Category Archives: Food

Both Personal And Random Ideas

“Make all the right choices. Eat all the right food. And you will still be dead one day. This is a rigged game, indeed, this gift of life.” – X

Have you ever thought that another way to describe a bath is “butt soup?”

For the first time in MANY years, I am getting a refund for both Federal and State taxes. While I can’t finance a yacht with the refund, it is a pleasant change of pace! Also, I did my taxes exceedingly fast; in previous years, it was a very tedious process, usually involving a lot of typing, swearing, and frustration – and that was just addressing the envelopes. Though I meticulously followed the software and triple-checked it, the IRS said my refund had to be adjusted. Whether it’s worth arguing over depends on whether my hold on sanity is firm the day I receive the letter to challenge their adjustment.

“The chickens came home to roost. Or so they thought… the smell of fried chicken soon permeated the air.” -X

Last week, very early in the morning, as I rounded the corner of the apartments near the trail by the hospital, I found three bags stuffed with personal items. Though there was no one there along the fringe of the building, I surmised that someone had slept between the minimal hedging and the brick wall. I saw someone there the following day, and I left them in peace. When I passed by again, they were gone, but the bags were still there. I left a gift for them next to their bags. I’ve not seen the bags since. I wonder about them each day.

I keep learning that being clear and honest still likely results in a mess. It doesn’t matter what your motivation is or how concisely and openly you share; the odds still dictate that things will likely spin away from you. Likely, there’s nothing you can do about it. So much of the outcome depends on the other mercurial person. Not stating your truth will just as likely cause you to bubble over unexpectedly when the pressure to speak overwhelms you. As hard as it is, between the two options, it’s always better to just state your truth when you feel like you need to. It won’t feel like the best option, though. Most of us are hard-wired to put off what plagues us until it seeps or explodes out. It’s important to remember that the feelings you bury are still alive under all the layers.

Wine ice cubes are fantastic. Not only do they go well in actual wine, but they also can be used as needed when you want wine to cook with. Don’t “at me,” either, saying that ice cubes in wine are uncouth. There are no actual rules regarding taste, cooking, or eating. The sooner we abandon that nonsense, the better off we’ll all be. And happier eating macaroni over the sink – or a bowl of cereal for supper. One wine ice cube is much better than a cheap grape popsicle, too. In my opinion. Adult note: if you drink enough wine, your appetite will likely go away. And your ability to cook coherently definitely will.

“Wisdom teaches us to be patient with the ridiculous setbacks we’re all going to encounter. It also somehow still fails to prepare us for being surprised by how people will act.” – X

Not everyone is wired the same way sexually. That’s to be expected. But if you’re a sexual person and not being intimate, consequences to your quality of life or well-being always follow. It doesn’t mean that sex is an overwhelming or inflexible motivator; it just means that human behavior will succumb to the urge toward intimacy. People need to stop being ashamed of their essential needs and how they practice and define them. Sex is the big mystery that permeates our lives in multiple ways – yet most of us have a completely mistaken idea of how other people live sexually, much less how to be happy with our sexual selves.

My therapist told me that in one of my first sessions, I said this: “Isn’t it odd how most of our need to look presentable isn’t really so we’ll feel good about ourselves. It’s because we are leaning into the idea of spectator attractiveness. We want to look good to other people. Because if not, generally speaking, we’d all dress comfortably and not think much about hair, makeup, shoes, or how we are perceived. Absent the expectation of attractiveness and left to our own devices, we might be a lot less preoccupied with appearance and happier as a result.” I could be wrong, but it seems to be true generally.

You can drive around the roundabout 17 times if you need to. Likewise, you can fail as many times as you need to or have to until you finally make the turnoff. It’s where you end up that matters, anyway. It would be nice to avoid a convoluted, circuitous path of errors, but life tends not to work that way.

“You’re not afraid of being alone in the dark. You are afraid that you might not be alone in the dark.” This isn’t my quote. It does demonstrate how our fears and thoughts overtake us.

Male secret #34: most men do not care if a woman’s legs are smoothly shaved. Or if their nails are painted, their blouse, shoes, pants match, etc. The enthusiasm of presence derails all those concerns. I’m not sure you should trust a middle-aged man named X or not – but this is true.

Rule of Presence: each of us will jump to hold the door for another person, but we will move heaven and earth to stop someone from passing us on the road.

I’ve put up three ‘fake’ streets signs in the last couple of months. All of them are still posted. PS If you want to do it quickly, have the sign made prior to showing up, with the bolt already through it. Since most street posts have multiple bolt holes, push the bolt through and twirl the nut on it quickly. Also, did you know you can order a custom street sign easily? If you’re bored, google it. It’s no accident that 75 mph is a great sign to add in Johnson. (I didn’t do that one due to public safety concerns. And the lack of a sense of humor with traffic enforcement there, now that I think about it.)

Another one I stole from the internet: “Each and every selfie is a picture of perhaps your own worst enemy.”

It’s been about six months since my surgery. It’s been the longest ten years of my life. I’m still thankful to be here. But I can’t escape the idea that I’d be a lot happier with a check for one million dollars in my wallet. I might not ever cash it.

Love, X
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My Sermon On Being The Right Weight

Disclaimer: This post doesn’t touch on eating disorders, serious mental health concerns, or medical conditions with which people struggle.

There will always be sickness, death, job loss, or other surprises. Prolonged periods of stress or anxiety. There will never be a perfect time to start your journey. You might as well open the door now and step outside into your goal. Just five minutes a day to start, or one small habit. By way of personal example? Stop assuming that just because you open it, it’s a single serving. Yes, I’m talking to you, giant bag of family-size Doritos or large pizza.

