Off the charts

The diet charts, that is.

Two years after reading my first Geneen Roth book (Breaking Free From Emotional Eating) I am finally putting her good advice to work.

I have quit dieting.

Whoa, whoa, whoa – calm down! I didn’t say I was giving up on myself! I said I have quit dieting. There’s a big difference.

You know that tired old adage (misattributed to both Einstein and Franklin) that the definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result? Tired (and hard to source) as it may be, there is some truth to it.

This was, though not at all in those words, a large part of the gist of a book I recently read, Diets Make You Fat. I know the title sounds clickbaity but it turns out to be completely true. This refreshingly well-sourced book (Ah, nonfiction by someone who knows the difference between a long-term and short-term study and acknowledges that results from studies on rats do not necessarily indicate similar results would occur in studies on humans!) explains that what you’ve long suspected is true: dieting doesn’t work in the long term. 95% of dieters regain their lost weight or gain more than they lost. If the calories-in/calories-out math were as simple as we wish it were any jackass could lose and keep off their excess weight. But it’s not that simple. It’s dauntingly complicated. Too complicated to summarize here. It’s neuroscience. It’s hormones. It’s intestinal flora. It’s the snail speed of evolution vs the warp drive of civilization. Just read the book. It’s wonderful.

When I first (very noisily) read Breaking Free From Emotional Eating (“Oh!” “Ah!” “Yes!” “Finally!” “Ugh, so true!”) I actually cried a little. (Books almost never make me cry. Where the Red Fern Grows didn’t make me cry. Sadako and the Thousand Cranes didn’t make me cry. Sad books make me angry. I got recess detention for chucking Where the Red Fern Grows across the room when I finished it ahead of schedule in the third grade and then bellowed spoilers at my classmates.) But this wasn’t a sad book, it was a tragically relatable book. And yet, as moved as I was, and despite feeling like Geneen Roth was both my new best friend and a surrogate mother, I outright scoffed at the notion of intuitive eating. Let my body decide when and what and how much I should eat? Are you fucking kidding me? I can’t trust this meatsack! It’s ravenous and untrustworthy and hideous!

Two years later I read Diets Make You Fat, which says almost exactly the same things as Breaking Free From Emotional Eating – but fortified with SCIENCE™! I love me some science. But more importantly I trust science, and the science in this book seemed particularly trustworthy and sound. Anecdotes and personal experiences are interesting but they do not move me like science does.

So I was finally moved to give intuitive eating a try.

(A quick aside: intuitive eating, which goes by many interchangeable names such as mindful eating, attuned eating, and instinctive eating, is not about casting aside all nutritional knowledge and eating whatever and whenever and however much you want. It is about eating only when hungry and only until full – and if that sounds easy to you then you clearly don’t have overeating issues. I recommend this site to clear up any confusion you may have about this practice.)

Once you get over the hurdle of thinking that intuitive eating sounds like the worst possible thing a lifelong fatty could attempt you have to address the reason you think that: a lifetime of dieting and being browbeaten by “experts” and diet companies (who are usually owned by food companies who just want to sell you smaller portions at higher prices, and I know that sounds conspiracy-theory-y, but it’s totally true) has left you with the almost unassailable impression that your body cannot under any circumstances be trusted with anything ever. It doesn’t want to exercise when you know you must. It wants cookies when you know you must eat salad. But this isn’t your stomach you’re fighting with (barring a serious medical problem affecting your metabolic hormones). Your mind is fighting your mind. You know you would move your body but you don’t want to exercise because you are out of shape and it’s hard and you don’t like how you jiggle when you move. You want those donuts that asshole keeps bringing into the break room not because your sensible chicken and spinach salad wasn’t nutritious, but because your job is dissolving your will to live like acid and a cupcake would give you a few minutes of pleasurable respite.

