Thursday, May 31

Cleaning Out the Fridge

Today's the first day of the rest of my healthy life. And I started it by cleaning out my fridge.

I'm not sure how other people do this, but it took my teenager and me about an hour and a half to dump two kitchen trashbags full of mustard, olives, ketchup, sweet pickles, salad dressings, artichoke hearts and the like. We had to debate every entry. I am truly a cheapskate.

Our music track was The Clash: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Ketchup full of high-fructose corn syrup was easy. But cheese? And a carton of eggs? Cheese! How do you throw away cheese?

Answer: You don't. You give it to a friend...which makes me kind of a frenemy, right?

Well, she can join my gym in 90 days and pass the cheese to someone else, if she wants. And take me on a cruise!

Wednesday, May 30

Officially Huge

This will be a brief post. Tonight was the weigh in. It's official.  I'm a 5-foot 7.5-inch 247-pound blob. To win this competition, I must lose 109 pounds in 90 days.

And yes, Dad, I did pound a two-litre jug of water before the weigh in. Not because you thought I should, but because after all my hard work getting huge, I went to the dentist today, did a round of nitrous, and threw up my guts. It took two litres (and an orange-cream milkshake from Arbys) to rehydrate myself!

I think I'll go take my headache, my nauseated stomach, and my large backside to bed now. We're all very, very tired.

Tuesday, May 29

Tomorrow's the Big Day

I've been loading on the lard for a couple of weeks now, all in anticipation of my big weigh in. Believe me, "big" is the operative word here. This is how really, really big feels:
  • My arms no longer drop to my side. They now hang at about an 8-degree cant.
  • My back hurts -- oh, lordy, how my back hurts! Across my hips, down the outside of my legs, pressing into my heels.
  • My vision is restricted. Yup. Little pig eyes are real thing!
  • My wedding ring pinches. I can't even wriggle it off my finger.
  • Zippers don't. For the past week, I haven't been able to squeeze into anything that doesn't close with a drawstring. Not even elastic is strong enough to keep this hot mess together.
  • Stairs? Fuhgeddaboudit. I'm back to traversing stairs on hands and knees, because I'm pretty darned sure it's safer than risking another slip and fall.
  • Bending over. I'm about as flexible as a refrigerator right now. I may have to buy myself a pedicure because I'm too large to clip my own toenails.
  • Marks. Everything I wear -- shoes, socks, waistbands -- leaves impressions on my skin that don't go away for about an hour after removal.
  • Overlap. All fat people get fat the same way: rolls in the back, an apron of extra stomach in the front, and thighs and upper arms that overlap elbows and knees. Bring on the diaper rash cream! My elbows are sweating!
  • No eye contact. I find myself ducking my head in public. I don't want anyone to look me in the eye, to notice me, to see me. I just want to be invisible. I can barely stand to leave the house.
  • Acid reflux. I have been downing Prilosec like it could save my life. If I forget, I wake up an hour later choking.
I freakin' cannot wait to stop gaining weight. Not another bite. No, really, I couldn't. I am larger than I've ever been, and I actually disgust myself. At this moment in time, no food on earth sounds good. I may be cured of eating (though every Thanksgiving dinner in history suggests I'll get over it in an hour or two).

Tomorrow I have about a dozen errands to run, including a dental appointment. At 6:30 pm, it's a weigh in at the gym, and we're off and running. I will be the biggest loser!

Monday, May 28

Focus, Focus

Prayer beads aren't a part of my personal religious devotion. The idea of fingering a series of beads to get through a memorized prayer seems like -- well, like cheating.

But I've got the attention span of...wait...did I just see something sparkly? Oh look! There's a little bird! My toe itches. What's the Chinese word for peanut?

Oops, there I am. Sorry, I got lost for a moment.

Anyway, perhaps the Catholics and the Sikhs and the Bahá'ís have this right: Tangible reminders sometimes keep the mind from wandering.

Today I went out and bought a couple of trinkets to help me remember the reason for this undertaking, which is why I'm now wearing a cheap string of beads on my wrist: to remind me be strong while I'm exercising. I have a braid around my ankle to remind me to work on healing my busted leg. And I have a new pair of studs in my ears to remind me that people I love will benefit if I achieve my health goals.

Normally I'm adornment free, except for my wedding ring; I now look like a gypsy bride off to freak out the groom. But now, at least, when you see me prancing about in public dressed in beads, earrings and an ankle bracelet, you won't have to ask why.

