The Skinny Daily Post™

Short, daily essays on weight loss and fitness
from a really average woman who lost 100 lbs.
and works every day to keep it off.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2004  

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posted by Julie |

Tuesday, March 09, 2004  

VERB Is What You Do

Well, it's aimed at kids 9-13, but who says they get to have all the fun? The Center for Disease Control has a hugely popular Ad-ucational program going meant to instill active habits in U.S. youngsters. Studies show that nearly a third of the targeted age group who live in regions where the campaign is running are aware of the program, understand the message.

What's not to understand? "Move. It's good for you." We all know this, have always known it. Many of us, though, have transmogrified the message into "Move. Or You'll Die." Or "Move. It's a necessary evil." Or "Move. It has been shown in some subjects to mitigate the long-term effects of living."

There's good marketing, and there's bad marketing. Anyone in the business will tell you that the negative message is the hard sell, must be handled with care, often backfires. If you want to move people to act or change their behavior, go for the positive brand associations: "Move: It's Fun!!!"

And that's how the VERB campaign works. It's reminding kids and parents of kids how to have fun again. Not preachy, not prescriptive, these ebullient ads and websites (, make you want to go outside and play. And stay inside and play. And play with your kids. And take up skateboarding. And try a three-legged race. And recall how to play four-square. And remember that skipping rope used to keep you occupied for hours. And how tag was IT. And kick the can, and hop-skotch. It shows kids some basic yoga moves, sticking techniques for hockey, helps parents find rails-to-trails, beaches, and parks near them.

Ah, Play! Fun! It's in the upper 40s here in Michigan, and the sun has been shining brightly for days, melting ice and snow, revealing our walking and bike paths. And underdressed, overeager, we're out in it, in shorts, with convertible tops down. (Michiganders who drive convertibles are staunch optimists, and deserve a wave and a smile at this or any time of year.)

One broken hole in the ice on the little lake near my home brought down rafts of waterfowl. My beloved Buffleheads, Redheads, Goldeneyes, and Mute Swans. Birders hiked down to the docs, up over rocks, maneuvering woods and beaches with their binocs to get a better look, and counted them off for me as I passed by, headed for the beach where ice floes had yet to break free and tumble into Lake Michigan. Horizon lovers were roaming the beach, taking in the wind and sun and remarking on the powerful landscape sculpting winter wind and ice performs on our beaches. Runners have begun training for the big local race in May. Helmeted kids leave fat bike tire tracks in the last of the sun-sparkling slush. I watched a kid shovel the heavy snowmelt from his family driveway so he could shoot hoops with his gloves and hat on. Poop patrol is underway in yards everywhere, hunting down a winter's worth of Fido's deposits. Bikes, trikes, strollers, and skates came clanking and squeaking out into the sunshine. And my irises are poking up, making my pruning hand itch.

It's time to VERB. Pick your pleasure. Keep it fun. All it has to be is action. If you like it, you're more likely to keep it up. Fun is fun for fun's sake. We all need it. (And yes, of course, it's good for you, will help you lose or control your weight.)

So, what'll it be, friend? A hoop, a bike, skates, garden shears this year? Pick an active hobby, and Move. It's fun.

About the CDC campaign

The site for kids

The site for parents

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posted by Julie |

Monday, March 08, 2004  

Fear of Fat

Every time I say this, I make somebody mad, somebody who has yet to lose weight, who's struggling hard to lose weight, is despairing of losing weight. I understand that this message isn't jolly, isn't positive. But I'll gently remind my dear readers that this column is about my experience of finally losing a bunch of weight and working hard to keep it off. I need to tell the truth of this experience, or what's the point? It's not all jolly, folks. It's not always easy.

So I'll say it again: Losing weight is easy, keeping it off is hard.

After two years at my goal weight, I put on a few pounds this winter, and it's playing with my head. My clothes are snug. I'm counting calories and working out lots again, but the scale isn't moving. At all. I've managed to stop gaining weight, but I'm not losing it. And I'm frustrated.

The research bears it out, regained weight is harder to lose again. It's sticky stuff. It wants to stay put. It refuses to budge. I cannot drop my calories any lower without hurting myself or risking malnourishment. I exercise 6 days a week, and at a pretty good intensity, with lots of variety. The numbers are all what they should be for weight loss, but I'm not losing weight.

I know enough to know that any number of things could be going on here. I might be experiencing water retention at the moment. I am at the wicked early stages of menopause. I have put on lots of muscle.

And while I try to soothe myself with all of these logical explanations, and though I know that as long as the numbers are right, I'll see some movement at some point, this extra weight is breaking my heart, distracting me, making me miserable.

