Tuesday, December 14, 2010

No Years Resolution

"Uh, spend more time with my family?" The lady with the big round glasses said. She was perhaps 150 pounds overweight. She smelled so strongly of Marlboros that if you closed your eyes tight you might believe you were having one of those "next day at the bar" moments from 20 years ago.

The rest of the audience inspected their nails. Tapped their pens on the paper. "Ahem..." Said one of them finally halfway raising her hand and waving the fingers at me. "Uh... We don't ... Really make New Years Resolutions anymore."

"Whyever not?" I blinked. I cocked my head in feigned amazement. If I could have made my eyes blue I would have.

There was a series of half hearted "What's the points?" and "Why bothers?" And "they never works." Followed by a brief chorus of "it's just discouraging/ demoralizing."

Yes, before me sat a room full of new recruits. People who couldn't bear the thought of committing to the potential failure of yet another New Years resolution. They had tried that. And failed. A dozen times. A dozen years dedicated to fitness that had left them overweight, exhausted and devastated by March. Determined to remain "Fat and happy rather than skinny and hungry" by December.

But NO one is fat and happy. The strange, sad, impossible to bear fact is: there are no happy fat people. Fat and happy is a myth defied by the physical pain the extra weight adds, compounded with the emotional strain, the self accusation, shame, guilt, embarrassment, and here is something only a formerly obese person may admit to: constant desire to be perceived as desirable, fit in with cultural norms and be wanted and welcomed among groups we believe exclude weirdos with weight problems.

It is with tremendous mental fortitude that we are able to cordon that off. Able to convince ourselves that we are vain if we wish to be desired. To convince ourselves that we are superficial if we believe that achieving a healthy weight will make us happier.

And so, year after year, we weigh the effort, discipline, commitment, hard work, determination and dedication to self care that it takes to follow through on a New Years resolution against the discounted benefits and WRITE OURSELVES OFF as not worth the effort. The health benefits (after we've boiled them down to some far off effect on our heart in some distant old age) do not outweigh the investment (after we've made a mental list of previous attempts and remembered only the titanic effort we've wasted and weird sacrifices we've made. All the times someone told us we had to hurt like crazy, be miserable and Not Eat Anything that tastes good in order to be healthy).

And so we tell ourselves New Years resolutions are stupid. Ineffective. Heartbreaking. Nothing but trouble. A waste of time and effort. We are not worth the commitment nor the risk of heart break. We are too emotionally weak to bear the disappointment. And we say this to ourselves year after year.
Until we have decided not to bother taking the gamble anymore.

"Spend more time with my family." The lady in the round glasses who was morbidly obese. She even had dimples. And blond hair. And a pretty dress. Just like me.

"For years," I addressed my whole audience but couldn't help fixating just a little on the lady who could have passed for my before picture. "I didn't make New Years resolutions. For the very same reasons you all have just said. Then one year I'd had enough. I decided to try again. I lost 90 pounds that year. The next year I made a different resolution. I quit smoking AND lost another 40 pounds."

The audience blinked. They knew this story but today it sounded different.

"The next year I ran my first marathon. After that I resolved to qualify for Boston. Start my own business. Get my writing published. All done."

And it all started with one, small, simple resolution that first year:

Eat smaller portions of healthier food. Get my heart rate above 100 for 20 minutes every day.

That was all the commitment, all the potential heart break I could bear.

And it was all I needed.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tried Everything

I've tried everything.
And nothing works. No really. I tried every pill on the market. I tried the healthy diet thing. And the exercise thing. Weights. Spinning. Weight Watchers Jenny Craig Atkins South Beach...
Nothing works.

I hear it 14 times a day. 28 on Sundays. Now that I'm a bit of a local mascot I even get stopped on the street and told all the many ways in which the stopp-er has utterly failed to lose weight.

In the end, the stopp-er will say, it all came down to self control. I just couldn't do it. It's just not possible. I'm a slob. I'm not good. I'm going to die of fat.

They say this to me, the stopp-ee. The one who, using healthy diet and exercise, lost and has maintained 130 pounds. Run two marathons, started a successful weight management/ fitness guru business blah blah blah. Me. The stopp-ee, someone who's successfully proved wrong the theory that you can't lose weight successfully. Let alone maintain it.
Why they are giving me this litany of failure I don't know. my best theory is that it's preemptive: she won't try to convince me to get healthy if I tell her what a flop I am right from the beginning.
Tried everything, have you? So you know how many calories there are in a banana? You know what BMI stands for and why it's a measure of healthy weight? You know what's at the bottom of the food pyramid and how many ounces there are in a serving of roast beef? You know what your BMR is, how much calorie deficit you need to create to lose a pound, how many calories you burn in an hour walk versus an hour on the elliptical.
Well I DID Atkins.

So you know how many grams of protein there are in a....

You don't have to know that stuff on.... (Fill in the gap crazy diet program).

No. You don't. You DO NOT have to know. The diet, or program, or regime or trainer or what/whoever... Purports to do all that FOR you.

So all you have to do is sit back, relax, and lose all the weight you want. Just relax. We'll take care of it.

Or at least lose all the weight you can while eating nothing but bacon. Or dangling upside down in something called "the Abinator." Or having a trainer/ drill sergeant/ dojo instructor/ jerk make you do things that will hurt bad enough to a) give you the illusion you're doing something productive and b) make you wonder why YOU are such a flop you can't lose weight no matter HOW much bacon you eat and Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness you suffer through.

The fact is, as I always point out to my stopp-ers, no human can survive on lettuce and beans nor do so much exercise you'll die from the pain alone. Your brain will react to its perceived deprivation by unloosing a veritable SYMPHONY of hormones designed to increase your appetite, depress you enough to barely want to get out of bed, make you that cheeto loving couch potato you believe yourself to be.

No, there is nothing wrong with YOU. If you've ever been on a diet or forced yourself out of bed to go exercise on a frosty winter morning. If you've ever stricken carbs or fats or cheese or tomatoes from your diet. If you've ever woken up and wondered where the aches came from that weren't there the previous night.

You have put forth more than sufficient effort to lose and maintain your weight.

The problem is not with the AMOUNT of effort your putting in, it is the TYPE of effort and where your putting it.

If you put $100 in a savings account, you'll have $101 dollars at the end of the year. If you put $100 dollars in Gramma Mellie's investment fund you will have $150 plus dividends. Or so I hear.

At any rate, the answer is: if you invest 2 years doing the Atkins South Beach Weight Watchers Snickers and Coffee All Juice Salad and Peanut Butter Crazy Exercise until you Fall Over diet...

You are almost GUARANTEED (statistics show about 90%-98% chance depending on source) to, at the end of the 2 years, have either made NO net losses OR actually gained weight.

Or you can invest 2 years learning how many calories are healthy for you. How many you burn doing an hour's exercise. What kind of exercise works for you and what will you enjoy doing in the long term. You can find out what percentage of your daily calorie intake a venti mocha is, and learn to choose the mocha OR the sandwich instead of opting for both and more than half your daily food intake.

Whatever you've heard.
Whatever you've tried. Or failed at. Or that's failed you.

There is only ONE way to successfully lose and maintain weight:

You have to take YOUR health, YOUR diet, YOUR exercise into YOUR hands.

Trainers can help you. A nice website like caloriecount.about.com or getalegupforlife.blogspot.com or active.com or whatever can be GREAT tools.

But there is no way, none at all, to lose weight without just Doing the work.

Ah, but the work is good. And there is nothing more wonderful, nothing more rewarding, more delightful, more healthy than being taken care of.

And best of all? Knowing that you're the one providing the care.

Dreams are just Plans for which no goals have yet been set. Reality is just the dream of someone who's goals have been achieved.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

When Not to Be Determined

"Ha Ha Ha. Beautiful. That's a good one". She wheezed a little asmatically at the word "one."
As much as she'd been with me for almost six months it still hadn't gone away. I was a little disappointed. As always I want bad, wrong, unproductive thinking to just vanish into the air overnight. Because I TOLD you. We went OVER this. At least twice.
Ugh. And there it is rearing its ugly head. It was 30 odd years in the making, this habit of telling herself that her beautiful smile, her gorgeous, long wavy hair, her sparkling eyes, that infectious laugh that wins her as friend almost anyone who comes near - telling herself that those things did not matter. At all. Because she was horribly unattractive. Everything else was null and void. Worth nothing to her. Because she is fat. Fat fat fat fatty fat fat. And there is just NOTHING in this world to balance that out.

This ONE thing completely ruined her as someone who might be considered pretty. Or attractive. Or truly lovable.

And. She, and now a growing throng of people I'm working with to pave their individual roads to weight management, revealed something to me that I long since knew but stopped believing in ages ago:

"If I stop believing my weight makes me ugly, if I start to think I'm pretty the way I am, I KNOW I won't be motivated to change. Never. I'll be stuck this way and all happy to be who I am."

"Uh." I could feel my eyes rolling back into my head as if trying to look for the words inside the gray matter back there. "And just a side note, if you WERE all happy with yourself would it matter that you are overweight?". You never know when something is going to be the wrong - or maybe just the right - thing to say.

She started to cry.

"Well that's just the point. I don't WANT to be happy with the way I am because I don't want to BE the way I am!"

Turns out no one, really no one wants to be overweight.

"So this... Not liking the way you look, this believing your weight completely RUINS everything else, this has helped motivate you to lose weight in the past has it?"

"Well yeah it's..."

"You are here. Dieting. And running. For the umpteenth time. And you say that your dissatisfaction with your body is a successful weight management strategy?"

It's not. I can quote studies and articles and all the things I read while losing/ managing my weight. But nothing says it better than what was the secret to my own success:

I gave up.

That's right. At 277 pounds I just gave up. I gave up thinking of myself as ugly or attractive. I stopped telling myself I was a stupid fat loser with no self control. As a motivator shame and guilt and self loathing - sorry, that's what that IS - had UTTERLY failed me.