And no, I'm not going to lift my shirt, no matter how many beads you throw my way. (Of course, if you're reading this, and you're married to me, I might make an exception.)

Saturday, May 26

Spending Spree

It's not enough to just pork out; no, I have to spend money, too -- because there's no sight quite so entrancing as a big gal with a credit card.

But I'll be living without pots and pans, the toaster oven is going into storage, and the crock pot is banished. To live my raw vegan life, I'm acquiring the following supplies, some of which I already own from my last go-round:

Must Haves

Good knives. I accidentally purchased this set of Ginsu knives about two years ago, and have loved them. Accidentally? I told you I fall down a lot. Sometimes my finger falls on the "Purchase Now" key when I'm only checking prices.

Anyway, the Ginsu knives have maintained a sharp edge, look great, and feel good in my hand. What more could you want from a set of knives?

Containers for storing prepped food. I grow weary of trying to match lids to bowls when I own 23 different kinds of containers. I finally decided to standardize on sturdy Rubbermaid food storage containers. Red lids, translucent containers. They're tough enough to stack lots and lots of chopped veggies in my refrigerator.

Cutting boards. The cheap, thin, flexible plastic mats from Ikea are fine...except they're so thin they sometimes drop betwen the counter and refrigerator. Thicker bamboo cutting boards are beautiful, and in a raw-food kitchen, you don't have to worry about dressing your veggies in a hazmat suit to protect them from nasty, Salmonella-laden chicken guts that cause so much trouble when you use wooden boards in a meat-eating kitchen.

Knife sharpener. This inexpensive Accusharp Knife Sharpener got a glowing review from America's Test Kitchen. Good enough for me! And if you're more courageous, try a sharpening steel. The top-rated J.A Henckels version is still less than $20. (Here's ATK explaining how to sharpen a knife.)

Tough to Live Without

Blender. The BlendTec machine beats the much-loved VitaMix simply because it's five inches shorter, so it fits on the countertop under the cupboard. The VitaMix has a somewhat better warranty, a four-prong blade rather than two prongs, runs a bit faster, and comes with a metalic base. But those five inches count for more than all the other features combined. Either way, you're out 400 bucks. A cheaper option: any blender at all (This Ninja QB900B is inexpensive and gets high marks from reviewers). And save up for the BlendTec.

Dehydrator. Everyone raves over the Excaliber 9-Tray Dehydrator, but I picked up a nearly identical machine (six 11-inch square trays, plus an adjustable thermostat) for $25 off Craigslist. (Don't hold your breath waiting for the same deal. My dehydrator is a Sears and Roebuck model manufactured in 1968. It seems safe, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it doesn't blow up and and set the house on fire.)

The goal with raw food is to maintain the live enzymes...and dehydrators without an adjustable temperature setting put nutrients at risk. Most raw foodies suggest keeping it below 115 degrees. (Here's a link to a well written dehydration primer.)

A tip: We keep our dehydrator on top of our dryer. A towel under the dehydrator keeps the two machines from direct contact, and we never run them both at the same time. But with its large footprint and its constantly-running fan, the dehydrator is just too large and a little too noisy to keep on the kitchen counter.

Food Processor. If you're just getting started, an inexpensive machine like this fairly well rated Black and Decker will do the trick until you save up 200 smackers for your stainless steeel Cuisinart.

Grinder. My neighbor, gourmet chef and part-time firebender Christina Arokiasamy, swears by her mortar and pestle for grinding spices, but an electric grinder is inarguably faster. Whatever you decide, don't purchase a used grinder. The smell of coffee beans will overwhelm the nuts and spices you're working with.

(By the way, Christina's book, The Spice Merchant's Daughter, is an absolute work of art. Have a look. And the book she's writing now will incorporate lots more vegan dishes, so put her name on your Amazon watch list.)

Salad Spinner. Another Ikea purchase for us (can you tell I live just down the road?), but perfectly good salad spinners can be found inexpensively just about anyplace with a kitchen department. This one from Progressive International gets impressive reviews.

Sprouter. My little three-tray sprouter is genius. It sits on my counter compliantly growing sprouts from seeds, from wheat, from beans -- sometimes all three at the same time. No electricity, barely any work, lots of crunchy sprouts.

Strainer. I'll save the germ story for another day, but a large colander is a big help when cleaning fruits and veggies straight from the market.


