of hot pizza the finger, grab your keys, and flee before you change your mind.

Seriously, Planet Fitness? What the fuck is up with Pizza Monday? You're a gorram GYM. Working out with the scent of Papa Gino's wafting through the air...NOT HELPFUL AT ALL. Assholes.

Seriously, Planet Fitness? What the fuck is up with Pizza Monday? You’re a gorram GYM. Working out with the scent of Papa Gino’s wafting through the air…NOT HELPFUL AT ALL. Assholes.

My point, and I do have one, is that turning down unhealthy food in favor of good, healthy, mindful choices has gotten easier because I’ve practiced it. I say no in a way I have to to make it right in my own mind; it won’t kill me, and it will make me stronger.

And that’s important. Turning down things like weekly donuts and pizza or even an ever present bag of potato chips in the cupboard or fresh cookies in the jar is a regular workout, only it’s not for my body, but for my mind. I am getting in the habit of turning down food that’s counter-productive to my goals. Those regular workouts are important for the times when Bad Food comes at me out of nowhere. Like going out to dinner and not knowing what’s going to be on the menu. Or going to a friend’s house for a party and there’s not a vegetable in sight, but there’s a fuckton of beer and chips. I don’t leave the restaurant. I don’t walk out of the party. It’s when all that practice of turning down crap food comes into play. It becomes easier to make a healthy choice because I’ve practiced doing it.

But being mindful also means knowing when food is part of a celebration and being able to control what you allow yourself to have, and how much of it. I’m not facing down a lifetime of never having a slice of my own birthday cake. But the days of bringing the leftover cake home and eating a quarter of a sheet cake for breakfast (no exaggeration) are over. My sobriety means staying in control of my choices and eating mindfully. If I eat something that has more calories in it than I can afford to spend, I make it my choice to do so. And sometimes I do make that choice. I had a cupcake at my cousin’s third birthday party because it was a celebration–a once in awhile thing. I stayed in control, and that, for me, is my sobriety.

And again, Captain America thong aside, this isn’t some mutant ability to resist food. It’s certainly not like those fuck it moments haven’t happened along the way. Did I tell you about the time I needed something sweet to eat so badly that I binged on pretzel rods dipped in an expired can of sugar free frosting? I’m not sure why that didn’t kill me, actually. Sometimes, when it comes to food, I take it on the chin. But getting back up and dusting myself off after a binge, writing down what I’ve eaten even when it looks like hell to see in print, owning up to my failures as well as rejoicing in my successes, that’s all part of getting healthier. Because in the end, long-term weight loss success starts from the neck up.

So…no. Just no. Maybe later, if I still want one.

You will not beat me. You will not win.

You will not beat me. You will not win.

 

The Trick August 4, 2013

Posted by J. in Domesticity, Genius.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
5 comments

Okay, this is the blog post that’s going to make you think I’ve lost my marbles. That’s if you weren’t already questioning how tightly I may or may not be wrapped as it is, and as the case may be.

The weight loss continues on in a forward direction. As of tonight, I’m down around 83 pounds or so. Give or take some ounces here and there. And it’s getting me a lot of attention. It’s funny to talk to people at church who don’t see me that often because we go to different Masses and have them come up to me in surprise, actually eager to tell me how amazed they are. I won’t lie: it is really nice to hear.

The next part is people asking “what I’m doing.” What a great question. What method are you using to lose weight? What diet? What workout regime? One person thought I’d had gastric bypass surgery.

What is my “secret” to losing all this weight?

Eat less, move more. That’s it. I know they’re expecting to hear that I’m following the Diet of the Week, or that I’ve figured out some trick to making the weight come off. There’s no real trick to it. You want to lose weight and keep it off, you have to eat less, and move more.

Though when I really thought about it more…”What are you doing?” I guess there are tricks of a sort that I do. I mean, I have lots of support, and sometimes reaching out to the people in my life who know my struggles and demons and can talk me through them is a trick. Learning how my body responds to different foods is a trick,too, I guess.

But when it comes down to bwass tacks, the reason I’ve been fat my whole life is because of one thing, and one thing only. All my other issues stem directly from this.

There’s a voice in my head, a person who lives deep inside of me whose voice is the one I do battle with all the time.

Her name is Mean Jen, and she’s a total Cuntasaurus Rex.

She is the voice of doubt. The voice that tells me I can’t do things. She tells me I’m fat, and lazy, and stupid. Talentless. She knows I’ll NEVER lose this weight, and as it falls away, she reminds me almost daily that it’s just temporary. She has a smug look on her face as she reminds me of all the weight I’ve lost and gained back, and laughs when I put another garment in the donation bag, certain that I’ll be needing that again someday.

She was the one who, when I’d bounce up to the gym doors feeling really good about myself and feeling confident and strong about my workout, would see my reflection in the glass and tell me that I’m the fattest person in the room and they’re all going to laugh at me.

For awhile, I worked out every single day fighting back tears because of her.

She’s the reason I went months without being able to look in a mirror or see a photo of myself. People would tell me how obvious my weight loss was, remark on how much better I must feel, but all I could see is a body ravaged by the excesses. The fat that used to be plump and round turned into flab–great hanging rolls of it. My tummy looked like pizza dough and my thighs…hell, they’re still measuring the same size as an average man’s waist.

I couldn’t stand to be naked. I made myself sick.

Yeah. Thanks, Mean Jen.

The problem with that angry, mean, evil voice in my head is that she’s so hard to fight. Maybe if what she was saying was patently untrue, that would be different, but everything she says comes from a place of truth.

For awhile, I was the fattest person in the gym. That’s without exaggeration. “You won’t always be” is small comfort. I know most people didn’t notice me at all, but I know some did. And I know there were unkind thoughts. You don’t spend your whole life overweight and not know that. You hear the whispers, and you know for every whisper, every unkind word, there are at least three unspoken thoughts about how your ass looks in those yoga pants.

I have lost hundreds and hundreds of pounds, and gained it all back, and then some. I’ve bought “thin” wardrobes and tossed my fat pants, only to need to buy them all over again. Not once. Hell, not twice, even. Mean Jen has reason to look smug. I have never lost weight and kept it off.

I am a quitter.

I am fairly lazy. I don’t like to exercise. I resent not being able to eat anything I want whenever the hell I want.

I don’t like to say “no” to food.

Mean Jen hurts because she’s pretty accurate. She knows me better than anyone, and she points out all my worst qualities and tells me the God’s honest truth. No softening it like a friend would. No generosity that a loved one would show.

She’s fucking ruthless.

So, I guess my answer to “What are you doing?” to lose weight this time is “I’m fighting Mean Jen.”

Her voice is always there, and depending on my hormonal state or whatever, she can be really loud.

The trick so far has been to drown her voice out with voices of my own. I have an amazing support team. People who build me up on low days. People who point out all the defiance I’ve shown her and tell me how proud they are of that fight. People who say my own words back to me–the same things I’ve said to them when their own Mean Inner Voice is raising hell with them. Their voices are loud, and raised in unison, they help me push back against the horrible truths that Mean Jen feels the need to remind me of.