So I just gave up. I got complacent. I believed I would never find a mate or look good or be healthy or whatever.

And then I lost a few pounds.

And I liked that.
And then I thought, if I actually tried maybe I could lose some more. And although I would never be pretty or fit or ... An athlete or anything... I'd at least be sort of, average. Like all the other fat Americans.

And I did. Lose more weight. And then. I began to believe I could do more.

And since I had completely got out of the habit of hating myself I figured I could really get used to this being less uncomfortable, being less conspicuous.

I could be satisfied with just being less unhealthy than I used to be.

And when I'd lost enough weight for it to comfortably be called "an achievement" something really bizarre happened:

I began to LIKE me. I liked me. And what I saw in the mirror, imperfect as I was. I still greeted myself in the mirror every morning with the words "Still too fat." But now I realized I had hope. And the person who'd given me that hope had been me. And that was something. Maybe I really wasn't so bad. Maybe I COULD be attractive after all.

It took me until I was a size 6 to stop telling myself I was still too fat. That was when I began to see my very first muscle mass, but it was also when I came to what may be the greatest realization of my life:

I will never be perfect. I will never look like the girls on the cover of Cosmo.

Because in addition to the fact that they get paid several hundreds of thousands of dollars more than me to forego all those meals and get all that liposuction they have something I will never, ever possess. A Photoshop editor. Duh.

So now every morning when I wake up and see the loose skin around my upper leg and the little layer of body fat that Does NOT want to leave my tummy (I always wonder why I can't store the stuff on the soles of my feet. Like a camel only different) I do not greet myself by saying "Too Fat." Or too thin. Or too anything.

I just say good morning.
Dreams are just Plans for which no goals have yet been set. Reality is just the dream of someone who's goals have been achieved.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Mini Me

I know. As much as we talk around it. As much as we "address" it. Or throw money at it. Research it. Write articles about it. Nobody, really is Doing anything about it.
And that is because the whole thing is so painful. And no one can, or maybe wants to articulate how/ why it is so painful. So here goes.

In the picture above, spot the kid with the unhealthy BMI. There are 5 kids. In fact, the highest BMI in the bunch is mine, that's me on the far left with the ice cream. And my body mass index did not exceed healthy limits until middle school. The reason there are no overweight kids in this picture? The rate of overweight/ obesity in children back then was so small it would be unlikely to find one among a group two or three times this size. Currently? One in three. One in Three children ages 10-17 is overweight or obese.

And there is a ton of talk about who is to blame.

And a hundred fitnessy-medically types piping up with ingenious solutions costing (conveniently) gazillions of dollars.

We've started government task forces.

We've got the first lady involved.

We are on the case.

And the progress we've made? Zippo. Zilch. Nada. In fact, just in the last year the statistics have gotten considerably worse. Again.

Which is why, with all the failed agencies and defunct task forces you will be surprised to find that one, small bespectacled woman in a small town in a small county, tucked away under the shadows of the Sierra Nevada mountains has long since discovered the answer.

Her name is Wendy Cranford. When I first met Wendy she had a few pounds to lose. One of those people I used to laugh at - you with your piddling few pounds. But Wendy was serious. She wanted to be in shape. In fact, she didn't just want to manage her weight, she wanted to be - I paraphrase, so smokin' hot my husbands friends will wonder how HE got such a hot woman to marry him.... Or something along those lines.
As usual, I gave Wendy the spiel about self care - and basing your motivation on a worthier cause, like just taking care of you for the single solitary reason that you are a human being, with a basic value, and deserving of at least the same care - healthy food, exercise, leisure activities - that we grant to, like, the worst sociopaths in the maximum security prisons.

She let that sink in a while.

"Yeah." She said finally. "And, I mean, think of my daughter, too."

"Right," I said "you're her care taker. You need to be healthy to take proper care of her and..."

"Well yeah." Wendy nodded. "That too. I just meant, how is she going to learn to manage HER health, to take care of HERself if I don't?" Wendy cocked her head to the side. I could see wheels turning and clicking into place. Not just in her head but in mine. "I'm her EXAMPLE."

Only a few months later Wendy is at a more than healthy weight. She is working of phase 2 of her master plan, the smokin' hot six pack phase. As a participant in my run groups she occasionally brings her daughter Macie to group. Macie has a stroller, but unlike most of the little ones that come to group, Macie isn't satisfied with being pushed merrily along in her stroller.

Macie wants to run.

Just like mommy.

So here it is America: Wendy Cranford's super secret patented guaranteed to work solution to child obesity:

Get off your duff.

That's right. Go out. Exercise. Have fun. Participate in real entertainment - not passive stuff like TV and computer games. Go run. Jump. Play freezetag. Dance. Fool around on the monkey bars.

And feed yourself good food.

Because if you do, they will too.

BTW for the latest from Wendy Cranford's super duper child obesity prevention system:

Dreams are just Plans for which no goals have yet been set. Reality is just the dream of someone who's goals have been achieved.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cake, Pizza and the Problem Pest

The person before me was my sweet, lovable, charming, delightful, positive, funny, adorable, wonderful Niki. The same Niki who refers to work as "Worky Work" and shin splints as "pain in the shinny shins." On a good day Niki is a lark that sings show tunes. On a bad day Niki is a little ray of moonshine in a darkling dusk.

I wax poetic.

Niki is really sweet. And positive. And just... Nice. It's like, built IN to her nature nice.

And as she sat before me at Clark's Corner, being nice, and staying positive, and NOT falling apart AT ALL I realized, Niki was completely devastated.

Like nearly 25% of our little county of 35,000 residents Niki faces the prospect of unemployment. We don't know when. We don't know 100% how or even whether, but whatever the case, Niki's work situation is about to change dramatically. Her whole office could suffer.

And someone brought donuts.

And she was worried about her job. And worried about her future family and her training plan and her racing fees and the cost of healthy food. And she was worried about all the things she had planned to do as she developed in her career and how all that was up in arms and nothing was going to go as she had hoped and then there were donuts which she DID NOT EAT. But she might. Any day now. And that would meddle with all her progress. And her training. And how was she going to do it all?

And I remembered how I had been the last time my life had fallen apart. In fact, Niki had herself been one of the witnesses to my lamentations. It came to mind all I wanted at the time was to cry and cry and lament and you people with your stupid solutions can just go fly a kite. Because I don't need solutions what I need right now is to cry and to wallow and to Just Lament for a while. Why not? There's a whole BOOK of the Bible dedicated to lamentations. If Jeremiah could do it why couldn't I?
Because, as I found out, Lamentation doesn't actually help. That thing we call venting? That thing we tell ourselves we need time for and just need to DO for a while? Actual double blind bona fide scientific research shows that Lamentation only makes things worse.
For years my means of coping with problems in life was to sit at the kitchen table and a) gripe and b) knock back a pizza with beer and some chocolate cake after.
And what was worse, I still had the problem after the beer, pizza and chocolate cake were safely and firmly clinging to my hips.

It wasn't until I moved in with my house mate, Laura that I realized the beer and pizza only made the problem worse. Not only did I feel awful about the problem, I now felt awful about myself. Was stressed out about how much weight the beer and pizza was going to result in (actually did the math - 1600 cal of pizza, 500 cal cake, 720 cal beer - almost a pound in one sitting). Laura had this annoying habit of listening for a while until I'd laid out the whole horror of the situation, comfortingly nodding a head and adding the appropriate "that jerk!" And "those idiots." Where expected. And then getting out a pen and paper. And making lists. People I should call. Things I could try. Potential solutions to the problem.
Laura didn't just LISTEN to me lament. She helped SOLVE the underlying problem.

Which is of course a big part of her strategy of maintaining a healthy size 6-8 almost effortlessly. When Laura is upset about something, the first thing she does is call someone who will a) listen AND b) help her work on a solution to the problem.

Then, she gets to work. AFTER that she has a cup of tea. Takes a walk. Reads a dime store novel. There is no pizza. Or beer.

She almost never resorts to chocolate cake.

I call her - and a handful of others I've picked up since I learned this skill - my problem friends. It took some getting used to. At first the need to lament almost overcame me as much as the need for pizza and chocolate cake. The problem solving thing annoyed me. I didn't, after all, lament about something in order to SOLVE the problem. I did it to... I needed it for... I wanted... Well, come to think of it, I didn't need it. Or want it. It was just a bad habit I'd picked up. An unproductive way of making my problems worse. Not a coping strategy after all but a Non-coping strategy. A way to ignore rather than fix my problems.

So as I sat across from Niki taking notes and drawing up a game plan on my Blackberrry I realized: I was a problem friend. I had become someone who would listen and nod and say "that jerk" and "what a lousy way to behave..." In all the right places. And then. Get Out My Cellular Notepad and Start QWERTY writing a potential solution to the problem.

For a moment I wondered whether Niki was thinking what I used to think about Laura: just stop being so blasted HELPFUL and let me get down to the real work of accomplishing NOTHING and making my problem WORSE.

I thought about shutting up and letting her vent so she didn't get annoyed with me. And then I realized: I didn't care if I was a pest. I just cared about Niki. Like crazy. Enough to be a worse pest than tse tse flies or killer bees if it meant I could help her make things better.

BTW, you can hear this whole thing from Niki's perspective.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Finding your Fairy Dust

"I got no magic fairy dust." I shrugged. "There's nothing special about me."
I say it a hundred times a day. It's like a mantra. I want to tell people they can do what I did. They can lose as much weight as is healthy, they can quit smoking and never, ever think about cigarettes again. They can maintain a healthy weight. Run marathons, start a successful business doing something they love in the middle of a pretty lousy economic situation.
Anybody can do it. There's nothing special or different or amazing about me.
I got no magic fairy dust.

