Saturday, June 30

My Antiquated Notions

Meet my father, the ├╝ber-literal engineer. The following conversation took place when my mother discovered him plopped on the couch, gnawing his way through an entire pound of See’s candies:

My mom, arms akimbo: “Stanley! Are you kidding me? You’re eating all the chocolates? You’re gonna gain five pounds!”

My dad, looking up at her over the top of his reading glasses: “That’s a physiological impossibility.”

* * *

My father has a theory about dieting. It’s tough to refute. The definition of “calorie,” he notes, is the energy it takes to raise the temperature of a gram of water a single degree.

So when you drink a glass of water at 98 degrees, nothing happens. You drink the water, it passes through your body, no energy is exchanged.

But if you were to drink a tub of ice water, he theorizes, your body would have to expend all sorts of energy raising the temperature of the water to 98 degrees before it passed through your digestive system.

So the easiest way to lose weight, my dad argues, is to guzzle cold stuff.

My husband, listening to this discourse, summarized as follows: “So lukewarm German beer makes you fat, but a cold Budweiser is a freebie?”

Sometimes it’s a real geek fest around here.

- - - -

Today’s soundtrack sung by Thomas Dolby: She Blinded Me With Science. Dance!

PS. We’ll be back to blogging after the holiday. Digging out the passports and tripping off to Canada for the next few days. Would blowing things up on the fourth just confuse the locals?

Friday, June 29

Food for Thought

Herewith, a collection of random comments, all encountered this week:

* * *

My friend G., with whom I’ve begun hiking the Big Hill every morning: “I am so glad we’re doing this! When I get home, I feel like it almost doesn’t matter what else I do all day; I’ve already accomplished something worthwhile!”

Exactly. Also: This is how I've been justifying not scrubbing a toilet for an entire week.

* * *

Me, to my husband: “Okay. Tell me the truth. Do I look any different?”

Him: “Well, you don't have back boobs any more. That's different.”

Me (choking): “Did you just say ‘back boobs’?”

Him: “What were you hoping I'd say?”

* * *

Dr. Magichands, the best chiropractor in the county, when I told him about this contest: “Whenever I’m speaking to people about their health, I ask, ‘What sort of hobbies do you have?’ And they’ll say things like ‘I sew; I quilt; I fix cars; I play games.’ And I say to them, ‘If you’d make yourself your hobby, just for three months even, your life would change forever. Just spend three months making yourself healthy and strong.’ So I think you’re doing a really good thing!”

Actually, my newest hobby is getting my back slammed into place so I can walk upright.

* * *

Me, to my husband: “So I’ve pretty much lost my belly now. My stomach isn’t sagging any more.”

Him: “Oh, the modesty panel is gone.”

Me, laughing: “Is that what it’s called?”

Him: “That’s what I call mine.”

* * *

Johnny Walker: “It hurts? Good pain or bad pain?”

Me: “Is there a difference?”

Johnny Walker: “Bad pain is a sharp, shooting pain. It means you’re doing damage. Good pain you just push through and keep going. Usually when people say ‘You're killing me!’ I just ignore them. So what? Keep going.”

Shooting pain. Yeah, that's the ticket.

* * *

My mother: “Jack in the Box has a berry salad now! Go get one and tell me whether it's any good.”

And we wonder how I got fat.

 - - - -

Today's soundtrack is dedicated to my friend Tad, who once said to me, while thumbing through my extensive collection of  Greatest Hits CDs: “Holy crap. You have the worst musical taste of anyone I've ever met. Don't you own a single actual album?” (And when I admitted the last actual album I purchased was Endless Summer in junior high school, he gave me Eric Clapton Unplugged, “Because this Greatest Hits garbage ends today.”) So to you, Tad, workout song of the century: ABBA Megamix!

Thursday, June 28

Cardio: My Kryptonite

During boot camp the other night I found myself panting on a bench next to a former winner of this Biggest Loser competition.

He’s in his fifth round of this thing – because, apparently, winning five grand is addictive. He came in third two times, won once, and won the “Biggest Gainer” title (for muscle gain) a different time.

“So,” I gasped. “What’s the secret? Is it diet, or exercise?”

“Well,” said he (Note that he did not gasp, because – apparently – doing this five times also gives you strong lungs). “Diet does make a difference, no doubt. And I usually under-eat when I’m competing.”

He paused. And continued not gasping.

“But to tell the truth, I work from home, so I get to go to the gym two or three hours a day. And for the last five competitions, as far as I can tell, whoever does the most cardio, wins.”

So there you have it. From the winner’s mouth to my ears. More cardio.

Dang-nab it.

Because I was really hoping the secret to winning was “More Carrot Cake.”

- - - -

Is it possible men are meant to ride with clouds between their knees? Today's soundtrack brought to you by Five for Fighting: Superman (and incidentally, the very best piece of pop music ever written.)

Wednesday, June 27

Still an Embryo

Cruising along at a tilt – yes, I’m still limping when I walk – means that every few miles, I need to take my autobody in for a tune-up.

So after a recent hill climb, I stopped by to visit my chiropractor, Dr. Magichands. Dr. M. is very supportive of my whole weight-loss program, and was, in fact, the first person to suggest to me the idea of eating raw food. So you’d think the captain of my fan club would know better than to pursue the following conversation:

Me, lying on the rack with a heating pad on my back: “OK, so guess what? I walked all the way to the top of the Big Hill today.”

Dr. M: “Which big hill?”

Me: “The 277th Corridor. It’s 1.1 miles each way, with something like a 400-foot altitude gain.”

Dr. M: “That’s great. I climbed a big hill yesterday.”

Me: “The Corridor?”

Dr. M: “No.” Long pause. “Mount Rainier.”

Me: “Uh...”

