No matter how brief the visit, or how welcome the guests, I’m always exhausted after they leave.  There’s no good reason for it.  As much as I try to keep the house tidy, it’s in a very laid-back way, and stress only kicks in after they’ve gone, the sheets have been laundered, and all has been restored to its former glory.  Whence this agita?

Diet failure, in part.  Catering to this group’s dietary preferences means Mexican food and lots of beer.  Waffles with syrup for breakfast.  Constant snacking.  Enough caffeine to kill a lesser man.  In short, the AZ/NM meal plan that caused me to balloon to such an ungainly size.  This carb and cheese glut didn’t just make me feel polluted, but it actually brought back the misery I felt when I first moved to Phoenix.   I hadn’t realized it until I started to type it all onto the page.  (Behold the power of blogging!  If that’s what we’re calling it now.)

So here are the lessons learned from this fail:

Even on holiday, I don’t have to eat what other people are eating.  Yes, it will sting to spend a day and a half cooking food I won’t get to eat, but the math hasn’t changed just because the calendar has.  My body does not need ranchero beans, spicy Cuban black beans, cumin rice, posole, tons of cheese, tortillas, or any manifestation of corn in all its splendor.  It does not need chips, dips, chains, or whips (whipped cream, anyway.)  It certainly does not need schooners of high-grade beer, be it domestic, foreign, or homebrew.  I can grill marinated vegetables and delicate bits of chicken.  I can drink club soda with bitters, or iced tea with lemon.  I can crunch on raw veggies and dilled string beans and all manner of pickles.  I am not a bad host for not sharing food I put on the table for my guests.  They can help themselves to my veggies.  I simply can’t share their starch bombs.

Holidays, be they calendar or self-made, must not be celebrated by toxic excess in food intake.  Sybaritic pleasures need not (should not!) revolve around the table.  One may be a gourmand without being a glutton.  It’s hard to cook a leg of lamb for two, or roast a good mix of winter vegetables, but I can do lamb shanks and a single vegetable instead.  Parsnips for two can be done.  Love will find a way.

Bad moods may be avoided or ameliorated with a large glass of water, a hot cup of tea, and a brisk walk in cool air.  It’s over 80F here and now, which is far too warm for me to be engaging in physical activity, but it’s never too hot for tea.  The ritual is as important as the restorative properties.  During my hairy-scary college days, tea saw me through, in part because I endowed the process with this power.  It’s good to create my own lever, my own reset button, and that this button be harmless and legal.  (But even with coffee, I’ll stick to decaf, or half-caf on a wild day.  Given the effect it has on my moods, I can’t imagine what I’d be like on meth.  It doesn’t bear contemplation, really.)

And last but not least:  refreshers and reminders, lest I forget the useful tools I’ve acquired, or let them fall by the wayside.  (My foray into kendo was brief, but should come in handy:  ichi!  ni!  more focus!)  Learning new tricks is wonderful, but I need to cleave unto those that are not new.  If I can keep those few facts in mind, I’ll be fine.

 

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There are two calorie limits in my life right now:  the lose-weight point, and the break-even point.  Exceeding the break-even point means weight gain.  I try to stop eating as soon as I’ve reached-but-not-crossed the horizon of lose-weight.  The middle ground between losing weight and gaining it may sound unnecessary (just make the lose-weight line the only line, then don’t cross it! ) but it allows me some room for indulgence without making me cavalier about the process.  (Uh-oh!  I’ve crossed the Rubicon!  Hey Honey, the day is lost, so you start slicing cheese and cold cuts, and I’ll start popping corks!)  — No.  That buffer zone, so antithetical to our Western duality default (Black and White, Good and Evil, Rowan and Martin) is both a meaningful designation and an utterly practical one; the amber light between the green and red.  Not Stop, not Go, but Exercise Caution.

If I overindulge, I can now draw the line at break-even, because I’ve had a chance to slow to a stop.  This allows me time to remember my goal rather than getting caught up in a panic-crave and a crisis of will power.  Panic does not lead me to good decisions on the food front.  If I can buy myself time to think, and that middle zone affords me that time, I can remember that working hard to lose weight, then gaining some back, works against what I want so much.  Like scrimping and saving for a new house, and splurging on a big toy or trinket that eats half your savings.

Lesson:  Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it was sacked in one.