I say it 100 times a day and now I realize a hundred times a day I'm going to have to say a big prayer of forgiveness because it's just not true.

Not that I'm nothing special. That's true.
Not that anyone can do it. That's true too.
But I do. I do have some magic fairy dust. I don't know how I got it or why all of a sudden. I could say it came from the fact that I was pretty much at death's door when I started this journey and dint have much alternative, but I've learned to sprinkle my magic fairy dust on everything these days, and it's been ages since I was last in mortal danger because of my weight. My weight, my health, my body, these were only the beginning. I've since discovered uses for my magic fairy dust in all aspects of my life.

I use it when my business isn't growing as quickly as I'd like.
I share it with my clients when their struggling.
I pass it on to my friends.
Every day I don't go back to bed because of some disappointment, that's when I whip out the magic fairy dust.
Every day - and it happens at least once a day - I talk to a client who is at the end of her rope, or visit a friend who is miserable in her job or meet someone on the street who can't get the door open because he's pushing where it says pull.

That's when I need my magic fairy dust.

As time goes by I realize: magic fairy dust is in endless supply. It's laying around like diamonds in the streets in the old stories of El Dorado or Solomon's mines.

I found it a few years ago the first time because it was either that or die. Then when death was no longer a motivator I found that health, wellness, energy, friendship, family... All those things were enough.

And now I have an endless stream of fairy dust. Enough to share with an infinite number of friends and family members and clients and ... Whoever needs it.

And every time I lose my way, every time I feel like I want to give up - which happens more often than people believe - all I have to do is find my fairy dust. Search back through all the things I do and people I meet and places I go and find that endless well, the hidden treasure of magic fairy dust.

So what exactly is magic fairy dust made of?
It's pretty simple:


Determination to take care of myself as well as I take care of my friends and family.
Determination not to put myself last among a laundry list of things that only need doing in my imagination.

I am determined

Not to give up

On myself.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Carrying Curtis

"Brunhilda." Melodie panted as we jogged past the 6 mile mark of our 16 mile run. It was her third attempt at the 16 miler.
Ever since qualifying for Boston in July even I can't deny I'm a pretty good runner, even a well informed, knowledgeable run coach. So I had no qualms about helping Melodie train for her first marathon. We found her a good plan. We moved sensibly through it. We got completely stuck at mile 16.

"Mile 16." I smiled remembering my first 16 miler. "It makes you a runner. And not just someone who runs, but that special breed of runner. A Distance Runner."

Melodie nodded.

"Capital D."


"Pretty scary, huh?". I've been a runner now for a couple of years, doing what I've come to understand is a pretty common tightrope walk between seeing yourself as a runner, a die hard, a super hero blazing past all those couch dwellers, padded pants wearers (my cycling friends and I have an ongoing discussion over something I call, "pansy pants"), and other various and sundry painless-but-expensive-and-or-ineffective exercisers, and seeing yourself as a complete failure, a flop, a lunatic just for contemplating something this hard that you will clearly never, ever be successful at. Ever.

What Melodie and I were currently dealing with was something I've come to call my Runner's demon. The thing that sits on your shoulder for the first mile or so of any run.

It weighs 14 tons.

It has an annoying whiney voice that starts with, "I'm tired. My foot hurts. I have a head ache." And spends at least the first mile of any run, race, whatever giving me a whole litany of reasons I SHOULD not run. I should NEVER run. I should pack it in. Get my butt back on my couch with my sack of Cheetos and my beer and pizza and roll up my sleeves to lift nothing heavier than the remote control.

It's pretty ugly, too. It has a poorly groomed beard and it's a bit paunchy and balding and just has the LOOK of a guy who gets cheesed off at the waiter when his food doesn't have just the right balance of sage and dill.

Its name is Curtis.

In races Curtis shows up at whatever mile my adrenaline rush induced start begins to wear off and a bunch of emaciated, muscle mass free "runnery types" with their under armour and their $200 shoes and their "Boston Marathon 1995" T-shirts and their fancy compression socks start to pass me right and left.
They're REAL runners. Curtis tells me. YOU'RE just a fat girl on a fit-kick.

I *huff* just *puff* qualified for Boston. I tell Curtis.

You failed your PE fitness test every year from third grade onward.

It's *huff* different *puff* now. I'm an athlete. *huff* I'm a trainer. *Puff* I'm certified.

HA. Certifiable, anyway. You're no good. You're washed up. That was a short lived running career. Pack it in. Go home. Get some Cheetos on the way.

Last Sunday's race was the worst yet.

Just lay down here in the road. Curtis kept saying. All the real runners will jump over. No worries.

It was mile 9 of a half marathon. I'd already dropped back 3 pace groups and wasn't even sure I was going to finish ahead of my PR from a year ago. Curtis had lost the battle at Santa Rosa half marathon, Redding marathon, San Francisco Marathon and half a dozen other local races I'd won or at least placed in over the last year or so. And it turned out he was pretty angry. He was working at me with a vengeance.

As I passed under the overpass I looked up. That was when I knew Curtis was beat. Melodie, my sweet, beloved Melodie was there, clearly carrying her newly named runner demon, Brunhilda just as I always carried Curtis. And keeping up RIGHT there with her pace group. Right on target. Brunhilda and all. I sped up. I met her at the finish line. I way behind goal and Melodie right on target.

After the race Melodie and I talked a blue streak about all the ways in which Brunhilda and Curtis had tried to foil our respective races. I could see Curtis's trickery stretching out behind me like a great big ca 1987 stack of scruncis trying their best to pull me back. For decades Curtis had told me I was a fatso. When I was little even Curtis was there, telling me I couldn't dance. I had two left feet. I would never be good at running. Or volley ball. Or tennis. Or anything.

I could spend days, weeks, years probably figuring out where and how I'd managed to find Curtis. Maybe I was born with him. Or maybe the mean kids at school or my grandpa Pop who called me Alley Cat when he liked me and "Fat Cat" when he didn't. Which was most of the time. But it's not about where he came from, it's about how to tell him where to go.

Curtis is the same voice that tells me one little donut won't make a difference. The same voice that says I should stay home when it rains and that the other dancers at my favorite dance club think I have two left feet. Curtis tells me what I can't do and why and always wants to make sure that whatever I TRY to do I know it's against his better judgment.

Curtis is the voice of self doubt.

And what I have to do is remember that Curtis, in his annoying way, is looking out for me. Without Curtis I'd have tried to fly off the roof that time when I was 3 instead of off the top bunk. Without Curtis I'd have married a Bavarian Farm boy, had 7 kids and spent every day of my life waking at five to milk cows and make a fresh batch of Bavarian Blue.

Curtis has saved my life a hundred times. Even though he is a pest. And what's more, he doesn't seem to have a counterpart. I don't have, as I have a voice of self doubt, a voice of self faith.

That voice, the voice that argues with Curtis and tells me I CAN run 16 miles or finish a half marathon at 90 minutes or dance a mean Merengue even though I'm about as Latin as Cleopatra, that voice of self faith?

That voice has to be my own.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


It's the middle of June. A 200 pound woman in slightly too tight men's basketball shorts and a very, very sweaty tank top is running at what could almost be called speed, down what is definitely a very steep hill. There is only one source of a breeze for miles around and that is the air that is laboriously being shot from her lungs as she huffs and puffs like a big, fat wolf down the hill.

You and your teenage friends come roaring around a hill in an SUV and see the sight of this whale on legs and begin to laugh. One of you yells something obscene out the window. The group laughs its collective self silly for just a moment and then moves on to the topic of Jenny Sonnenfeld's out of season purse or Steve Morris's college age girlfriend.

The woman on the other hand stops running. Turns around. Goes home to her boring treadmill. Does not dig out her outdoor running shoes again for nearly a year.

Yes, the 200 pound woman is me, and yes, the kids in the SUV really did yell something obscene out the window at me. I like to think that in the years past, each of them has gone on to at the very least gain that infamous freshman 15. Hopefully one or two of them is really, really fat.

During the time it takes to do any diet/ exercise plan, it is absolutely inevitable that you yourself will encounter what I, at 200 pounds, huffing and puffing down Corkscrew Hill learned to call by a specific scientific term: Jerks. The husband (who is otherwise no doubt a prince of a fellow) who "encourages" you by pointing out what and how much you are eating. The neighbor who talks to you as if you had no idea that all you had to do all along was eat less and exercise more. The stupid kids hanging around the park like mold on cheap cheddar.

The solution to the problem of jerks is complicated. You can't make jerks go away. Even your prince of a husband sometimes acts like one. You can't hide from them. Eventually you are going to commit to some dang fool thing like running a marathon and you will have to get out and road run no matter how good you are doing on the tread mill. You can't reason with jerks because most of the time they are long gone by the time you have a chance to confront them (people are so much braver whizzing by in SUV's or approaching you at the neighborhood bar-b-cue than in places where you could actually turn around and tell them what jerks they are).

So here my recipe for dealing with Jerks:

1) accept that they are jerks. Either just right now (who knows if my SUV kids were just experiencing a lapse in judgement. Perhaps they're all church-going saints who volunteer to groom old people's poodles on weekends - to say the least of your otherwise princely husband) or always. It's not you. Sometimes people just act like jerks.

2) Remember that for every one (1) jerk there are a dozen (12) people who don't even notice you (after all 2/3 of the population is overweight or obese. You'd think we'd be used to seeing a few persons of larger persuasions around) and a lot of people are really rooting you on. Your friends and family, certainly, but a lot of strangers, too. Like me. And the nice people in the VW New Beatle who drove by every night as I ran down Corkscrew Hill and gave me a thumbs up. When it comes to losing weight, actually even the Jerks would like to see you succeed, even if their being jerks can be discouraging.