* * *

Yeah. So I walked a mile up a hill. And a mile back down. Hear me roar.


Today's soundtrack courtesy of Helen Reddy: I Am Woman (1971)

Tuesday, June 26

The Weight of the World

Today's guest blogger is my old friend Robb Zerr, the brilliant mind behind RobZerrvations. Back before life got complicated, Robb and I were both editors of our college newspaper. (As you'll see, Robb was always the better writer.) So now, back in Seattle, fresh from the wrong coast of America, HundredRaw is proud to present the inimitable Robb Zerr:

I was surfing the Web yesterday and came upon a very interesting story. It was about the problem of being overweight. Not mildly overweight, as in 10 pounds or so, but obesity-level overweight.

I only learned that I was technically obese when I had a Wii. I bought the Wii Fit and thought I would try to get into shape. I really liked the thing, except for that admonishing little bitch who would say after each weigh in, “You’re Obese.” The only thing missing was a slight snicker or a snort at the end.

Yes, I am lunking around some extra pounds. I think I look pretty good for my age, but after finding out that I am hauling around almost half of another person, I thought its ramifications should have a little look-see.

It seems that the entire adult population weights about 315 million tons. For math-impaired folks like me, that’s 633 billion pounds. Now, don’t ask me who took all the time to calculate the weight of the world’s population. All I know is that 16.5 million tons of that total is from being overweight.

You read right – 16.5 million tons of flab in this world. According to the folks at the United Nations who seem to find the idea of world peace so difficult to address that they shelved it to work on world flab instead, that adds up to 242 million extra people in this world. Yes, 242 million people, about as many people who live in Indonesia, wherever that is.

The UN reports that the average person in this world weighs 137 pounds. I don’t doubt the number. I’ve seen all those commercials for Feed the Children. The average American weighs 178 pounds, so we’re already taking up more of the world than we deserve, it appears. Just to keep balance, for every American someone somewhere else in this world has to be a 96-pound weakling.

So far, Asia is taking up this cause. They account for 61 percent of the world’s population, but only 13 percent of the obesity. As usual, we are exporting all the work to places like China and Vietnam, who seem to have a lot of skinny people who would love to have an extra slice of rice cake, but can’t because someone like me in the U.S. is too lazy to get off his very fat ass to do some exercise. They suffer for our excess, poor Asian people.

This is alarming, of course, because larger people eat more. They need more food, meaning the rest of the world gets less. Someone even estimated that if every other country was as obese as the U.S., there would be an additional billion people in this world to feed. A real crisis indeed, because we don’t have enough skinny people to go around to compensate.

As a result, all hell is breaking loose. First, there are the obligatory food shortages. We aren’t making enough food to feed the world, because, well, people like me seem to eat more than our share. I confess to some guilt at eating last night at a Chinese buffet here in Shoreline. All you can eat Chinese. And there were a lot of 137-pound people in the room that night. They seem to be able to eat all they can, but I’m the one with all the extra groceries slung around my waist.

But I think there are other forces at work here. I believe, and I am sure people like Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly will back me on this because most obese people seem to be liberals too, that fat people are the cause of global warming.

No, silly, it’s not all those capitalist pigs who are raping our land with big business. It’s obese people. As you can imagine, all the weight of the world really adds up. The poor world can’t handle all that extra weight. It’s getting tired. It is slowing down. Yes, slowing down.

The earth is slowing down 1.4 milliseconds every solar day per century. That is a scientific fact, my friend. The old school of thought, one that scientists are still holding onto for some reason, is that somehow greenhouse gases are to blame. All I can say, and cover your ears if you’re not used to such language, is poppycock.

Yes, poppycock. How could something you can’t see possibly cause the earth to get warmer as the years pass? But, if you think about it, obese people could have done the trick. Yes, I admit, I have contributed to our downfall on this. The Wii Fit has confirmed it.

Here’s how it all works. As you know, a basketball on the end of your finger can spin for a very long time. But add a chunk of modeling clay to one side, say where North America would be, and the sucker will start slowing down almost immediately.

It’s out of balance. It’s wobbling. There’s too much weight on one side. The whole jig is up.

Think of our earth as that basketball. Here we are, all in North America, causing global warming because we can’t resist the large order of MexiFries at Taco Time and don’t have the get up and go to go and get up. We are causing the world’s demise here.

The only cure for our ills is for half of the Americans in this country who are Twinkiphiles to swap places with those on the opposite side of the world to balance everything out.

From my own approximations, I think that means that those selected should head to Australia and in return, the Aborigines would come to the States. I know. Tough duty. But you must do it for the future of our world. We are its saviors, we, the tippers of scales, the lovers of pie, us purveyors of pork rinds.

I know my bags are already packed. Yes, unselfish to the last calorie, I have volunteered to move halfway across the world to solve the problem of global warming. Well, that and to get away from a country that thinks Mitt Romney is a viable candidate for president.

In the Emerald City, packing my bags, trying to figure out how I’m going to squeeze my ass into a 17″ wide seat for 18 hours,

- Robb

- - - -
Memoirs of a Buccaneer, Robb's tale of seafaring -- or in his case, SeaFairing -- is available here.

Monday, June 25

Know I'm Gonna Treat You Right

So today I believe I shall tell my germ story.

I love my local produce market. It’s not only cheap; it’s also exotic. It keeps me from getting homesick for Asia, with its glorious collection of weird veggies that can’t be found anywhere else in town: bai tsai, haricot verts, cactus leaf, escarole, and scores of other things I genuinely can’t even identify.

What also keeps me from getting homesick is the other customers, most of whom seem to be recent immigrants. They’re running about speaking to one another in Cantonese, Vietnamese, Russian, Spanish, and sometimes, joy of joys, Mandarin. Normally, it’s a great place to hang out and get my weekly dose of multiculturalism.

