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March 1, 2010

March check in

Over the weekend I actually did a few things and even took pictures but I'll talk about them later in the week when they are thoroughly not fresh anymore... because today is March One! Time for a check in.

March is usually the time when my New Year's Resolutions begin to slip away, then I meander aimlessly toward my birthday in June when I make a new set of to-do items aimed to get me back on track. I'm actually glad this year I made the decision to write at the beginning of each month and check in with myself and my goals because it keeps them at the top of my priority list, which was the point of setting goals to begin with. Of course when it's August and my check in is "Yes, last month happened. Moving on...." we'll all have a good laugh and... uh, move on.

All of my lists and goals and tasks are always about two essential things: getting physically healthy and getting happy. So this year I broke it down into just those two goals.

Goal #1: Get Healthy
I dreaded my book event for many reasons but let's be honest: mostly I just didn't want to stand up in front of a room of people with cameras and be fat. But you know what? I lived. It ended up being really fun. Was I at my ideal size? No. Did it affect the quality of my penmanship as I signed books? Not a bit.

Listen, 2009 was a rough year. I found out I had this weird malady that I don't talk about because I don't want to be the poster child for said condition. But it involves really re-thinking everything you eat and I kind of sucked at it and by year's end I had gained a lot of weight. I also got pretty sick, which is why I seemed to remain perpetually two steps from the morgue from September through the end of last year. By December 31, 2009, I was sick and tired of being sick and tired and I started the new year with real determination to get healthier.

I specifically did NOT make this goal about weight and have very carefully avoided talking about losing weight as a goal because I don't want or need dieting advice. (I still got an email last month from a male reader who said, "All you need to do is eat less and exercise more." And I thought silently to myself, "OH NO!! REALLY!! YOU SHOULD ALERT THE MEDIA!!!")

People who have never struggled with their weight don't realize this but most of us who do struggle with this issue know more about dieting and calories and diet plans and exercise regimes than anyone. We don't need a better book or how-to manual. We know what to do. We just don't do it. And speaking for myself I can tell you that I have been on a diet on and off for thirty years of my life and my weight problem is not going to be solved by another diet. My weight issue is between my ears. It's in my head, folks. I have to work on me, the inside-me, for the outside to fall in line.

This is why I have never considered weight loss surgery. I would be one of those people who gain it all back. I know this because fixing my weight issue starts in my head, in my thinking and in my way of dealing with stress and emotions.

For those of you who don't get it, maybe you think "Just put down the fork! Just go for a walk!" but think carefully about your own life and that one issue you have that shames you, that stops you cold sometimes, that one area of yourself you want to change. Is it compulsive spending? Obsessive hoarding? Terrible money management? Dating guys who treat you poorly? Going after married men? Substance abuse? Constant inertia in your job/life/family? Whatever it is, that problem you have, well -- that's what it's like for someone with a weight issue. It's an issue, just one that is more visible to the world. And it changes only with a combination of behavior modification and real effort to re-think your mental approach to it.

I'm focusing on getting healthy because it's systemic. It's not a diet, you can't fail it, you can't do it for anyone but you, and there are lots of cool components to it.

In February my goal was to build on the stuff I was doing right, like cook all my own food and go for walks in the mornings. I also wanted to work on getting better at having breakfast regularly. I was skipping breakfast because I didn't want to take the five or six minutes each morning to prepare it, which is just silly. So I decided to buy honey and cinnamon and leave it at my office and bring yogurt and eat that at my desk each day. It's going very well!

I didn't walk very much at all in February, a combination of rain and exhaustion and creativity with excuses... so in March my goal is to walk every day, even if just for ten minutes. I'm happy to say I have thus far walked every day in March. You know, meaning today.

My other goal for March is to try a new recipe every weekend this month because I'm starting to get in a food rut, making generally the same meals day in and day out. But this whole roasted vegetable thing has been a revolution in my life. I am a roasting fool! I love it, I can eat a whole pan of roasted anything for dinner and it's just delicious and perfect.

