This is not a highlight reel from my week.   This is an unconsidered burst from the mental Kalashnikov.

Diet:  calorie control works, damn it! Works, I say!  Faster-than-conventionally-mandated weight loss is not for everyone, but I think I have a good chance of success in long-term maintenance.  I spent a vast chunk of my life not overeating.  Long periods were spent eating a LOT, but that was when I played hard, didn’t eat garbage, and wasn’t eating constantly.  I suspect my machine may work best on a glut-starve-refuel cycle.  So long as I restore my pre-obesity eating/activity behavior after losing the weight, I don’t anticipate backsliding.

Besides, I’ll have access to the wardrobe I’ve toted through four states and haven’t been able to wear for ten years.  My zebra-stripe Bongos make me happy, my pink fringed flapper dress makes me happy, and looking good in jeans again will make me very happy.  Happy enough to stop after a handful of potato chips, save beer and wine for special occasions, and take immediate measures if the waistbands get tight.  (At least I’m not susceptible to soda and sweets.  Sugar addicts I’ve known make it sound worse than kicking Schedule I narcotics.  Perhaps all white drugs have similar properties.) (Mmm, sympathetic magic; why not try alchemy while I’m at it?)

Losing five pounds in a week is also a hell of a boost.  I’m down 14# overall and have another 16# to go before my visit home next month.  I hope I hit that target.  That would bring me to the weight I was at my last visit.  It would wreck my head if I went home, feeling psyched about my weight loss, and my family only saw me heavier than I was four years ago.  They will be shocked, appalled, and worried, no matter how firmly I explain that this is an improvement.  And they will do what they have always done:  kill the fatted calf and load my plate.  I only go home twice per decade.  Flatly refusing my mother’s steaks, ribs, bacon, and fried potatoes will not be an option.  But hearing her tell me how worried she is about my weight while she cuts me a large slice of pie will carbonate my brain. It’s sad that I’ll only be there for a few days, but my scale will thank me for it.

Family:  my family are salt-of-the-earth farmers.  I was brought up in a four-generation household of hardworking, teetotalling Norwegian stoics.  They are not comfortable expressing encouragement, despite how easy it is for them to voice expectations.  It looks harsh from the outside, but really, it’s like Yoda:  Do, or Do Not; There Is No “Try.”  They are a hardy bunch, and I owe them my hard-assed work ethic, which has arguably done more for me than cheerleading would have.  They also gifted me with outstanding cholesterol despite overconsumption of meat and bacon, butter and lard.   Tusen takk, mor og bestemor og oldemor!

Another incentive:  the SCA.  Honey hasn’t had time to play in years, and even if he did, it chafes him to play if he can’t fight.  The helm he ordered (and paid for) two years ago still hasn’t been delivered.  But incentive to attend a non-fighting event, contrary to his workaholic tendencies, is here:  at least one, and possibly two people we like are being elevated at 12th Night Coronation in January.  This event is sort of like prom, and people wear their finest clothes.  I’m completely torn.  It’s incentive to lose weight, but it’s also incentive to sew!  And anything I make had better fit!

It’s all I can do not to start drafting patterns and cutting — not that I’m any great shakes as a seamstress.  I’m trying to channel that eagerness into dieting.  Being surrounded by razor-sharp dressers swathed in pearls and brocades while you are wearing something that looks like a homemade Halloween costume is not good for morale.  Morbid obesity also does not often contribute to sartorial elegance, at least not for me.  I’m so short that I look like a poorly upholstered pouffe.  I can run in stiletto heels, but I can’t spend a day on foot-high chopines.  They will just have to deal with some late-period Persian, that’s all.  Take it and like it, people!

SCA:  one of the things I value about the SCA is that, all the other business aside, it has given me a chance to learn about the chivalric virtues.  Not gallantry, not dance-class manners, but actual virtues.  This thrills me, in very large part, because I think girls are deprived of a lot of cultural conditioning toward virtues.  We are bombarded with anti-vice propaganda, and virtue in girls is often defined, not by what they do, but by what they don’t do:  she doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke, doesn’t run around with boys; she’s a GOOD GIRL.  This leads some girls to duplicity (false front of “virtue” covering a multitude of sins,) double standards (girls who take liberties reserved for boys are BAD GIRLS,) or defiance (“SCREW THIS IN SPADES,” in my case, “I’ll do as I please, and suffer the consequences.”)  There aren’t many books or movies showing girls learning about, or being obliged to display, good sportsmanship, courage, prowess, grace, self-discipline, respect, or other valuable traits.  We often see them in the context of sports, war, and business, which are historically not woman-heavy tales.  I’ve always been able to identify with male characters (I was a tomboy who primped, if that makes sense) but boys never seem to try, or have to try, to identify with central female characters.  It wasn’t called Hermione Granger and the Sorcerer’s Stone, after all.