But one day, I was picking through the produce when an emaciated old man entered the store, sneezing and coughing into his hand. Or worse yet, not into his hand. He walked around me picking up fruit, squeezing melons, sniffing cabbage. And coughing and sneezing with admirable enthusiasm all over the grapes and the tangelos, as well as on everything else in range of his powerful sinuses.

My cart was nearly full, but I had the sinking feeling Typhoid Larry was a regular customer. Ewww.

I went directly home and started cleaning the produce. Typhoid Larry had set my Spidey Senses tingling, and I wasn’t keen to share his sickbed.

So here’s the process: One clean sink full of cold water, with 1/2C bleach. And a second sink with running water. (Yeah. I live in Seattle. Running water is not something we feel guilty about here.) And a cutting board, good knife, and a collection of containers and lids.

I stack all the produce on the left side of the sink, run it directly through the bleach bath, and then rinse it in cold running water. As the produce begins stacking up in the dish drainer on the right side of the double sink, my teenager gets to work chopping fruit and veggies and putting it all into containers. I then move those filled containers directly to the fridge.

Miraculously, that de-germed produce lasts twice as long in the refrigerator as it used to before we started cleaning veggies straight from the grocery store.

And the best part is that when we’re grazing, all the work’s been done. The food is ready to go, day or night. Nobody gets to whine, “But there’s nothing to eeeaaaattt!” We have an entire refrigerator full of ready-to-eat food. No excuses!

Bless you, Typhoid Larry. No, really. Gesundheit!


Today’s soundtrack brought to you by the fabulous Miss Peggy Lee: Fever (1958).

Saturday, June 23

Impossible to Ignore

My friend M.* tells a story:

A mutual friend, an older member of our church congregation*, keeps an incredibly beautiful garden, the envy of their neighborhood. When people from our congregation or from their neighborhood are struggling, this generous, kindly man often just shows up and prunes hedges, mows lawns, and tends to their yard work. So M. was talking to him one day, seeking gardening tips.

“How do you keep everything looking so beautiful?” she asked. “I mean, your garden doesn’t even have any weeds!”

He looked at her. “I weed,” he said.


* * *

A fundamental element of my religious faith is a belief that God speaks to us – generally in response to questions, but sometimes just because we need to know something. We take seriously dreams, impressions, promptings, and confirming feelings of peace.

And so I’m feeling compelled to share with you, dear reader, a dream I had last night.

There is a particular individual* who has been a burr under my saddle for years. He’s a nasty human being with whom I am forced to interact because he lives nearby, and we happen to be involved in a couple of the same organizations. (Deleting rant here about appalling things this individual does...because my husband is nicer than me and thinks I'm being mean-spirited.) Anyway, it has come to the point where, whenever this individual drives by, I smile and wave just because I know it torques him off. (So basically, I’m just as evil and malicious as he is.)

Last night I dreamed that I was sitting at a picnic table with a friend, and he walked past and made a nasty remark. Last straw. I decided to finally stand up and confront him. “Why do you act this way?” I shouted. “What is wrong with your soul, that you can’t behave civilly toward another human being? Do you have no idea of the damage and hurt you’re causing?”

He just sneered, and kept walking.

I sat down in frustration.

Then, the jerk of my dreams did something even more shocking. He turned around, came back, and sat down across the picnic table from me. He looked me dead in the eyes and said “I have a major problem. I’m a Twinkie* addict, and it makes me miserable. I can’t stop eating Twinkies. I hate myself, and I hate my life.”


Then I (understanding soul that I am) Nancy Reagan’ed him: “So stop.”

He narrowed his eyes. “What?”

“Just stop it. Quit. Give it up.”

“That’s not how it works.”

“That’s how it works for me. I quit eating cooked food. I just stopped.”

“That’s impossible.”

“It’s a choice. You can do whatever you decide to do. Just stop.”

At which point, I woke up – probably just before he punched me in the nose.

This morning, I’m strangely filled with compassion for the guy. I still dislike him. And I don’t know whether or not he’s actually a Twinkie addict. But clearly, he has some sort of poisonous problem that cankers his soul and causes him to believe that being a jerk is a functional way to approach life.

And point number two, which is probably of more interest to readers than my weirdly changed attitude toward a man who causes me grief:

If you believe you’re a person who can’t make positive changes in your life, you’re short-changing yourself. You already do things better than lots of people do. You get up every morning and drag yourself to work. Lots of people don’t. You take a shower every day, even if you hate getting your head wet. Many people don’t. You clean your kitchen. You stop yourself from playing video games, or looking at porn, or eating the entire leftover birthday cake. If you do anything right, you can do one more thing right:  Pull those weeds. Stop doing whatever destructive thing stands between you and your more-perfect self.

Just say no.

Nancy Reagan thanks you.

- - - - -

* All individuals (or addictive substances) described in this blog are fictional. Any resemblance to living people, awesome or horrible, is purely coincidental. Unless you know who you are. But I’m still maintaining that you’re a fictional invention.

Today's soundtrack brought to you by The Cranberries: Dreams.

Friday, June 22

Recipe File: Yellow Snow

Beware. Teenaged girls haunt my kitchen tonight, and they're playing blender games. Seventh Child loves that our blender makes swirly light Utah-quality snow; she vowed to prove it to her BFF.

It seems I have budding raw chefs at work. They’re blending fools, these girls! And they’ve invented a new treat that's actually good enough to be shared. They call it Yellow Snow -- in all innocence, I'm sure.

1 orange, peeled
1 pitted date
1/2C pineapple chunks
2C crushed ice

Place fruit in bottom of blender, ice on top. Blend in 15-second bursts until smooth. Garnish with grated orange peel. Makes one Better-Than-7-11 Slurpee.