I'm not overweight, but I'm scared. Scared, a little freaked out, a bit overwhelmed by how easily I can gain weight these days and how hard it is to move it. Everyone warned me. And I listened, but the truth of it is more frightening than I expected. Remember the wormholes in the movie, Dune? I feel sucked toward the wormhole of my obesity.

And of course, writing to you as often as I do, while this is going on? Makes me feel a bit of a fraud, frankly. Who am I to talk about healthy living, weight loss, exercise, if I present a pudgy middle to the world? Look how people have exhumed poor Dr. Atkins to poke over his corpse. What am I setting myself up for? How can I write this column without striated deltoids? I know. I need to give readers more credit, but we're not talking to my reasoning head. We're talking to my panicking heart.

I may need to adjust my expectations. It could be that I lost too much weight, too low a weight for my body to maintain. And if that's the case, alright, but where will it stop? Where is my "set point," if there really is such a thing?

So here is the cautionary tale, friends. This is what comes of focusing a bit too closely on a number. I'm at my healthiest state in years, but I'm miserable because of a number on the scale, a pair of jeans. The lump in my throat that won't clear away is being driven by my stats, while I'm able to run miles, lift more weight, do more pushups, than ever in my history.

Three years ago getting out of bed, pushing up from my chair, meant facing pain with courage. Today nothing hurts except my pride.

As a wise reader said to me recently, "It's not about the bikini." She meant, it is about health. It's about achieving the best health we can hope for, given all other variables.

It's not about the bikini. It's not about the bikini. It's not about the bikini.

I'm going to put my scales away for a month and ride this one out while I train for a local 5K run in May. I'm going to try to take it easy. I'm going back to my breathing exercises. I'm going to enjoy my healthy body today.

Does gaining a few throw you completely out of your saddle? That's not a good thing, poopsie. That's disordered thinking, right there. We do gain and lose weight naturally, as a reaction to seasons of greater and lesser mobility, hormonal shifts, and most especially, as a response to stress. Heaping more stress onto weight gain by freaking out about it works entirely against us.

Journal assignment for the next time weight gain or the interruption of weight loss has you freaked out: What is it about your weight that scares you? Spend some time thinking about what you've been going through lately. Has it been a rough time? Have you been afraid, anxious for any reason? Overworked? Sad? Angry? Are you actually overeating or under exercising? These last two are the easiest things to fix. The stressors may be temporary, but if they're not, consider getting some counsel from a friend or professional to help ease them. Consider, too, whether your relationship with your scale could use a cooling off period.

Regain studies, National Weight Control Registry

Stress and weight gain, Melissa Stöppler, M.D

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posted by Julie |

Thursday, March 04, 2004  

Edible Barley

I mostly drink my barley. To be honest, other than knowing it's a main ingredient of a beverage I admire, I have barely given barley a thought.

But during the past few weeks I've been falling in love with the stuff, and am on a campaign to try it in all of its forms. That's not going to be easy, because at the moment I can't get past how much I love the plainest possible form -- cooked, hulled barley.

Why bother trying something other than the wheat and rice we're all used to eating over and over and over again at nearly every meal? Well, there you go. I answered the question by asking it.


For those of us who are sensitive to wheat, who need to control our calories, who need to raise our fiber consumption, control our blood sugar, whole barely is a great food. Its versatility and flavor make it one of the real rewards for people who are working at losing weight. Barley tastes good.

For flavor and fiber, I like hulled barley, available at your local health food store or through grain companies online. Pearled barley (scrubbed of its bran) is available just about everywhere, cooks a little faster, and is yummy too. You can find instant barley, barley grits (a great bulghur wheat substitute, if you're wheat sensitive), barley flakes, and rolled barley. Barley flour is a low-gluten flour great for use in pancakes, popovers, and quickbreads.

The whole grains take a little while to cook. Many people soak the grains all day or overnight before cooking them. Pressure cookers eliminate soaking time, and rice steamers work very well, although you need to watch out for bubbling over. In my rice cooker, I can cook barley in under an hour. Lately I've been cooking up a batch on weekends, then refrigerating it to use throughout the week as side dishes, in salads, or simply heated by the bowlful in the morning. Its high protein and fiber content make it a great food to eat alone, but I usually add a little olive oil, because I like that sort of thing.

Barley takes spices nicely, and works as well hot or cold. This makes it fun to play with, working as the basis of a cold salad or a hot pilaf. It can be cooked with water or broth, added to soups, breads, and casseroles.

I've been rolling up a half a cup of barley spiced with cumin and chili powder into my Ezekiel sprouted-grain tortillas with baby spinach and some shredded queso fresco for a great morning sandwich on my run out the door. Oh yeah. It's good.