3) Confront them when you can. Accept it when you can't. Husbands, fathers, kids, friends who act like jerks don't mean to. They love you and are committed to you. Jerks or no they are rooting you on. And it's good practice to show people who treat you with disrespect that now that you are regrowing your self esteem they won't be allowed to treat you that way any more. It's called drawing reasonable boundaries. Making sure those around you don't cross the line into being disrespectful is a way for you to protect yourself. Otherwise your body will help you out by doing it for you - putting realy, tangible space between you and the jerks.
If you can't confront them, just accept that they are jerks. I like to think they are probably just momentary jerks who thoughtlessly lose their heads and don't realize the impact they're having. Like the SUV kids.

And when all else fails, picture them years from now, after a few years' neglect, too many college beer parties, no more varsity sports teams or cheer squads, running at 200 pounds down Corkscrew Hill. As you pass them at mile 24 running up it.

Maybe you'll be a professional trainer then too. And you can give them your card.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Buyers Remorse

"Isn't there a law in this state where you can exchange a car? Like if you buy it and change your mind?" I had my friend Andrew on the line minutes after having been fast talked into buying the brand new, souped up, custom Dodge Charger for which I had traded my famously clanky Volkswagen.

"No, not in this State. You can't take it back. Not after you've signed the papers."

I never found out why I had called Andrew specifically. Andrew is just a kid - OK young man - I know, fresh out of college. Maybe he just represents someone I think of as trustworthy, or maybe my dream self just thinks Andrew is just the kind of know it all I would require to know the answer to something like that.
I never found out because moments after my heart broken self hung up the phone with my all knowing friend I woke up, heart palpatating, drenched in sweat. I walked downstairs and opened the garage door. There was still a Volkswagen in it; as if on cue something shifted and Berthilda the 2001 Cabriolet went clank. My heart rate slowed to normal speed.
There would be no exorbitant payments I would have a monthly battle meeting. There would be no infamously high maintenance costs or endless detailing charges or whatever other costs upkeep on a brand new, souped up, custom Dodge Charger entails. I was off the hook.
The dream continued to disturb me though. What had the car symbolized? What was the dream trying to tell me about what I had just made a commitment to the higher cost greater maintenance effort of?
I sat forlorn in the kitchen in my new size S night shirt stewing. I googled "dream symbolism car." And they all came up with one thing: your body.
It turns out that in dreams the vehicle that carries you from place to place containing your mind and spirit represents your body.
Of course. And a body that's fit, in good shape, pretty, healthy etc. etc. requires A Lot of maintenance. It takes time and effort to take care of and yeah, it's sometimes a struggle.
And believe me there's nothing more heart breaking than having it repossessed. Nothing.
So here I sat, 2 AM at my kitchen table having signed the papers on a fancy new, souped up, custom vehicle-i.e.-body and realized all I wanted in the world was the comforting clank of something I wouldn't have to be so committed to. Something I could Not Think About. Something Low Maintenance and cheap.

Something I Could Neglect without anyone noticing.

The new size 8 thing, the souped up Dodge charger of bodies, this thing would make noise every time I gave it the wrong fuel. It would look disheveled if I forgot to oil it properly or let junk food wrappers build up in the passenger seat. My old body had never complained whatever I gave it and however I took care or failed to take care of it.
It had been fat but it had required NO Effort. At All.
And this having to do exercise and be picky about what I ate and take care of myself This Was Going To Be Too Hard.

I thought about calling my favorite know-it-all for advice. It had worked in the dream. But I realized he AND his lovely new wife would probably think all the exercise had finally deteriorated my brain.

And then I had the epiphany which I only recently put into words:

Everything worth doing is too hard. Everything worth doing requires me to bridge the gap between what I am capable of now and - get this - what I need to be capable of to accomplish my goal. That's what makes it worth doing. It stretches me. It improves me If it didn't it would be futile, boring, not worthwhile.

So I've been maintaining my souped up Charger so long I can say by now roughly 92% of the population has had theirs repossessed already.

The payment on it has been 5-6 days a week exercise.
The maintenance has been weekly weigh ins and time and energy spent making game plans when the scale went up a few ounces. It's involved passing on foods I thought I couldn't live without and only eating them on occasions when that's really true. It involved learning to like things I never thought I would, like seafood. Green beans. Cauliflower.
And spending time cooking for myself.
And going out for a run even when I didn't want to or when someone else made demands on my time or it was raining.
Sacrifice. Which I made. For myself. And no one else.
And that had always been the problem before.

I had not been worth the sacrifice. And now I was. I wanted my Charger. Fancy interior and high maintenance, souped up engine and all.

And for the first time in my life, wanting the shiny new vehicle outweighed my fear and dread about having to take care of it. After all, things had changed.

Taking care of my body was no longer drudgery.

Miraculously, wonderfully, it was a labor of love.

Whole Health Renovation Specialist

"I am forever striving to manifest things the way I would like them to be. In the mean time the greater challenge is to cope with the way things are." -Me

Friday, April 2, 2010

Beating Bob in One Easy- or Rather Agonizingly Difficult- Step

At the far end of the winding, hill ridden, cattle field lined country lane called Tonzi Road in Amador county, there is a collection of comingled brush, a good portion of which is poison oak. Its name is Bob. Nearly every day Bob taunted me. Ha Ha Bob would say as I ran up the hill toward him huffing and puffing like an elephant in labor.
You're walking. Again. Bob would laugh.
You'll never run further than a block, let alone all the way to the top of the hill.
Bob was located just past the top of something I tried very hard not to call "the hill of impending doom." Every day since I had decided to run a half marathon I had run the mile down the hill, and the mile almost back up. I would stop short of the crest of the hill. My formerly tar filled lungs burning, my legs feeling almost as solid as a pair of pipe cleaners. A bit recovered I would walk the walk of shame past the top of the hill of impending doom and hear the almost-sound of Bob the comingled poison oak bush laughing his non-butt off at me.
Five days a week. For a month. If I wasn't too deadly allergic to poison oak to get within 5 feet of it without turning into the stay-puffed marshmallow man I'd have set Bob on fire.
But every day I would get to the burning-lung-pipe-cleaner-leg phase and I would decide I could no longer take so much as one step and then I would do something that completely defied all possibility. What I did required superhuman strength. It was beyond comprehension. It was less likely than a duck billed platypus and more impossible than an anti-gravity suit.

I couldn't do it.
There was no way.
I was convinced.
And then I pushed all that out of my mind. Lifted my foot off the ground.
Just like that. I went one step further than I ever dreamed I could.
One step closer to the top of the hill of impending doom. And doom did not arrive.
And the next day I took yet another step closer. And the day after, too.
And within a mere 3 weeks I was doing the full 2 mile distance. At the bottom of the hill I added an extra mile. And at the top. And within another month I was running, not walking, back to the end of the road, and up to the top of then hill. Past the top of the hill to the scrubby, knob cone pine. Past that to the gnarled, rabbit ear shaped fence post. Past that to the "Trespassers Will Be Shot," sign (and they say we country folk are so sweet and hospitable). Past that to.... To Bob. And Bob was not laughing now.
Ha Ha. I would chortle every time I ran past Bob. Even and especially the day I ran all the way up the hill of impending doom, past Bob, up Mount-Not-Enough-Explatives and collapsed in a heap in front of my car. Between heaving, huffing and puffing I spared just enough breath for a MWAAAhahahahahahaaaaa! Take... Gasp.... That.... Huff.... Bob!
And that was the day I ran out of road. I had achieved my first goal of running 6 miles within a mere two months. Up and down hills. Past obstacles. Over dried creek beds and beyond the great, debilitating mental block known as Bob the comingled poison oak bush.
I ran that 6 mile stretch until I could do it in an hour. And then I decided I needed a real challenge and mapped out a rout with real hills and which would allow my runs to expand from six, to eight, to twelve, to... Eventually all the way to 26.
"I've hit an impasse. I can't get any further."
She was stuck at three miles. She would never get past three miles. The 13.1 she had committed to at the beginning of our sessions together was not getting any closer. It was getting further away. She would put her training plan and her anti-pronation running shoes and her three sizes too small run skirt all in a giant pile and set fire to it!
"Burn it all?" I suggested.
"Burn it all!" She tried and failed to resist laughing.
We had gone round and round on the subject of burn-it-all mentality.
I can't do exactly what I set out to do, exactly the way I want to, without any hitches in my perfectly lain plans so I'm am going to scrap it ALL and forget it and get a sack full of marshmallows and a six pack of beer and gain back whatever I've lost and never, never get up off my couch again until someone comes and lifts me off with a forklift. An industrial sized forklift.
"One step." I reminded her. "One step more than you did today. One bite of food less than you ate yesterday. Already you're way ahead of where you yesterday, miles ahead of where you started."
Her face did that thing people's faces do when, if they were cartoon characters a little balloon would appear over their foreheads like an x-ray showing all the little cog-wheels clinking and clanking into motion.
If you take one more step today than you did yesterday, and one more step tomorrow than you do today, then how long will it be before the steps add up to 13 miles?"

Clink. Clank.
"I can tell you because I know for a fact. From where you are now? About three months." I knew because I had already walked down that road. Or rather run up it huffing and puffing like a gimpy big bad wolf.

Clink. Clank.

"Meet me out on Tonzi Road." I looked at my watch. There was just enough time before sunset. "I want to introduce you to my friend Bob."
Whole Health Renovation Specialist

"I am forever striving to manifest things the way I would like them to be. In the mean time the greater challenge is to cope with the way things are." -Me

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Warning: this entry contains a bad word. On purpose.

"You know what you should say, don't you?"
Yes I knew.
"There must be another way.". I tried to weasel out of it anyway.