They're staying up all night, I expect. Good thing we don't stock booze in this house; Dad's upstairs now hiding the cough syrup.

Nutritional count:
Calories: 172
Carbs: 46
Protein: 1
Calcium: 9
Potassium: 488

Thursday, June 21

My Very Long Day

I made good use of the longest day of the year. It started by pulling an accidental all-nighter. I was writing as the sun set (which here in the Great Pacific Northwest doesn’t happen until nearly 10 pm), and when I looked up again, it was still light out...I thought. Till I realized the sun was coming back up.

When the first alarm went off awhile later, I put away the computer and slept for nearly an hour. Thank you, dear hubby, for taking long showers so I can get in a good solid snooze!

Then Little Merry Sunshine was rarin’ to go. We ran through some schoolwork, tossed in a couple of errands, and I was off to the gym. “Why so early?” the husband asked.

“Old man, this year, my summer job is losing weight. We are totally going on that cruise.”

Hit the gym. Thirty minutes on the treadmill, half an hour of stairs and squats, 30 minutes of PT. Then home for another hour of sleep. Back to the gym in the evening for an hour of yoga.

My first hour. Ever. Holy non-existent muscles, Batman! The class included a couple of women old enough to have given birth to me. They were bustin’ moves I couldn’t begin to manage.

Just when I thought I was making progress. Sigh. I have a long way to go to catch up with Grandma Yoga Lady!

Now the last trailings of daylight are visible over Puget Sound as I close up shop and prepare to put in a full night’s sleep.

And so, to the longest day, I offer a bit of Edgar Allan Poe: In pace requiescat!

Wednesday, June 20

Cruise Lessons

The Hubby and I have done a few cruises over the years. The first few times, we gained the requisite 10 pounds apiece – per cruise. The siren call of dawn-to-dawn all-you-can-eat is nearly impossible to refuse – especially to those of us who were raised with the World’s Biggest Lie.

And what lie is that, you ask? (Yes you do. Just play along.)

Clean your plate; children in Haiti are starving. (Actually, for those of us of a certain age, it was Chinese children, then Biafran children, but for Generation Y, starvation guilt has been upgraded to Haiti.)

Now, I’ve lived in China. I’ve eaten at McDonald’s in China. And at Kentucky Fried Chicken. And at an infinite number of greasy noodle stands. Trust me: Ain’t nobody in any accessible part of China who’s at risk of starving.

Doesn’t matter. I was raised to have a bit of a savior complex, so I’m personally responsible for all the starving children on the planet. And I can save them only by licking clean my dinner plate.

I had an epiphany on our most recent cruise – and that epiphany prevented any weight gain at all.

They load those cruise ships with X amount of food before each voyage. And at the end of the voyage, all the leftover food is going to the dump. It’s spoiled. Nobody gives day-old cooked broccoli to the homeless. They can’t hand out leftover roast beef to street urchins. Once the food’s been cooked, it’s not going to Haiti. It’s going into the giant septic tank in the sky — regardless of whether or not it first passes through my gullet. My eating that food doesn’t save the life of any person ever, any place, any time. What I don’t eat can sit on my plate, untouched, and make no difference at all to any living soul.

Moreover, it’s biodegradable. It won’t destroy the landfill if it’s thrown away (to the contrary: my pre-digesting it is a much bigger burden on the environment than simply composting it would be).

Here’s the deal: The grocery story is pretty much exactly like the cruise ship. They order food. I buy it and take it home. What I neglect to eat doesn’t end up in the stomach of a Haitian child. It goes into the compost bin, and gets recycled as fertilizer to make more food.

Throwing away already-cooked food is not an ethical issue; it’s a political one. The Haitians and the North Koreans aren’t starving because I forgot to clean my plate. Tons of food sits rotting all over this planet every day. They’re starving because political corruption in their own countries causes extreme poverty and disrupts distribution channels. That’s the problem that needs to be fixed by do-gooders such as yours truly and [your congressman's name here].

“Food” itself is a renewable resource, and eating it doesn’t “save” it. Once it’s already cooked, or chopped, or blended, or rotting, it’s far less “wasteful” to throw it away than it is to throw it down my overstuffed gutpipe and expel it as bodily waste. (If I still feel guilty, I should use that guilt as a trigger to purchase and prepare less food next meal.)

So go ahead and save the world, I tell myself; just don’t do it by eating — which, frankly, can only make children in Haiti feel worse.

Tuesday, June 19

Recipe File: Raw Hummus

Yesterday I sang the praises of raw hummus. I was a huge salt fiend before I went raw. And whenever I wrestle my vehicle past a fast-food outlet, my mouth starts watering for more salt.

I usually resist, because by the time I get home to my salty hummus, the urge has pretty much passed. But when I really, really, truly want something salty, just knowing this is in my refrigerator at home is sufficient to get me over the bumps.

How do I make raw hummus? It’s scary simple, and incredibly cheap.

One of the fun things about assembling raw food is that nothing’s ever exact, and even if it were, it wouldn’t taste exactly the same each time.

That said, here’s an approximation of a recipe for raw hummus. Change it up a little and see what happens.

A cup
A sprouter
A blender (or food processor)

Base Ingredients
1C dried garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
2C water
1/3C raw sesame seeds (raw tahini is tough to come by, and if your blender is good, it won't matter)
2T lemon juice

Optional ingredients
2T water if required for blending
1T cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
1 large floret of raw cauliflower (makes a slightly creamier texture)
1t ground cumin
1/2t Celtic sea salt

Pine nuts
Sundried tomato
Artichoke heart
Chopped spinach
Jalapeno pepper
Pico de gallo
Red bell pepper

1. Soak dried garbanzo beans (i.e., chickpeas) in water for about a day.

2. Discard water.

3. Pour beans in sprouter for about a day and a half to two days, until little sprouts appear (rinse twice a day to retain moisture).

