Monthly Archives: April 2011

The 4 Hour Body

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Okay, I admit it: I am a soft-sell for books.  I always want to read whatever has just been reviewed on NPR or Jon Stewart.  I think to myself, I’m going to remember that book, and I’m going to go out and get it!  Does it ever happen?  Of course not.  My mind is a trained sieve. 

Then imagine my surprise when I got to the library last night and I actually remembered one of the books I’d been reading reviews on earlier in the day!  Okay, okay, to be honest, that statement doesn’t really warrant an exclamation mark.  That was totally trumped-up self-aggrandisement.  The only reason I remembered the book at all was that it was written by Tim Ferriss, the guy whose blog I read to get me started on my menu.  I get no gold stars for that one.  Maybe a bronze star.  I mean, I did get to the library with two wheelchair-bound septuagenarians*, and I kept one of them from actually stealing a book.  I should get props for that, right?

Well, so here I go in search of the Tim Ferriss book, The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman.  I look at that title again, and I think, Man, there’s something for every demographic right there!  But then the joke’s on me – this thing is 565 pages, the size of a Shakespeare textbook, and, to quote the book itself, “big enough to club a baby seal.”  It’s also amazingly well-written.  It’s got voice.  I never thought I would actually have a hard time putting down a ‘health’ book, but here it is – the book I want to read all the way through (even against the book’s own advice!).

The book makes some really good points, and I went against my nature and took action on many of them today.  I even had a nurse help me do a body measurement so that I could track change**.  The biggest golden nugget I got out of today’s reading, though, was the concept of the Minimal Effective Dose, the least amount of effort it takes to get the result.

With that in mind, when I went to the gym tonight (for the first time in well over a month), I didn’t try to kill myself with a grand-tour workout.  I tried to get everything primed to work without overdoing.  I realized that there are so many times when I fall into the trap of thinking that working out longer (or harder) is getting results faster.  Ferriss points out, “Exceeding your MED can freeze progress for weeks or months.”  And how true is that?  I think back on all the times I worked out so hard that I couldn’t move for days.  Was that effective?  No, it was damaging and set me back instead of set me further along my path.  Less time and more benefit?  I’m really intrigued by the idea that there are some exercises that will target my goal areas and allow me more time to do the things I love.

*Someone aged 70 to 79.

**A scary 207.25 total inches.  But, hey, gotta know the starting point to measure progress.

BTW – The pea soup actually improved as leftovers.  Just thought you might want to know it had been salvaged.

Pea Soup

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I found out tonight that, yes, I can make thin pea soup.

It was not a premeditated crime against food. 

Actually, as with most evil acts, it started quite innocently.  This morning, before work, I set out the crock pot and the split peas I’d been soaking overnight.  I filled the crockpot with water, and I knew that I would have an effortless dinner to welcome me after a full day of stresses.  (If you have any gift at recognizing impending doom, this would be your claxon warning with flashing lights.)

I arrived home 12 hours later and asked my husband how the soup was doing.  He stared at me so blankly it was as though I was speaking Swahili.  So, I checked it.  I stirred it.  And just at that moment, at that very moment, I wished that I had a time machine so that I could take back that stirring action and instead simply scoop out the topmost strata of water.  But no.  No, I stirred it.  I took the lovely, beautifully cooked split peas, and I turned them into runny green water.

I am certain there is a circle of Hell reserved for people who stir when they should have scooped.

Well.

I also realized the pork chops which I had carefully planned this split pea soup around were actually steaks.  They were exactly the cut of meat that is so tough and tasteless that you could in fact mistake the beef for pork.  The thing is, had I known that these were steaks, I would have approached dinner from a completely different direction.  Instead, I had apple-marinated steak chunks and runny green water.  My level of yay just surpassed squished cockroaches.

On the positive side, I did discover a can of Campbell’s condensed pea soup abiding in the pantry.  I dumped in the whole can.  It made the green water marginally thicker.

But the astonishing thing?  The truly surprising aspect of all of this?  My husband just ate all of the strange beef-apple concoction and two bowls of the extremely thin pea soup.  And, to top that off, he took his own plate and bowl into the kitchen.  Hmm… maybe he’s ill.

Back on the wagon

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Yeah, so I’m starting up again.  Writing, exercise, menu, housework, the whole nine yards.  I’ve been on hiatus for about six weeks, long enough to realize I need that kind of structure to actually reduce some of the stress in my life, and long enough to have probably negated any progress I had heretofore made.

But you know what?  I’ve ridden the guilt train, and I realized I was on it with an invalid ticket.  Now I’m back on the wagon.  It may be slower, but it’s going the right direction.

Today, I made it a priority to get up earlier, get out, walk the dog, make breakfast, take lunch to work, and avoid eating Easter candy or those delicious homemade cookies.

Sounds great, but the reality was a bit shaky. 

The Hailstorm of ’11 hit this morning, rattling the windows, pounding the house, and sending that ever-loving weather radio bonkers at ohmygodit’searly o’clock.  Pair that with a five-year-old who decided she couldn’t sleep without me, but who became the World Famous Flailing Dynamo sending random limbs into my face, chest, and side all night, and you got one heck of a combination for insomnia.

To be fair, though, I did only snooze the alarm for ten minutes, and then I was up and walking the dog.  I could feel all the tendons in my legs complaining from disuse.  They twanged and ached with each stride, generally informing me that they had not been stretched or really even used in far too long.  My word to summarize my walk: ouch.

Breakfast nearly burned on the stove.  I had the bright idea to go wake up my seven-year-old while the eggs were cooking so that I could give her eye drops.  Point 1) Never assume that you can wake a seven-year-old in the time it takes to cook an egg. 2) Never count on anyone opening their eyes to accept eye drops first thing in the morning.  Yeah, well.  I live and learn.

I had nothing to take for lunch.  I’d planned to go grocery shopping over the weekend, but instead I got the kids’ room really cleaned – cleaned to the point that they can keep it clean for the foreseeable future.  And then there was Easter.  No shopping is going to happen on Easter.  So, I surveyed the dismal offerings of my bare, pre-payday pantry, and concluded that I could either bid a fond farewell to the wagon, or I could get creative.  I brought a can of tuna,* a hard-boiled egg (yes, yesterday was Easter), an apple, and a baggie of carrots.  Then, when I got to work and looked at it together, I realized it was tuna salad: the hard way.

The Tootsie Rolls of Doom.  So, here I am, looking at my desk, and I’m caught in a staring match with the other half of the can of Tootsie Rolls.  Without thinking, I pick them up and nearly pop the top off the can.  Then I look at the “nutrition” facts, and quickly realize that 6 little Midgies are not worth 140 calories.  The Tootsie Rolls are still giving me the evil eye, but I have plans for distributing them to some raving chocoholics.

I sent my husband shopping today with a list to fill out my menu, so I’m going to have the right things to eat without excuses.  I’m going to go back to the gym and take my kids to the swimming pool.  I’m going to finish sewing that dress that’s partially made.  I’m going to clean and organize my room.  I’m going to finish that really awful book I started and return it to the library.  I’m going to take my kids to Half-Price Books and reward them for great behavior and effort at school.  I know that the week ahead looks pretty sunny, even if it was hailing this morning. 

Climbing back on board the wagon is an act of willpower.  It’s so much easier to sit in the grass and watch from the sidelines or slide into a cabin on the Whistlestop Guilt Tour.  But, hey, since when have I ever done things the easy way?