But my biggest secret weapon is simple, and stupid, and kind of embarrassing, but here it is.

I can’t believe I’m telling you this.

It’s music. There are few songs that are like weapons against her. I don’t know how it works. Or why. Or even what it is about those particular songs. But they’re in my workout playlist, and I listen to them every day. And one I listen to even on my day off from the gym because I sing every damn word of it to Mean Jen. Right in her fucking mean, smug face.

And I’m not pretending that this is anything other than silly. I know it is. But I swear to you, it keeps her at bay. It keeps her from coming at me hard and fast and hitting me in the face over and over. Oh, she still sneaks up, and she changes her approach, but the full-on frontal assaults are few and far between.

It’s important that I’m able to fight the assaults. I realize that she’s what’s held me back. That belief that I can’t do this. The belief that I can’t change. I believed it because she told me that over and over for years.

They say you’re supposed to love yourself.

HOW?

That’s the part no one addresses. How do you love yourself when the voice in your head that knows you the absolute best tells you that you’re not worth it? And not only tells you that you suck, but does it by highlighting the very things you know to be true, way down deep in your heart?

I’ll tell you how.

You fight back. I have my faults same as anyone. And I’m taking what she tells me and I’m using them to my advantage. If I want to be a better person, I have to know the absolute worst things about me, and change what I can. I have to be a fighter. 

I’ve always kind of liked this song. Give it a listen. I don’t care if pop music isn’t your thing, or you don’t care for Xtina. And I know it’s a really stupid video. All artsy and shit. Whatever. It’s a breakup song, if you take it on its face. But there’s something in the way she sings, “You won’t stop me!” that makes me know that Mean Jen won’t stop me. She can’t. Not this time, not if I fight, and I’m a fighter now because she made me that way.

After all that you put me through,You think I’d despise you,
But in the end I wanna thank you,
‘Cause you’ve made me that much stronger

Well I thought I knew you, thinkin’ that you were true
Guess I, I couldn’t trust called your bluff time is up
‘Cause I’ve had enough
You were there by my side, always down for the ride
But your joy ride just came down in flames ’cause your greed sold me out in shame

After all of the stealing and cheating you probably think that I hold resentment for you
But uh uh, oh no, you’re wrong
‘Cause if it wasn’t for all that you tried to do, I wouldn’t know
Just how capable I am to pull through
So I wanna say thank you
‘Cause it

[Chorus:]
Makes me that much stronger
Makes me work a little bit harder
It makes me that much wiser
So thanks for making me a fighter
Made me learn a little bit faster
Made my skin a little bit thicker
Makes me that much smarter
So thanks for making me a fighter

Never saw it coming, all of your backstabbing
Just so you could cash in on a good thing before I’d realize your game
I heard you’re going round playing the victim now
But don’t even begin feeling I’m the one to blame
‘Cause you dug your own grave
After all of the fights and the lies ’cause you’re wanting to haunt me
But that won’t work anymore, no more,
It’s over
‘Cause if it wasn’t for all of your torture
I wouldn’t know how to be this way now and never back down
So I wanna say thank you
‘Cause it

[Chorus]

How could this man I thought I knew
Turn out to be unjust so cruel
Could only see the good in you
Pretend not to see the truth
You tried to hide your lies, disguise yourself
Through living in denial
But in the end you’ll see
YOU-WON’T-STOP-ME

I am a fighter and I
I ain’t gonna stop
There is no turning back
I’ve had enough

[Chorus]

You thought I would forget
But I remembered
‘Cause I remembered
I remembered
You thought I would forget
I remembered
‘Cause I remembered
I remembered

[Chorus]

I warned you it was stupid, and I own that with everything I am. But that’s my trick. It’s that song. And all I know is that these days, I look in the mirror and think I look pretty. I looked at my vacation pictures and didn’t wish I wasn’t in them, or pick apart how I looked. I was happy with the images. I’m happy with my reflection. I get dressed and feel good that my waist is looking small, my ass is still big but taking on a nice, round shape, and even my tits are holding their own. Being naked is still hard…my body has a long way to go, and knowing that I’ll never recover from the damage I did by being fat for so long is disheartening. It makes me sad and angry. That happens whether or not Mean Jen tells me. It’s just something I know, and I’ll keep dealing with. I’m far from perfect, but now I’m able to look past the flaws and see the good, and it’s because I fight for that. I’m using her own weapons against her and it’s making me better than I was before. And that’s why I’m going to succeed this time, where I’ve always failed.

I am a fighter, and I’m not going back. I am changing those things that Mean Jen pointed out about me. I’m not letting the negative self-talk force me into a crying ball in the corner. I’m not letting it be an excuse to give up before I’ve started. She can hurt my feelings from time to time, but in the end, I’m going to keep proving her wrong.

Mean Jen can kiss my ass.

Eat Right, Exercise, Get Hit by a Bus April 19, 2013

Posted by J. in Domesticity.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
7 comments

I’ve lost 45 pounds. I’ve taken most processed foods out of my diet and I’m continuing to weed them out every day. I eschew chemicals in my food. I eat vegetables and fruits at every meal. I drink lots of water. I exercise at least 6 days out of every seven. I feel better than I have in years. I have a spring in my step. I don’t gird my loins when faced with a staircase, nor do I seek out the closest parking spot to the door (unless it’s raining or snowing or some shit.) I don’t dread a “long walk” into a store, or get frustrated when I get to the dairy section of the grocery store and realize I forgot something in produce and have to walk allllll the way back over there.

Last week, when I had a touch of a particularly painful stomach bug, I called the doctor. And when I got to the clinic, I sat right down in a chair with arms on it. I fit. No moment of panic wondering if I’d fit. No seeking out the armless chairs. No standing rather than squeeze into a too-small seat and leaving bruises on my thighs.

That’s something those of us on the far side of morbidly obese have to think about. I don’t know if thinner people understand that–what it’s like to be scared of a chair. To wonder if you’ll fit, or be humiliated in some way by it. Chairs with arms have been the enemy for so long that it’s hard to get my head around the fact that I don’t have to fear them anymore. Granted, the way some are made is still not comfy. I’m not tiny. But I can stand up without holding the arms so that it doesn’t come off the floor with me.

Trust me--this is way funnier on TV than it is in real life.

Trust me–this is way funnier on TV than it is in real life.

But when I got in there and the nurse took my blood pressure….well now, there’s some cause for concern.

Not at first. A reading that high couldn’t be right. I don’t remember what it was exactly. I can only remember the systolic reading, ever. The bottom number always eludes me. Always. Even when I was in nursing. Couldn’t remember it from the reading to writing it down. Weird, huh?) But the top number was over 160. I’ve never had even elevated BP in my entire life. Even 9 months pregnant after walking up the stairs, it was only “slightly elevated.” 