4. At this point, some raw chefs blanch the sprouted beans in very hot water for half a minute to decrease the "green" flavor. I don't. It might just be the beans I buy, but my hummus doesn't seem to have any bitter or sour or green taste.

5. Toss the sprouted beans in the blender, along with remaining ingredients. (Most of the optional ingredients can be stirred in after blending.)

Eat up! Carrots, celery, snap peas, zucchini, jicama, bell pepper, cherry tomatos...hummus makes any of them just a little more edible!

Monday, June 18

Frequently Asked Questions

Today, I tackle a few of my favorite questions.

What do you eat?

Raw fruit. And vegetables. Fruits and vegetables. Also: Vegetables.

Do you eat anything else?

A little raw hummus, a few raw nuts, some sprouted quinoa, a bit of flax seed. But not much. Mostly vegetables. And fruit.

Do you blend food?

Sometimes. It’s fun to throw the following things into the blender: Fruit, baby spinach, a little flax seed. Or change out the flax seed for some other sprouted beans or grain.

Mostly though, I just eat chopped veggies and fruit, as is.

Are you cold?

Nope. I’m still too fat. Plus, I’m going to the gym almost every day.

Are your clothes falling off?

Not yet. But I no longer have to stand on my head to pull up the zipper.

Aren’t you worried you’ll starve to death?

Read King Rat. People lived through WWII concentration camps. People who died there, died of dysentery, typhoid, infections, or pneumonia. Or bullets. Or poison gas. Starving to death is a pretty rare feat, and I’m still the weight of a full-grown St. Bernard from starvation territory.

Do you eat raw meat?

Ewww. Hookworms. Trichinosis. Salmonella. No.

Raw milk?

E-coli. Listeria. Animal fat. No.

What about Jack-in-the-Box?

I'm pretty sure they're cooking their meat these days.

But driving past that poster of the Chipotle Chicken Club Combo just about kills me. Then I realize that what I really want is: Salt, Heat, Crunch. Solution? I add celtic sea salt and jalapenos to the hummus, and eat with crunchy baby carrots or snap peas. Problem solved.

In fact, every time I’m tempted by fast food, I discover that I’m actually craving salt. Salty raw hummus is my life line. I’ll post a recipe tomorrow.

Who’s the most over-rated celebrity in human history?

Madonna. What?

What does that have to do with raw food and exercise?

Nothing at all. I’ll just take any opportunity I find to mock The Gasping One.

You don’t seem like a very nice person.

That’s not a question, Madonna.

Friday, June 15

Hunger Games

This week a friend asked: “Aren’t you hungry?”

“Ummm. I don’t know, actually.”

I had to think about it. I’ve spent so many years assuming that any slight impulse toward food had to be immediately appeased, that I can’t be sure I’ve ever felt the sensation called “hunger.”

It's true that when I think about certain foods – Bacon! Donuts! Tacos! – my salivary glands start revving up. Is that hunger?

Traditionally, when I’m working and am stumped over some problem, I jump up and graze while I figure out a solution. That’s what’s passed for “hunger” for several decades now. But I notice that Batman isn’t fat, so apparently saving the world doesn’t really require refrigerator-based solutions.

Low blood sugar? Snickers are not the divinely decreed response. The good Lord invented bananas and yummy purple grapes to fix that condition. Ask any monkey. Do not ask Roseanne Barr.

Then there are those days I’m out running errands, and when I spot a Taco Bell looming, it’s all I can do to keep the steering wheel from spinning. I’m fairly certain I would have called that “hunger” a couple of weeks back.

Whenever I'm feeling happy, sad, disgruntled, bored, hormonal, frustrated, giddy, or overwhelmed, the pantry has been my first antidote. “Well, I’m hungry,” I could always say to excuse the impulse. But was I? Really?

And sometimes, regardless of whether I’ve recently eaten, I get a growling sensation in my stomach. Is it a “hunger pain”? I’ve given birth. That ain’t pain. At worst, it’s vaguely uncomfortable – far less painful than, say, watching Madonna flash her ta-tas. Now that’s uncomfortable!

I’ll bet a doctor would tell me that what I called “hunger” is actually just carrots working their noisy way through my guts. First-world problems. Sigh.

So yes, I suppose I’m fighting the impulse to eat a burrito. Am I hungry? Or am I just seeking to sop up saliva, and engage in some cheese-based entertainment? You be the judge. And here. Have an apple while you’re thinking about it.

Bottom line: I’m not living in Biafra, I don’t have stick-thin legs, dinner-plate-sized eyes, and a gas-filled belly, and I’ve probably never known hunger.

Also: Announcing that I’m “starving,” when the picnic bench I’m bowing is in danger of splitting, is probably an affront to – well, to God, at the very least. And certainly to starving children who actually do experience hunger.

So yeah. No.

I’m not hungry.

Thursday, June 14

Nobody Puts Baby in a Corner

OK. Guilt trip over. Now I’ve got my dander up. During my workout today I asked Johnny Walker whether the other trainers were giving him grief.

“Yeah, they all wanna know my secret,” he said. “And they told me you’ll never last. ‘We’ve seen people like her. She’ll burn out.’”

He laughed. “Use that as motivation. They all think you're going to fail.”

It’s on. Bring it, trainer dudes. Now it’s between me and you, and I’m gonna stomp your disbelief in the chin. Yes I am. Today's soundtrack: Time of My Life.

As I left today I stopped by Johnny’s supervisor’s desk. I suspect he’s the chief grief-giver. “I’m down several more pounds from yesterday,” I warned him. “Better give Johnny a high five. It’s all his doing.”

Wednesday, June 13

If I Won, Why Do I Feel Bad?