You, no doubt, like the rest of us who have been battling our weight for decades, have been taught to ignore your body’s signals at all costs. Feeling hungry? IGNORE IT. Feeling tired? IGNORE IT. Feeling a craving? IGNORE IT. DRINK SOME WATER. DO SOME CRUNCHES. LOOK AT PHOTOS OF VICTORIA’S SECRET MODELS TO REINFORCE YOUR SELF-HATRED. BUY A $400 JUICER. DETOX. JOIN THIS SHAME CLUB AND WEIGH IN IN FRONT OF STRANGERS ONCE A WEEK AND TESTIFY IN GROUP LIKE YOU’RE A GODDAMN ALCOHOLIC BUT LESS DESERVING OF EMPATHY BECAUSE YOU AREN’T A “REAL” ADDICT, YOU FATTY.

*Ahem*

The very simple concept of eating only when hungry and stopping when full is made very difficult by  two things: 1) You probably have lost all concept of what physical hunger and satiety feel like, knowing now only ravenous, painful emptiness and distended, painful fullness and 2) You probably do not have the ability to discern between physical hunger and emotional hunger. (Do you need a sandwich or a hug? They aren’t interchangeable, as it turns out.) This is my new struggle. Learning to discern between these two kinds of hunger, observing where they overlap and what factors make them come and go, finding ways to soothe both, and getting in touch with the sensations of real physical hunger and fullness.

In poking around on other blogs and in forums I have found that the average person needs about a year to get the hang of this, to get back in touch with their metabolic intuition. I stopped counting calories (and using MyFitnessPal after logging in for 250 consecutive days and being a member since 2012) on August 5th, but I started to stray from my rigid food plan back in June. Since then (that is, June), I confess I have gained 16 pounds. There were a few weeks of crying jags and terror and frequent binge-eating as I second-guessed myself every other minute.

(I cannot understate the fear I felt in stepping off the socially accepted path of the great and mighty diet. I have never felt much of an urge to conform to the media’s image of the modern woman – I am an eccentric dresser, I prefer old things over new, I don’t shave my underarms or legs, I have a facial piercing at age 35, I am a life-long atheist, I have an awkward vocabulary, I have chosen to remain child-free, and I haven’t worn “real” makeup since I was in middle school. But I was as fanatically devoted to the Church of Dieting as any other member of that powerful cult. No matter how wacky I may have seemed to female coworkers or other women at parties, we always agreed on this one thing: we hated our bodies and struggled daily to punish them into socially acceptable shapes and sizes. It brought us together against all odds. Women who appeared to be physically repulsed by me as though we were opposite poles of a magnet were re-polarized when they overheard me lamenting a binge day or talking up my latest foray into punishing exercise. Women I wanted to strangle as they recited by rote their pastor’s latest long-winded sermon about the importance of women serving Christ by bearing children and submitting to the yoke of marriage AND NO OTHER MEANS WHATSOEVER were suddenly my besties when I overheard that they, too, had gotten that red-font notice from MyFitnessPal about their maintenance calorie level being below medically recommended standards – but if we went over by so much as fifty calories we’d gain a gosh darn (pardon my French) pound!)

However, I gained most of that weight over the course of August, after my official decision to stop dieting, and then the gain all but stopped in September. I weighed in this morning, for the first time since the 1st of September, and was stunned to find that despite a 3-day no-holds-barred eating fest on our anniversary trip (when I ate whatever the hell I wanted but tried not to eat unless hungry and to stop when comfortably full) and this being, ifyouknowwhatimean, the heaviest time of the month for me, I am only up two pounds. Shark week usually bumps me up 2 to 5 temporary pounds, so it’s actually possible that I didn’t gain any weight on our anniversary trip! I cannot, of course, be sure that I have reached my hang point already, but I do know that the panic has passed and I feel like I’m getting my feet under me. I have by no means mastered my eating intuition, but I am on my way. I can only hope that I will slowly lose weight from this point on, but I have to (and here’s another really hard part) learn to accept that I might never lose another pound.

Wut?

Yes.

Intuitive eating is not a weight loss diet. Intuitive eating is a healthy habit. A lifestyle. A method.