Kay laughed. Kay laughed the kind of hearty laugh of someone who has always had a heart of gold, the courage to call things as they were and the mouth of a truck driver.
She and I had argued for years about whether there was a real use for cursing. I had always said that there wasn't anything you could say with the F bomb that you couldn't say more articulately, say, using something fancy with several more syllables than consonants. Something that ended in -ination - or better, -ification. And any way curse words just made you feel worse. No one could still be angry after uttering the word "dookie.". It worked for me every time. Except now.

I ought to have known when I met Marian that she was that rare breed of female pompous douchebag. The biggest tip off was that she made her money as a "consultant," which used to mean something very specific and now just means, "person who does stuff and presumably gets paid."
But Marian is filthy rich.
Everybody knows her.
Everybody wants to be invited to her parties and sit around in a circle at her feet hoping to get for free the words of infinite wisdom she passes on to her high paying customers for beaucoup bucks.
I on the other hand, pride myself on having No Susceptibility to Wealth And Influence and Being Capable of Making Judgments Based Solely on a person's Merit.
Which was why I would have nothing whatsoever to do with Marian. Ever.
Until she decided she liked Me. Why she liked me was a mystery. I had no influence to speak of and on the social-climbing ladder I was on one of the bottom rungs at best.
Before I knew it I was meeting Marian at her favorite caffee. I was going to Marian's Fourth of July Party and attending weddings of family members I thought were spoiled leeches who'd burned out their best brain cells on designer drugs bought with Marian's money.
I was also feeding Marian's dog while she was away on her retreats and seminars and weekend getaways. I was looking after the house, too. And checking in with the pool boy and the maid and whatever else was so invaluable you couldn't trust the paid help to do.
I told myself this was a sort of Mr. Miagi moment. If I did all the work of carting off the cat's latest kill or cleaning out the dog's infected ear there would be some great lesson, some word and/ or phrase of infinite wisdom which would unlock the doors to health, wealth and happiness forever.
And of course the more of these favors I did the more of them I was "trusted" with. And I learned a lot of really interesting things. Like. Well, like. How Marian always said. How. Like. Well. I can't think of any right now but back then I thought I was learning all sorts of magic things and that was why I was more than happy to help move the Mahogany chest of drawers upstairs and oversee the painter's progress in the bathroom and ...
I had known Marian for years by the time I'd finally managed to get my weight off. She'd been encouraging. She'd had great tips. And the helping out with the dogs and carting off dead rodents and shifting furniture around had been great exercise. Now came the hard work of fixing what had been going on in my head that had got me to a point where I was morbidly obese, dying from my weight condition.
The first stop on the road to recovery had been self esteem and self respect. I would have to build them. I would have to do things which took care of me, just for me. I had to change my opinion of myself. Decide that I was worth the time and effort it would take to keep myself healthy. Do exercise. Think about, carefully choose and prepare my food. It would be hard to do all that if I had the attitude as I had had virtually my whole life: it wasn't worth spending the time and effort on me. My friends, family, whoever was much more deserving of my time and energy. So now I would have to Do Things For Myself Like Take More Care With Food and Exercise.

I would have to Stop doing things that were Not in my interest. Things that did not have self worth and self care at their core.
I would have to Not over eat.
I would have to Not forgo exercise for TV and popcorn.
I would have to stop spending my free hours cleaning out the ears of other people's dogs.
I would have to begin setting boundaries, saying no to all the pompous douchebags in my life and stop letting people have whatever they wanted of me in a vain effort to ensure they didn't leave me or stop liking me or tell me I couldn't play with them anymore.
I had to say no and was able to say no because whether the Marians of my life liked it or not I did not need their approval any more I had something much, much better and much, much more real and solid: my own.
So I told Marian I couldn't stop by and let the electrician in at 6 AM Monday morning. I wasn't available to stay all night and help her transcribe an inspirational song. I couldn't clean out the shed with her; I can't stand spiders.
If Marian really Was my friend and really Did care about me as much as she claimed and indeed as much as I now did, Marian's friendship wouldn't be so flimsy as to float away in the wind the moment I said I had plans for Friday night and couldn't stick around and wait for that special FedEx delivery while Marian went to the charity Gala.
I discovered in my experiments with saying no that nearly all my friends and family were completely OK with it. Some people even seemed to like me more, have the kind of respect for me I was finally showing for myself.
The men in my life especially loved it. And that was a surprise.
And so, though it shouldn't have been, was Marian. I didn't get invited to garden parties any more even though I did still occasionally get invited to help with their organization or clean up.
I had said no to Marian and unlike almost everyone I knew Marian Had abandoned me.
A few months later Marian called me. She was embroiled in a dispute with the pool boy. Would I testify to what he had done? Maybe I would even indicate I thought he was lazy and dim witted and a bit of a drunk and she was so sorry to have been so out of touch lately and we really should get together sometime.
I was going to call back today and tell her I would testify, but only the few facts I knew from one incident I'd been present for. No personal opinion. Nothing exaggerated.

And that was what I told Kay.
Kay didn't approve. She wouldn't take "no" for an answer, maybe-well-OK-but even less so.
"No. There's nothing else to say to that. What she asked you to do was wrong. And I'm amazed you'd even consider taking an hour out of your busy schedule to do it anyway."
I took a breath to say something. "No," she continued, "isn't enough."
She was right. "No" wasn't enough. "No" usually works and frankly given my circumstances I am delighted to announce that I have learned to use it appropriately. But this was one situation where "No" was not enough. "No" just said I wouldn't do it. "No" did not add, "and I am absolutely affronted by the fact that you would even dream of asking me to do anything for you let alone something immoral and potentially illegal."
"No" did not even indicate my deep dissatisfaction with her treatment of me over the years of our relationship. "No" did not give her even a vague impression of the fact that I now had a well developed sense of self esteem and self care that I would not allow pompous douchebags like her to violate no matter how rich and powerful they were.

"What should you have said?" If Kay had had half moon glasses she would have been peering over them at me. I thought about getting her some for Christmas.

I thought for a moment.
I looked around to make sure no one else could overhear.
"Frhg hm."
"Huh?" It wasn't good enough.
"Fuck you.". And your little dog's ear issues, too.
"Now you'll remember for next time, too." Kay slapped her hand on the table.
And she was right. The simplistic magic of "Fuck You," is pure genius. It goes further than "no" in expressing indignation. When used properly it could skip insult and not create, but rather prevent injury.
If appropriate use of "no" is a way of enforcing reasonable boundaries, appropriate use of "Fuck You" is a way of making good and sure it doesn't happen again with someone who has no business being anywhere near them in the first place.
The Boston Tea Party was a "No." The Declaration of Independence? That was a Fuck You.
Unlike "No," "Fuck You" has to be used with extreme care. "No" in the right place will be respected. "No" in the wrong place can be forgiven. "Fuck You," is pretty final. Good friends will apologize.
Weak bonds will be tested.
Pompous Douchebags will threaten to find some reason to see you in court, too. They will hardly believe you wouldn't do this for them after all the words of wisdom they passed on to you free of charge.
To which, again, there is only one answer.
One that says go-ahead-and-try.
One that says I-believe-in-me-but-I'm-clever-enough-not-to-believe-you.

"Fuck You."
It was all I could say.

Whole Health Renovation Specialist

"Small steps can be agonizingly slow but how much better a small step in the right direction than a giant leap in the wrong one." -Me

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Chickening Out

"I won't make it. I have an ingrown toenail."
Trainers are just another form of teacher. We've heard them all. My dog ate it. I had a sniffle. I was kidnapped by aliens. I was kidnapped by sniffling aliens with hungry dogs and ingrown toenails.
My client who had suddenly contracted an ingrown toenail within the 3 hour span since I'd set up the appointment, was chickening out. I wasn't taking it personally. It happens all the time. I did it a hundred times myself, but the only time I remember was the time I almost chickened out and didn't, and it changed my whole entire life forever and ever.
I had been searching for an activity that would get me out more. I had (long, long story very short - see entry "Dancing Queen" from November 2009) settled on Latin dance. I had gone once. Hardly got asked to dance. Went again. Almost turned the car around and went home to a comfy piece of chocolate cake and six pack of beer at nearly every intersection. Decided to keep going instead. Met Arturo. Learned to dance and to love dancing. Got pretty good at it. Now, only a short time later, I have to be restrained from dancing by my friends and family because I have an important race the next day.
I've fallen in love on the dance floor. Several times. I've made literally dozens of friends and acquaintances. I've learned the art, or some might argue science, of Latin dance. I've branched out to Tango. Fox trot. Waltz. Two step.
The residual shyness, self esteem deficit, fear of intimacy, paranoia, all the things I got as a twofer with my lifelong weight battle, they're all gone. Replaced with the outgoing, friendly, smiling, genuine, authentic albeit slightly sanity challenged social butterfly you all know.
And I owe it all to the fact that one night, dressed in my favorite pink top and my very first ridiculously short skirt and my brand new strappy pink heels I told myself everyone would think I was weird for sitting alone by the dance floor, that I was a lousy dancer, that I would never make friends and influence people, that the women I had met last week hated me and the men I'd danced with thought I was a clod and anyway I'd done it once and once was enough to prove I could and...
And I told myself that as I drove into the sunset in my car and listed in the blink of an eye a thousand reasons why I Should Not Keep Going and Did Anyway.
So virtually every good and permanent change I've made to my life, my body and my mind I owe to one, single solitary fact: that despite all logic, in defiance of all my best attempts at reason, all my ingrown toenails, dogs and rogue aliens with dogs, I Did Not Chicken Out.
I kept driving.
I met someone who helped me.
I not only succeeded at what I'd set out to do, I kept going beyond anyone's expectations.

All because I Did Not Chicken Out. I repeat: I Did Not Chicken Out.