So:  after overindulging on Sunday (over the line from active weight loss, short of certain weight gain) I decided to eat lightly yesterday.  My hope was that a day of greater control would reinforce my training (arf!) and get me back on track.  Again, I nursed a pot of fully caffeinated java all day (over ice, after the first hot cups of the morning) and used an iceberg-rich salad to counter my craving for quantity at lunch.  My energy was good all day, however attributable to caffeine, but my daily calorie total was <500.

Conventional wisdom says my organs will be shutting down any minute now.  Should I be scared?

Here’s the thing:  I can’t just trit-trot to the doctor whenever I have a question or need guidance or reassurance.  It’s educational, but it’s not medically necessary, and my insurance carrier (on which I rely) is a stickler for treatment that is needed for something specific.  They are not eager to pay a hundred bucks for me to make random queries for my general education.  At my last visit, back in January, Dr. T said that excess weight was a greater threat than anything, and given my activity level, food was of more a psychological benefit than a physical need.  Cut calories, cut carbs, and get moving!

For now, anyway, exercise is mostly postponed.  It makes me ravenous!  Stretching, a little dance, and the occasional walk are all I can do right now without getting deranged and coaxing Honey into chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, biscuits and gravy, and there goes my diet, so how do you feel about BBQ ribs for dinner?

But this brings me to my crisis.

I missed my weight goal by a half-pound this week.  I am at a crossroads.  If I focus on that half-pound, it feels like a return to my highschool headcase, eating half of one meal each day instead of three, counting my Cheerios, and weighing myself constantly.  This is tempting, since I looked good in clothes, if not so hot out of them.

If I set goals and ignore them (or worse, rationalize — I started my period yesterday, it’s probably just bloat, tra-la!) then what’s the purpose of setting goals at all?  Not taking them seriously (i.e., not suffering if I fail) undermines goal-setting as a tool.

And yet: suffering leads to feeling helpless, hapless, let’s-choke-on-a-cannoli-and-get-it-over-with hopeless.

Is this the Western duality again?  Virtue or vice?  Sinner or saint?  Anorexic or glutton?  — I reject it.

I want the middle path, even though it’s uncertain; even though balance requires strength I may not have (but want to cultivate); even though extremism is security and centrism could send me veering off in either direction at any time.  I want a life of lagom, sufficiency, neither too much nor too little.  A Goldilocks life:  just right.

Honey’s squire will arrive on Friday, wife in tow, and we spent much of the weekend running errands in preparation.  That aside, I backsweetened my mead and racked it to tertiary.   Indulged a bit at Sephora and BPAL.  Hennaed my roots.  Got a mad notion to go in a new direction with my large collage, then stalled, changed my mind, and set it all aside before frustrated vapor lock set in.  Had a fabulous spa pedi, the kind that ends with hugging your nail tech and remembering her kids’ birthdays.  Watched two movies that were completely meh.  Caught up on some nonfiction. There is a lot more to do (and I’m doing it, I’m doing it!  Jeez, Ma!)

But food and my relationship with it is eating  my head, in good ways and bad.

Saturday was fine, and I ate very lightly, knowing that Honey would be busting out snacks for the movie.  My plan was to save dinner for the movie, to eat a real meal while he snacked, and to have one beer with him.  But while Bridesmaids had a few good moments, it’s the kind of comedy I really loathe, and to try to boost my experience, I had another beer, more cheese, and half of Honey’s microwave popcorn, and he does not go for that Smart Pop! business, oh no.

The next morning, I was dreading the weigh-in and food-log catch up.  The good news:  no psychologically damaging degree of bloat, and my calories did not exceed maintenance level or head into “gain” territory.  The bad news is that I’m trying to lose weight, not maintain my current level, and stopping the process of losing slows the process just like braking on the freeway.  Getting up to speed again takes a while.  Big-picture bad news is that relying on comestibles as an irreplaceable part of my entertainment experience endows them with too much significance, damn it.

Is there a way for me to eat properly?  And what would be best for me?  When I was a bachelor, I skipped meals, never ate breakfast, and went to restaurants frequently — but I almost never ate junk food or fast food or soda or candy.  I cooked for myself, but in bachelor style.  This meant making a big pot of soup, for example, and reheating it for meals until the pot was empty or I could no longer face the sight of it.  Cooking for someone else means trying to make tasty meals with a lot of variety, and let’s just say that my training in tastiness involves a lot of butter.  (And pasta, bread, meat, sauce, gravy, cheese, and other things that add to life.)  There is very little overlap in our preferences and restrictions.  Eating out of that wee slice of the dietary Venn diagram has done us no good.  How to adjust?