So I was all, “This ain’t right.” But the nurse took it three damned times using a variety of cuffs. The doc, after telling me he thinks I had a stomach bug and not something more serious like diverticulitis, told me to keep an eye on that BP reading. Take it at home once a week and come back if it stays high. Technically, I wasn’t his patient. I haven’t selected a new PCP yet since my old one left, and I only see the doc when something is wrong.

For a few days I thought about it. About the high reading. About having a dad who is a heart patient. About how I have a strict policy of What I Don’t Know Won’t Hurt Me when it comes to doctor appointments. About not caring about having a PCP because I only need one when I’m sick and all they do is fling pills at me anyway.

But then, I really don’t want to be known as “the chick that had a stroke on the treadmill” either.

I really REALLY don’t want the words “my first heart attack” to be part of my vocabulary.

So I made an appointment and went back and set myself up formally as his patient. And told him I was concerned. He took my BP again and yep, it was still high. Lower than it was the week before, but still hypertensive.

Fuuuuuck.

So yesterday, this is the bus I was hit by:

I'm not happy about this, but it beats the hell out of having a heart attack on the elliptical.

I’m not happy about this, but it beats the hell out of having a heart attack on the elliptical.

I confess to taking the morning to mope about it. Really and truly. I’ve worked hard to treat my body well and get healthier. I confess to feeling a bit betrayed. I confess that my first impulse was to get in the car and treat myself to lunch at McDonald’s because FUCK YOU, BODY. I treat you well and this is the thanks I get. Bitch, PLEASE.

I mean, when the doctor told me to watch my sodium intake, I was all, “FUCK YOU. I count calories and fat grams and dietary fiber as it is. I read every cocksucking label on every product I even contemplate buying. I put stuff back for being not organic, over-processed, or just plain not good fuel for me. SALT IS THE ONLY THING THAT MAKES EATING LIKE A FUCKING MONK BEARABLE.” Well, not out loud. I’m not rude. But I was thinking it.

But instead of hitting the drive-thru hard, I came home with a fresh bottle of pills in hand and got out my food journal and started calculating my sodium intake over a random smattering of days. And since I’ve cut out so much processed food, my sodium levels hover right around the recommended levels anyway. Which is all he was asking. No dramatic cut-off of sodium, just keep it to “normal” levels. Holy shit. I’m doing something “normal” and not “extraordinary.” How weird is that?

I always tend to feel envious of people who don’t have to diet, whether they’ve accepted their fat and eat what they like, or because their bodies are super-human and aren’t affected by crap food. I still feel somewhat abnormal in my picking-and-choosing-carefully eating habits. I always bemoan the fact that I’ll never be able to eat “normally” ever again. I see someone diving into a greasy burger and fries or a big old meat-covered pizza and I miss it. It’s like mourning the loss of a loved one. Sitting in the pharmacy eyeing the Snickers bars and saying to myself, “You’re dead to me now,” I may have shed a tear. It’s hard to lose something that means so much to you. I don’t suppose normal people feel that way.

But now I see that I’m the one that eats “normally.” My sodium intake is for the most part quite normal. Most Americans eat two to three times the recommended amount and don’t even know it. I’m not doing anything freakish. Most people don’t actually eat half a dozen donuts at a sitting. Or sit down with a can of frosting and a spoon. Most people don’t drive through McDonald’s and order two meals, eat them in the car and throw away the evidence before they get home because they’re ashamed. If there’s no evidence, it didn’t happen.

“I eat like a bird! I don’t know how come I can’t lose weight! My body is broken!” Yeah. Denial’s not just a river in Egypt, Poops.

The hardest part has been changing how I think about food. Always in the past, the idea of a life without a slice of birthday cake was a dim one. Or knowing that my summer will go by without a clam roll or a dish of ice cream from Jordan’s. But it goes back to my perception of “normal” eating habits. Ice cream every night in the summer is not normal. That’s a lot of sugar and saturated fat for anyone. God on a wheel, when I think back to the amount of iced coffee I consumed with real cream in it last summer, I want to cry. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that there are things I can have once in awhile, I just don’t need them every day. Even yesterday, I found myself looking at a bag of pretzels and the amount of sodium in a serving and saying “I won’t be eating these anymore.” I’m not sure why I’m hard-wired to see things as all or nothing when it comes to food. I don’t do it in other areas of my life. I’m so much of a gray-area kind of thinker I’m practically a waffler. I’m as middle of the road as they come–except with food, it seems. It’s crazy.

I’m crazy.

So anyway, to make myself feel better, and because it’s the time of year to weed out winter clothes and rotate in the warm-weather stuff anyway, I threw out a bag of clothes.

I can't bring myself to call them "fat clothes". These are my "fattest" clothes, and they don't fit me anymore. Buh-bye!

I can’t bring myself to call them “fat clothes”. These are my “fattest” clothes, and they don’t fit me anymore. Buh-bye!

I realized awhile back that because I yo-yo diet, I always have an assortment of clothes that don’t fit. And I’m bad about getting rid of my fat clothes. I’m more likely to get rid of “thin” clothes because they make me feel bad about myself when I start packing the weight back on, but I keep the fat clothes because it’s good to have them around for when the weight inevitably comes back. It’s hard to trust myself after trying and failing as often as I have.

Back in November, I was wearing the biggest clothes I owned. Buying new clothes was nearly impossible because the biggest sizes they carry in plus-size stores were too tight. I bought three t-shirts at Lane Bryant a few years ago in the biggest size, got them home, and realized they were just too small. I was too humiliated to return them for being too small, so I tossed them aside. Well, they fit now. It’s still a bittersweet victory. Fitting into the largest size LB carries isn’t exactly a thrill. It’s not like having to cancel your credit card there because you no longer fit into their smallest size. That day is coming, but it’s still a long way off. I try not to dwell on it, but unless you’ve ever had to lose more than a hundred pounds, you can’t really know what staring down that long road feels like. Focusing on the path right in front of you is the only thing you can do, but sometimes you put your head up, and feel kind of tired. So it’s good to turn around and see how far you’ve come.

I kept one fat shirt. It’s staying in my wardrobe so that on days when I put my head up and see how far I have to go, I can put that on and remember to turn around and look at how far I’ve come.

As for ignoring how far I have to go...that's still very much a work in progress.

As for ignoring how far I have to go…that’s still very much a work in progress.

So, that’s enough navel-gazing for one morning, I think. I have to go make my oatmeal. I’m adding ground flax seed to it now, because my body deserves the best fuel I can give it. I took the supplements that keep my depression at bay and my lady bits working as well as possible considering my advancing age, and yes, I took my blood pressure medication. And unlike yesterday, today I feel really good about it. I feel like I’m in control of my own health. I think I won this round.

Please Pass the Kale April 3, 2013

Posted by J. in Domesticity, FYI.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
5 comments

I turn 44 in a week and I have finally realized that fruits and vegetables are good for me and I need to eat them to feel good.

