March Snow

If there is anything a New Englander can learn about March, it is that suffering is finite. Here we are, in the middle of Lent, and the skies opened and dropped 16 inches on us Friday – a far cry from the predicted tally. It was a stark contrast to the “Shut everything down a day in advance” that we experienced with Nemo, though. My son’s school was closed. But Boston schools carried on. We all shrugged and went to work and pulled out our well worn shovels and started shoveling. But not the frantic, precise shoveling of January, where every snowflake promised a near-permanent constraint of movement for the remainder of winter. But a lackadaisical, good-enough attitude far from the typical dour perfectionism of New England.

Not long after the last flake fell, the melt began. No matter how well or poorly you shoveled, the heat of the nearer sun wipes away the sin of a bad job like grace at Easter. The shlump of heavy snow falling persists. My sons wander around in shorts and tshirts to our various engagements, and I let them because it’s downright warm! Like 45 degrees! No matter the high drifts to left and right.

Death, thou shalt die. And snow, thou shalt melt.

In less existential news, I have been following the Four Hour Body diet with near-religious adherence for four and a half weeks. Many days, not so much as a stick of artificially flavored gum has passed my lips. I have waved away carbs and fruit. I got a gym membership, and have worked out with unusual consistency for me. I have eaten eggs and beans for breakfast. And lunch. And dinner.

For my pains, I have… not lost any weight. It’s hard to tell, of course. There’s so much signal and noise with weight. Drink a huge glass of water, and you gain almost a pound. Weigh yourself in the morning and you’re down two pounds. But on my “cheat day” I weighed myself and my weight was back where it was when I started. After a full month, I consider this a sign that this diet does not work for me. Any of the modifications to the diet that I might try come back to calorie restriction PLUS food type restriction. In studies, 10+% of compliant participants fail to lose any weight. I suppose I simply have to acknowledge that I am in this minority and change methodologies.

So I have to decide whether I really want to lose weight, and if so what different methodology I should use. I’m thinking pure and simple calorie restriction is probably the best choice.

I’ve been travelling what feels like a lot for work lately. I was in Minnesota for two days last week. I found it particularly moving to watch the snow fall from a 20th story corner room. The city appeared and disappeared as the snow picked up, and the winds moved white drifts between the buildings. I found it hard to turn off the lights, remove my ability to see (contacts) and shut my eyes. It was fun to see the same storm twice.

I’m headed out again for almost three days in another week. I’m hoping that’s it for a while! At least the next trip is training, and in Tampa.

In other news, one son is reading. One son is building beautiful things with magnetic shapes. We have rejiggered our dining room to look like we live here and are not squatting in someone else’s house.

And it is March. Both Easter and Spring will come soon, and wipe the snow and cold away. And we will walk with bright hearts under a hot sun again.

Yes, kind sir, she sits and spins

I find myself at an odd confluence of events today. I hope that you know me well enough by now to know that although I pay attention to my body and appearance, I’m far from obsessesed with the Western standard of beauty for women. It helps to have realized it is unobtainable for me.

However, I am starting to think that the pregnancy weight I put on with Thane will not actually come off by itself. Call it a hunch. I would like my maintenance weight to be the weight I was before I started procreating lo eight years ago. This is a matter of 25 pounds. I believe this is achievable, having worked my way back to it before between the boys. So when my husband asked if I would join him in this diet he’s done a ton of research on, and which he has found efficacious before, I figured this was a good time to attempt the challenge again.

The diet is a called the Slow Carb Diet and is more or less a geek’s attempt to optimize weight loss. In some studies, it’s been shown to be more effective than other forms of diet. My husband did a ton of research on it. The basic concepts are this:

1) Eat all low glycemic index foods: lean meats, vegetables and legumes
2) Eat no high glycmeic foods: any form of carb, fruit, diary, sugar, sweetener. Any food that “comes in white” is right out. (With exceptions).
3) Take one cheat day in seven and eat all the carbs you want (to prevent other cheating, and to prevent your body from going into starvation mode)

In practice this means that breakfast is eggs and beans (breakfast is the hard part). Thank HEAVENS I drink my coffee black! Lunch is dinner leftovers. Dinner is a compliant meal like split pea soup, cassoulet, black bean casserole, morrocan chicken, lentil soup…

Snacks have been the hard part. I’ve probably had more nuts than I should. Hard boiled eggs are great for this. Veggies with hummus become the culinary highlight of your day. My husband says the hardest part is that you get absolutely not taste of anything sweet with this diet. It’s true. Even artificial sweeteners are out. He says the flip side is that you “reset” your perception of sweet, so that a glass of milk or an apple seems deliciously sweet.

I’m on day three, and so far I’ve been compliant. We’ll see how it goes. I figure that an attempt is better than no attempt, and that the possibility of success is motivating. My weight is pretty stable, so once I’ve lost the weight, i believe I will be able to keep it off using more normal dietary constraints.