Hard truth up front: dieting doesn’t work. Keto, low-carb, supplements. Why: anything you do that isn’t permanent isn’t going to work. You will lose weight doing them. Statistically, though, you’re going to go back to a normal diet. And when you do? Bam! Thighs and stomach again, and probably larger than before. You will feel helpless and as if it’s impossible. Until you accept the fact that the first part is the hardest, you probably won’t succeed.

If you’re a heroin addict, you can do a little bit of coke instead. You’ll get over heroin. You’re also stuck with a cocaine habit. You’re replaced one negative for another. You are in theory a little better off. Food is the same way. You can’t avoid it and it’s ridiculously delicious. If you want to be the weight you want to be, you have to experiment and figure out a different way to eat. It’s that simple. Any other method will not work long-term.

You do not need gyms or weird, complicated eating methods. You can get to the weight you want by learning to eat differently. Choose your hard. It’s going to be hard to adapt. But if you can learn new eating habits, it’s sustainable.

If you need to do something extra for a while to get a taste of success, do that. It doesn’t matter what ‘that’ is if it’s temporary. Just be prepared to shift to another gear when it’s time to try to eat differently whenever you stop doing whatever program or supplement you’ve been using. Metaphorically speaking, if you have to do a little coke to replace the heroin, so be it. You’re moving toward progress. Stop worrying about doing it all at once or if you experience setbacks. One day or one week isn’t your life.

Many people wrote to me on my blog, telling me that my approach to weight loss was the wrong way to do it. Some of my posts were read an incredible number of times. To their surprise, I told them, “Yes, I know.” There was always a ‘but’ from me. I know my way wasn’t the right way. It worked for me, though. And it didn’t require expensive supplements, detailed metrics or counting, or any equipment at all. All in all, that’s about the most basic approach anyone could possibly take. Did I mention it worked for me? 🙂

When I started, I wasn’t trying to lose weight anymore. I was DOING it no matter what. For me, that required a 180 compared to everything I’d tried before. Different results demanded different efforts. I’ll never forget that early October day when I looked at myself in the mirror and thought, “I’m over this!”

I KNEW I would succeed. So much of my ability to eat healthily was simply a reflection of almost external willpower. I started experimenting with food and quickly dropped all pretense of counting calories, protein, or anything else. I just ate “healthy” food almost all the time. I used certain foods to offset the need to feel full, even when I was eating things that allegedly weren’t good for weight loss. The idea of bad or good food is mostly stupid to me now. It all is dependent on how much and how often you consume it. It’s possible to eat entirely normal food if you’re diligent. I ate half a container of coffee gelato yesterday. That’s where I knew I wouldn’t succeed if I started eating a lot of smaller portions of what was my previous diet. So, I skipped past that part and stayed firm on my eating. For me, I knew that portion control of the foods I love would not ‘get me there.’ It was a certainty, much in the way a cocaine addict doesn’t just use less cocaine to break his or her habit. I had to punch my diet right in the throat. So I did. I know it’s not the optimal method to lose weight or to keep it off long-term.

Note: I do take fiber supplements and drink a strong protein drink in the morning. They worked wonders for me. I resisted the science of them both but discovered they are essential. At least for me.

I don’t mean to sound boastful about knowing I’d lose the weight. I knew I’d get down as low as I’d been in decades; 150 wasn’t on my radar. The battle once the weight is off only really begins once you’ve reached your goal. Entropy and laziness tend to creep into everyone’s intentions. Food is good 365 days a year, no matter the hour. Pizza? Forget about it.

As for the rapidity and calorie restriction of my chosen diet, in the back of my mind, I compared it to bariatric surgery without the surgery. A friend of mine found success out of necessity going that route. All of those procedures demand severe restrictions. Even so, a large percentage of those using it gain the weight back long-term. That’s pretty much the case across the board with substantial weight loss. I gave myself a year benchmark; I surpassed that in October. No matter what comes at me, I know that my weight loss issue was 100% mental for decades. My success proves it.

If you’ve lost the weight before and gained it back – don’t worry. You’re still alive and can do it again. The only thing stopping you is your own mind. It doesn’t matter how many times you fail if you ultimately succeed. Your mistakes don’t matter as much as your destination.

Having such a huge success on my part would be foolish indeed if I let myself choose the wrong hard and fall back. I knew that if I didn’t get the weight off ferociously, I might lose my nerve before I ever had a chance to succeed at it for the first time in my adult life.

I didn’t add ANY exercise to my routine. It was all based on calorie reduction. After several weeks of eating differently, I had to confront the truth: I’d been eating way more horrible food (and more often) than I believed I had. And that my weight was much more intensely a psychological problem than a physical one.

In short, I was the problem.

In June, I got addicted to pushups, a habit I loved until my emergency surgery. After surgery, I started with dumbbells. I’ve increased the weight twice since I started. Although I do them very carefully, I do a couple of hundred pushups a day now to complement the weights. Looking back, I can’t tell you how important the routine of pushups had become to control my anxiety. When I could no longer do them because of the huge surgical wound on my abdomen, I recognized that I’d lost one of my most successful stress management tools. Not being able to do them had a direct impact on my weird anxiety levels. Walking and more running have helped.