I can’t believe I just admitted that in public.

Back in November, I offered some weight-loss advice to a friend. I felt qualified, because even though I’m fat as fuck, I’ve lost (without exaggeration) hundreds of pounds in my adult lifetime. Talking the talk is no problem for me. I know everything to do to get pounds off, I just chose not to do them.

But doling out the advice, hearing myself say “You need to…” and not doing it myself seemed hypocritical. I knew I was at the heaviest I’d ever been. The biggest clothes you could buy in any Fat Person Store were too snug. I ached all over. I was tired all the time. I knew I didn’t feel well, but such are the wages of sin. You want to top off half a pizza with three pieces of cake, it’s going to cost you.

“You need to…” rang in my ears every time I said it, though. Little things, mostly. You need to eat more produce. You need to drink more water. Stuff like that. I could eat more produce if I put a mind to it. I could drink more water if I put a mind to it. And so I put my mind to it. Maybe it was seeing someone else make that commitment and feeling like I couldn’t be very good support or guidance, or even a sympathetic ear when things got dicey, if I couldn’t even bring myself to walk the walk that got me started again.

dinner 030I dusted off my Weight Watchers materials, turned to a fresh page in my food journal, and started in. I guessed on my weight, having thrown out yet another bathroom scale after my last dieting attempt succeeded for awhile before being abandoned. It came back to me pretty easily, all things considered. And because I wasn’t really doing it on my own this time, there was a certain accountability to backing up my own advice with actions of my own.

It helps that I have a lot of support at home. All I have to say is “I’m trying to eat better” and Larry picks up healthier foods for me. He doesn’t bring crap into the house, and if he does, he chooses crap that’s not my favorite crap in the whole world. Some crap I can take or leave, but some crap…oh, it lies in wait, calling my name. Fucking Girl Scouts and their fucking cookies, man. Yeah, I’m looking at you bitches. But Larry doesn’t judge what I eat. He knows if I bite it, I write it. I account for it, and I know what I’m doing.

It’s more support than a lot of people get, I’ll tell you what.

About four weeks into my renewed efforts at losing some weight, I had no idea what I weighed. I was eating better, following my own “you need to” advice, and keeping careful track of how much I eat, and what kinds of foods I eat. And I happened to stop into the drugstore after a dentist appointment, and saw a scale way down on the bottom shelf for sale. I don’t even know how I noticed it. It’s selling point was that it weighed up to 450 pounds, and those tend to be a lot more pricey. I bought it.

I got home and found out that after four weeks of dieting, I weighed 358.7 pounds. The scale wasn’t wrong. I was THAT FAT.

And I had likely taken at least 8 or 10 pounds off already.

Jesus weight-watching Christ. That certainly got out of control, didn’t it?

I don’t know if you know what it’s like to step on a scale and realize you have to lose the weight equivalent of a whole, grown man. It’s…daunting. It’s the kind of thing that makes you want to say “Oh, God. Why bother? It can’t be done. I’ll lose the weight, put it all back on again, plus 20 to 40 extra pounds just for good measure because that’s what I do. I suck, I’m a loser, and I’m going to always be fat. Oh, and it’s all about being healthy and fit at any size? FUCK YOU. I’m not healthy, I’m not fit. I weigh almost 360 pounds. NO ONE is healthy and fit at that size except Shaq and maybe some pro wrestlers. And power lifters. Not my fat ass, that’s for sure.”

That was a sobering, and then utterly depressing moment. I mean, the urge to say fuckitall and just fill my face was strong.

Name "Sisyphus" mean anything to you?

Name “Sisyphus” mean anything to you?

After I wrapped my head around the whole thing and decided to keep going the way I was, I came to grips with a few things. The first was knowing that setting my usual goal weight of 140 pounds was stupid. Yes, it’s what’s considered a healthy weight for someone my height. And it’s attainable…by someone, I’m sure. But in the past, I’ve made it down to around 200 and stalled. Plateaued. And I look good at that weight. I’m still fat, but I’m curvy, and I feel pretty good about myself and how I look and feel. But the mental issue of being stuck there, of not losing past that point no matter how hard I work and finally giving up because it’s too much effort to not be able to get where I want to go is where I lose it every single time. I let things slide until I give up entirely. I “take a little break” and the weight creeps back on, and I’m back into my fat clothes again.

This time I’ve set my goal weight at 200 pounds. It’s a soft target. I know I can do that. Mentally, I can cope with idea of losing 160 pounds better than I can losing 200 pounds. I don’t know why that 40 pounds matters, but it does. I figure, if I get to 200 and stall again, I will call it maintaining and focus on that. If, at that point, I can continue to lose weight and the numbers keep going down, I’ll let them. I won’t live or die by that magic number this time. At least I hope I won’t. There’s a lot goes on in my head when it comes to losing weight.

I have an eating disorder. I’ve known about it for awhile. For years I joked that I was half-bulimic. I binge like a motherfucker. I mean, true bingeing, but unlike a bulimic, I can’t purge. I have a lot of the same thought patterns as a bulimic, except where that disorder is marked by a psychological need for control, binge-eating is the opposite: it’s losing control. It’s more like an alcoholic on a bender. It’s not eating for fun or enjoyment, just as an alcoholic isn’t drinking herself to oblivion because it’s a party of one. “I started and I couldn’t stop” is the feeling.

In May, Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is going to be added to the new DSM V as an “official” eating disorder along with anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. I first read about it more than 20 years ago. Even back then, there was an understanding that binge-eating was more than just eating too much. And that when someone with BED is dieting, there are mental obstacles to succeeding long-term that need to be addressed. For someone like me, the advice “Just put the fork down and step away from the table” is not only useless advice, it’s hurtful. Being told “you just need a little willpower!” is like slapping me in the face.

I got a lot more insight into it when I joined Overeaters Anonymous. I don’t believe I’m a food addict. And I stood up at meetings and labeled myself as a “compulsive overeater” when that’s not entirely true, either. I have an eating disorder, and the way I think about food, the way I relate to it, and my power over it is not the same as either of those things. I can control over-eating by just paying attention to what I’m eating. That’s not the issue. That’s not even hard for me. I have that control when I choose to exercise it. Bingeing is another whole story.

I don’t think I ever got anything practical out of the 12 Steps as they relate to food. But it did make me take another look at why and how I over-eat. I did realize that I use food the way an alcoholic uses booze, just not all the time. And unlike alcohol, you can’t just not eat. I mean, I can take the crap food out of my house and I’ll still binge on good food. The actions are the same, even if the damage is minimized.

I’m not even remotely cured of my binge-eating, and I still binge. Again, it’s about minimizing impact and doing damage control after the fact, but it’s still there, though it’s a lot less frequent now, and the duration and intensity have decreased. I’ve rid myself of triggers that I know about, and as such, I spend a lot more of my time in control. But sometimes there’s a “just barely” tacked on, and that feeling of being on the edge of a binge, of hanging on by your fingertips is a dreadful feeling. It almost feels better after the binge when you can sweep up, write down what you ate, assess the damage and take steps to neutralize things. It’s about control, and that’s when the bulimic impulses take over.