Goals:  eat less and eat it slowly; do NOT try to match him bite for bite.  Do NOT try to please him with treats; the way to a man’s funeral is through his stomach.  If I know temptation is coming, have my own meal ready that is tasty, slow to eat, calorie-cheap and bulk-rich.  Chilled celery with a dab of neuchatel or hummus.  Cauliflower with yogurt Ranch.  Hot and sour soup (no meat or tofu.)  Mustard-only deviled eggs with lots of paprika and big garlic dills.  Smoked fish on Finn Crisp, Kavle, or some other paper-thin knekkebrød.  Water-packed tuna with lemon juice and cracked black pepper.

And remember the tricks:  things like crumbled boiled egg yolk and sun-dried tomatoes add richness without oil, particularly to salad dressing.  A dab of anchovy paste or a teaspoon of real bacon bits add a lot of flavor for minimal calories.   And calories count, but carbs matter too.  If you want to eat more than a tablespoon of food, legumes are not for you, Sedentary Girl!  And don’t even think about pasta.   There is no amount of exercise, short of marathon running or full-time bricklaying, that justifies pasta.   Don’t lie to yourself.  Get over it.  Forget it and drive on.

So, yeesh.  Normally I drink decaf or weak half-caf, since I drink coffee all day, but I had proper coffee on Sunday — eight scoops of fresh-ground high octane, and most of the pot to myself.  I skipped breakfast, had a nasty-but-filling diet shake for lunch, and had raw cabbage and tomatoes for dinner.   Being stressed about the indulgences of the night before didn’t hurt (MAKE FEAR WORK FOR YOU! ALL EMOTIONS MUST PULL THEIR WEIGHT AROUND HERE!) but it was the unusual caffeine intake and the running around that kept me free from hunger all day.  I think it was also the fact that I had eaten more than usual, later than usual, the night before; my body was still full, and I’m listening to it more, rather than only imposing my will upon it (for better or worse.)  I just wasn’t hungry.

I MUST NOT EAT IF I AM NOT HUNGRY.  Conventional wisdom has insisted that meals be on time and never skipped, NEVER!, or your body will start breaking down your muscles and organs for protein.  Frankly, I have a hard time believing that skipping one meal causes a fat person’s body to go into starvation mode, but I read it everywhere, all the time.  Perhaps it’s true for those who are already thin, but that’s not me.  And I’m just over five feet tall.  Everything I read says that if I consume less than half what it takes to maintain my fat body (minimum 1400 or so cals per day) my body will stop burning fat and start eating muscle.  Why would it do that?  Eating when I’m not hungry seems so counterintuitive; I just can’t do it.  Eating for reasons other than true hunger is what got me into this mess!

I just don’t think I’ll ever stop being fat if I consume calories based on calculations by people who don’t know me and my situation.

Another issue:  for my food log and weight tracking, I use FitDay.  Except for it logging me out after five minutes of inactivity, I love it.  But I would never, ever trust any textbook calorie count for a dish (ingredients yes; dish, no.  How do they know how I make curry?)  I made an experimental low-cal version of alu saag, created a custom food entry based on the ingredients (onion, potato, spinach, garlic, fat-free broth, lots of spices, a little oil,) and divided the total calories by the number of portions.  Leftover portions, with lots more FF broth, made good soup.  And if I make it again, the same way, I don’t have to go through the trouble of recalculating everything.  So there is another great tool just lying around, quick to hand.

Another bonus:  I successfully avoided temptation at the farmer’s market on Sunday.  It was lush with the grape harvest and end-of-season stone fruits, but it’s all candy to me, and I’d rather have ice cream, which is just as verboten. The ripest grape tomatoes ever were a treat, and very affordable, calorie-wise.  (I did buy some nectarines, peaches, berries, and lotus honey for next weekend’s company, but they are untouched.)  Honey had a luscious blackberry galette, but said no to the Acme bread and spinach bolani and tzatziki (unusual for him), and the only prepared food I brought home was fresh sauerkraut, which I had for dinner.  The Bay Area may be famous for its sourdough, but my weakness is a tender, well-browned farmhouse white, or the beautiful challah from the Marsee Bakery back in Portland.  Good thing neither of them is here!