So. To quote Charlie Sheen: Winning. Today was the first weigh-in, and it seems I’m sort of on the top of the pig pile. Or is it the bottom? Where exactly in the pile do I land if I scrape off slightly more blubber than do my fellow porkies?

Prior to the weigh in, I heard that someone else might have lost a few pounds more than I did. I warned Hubby I’d probably not come in first. His advice: "Offer to take the winner out for a celebratory cupcake!"

Turns out the warning was in vain. In terms of raw poundage, apparently, I’m kind of a loser.

I think I’ll have that engraved on my tombstone: “Kind of a loser.”

This seemed a lot more fun when I was beating only imaginary people. Unfortunately, I rather like the actual people at my gym. Beating them turns out to be not very much fun at all.

Sigh. I think I need a good night's sleep before I vote myself off this island. I'd never make it on a reality television show. I lack the killer instinct.

Perhaps by morning I'll remember why I'm doing this. In the meantime, if someone could send a thug over to the house to slap me sideways and tell me I'm being stupid, I'd appreciate it. Thank you.

Tuesday, June 12

A Wooly Tale

I was on the editorial staff of a magazine in Hong Kong where we sat in a sort of bullpen, my colleagues and I, and razzed one another.

One of the editors started a fairly extreme diet that involved her running off to the toilet every few minutes. I wondered whether she’d gained access to a secret stash of Taiwan tap water – which in my experience has pretty much the same effect.

“No,” Helen assured. She was just eating lots of pork products, along with some dead chickens, grapefruits, eye of newt, and cat nostrils, if memory serves.

“What tosh,” said Keith, our erudite and elderly British colleague.

“I have to lose weight!” Helen protested. “My trousers are getting tight at the waist.”

“So eat something healthy.”

“That’s takes too long and I get hungry,” Helen said.

“Then why not,” Keith asked, “just eat a plate of cotton wool and be done with?”

* * * *

There are lots of compelling reasons for eating raw vegan.

Nearly all the arguments against begin like this: “But I’m afraid that if... But what if... But I don’t really... But what about...”


Here’s my number-one argument for eating raw vegan: Nutritional density. I can pack my gut chockfullonuts (or better yet, chock full of bananas, oranges, spinach, tomatoes, carrots, and apricots) and be 50 times fuller, and 4.8 thousand percent healthier, than if I ate a single Whopper Junior with Cheese.

Number two: The cotton wool argument. I simply cannot eat enough raw food in an entire day – even if I sincerely made an effort – to equal the calories I’d down in just one typical American meal, particularly if that meal is served in a restaurant.

Number three: Simplicity. I don’t have to plan dinner if dinner is: Whatever looks good in the refrigerator. A handful of broccoli, a piece of cauliflower, some sliced apples, a few chunks of fresh pineapple. Oh, and then I’ll have maybe a bosc pear. And some sliced sweet yellow bell peppers. (But I’m probably too full to bother.) Breakfast is a green smoothie with a few almonds blended in. It’s just so darned easy.

Fourth: Cheapskate alert. Not only is this lifestyle cheaper than eating cooked food. It also happens that when people learn you’re trying to eat raw, they give you produce. I cannot explain this. Food just magically appears. Strangers give away their gardens, their extra watermelon, their overbought mangoes, the fruit on their trees. Today one friend gave me a container of raw coconut oil. Another gave me a pineapple. A pineapple! (Thank you J and K. Love you!)

Finally: Energy. I feel like I’m full of light and joy when I eat this way. It’s a pretty great high. I know how weird it sounds to suggest that raw food provides some sort of life force, but I can’t find an alternative explanation for the way this feels. Live enzymes? Who can say. A spiritual high? Indisputably. Some sort of cosmic unity with the universe? Ummm...or maybe I’m just stoned on bananas.

Monday, June 11

Today’s Butt Whoopin’

Lost only half a pound over the weekend – not quite enough to move the ticker down another notch.

But today’s workout was brutal. Put in 1.5 miles on the treadmill. Then Johnny Walker kicked my hindquarters for another half hour, making me do steps and squats. He’s kind of mean, really. He made sweat run into my eyes, and didn’t have any sympathy at ALL!

Unfortunately, it seems I have the lung capacity of a corpse. It’s getting better, though, despite the fact I collapse between intervals. Miracle of miracles, I can balance on the bad leg momentarily. Couldn’t even put my full weight on it when I started this game. Balancing – even briefly – is a huge thing. Yay for Johnny Walker!

Then I put in another half hour on the bike. Pandora seems to know instinctively how to keep my heart rate above 135...and rewards me with a little Otis Redding when I do really well.

Johnny Walker is looking forward to Wednesday’s public weigh in, and predicts there’ll be some loud cursing when they call out my number.

I’m trying to think of a disguise to wear. I do NOT want to be on display. I'm in it for the money, I tell you! So whaddya think? Oversized sunglasses and a large straw hat?

Saturday, June 9

Air that You Breathe -- Yuck!

My breath’s so bad it actually woke my husband. “Ugghh,” he said, rolling away from me. “What did you eat?”

It’s happening. Ketone breath. Ketosis. Halitosis on ketones.

In my religious community, we fast together, all 14 million of us, the first Sunday of each month. Those Sundays, we sort of tend to hug one another at arms’ length. It’s only polite, what with the bad breath and all. (There’s also a lot of surreptitious gum chewing going on – which is kind of like cheating, but I’m pretty sure God’s okay with us not gagging our neighbors with our collective smelly breath. Sort of an underground-secret Eleventh Commandment.)

On those Sabbaths, we give to the poor the money we would have spent on food for ourselves. What we don’t give the poor is a whiff of our bad breath. We just donate to a shared pool and let the bishop sort it out -- after he's brushed his teeth.