I fight the scale. See, there are things that logically I know to be true. But there are things my head tells me that I don’t believe, but hearing them still affects my impulses and my actions. I know that if I’ve had a good week, worked out, stayed within my points range, drank all my water, made good food choices, and that scale doesn’t move, or goes up, that it’s probably water. Logically I know my body didn’t gain fat by doing everything right, but oh…those numbers. I NEED TO SEE THEM GO DOWN. When you’re staring down a 160 pound total, every little bit counts.

So I start thinking of how to trick the scale. I start doing things to make sure that every ounce is squeezed out. I play games with my points, sometimes under-eating in an attempt to jog the scale into moving, or taking water pills before my weigh-in to make sure I’m rid of as much water as I can. Logically, I know it’s stupid. You can’t fool the scale. It’s all going to come out in the wash. But it’s about control. Losing it, regaining it, trying to get a firm grip again when so often I feel like I’m flailing.

I know my body is getting smaller. My measurements have gone down. But that scale is what MATTERS in my head. I can’t seem to let that go. I advise others to, but I can’t do it myself. In that aspect, I’m a hypocrite. But I try. I keep talking the talk in hopes that like so many other things, it will fall into place eventually.

I’ve come to realize that just telling myself that it’s about being healthy, not losing weight, is a lie too. Not a complete one, but if there was no payoff to this–if I wasn’t going to look better as a result–I’d have a lot less reason to keep going.

Unfortunately, realizing I didn’t like the way I looked has brought up a whole new crop of issues for me.

When you are a Person of Great Size, if you want to be able to love yourself, you have to look in the mirror and accept what you see. You have to love the fat as part of who you are. I’ve been a big girl my entire sexual life, and have never let my weight get in the way of feeling sexy and beautiful. I have had a lot of practice in becoming confident, and confidence is sexy. It’s never been a problem.

I’ve come to realize that my own self-acceptance is what has kept me from keeping my weight off. I’ve become complacent in my acceptance, and have told myself for so long that “I look good” that I have believed it. When the truth is, my fat is not attractive to me. My confidence has made me appear more attractive than I am, but my body, objectively speaking, is a hot, blubbery mess.

And not long ago, I realized that, and I looked in the mirror for the first time in years and I felt disgusted. I looked hideous. And it was doing a number on me. I’d put on my shoes, happy to get out to the gym to work out. I’d trot across the parking lot feeling good about myself and then I’d catch a glimpse of myself reflected in the glass doors of the gym, and I wanted to die.

Fat. Fat fat fatty fat fat. Fat.

I had to make myself go in. I fought tears the whole time I was on the treadmill. I’d look around and see that I was the fattest person in the room. “You’re the only one thinking that.” Yes, but I’m the one that counts. I know what I know to be true. I am often the fattest person in the room in a country where morbid obesity is an epidemic. That does NOT make a girl feel good about herself.

My instinct? Skip the gym. Pop into Shaw’s and hit the baked good section hard. Sit in my car, eat until I literally can’t get another bite down, hide the evidence, and then go home and lie about how hard I worked out. If I came close to quitting, it was then. And it wasn’t once. It was every day. I’d get dressed and realize I’m nowhere near ready to abandon most of my fat clothes. Sure, a few shirts are fitting more loosely, but I’m a long way from needing new pants. And that sucks. What do I need? Bras. My tits are shrinking. How’s that for a cosmic kick in the crotch? The only good thing about being fat is having big boobs, for God’s sake!

I told myself that what was important was not that I was the fattest person in the room, but that I was in the room in the first place. I was in the gym, not in my car with a dozen Boston creme donuts and an iced coffee. God, that was hard to do, though. That little voice that was fighting back was so much quieter than the one yelling “FAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT FATTY MC FATTERTON FAT FAT FATTY FAT FATASS FAT!!!” in my ear.

I had a really hard stretch there of feeling just wretched about myself because of it. Reject the fat, reject what I see every time I look at myself. I realized that I don’t want to be a fat person anymore. I don’t love the fat. I want it gone. And the fact that it’s still there bothers me. It’s hard enough to love yourself when you accept what you see. I have no clue how to do it when you actively reject it. I don’t know how I’ll feel when I’ve lost the weight. Will I still feel fat? I don’t reckon this journey is over by a long shot.

Just call me "Bubbles."

Just call me “Bubbles.”

I’ve come to peace with it for the moment through a bit of mental gymnastics. I told you so much of this is head games for me, and I’m not joking. I was looking in the mirror naked one morning, absolutely loathing what I saw. Pinching and pulling at big, nasty rolls of flesh, watching it do all the gross things fat does. Then later, quite out of nowhere I found myself thinking about it, and somehow in my mind, I pictured it as a fat suit. All of a sudden. It occurred to me that the real me is in there, and while she might not be skinny, she’s fit and healthy. She’s just wearing a fat suit!

I can’t go into wardrobe and take it all off at once, just one pound at a time. And when I went back and looked in the mirror again, I pictured a fat suit. I am a healthy, fit person wearing a fat suit. I just need to get it off to see the real me. I can stand to see my reflection again.

Now, I know what I’m supposed to be concentrating on is my health. I’m supposed to be doing this for health reasons. I’m supposed to be focused on making healthy changes so that my body will be greatly improved, and the weight loss and improved appearance will be a wonderful side effect.

Whatever, man. I want to buy clothes in human sizes. Vanity, thy name is Poops.

In my case, it’s more accurate to say that my health has been a wonderful side effect. I hate to even admit it out loud because honestly, I’ve always been pretty proud of the fact that my body runs as well as it does with the crap food I’ve put into it. The fact that I can move at all is damned amazing when you consider the junk with which I fueled it.

Vegetables are my Achilles heel. I loathe the fucking things. And it’s another thing to wrap my head around. My new mantra is “food is fuel.” At first, I’d tell myself that when I was eating produce and I’d rather have had pizza. Or when I was having salad because green leafies are absolutely wonderful for me, but the McDonald’s french fries smelled soooooo good. Food is fuel. At first, it was a way to dismiss the idea of food as a celebration, or an event, or merely as something designed to give me pleasure. Unfortunately, food is kind of like sex in that respect, really. You can do it to make a baby and get the job done, or you can do it RIGHT, and when you do…hnnnggghhhhh….

Which is how it is with food. You can make eating a drudgery, something you have to do, or you can eat all the things that make drool run right down your face. You can eat just to keep your body going, or you can do it RIGHT. And like sex, I’m starting to understand that crap food isn’t better than no food at all. I figured out the last time I embarked on this weight loss journey that I lose more weight per week if I don’t eat crap food. Now, the beauty of WW to me is that it’s flexible. You don’t have to cut anything out. You can eat anything you want as long as you have Points enough for it. If you need to have a Dairy Queen or a cocktail or a Cadbury egg because it’s not just Easter without it, then you can. And I always made sure I wasn’t “deprived.” I kept all kinds of low-Point snacks on hand and had some every day because it gave me a sense of normalcy, a “See, I can eat like regular not-fat people, too!” kind of feeling.