I'm happy with my progress, even if it is slow. But real change, very significant change, is going to take a while in my poor diet-broken brain.

So it's progress, it's good. It's March and I'm still moving forward.

- - -

Goal #2: Get Happy
Well, I had a longer and more philosophical title for this resolution but the basic principle is to be happier, say yes to the best of life and ignore the icky, nasty bits.

Usually for me this is an attitude issue. For example, I could have spent LOTS of hours beating myself up mentally for not being the lithe skinnier me of my dreams for my book signing. But I recognize that you cannot go back in time and make better decisions, no matter how hard you want to do that. So, instead of flogging myself mentally I just gave it up and decided to make better decisions each day moving forward.

Sounds small, but it's a big deal for me.

I also noticed at my event last Thursday that I was more excited than nervous, a sure sign I need to get out a little more. I tend to be a recluse of Howard Hughsian proportions so in March I already have several things planned that will be nice little excursions with friends. You know, say yes and all that...

- - -

Oh, there was one other thing that happened but I'm not sure if it falls under Goal 1 or 2, it's kind of both. At the beginning of February a very, VERY thin acquaintance of mine started complaining to me about how she had gained five pounds. I have never understood why skinny people think it is cool to complain to a fat person about how awful and horrible and disgusting their invisible weight gain is. To me it's like turning to a person who just lost their job and complaining about your lousy 5 percent pay raise and 4500K bonus.

In the past I used to get really annoyed with the "Oh my God, I am so fat, I gained half a pound!" stuff. In my world that's a sandwich. You want to talk to me about a serious weight issue, call me when you have 100 pounds to lose and we'll talk.

BUT I have finally learned that skinny people don't see it like that. I have a lot of very lovely, very skinny girlfriends and to them I guess gaining five pounds really is a horrible, terrifying thing. It's hard for me to listen to this and not think, "Wow, if you think five pounds is disgusting, why are you even speaking to me, who by your own standards is a freakshow?" But it's not always about me. (Amazing, I know.)

I'm starting to realize that just because a skinny person acts like five nascent pounds is the difference between happiness and despair doesn't mean she is looking at me and thinking I'm horrible and tragic for carrying way more than five wayward pounds. And if she is judging me harshly that is her problem. And everyone has their issues, all of us. So what if I can't deeply relate to someone's fear of five pounds? I'm sure my fears of standing in front of a big crowd at a bookstore and having to (gasp) sign books sounds pretty silly. Everybody's got their stuff.

I've been thinking about all this because I'm not sure I handled the friend with the five pounds that well. At first I said, "Oh you always look tiny and great, if you gained weight it definitely is not visible..." and then she started vehemently arguing with me to tell me just how fat she was. I kind of froze, I had no idea what to say to this obviously bone-skinny person who maybe weighs ninety pounds soaking wet who is going on and on and on and on and on about how fat she is. So I tried to change the subject. Probably not perfect, but I am flummoxed when skinny people try to tell me, a very large person, how fat they are. I don't want to be snippy. I don't want to make an issue out of it. But I don't want to participate in it. Do you just listen and nod? Are you supposed to agree with them? Isn't that weird?

Any ideas on the right way to handle this?

I was pleased that I didn't get irritable with her -- she is a lovely, decent person who probably had no idea how weird that was for me -- and I didn't make it into a big deal. It shouldn't be a big deal! But I think there was a better way for me to handle it, I just don't know what the better way is.

The reality is that this is Los Angeles and it's full of skinny women who talk about their nonexistent weight problems all the time. I don't get it, it makes no sense to me, but it is what it is. Skinny folks aren't going to stop complaining about how fat they are just like I will never stop complaining about how hot it is in the Valley all summer.

So since I can't change other people, I might as well change how I react to them. I'm open to ideas if you have them!

And hellooooooo March!

Posted by laurie at March 1, 2010 11:07 AM