I appreciate everyone who told me to be careful. I really do. Equally true is that being careful won’t guarantee that I’ll be healthy or safe. That’s another part of my anxiety; even though I’ve always known it due to some nasty life surprises (which we’ve all experienced), the emergency surgery happening at the highest point of my physical success knocked the wind out of me emotionally. The message that I’m mortal no matter what shape I’m in was received loud and clear. I don’t need another such lesson. I get it. It’s just a variation of the quote, “You can do everything right and still fail.” So if perfection can still yield failure, perhaps it is okay to accept the challenge to mix it up and try it your own way?

If you do nothing, you’ll be stuck where you don’t want to be. But if you try? Maybe you will succeed. If you get motivated or pissed off enough, I know you will. The crazy secret of discipline and motivation? You do it anyway, even though you are not motivated. And you repeat that bs until it is a habit.

Recently, walking out of work, someone who hadn’t seen me in a couple of months said, “Wow, you’ve kept the weight off!” He was enthusiastic and encouraging when he said it. He’s seen so many people revert to their old habits because of his job. I told him that I was never going past my setpoint again, no matter what. It popped out of my mouth with confidence, probably too much confidence.

But that is where all of y’all come in. You all have eyes – you can see what I’m eating and if I start to forget the lesson of maintaining this success. We don’t have an acceptable way to lovingly and effectively tell someone that their weight is a problem. That in itself is a problem.

I’m giving you permission to call me out if I start sliding. I can’t imagine that I will – but I couldn’t have seen my current life even a year ago. So anything is possible.

If I can turn a switch on in my head and do this, anyone else who is committed to doing so can do it, too. You can’t do it without changing the amount of food you eat. You can do it without driving to the gym or keeping detailed food logs or buying supplements that won’t work long-term. You do it by deciding. You can still eat a LOT of food. We’re all smart people yet make this food-weight relationship so complicated. It’s why there are so many books and experts arguing about how best to do it. Most of them are selling you something.

Exercise has its own rewards and benefits. I highly recommend it. But science proves you don’t have to exercise to lose weight. You just have to choose less and better fuel for your body.

I’m not selling anything.

You can do it if you really want to.

Take it from a random internet weirdo. There’s nothing special or secret in my approach. Nike already stole the “Just do it” quote.

Love, X
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Oops!

Well, since I’m burning 3500-4000 calories a day 5 days a week, I might have to have pizza and a banana for breakfast, ice cream and salad for lunch, and pie and broccoli for supper. I haven’t decided what to eat for second breakfast, brunch, or second supper. 🙂 The fascinating thing is that I FEEL like my energy level is beyond human at times. P.S. No, I’m not pregnant. .

Taste Torture Love

During the cheesecake fiasco at Whole Foods the other day, I bought a reasonably-priced jug of protein powder. I should have known!

Anything reasonably priced at Whole Foods is 100% a mistake. Trust me.

It’s like buying your auto insurance from a guy named Honest Pete. You just don’t do it.

This brand is plant-based. Today, I made ten servings of it. The label said “French Vanilla.” The flavor is so opposite the label that I decided it is a new form of reverse marketing.

I made mine with skim milk. When I took the first gulp, the truth is that I thought it tasted like a chalky fart.

Yes, you read that right.

You know how you drive past a weird part of town and realize that the municipal wastewater treatment plant must be nearby? It was exactly like that but without the nostalgia. You have to drive a mile to rid the smell from the interior of your car.

The grit and residue left in my teeth was remarkable. Had someone thrown an urn of ashes in my face, I wouldn’t have noticed, probably even if threw the actual metal urn in my face, too. I decided that it reminded me of a mix of flatulence, diet tonic water, black licorice, and the tears of Tibetan monks.

As I stood there drinking it, I read the label. I couldn’t find “bile” anywhere in the list.

By the time I finished the serving?

I realized that it tastes so terrible that I LOVE it.

Just ignore me if I swallow and shiver as I imbibe it. I wouldn’t be surprised if I grow horns or an extra ear after drinking this stuff.

It’s rancid. I’ll buy it again if I catch it “on sale” at Whole Foods. Or possibly in their dumpster. Yes, I’m conflicted!

Love, X

Pizza Math And More

Pizza Math And More

A 16″ pizza is equal to four 8″ pizzas.

“Math was easy until the damned letters got involved.”

This is one of the few instances when math helps you to see the obvious.
Don’t let the formula fool you with round pizzas.
A = π r²
A = area
π = 3.14
r = the radius, or 1/2 the circular size

The area of a pizza is easy to calculate. If the pizza is 18″, the radius is 9″.
9 x 9 X 3.14, or 254 inches of pizza.

An 8″ pizza is 3.14 X 4², or 50 inches of pizza.
A 10″ pizza is 3.14 X 5², or 78 inches of pizza.
A 12″ pizza is 3.14 X 6², or 113 inches of pizza.
A 14″ pizza is 3.14 X 7², or 154 inches of pizza.
A 16″ pizza is 3.14 X 8², or 201 inches of pizza.
An 18″ pizza is 3.14 X 9², or 254 inches of pizza.

If you buy rectangular pizza, it is of course, easier to calculate.
A = Length X Width

If you buy a triangular pizza, you’re high. Go sit down.

It is amazing how often people think a 16″ pizza is twice as much pizza as two 8″ pizzas. It’s not: it’s FOUR times as much. An 18″ pizza is FIVE times as much pizza as one 8″ pizza.

If you’re looking for maximum “fill,” don’t forget to take into account whether the pizza is thick, thin, or regular. You might as well get the best bang for your buck. One “normal” slice of pizza is on average 1/8 of your total caloric need for the day. That can be depressing, but don’t dwell on it. It’s okay to be a glutton once and a while, especially with pizza. Never trust a man who dislikes pizza.