And on weeks where I did everything right, stayed in my points and exercised faithfully, I’d gain, or stay the same. For no reason. It should have worked, but it didn’t. Then I noticed on weeks where I pulled way back on the snacks, limiting myself to a treat after supper, I lost more. But I hated it. I hated that I had to deprive myself after all! NOT FAIR.

Well, life isn’t fair, and that’s a fact. If life was fair, vegetables would cause unsightly face boils and chocolate would cure cancer. I wish to God there was an easier way. I wish fad diets worked. I wish cutting out one food or one food group or one thing was the key, but it’s just not. There’s no magic pill. Just “eat less, move more.” Anyone trying to sell you something else is…well, selling something.

This time out, it’s been the same thing, only more so because now I’m older. I’m 44, almost, and menopausal. I’ve had three babies. I’m fatter. And did I mention I’m older? My poor metabolism is lying there, gasping, and giving me the finger. This time, right from the outset, I had to adopt the “food is fuel” way of thinking. I know crap slows me down, so I got rid of it. And the weight loss was STILL slow. So I looked for what I’ve come to think of as “hidden crap” and started weeding it out. High-fructose corn syrup–out. Artificial sweeteners–out. Packaged snacks–out. Potato chips–out. Fast food–out.

Bit by bit, week by week, I’ve been replacing shitty food with good food, and telling myself that food is fuel, lamenting with rent garments and a wailing and gnashing of teeth that I am doomed to a lifetime of eating like a monk. *dramatic sigh* Only as the weeks have stretched into months, I swear by all I hold holy, I feel better.

Let that sink in for a minute.

I. FEEL. BETTER.

I have been openly disdainful of anyone who extols the virtues of kale or adds flax seed to anything. Fucking hippies, man. GET OFF MY LAWN. The notion of “eating mindfully” was just a lot of dirty hippie lingo to me. Until I found myself actually doing it. When you eat, and then write what you eat in a food journal, you become mindful of your food choices. When you look at your patterns of eating in order to see how and where to make changes, you’re being mindful. When you sit down with a meal and find yourself saying “food is fuel” and you feel really good about that because the food you’ve prepared is not only good for your body and is going to give you energy through the day, but it’s also pretty damned delicious as well…holy shit, you have become a hippie! You’ve gone over to the dark side!

The day I said “food is fuel” not by way of encouraging myself to choke down something I didn’t want, but instead as an affirmation that my body was in for a treat, I stopped shaving my armpits and rubbed on some patchouli. In for a penny, in for a pound, baby!

dinner 029

It’s like apple crisp in a bowl. With bananas, because YUM.

I don’t think I’m ever going to truly love vegetables. But I have hope. I just ate my breakfast and it was amazing.

Oatmeal sweetened with brown sugar, seasoned with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and vanilla, and with an apple and a banana cooked in. It’s sweet, filling, full of fiber, hot, and so good. I have almond milk in my coffee–it has 50% more calcium than milk, and is full of fiber, too. I will eat that at 9 in the morning and not be hungry again until 1. The fact that I love this makes the person I was back in November want to punch me in the face. 

But back then I wouldn’t have believed that eating cleaner would make me feel so much better. I’m not hungry all the time. I don’t crave crap like I used to. I still have the urge to binge, and I still have the days where the control is so tentative that it makes me want to cry, but they’re fewer and farther between. I can sit in my kitchen all day and not have to get up all the time to see what else I can eat. I just don’t have the urge to.

I always hated the expression “Nothing tastes as good as thin feels” because I can’t relate. I’ve never been thin in my entire adult life. I have amended that to my own use and I’m pretty sure that nothing tastes as good as healthy feels. I like how I feel. There was a box of Cap’n Crunch on the stove this morning, and while the thought crossed my mind that a couple of bowls of that would be tasty, I knew I’d have a headache by noon and feel like shit. It just wasn’t worth it. 

Fueled by fresh fruit and Greek yogurt with a drizzle of honey.

Fueled by fresh fruit and Greek yogurt with a drizzle of honey.

My body is responding to being crap-free. The better I eat, the better I feel, and that’s the truth. I find out new things all the time. I’ve discovered that artificial sweeteners make me crave sugar, but pure cane sugar doesn’t. I might have either an allergy or a sensitivity to MSG. Processed foods make working out harder, where whole foods improve my performance.

And yes, I’m working out again. Right now I stick to the treadmill. I can control the calories I burn and my heart rate very easily and I feel I get maximum results from it. I didn’t like the 30-minute circuit thing at all–too much up and down, on and off the equipment. It felt jerky and disjointed and like I wasn’t getting a really good workout. My trainer is back at the gym after being away, and I’m going to start adding weights back to my cardio routine again. I always loved weight training and I’m looking forward to it. But to be honest, I hadn’t done it because I didn’t want that lean muscle to show up on the scale. How stupid is that? It’s that head game with the numbers again. I have to let it go, and cling to the reality that building lean muscle will help me burn fat more effectively, and faster, no matter what the stupid scale says.

And for now, the scale says the weight is coming off. I’m officially down 36 pounds, though there was a good month at the beginning where I didn’t weigh myself, and if history is any indication, I lost a fair deal of water weight in those first few weeks. Even if I averaged a modest 2 pounds a week at the beginning, I’m probably down another 8 or 10 on top of that, but it’s hard to say. I try to tell myself that the number doesn’t matter, but the eating disorder won’t really let me do that. It is important to me. It’s something measurable that I can hang onto when the non-scale victories are scarce.

I have a long way to go before I shed my fat suit, but I feel like this time it will come off for good. I’ve never done this much work on the mental aspect of losing weight. I could always say the words, “I’m making healthy lifestyle changes” but without really changing a damn thing. The thoughts have to change first. When you change your mind, changing the way you live becomes easier, and after that, changing your body practically just happens.

For the first time in my life, I don’t accept any excuses from myself. I know my limitations, and I work on pushing past them in whatever way I can. No, I can’t run, but I can walk. I can build the muscles that will eventually protect my knees so that I can run. I’m working towards it. No, I don’t like vegetables, but I can figure out what ones I tolerate and find better ways of preparing them, trying new ones, adding them bit by bit until I grow accustomed to them. I can learn to like them. I don’t let my eating disorder act as a license to lose control. I don’t win every binge-battle, but I don’t have to accept defeat, either.

Will this work in the long run? I’m cautiously optimistic. I’ve been gung-ho before, and determined, only to get to that stupid plateau and let my mind decide for me that I was done. I’m hoping my advancing age and multiple experiences will help me put the pieces together. I feel like my thoughts have changed in a way they never have before, so we’ll see where this takes me, I guess.