It's good, and it's old. One of the grand old grains, among the first ones we ever thought to cultivate. It's good for more than beer. More than the malt in your milkshake. Give whole barley a try, or you might be missing something.

Barley recipes at

Pearled barley nutrition facts,

Order barley products online, Bob's Red Mill

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posted by Julie |

Tuesday, March 02, 2004  

The Smallest Things

So I dropped my pen today. One of my average klutzy moves, my pen flipped out of my hand, landing in front of me in what would have been a worst-case-pen-dropping scenario if it had happened when I was at my heaviest. I dropped my pen in the middle of a wide and busy hallway.

In the old days, I would have considered letting the pen go. It might have been easier to pretend the pen wasn't mine than to try to struggle for it in such a public space.

Retrieving a dropped pen used to take a lot of thought. If I decided the pen was worth retrieving, I entered into planning mode. I would need to consider my approach. Should I try to lower myself using my bad knee, or drop down onto the bad knee? Either choice would mean an afternoon of pain. Which sort of pain did I want to manage, and did I have enough drugs?

Would there be a chair or wall nearby I could lean into after levering myself back up, or to help me push my way back to a standing position? Wide hallways offer no support here.

Dropping to the floor is a simple matter of using your body to control gravity, something I became worse at doing over time, but could still manage. Getting back up again required real work, use of my arms and legs to hoist 250+ pounds up into the air, and my body was never quite prepared for it. It responded by dropping my blood pressure, making my heart pound, and then I would see dark rings or perhaps my vision would go completely black for a few seconds. With a wall or chair to steady myself, I could recover without drawing too much attention.

Then the ego issues. Who is around? Will anyone see me? Is there a small child at hand who can hand me my pen? Will my flushed face return to its pasty paleness in time for my next meeting?

Today I dropped my pen in a busy, wide hallway among college students. I folded both knees to get it, stood back up again and took three or four steps more before I realized what I had done. And what I hadn't done.

It was nearly a thoughtless action. In the old days this event would have been one of a series of mean little physical challenges that built toward a difficult and frustrating day. Today pen-dropping is just a part of my natural awkwardness. Hardly worth noting.

But it is worth noting. It's actually worth celebrating as one of a hundred ways that a healthy body makes living easier. I keep track of these things, and recommend you do too. If you have lost weight, become more fit, start a list of the things, large and small, that are easier now than before. If you're planning on becoming more fit, make a list of the little annoyances you'd like to overcome.

It's so easy to take the small things for granted. I'm often guilty of missing the details in my busy run through my day. But noticing the good stuff helps me protect my health. It helps me do what I have to do to be as healthy as I can be for as long as I have.

Write down the details, friends. I will if you will.

Fainting, American Heart Association

Caring for your knees, American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons

Talk about small things, the world's dullest blog

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posted by Julie |

Monday, March 01, 2004  

No Time for This

Overbooked, overextended? It's the morning rush, the calendar haggles, the job, the lunch-hour errands, the doctors' appointments, meals, kids' after-school programs, committee meetings. Or it's pure overwork, plain and simple. Your life is so demanding. You don't have time to cook. You don't have time to exercise. No time. No energy. No way.


Look, overbooked is a fact of life these days. You can be ridiculously overbooked, or very overbooked, or kind of overbooked, or slightly overbooked, but all these degrees of too-too-much amount to the same thing: You have more to do in a day than you have time to do it.

So adding cooking healthy meals and exercising to all of that won't actually make things much worse, now will they? It's just a matter of degree and priority. And they will make your energy stores and the years you have to enjoy overbooking yourself more plentiful.

If you put off eating well and exercising, you're not modeling good behavior for your kids (my favorite guilt card). If you put off eating well and exercising, you're doing damage to yourself that may become permanent, or very hard to heal. If you put off eating well and exercising, you're missing out now. Today. And you shouldn't miss out now, no matter how busy you are.

The busiest people I know who enjoy good health work in a workout and find a way to eat nourishing, whole foods every day. The rich and famous do, the grand and powerful do, the introverted geniuses do, the chronically busy do. Why not me? Why not any of us?