And now as I hung up the phone with what must be the umpteenth client to chicken out on what must be the umpteen-thousandth dance-date-5K-race-swim-meet-gung-ho-fitness-guru-event-X I wracked my brain to remember how that moment when I Didn't Chicken Out had been so remarkably different from the umpteen-thousand times I HAD chickened out. What had scared me off all the times I'd invented aliens or made excuses about sniffles or dogs or work or whatever that had not been present that last, decisive, non-chickening-out moment? The answer? Nothing. Nothing had scared me off. Nothing had crept around the corner preventing me from doing what was clearly in my own best interest. No monsters crawled out of the closet and there were no wild animals hiding behind fence posts. For lack of monsters and bears and aliens and in grown toe nails my brain had made some up.

They were called
Perfectly logical.
Totally understandable.
Completely sane.

Every time I got it into my head to do something beneficial to myself, I would come up with one very good reason why I should.
For instance:
Isolation is one of the main contributing factors to weight gain and regain and overall diet failure. Therefore I need to get out more. So I should learn to dance.
That was a very Good Reason.
But as the day of the actual event crept up, more Reasons kept invading in on me.
Reasons I shouldn't. Didn't need to. Could do something else instead. Something less difficult. Something less scary. Something that had a LOT less potential for disappointment.
And that was THE very heart of the matter. Everything I Did, as opposed to things I chickened out of, had the potential for disappointment. I would be all dressed up in my cutest laughably high heels and ridiculously short skirt and no one would dance with me. Or the other women might cluck their tongues and gossip about me, the new girl. Or I might never learn to be good at it. Or...
It, they, I (and "I" was the worst potentiality of all) might disappoint me.
Disappointment, the very whisp of the possibility of the potential of disappointment had scared me off a thousand times from a thousand things that could have been as beneficial, or maybe even a thousand times more beneficial, than Latin dancing.
So why had the great monster-bear-alien-dog-ingrown-toenail of impending disappointment not tackled me this time? Because this time, just a few days beforehand someone very clever had asked me this question:

Are you going to be disappointed?

To which I had answered, maybe.

And what will happen if you are?

To which I had answered, I don't know.

Are you going to die from the disappointment?


Will you eventually get over the disappointment?

Probably. OK yes.

Right. Because in over thirty years you've never died of disappointment before. And many, many worse disappointments have occurred in your life up to now. How did you cope with them?

Answer: chocolate cake.

And did the chocolate cake make it go away?


Did it help?


What did help?

Nothing. It went away on its own.

That's right. The feeling of disappointment had gone away all by itself. In a comparably short amount of time.

As compared to the grief I'd felt losing my beloved uncle Joe, disappointment had been a cake walk.
Compared to the loneliness I'd experienced when I'd first come back home after years of world travel and had no friends and barely knew my own family? A little of the D-meister had been like falling off a log.

Next to being abandoned by my boyfriend for an important soccer game on Valentine's day? Not being asked to dance was practically a pleasure.

Of all the awful, bad, distasteful lousy things that had happened to me, disappointment over not being good at dancing or not being asked to dance or... Whatever, was Nothing. It was not a monster. Or an alien. Or a bear. It was not even a potentially rabid field mouse.

It was nothing I couldn't handle.
There, that day as I drove into the sunset to Sacramento, that was the day I realized that

I Could Cope. Even If I Was Disappointed.
And I didn't need the help (or rather hindrance) of chocolate cake.

Since then I've seen them a thousand times: The Reasons.

They surface anytime the potential of disappointment comes up. They float over the phone lines from friends and clients and relatives who see

Potential Disappointment

As something so overwhelming that they are utterly debilitated by it.
And what do I do when The Reasons strike?
I think about that night of dancing.
How it led to a dozen friendships. Love.
A new and utterly satisfying career.
And yeah. A little disappointment.

Today I had my first ever race win. I got an interview on TV. I met some die hard runners who will be a whole new set of friends, and half a dozen potential clients.

Last night I almost decided not to run.

Because I really was tired.
I still had a sniffle from last week's flu.
I wasn't sure I was totally over those shin splints.
The course was too hilly.
I was in a ratty mood.
I had paperwork.


Actually, the possibility that, although I, the fitness guru, Should win the race, there was always the possibility I MIGHT not.

Impending disappointment.

Would I die of the disappointment? No.
What would happen if I wasn't disappointed?
The possibilities are endless.

Don't let the mere whisp of a potential for impending disappointment make your life one long chain of them.

The only time you can guarantee you'll be disappointed, is when you chicken out.

Win the race when you can. And be disappointed when you can't. It's OK. Really. You'll see.

Whole Health Renovation Specialist

"Small steps can be agonizingly slow but how much better a small step in the right direction than a giant leap in the wrong one." -Me

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Saying No to Noah

"No." I said, a little more firmly than I ever believed I could. "No, thanks but no."
The No-ee, let us call him "Noah," shook his perfectly chiseled head and blinked perfectly shaped dark, mysterious long lashed eyes in real disbelief.
"No? Really? No?" Noah even knew my story, and being himself a fitness professional was aware that formerly overweight people often have self esteem issues and ensuing trouble saying no. Besides which, he was, well he was Noah.
Noah. The hottest thing on the slightly overripe singles scene in that raging metropolis known as Sacramento. Noah has a fast, though as he will tell you at some length, very environmentally friendly shiny, metallic vehicle. Noah has shiny shoes and fashionably tailored collars he wears with ties with shiny metallic stripes on them and shiny cuff links which are both stylish and expressive of his personal style. Noah is six foot something and built like a meat refrigerator. Noah has a gaggle of semi speechless, often babbling, rambling, giggling divorced GenExers dangling from either arm like belly dancer bangles.
Noah is smokin hot.
Noah is popular.
Noah can dance.
Noah is - and this is unanimously agreed upon by every man, sane woman and small child who has known him longer than 15 minutes - a pompous douchebag.

Of course I did not know that when I stood at the bar guzzling my Friday night diet coke, listening to him educate me on the best process for training "serious runners," (I and my 3 hour 58 minute marathon being of course mere fooling around), the proper nutrition for best strength resistance training results, why my brand of dance shoe was actually unacceptably constructed for safety and comfort.
I shot a glance at my favorite barman. I asked for a refill, the hard stuff: maybe the shot of sugar from regular coke would chase away whatever blood sugar issue was barring me from having the pants charmed off me like every other girl that Noah had deigned to turn his attention toward.
He was, after all, THE hottest non-married, non-gay non-Rick-the-barman in a 50 mile radius.
And he is, I repeat, a pompous douchebag.
Which you must understand would not have made a difference to me just a few short years ago. In fact the last time I found myself exploring the dating scene I was hung up on (in chronological order) a Serbo-Croatian tax accountant who admitted after the first date that he really just liked me because I looked like his ex-girlfriend. Then showed me a picture he carried in his wallet. There was the sicialian who called his stock broker in the middle of a lunch date to make sure he'd sold whatever he was supposed to sell and went around telling everyone how he did something with cell phones that was "very lucrative.". He did not specify "and did not require anything to fall off any trucks," but that went without saying. And an engineer who swore he wasn't married, no, he just had to visit his sick mother up north every weekend. And no, I couldn't come. It wasn't advisable. Mother was contagious. What was it? It was rare. He forgot what they called it. But deadly. Except for family members. They were immune. And wives, of course.

Yes, with a few exceptions my dating life had been Filled with pompous douchebags. And looking at Noah, I realized now why that was.
In all those years, in all that time I had never said "no." I had never had a line on one side of which was, "acceptably confident and admirably self assured," and on the other, things like "slightly pathetic schmuck," "arrogant weasel," and "pompous douchebag."
The reason I had never drawn that line was that I had so wanted to be wanted, wanted to be in a fulfilling relationship with somebody everyone thought was really great that I would do, say and put up with anything, alright almost anything, to get it.
I listened while a cute but very sad man explained that I just wasn't his type but I looked so much like her I could certainly hang around him as long as I liked. I put up with the announcements about the lucrative truck accidents and the sick mother with cheap-mistress-itis.
But I drew the line at Noah. I hadn't been a pro very long but I'd been, for all intents and purposes a student of diet and fitness all my life. I knew more about nutrition than most, practically had a degree in how to run hill repeats for speed training. And my dance shoes had served me quite well thank you very much. Almost as long as I'd been dancing. And they were kind of hot, too.
Finally, I had found a place to draw a line. Something you couldn't do, somewhere you couldn't go no matter how how many other women's pitter-pattering hearts you'd just smashed to smithereens in my favor.
You could not be a pompous douchebag to me and still have the privilege of buying me dinner. Or even a diet coke. Ever.

Since saying no to Noah I find myself saying "No" all the time. Not just throwing "no" around like confetti. Using judgment. Examining when no is really necessary. Thinking that "no" is actually a great screen.
It turns out people who love me - even people who just like me a lot - do not jump up and run away whenever I tell them no. When I'm too overworked to cook dinner my house mates do not dream up excuses to banish me. When I forget to stop by gramma's house she does not change the locks and shutter the windows for my next visit. If I tell the guy I'm dating I cannot see him anymore because he is a pompous douchebag he does not run around town spreading rumors that I stuff my bra. Though I am down one dance partner. Which of course, is worth the risk.
And that's the rub, isn't it? A lost dance partner is nothing compared to the lost self respect, the sacrificed identity that goes into accommodating a pompous douchebag. So much of yourself has to be swallowed, and quite literally swallowed - often in the form of cake and ice cream - that you can hardly breathe for discomfort. It's no wonder that when you can't consciously draw your boundaries, when you can't stand on one side of the degrading, patronizing, demeaning jerk line and wield your extra powerful battle axe of "no," your body does it for you. It draws the line in the form of physical distance. Maybe, it hopes, when you have a few inches around your middle everybody will Go Away and Leave You Alone with all the demands you can't meet and behavior you should never, ever have to tolerate. In other words, if you don't draw the line, your body will help you out.
It will certainly get rid of all the pompous douchebags. Pompous douchebags have no regard for overweight people.
So learn to say "no" when "no" is needed.
Even when you're worried it will make the no-ee abandon you. Or hate you. Or never want to see you again.
Because if the no-ee is a decent person who really likes you he/ she won't abandon you. Or hate you.
And if he/she isn't? He may abandon you. He may take off in a huff almost spilling your diet coke all over your barely visible skirt.
And good riddance.