I may remain at this size for a long time. Perhaps forever. I have to remember that it is not true that there is a direct correlation between weight and health. As Dr. Aamodt explained in Why Diets Make Us Fat, you can be fat and healthy, and physical activity is more important for your health than your BMI, as it protects you against the hazards of obesity even if you are obese. There are obese Olympians, for fuck’s sake! So I have to accept HEALTH as my new life goal and reject the old false idol of THINNESS.

Easier said than done. But I’ll keep you posted.

— Amanda

Back to the drawing board

For Camp NaNoWriMo in April this year (which I won, btw, nbd *shines fingernails on lapel*) I took a break from my official project (book-to-be-published number 2) and tried to wring 50,000 words out of an old story idea from which I had subtracted a major character.

Sans that one original character I was left with a roman à clef of my first major(ly disastrous) romantic relationship. Also in April I started rewatching an anime I never got to finish in high school, which led to another series, and another, and, well, I haven’t stopped yet. But the point is that watching all this gorgeous animation made my fingers absolutely itch to draw.

So I did.

doodles

Surprisingly important doodles from just last week.

And I have continued to.

And here’s why that’s a big fucking deal:

I wanted to write books farther back than I can remember. I always wanted to write and be published, and once I started (in grade 1, with “The Camping Treap When I Was Littel”) I didn’t stop, even if all I was doing was defacing 10 pages of a journal per day in my dark times.

But I also wanted to be an artist. A visual artist. Also for as long as I can remember. When I was little this meant that I envisioned writing and illustrating a Serendipity-style series of books for kids. But by the fourth grade I had already begun to despise my fellow children, an opinion which hasn’t changed to this day. (I have let go of a fuckton of baggage and grudges in my life, but I will take my kid-hating to the grave.) After that, the plan was to write for a living (lol), as a freelancer, and to do visual art on the side. I was going to go to Cornish and get a degree in studio art. I drew constantly. I was getting into assemblage and custom book binding in high school. And I was working on concepts and character development for three comic books  when my emotional development ran into the brick wall was that was my (now) ex, herein referred to as Dingus.

I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned Dingus on this blog before, because he has less than zero impact on my current life, but we’re talking about the past here, and, sadly, he’s there.

(Heed well the immortal words of Anne Lamott, my children: “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should’ve behaved better.”

Dingus disapproved wholeheartedly (though in a passive-aggressive way) of my art because *he* was a *real* *artist*. Probably he felt threatened. I know that sounds pompous, but I was trying something new every week and I enjoyed tackling my weaknesses like they were elderly gazelles and I was a cheetah. When I discovered that I was awkward at drawing feet I forced myself to draw nothing but feet for weeks on end until I could draw feet that would make anatomical illustrators weep and cast aside their sketchbooks. Dingus, on the other hand, was good at drawing two things and two things only, and he never, ever stepped out of his comfort zone. (Ironically, his comfort zone was making other people uncomfortable.) Also, he flat-out sucked at both hands and feet. (And probably still does.) I don’t know who was the better artist, but I now believe that I was the one with more potential.

Dingus wasn’t just negative about my drawing, of course. He was also negative about my personality, my body, my family, and all my interests. But for some reason his harshing on my art was what stuck. After the dumping my self-esteem and interest in my hobbies bounced back – but I didn’t draw again for well over a decade. (With one very notable exception in 2005 when I drew what may well be the greatest holiday card ever created.)

bucky card

Our 2005 holiday card featuring our cross-eyed, one-toothed, codependent flame-point Siamese cat, Bucky.

I am mystified by how this guy managed to give me the Clockwork Orange cure for drawing, as all I can remember him saying, in reference to my work, was: “that’s cartoony.” (Of course it was, numb nuts, I was making comic fucking books.) But my brain’s coping mechanism is to block out what it deems too painful to remember, so now that I’ve purged a lifetime’s worth of journals the world will never know!

I am wholeheartedly enjoying my (agonizingly slow) return to sketching, but I desperately want to hear similar stories. Have you ever rescued something from your past (an interest or hobby or habit) that you used to love but that had become tainted by a bad relationship or situation? Did your approach to it or your feelings toward it change? Was it like reuniting with an old friend? Did it become a part of your life again or did you decide to leave it in the past after all?