Some hints for eating well, exercising, and multi-tasking from friends who get it done:

*Cook up whole grains, roasts, and casseroles over the weekend to enjoy, reheated, stir-fried, cassaroled, sandwhich-wrapped during your busy week.
*Eat more vegetable-puree soups you simmer on the stove while going through your mail, catching up with friends on the phone, helping somebody with their homework.
*Bread machines and whole-grain recipies, people.
*Leave the fruit in a bowl in the middle of your kitchen. Keep the bowl full.
*Crock-pot cooking is back, baby. It's the groovy new old thing.
*Splurge once in awhile on good takeout.
*Grocery Store Salad bars are for families too, and faster than fast food.
*Shop together. Read labels together. Make good choices together.
*Many grocery stores now deliver. It's not cheap, but it's better than relying on fast food.
*You can get in a good walk while talking with your parents on a cell phone headset.
*You can get it in a good walk with your spouse or kid or parent or sibling or buddy.
*You can get in a good walk or jog while catching up with a co-worker or colleague, negotiating deals, or planning hostile takeovers.
*When you drop off your daughter at her Kung Fu class, look for classes for yourself that run at the same time.
*When you take your kids to the ball park, pack your walking/jogging shoes, and let the kids know you'll see half the game, but the other half you'll spend getting your own exercise.
*Sign up all your friends for a dance class.
*Meet your buddies for long walks on the weekends.
*Trade morning rush supervision with your dear other so one of you always gets the chance to exercise.
*Exercise with the family during commercial breaks, during TV viewing, or instead of TV viewing. Keep plenty of exercise equipment in front of the TV for everybody else: Therabands, Exercise balls, dumbbells. Make sure everybody knows how to use them.
*Dance around the house while dusting and vacuuming.

Don't try to sort out your life before scheduling eating better and exercising. Sneak it in to your busy day, which is likely to be overbooked no matter what you do.

Lots of ways to fit in exercise,

Crock pot/slow cooker recipes from

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posted by Julie |

Thursday, February 26, 2004  

A Simple Thank You Will Do
Take a compliment

"What an accomplishment." I hear that from a lot of folks. "That's really quite an accomplishment." They're talking about my weight loss. I don't mean to be ungracious, but I want to deflect that notion for some reason. I don't think of this as accomplishment. I think of it as a necessary project that I've completed. Like finally cleaning out the basement after letting it go for years. A necessary evil.

I made weight loss a primary focus in my life for about a year. I've elevated weight and health maintenance among my priorities since then. Lots of aspects of my life have taken a dip so that I could do this. I changed jobs, my house isn't as clean, my husband is neglected in so many ways, I don't see as much of family or friends. But I have a much healthier body. It doesn't feel like an accomplishment, it feels like a trade-off.

I traded one kind of living for another. But I am not a more accomplished person for living differently. I'm simply healthier than I was before.

I can point to actual accomplishments in my life. Things I've done or fought for, for which I truly am proud. Most of the time when I was caught up in doing these things, I wasn't taking very good care of my body. When I accomplished things, my body kind of dwindled through malnutrition and lack of exercise. Because I never developed any habits for maintaining my body, accomplishment went hand-in-hand with wasting health.

That's why the popular tendency to view overweight people as lazy has always baffled me. When I see an overweight person, I see a workaholic. I see somebody so absorbed with what they do that they never get out of their chair, too driven to do more than dive for the nearest vending machine or fast food drive-in for sustenance.

My prejudice works both ways. When I see extraordinarily fit people, I think, "Haven't you anything better to do?" I forget that it's possible to think and plan while on a treadmill (you can even take notes, draw models, sketch plans) or an exercise bike. It never before occurred to me that long runs are a great time to solve problems big and small, sort out the day's plans, catch up on the news, strategize the next meeting. Skinny people always looked pretty and empty-headed. And I really need to work on that prejudice, still. It's not fair.

The sad fact is, the personal is political. Bodies make all sorts of impressions. We have an innate tendency to size one another up, draw immediate conclusions. We are visual beings, and with every glance we make our sense of things on a subliminal level. We assign character and value to every sort of choice a person makes in their presentation from shoe leather to hairpins. And then we're so surprised to learn when Mr. Pretty Bleached Blonde has a brain, Mr. Tassle Loafers has a heart, and Ms. Grunge has a trust fund. We may try to overcome these conclusions with reason, but the impression comes first.

We hate that. When we're heavy we hate watching those conclusions happen, knowing we will have to find a way over the top of them. We'll have to work to make a different impression.

People will compliment you for losing weight. And when that happens, you may flinch. Try to remember that people don't know what to say. We all know the personal is political, and that has stopped us from saying anything when clearly, not noticing is not the right thing to do, either. So when people know that you've lost a lot of weight, it may feel they're congratulating you for joining a different team, one you have no intention of playing for.

But stop and think: they know, probably, that you had to make trade-offs. They know, probably, that it was important to you to lose weight, for whatever reasons. It may not be that they like you better small than large, but that they recognize you had to work hard to accomplish a goal you set for yourself. It's not fair to assume that they see fitness as something special, unless they're your doctor. Your doctor does want you fit. No doubt about that. Take a breath, and take the compliment. As hard as that might be for you.

About the bias against heaviness

About the bias against thinness (Hmm.. still looking for a link)

The Personal is Political, is political

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posted by Julie |
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