*I catch myself making the same sort of mistake at the grocery store. Luckily, most shelves have the “price per oz” marked.

*There’s a link below for a website that has saved students and adults alike a million hours of math anxiety: Wolfram|Alpha.

*If you want to know how to type special characters on a windows keyboard, there’s another link below.

PS: For early morning, I ate a light greek yogurt, fiber, vitamins, two cups of coffee, and a protein drink. For lunch, I ate a baked buffalo chicken breast (I cooked 6 lbs, all different flavors), a cup of light cottage cheese, a V-8, and a chocolate pudding cup. I don’t count calories myself, but it’s about 500 and a LOT of food. More importantly, I consumed about 90 grams of protein. I’m not accustomed yet to thinking ‘protein.’ I FEEL like I ate a large pizza.

X

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https://www.alt-codes.net/ For special characters such as an upraised 2, the pi symbol, an ‘e’ with an accent, etc

https://www.wolframalpha.com/ For a million shortcuts to do math.

Of Salsa And Light

Because I gave away all my solar lanterns to an admirer earlier in the week, I tried to find creative ways to replace the solar lantern I’d made out of a converted and inverted blue glass hummingbird feeder.

Somehow, in my move, I still had two salsa jars given to me by the famous salsa maker Mike. I’d hoped that when he gifted me the unexpected salsa it would come with a lifetime refill option. Alas, that was not to be. Given that he allegedly is retiring in a couple of years, I see no reason for him NOT to have a side business making salsa (at cost, of course) for his legions of fans.

Using solar fairy lights kits I bought on Amazon (for about $5 each), I put both woefully empty salsa mason jars to use today. Though they are not finished, they provide beautiful light and color already. It seemed wasteful not to light them up tonight. I’ll take all of the colors I can get, especially in this place where beauty is a third-tier concern.

These kits, though inexpensive, are usually designed for larger containers. If anyone wants to make them for themselves, I can easily explain how to do it. (These also have several settings, which is surprising given how inexpensive they are.) Although I don’t remember using that many sets, it seems I’ve bought 34 kits from Amazon alone in the last couple of years. Somewhere out there, there’s a lot of light and color I’ve generated for the world.

I love that I made these out of something that held a delicious surprise.

Of course, now I’m craving salsa. A gallon a week ought to do it.

Love, X

Weight & Exercise Thoughts

(A long read, of course! 🙂 ) 

“Your body reflects what you do habitually.” I’d add, “Your life is the same.”

Choices. Habits. Focus. 

Stupid buzzwords that also are true. There’s no magic formula for most of it. It’s just consistency and using our intelligence and creativity to let our bodies do what they are supposed to. It also requires silencing that negative voice in your head. You are not your past or your past choices, even though that’s precisely what most of us think when we’re alone with our thoughts. Life would be staggeringly bad if we believed that we were incapable of striking out on a new path. I look at my hands each day and find it impossible to think that I bit my fingernails for 50+ years. It’s stupid. I look back at my pictures, and even during years when I was appreciative of life, I can’t help but wonder how much more life I could have experienced if I’d woken up sooner. I can’t recapture those years, but I can tuck them away as a constant reminder. 

I’m a few days away from my original year-long health/weight plan. My brother died on October 5th of last year. Following that, I had the morning where I thought I had covid and felt like I would die. It seems like five years ago. But I still feel the gong of that day in my head when I remember ‘seeing’ my new self. Over the last several months, I’ve worked on reading, watching, and absorbing as much science-based material that I could about health, weight maintenance, and exercise. For me, it is painfully obvious why most people fail in their efforts. 

I know people read some of my thoughts and wonder why I feel like I can give advice. All of us have our moments and experience. I know what I learned and what worked for me. Almost everything can be boiled down to wanting to change and then experimenting with what I thought I knew versus what works. I can’t help but be a little evangelical about it because not a day passes when someone doesn’t express a desire to get control of this aspect of their lives. I’m insistent on telling them that they can, even if they do so, without disrupting their days with crazy programs and “musts” that don’t hold up to science. Major change can be achieved incrementally, one little choice and habit at a time. 

I started on June 1st with pushups. Within weeks, I was doing hundreds a day, culminating in me doing 1,500 some days. That makes me laugh. A week before my emergency surgery, I decided to limit myself to 500 a day for maintenance and modify my diet to add protein and more calories, in part to shift to more muscle-building. How ironic that I’d made the shift just three days before my surgery on Monday, September 13th. It is unfathomable to me that it’s been only three weeks. For anyone who doesn’t know, my surgery didn’t result from overexertion. I had a tiny bit of scar tissue that caused my intestinal loop to get lodged in the void created by the scar tissue and cut off. The only way I could have ‘caught’ it would have been to have a colonoscopy very recently; even then, surgery would have been required. 

The surgeons look out the small loop. Pain saved my life, even though I will never forget rolling around on the cement floor of the ER for hours. Being thin made my recovery incredibly faster. Since then, I’ve followed the advice of surgeons and nutritionists. I’ve used dumbbells relentlessly so that my transition back to work will be less eventful. What happened to me could happen again – or to anyone. I’m thankful it wasn’t a tumor, a heart attack, or an aneurysm. After I woke up alive, I found out that my initial CT Scan had a mass that looked indistinguishable from a tumor. The surgeons thought it was going to be a complicated surgery. They were surprised to find it was straightforward. Life’s lottery gave me a pass for another day. 