Please let me know in the comments!

— Amanda

2016 New Year’s Resolutions

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Here’s a recap of my 2015 resolutions:

  • Money: I vowed to try again to put a little bit of money each paycheck towards savings. This worked better in 2015 than it did in 2014, and at one point I hit my savings goal . . . but we used savings to fund our anniversary trip and didn’t pay it back before the end of the year. Nonetheless, I did manage to put $X in savings every pay day. (So kind of mostly a win.)
  • Weight: I also vowed (again) to try to hit my goal weight. As longtime readers know, I was a stone’s throw from achieving this goal in 2014 when I was blindsided by unanticipated negativity and creepy sexual attention, which derailed me very effectively. Even though I know that I have the wherewithal and skills to attain this goal I have been unable to regain (or, relose, if you will) my previous achievements. My weight chart for 2014, as I said in a previous resolution post, made “a perfect U-shape: a smooth parabola down to ten pounds away from my goal around the 4th of July and then just as smoothly right back up to where I had started by Christmas.” This year it was pretty much a flat line. I still wasn’t able to get it back together. (Fail.)
  • Vegetable garden or bust: In 2014 I injured my shoulder and was unable to use my arm for anything more strenuous than typing and flipping myself off in the mirror, so my plans to move the edible garden to the front yard were put off to 2015 – when I made the positive steps of saving up enough money to buy the fancy contractor-grade landscape fabric I needed and completing 85% of the edging . . . and then all but lost the ability to kneel due to an advancement in the degenerative joint conditions in my knees. (Fail.)
  • Publish Ellipsis. I DID IT I DID IT I ACTUALLY ACCOMPLISHED SOMETHING BIG AND IMPORTANT AND I DON’T CARE IF IT’S NOT PROFESSIONAL TO FREAK OUT ABOUT IT IT’S A BIG FUCKING DEAL AND A GODDAMN LIFE GOAL AND THIS SUCCESS KEPT ME GOING ALL YEAR! (Ahem.)

You know the resolution pattern. Resolve to do something in year 1, fail, resolve to try again in year 2, probably fail again. Repeat ad nauseum. But there’s no shame in continuing to try. And no, I don’t consider it futile. Futility would be giving up on self-improvement. Previous experience and scientific studies have both shown that specificity and planning help one enormously in achieving resolutions, so though I have a very predictable set of resolutions (again) I have tried to set milestones and goals and dates to meet that should help me get what I want out of 2016.

(I’m so excited about some of these that I’ve already started on them.)

2016 resolutions:

  • Savings. Continue to squirrel away $X or better from each paycheck. Also I have already started adding another, slightly smaller amount from each paycheck to a separate savings account. Account A is big-S Savings. Rainy day savings. Account B is savings for specific, immediately-needed home improvement projects. Also also, we have one of those rare and magical paychecks coming up from which we don’t have to pay mortgage or bills so I am going to take a small portion of that and try my hand at online investing. (Don’t worry – I’m researching my big beautiful butt off.)
  • Weight: I am going to take it slow, but I am setting milestones. I have a little more than 30 pounds to lose and a (little more than a) whole year ahead of me. There’s going to be a whole lot of mantra-chanting, but this is totally doable.
  • Vegetable garden or bust: This won’t be dignified work (since I can’t kneel I will have to bend at the waist or sit like a Victorian lady with my legs off to one side) but it can be done. I may not be able to get the whole thing done, raised beds and all, in time to plant in 2016, but I can by spring of 2017.
  • Writing: I want to have a finished first-draft manuscript of Ghost Story, ready for editing and revision, by summer. I want to publish again no later than the spring of 2017. Writing has been bumped up to the top priority on my rather lengthy daily to do list (I use Todoist). I will have to do a little experimentation to see whether a daily time goal or a daily wordcount works better for me.

As always, I want to know what you resolve to change or accomplish in the new year, and how. Let me know in the comments!