So, having been informed by popular culture, school rules, social mores, and the aforementioned (deeply religious) farmers, I was given to understand that ladies keep their virtue in their underwear, and could lose it all through sex, a physical activity I did not, as a farm girl, associate with any virtue as such.  I didn’t buy it.  My idea of being a lady was basically being a gent:  be gracious to everyone, not based on any judgement of whether he or she deserves it, but because a gracious person behaves as such to all.  Stand firm, if you are convicted, and stay courteous even in disagreement.  Be open to the facts, especially when they contradict your current position.  Treat high and low people the same.  Be patient at all times.  That said, when the time comes to act, don’t hesitate.  Help people when you can.  Don’t carry grudges.   The one thing we all have in common is that we’re going to die one day.  Keep that in mind, and don’t sweat the details.  Enjoy each day as if it were your last.

This sort of thing is very pragmatic and simple.  A system of values beyond that, and developed in part to temper the warrior class to disciplined self-control intrigued me.  It reinforced my own experiences:  good manners are lovely, the very grease of society, but they are not in any way proof of a good heart, loyalty, self-sacrifice, or other behavior that is valuable to survival on evolved terms.  Some of the most valiant people I know have crude senses of humor and lack in courtesy.  Some of the most gallant, hand-kissing, door-opening, flowery speakers I know are snarky bitches. (Full disclosure:  some of my best friends are bitches, but not the evil, backstabbing kind.  Not anymore.)  But I would rather be friends with someone who has my back in a dark alley, who would split his last sandwich with the smelliest bum, who would jump in front of a train to save an enemy or a friend or a stranger, than be friends with a mannerly scoundrel.

Good manners are important, don’t get me wrong; I think they are essential, in fact.  But I have known evil people in candy coatings, and I think it’s important to emphasize the difference between acting like a good guy and actually being a good guy.  The best is a marriage of the two:  good deeds, and good manners.  That’s something worth striving for. Only knights may display chivalry, but the virtues are something we can all learn.  And I may not have been to an event in ages, or worn garb, or done a funny dance, but the virtues apply to my every day life as well as Society events.

There is some criminal verbosity here, and I have too much yet to do to try to revise this (the faster I type, the less chance I have to do mental editing, and my typing gets faster every day) so I’ll skip the rest of my meanderings and cut straight to the end.

Dream: I fell asleep the other night, thinking about a story I was writing, and I dreamed that in this post-apocalyptic universe, a strange electromagnetic cataclysm had given people power that amplified traits they had cultivated in their previous lives.  Dancers were tied to the elements:  hula dancers had influence over water, flamenco dancers and tangoists affected fire elements, and the family of belly dancers and body dancers were like Antaeus:  so long as they were touching earth, they had all its power.

(In the way dreams work, I knew instantly that these abilities had become hereditary, just as the dancing techniques themselves were passed from parents to children.  Breeding outside one’s element had been taboo for some time but was on the verge of becoming accepted — and with it, new breeds of element-dancers.  Some children had all the power of both lines, but breeding with other crosses caused everyone’s power to fade over time, as the new world peaked and began to spiral back to destruction.)

The problem came when people realized the cataclysm itself had been caused by a Balinese dancer.  Their arm poses, sculpting the air, were always limited to the traditional list of numbered positions; any other moves were proscribed.  An old dancer, who didn’t want to die without perfecting a new pose that she had polished in secret for many years, accidentally stumbled upon the right combination of motions and pauses to dissolve the world as we knew it — not so much hitting the “game over” pose so much as “begin new game.”  It was only through the intervention of the governing body of aboriginal dancers, who influence all the elements, that the Balinese air dancers were not punished.  (The original Balinese dancer who called down annihilation and change was consumed in the process, of course.)  There was more and more.  If it sticks with me, I may try to flesh it out. But I had to write it down before it got away.


Right now I have the hiccups.  Nothing makes me want to shoot myself like hiccups.  One reason:  I like my coffee hot enough to scald, and when I have the hiccups, I don’t drink it, I wear it.  (My friends don’t call me Hot Pants for nothing.)  Not an auspicious beginning to the week.  Good think I’m not superstitious, other than when I feel like it.  (Touch wood, heh.)

The weekend started well:  last Friday I did all the laundry and ironing for the following week, and more than the usual maintenance housekeeping.  Running errands on Saturday was kept to a minimum.  Three movies were watched, and while two of them were terrible (and the other one sad,) the sitting together on the couch part was much appreciated.  The Emmys had some nice moments, too, but I bailed very early and did odd things while Honey decompressed.  (We both often succumb to Sunday Night Anxiety in anticipation of the week to come.)

Best of all, I managed to have a Cheat Day on my diet that did include junk food, but did NOT exceed my maximum calorie limit.  The dieting has been working well lately.  I had a satori that changed my outlook.

The backstory on all this:  portion control became a problem for me some time ago.  It’s true that I am an emotional eater, and have historically self-medicated with food.  (This came from my grandmother, who came up during the Depression:  unhappy girls get cookies to cheer them up, happy girls get cookies to celebrate, and we do not waste anything, food most of all.)  Food is a pleasure to prepare and consume.  It’s a reliable distraction from boredom and a soother of nerves. But quantity hasn’t always been am issue.