Whole Health Renovation Specialist

"Small steps can be agonizingly slow but how much better a small step in the right direction than a giant leap in the wrong one." -Me

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Boxing By Myself

Pastor Jay had been standing at the pulpit for the better part of an hour now. He was talking, I could tell, because his lips were moving. And the mic wasn't broken, because sound was definitely coming from the speakers. And anyway Pastor Jay (he's a preacher so he has to) has a voice that could call hogs in three counties. He could address the masses on the mount with a burlap sack over his head. And a mouth full of cotton. Standing on his head. He is not a man people don't hear.
But I could not hear a word he was saying. All I could hear was the sound of my brain nagging me for like the millionth time about the Very Large Piece of Chocolate Cake I wasn't going to buy at Safeway after church. I wasn't going to buy it because I was determined not to eat any cake. Possibly never again. I was going to conquer my cake addiction and exercise my iron will and newly learned self control come Hill Or High Water and I Did Not Care What It Would Take.
And now I was sitting in church not listening to what may or may not have been an interesting and relevant sermon because I was possessed. I was not sure if I was possessed by the actual devil or just by the piece of chocolate cake, but I WAS possessed and I Would be Exorcised. Come hill or high water.
An hour later I was sitting in the car outside the Safeway. The cake container devoid of its contents, wiped clean of so much as a dribble of chocolate butter frosting.
I was guilty. I was ashamed. My will of iron had proved so weak I could not even resist a piece of chocolate cake. I had been to church and totally missed the boat on the sermon because I was so chocolate-cake obsessed that I Couldn't Even Make Out what pastor was talking about. As if the sermon had been in the original Aramaic.
I was a flop.
I was a failure.
I was
I was
What was I? I decided to do something I had never, ever dreamed of doing before: I asked my body.
What was I?
The answer resounded as if off the very same purple mountain's majesty freedom is supposed to ring back and forth on.
What was I?
Not, as I had told myself, bloated and fat like a whale, heavy like a rock. Sick, slow and sloppy like a banana slug.
Satisfied. So saith my body. And, it added as if that had not been enough, I do not need anything else just right now. Thanks. I'm full. And happy. And now I am going to relax with or without you.

And so my body sat back in the convertible and soaked up some warm sunlight while the rest of me babbled unhappily to itself.

I shouldn't have done that.
I have no self control.
I am just going to gain back the whole 130 pounds.
I'll be a fat ugly whale and all that hope I had built up in myself I've just totally blown. Because I cannot and do not have any faith in myself because I am a hopeless, hapless schlemiel with no self control or determination or ambition and No Hope Of Success.
I hate me. I especially hate my body. Which of course is not really me, just an appendage I wish I could cut off but am stuck with.
Maybe when I'm dead I'll have some peace from the thing.

And that was where my body drew the line. Apparently it could take being blamed and hated but death was a different story.

We've been on a diet. My body reminded me. We've been exercising. We've been wielding our self control like a medieval battle axe.
We needed a break.
We needed a piece of cake. Trust me. I know.

We're going to get fat. I told it.

That piece of cake only weighed a few ounces. It's not going to make us fat until we've had several more like it.

We'll be...
We'll have...
We're gonna....

I couldn't argue with that. My body was right. A piece of cake was not going to make me fat. A hundred pieces of cake were not going to make me fat, not unless I ate them all at once.

Stop beating us up. My body protested. We are only human.

It was then that I saw them, stretching on behind me like a giant diet and fitness rubber band:
Diet and lose weight.
Make one false move like eating a piece of chocolate cake.
Beat myself up over the piece of chocolate cake.
Create a LOT of worry, anxiety, shame, guilt, fear, disappointment, helplessness, not to mention anger around the one, lousy, stinkin' piece of chocolate cake.
Sooth myself. With more cake.
And some ice cream.
And a soda.
And beer.
And pizza.
Lament some more about the weight I've gained from the cake and ice cream and beer and soda and....
Eat some more.
Until I really have gained 130 pounds.
From very little more than what my body had so casually referred to as beating myself up.
In fact, if I thought about it I had just threatened my body with murder. Or maybe not murder, but I had just said I'd be better off without it. Same thing.
So I was beating myself up and my body too. I was punishing it. I was punishing myself with all the indulging, starving, splurging, over-exercising crap I was putting us through.
And all because it wanted an innocent piece of cake. Heck. I wanted a piece of cake. My poor body wasn't to blame.
And then it dawned on me: neither was I.

I had wanted cake.
I had eaten cake.
I did not do this all the time.
It was not the end of the universe.
I was not going to wake up tomorrow a size 24.
In fact I was going to wake up tomorrow and run 6 miles. Because that was on my plan. And that was what I'd been doing for weeks. Consistently. Without fail.
So I was not a flop.
Or a failure.
I was merely satisfied.
I went home.
I did not have any beer or pizza or ice cream. I just waited until I got hungry and had a reasonably sized, essentially healthy dinner.

And I did not wallow in shame or tremble with anxiety or dwell on my disappointment or feel helpless to change my behavior.

For once, instead of getting out my battle axe to beat myself up, I had dug something out of the far reaches of the dusty attic that is the "stuff I never use" section of my brain:
common sense.

Common sense told me I was clearly not lacking in self control. I had just spent 18 months on a diet. That did not exactly scream reckless abandon.
I was not a glutton.
I was not weak. I had spent the better part of my life carrying 50 + pounds of extra weight around on my back. Nothing weak about that.
I was not going to gain back all the weight I'd lost because of a piece of chocolate cake.
I did not need an exorcist.
Or a lobotomy.
I had just needed a piece of chocolate cake.
And to go easy on myself.
And not have a piece of chocolate cake every day.
And everything was going to be OK.

And it was.
I am the same weight today as I was that day. Dozens of pieces of chocolate cake have crossed these lips since then.
And I have stopped getting into boxing matches with myself over them.
And my body is delighted to report I have decided to keep it.
Whole Health Renovation Specialist

"You will be quite amazed to see what you can do when you dont know you can't. You will be downright speechless at what you can do when you know you can." -Me

Friday, February 5, 2010

Burn It All!

"Burn it all?" It was the offer I made to my sister as the two of us sat, for the thousandth hour in a row on Gramma's beautiful, antique, pristine, Spanish-Inquisitionesue torture device of a couch. We were editing and reworking the manuscript for her book. 9 hours a day. For the tenth day in a row.
We were tired.
We had had enough.
We had been locked in the war room together for what seemed like a year editing what seemed like an extended version of the encyclopedia Britanica, drinking what seemed like a thousand skim lattes a day, nibbling gramma's candied walnuts until our collective blood sugar surpassed that of a baboon on a banana plantation and then crashed over and over like a tidal wave.

In short, we were crabby.

We were overworked.
We had reached a creative block with the section we were working on and hit a block and all our efforts were for naught and nothing would ever work and why weren't we just working on our CPA certifications or getting our teaching credentials for teaching sign language to gorillas or something that Did Not Require Creativity. Or Inspiration. Or Talent.
Because it was now clear that we, between us had not one stitch of any of those things. And never would.
We were failures.
We were flops.
We might as well BURN IT ALL! The Manuscript! The Thumb Drive it was backed up to and Yes, the snazzy Apple computer on which it had been written.
Burn it all!
And the Spanish Inquisition Torture Device Couch, Too!!
With extra exclamation points for emphasis!!!! So there!!!!

Of course we did not burn it all. We took a break, had a beverage. We went for a walk. We replaced the coffee with water. Had a healthy dinner. With vegetables. And moved Gramma's candied walnuts well out of sight.

So today, when my client called and changed my carefully thought out plan, and one of my business partners flaked out on a major deal we'd had in the works and one of my newly committed clients had to put off her program start because of a mere heart issue, and this guy I was all keen on called and said he was going back to his ex and the dance video I'd ordered from netflix turned out to be lousy and...
Oh just Burn It All! I will never be a success. I will be a poor, starving artist/ writer/ trainer coach/ whatever... FOREVER.

Burn it All!

And then I will comfort myself with a cup cake.
And beer.
And by next week I will be back to 277 wondering why I did all that work in the first place.

So I might as well just burn it all!
Everything was moving forward nicely and then one thing went wrong and of course everything is going to go to hell in a hand basket.

Burn it all!

And this is of course the number one reason for weight loss failure: all or nothing thinking.
If I can't do one thing, I can't do anything.
If one thing goes wrong everything else will, too.
If I gain a pound after slouching around for a week and eating too many candied walnuts ala gramma I Will Be Fat Again and Forever.
And I will never be able to...
And I don't have the talent, or the courage, or the ability to... Fill in the blank.

Burn it all.

I was doing so great, following my diet plan and torturing myself on the treadmill daily, and Not Thinking of a Pink Alligator and then I had a ham and cheese sandwich and somebody offered me a cookie and that of course only went down comfortably with a caramel machiato and pretty soon I had gained half a pound and now I am a complete and utter failure! And I might as well blow off all my diet and exercise efforts and sit on the couch watching biggest loser with a beer and pizza and giant piece of chocolate cake.

Burn it all!!

Give it up and be overweight and accept failure and teach sign language to gorillas because you will Never Be Successful at Reaching a Healthy Weight.

Burn it all!!