— Amanda

Priorities . . . (*heavy sigh*)

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I’m behind on everything – laundry, grocery shopping, the yard, social media, reading – and, yes, this blog. But most of all I am behind on NaNoWriMo.

I have plenty of good excuses: my car has needed repetitive repairs, I was sick for like a week (for the first time in ages), it takes me three times as long to cook dinner as it used to because our household has become multivorous (a post on that is in my drafts folder), the power was out for 40 hours, it’s too cold to work outside, money is tight (like always), and when Matt is home (which he has been on the weekends, more than usual, due to insane rain volumes and multiple windstorms) I have no access to the computer. Also: Matt’s birthday is this month as is the great family feast.

(Warning to any and all family members reading this post: someday Thanksgiving will be held at my house. And it will be called The Counting and you will all have to intone “There have always been Starkadders at Cold Comfort Farm” every time I announce that I’ve seen something nasty in the woodshed.)

But here’s the only excuse I’m actually using (because that entire paragraph of whining could be summed up: LIFE, and there ain’t no gettin’ around that): PRIORITIES.

Once upon a time, when this was a homesteading blog, I assigned myself a task a month for a year in order to bring focus both to the blog and the life I was then living that the blog chronicled. It’s six years later and I still have a big list of stuff that needs to get done “someday” so I am going to schedule someday (since, as CCR wisely says, “someday never comes”). I have taken that list and assigned each one to an upcoming month.

This month’s task – its focus, its overriding goal – is NaNoWriMo. I know now, after four years of NaNo-ing, that there is a high personal value in “winning” NaNoWriMo: the first year I won I wrote 80,000 words of sheer prattle I hope no one I know ever sees, but it inspired me to get serious about writing during the rest of the year. The next time I won I polished that turd until it was shiny enough to publish. A NaNoWriMo book is, for me personally, my best launching pad toward publication.

Whatever else I get done this month, NaNoWriMo must be done by the 31st. NaNoWriMo is my priority. There wasn’t anything I could do about not having electricity, no man can stand in the way of Thanksgiving, and it’s only fair that Matt get to use the computer I hog all week during the one or two afternoons a weekend he has free – but  if vacuuming or dusting or checking Twitter get in the way of my word count, they will just have to wait.

So that’s why I haven’t blogged much this month.

OK, gotta go – all these words should have gone toward my NaNoWriMo wordcount.

(If you’re a WriMo, too, please friend me! My profile is here.)

— Amanda

An open letter to that horrible woman from the thrift store

yellow pen on paper

Dear Lady From the Thrift Store,

I’m sure you are thrilled to hear that I still think about you after all these months. I’m sure you will be very pleased to know that your little show (your Passive-Aggression Play, if you will), gave me my first full-blown panic attack since I quit my toxic job five years ago. I stumbled through the racks from Skirts, where you were celebrating your triumph over my perceived evil nature with your Mini-Me, until I found myself in a half-finished furniture display pushed up against the storefront, where I was able to hide for a few minutes and cover my mouth to keep myself from hyperventilating until I passed out.

Did you think I would change my heathen ways? Did you think I would run out to my borrowed hooptie and pull my lip ring out? Did you think I would call my baby daddy and cry about you? Or that I would go home, strip naked, and invoke the devil to revenge me upon you? Did you pray for me? Or did you just snigger every time you thought of me and enjoy the rush of feeling superior to a random person you assumed to be your inferior? Do you treasure the horrified face I made?

Because I was truly horrified.  I have never seen such behavior outside of poorly written television. If you’ve ever wondered why “that lesbian lady” has a TV show and you don’t, it’s not because there’s an “anti-Christian agenda” in Hollywood, it’s because both Ozzie Osborne and the Kardashians were deemed to have more redeeming qualities than you. (Yeowch)

I know you will insist that you were neither talking to me nor about me, but let’s be honest: we both know that’s a giant lie. You may not have been talking about me in the literal sense, since your subject of conversation with your doomed daughter was an eleven year old girl who attends your scary mega-church, but I know that she was just a stand-in for me. How? A) After you got a good eyeful of me (and you looked me up and down like I was a green steak at Wal-Mart) your topic changed mid-sentence from ew-there’s-nothing-name-brand-here to ew-did-you-see-that-stupid-woman-in-church-put-lipstick-on-her-little-girl. B) Her inappropriate face was clearly a metaphor for my own. You aren’t half as subtle as you think you are, Madame.