"The journey of a million miles begins with a single step...and a new pair of running shoes."

“The journey of a million miles begins with a single step…and a new pair of running shoes.”

Eat This November 19, 2012

Posted by J. in Domesticity.
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You may have noticed, though probably not, that I missed a Reader’s Choice Monday. I’ve been busier than a one-armed paper hanger with crabs trying to get ready for the Christmas at Clough Tavern Farm sale/show/shop, and really didn’t have the time to sit down and bash out anything intelligent about chickens. I still don’t, really. Have the time, that is. My special orders list is still pretty freaking long, and I’m working on a new story that’s giving me fifty fits.

First world problems, people.

But I do have a kind of funny chicken story. It’s actually about roosters.

My aunt Elaine lived next door to me all my life (until she died, that is) and she got it in her head to raise chickens. She occasionally got the odd notion like that. She always wanted a goat, but that dream never came to be. But the chickens came to stay for years and I still miss the eggs. Man, there is just NOTHING like eating an egg the same day that it shot out of a chicken’s ass. Big, high, orange yolks–none of those flat, pale yellow things you get at the grocery store.

Anyway, she had just a little coop beside the barn, and I don’t think she ever had more than a dozen chickens at any given time. I loved the eggs, and while the throaty screech–to call it a “crow” is a misnomer of epic proportions–of the rooster was jarring at first, in time I barely even heard it anymore. It was part of the every day sounds of life. Sort of how when you live in the city you get used to the noises you hear incessantly, like horns and sirens, car engines, tires squealing. It’s like that with the cheerful clucking and squawking of hens and the unholy grunt-howling of roosters.

She’d had them for awhile, and I believe at the time this story takes place she had two roosters in residence. Our neighbor used to deliver bread for a living and would leave for work at 3:30 every morning, which to normal people is the middle of the night. He’d leave the driveway with his lights off and not turn them on until he was off the street so they wouldn’t wake the rooster up.

Oh, and roosters don’t strangle-cry at dawn. Oh no. They do it any old damn time they’re moved to. Middle of the night. Noon. Whatever. Whenever. Roosters are the honey badgers of the poultry world–they do not give a shit.

So one day my aunt gets a knock at the door and there’s a cop standing there.

I should also point out that the Lyman’s have a farm just the other side of the rectory. They keep geese, ducks, and chickens, and have been known to have cows as well. It’s not at all unusual for the Belmont Police to deal with calls like “Mrs. Lyman’s geese are terrorizing Main Street like some sort of Old MacDonald’s version of the Crips.” I myself have called and let them know that there was a cow on my lawn.

“A cow?”

“Yes, a cow.”

“Is it your cow?”

“Would I be calling you if it was my cow?”

“Is it one of Mrs. Lyman’s?”

“I’m not sure. She didn’t say. She just mooed.”

“I’ll call the sheriff’s department.”

“Okey dokey.”

In fact, they usually called Fr. Albert, who would put on his Wellies and grab a bucket and hit it with a stick, saying “Come on girls, time to eat,” and they’d placidly follow him back to their own yard.

Anyway, this day the young officer is sent to Aunt Elaine’s house to investigate a complaint. It seems, and I quote, “One of the neighbors has been complaining about your rooster.”

“Oh,” says Aunt Elaine. “What’s the complaint?”

“The neighbor says that the rooster crows really early in the morning.”

Aunt Elaine, completely unruffled, says, “Well, isn’t that what roosters do?”

She said the officer stood there and looked at her for a second, then smiled. “Yes, yes that is what they do. You’re right.”

She went on to explain that we are zoned for chickens, she’s not breaking any laws, and really, there’s not much she was inclined to do about it. She toyed with the idea of getting rid of one of the roosters but then decided, well…fuck you, neighbor. Aunt Elaine had a bit of the honey badger in her, too.

And we never did find out who had the beef with her chickens.

 

 

So. When Are You Having a Baby? November 5, 2012

Posted by J. in Domesticity.
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It’s the first question a newly married couple is asked, I think. Maybe even before “Where are you going on your honeymoon?” or “Who made this delicious cake?”

It also makes most brides a bit prickly. At least from what I’m told. We wanted a honeymoon baby. Or, at least I did. Hindsight being 20/20, I suspect Larry was going along with the plan, but if I’d pressed a bit harder, I wouldn’t be surprised if I could have got him to admit that he was nervous and unsure about becoming a father at that point. Particularly so soon after becoming a husband.

So when I was asked as a newlywed, “When are you having a baby?” it didn’t bother me. I wanted one, and now! But as the months dragged on with no baby in sight, and no clear reason as to why there was no baby in sight, the question started to make me prickly, too.

“I don’t know when we’re having a baby. We’re trying.”

And then a year and a miscarriage later, I was finally up the duff with Miss Mary Catherine and all was well. I had leveled up and reached the sanctified status of “Mother.” I went on and did it a couple more times for good measure–I’m mother three times over now.

The topic before me is to write about the deification of mothers and how those who remain childless are perceived in contrast. It’s hard for me to say, mostly because I went from unmarried and no one expecting me to have children, to married and trying, to married with children. I’ve never been in the position to be considered “childless.” I imagine you hear different things in a different way depending on your maternal status.

As a mother, I’ve never thought of myself as particularly deified. In fact, some days it seems very much like when you’re a mother, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. No matter what you do for your kids, or don’t do, you open yourself up for attack. In fact, of all the jobs I’ve had and in all the things I’ve done or currently do, my ability to parent my own children is the thing that garners the most attention, and draws the most criticism.

I wrote a piece about the Mommy Wars and how as soon as you drop a crotchfruit, you’re in the War. It’s mother against mother, parenting philosophy against parenting philosophy, and even if you want to stay neutral, you can’t. And it’s not just other mothers. No one knows more about raising your kids than someone without them.

But I’ve also written about how little I like being a parent. Maybe that’s part of why I don’t feel particularly deified, or at the very least, that I deserve deification. Between feeling criticized a lot of the time, knuckled under by the demands of being a parent, and generally coming up short every time I turn around, it’s hard for me to feel like anyone’s putting me on a pedestal for my maternal abilities.

From where I sit, waiting for the youngest to get off the bus and thus end the short amount of quiet, thinking time I get to myself these days, I look at childless people with great envy. I think that if you are childless because you realized that you don’t want kids, you should be put on a pedestal. For some reason, there’s this inherent belief that if you have reproductive organs, you have to use them. If you don’t squeeze out a human, there’s something wrong with you. If you can breed you should. You MUST. To me, I think knowing what you want–or even what you think you want–and acting accordingly is enough.

I image our perceptions are colored by which side of the motherhood fence we’re on, and how we feel about our decisions. I wonder if women who love being mothers feel more goddess-like than I do. I wonder if how childless women look at mothers depends a lot on how much of the decision to remain childless was actually up to them.