Fears: age (it’s harder to lose weight now that I’m perimenopausal); inactivity (walking/running/jogging is now a scheduled event rather than a frequent-through-the-day ADL); hormones (my PMS has kicked in, and I am craving a blood-rare ribeye, charred on the outside; a jumbo prawn cocktail, heavy on the horseradish; a stack of dark golden pommes frites; a thick piece of toasted bread, glistening with garlic butter; two bottles of fat-assed cabernet; and enough thick-sliced fried mushrooms to choke a hobbit.  I would step on granny’s neck for this meal, and you know I love granny.  But a five foot tall person doesn’t get to eat meals extensive enough to require semicolon separation of the list.  Once or twice per year, maybe, and only a bite of each.  I’ll think about it once I’m no longer fat, maybe on my birthday, %$#@^!&, et cetera.)

[Speaking of that:  losing weight seems to be having a physical benefit in terms of hormones.  Like a lot of women, I tend to hypervigilance in analyzing my self / moods / health, and I think I can tell the difference between good cheer that I’m making progress and an enlivened physical being.  Is it simply eating less?  Has my body been trammeled by a more-or-less constant state of digestive torpor?  No idea.  But it feels good.]

[Another aside:  lots of exercises demand that you tighten your abdominals to create the proper form, and yesterday, for the first time in ages, I sucked in my stomach and it moved.  A hollow was created.  I still have gut galore, and a sagging inner tube — but it’s no longer a high, tight, rigid inner tube.  Good news?]

That brings me to my last and greatest fear:  sagging skin.  Back in Oregon, a friend lost over a hundred pounds (very, very slowly) and became very muscular, but had skin so loose that she had to pull it aside for me to see her six-pack.  I have to lose about the same amount of weight, I’m doing it more quickly, I’m not weight training, I’m ten years older than she was when she lost it, and I’m half a foot shorter — am I doomed to the same loose skin, or worse?   I hope to start grad school next spring, and I won’t have money for plastic surgery until I’m fifty, at least.  I’m petrified of general anaesthesia, since my sole surgery (which took fifteen minutes and went off flawlessly) led to me nearly dying while in recovery due to a bad reaction to the drugs.  Almost as scary is that the sagging skin would certainly depress me enough to turn back to old habits.  Can’t look good, losing weight didn’t remove the bulges, so why bother?

My waist is super short, and I have a large ribcage and boxy hips.  For most of my adult life, I had a flat tummy, and relied on it and my dent (where other people have waistlines, I have a sharp dent) to look good in jeans and chinos, always with a shirt tucked in.  If I have a pannicular bulge, I will look sloppy, and I hate that.  All the dieting in the world can’t gift me with a long, narrow waist, but can I have a flat tummy again? It it possible?

And since I’m on the TMI bent, let’s talk tits.  The first place I lose weight is the balcony, and my nipples are pointing straight down; it’s horrifying!  This, as much as the tummy, convinces me that a something-plasty is in my future, no matter how scary or life-threatening.  I don’t want to replace this huge udder with untested upholstery foam, or leak-ready saline, but can I get my perky little teacups back?  Plastic surgeons say anything is possible, and there is a world-class board certified genius just down the road, but I fear the scarring.  One of my long-ago clients had zero scarring after major chest surgery thanks to a special diet, perfect care (vitamins, hydration, no sun/smoking/drinking, regular sweaty workouts, etc.), and, I think, good luck in genetics.  Are similar results possible for me?

Either way, I’m currently fueled by a combination of fear, vanity, and stubbornness.  And while I’m no optimist (not at all!) I have a deeply positive mental attitude, which helps.  I love life and the living of it.  If I had the kind of freedom from desire and all-around wa that would allow me to be motivated solely by good health, again:  I wouldn’t have gotten myself into this hole.  I just need to learn to have my joy and not eat it, too.

 

 

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.

 

OR:  desperate times call for drastic measures.

If you are driving, and a minor obstacle is in your way, a minor correction will solve the problem.  Sometimes even continuing your path unchanged will overcome the obstacle and you will proceed as planned, no worse the wear for having driven over the the branch or the pothole unchecked.

But if the obstacle is great, swerving may be necessary.  You can go seriously off-track and maintain control, and return to the path with only a temporary digression from plan.  Or you might hit ice, gravel, or some other hazard; you might panic and overcorrect; there might be a moderate or serious alteration of course.

If that is the case, will pretending you didn’t just drive into a cornfield help the situation?  No.  Will proceeding at a sedate pace in the wrong direction get you where you need to go?  No. It will only get you deeper into the cornfield.