So an eleven year old was wearing lipstick. So what? You kept saying “You know what that means.” Yes, I know precisely what it means.  It means an eleven year old girl was wearing lipstick.  The end. Her lipstick does not mean she is sexually promiscuous or a prostitute (or that her mother is, as you very clearly stated when you grew weary of insinuating and started outright libeling), just as my lip ring does not mean that I am sexually promiscuous or a prostitute. (We’ll leave aside for now my argument that neither promiscuity nor prostitution are necessarily immoral – this letter is far enough outside your comprehension as it is.) You know what it means that you kept saying “You know what that means”? That means you were sexualizing an eleven year old girl. A child. That makes you no better than the lecherous old men who keep a mental calendar of when some starlet becomes “legal”.  Does that stick in your craw? I hope to hell it does.

So you’re a wretched hag. A wretched hag who cackled about this poor girl you go to church with – who just wanted to give in to the crushing pressure of society and look pretty – and made inexcusable insinuations about both her and, by extension, me, in a public setting. But that’s not what keeps me up at night.

What keeps me up at night is not actually the thought of you, but of your daughter. Raised in Mother’s image to be a hate-filled, judgmental, bigoted, image-obsessed, self-righteous, holier-than-thou waste of space. Raised to parrot the small circle of authority figures around her, to repeat Mother’s acidic aphorisms and Pastor’s patriarchal condemnations.  And, to quote a song by Garfunkel and Oates (not a typo): “So whatever people tell me that the Bible tells me, I will do.”

So you’re a church lady, eh? I’m pretty sure the folks in Long Sleeved Knits gathered that – you were pretty goddamn vocal about your goddamn church on this dark day in Value Village. Well, I don’t know what church you go to but I think I can safely infer that it’s one of the regrettably growing majority that frown on folks reading the Bible unsupervised, veering away from the approved talking points during Bible study, asking bothersome “questions”, or using Google. I am not a Christian, but I was confirmed in the Lutheran church and I have actually read the Bible and asked questions about it, so I know a thing or two. And here’s one thing I know: you are the kind of “Christian” (quotation marks mandatory) that makes both me, my heathen friends, and actual (no quotation marks) Christians furious. If Christian means follower of Christ then let me be the first to tell you, lady, that you have veered way, way, way off the path.  You are headed straight down the very narrow valley of Satan’s Buttcrack which leads to the Repression of Women marsh and Fundamentalist Nostalgia for Jim Crow Days sinkhole. Jesus went thataway, down the Love Everybody trail.

Seriously, lady, listen to me: I am not a Christian and I love Jesus.  You hear that? I don’t believe in God, but Jesus is more than just all right with me. You know why this atheist, along with a most Buddhists, Muslims, and Jews, love Jesus, even though we don’t think he was divine? Because of his wicked simple message: Love everybody. That’s it.  That’s all.  No need for chapter and verse, no interpretation required, because it’s that simple: “Love everybody.” Love yourself, your enemy, your family, your coworkers, the smelly hobo at the end of the street, even the fucking Kardashians. Love everybody. He did not say “Love everybody unless this” or “Love everybody in spite of that.” No ifs, ands, or buts – no conjunctions or modifiers necessary. Love everybody, god-fucking-dammit.

So you wanna hear the stinger to this letter? I have been reading a lot of Zen books in the past year and there is a meditation called Loving-Kindness, in which one essentially focuses thoughts of pure love, compassion, and sincere wishes for happiness and health at the mental image of another person like a motherfucking Care Bear beam. When I think of you, and my blood pressure spikes and my ears ring and my teeth grit . . . I take a deep breath and close my eyes and I visualize a column of white-hot love and compassion shooting out of my chest and smacking you right in your sanctimonious gob.  (And then I take another deep breath and try to push out the sarcasm and vindictiveness and really mean it this time.)