If you’re curious, here is some other information on the diet:

A few weeks ago, I had finally decided that my knee was far enough from right — nearly 18 months after massive knee surgery — I was not content with the condition of my knee. I can’t cross it. I can’t kneel. It hurts with the weather. And most importantly, the differences in strength between repaired left knee and normal right knee are more than obvious enough to be seen in my legs. They’re still working differently, and my body is pulled off center. Like weight loss, I’ve concluded this won’t fix itself. So I went to my orthopedic surgeon – expecting a PT prescription.

Instead, he gave me a prescription for spinning class. Greaaaat. Now, I believe that when you ask for medical help and advice you should consider it, and assuming it passes the sniff test, you should implement it. I suppose I shouldn’t have needed an orthopedic surgeon to tell me that I needed exercise for my knee, but apparently I did. Having gotten that advice, I treat it as sacred as a PT prescription, and decided that logistic impossibilities aside, I needed to comply.

In truth, I am really feeling the need for exercise. I don’t feel strong, or flexible, or powerful. I feel weak and fragile. My two mile a day walking simply isn’t enough, or the right kind of exercise. Of course, the flip side is that I truly do not know where I can find two hours a week to go to the gym. I will simply have to be opportunistic about it. But that is no excuse for not trying.

So I have signed up for a froo froo gym with a gazillion classes* and exercise equipments and the kind of strutting gym rats that have provided disincentives for unathletic, pudgy geeks like me since the gym was invented. Fortunately, I’m no longer 22 and do not care for their disregard.

So here I am, in February, with mounds of snow on the ground, on a wacko diet that means I can’t have Honey Nut Cheerios for breakfast and the kind of gym membership that everyone has and no one uses.

I’ll let you know how it works out!

*Critically, it has about 16 spinning classes a week and child care and is less than 5 miles from my house.

The gift my youngest has given me

After I had Grey, I had a tough time losing the weight. Despite nursing, it didn’t just “melt off”. It settled in for the long haul.

After a Fourth of July when I saw a picture of myself in a bathing suit, I decided that I must have an issue with my thyroid or something. I knew any doctor I approached would ask me about diet and exercise. Of course I eat a reasonable diet and exercise regularly! That couldn’t be it! But they’d want, you know, facts of something.

So I found a website,, that helps you measure calories and exercise. For a lark I entered how much weight I wanted to lose in what amount of time. The site told me what I needed to accomplish that: namely eat 1200 – 1500 calories a day and exercise for another 500 calories worth a week (a combination of strength and cardio training). I tracked my calories for a day, not actually intending to change what I ate, until I saw how the calories added up. 

I tried their recommendations for a week, and discovered I’d lost a pound or two.

And then I discovered that every week I followed the calorie and exercise guidelines, I lost a pound or two.

It took me just about three months to get back to my prepregnancy weight. It turns out iron willpower is good for something: namely for sticking with a 1200 – 1500 calorie a day diet and exercise plan. It helped that I had some internal goals around other nutrients that kept me interested. For example, my “normal” diet includes about 17 grams of fiber. My recommended fiber intake is 25 grams. I never make it, but it’s kind of fun to try.

Once I had the pregnancy weight off, I didn’t have to work very hard to keep it off. I had developed a much better understanding of what foods sink you and what foods don’t. For example, the decadent feeling 220 calories for a pack of Oreos is equivalent to two barely noticed glasses of milk. The milk is more nutritious, but I’d simply never realized how quickly something like drinking milk could add up. I tweaked my favorite drink at Starbucks so it would be only about 30% more calories than an equivalent glass of milk (the primary source of calories in it). I ate more fruits and vegetables. I paid more attention to what I ate. I didn’t go crazy — it’s not as though cake never crossed my lips in that time. No food is forbidden, it just needs to be accounted for. And even the annoyance factor of having to enter the foods helped me resist.

The two miscarriages I had actually added a few pounds (I was in no mood to work to remove weight from them). And Thane graced me with slightly more weight than Grey had.

Now, I’m not crazy. I’m also a nursing mother. As I understand it, Thane gets first dibs on my calories — my body will starve itself to provide for him. I still need to make sure I eat enough to feed us both and NOT starve myself.

I actually find it really encouraging that I have done this before. Were it not for the pregnancies, I truly believe I would’ve kept off most of that weight. I would like to weigh the same when I’m 40 and 50 and 60, instead of starting off higher and adding on the 2 – 3 pounds a year that is normal. I believe I can do it in a healthy way.

I know there are people who cannot calorie restrict healthily. I think I’ve shown that’s not my case. I know there are people who have medical or genetic considerations that make it difficult for them to lose weight. That is also not the case. I know that yo-yo dieting is counterproductive. I do not think that this is a yo-yo diet, although pregnancy sort of makes that a fuzzy issue. I have also made sure that I have enough clothes to feel good about myself at the weight I am, not the weight I want to be. It’s hard to exercise when you don’t like your body.

But I’m ready to start trying.