First you restore order, reorient yourself, get control, make a plan.  Then you go through a temporary period of nuttiness while you circle the car back to the road.  You may need to drive over a lot more corn, or struggle to avoid high-centering the car while navigating the irrigation works.  Once you are back on the road, standard driving procedure will be appropriate once more, but until you get back on the path, funky off-road driving will be required, and the rules are not the same.

Two examples:  out-of-control weight and out-of-control economy.

Mild weight gain may be offset by mild changes to diet and activity, still well within the zone of comfort and convenience.  Major excess weight will never be lost through minor changes.  Minor weight may be lost, by skipping cream in your coffee and choking down a parched, naked chicken breast instead of a juicy ribeye, but it won’t be sufficient.  If you want to lose it all, you will need to cut your calorie intake massively, and not add calories lost through exercise back into your diet.  Personal trainers, physicians, and the USDA will be alarmed.  Ignore them.  Remember:  their information is based on a norm that has nothing to do with your specifics.  They use an average to determine this healthy norm.  Even at your healthiest, if you don’t match their norm, their standards don’t apply to you.  Even if you try to correct yourself to their norm of exercise and calorie consumption, it’s still not appropriate to your specific situation.  The government model of average-normal-proper-standard is less and less applicable the less you match their ideal.

One of the averages central to their assumptions is height.  The average female height is 5’5″ – 5’6″.  When they get all het up over an 800 calorie diet, they are assuming some of us are nearly half a foot taller than we are.  At 5’1″, you do not need to consume what a 5’6″ person does, no matter what your personal trainer says.  Over and over, we are told that less than 1200 calories per day will cause the body to turn on itself, and that absolutely no human should ever attempt this.  Let’s ignore the millions of healthy people in other countries who would be overfed at that level, shall we?

[Reverse check:  the same government institutions determine medicine dosages, and they don’t do so by size, they do so by age.  At age 10, I was five feet tall and weighed 110, which meant I was allowed 2 baby aspirin for my PMS.  I stopped growing at age 10.  When I was 30, at 5’1″ and 115, my dosage was 700 mg of aspirin — exactly the same as my husband, who was 13 inches taller and weighed twice as much.  Same thing with multivitamins, and same with our diets.  Were our needs really the same?  No.  Not to belabor the point, but my requirements will never be that high.  It’s a drag, since our culture is super-sized, but it’s a fact.]

So it is with the economy.  If things are fine — you are working, and earning enough to cover room and board, pay for expenses, and save for goals and emergencies — proceed frugally and reap the benefits.  All is well.  Hooray!

If you are unemployed, and have no safety net, other rules will apply.  You will need to drive deeper into the cornfield to circle back to the road.  You will do things which would make no sense in a healthy economy:  sell possessions for less than they are worth, forgo routine medical and dental care, and put all kinds of things on your credit card, including groceries, bus passes, job interview clothes, and haircuts.  You may even need to take cash advances in order to make your minimum credit card payments.  It’s dangerous.  It only works in the short term.  And it is vastly preferable to the alternative:  not doing what it takes to keep a roof over your head and get a job.   You have to be as prudent as possible in using those limited resources, but make the most of what you have, and try to floss it into greater security.  How stupid would it be to become homeless with a $5000 credit limit available?

On a larger scale, our economy is tanking.  People are debating, with passion unto violence, the merits of various economic theories:  the Libertarian model, the Fiscal Conservative model, the Liberal model, and others.   Each one has merits, depending on the size of the economy, the current stage of growth, the desired outcome, how much money is in circulation, and the distribution of that money.  But no one (or very few) are taking into account that those theories are for healthy times.  It’s like debating how to pilot  a megatonne tanker when there is a hole in the lifeboat.  Bail, motherfuckers!  Bail for your lives!  Once the crisis has been averted, we can bust out the oars, and once we have paddled back to shore, we can debate all you want.  But until the horrible imbalance has been corrected, your points of view are all equally irrelevant.

Our government used to stand staunchly behind eating as much as you want, it being your civic duty to be strong for the war effort.  It promoted a high-carbohydrate diet in order to support farmers.  Economic fads grow more slowly in popularity but inevitably change.  One day they might get it right…briefly, before they change it again.

So-called “good behavior” is not good if it doesn’t account for circumstances.  The boundaries and points of tension in a situation determine right action.  Dose by weight.  Eat to scale.  Spend money if it will help you make money.  Do whatever you have to do to get back on track.  Until you do, Standard Operating Procedure will do more harm than good.