This calms me right down, because instead of remaining furious at you I begin to feel really sorry for you.  I pity you and I especially pity your daughter.  And I sincerely hope that both of you wake up to your own internalized misogyny and cancer-like hate for the world before it is too late. I want you to be happy, to let go of the awful way you have been living, and to love everybody. I really really do.

Every time I do this exercise it gets a little easier because a little more of my anger erodes away. Someday – maybe not soon, but someday – I will truly love you.

(Don’t you just fucking hate me for that?)

— Amanda

Image courtesy of papaija2008 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

New year’s resolutions, part 2: the actual 2015 resolutions this time

2015 new years resolutions

Photo courtesy nuttakit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net. Text added with Fotor.

You’ve suffered through my review of the successes and failures of my 2014 resolutions, so now here’s what I hope to accomplish in 2015.

  • Savings. Try again with the little bit in savings every payday thing. (See 2014 recap.)
  • Continue toward ultimate goal weight. In the past I have cited the scientific evidence that the more precise one’s resolution, the more likely one is to achieve it (i.e. “exercise 30 minutes three times a week” is a clearer, easier to grasp goal than “be healthy”) but this time I am making my goal more diffuse. As I learned the hard way last summer, losing weight becomes asymptotically harder the closer one gets to one’s goal. This is because your basal metabolic rate changes as you become leaner, meaning that the number of calories needed to maintain your current weight shrinks with your waistline. So when I was obese (at 220 lbs) and eating 1600 calories a day the pounds melted off even though I was sedentary. But when I was 140 lbs last summer and walking around the neighborhood several times a day, 1200 calories a day kept me at a frustrating plateau. At some point a pound a week becomes a Sisyphean task. But if I set the goal at 1/2 a pound a week I wouldn’t reach my goal weight until June of 2016. You see my dilemma? I know that hard-set goals get better results but I’m going to have to be flexible on this one if I want to keep from being disappointed. So the goal is to continue on my increasingly healthier lifestyle with an eye to achieving my goal weight sooner rather than later. (There will be more on what I mean by “healthy” in another post. Hey — don’t roll your eyes!)
  • Vegetable garden or bust. I raised no edibles what-so-never in 2014. I planned on moving the vegetable garden to the front yard but then I got hurt. I was pretty much unable to lift anything heavier than a sandwich with my right arm for three months, whereupon I overdid my recuperation exercises and put myself right back where I started. I have regained full range of motion and almost 100% usage of my shoulder now. I also overdid my cardio and in November I injured the medial collateral ligaments of both knees, which landed me on the couch for a few weeks. My knees are recovered now but I learned my lesson,so no more lunges or squats (which I knew I shouldn’t be doing anyway) and no more attempts to do the work of five people by myself in one weekend. Going slow and being able to keep going is infinetly preferable to hurrying, getting hurt, and sitting out on life. I’m going to refrain from potentially damaging physical activity and focus on my goddamn garden! (It’s going to be fucking beautiful, man. Raised beds, weed-free paths, a pergola-covered bench, berry bushes, cold frames . . .)
  • Publish Ellipsis. The book I have been alluding to off and on. This resolution is pretty simple. This was put on hold for Nanowrimo but I shall restart the process of sending it out for editing and reviews and then it’s off to the presses! Websites (yes, plural) are in place and business cards and promotional plans are ready and waiting. Muahahaha!

I have inside information that at least one of my readers has made a revolutionary new year’s resolution.  What do you resolve to do in 2015?

— Amanda

New year’s resolutions, part 1: 2014 resolution review

2015 new years resolutions

Photo courtesy nuttakit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net. Text added with Fotor.

I had two sets of resolutions for 2014: major and lesser. The major ones were thought up at the end of 2013, like most new year’s resolutions, but the “lesser” ones were concocted later. There was also a mid-year vow I have managed to stick to that I did not announce on this blog.