In a nutshell, here’s the gist: the simplest way to stay thinner is to control what you put in your mouth. (Sounds obvious, doesn’t it?) Beyond that, move around, preferably with activity. But while you’re at it, get rid of the idea that you have to artificially block off time or engage in rigorous (and likely boring) traditional exercise. Walk your dog, cat, or opossum, vacuum, play frisbee, walk across long parking lots instead of hovering by the door. Be creative. 

Anywhere from 75-90% of every calorie you burn is from just living. You burn 10-20% of your calories exercising at most, and that’s pushing it. Yet, most people jump into health kicks thinking exercise is the critical component. It’s not. Controlling your diet and maximizing your ability to consume and burn calories when you’re not moving is key to any long-term weight maintenance routine. Since most of your calories are burned from everyday living, the biggest bang for your time is derived by taking the effort to control what goes into your mouth. The second biggest results from moving, no matter how you choose to do so. 

Exercise is essential for a lot of reasons. But you’re going to have to get over the mindset that it’s the single solution to weight maintenance. You’ll note that most healthy people incorporate activity into their everyday lives. It does not need to include weight-lifting, running, or other dedicated activities. If you enjoy those things, knock yourself out! If you don’t, find something that works for you – things that don’t cost you a fortune, injure you, or make you resent activity. We have so many options to entertain ourselves. 

Most people don’t stick to unnatural attempts to exercise. Much of the gym universe is predicated on taking financial advantage of people’s inability to stick to life changes that become habits. All that time you spend driving to and from the gym would be much better served walking or finding ways to stay active during your day. (IF you’re not going to stick to it long-term, I mean) And if you do enjoy the gym, by all means, go! If you find that the routine of the gym galvanizes you into continuing with exercise, don’t think I’m saying it’s a waste. It’s not. Any routine that works for you is worth the effort, no matter what it is. If you’re willing to learn new comfort zones, you’ll more likely stick to what works for you. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. 

And if you don’t, find inexpensive equipment to achieve the same result at home. Most of us are not athletes. Feel free to run if you want to. But a 180-lb person burns about 170 calories running a 10-minute mile. You burn roughly 100 calories walking a mile. This isn’t a cardio-versus-exercise post. The point is that if you commit to a sustainable diet and activity, you’ll be more likely to be successful. Sheer bouts of willpower don’t work very well. And they contribute to that creeping feeling of failure or disappointment when you fall off the wagon. 

Quit fighting the science that tells us that slower-paced exercise yields almost the same benefit as intense bouts of bone-wearying exertion. If you do activity or exercise that builds muscle, you’re going to burn more calories when you do give in and sit on the couch. You don’t have to spend an hour at a time to get healthy. However, you have to commit to making habits that make staying fit and healthy an inevitable consequence. Taking six ten-minute walks yields almost the same health benefit as an hour-long walk. 

If you do build muscle mass, you’ll burn a lot more calories than by simply losing weight. It’s one of the reasons you need to keep in mind that muscle will increase your weight and keep you healthier and adjust your metabolism. And you’ll look better and feel better. I’m not anti-weights at all. I’m anti-starting-what-you-can’t-always-continue-to-do. Every activity you choose pushes other alternatives out. If you’ve got the time and stamina for weight training, that’s great! I don’t want you blaming your perceived ‘failure’ for not going to the gym. You don’t need a gym if you have the motivation to do things differently. 

Recently, someone I know was lamenting that she hadn’t “went to exercise the entire week.” I asked, “But if you’re at home on the couch, you can do 1,000 exercises. Pushups, dumbbells, walk in place, run in place, etc. If you can watch four hours of tv, you can definitely do 30-60 minutes of activity – and still watch tv while you do it.” She looked at me blankly, knowing I’d eviscerated her excuse. “Yes, but a couple of those evenings I was at sporting events or with a friend.” I paused. “Okay, but you can still do a lot of activity when you’re at a sporting event or a friend’s house. Or, heaven forbid, while you’re working. Instead of getting out your phone, do sets of exercises. How is that any ruder than ignoring your friend while you’re on the phone? You can still talk to your friend even if you’re on the floor doing pushups. You have to normalize your choices and stop normalizing your excuses.” My sermon was over. 

Use incrementalism to achieve the same objective without devoting your precious time to artificially forcing yourself to exercise. If you can’t do it the rest of your life, you’re making it worse for your future self. 

Pick something you know you don’t need. Doritos, for example. Eat less of them. Just that tiny step will, over time, reduce your weight and improve your health. Keep adding small changes by choosing differently. If you’re not hungry, stay out of the kitchen. If you can, don’t bring home things that you know you can’t resist. Use them as treats rather than staples. In our world, there are so many options we can choose from instead of empty calories. You’re not going to get where you want to be by doing the same things; change is mandatory. 

It’s day one for you, rather than “one day.”

Keep moving. Eat less. 

Find ways to make food both enjoyable and rational. If you don’t choose to do this, your hard choices are already made for you – and the person you’ll be next year will have to deal with your current inability to focus. 

Food is not going to stop being delicious. Food manufacturers are beyond incredible at what they do. They design foods that make you want to eat more. Don’t feel wrong about being normal and loving such foods. Feel bad that you know it and won’t choose a different way to react. 

So what if you binge on terrible foods? It’s more about the arc of your effort than a single day. Eat a large pizza or a pan of lasagna. A single day’s extravagance will not derail you. It’s all mental. 

Choose your hard until it becomes easy. 