I went many long years without excess food, distracting myself with new men rather than old recipes, but I became happily monogamous a decade ago.  (No regrets on that score, but the hunt, with its emphasis on visual appraisal, kept me on an adrenaline high that was inimical to heavy eating, and the constant positive feedback of appreciative glances made dietary discipline easy.)  We also moved to a state where I was miserable, and I learned how to enjoy beer. Perfect storm!

Staying home with my honey, cooking big meals for him, and drinking a sort of alcoholic bread gravy was a big change from walking miles each day as part of my commute, dancing like a fiend three nights each week, and partaking only of choice and dainty viands (how I miss the roasted shiitake and kale with tamari from the City Market!)  Good hot coffee and TEA DAMMIT TEA used to be my meds, releasing my tension and hitting my reset button.  Living in Phoenix meant quality Mexican food and not walking ANYWHERE.  Market vegetables were wilted, filthy, and bug-ridden.  Months of triple-digit temperatures made hot beverages a joke.  Ice-cold beer and G&Ts were always in the medicine chest.

In a year, I nearly doubled my weight.  Some people use retail therapy after a hard day, overspending on unneeded things to work out their ya-yas, maxing out high-rate credit cards and spending as much to service the debt as to repay it.  I did that with food:  overeating food that was not necessary, maxing out my weight, and consistently eating in a way that maintained that excess without whittling it down.

So:  my satori.  When it comes to cash, I am Frugal Frannie.  I don’t have an emotional need to spend what’s in my pocket.  Why should I do that with food?  The idea of racking up high-interest debt to purchase unneeded junk is appalling to me.  Overconsumption of food creates the same burden, the same debt.  So I need to approach weight loss as I would paying off a maxed-out high-interest credit card, spending the minimum on basics and nothing on extras.  Rent, utilities, and other real needs correspond to pared-down calorie and basic nutrition requirements, but the entertainment budget, whether dollars or calories, has been 86’d until I’m out of the hole.

Here is what is working for me right now:

Reduced calories.  Some folks say that calorie counting is a bad way to lose weight, but to me, it’s counting my change.  Saving pennies turns them into dollars, and cutting calories adds up to lost pounds.  The reverse is true:  hidden fees can nickle and dime you to death, and even a few extra calories will cause weight gain.

Screw conventional wisdom, which says anything less than 1200 calories per day is dangerous to your health.  Among other flaws in their calculations, they assume all women are of average height, 64.5″, and base their math on that.  I am 61.75 inches tall, and even when I was at my fighting weight and doing aerobics thrice weekly,  I gained weight if I ate more than 1100 calories per day.  The results speak for themselves.  Are you going to believe math based on flawed assumptions, or your scale?

Purveyors of conventional wisdom also tend to be slender/healthy, which means their lives are bent on health maintenance rather than weight loss.  The perpetually overweight people who buy the CW are heartbroken because they do as they’re told and, FOR SOME REASON, can’t seem to lose weight.  I do not crave membership in either group.

Reduced carbs.  My activity level is good for my mechanical self, but the paltry calories I burn are insufficient to require extra food consumption; my machine’s battery certainly does not need to be charged with carbs.  If I ever become a racehorse, I’ll consider eating grain again, but for the foreseeable future, my sandwiches will have no bread.  Most of my ancestors lived on little oily fishes and big greasy ruminants (and the yogurt therefrom.)  Berries are fine, but to my body chemistry, tree fruit is just candy with vitamins:  a treat, not a regular feature.

Meal control.  Mandatory breakfast, large lunch, small dinner. Most meals are a lot of water, vegetables, some protein, and little of anything else.  Good thing I love salad and stir fry and clear soups.

Rule breaking must be within the rules. If I absolutely need some salty crunch, I will eat a pickle, or crack some sunflower seeds.  If I am feeling truly hungry and deprived, a boiled egg with curry powder or lots of paprika will fix it.  If I would dearly love a cocktail, a spritzer with bitters (or even an ounce of an amari) takes care of it.  And any rule breaking must not exceed the daily allowance, period.

Food journaling.  Every damn thing that goes in the pie hole, including vitamins, water, and breath mints, must be documented and parsed for its cost and contribution.

Thinking before I eat (patient self-assessment before reaching for food.)  In addition to the money=food satori, I’ve also realized that I eat when I’m thirsty; a glass of water solves the problem.  I eat when I’m too warm (spicy food makes me pop a sweat) and again, water fixes it.  I eat when my energy drops; a single minute of energetic activity primes the pump again (even lying down and getting up again three times will do the trick.)  I eat when I feel blue; listening to a cheerful song boosts my mood (singing it myself doesn’t work; I need the snares, strings, horns, and hi-hats.)  I eat when I’m bored, or to enrich other activities (reading, watching TV, etc.) — coffee, tea, and seltzer with bitters must replace snackage.  And caffeine must be a treat, not the norm.  It makes my face red.

So far, this is working.  I’ve lost ten pounds.  I will not stop.