Apple Slicer. Another hubby favorite: Apple slices and nut butter. For that reason, this corer/slicer is my most essential kitchen tool.

Apple Peeler. If your grandma made apple pies, she probably had some version of this: An apple slicer/peeler/corer. Personally, I prefer the Pampered Chef version because it uses a clamp rather than a suction device to attach itself to the tabletop.

Box Grater. Every kitchen, but especially a raw kitchen, needs a sturdy box grater. Zesting lemons, grating carrots, any kind of quick small food prep job -- ya need a box grater.

Citrus Juicer. My KitchenAid mixer will be feeling a little neglected when I go completely raw. The citrus juicer attachment is so much cleaner and easier to use than the full scale juicer that I'll probably keep it permanently attached. If you lack a KitchenAid mixer, a standalone citrus juicer is still a worthwhile purchase, if only because the 30-second cleanup beats reassembling the big juicer.

Garlic Press. The equipment corner is my favorite part of America's Test Kitchen. In this video you'll see how they tested two dozen garlic presses to come up with a favorite: The Kuhn Rikon Easy-Squeeze Garlic Press (you don't see it in this video, but this plastic version of the stainless one in the video is ATK's new favorite).

Pineapple Corer. Handiest gadget ever, if you're as much a fan of pineapple fan as I am. This one from Vacu Vin has removeable blades, meaning it fits flat in a kitchen drawer.

Spiral Slicer. The Saladacco model we own is lots of fun. It turns veggies into noodles. Well, pretend noodles. But that's fun, isn't it? The hubby's in love with his Italian food. He wants his spaghetti.

Vegetable Juicer. I'm not a fan, but my husband loves his juice. To me, juicing is a messy undertaking and strips perfectly good food of all its chewy fiber. Nevertheless, we own -- and use -- a juicer. For him. Because ya gotta keep your man happy.

Water container. Because you're not drinking enough water. My dad talked me into carting around a two-liter water bottle -- enough to keep me hydrated through a 30-minute session with Johnny Walker. This one has a mouth large enough to collect crushed ice straight from the freezer door.  Ahhh. That's the ticket!

Friday, May 25

Going Up!

So began my farewell tour of restaurants.

The little Greek place in a strip mall in the next county that serves gyros with so much garlic it makes your mouth hurt.

The unintentionally 50's-themed Italian place just south of here, where you have to wrap your forearms in napkins to collect the grease as you eat pizza.

The Korean-run hamburger joint down the hill where the fries are so good you have to hold a fork at the ready to stab anyone who might get too close.

The taco stand down in the valley where the jalapenos nearly overwhelm the magic sauce in the tortas.

Oh, and my favorite teriyaki place down the street that serves brown rice on request, with crunchy Japanese salad my daughter and I always fight over.

We're now less than a week before weigh-in.

In the midst of this food orgy, eating is becoming almost a chore. The grease is making my stomach churn. I've been waking up at 2:00 every morning gagging. I'm back to taking Prilosec every night to keep the acid down. The very thought of meat is starting to be repugnant. Bread, butter, cheese, ham...I've started eating half meals and taking the rest home to my daughter. Share the poison, as it were.

* * * *
Today my cousin told me a story.

He knows a therapist who had a client that liked to complain more than she like to lose weight.

The weight seemed intractable.

"I go up, I go down, I go back up," the woman griped.

Nothing the therapist counseled seemed to help. Finally he said, "Well, there's nothing more I can do to help. I give up."

She protested a bit, but he just shrugged his shoulders.

As she started to leave, he said, "Unless..."

She stopped.

"Oh, never mind. It'll never work."

"What? What is it?"

"Never mind. You won't do it."

"Just tell me."

"'s nothing."

Now the woman had to drag it out of him. "Tell me! Just tell me what it is!"

"Well..." he hedged, "only if you promise to do it."

"I promise!"

"Maybe if you stopped trying to lose weight, and tried to gain 20 pounds, it might help."

"Twenty pounds!?"

"Just a thought."

So she did. And as soon as she hit 20 pounds, she started dieting.

This time, it worked. She took off the weight, and no more yo-yo'ing.

* * * *

Well, it's working for me, too. I feel bloated. I keep watching the calendar, wishing that darned contest would just start so I could quit feeling -- and looking -- like J. Wellington Wimpy.