Fasting breath – ketone breath – is some reeking combination of nail polish remover and rotting apples that you just don’t want to sit next to for very long. You want the scientific explanation? “The ketone body acetoacetate will slowly decarboxylate into acetone, a volatile compound that is both metabolized as an energy source and lost in the breath and urine.”(1) Imagine waking up next to it.

Ketone breath is also what you live with when you’re not exactly fasting, but losing weight rapidly with any diet. There’s not much to be done about it, beyond drinking lots of water to sort of dilute the effects, and chewing mint leaves (yummy, yummy mint leaves) to disguise it.

If I'm going to scale that wall of fat, though, my breath is gonna befoul the air. Apologies to whomever sits next to us in church. Too bad tomorrow’s not Fast Sunday!

Friday, June 8

Just Stayin' Alive

I’m off the plateau! After drowning my sorrows yesterday in Adriatic figs – and oh, baby, do I love Adriatic figs! They’re the Fig Newtons of raw food. In fact, they’re the Figs of Newtons, and, it turns out, the only bit worth eating. But I digress – I hit the gym and weighed in two pounds lighter.

Woo hoo!

The most significant aspect of today’s workout: A fast mile-and-a-quarter on the treadmill. There was a time when I would’ve given up about halfway through that. Distractions, y’know. A book that needed writing, a paper that needed editing, an interview to be scheduled, a dish that needed washing. Any “real-world” excuse at all, and the exercise session would end.

What kept me from quitting today? Barry Gibb.

I have a dark secret: I’m sort of a dancing queen. I can’t help myself; I came of age during disco. If it has a fast four beats to a measure, I can’t be stopped. The toes start tapping, the hips start twitching, and I’m up and moving. My husband believes I’m some sort of an automaton when it comes to pop music. But a girl’s gotta dance!

So that’s one reason I’ve never owned an MP3 player. Music, like exercise, distracts me from real work. And I’m a serious adult now. Can’t be jumping up and dancing every time a little Abba comes my way.

Last week I finally broke down. “If I’m going to be using the gym,” I told my better half, the professional geek and avocational musician, “I need tunes. Help!”

“Use Pandora,” he said.


“Just install Pandora on your phone, set yourself up some radio stations, and be happy.”

Who knew? I installed the free software, played around for a bit, and finally nailed it. One Motown station, and one Disco station, plus a Sloop John B. station for cooling down.

And now I even have my own drinking game: Every time an Earth, Wind and Fire song pops up, I stop what I’m doing, and put in a lap around the outside of my gym.

Oops...BoogieWonderland is queuing. Gotta go. Cheers!

Thursday, June 7

Flat-Lining at the Gym

Despite a heavy-duty workout yesterday, and a rather small intake of food today, my weigh-in this afternoon showed no change.

Uh-oh. My first plateau.

I'm going to power through this. And I learned something today about weight loss and metabolism.

I'll admit I'm guilty of rolling my eyes when I hear people claim they're heavy because they "have a slow metabolism." I secretly believe they're heavy for the same reason I am: Snarfing Hostess fruit pies when nobody's looking. Eating a complete brick of cheese while waiting for the sandwich to toast. Eating all the leftover lasagna so it doesn't go to waste.

And I also secretly believe that "metabolism" is one of those made-up nonsense words like "certificated," "orientated," and "irregardless." It strikes me as sort of an imaginary metaphysical descriptor, in the same realm as aura, or charisma, or "street sense."

So as a public service to you, good reader, I did some research.

It seems that the word metabolism is kind of invented. The more descriptive term would be "basal metabolic rate." Now that, I can get my head around. It's still a number that can't be measured, but I can fathom a rate that's an amalgamation of tangible things: body size, body temperature, gender, muscle mass, heart rate, age, exercise, and inherent degree of fidgetiness. (One of my sons was much thinner growing up than the other kids. I attribute that to his tendency to run a lap around the table between each french fry. We called him the papillion -- after the nervous little dogs.)

The pertinent point is this: The more weight I lose, the slower I'll lose weight, because one significant component of basal metabolic rate is my weight. Hauling around a yard of lard uses more calories than tripping the light fantastic.

OK. So I'm plateauing. Time to up my game at the gym before some sweet young 268-pound man overtakes me.

Wednesday, June 6

Sunny Gym

Lest we forget the original purpose of going to the gym, here's a report on the progress of my slow-healing leg.

Getting up and down stairs with an atrophied leg and dead foot is presently my biggest problem -- but I'm making progress. The first day at the gym, Johnny Walker put me on a weighted machine that required me to push my knees up using my feet. My perfectly healthy right leg handled the task without any effort. I pushed the weight up a full four inches or so, the full range of my foot's motion.

But my left leg? You couldn't have slid a sheet of paper under my heel. Absolutely no movement.

And what a gimp I was when I first walked into the gym. Every step was painful, and sometimes it hurt so bad to lift my foot I'd just drag it, like my town's version of Quasimoto.

Today, I'm lifting that weighted machine a couple of inches with my left leg, and I just managed a little over a mile on the treadmill, barely limping. Yes I did.

I'm not sure I could have done a mile on the treadmill before I broke my leg. I could've managed maybe a walk around the block; on a really good day, maybe a couple of laps. But today I walked a mile in my own shoes. So y'know when I suggested a few postings back that maybe God gave me a little shove down those stairs? Raise your hands in the air if you're now a believer. Hallelujah!

Tuesday, June 5

First Challenge: A Party

I'm an advisor to a group of teenagers involved in a legislative program, and today was their end-of-session party. An ice cream party. With a birthday cake, to boot.

Guess who provided the cake? And guess who has been ice-cream addicted since her unfortunate bout of teenaged employment at Baskin-Robbins?

Yeah, this was going to be a problem.