I’m just a few days away from October. I started my journey and promised myself I’d take a hard look after a year. Despite having surgery, I’m more convinced than ever that I’ll never be fat again. 

It’s just math: keep my intake lower than my exertion. It’s not much of a secret formula, is it? You already know all of this. 

WW, Jenny Craig, and the hundreds of other programs are out there if you need them and if they work for you. But it is entirely possible to achieve your goals without paying for an extra program. 

The secret is a desire to be the person you want to be and find a way to get there. 

Put it into literal action. 

Love, X

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P.S. Yes, that picture behind me is of a monkey seeing my reflection in the handheld mirror..

Of Gunfire, Runners, Bacon & Beautification

A gaggle of young runners made their way up Poplar toward the traffic light. I was outside near the crosswalk measuring for an address plaque I’m making for the apartment simplex. The last runner was struggling to catch up. “You won’t always be last,” I told him as he crossed Gregg. “I hate running!” He said. I laughed. “You won’t hate it the day you leave all of them behind you, though.” I gave him the thumbs up.

Around 8 last night, I heard weird popping noises. I didn’t think much of it. I was standing outside on the deck. Waking up this morning, I discovered that an unidentified idiot shot into the apartments by the trail on Poplar Street. Automatic gunfire, too. I can see the apartments and trail from the crosswalk outside the apartment. Y’all can scoff, but I wish I’d taken a walk last night. There’s no better adventure story than gunfire after sunset. Have you noticed that almost no nincompoops get up at 5 a.m., drink a cup of coffee, and start shooting? We need a better class of hooligans in Fayetteville! Also, bullets are expensive.

I bought four pieces of bacon in the work cafeteria this morning. (No, I’m not authorized to return to work yet. At least not PAID work.) It’s been a year since I had bacon. Bacon salt has been my salvation in the interim. When I got back to the apartment, I made lettuce and bacon wraps. I may have blacked out with pleasure for a moment.

I also left a surprise brooch for someone today. Nothing says, “Good morning!” as inexplicably as a surprise brooch. Today, I’m wearing a spectacular fleur-de-lis brooch that I found at Peace At Home. I’d not thought much about the symbol until recently. Like so many symbols, it’s an ancient one. When I chose the name “X,” I thought I was simplifying things. Lord, the number of things “X” can signify is astonishing, even though it is just a single letter. It’s nice having a name that looks the same regardless of direction.

Seeing someone’s ASL post this morning made me realize that people around me didn’t know I was saying “Please” a lot of the time. It may look like I’m rubbing my heart. I learned it from a deaf man who attempted to work at Cargill years ago. “Please” and “Thank you” are both great visuals, even in normal conversation – not that I’m sure what that is. People running away from me with their palms clamped firmly over their ears give me the wrong impression.

I finished the address plaque for the apartments. I used reflective numbers. And I couldn’t quite bring myself to NOT put a little bling and beauty on there in the form of a dragonfly. I also installed a nice solar light above it, either to illuminate the reflective numbers I chose – or so that the idiots shooting automatic weapons will have something other than my ass to aim at if they find themselves with an oversupply of bullets.

Other:
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While chatting with my case manager, I did offer to re-write my surgical report. It needs a plot twist and a little bit of pizzazz. And/or humor and brevity: “Patient failed to notice my approach as I used a #11 blade to gut him. We found a herniation near the appendix but this box of Cracker Jacks did not have a surprise.”
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A random internet person read my post about Tammy’s weight loss: “You have no idea how seeing you and your friend have motivated me. I think I have your incremental idea in my head now. I’ve already lost ten lbs, just by deciding to do a few small things each day. Such as choosing differently, doing exercises every hour while at work, and keeping my mouth shut as much as I can. You’re right. Food can’t get in there if it isn’t open!”
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Another person wrote me and asked me if this quote is mine: “Saying you aren’t photogenic is kinda like saying you’re better looking than all available evidence.” No, but I wish I had. It’s pithy and logical.
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A Bit Of Daily Motivation: “Have you stopped to think that somewhere there’s a tree growing that might one day become your coffin?”
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Love, X
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Tuesday, Life, And Me

I visited my primary care doctor this morning. Inexplicably, my appointment started 45 minutes later than it was supposed to. Due to C19 (thanks, Lynette, for the cool abbreviation), I had to wait in the parking lot, observing the spectrum of patients waiting to be called from their vehicles. That’s what gave me time to write my Stolen Beauty post. Since I arrived 1/2 an hour early, I called 30 minutes after my appointment. Drinking two nutrition drinks, two bottles of water, and two cups of coffee before leaving the apartment (one from Kum & Go) left me with a conundrum: public urination in said parking lot or going inside the covid perimeter to the bathroom. Luckily, the woman on the phone could hear that I was almost gargling with the need to go. The nurse and I had a long and fascinating conversation about hospital conditions, my journey toward losing all the weight, and a dozen other topics. She told me she’d been put in the position of being the only nurse on an entire wing before she left her last job at a hospital. She also encouraged me to hide behind the door in an attempt to scare the doctor. Again. I’m guessing we laughed thirty times while we talked. Laughter is the best medicine – and they’ll likely bill me for that too. 🙂

The notecard is one I left on the doctor’s table prior to his arrival. He laughed about that, too. No one found the other couple of witty messages I placed in the exam room. At least, not yet.