But I'm nearly there. Just a few more days of blubbering up. The first weigh-in takes place next week, and, well, I'd gladly hold off on a burger today for salad on Wednesday. I really, really would.

Wednesday, May 23

Follow the Money

A few days later was the final day of the twelfth competition. Prizes were being issued to people who'd signed up for the next contest, so Johnny convinced me to go.

I hate these things, with the pep rallies, the cheer leaders, the hoo-hah. But as I've made clear, I'm a huge cheapskate, and my love of free stuff outweighs my dislike of hoo-hah. Besides, I was curious about how much weight I'd have to lose to win the 500 bucks.

Thirty-eight pounds. Fifteen pounds. Twenty-three pounds. Forty-six pounds. Wow! These folks were racking up some big numbers. But no problem. I could beat that without even working up a sweat.

Then I heard something that really caught my attention: The 500 dollars was for the winner at this gym. But there were 10 gyms in this competition, and the overall winner would be awarded five grand! Five thousand dollars? Well howdy doody and kick me in the calf.

I chose my "prize" -- a month of boot camp -- and for the next several days, waited to hear the final number from the 10-gym competition. Would the 46 pounds be the winning number? Is it possible someone else would get up to 50, 55 pounds? Maybe even 60 or 65?

When I went in the following Monday the numbers were posted. The winner had lost 111 pounds, 42 percent of his body weight. In 90 days. The runner-up had lost a disappointing 110 pounds, or 41 percent. The next-biggest loser lost 40 percent of her body weight, 67 pounds. On the list of top 20 losers there were seven people who'd lost better than 80 pounds in 90 days.

I did the math. To lose 43 percent of my current body weight, I'd end up weighing less than 130 pounds. That's too skinny. I was 180 in college, 170 when I got married. Nah. I didn't even want to get my weight down into the 120s.

But I wanted that five thousand dollars. Oh, the places I'd go!

My dear cousin, whom I love better than myself, has a debilitating disease that will likely have her wheelchair bound in a few years. I've been thinking for some time that she really, really needs to go on a cruise. We all need to go together, the two of us and our husbands. Five grand would just about cover that cost.

But the 120s? I'd have to get an arm amputated to weigh that little. I'm not sure I love cruising with my cousin better than I love my arm.

There was only one alternative: Between that day, and our weigh-in at the end of May, if I wanted to lose 43 percent of my body weight and still come in above the 135 mark, I'd have to gain 17 pounds. Gain. Yup. You read it right.

I was on a crusade to gain weight. I wanted that five grand.

Tuesday, May 22

Deal of the Century

So it was all these thoughts roiling around in my head that I went back to the gym for a second time. And noticed, this time, signs up all over the place for my gym's version of a Biggest Loser competition. I asked Johnny about the competition.

"If you lose the biggest percentage of body weight in 90 days, you get 500 dollars," he told me. Every four months the gym starts up a new 90-competition. The twelfth competition would end in a few days, and round 13 would begin four weeks later, on May 30th.

Hmmm. Five hundred bucks. Yeah, I'd take 500 bucks. That'd cover the money I'd spent on my last unused gym membership. And I can totally win. I'm pretty good at losing weight, when I feel like it. I know about Elbow Splints.

"So how much to join the gym?"

"We'll talk about it after your workout."

Once again, I worked up a sweat. Twice in one week. That's definitely never happened before.

Then we sat down to talk about prices. Turns out gym memberships are a whole lot cheaper these days than the last time I'd been roped in. This was so cheap that, if I won the 500 bucks, it'd cover 18-month-memberships for myself, my husband, and our youngest daughter.

And a few personal training sessions to boot.

So we started negotiations. If I signed up for the competition, which included some personal training sessions, how much for memberships? The final number was so low it seemed kind of stupid not to sign up. My last car repair cost more.

I pulled out my credit card. No problem. I'm going to win the 500 bucks, and I'll have cash to spare.

Sunday, May 20

Not My First Rodeo

Okay, so orphaning the daughter is out, which means pizza the table. To coin a phrase. If I'm going to get thin, and live to a healthy hundred and six (there's a target age for ya!), I have to change the way I live.

Crippled athletes lying broken in armchairs around the world are proof that exercise isn't going to fix me -- not permanently. My friends Kirstie Alley and Sarah of York are living proof that Diets-You-Pay-For don't work. I'm planning to outlive both these broads, so I have to find a way to change the way I interact with food.