Major resolutions:

  • Savings. Last year I vowed to put away a certain small amount from each paycheck. This worked about half the time, which is better than not at all. Better yet, over the course of 2014 I went from being pretty OK at paying the bills to being pretty goddamn good at paying the bills, and with my new payment schedule integrated into the 2015 calendar, this goal should be much easier to attain. Someday I would like to sock away an automatic 10% of every check, as the old advice goes, but I’ll have to work my way up.
  • Reach goal weight. Fail. I want to explain how this isn’t my fault but that is a very long story and extremely unpleasant and possibly offensive to some readers (like I said — long story). Suffice it to say I was doing fan-freaking-tastic until about midsummer when I received some emotional blows directly related to my weight loss efforts.  They seemed to be petty annoyances at first but ended up becoming enormous emotional hurdles. My weight loss graph for 2014 makes a perfect U-shape: a smooth parabola down to ten pounds away from my goal around the 4th of July and then just as smoothly right back up to where I had started by Christmas. I cried, I binged, I meditated, I became a virtual recluse, I read more than a dozen books about emotional eating, and I eventually identified the issues and wrote battle plans for handling them. I now feel armed and dangerous. I have my feet firmly back under me and I have learned harsh truths about myself, my foes, and weight loss in general, and I am ready to go to war. I have tools to fight those who would keep me fat and unhappy (including myself) and I can finally really say that I have made a lifestyle change. Bring it!

My “good things” journal.

Lesser resolutions:

  • Fix my bangs. The idea here was to grow out my bangs, which were beginning to take over my entire head, and then cut out a new, shallower fringe. I did not cut my bangs once in 2014. I unrealistically expected that this meant that they’d be long enough come summer to count as “just hair” and no longer “long bangs” but I failed to take into account the curliness of the hair at the front of my head (it’s curliest right up there and gets progressively straighter as you get closer to my nape). When I pull them straight they are now just below my chin, but left to their own devices they corkscrew up to about eyeball level. At least I can finally tuck them behind my ears. Everyone tells me they like my hair now (especially Matt) and I agree that a center part is flattering to my long, long face — but I love the goddamn bangs and I will have them again no matter what anyone says! . . . I just don’t know when anymore.
  • Write in my “good things” journal every day. Bust! I was utterly faithful to this for almost three months. I had an adorable palm-sized sunshine-yellow Moleskine and I wrote something positive in it every day, whether it was a gush of scribbled joy or just a terse “had coffee.” But it stopped quite abruptly on the date of the Oso slide and I never got back in the habit. All I can say is that the slide messed me up quite a bit more than I could have anticipated.  And that I should stay the f@*% away from the online emergency services scanner.
  • Stop hoarding recipes. Success! I no longer put any clipped or internet-printed recipes in the big black accordion folder of dormancy. Now they go on top of the cookbooks in the kitchen and go on that or the next week’s menu. This has resulted in a buttload of interesting and delicious dinners and whole new series of posts, the Recipe Roundups.
  • Read the books on my library lists before they get out of control. I tried. Failure on this front is not really my fault. The lists keep growing because I keep getting stellar recommendations from the library and bookstore newsletters I receive by e-mail or follow on Tumblr. And I have been ordering them from the library by the dozen but they just sit in my queue forever because A) another patron is hogging them B) another patron has lost them C) they haven’t actually been released into the system yet because I requested them before their actual publication date D) there are 300+ other people on the list. I’ll keep on keepin’ on.

And another thing:

  • Sorry not sorry.  Several studies this year, the book Lean In, and, notably, a Pantene commercial, pointed out that women have been culturally conditioned to begin almost every sentence with “sorry,” particularly in the work place.  It was a wake up call for a lot of us.  I began noticing that I said it all the time — and also that when it comes at the beginning of a sentence I am never ever actually sorry at all. So no more of that crap.  In July I vowed on my Tumblr to stop apologizing when I have nothing to be sorry for, and I haven’t looked back.

Next post: 2015 resolutions.

— Amanda