I did hide behind the exam room door to scare and/or startle him. I think he might have charted himself a reminder to check behind the door on the way in, though, because he cautiously opened the door and peeked around just as I surprised him. The doctor was in shock that I’d lost so much weight. During my last visit, I told him he’d never see me fat again. I asked him to chart it when I last saw him, because I knew then what no one else believed: I was done being overweight. Though unplanned, The Stay at the hospital left me about 90 lbs. lighter than the last time he’d seen me. I told him the story. He said, “Yours is the single biggest self-done transformation I’ve witnessed as a doctor.” Please forgive me if this comes across as humblebragging. I stopped taking my blood pressure medication shortly after I saw him last year. Yes, my blood pressure has been fantastic since I went below 190 lbs. He told me details about my procedure that I hadn’t known. A herniation happened around my appendix, an improbable combination. He couldn’t tell me if they removed my appendix, though. Because of the CT Scan in the ER, the surgeons expected a tumor or something horrendous. I never knew that. The area affected was minimal compared to what they expected. They gutted me and fixed it in record time. Biopsies and lab tests confirmed nothing suspicious. He said I might be able to return to work once the staples are removed from my abdomen. (Note: they don’t want you to keep them and make a commemorative necklace out of them. That’s disappointing!) The doctor and I talked for several minutes. We laughed several times, too. I’ll never forget last year when I told him that I was over wasting time gaining and losing weight.

I didn’t sleep well last night. But I did stand on the landing outside my apartment as the lightning, wind, and rain made their approach. I could feel its chilly proximity. When the sheets of rain reached me, I felt like I was the only person outside witnessing it. It was sometime after 1 a.m. It was beautiful. The clotted overhead gutters gushed water in torrents unidirectionally. I was glad to have witnessed it. Later, around 4:30, as I started my morning, I watched the lower water-laden branches of a tree cast witch shadows across the pavement, the movement resembling awkward stop-motion photography. After my doctor’s visit, I noted that the parking lot is increasingly awash in thousands of newly-fallen leaves. I said “Hello” to the hummingbirds, who’ll soon leave for the season.

Because of the cause and a friend always recommended it, I went to Peace At Home Thrift Store. I found a shirt that called my name. I had to cut the shoulder pads out of it, which indicates which section I found it in. And for a pittance, I bought several things that seemed like they needed to come home with me. One of them is a nice fleur-de-lis brooch inset with sparkling stones. The woman who helped me pick them out had on a cacophony of jewelry herself. She laughed when I said, “I don’t really wear jewelry.”

Because it’s so close, I had to celebrate the great doctor’s visit by going to Renzo’s and getting a Caprese salad. I liked Caprese before but discovered that Renzo’s connected the dots regarding what it is SUPPOSED to taste like. When I arrived at the apartment, I ate half of it with pleasure. You might have heard me yum-yumming with delight?

“Old keys don’t open new doors.” That’s true. But they unlock parts of our lives that need to be examined. Closed rooms are secrets, ones that occupy parts of our minds and hearts that need to be aired out. A house is meant to be lived in – and our minds are meant to be free and open.

This beautiful key was a gift. It hangs on the wall next to my stove.

P.S. IF all goes well, I might be able to return to work shortly after my staples are removed.

Misadventure At Jason’s

Misadventure At Jason’s

Having a horrible experience at a restaurant is a first-world problem; that, I acknowledge. Covid doesn’t factor into my latest mess. Few people working or visiting the eatery in question wore masks yesterday. That’s okay by me. Having survived attempted strangulation by my bowels makes it hard for me to throw stones at external threats beyond my control.

Yes, Tammy, I should have opted for Sam’s rotisserie chicken. : ) Now that I’m out of the hospital, I wanted to enjoy a calorie and flavor-rich simple meal prepared by a restaurant that c-a-n make delicious food. It was to be my first post-surgery restaurant experience. It was late enough past the post-lunch crowd that the most significant impediment would be circumvented. Or so I thought. After realizing that Renzo’s was closed on Sunday, my friend and I immediately agreed on Jason’s Deli. We used the app to simplify the process and paid online. I took a large cash tip with me to reward the employees involved. Curbside pickup would make it easy for me to avoid unnecessary strain and bypass any covid issues. (Not that I’m worried, as so many vaccinated people are getting breath-through cases.) I wasn’t in a hurry, and I left to go pick up the order.

Calling the number on the Curbside pickup sign, I immediately knew that I might have a bad experience. The employee answering the phone lashed out. My response was both surprise and a little laughter. I tried to picture what Hell she’d already experienced by 1 p.m. to motivate her to practice that degree of insult. Avoiding any humorous snark, I answered her as best as I could. The details don’t matter. I called my friend, laughing, telling her what the Jason’s employee had said. Since I work in an environment where customer service often morphs into malicious compliance when an employee gets angry, I easily recognized that the employee in question would have gladly jumped off a building to get out of there. I lowered my expectations and waited.

After 30+ minutes past the initial “order-ready” time, I went inside to the to-go area. I wasn’t upset, just confused. At this point, I was still laughing a little at the unlikely outcome I’d got myself into by choosing Jason’s. I called my friend who was going to share the meal with me. I apologized for laughing. It was so ridiculous I didn’t know how else to respond. I sent a picture of the lop-sided layout; 99% of employees on the dine-in side and one lone guy attempting to keep up with the to-go/curbside/driver end that comprised at least 50% of the business.

People were waiting, frustrated. A lone male employee was manning the entire ‘out’ portion of the long prep bar. He was hustling against piles of half-prepared sandwiches, missing items, and dozens of order tickets thrown and stuck everywhere. A dozen employees were helping dine-in customers get their food quickly.