I've actually had this epiphany before. Four years ago I was a moo-cow, and discovered one day that I couldn't shop my own closet.

I'd been reading about vegetarianism, which lead to reading about veganism, which lead to reading about raw food. The names Frédéric Patenaude and  Victoria Boutenko kept popping up in my research.

I read Boutenko's book Raw Family, and Patenaude's Raw Secrets, and was hooked. I cleaned out my fridge, found a food dehydrator with a thermostat on Craigslist, and loaded up on fruits and veggies. It was on.

All the Married Ladies,
All the Married Ladies
And I was hooked. My family wasn't so keen, but I soldiered through, and within six weeks lost 42 pounds. I felt great (I still didn't get any more exercise than walking up a flight of stairs to use the toilet) and I was looking pretty good. Resigning from the 200 Club was a great day.

In September of that year, while I was hovering in the 190s, I even taught a class at a women's retreat on making smoothies.

But the thinner I got, the more the negatives started coming:

"If you lose too much weight, you'll get sick."

"You should try this...Oh, you can't. You're on that diet."

"What are you going to do about Thanksgiving?" (I hadn't thought about that.) "And Christmas?" (Yikes. Holidays? Everyone will be disappointed in me if I don't eat what they eat!)

In short, I got weak. Not physically weak. Physically, I was feeling better than I ever had.

Nope, I was mental water balloon. Poke me, prod me, stick a pin in me...or offer me Halloween candy.

Yeah. Halloweeen. Oh, just a few piece of corn candy won't hurt. "It's corn. It's practically vegan!" I told myself.

A little bad news here, a little non-support there, a few candies now and then...a little this, a little that, a little bit of "I'm not even sure I have a goal here," and before you could say Merry Christmas, I'd been lead carefully down the road to hell.

I was still incorporating raw food into my daily life, but before the New Year rolled around, I was off the wagon. Still a believer, but no longer a practitioner.

Saturday, May 19

Getting Real About Pizza

If I was going to lose weight, I knew there was only one way to make it happen.

Gym, schmym. That wasn't the trick. Certainly not all of it.

I'd seen a documentary on public television that studied the effects of exercise and diet on weight loss. The documentary followed a group of people just as lumpy and sedentary and gormless as me who were training for the Boston Marathon. (Link here.)

Watch it. For me, the take-home message was this: Exercise doesn't make you skinny. You know what makes you skinny? Elbow Splints.

I'm tellin' ya. Elbow splints!
(And my talented niece,
graphic illustrator Rebekah Davis,
is fully on board. Thanks, sweetie!)
That's right. Splint your freakin' elbows. People with two broken elbows can't get fat. Neither can people wearing muzzles. If you want to get skinny, this documentary practically screamed, stop shoving pizza down your gullet.

One of the most astonishing phenomena created by the human race is people who can't get through the door. I completely understand eating yourself into a human volkswagon. It's easy. Just lift and chew, lift and chew.

No, the fascinating part is that other people are willing to enable this undertaking. Once you're too big to get through the door, you're too big to get to work. For most of human history, being too big to work was a self-extinguishing problem. You don't work, you don't eat. You don't eat, you stop being too big to work.

But somehow we've become a species that helps people who can't get off the couch get even larger than the couch. Who's providing the calories to people who are too large to stand upright? Who pays the credit card charges when the pizza man comes to the door? It's tragic. It oughta be a crime.

And it's easily fixed. Splint your elbows.

Yeah, that's right. I'm talkin' to ME. Future-bathtub-sized-momma-if-I-don't-stop-eating-pizza ME!

Friday, May 18

Getting Real About Weight

On the drive home -- what? You thought I'd walk? -- I started thinking about my weight.

I'm a completely healthy 53-year-old fat woman. My heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and everything else are normal. During my last check-up, my doctor sent me to get my carotid arteries scanned. I'm blockage free. So far.

But here's an inescapable fact: There are no fat old people.

Find me a fat hundred-year-old, and I'll show you...well, nothing. Because there are no fat hundred-year-olds. If you're fat, you get to maybe 60, 65. A handful of fatties squeak through to 70. There may be one or two morbidly obese 80-year-olds. But nobody gets to a hundred while wheeling around 90 pounds of lardbutt.

My youngest child hasn't hit puberty yet. How great would it be if, when she got to my age, she still had a mom? Statistics don't lie: No matter how healthy I am at this moment, my 90 pounds of lardbutt are going to make the difference between an orphaned kid and an adult child with a healthy, independent mom able to take on grandparenting duties.

