Because it sure is surreal sometimes

Because it sure is surreal sometimes

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Ultimate Diet Plan: Do Nothing

Doing nothing is not only not exhausting, but, as luck would have it, calorie-burning. Check out this data from
Although the average adult human brain weighs about 1.4 kilograms, only 2% of total body weight, it demands 20% of our resting metabolic rate (RMR)—the total amount of energy our bodies expend in one very lazy day of no activity. If we assume an average resting metabolic rate of 1,300 calories, then the brain consumes 260 of those calories just to keep things in order. That's 10.8 calories every hour or 0.18 calories each minute.
Clearly, the take-away from that is if one is careful about calorie consumption on any given Sunday afternoon, it is possible, in theory, to expend more calories than one takes in, just by lying on the couch all day. The question is: Which burns more calories, turning a page or activating remote control buttons?
              Did you see that number? 260 calories “just to keep things in order.” Considering the fact that I mentally keep a lot of things in order most days, and at least half as many things in some degree of disorder, I’m burning calories just simply by being me. Sweet!
               Alas, that was the old me—the one who did yoga a few times a week and ran around the block now and then. I’m now into week four of a new personal training regimen, and on week two of the meal plan. It’s not a “diet” in the traditional sense of the word. The goal is to adjust how your body responds to food, to change its cravings, and gain an appreciation for green things. Instead of filling up on carbs, your body learns how to feel satisfied with lean protein and stuff like spinach, kale and tomatoes. One downside is that I’ve had to go back to eating meat, which I’d spent the last three months avoiding for the most part. And since last weekend was the annual Serbian goat feed, my return to eating things with a face could not have come at a better time. I also gave up dairy about three months ago, just because everyone else seemed to be doing it and reporting great things. Considering it is my favorite food group next to fermented grapes, I was ecstatic when I feasted my eyes upon the meal plan’s first day menu: Laughing cow cheese (with celery) for a snack! Lettuce wraps with chicken and string cheese for lunch! Wow!  
               The only carbs for the first two weeks came from some of the vegetables. No fruit, wheat, bread, rice, potatoes, etc. It wasn't that difficult, which my trainer says is due to the fact that I wasn’t a big bread person to begin with. Or course, I veered off path temporarily at the goat feed,  surrounded by gibanica and prijesnac (variations of Serbian cheese bread), but I stuck to vodka sodas, which have no carbs. Pretty clever, eh? Complex carbs will be phased back in over the next couple of weeks, things like oatmeal, brown rice, red wine...
               The workouts are going well. Within two weeks I noticed my pants were fitting tighter, but in a good way. I’m firming up and gaining muscle mass in my legs and butt. Not quite a Brazilian butt yet, but I think it may be somewhere north of Venezuela. My waist is shrinking ever so slowly, in part thanks to the wide variety of abdominal torture maneuvers my trainer thinks up. The conversations during the ab work sound something like this:

Me: Hi, how ya doin’ today?

Trainer: On your back.

Me: OK.

The trainer hands me the TRX straps, one for each hand, that descend from the ceiling like stretched out black mambas.

Trainer: Ok, press down with your hands, toward the floor, cross your ankles, drop your knees to one side and crunch. 20. Go.

Me: So how’ve you been? I squeak out after my second set of 20.

Trainer: On your stomach.

Me: OK.

Trainer: Elbow plank. Touch your knees to the mat. 20 times. Go.

Me: We can catch up later…

Of course, this isn’t completely accurate. There’s a lot more cussing than that. Like when my trainer is smiling and encouraging me, and I say, "You do it, asshole." But then he does do it, which leaves me to do it next. 

There is definitely something to the old saying that you get what you pay for. Like my home exercise regimens, which are free, and fairly non-existent. But hand someone some hard-earned dollars and suddenly, working out rises to the top of the shit-pile of priorities. And when someone says you've lost an inch around your waist, and another two inches from various other private places (back fat, upper arm dingle-dangle), lost a pound of fat and gained 1.5 pounds of muscle mass in four weeks? Well, that's just priceless. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Menopause: A Beginner's Guide

About the only times I’ve really spent any money on myself to get in shape throughout the years is for gym memberships and yoga. I think I’ve belonged to a gym three times in my adult life, for about a year each time. The first time was post-first baby, when I lived in Southern California. I joined a gym and had a one-time appointment with what was called a “fitness trainer” and then I was on my own. I did the circuit three times a week and then hit the treadmill. It was a yawn, but I slowly got myself back into shape.

Fast forward 12 years, when I got divorced. I decided that shedding 230 pounds was not enough; I needed some muscles. Again, I joined a local gym. Again, I was highly motivated. I knew I had to get “back in the game” as they say, but the other thing driving me was my desire to be strong, and take care of my children. As a single mom, I knew it would fall on me to carry sleeping children from the car, up the stairs and into the house; I would need to pack up the car to go camping, lift bikes into the truck and boxes of wine into the shopping cart, all by myself. Then, I got married for the second and last time, and while I've managed to keep myself up fairly well, there's a new motivation for exercising: Ol' broad Menopause is gaining ground.

A couple years ago, I started doing yoga. My body changed rapidly and I had tone where before there had been little. Plus, I really enjoyed it. I was doing the right thing for my back, which happens to be chock-full of issues: degenerative joint disease, mis-alignment, arthritis, etc. Keeping the muscles in my core strong will counteract the effects of the arthritis in my spine, my doctor said. I also began running about five years ago, but my back doesn’t like running, and it doesn’t like sitting either, which I do a lot of as an editor and writer. So lately, I’ve been at a crossroads; my yoga teacher moved away, I got busier at work, and as a result, I have fallen out of my yoga routine. But time marches on, and so does peri-menopause. (For those of you with a penis, that’s the period of time before actual menopause.) It’s the time when hormones start tinkering with a woman’s body and mind; moods shift unexpectedly; muscle tone begins to change, and wine consumption rises sharply. Of all people, it was my 16-year old son that asked me about it recently.  

“Mom, I was watching ‘That 70’s Show’ the other day and the mom was going through menopause. The husband said she was having ‘mood swings.’ She was super nice one second and the next second she was screaming like a maniac and then she was back to being nice, in like three seconds.”

“Yep. That about sums it up.”

“Are you in menopause?”

“Nope, but it’s gaining on me. Those same symptoms are starting to happen to me.”

“How do I know which mood you are in?”

“Just don’t be an a-hole, ever, and we’ll be good.”

“When am I ever an a-hole?”

“Well, you know when I ask you to put your clothes away and you mumble, “yeah,” but then you don’t do it?”



“You know when I’m about to put dinner on the table and you chase the dog through the kitchen?”



“But that’s just me being a kid.”

“You asked me.”

“Are you getting that feeling right now?”


“I’m going to go clean my room.”

“I’m glad we had this talk, son. I love you.”

“Love you too, Mom.”

So now I’m working out with a personal trainer. It’s not cheap, but the results come in a fraction of the time. And there’s accountability: Every week, he watches me do those reps and crunches and lunges and I need to be better than I was last time. It's also keeping me on the lookout for new and inventive ways to cuss. (Firm) bottom line: I’m highly motivated to stay ahead of the menopause curve, build muscle and be strong. 

After all, those boxes of wine aren’t getting any lighter.