I remember the first time this thought occurred to me seriously.
I had lost 120 pounds.
I had just quit smoking.
I was training for a half marathon.
I was in the middle of my crazy month, when I thought I would forever be fixated on food and was doomed to regain every pound I'd lost plus a few just for punishment.
I was driving to Sacramento to go dancing with my beloved Arturo. I was on highway 16 on the corner at Bradshaw Road. Where there is an AM PM. Wherein one can find both cigarettes AND diet soda AND ice cream sandwiches galore AND even though they are disgusting, slimy, grease balls with the insult-to-cheese-products-everywhere-food-item-known-as-American-Cheese, cheese burgers.
I decided to stop the car and satisfy my incessant desire for cigarettes, grease and sugar. I couldn't take it any more. I was about to be a failure, and I might as well turn around because I would never learn to dance and anyway dancing wouldn't be fun anymore when I was back to 277 pounds from all the grease burgers and cheese-like-food-products and I wouldn't be able to do anything anyway because I wouldn't be able to breathe from the 4 packs of cigarettes a day I was going to be inhaling.

Burn it All!!!

If only this stupid Subaru in front of me would turn off so I could get into the parking lot. Stupid Subaru drivers. Those guys were probably in there, nibbling their granola and adjusting the straps on their Birkenstocks and just generally being the kind of goody-goody non-smoking cheesy-food-product-free wholesome types that would have a license plate frame which read....
Which read....

"You only fail when you give up."

I am not making this up.
I kid you not.
As the lord God Almighty is my witness. And you know I take that stuff seriously.

"You only fail when you give up."

It was on the license plate of the wholesome, Birkenstock, granola Subaru people who Would Not Turn Off and Let Me Into the Parking Lot of The Junk Food and Cigarette Wonderland that was the AM PM at Bradshaw and highway 16.

You only fail when you give up.

The heavens did not open up. The face of God almighty did not appear in the clouds and the image of the holy mother did not form on a piece of toast.

But the Subaru did finally turn off. And the parking lot of the junk food wonderland opened up before me in all its glory.

And I drove past the entrance. And I arrived safely on the dance floor where I danced all night.
And no, I was not an instant success. And I did not become a lifelong healthy, thin, perfect, together, totally rockin' filthy rich business person over night.

But I did not fail, either.
Because I did not give up.

I did not burn it all.

And I discovered that when what I was doing stopped working for me, I could try something else. Until something did work.
And I have been a non-smoker longer than more than 90% of all quitters. And I have been at a healthy weight longer than more than 90% of all dieters.
And I ran a marathon.
And learned to dance.
And I can do the splits on roller skates.
And I am building a client list faster than a speeding bullet.

And I am so glad I did not stop at the grease ball and cigarette wonderland.
I did not burn it all.

I did not fail. Because I did not stop trying.

And that was all it took to ensure my success.

Whole Health Renovation Specialist

"You will be quite amazed to see what you can do when you dont know you can't. You will be downright speechless at what you can do when you know you can." -Me

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Don't think of a Pink Alligator

Especially not one with purple eyes who is wearing a bow tie. Now don't think of the pink and purple bow tied alligator at all. The whole day.
If I had asked you before you read the title of this entry whether you had ever so much as dreamed of a pink alligator, you would have wondered what I'd slipped into my skinny latte along with the fake sugar, or whether the crazy that runs in my family had finally been triggered by the stress of being a fitness professional in January. A pink alligator. And don't forget, you are not supposed to be thinking about pink alligators, so you'd better get them ruddy well out of your head. Pronto. No pink alligators.
Now the question is, now that the suggestion has been made that a) there is such a thing as a pink and purple bow tied alligator and b) you are under no circumstances supposed to be thinking about one, how, pray tell, do you banish the thought of it? Remember, I have commanded you not to think of it.
Just as daily, at the very least when you are trying to watch your calorie intake, you try to force yourself not to think of food. You berate yourself for thinking of food. You give yourself an emotional slap on the mental hand every time you eye that 950,000 calorie brownie behind the counter of the Starbucks and force yourself to get a mere skinny latte. OK with just a dash of caramel. And real sugar. What the heck. I didn't have the brownie, I saved myself 950,000 calories, right?

Brownie. Nope, not thinking about brownies.

Maybe I should make that a mocha instead of a latte. It's a good substitute for chocolate.

Brownie. And the little tea cookies. They're small.

Brownie. Still not thinking about brownies.

Yes. That was nice. That satisfied the urge for the 950,000 calorie brownie nicely.

Brownie. #*@!!@?! Brownies. It's a whole lot harder not thinking about them than just fixating on them. But I am determined not to think about them.

You know the thing about brownies is that they have that texture from the eggs with the flower and the butter.

Brownie. You know Safeway has those little brownie bites....
And before you know it, instead of eating a brownie with a cup of coffee (approx. 450 cal) you have had 14 brownie bites (1200 calories) and a mocha (400 calories) and some chocolate cookies (250 calories).
And all because you were very busily and diligently NOT thinking about brownies.
And now, having just read about brownies, you are no doubt at this moment standing in the firm belief that you could be satisfied with just a taste, just a smidgen. Then you could throw the rest away. Really.
And because of the brownie you have forgotten all about the mission you were given at the beginning if this blog - not to think of a pink alligator. With purple eyes and a green bow tie. And red and yellow candy striped teeth. And nails painted sky blue.

So now that you have failed in your mission of not thinking of a pink alligator, I want you to work back through the process that has just occurred in your head:

You were specifically told not to think of a pink alligator.

You immediately, probably for the first time in your life, imagined a pink alligator. Let us call her Gertrude. With purple eyes. And a green bow tie. And orange tap shoes.

Then you thought about brownies. Until it made you so crazy you really did think, just for a moment, about the Safeway brownie bites and wondered how far away the nearest Safeway was and whether there'd be much traffic this time of day.

And then you gave yourself that mental slap on the psychological wrist. What IS wrong with me? You wonder.

And then Gertrude waltzed in with her pink scales and purple eyes and fuchsia, heart shaped hair bauble. And suddenly you were thinking about Gertrude again. Exactly what you were not supposed to do. Darn you.

Why can't you control your thoughts? What precisely is your brain doing, thinking thoughts that are clearly not in your best interest.

But you know that whole years have gone by when you never thought of pink alligators. And whole weeks, months, who knows how long can go by when you don't give brownies so much as a passing thought.

It is not the pink alligator, in other words, nor the brownie itself, which is actually the subject of your fixation. It is, in fact, 2 things:
1) The command "don't"
2) The ensuing shame, guilt, surprise, anger, frustration helplessness, disappointment, and anxiety that arises in your feelings toward yourself as you fail to not do what you expect to be able to not do: think about something, whatever it is.

Freud identified this phenomenon in his usual Freudian way in relation to sexual thoughts: Victorians weren't supposed to think about sex, so they repressed those thoughts, had bizarre dreams involving balloons (or anything else Freud could justify as a symbol for sexual repression. And Freud could do that with almost anything. Probably says more about Freud than his patients), and in essence, made themselves sick. Women especially during the Victorian era were known for ailments like hysterics (stress, anxiety etc). You can imagine given how upsetting your recent thoughts about brownies were, that hysterics could easily be brought on by trying to constantly repress thoughts.

In our current, fitness obsessed, junk food centered, food and consumer loving society it's pretty clear that food has replaced Freud's favorite obsession.
Look: a McDonald's commercial. Look: a weight watchers commercial.

Think about food.
Don't think about food.
Whatever you do don't think about food. Something's wrong with you if you're always thinking about food.

I learned the pink alligator effect during what I call "the crazy month" - the month after I had achieved my weight loss goal, attempted to go back to eating normally and ended up nibbling, snacking and utterly failing in my efforts not to think of pink alligators (or rather food). I remember watching the pastor preach and thinking of nothing but food and wondering if perhaps I was possessed. I wasn't supposed to think about food. I was supposed to be thinking about God. Not food.
Or pink alligators. With turquoise grass skirts. Eating grapes.

So now that we realize that the reason why we Just Can't Leave Half the Chicken Fillet On The Plate (because we are not supposed to think about it and are therefore obsessed with it) or Not Eat 14 brownie bites (because it actually is calling our name in a very nearly literal sense) is because we are Not Supposed to Be Thinking About it combined with the fact that we are Very Ashamed of and Anxious about our Failure to Not Think about it, what is one to do about it?

Answer: think of a pink alligator.
Then forgive yourself when you fail anyway.

In other words, as you were reading this, eventually what made you stop thinking of Gertrude the pink alligator was that your thoughts were directed toward the brownie.
Then you were so obsessed with the brownie you really very nearly did run out and get one.
Then your thoughts were directed back to Gertrude.
And Victorians.
And the author's temporary sanity issues.
And pretty soon brownies flew right out of your head.
And now they're back.
Alligator. Pink. Gertrude. Cartruese socks.
The point is, your brain is always doing something. It wants to be occupied. You can't turn it off.
If the last suggestion was that you think of, or don't think of a pink alligator, that is what your brain will rest on until it finds something better to do. It will go down whatever path the pink alligator leads it on until it arrives at brownie.

Pink alligator. Silver, spangly anklet with elephant charms.

So when you find yourself at the dinner table, beating yourself up about the second helping you're not supposed to think about or the dessert you're not supposed to even consider, instead of building shame, anxiety, fear helplessness, guilt, disappointment and a hundred other things that will make you want them even MORE...
Just don't think of a pink alligator instead.
In other words, turn your attention to something ELSE. Think about a complicated problem you've been working to solve. Call your sister and be her person to vent at for a while. Have a piece of gum.

Think about Gertrude. The Pink alligator. With the indigo bangles.

And when Gertrude isn't enough to help, when Gertrude doesn't do the trick and you end up having to Eat The Darn Thing After All, don't make things worse by beating yourself up. After all, you've been thinking of that particular pink alligator a very, very long time to break the habit all in one go.
Whole Health Renovation Specialist

"You will be quite amazed to see what you can do when you dont know you can't. You will be downright speechless at what you can do when you know you can." -Me