There's more. Is it possible my excess weight and my proclivity for falling on my can and breaking things are linked? Could it be that I keep throwing my back out because there's so darned much back to throw?

You know what? Maybe God shoved me down those stairs, so I'd join a gym six months later and be around for my kid when she grew up.

What? It coulda happened that way.

Thursday, May 17

Me? A Gym Rat?

Johnny Walker was there waiting for me. He re-introduced himself. I introduced him to my limp, and told him I was just using him for cheap physical therapy. "I'm a fat old lady. I don't want to get skinny; I don't want to lift weights; I don't want to run for head cheerleader. I just want to walk again without a limp."

Johnny Walker just grinned. "We'll see."

Johnny Walker knows his stuff. Turns out he's been a life-long gym rat, and actually loves this stuff. He directed me to the bikes. Told me to get started, then sat beside me and we started talking.

"How bad does it hurt?"

"Not at all, when I'm sitting on this bike. Just when I walk...or climb stairs...or stand up."

"We'll get you back into shape."

I did not like the sound of that. But whatever. I had a six-week membership, and I thought maybe I'd abuse the heck out of it.

Somehow getting my money's worth out of ten bucks seems a lot more fun -- and challenging -- than getting my money's worth out of the spendy gym memberships I'd signed up for in the past. Perversely, when I put 500 bucks of gym membership on my credit card, I feel justified in working long hours to pay for it, rather than going to the gym and using it. Going in and cancelling gym memberships was a pain in the backside -- they'd always put their best salesman on me and bully me into "just another 30 days".

But this was easy. My six-week membership started my first day at the gym, and expired 45 days later, whether I liked it or not. It was going to be the best ten bucks I'd ever invested. And that's what I told Johnny.

He just grinned. "Okay, let's see what else you can do."

By the end of my hour, I was sweating. Not much, mind you. But I don't think I've ever sweated before -- certainly not on a 50-degree day in Seattle.

And it wasn't terrible. And by the time I walked out -- walked out -- mind you, I was limping about 2/3rds as badly as when I'd gimped in.

It was a start.

Wednesday, May 16

Lacing Up

My 14-year-old
swim-loving self
So here's a little confession: I've never exercised. Ever. Okay, I rode a bike when I was a kid. I did ballet for a dozen years or so, but I wasn't any good at it, didn't try very hard, and quit when I turned sixteen to start working at Baskin-Robbins. (Here's a link to raw vegan ice cream. I'm NOT giving you a link to Baskin-Robbins!) And all right, I do love to swim...but never enough to work up a sweat.

I've always figured, some people are athletes, and the rest of us do something useful with our lives. Exercise just seems a little...I don't know...self-indulgent. There are children to raise, and clothes to wash, and books to write, and college degrees to earn, and jobs to attend to. Exercise is what childless unemployed people do, right? Instead of kids and jobs? So I can't selfishly spend precious time exercising.

Yup. Sometimes I just invent things to feel guilty about. And I'm not even Catholic. But my husband, who IS Catholic -- and a guilt-ridden Italian Catholic at that -- finds time to exercise. What's my excuse?

Okay. I've got a better one: I fall down a lot. And people who exercise get sports injuries. Exercising would be a disaster for me, right?

Except, I fall down anyway. And perhaps the reason I fall down a lot is that I never exercise, and THAT'S the reason I don't know where my edges are.

Physical therapy was a bust. The gym membership is already paid for. Johnny Walker knew my phone number. I'd run out of excuses to stay home. So I pulled up my big-girl sweats and went back to the gym.

Tuesday, May 15

One for the Money

One for me, one for the hubby. And off to the gym we went. Or he went, because, true to form, I don't go to gyms after buying a membership.

"So?" I asked. "What's it like?"

"Nice place," he said. "Small. Nice people. I think you'll like it."

One day. Two days. Three days...I even packed a gym bag.

"My trainer wants to know when you're going to show up."

"Do I HAVE to?"

"No. But you did spend the ten bucks. You should go at least once."

"Okay. Maybe tomorrow. What's the trainer's name?"

"Johnny. Johnny Walker."


Two more days. The bag was still sitting in the car when I was out doing errands and happened to drive past the gym.

Oh, what's it going to hurt?