I was about to know first-hand what alcoholics have to live with. Now I'm not a drinker. In fact, I've never even tasted alcohol. And I don't do coffee, don't even drink Coke. So in my 53 years of hard partying, turning down drinks has never given me pause. I just don't drink, it's not an option, I'm not even tempted.

This, though, was going to be my AA moment. I was going to a party where my own addiction was being served. Chocolate frosting. Aaaaahhhh. Ice cream sundaes. With toppings. Ohhhhh. And there were no carrot sticks on offer to give me an alternative. And I'd just spent an hour in the swimming pool, and was very hungry.

What did I do?

I'll admit it. I tried to think of ways to justify eating just one serving. "It's a party. The kids will be disappointed if I don't join in. I haven't eaten anything bad in almost a week. I did just exercise, so that pretty much compensates for the calories. I haven't eaten hardly anything today."

In the end, though, I couldn't fool myself. One misplaced foot, one toe down the path of self-justification, and it was over. So I slapped myself, hard, went to the other side of the room, far from the cake and ice cream, and found a way to distract myself. I texted. I talked to teenagers. I took photos of the kids and posted to Facebook. And a little while later, it was all over. The cake was gory looking, the ice cream was melted. And I wasn't "drunk." I even managed to drive the remaining cake over to the house of a teen who'd missed the party, and hand it over without clutching it to my chest.

It's nice to be able to lie down at night with a clear conscience. Very, very nice.

Monday, June 4

A Horse Tale

One day a farmer walks into a bar.

"Give me something strong," he says.

The bartender hands him a drink. "Bad day?"

"I'll say. I thought I'd be rich. Now I'd just gonna drink myself blind."

"What happened?"

"Well, I had this horse, you see, and I thought maybe I'd train him to go without food. So last month I cut his rations in half. Then each week, I'd cut them in half again, until two days ago, I cut him off entirely."


"Yep, and just when I thought I'd cured him of eating, the damned horse up and died."

* * * *

B'dunk. Here's the problem with food addictions: Unlike booze and cigarettes, you can't just go cold turkey. Cold turkey. Turkey sandwiches. Turkey and gravy. D'oh!

Anyway. As I was saying. Food is the only addiction you can't just end. You've still got to eat. And diets that restrict food intake by quantity just can't last long term. We fatties simply lack the psychological makeup for it. I don't want to spend my life counting calories, sneaking candy bars, pretending that a bite of cookie dough doesn't count as calories, and just plain feeling resentful.

That's how I got myself to this weight in the first place. Calories don't count if I'm standing up while eating. Calories don't count if I'm mad. Calories don't count if it's Christmas, any holiday, my birthday, or someone else's birthday. They don't count if I'm driving, or at a restaurant, or...well,'s hard to think of a situation where I can't rationalize the non-existence of calories. The whole thing's more trouble than it's worth.

History tells me there's only one thing that works for me: Eat as much as I want. Stop counting calories. Eat my fruits and veggies, in  massive quantities -- so massive that I can't cram in anything else. Eat 'em fresh and unprocessed, because that's where all the nutrition is. Don't coat them in animal byproducts, because that's what clogs veins and makes me fat. Just keep shoving carrots down my craw, and eventually I'll be trim and healthy. How easy is that?

By the way, I went to the gym today and weighed myself on the official scale. I'm down 13 pounds since my weigh in, five days ago. Yes, I know it's nearly all water weight -- whatever that really means (if I'd kept the weight on, would that be water weight?) -- but still. Nothing but fresh fruits and veggies. And I feel great.

Saturday, June 2

My Mother Is Not Happy

My mother is not pleased about this undertaking.

"How's that diet of yours going?" she asked tonight.

"No problems. I feel great."

"What did you eat today?"

"I just finished a peach and banana smoothie." So it was full of greens. Why put her off?

"And what are you doing for protein?"

Bessie and me, noshin' on protein.
(Big hugs to my niece,
graphic illustrator Rebekah Davis,
for the drawing.)
"The same thing cows do. I'm eating grass."


"Where do you think cows get protein?"

"Well not from grass!"

"Then where?"

"I don't know. I never thought about it."

"Fruits and veggies have plenty of protein. That's why cows and horses don't keel over and die."

"Well don't call me when you pass out."

"Okay, I won't."

Friday, June 1

A Day at the Market

My nephew, comedian Nick Zielinski: "Organic food. Like there's any other kind? Wouldn't that be not food?"

* * * *

He makes a point. What, are we goats? It's not like we're eating tin cans here. I'm pretty sure every banana I've ever eaten has been an organic one. It's tough to grow a banana in a smelter.

After our fridge-cleaning adventure yesterday, I went shopping for produce. We have near our home an Asian produce market that sells so many weird kinds of produce I'm not even sure whether they're all edible. I'm pretty sure, though, that they're all organic.

I filled the cart to overflowing with everything that sounded even kind of good -- and much of it even came from bins assuring me it was organic. Thai basil. Apricots. Strawberries. Melons. Bananas -- gotta have lots of bananas! Broccoli. Peppers. Baby carrots -- organic of course. Nectarines. Romaine. Kale. Oh, so much more.

Then a few things that weren't in the produce section: some flax seed, stevia, herbs for the hanging baskets...

How much did I spend on this frenzy of produce shopping? Just under 60 bucks. The clerk and I had a laugh at the final bill. "Wow!" she said. "All that for so little? I guess because you didn't buy any meat."

I generally think it's a good day when I average less than 10 dollars per bag at Safeway. At the produce market, I averaged well under 6 dollars a bag. Your milage may vary -- and a jug of Safeway laundry detergent could throw off the numbers -- but I'm thinking this raw food adventure is going to do me one better than the $5,000 prize. I may score big on the grocery bill to boot!