At the end of the day, I can’t really change how the world portrays me. Perception is a tricky thing, and all I can do most of the time is put my head down and just keep swimming.

 

Get Off My Lawn September 17, 2012

Posted by J. in Domesticity, FYI, Genius.
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You know, when I was a girl, things were different.

Cookie Monster went apeshit over cookies. I mean, he’s a cookie MONSTER. He’s sane and rational until he gets a whiff of cookies and then BAM. He’s a junkie. A total crack-head. He’s plowing through a plate of snickerdoodles like there’s no tomorrow and he isn’t stopping until he’s spent, his eyes swirling around in his head, crumbs all up in his fur.

But Cookie’s been to rehab, man. Now, cookies are a once-in-a-while treat. Cookie eats vegetables now. He probably does yoga and sees his therapist once a week.

And when did Big Bird get so whiny? Maybe when I was a kid I didn’t notice it so much, but now that I’m a grownup, I can’t help but notice that Big Bird whines like a bitch every time he opens his mouth. If there’s someone on Sesame Street that needs to see a therapist, it’s him. I have never wanted to slap a Muppet so much in my life.

Yes, that includes Elmo.

Image

At least they’re getting something right.

They tell me that Mr. Rogers is getting a reboot of sorts, featuring the puppets from the show. Or at least one of them. Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is going to be a thing.

My friend Beeby is rage-stabby about it. I’m…nothing. Maybe they’ll manage to keep the spirit of Fred Rogers in it, but I don’t know. I’d rather watch re-runs. I found out he died while I was on the stationary bike at the gym. I tried very, very hard not to cry. My mother hated him, but to this day, I appreciate his kindness and gentleness. I loved him.

I can’t be too hard on PBS Kids. Honestly, my kids learn nothing from me. Nuh. Thing. They hate it when I try to teach them anything. It’s why Emma learned to tie her shoes at the neighbor’s house and why Mary learned to swim from a friend. It’s part of the reason I could never homeschool. They just don’t listen to my instruction. The other reason is that I would kill them if I had to spend all day with them. I really don’t like being a parent all that much. I’m just putting that out there.

If my kids went into school knowing their letters and numbers and how to count things, it’s because of PBS Kids. And Nick Jr. God, I miss Blue’s Clues with Steve. Not Joe. Joe sucked. But Steve had a Mr. Rogers thing going on that I loved. I watched all the episodes over and over again with Buggy and we both enjoyed them.

As the kids have gotten older, Nick is still a mainstay in our house. I have to admit that with the exception of Big Time Rush, I don’t mind it so much. I like iCarly. It’s Dave’s favorite show. We all like Spongebob, especially the older episodes.

But the Disney Channel? Fuck them. I don’t mind Playhouse Disney for the really little kids. But anything that involves actors sucks and should be killed with fire. There isn’t a child character that isn’t an obnoxious asshole and the story lines BLOW. If there’s a station that’s raping my childhood dreams, it’s Disney.

I grew up on Disney movies. Every Sunday night we’d watch The Wonderful World of Disney and it was magical. We watched movies, made-for-TV movies, cartoons and shorts and they were…well, wonderful. I miss the variety of the programming and how my parents would watch too because the shows were good and entertaining for the whole family.

I have hope, though. I was sitting in here the other day and I heard Dave change the channel in the other room. I heard the buttons stop clicking and the sound of him pulling my grandmother’s rocking chair up to the TV. He was watching Bugs and Daffy argue over whether it was duck season or rabbit season and belly laughing at it.

That’s right, Sonny. That’s when they knew how to make a cartoon. Now you kids get off my lawn.

Enough for the Whole Lord’s Congregation September 15, 2012

Posted by J. in Domesticity, Genius.
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The Knights of Columbus are having a chicken barbecue today down at St. Joseph’s and Jeanne and I are the official baked bean makers. We make some damned fine beans. I say, if you want good New England baked beans, ask the French kids to make them. We KNOW from beans.

LOOK AT THESE. A thing of beauty.

You say you love good homemade baked beans but think they’re too much work? Pshaw. Here’s my recipe. A dull chimp could make these.

I usually make mine in two pound batches because I have a big crock pot and I tend to make them for a crowd. Plus, they keep a long time in the fridge and they freeze well. The recipe can be halved or doubled or whatever. It’s very flexible.

Before you go to bed the night before, put two pounds of navy beans into a big pan and cover them with water. They will expand, so use lots. In the morning, dump out the old water and put in fresh and set them to boil. Boil them for…oh, about half an hour to an hour. It depends on the bean. The fresher they are, the less time they need. You’ll know they’re ready when you scoop a few out and blow on them and the skins split and curl.

Here’s what you’ll need. For a big-ass two-pound batch, you need:

2 pounds of navy beans, 2 large onions, a package of salt pork (~12 oz.), 16 oz. of molasses, ketchup, mustard, salt and pepper.

While they’re boiling away, into your big crock pot you put in your chopped up onions, your cubed up salt pork, a couple of big squirts of ketchup, a couple of big squirts of yellow mustard (or a couple of heaping tablespoons of coarse fancy mustard or a couple teaspoons of dry mustard–it’s all good here) and salt and pepper to taste. It’s all about eyeballing the amounts. The ketchup and mustard have a tang that cuts the sweetness a bit, the salt pork and onion add a savory, smoky flavor, the bit of salt (not too much) accentuates the molasses and the pepper gives it some bite.

All of this is variable! Bean cooking is not a science–it’s an art! If you like a tangier bean, add some tang: vinegar or lemon juice. If you like a sweeter bean, add a bit of brown sugar. If you like more savory, add onions or garlic. Some prefer a bit more of a tomato base and add condensed tomato soup or tomato paste. Polish style beans use different kinds of beans like kidney and white beans and include ground beef.

When the beans are cooked, use a slotted spoon to scoop them into the crock pot. Add 16 oz. of molasses and then add some of the bean water to just cover the beans. Not too much. Stir all that shit up.

“Cover me, Chief. We’re going in.” All mixed up and ready to go in the slow cooker.

Cover and cook on high for four hours or low for 6. The beans are done when they are to your desired softness level, depending on if you like a firm bean or a mushy one. I like mine on the soft side.

They pair with so many things. Hot dogs, of course. Ham–oh, God, ham. Smoked ham from the Fox Country Smokehouse. *homer drool*  Sorry, what was I saying? Oh, they go good with any grilled meat. You can eat them like the old Frenchmen do and spread them cold on some buttered bread. They are great with eggs and any and all breakfast meats and you’ll usually find baked beans as a side option on most breakfast menus in restaurants up here.

That’s it. It’s literally a mix this stuff up and forget it all day kind of thing. Chop a couple of things and dump ’em in a crock pot. Easy peasy.

You wish you had a scratch and sniff monitor, don’t you?

The last double batch is boiling away on the stove as I post this, and six pounds will be delivered to church this afternoon. Enough for the whole Lord’s congregation!