I stopped in. The first person to greet me was...Johnny Walker. He set me up with an appointment for my first personal training session, the very next day. And then threatened me with a follow-up phone call if I was a no show. I was about to do something I'd never done before in my entire life: Go back a second time.

Sunday, May 13

Professional Couch Surfer

I got my first bill for physical therapy. I was spending fifty bucks a visit -- just for my co-pay. Three times a week. That's a car payment! And my husband's company was picking up the tab for the rest -- another 200 bucks per visit. That's a salary!

And I wasn't even getting any better.

"This is me," I realized. "I'm a big, broken, lump and I'm going to get bigger and bigger until I crush the couch I'm living on."

Ah, well. At least there's TV. And the Internet. And my loving children. And my sweet daughters-in-law, one of whom regularly emails me links to cool things she finds online. Like LivingSocial.

So there I was, minding my own business, when a LivingSocial link pops up to a cheap -- stupidly cheap! -- gym membership.

Ten bucks. Ten bucks? For six weeks! And four personal training sessions. Ten bucks!

Now I've joined a couple of gyms before. Never went back. But I did join.

Ten bucks? That's less than gasoline to physical therapy and back.

I wonder...I mused...whether a personal trainer might be able to help where the physical therapist didn't. My therapist seemed almost bored during my sessions. She took phone calls. Set me on a device and walked away for ten minutes to do paperwork. At 250 bucks an hour, I was getting about six minutes of personal interaction. How much worse could the personal trainer be?

I clicked the button and bought a ten-dollar membership.

Saturday, May 12

PT -- Mehhh

I arrived at ER and was immediately sent to x-ray. (I know! I've found the only emergency room in North America where there's not a five-hour wait. It's Highline Medical Center, just south of Seattle. Ssshhh. Don't tell anybody!)

"You really did a number on yourself," the doc said. "Were you hang-gliding or parachuting?" She estimated three breaks. I was admitted, and surgery was scheduled for the next morning. Based on the x-ray, the orthopedic surgeon estimated I'd be in surgery for just over an hour.

Five hours later, I was waking up in recovery. "Congratulations," the surgeon said. "You have the distinction of having the most complicated repair I've done in 27 years of practice."

Yes! I win!

My little slip-and-fall wasn't a break. It was a shatter. Plates, pins, wires...I'm freakin' bionic now!

But no weight AT ALL on that foot, not for six weeks. I began to grow. I became expert at doing stairs on one knee and two hands -- too heavy to lift myself going backwards on puny girl arms.

Then came the boot. And I grew a little more.

Then came Physical Therapy. One week. Still on crutches. Two weeks, three weeks...still back and forth, boot, crutches, boot. I wasn't getting any better.

PT was a bust. And I kept getting bigger.

Friday, May 11

Don't Try This at Home

Not even judicious cropping
can disguise this truth.
This is me, last week.
I fall down. A lot. Last year, when I fell and broke my hand, my physical therapist suggested that some people don't have any sense of their "edges"; they're bafflingly unaware of their physical boundaries.

A light went off. That's me! I crash into doors jambs, furniture, and even people -- well, all the time. I bash my head when I enter cars. I break my toes walking past the corners of couches. When I'm the last one into a crowded elevator, I get my northern-most girl bits caught in the closing doors.

If I were a featherweight little thing, perhaps none of this would cause injury.

But I'm a Big American Girl.  I mean Kirstie Alley big. The real Kirstie Alley, not the imaginary one who tells magazine writers that she once weighed -- gasp! -- 180 pounds!

When I crash into furniture, the furniture moves. When I hit a wall, I dent the drywall. When I trip down stairs, the banister falls with me.

So when I tumbled down two -- count 'em! Two! -- stairs six months ago, I didn't float. I Titanic-ed. Asscan over teakettle. Skirt up around my waist. And left leg...argggh. I've broken bones more than a dozen times so far. I didn't even have to look.

My first thought: Yes! It's my left leg! I can still drive!

Second thought: Drugs! Bring me drugs!

Third thought: Um. Maybe y'all could call me an ambulance?

Thursday, May 10

Falling, and Rising

Nearly six months ago, I shattered my leg. It's been a slow recovery; my ballooning weight hasn't made it easier.

I spent six weeks post-surgery in a wheelchair, and several subsequent weeks on crutches and in a boot. Mostly, though, I sat around with my foot propped up trying to keep the swelling down.

What swelled, instead, was my butt. This is the story of how I'm taking back my life.