A couple of food delivery drivers expressed their frustration and walked out. One announced, “Okay. I don’t want any of these orders. I don’t care about the money or the food.” And he left.

Twenty minutes later, I finally got to the to-go register. “Can I speak to a manager?” She looked at me, angry. “No. She’s working the line for dine-in.” And she answered the phone, ignoring me. I stayed in my spot. The woman looked back up to see me and walked off, leaving her spot. Another employee came up a minute later, and I said, “I’d like a refund, no harm and no foul, and thank you.” She rolled her eyes. “We don’t have time to issue refunds. You get what you get.” I’m paraphrasing. “Wait, ma’am, I’m sorry it’s so busy, but I’m tired and stressed. I need a refund.” She walked off.

Customers and delivery drivers watched and listened. For the second time, I thought maybe I was on an episode of “What Would You Do.”

When the first woman came back to the register, she didn’t make eye contact. “Move. I can’t help you. The manager is working the line and can’t come up here.” Stunned, I stepped slightly to the side as the employee helped someone else. I’m omitting things that would make this encounter worse. You can imagine the other words said to me and around me. Each time the phone rang, the workers recoiled and had an epithet to utter.

I waited a few more minutes. Order tickets, half-prepared food, and boxes continued to pile up as the single male to-go person fought against a tide of orders. Another driver said, “Hey, you’re supposed to treat this like a drive-through and process us out. I’ve been here an hour and have orders sitting in my car getting cold/hot/old.” No one listened.

I was sorry for everyone, workers and customers alike.

All the energy and enthusiasm I’d had evaporated. My body just wanted to sit down, even if I had to eat slices of bread for a meal.

I cut through and walked around to the dine-in register, now empty. The lunch rush was well over by then. No one wanted to come to the register. An employee walked up, exasperated. “Can I take your order?” I said, “No, I’m sorry. Look, I need a refund. I’m sorry.” I’m editing this portion, too. The employee, a young female, didn’t quite know how to do it.The long to-go order person walked up, answered the phone, and said, “#$#@ I’m working on it!” before I said anything. He threw a piece of paper at me. It said “$0” on it. It wasn’t a canceled receipt. “Sir, I’m sorry, I need a receipt cancellation, something indicating my order was voided.” Angry stare, followed by angry words. He waved me off, telling me to leave and shut up. Incredulous, I repeated, “Sir, I apologize it’s so hard here, but I need just a second…” He said something bizarre to the caller, held the phone against his chest, and screamed down at the manager working on the prep line, “Come take care of this asshole! He won’t shut up.” He shook his fist in the air in front of me. It was not a polite gesture. I took a breath. I remained standing there, waiting to give it one more try.

The to-go order employee screamed at the manager again. I won’t cite words here, either. Whether you believe me or not, I felt sorry for him. Work shouldn’t push anyone to that point. I’m pretty sure a few people in my position would have thrown a punch.

The manager walked up and said, “It’s always this way.” I said, “The details don’t matter. I just want a refund. I know it’s busy, but your employees have been rude, cursed at me, and treated me and others like we’re not human. I wasn’t in a hurry. I feel bad for everyone. Is this a receipt?” She looked at it. She gave me another explanation.

And I tried to make a human connection: “You know how you never know what someone else is going through? I’ve been respectful, calm, and patient. I waited 30 minutes outside and well over an hour here inside. I apologize that everything is impossible in here, I truly do. Let me show you that we have our own issues.” I lifted my red t-shirt and showed her my long, jagged metal staple wound. “I don’t think I’ll follow-up about this visit, but if I do, please remember that I was polite, didn’t raise my voice, and my only crime was trying to get food and celebrate. I’m so sorry for all of us.” I meant it.

She apologized. I felt terrible for her, the workers, and everyone else who found themselves in an unexpected retail Hell.

I left, feeling like I’d been at Jason’s for the equivalent of an entire afternoon, even though it had been at most two hours. Another Uber driver spoke to me outside. I told him a ten-second recap and wished him well, knowing his afternoon had already crashed. “I’ve got orders in the car, ones I’ve had over an hour.” I smiled. “I’m so sorry. There’s no fix for this.” And there’s not. The corporation won’t staff adequately, and the employees don’t know how to go from incredible anger to communicate the mess effectively.

I drove back to the apartment.

Within a little over 30 minutes later, a local Chinese restaurant delivered a mountain of dishes. I ate like a king. But the mess and melee of Jason’s stayed in my head all afternoon. More than anything, the most significant realization is how a retail encounter put so many people in the position of being lesser than any of us should ever be with one another.

I treated everyone I came into contact with kindness and regard. It was supposed to be a simple meal, one to celebrate being out of the hospital.

Instead, it was a reminder that staffing is too low everywhere – and that it’s easy to use stress as a lever to be hateful.

I’m not sure I can indict Jason’s Deli too harshly. But it now holds the title of worst retail restaurant experience of my life – and that’s quite the feat at my age.

Did I go too far showing the manager my surgery incision? Maybe. But we always hear that we don’t know what’s going on in another person’s life. I put myself into the shoes of every Jason’s Deli employee during and after the mess of yesterday. Except for the manager, none of them imagined why the soft-spoken guy in the red shirt looked so forlorn about humans being unable to stop the madness and reset.

I haven’t processed some of these same lessons from being in the hospital last week. People are stressed, understaffed, and unmanaged. Many of us don’t have adequate coping mechanisms to respond to situations that force us to forget that we’re just momentary flashes of life and need to do better.

Love, X
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