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  1. Toxic Waist, or My Annual Freak-out

    February 9, 2014 by Laura

    Wow, can you believe it’s been a whole year since I last posted? I can. You may have gathered that sustaining my attention to this is not my forte. Here’s the update:

    I did run a St. Patrick’s Day 5k, accomplishing my best time for such an endeavor. I have no idea what that was. I came in ahead of lots of people and just behind the woman who had stopped to nurse her screaming infant. Subsequently, in the course of training for the half marathon, I experienced a foot injury that did severe and lasting damage to my motivation. That was in May.

    Shortly thereafter, for reasons both numerous and nebulous, I experience a garden variety, stress-induced bout with severe depression and anxiety. Being a generally upbeat and non-anxious person, this was a rough time. I treated that with rest, pharmaceuticals, pizza, and beer. I’m much better now. Much better. S’all good.

    Now, that particular combination of therapies, while highly effective in treating my mood, had the complementary side-effects of weight gain and apathy. Sure, I’ve gained 10, 15, (ok let’s face it every pound I have ever lost) back, but y’know, I look ok. Good even. My hair is still long and wavy. Work is going better than ever. I bought a cute, new, vintage style, polka-dot bathing suit that I fill out quite nicely, thank you. Short story: I am finding it very hard to give a fuck.

    Objectively, I know I need to drop pounds if I want to feel really healthy again. Also I don’t feel like buying yet another wardrobe when I already have nice clothes in size That-was-then. In November I joined a Biggest Loser challenge at work (the kind I would have won in 2011), and within 3 days was thinking, “This is fucked up.”

    Shifting gears is hard.

    As usual, the clinical aspect of my job (as opposed to the Biggest Loser Challenge) has provided ample reasons to treat my body better. But I am really, REALLY tired of having weight loss be a major conversation topic. I am tired of hearing apologies and explanations for eating food that is just food. I am very interested in nutrition, food, health and people having transformative experiences. I am not interested in health and weight being the currency of status. Does that make sense?

    So my humble plan is to eat a mostly vegan, whole carb diet for a while. I’ll probably eat a bit of fish and maybe some full fat dairy in teensy amounts. I started using Spark People to track and plan meals and goals. Even as I type this, I feel the weight of the effort. It feels oppressively structured. But I’m treating it as an experiment. I can do anything for, say, a week, right?

  2. The Reward Game

    January 9, 2013 by Laura

    I must have this conversation 50 times a week:

    Child: I want x (nice thing not in child’s best interest).
    Me: Hmmm… well, you really need to do y (tedious task). How about when you finish y, you can have a little x?
    Child: NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! It’s too hard! I’m too tired to do y. I just want x.
    Me: C’mon, I’ll help you if you just start it. You start, and I’ll join in and finish up with you, and then you can have x.
    Child: NOOOOOOO!!! This is so stupid! I hate you. why won’t you just give me x???
    Me: Look, if you had started doing y, you would already be done by now, and you’d have x.

    And this is just what goes on in my head when I have to go running, but would rather have a beer, or some such thing. I won’t tell you how it ends, but you can imagine how it is when the boys are home. And I wonder where they get it.

    Yesterday I got all duded up in the Lycra and managed not to go running. Ever supportive, Dale asked, “Hon, did you run today?”
    “Sweetheart, I really want you to reach your goal, and I’m really concerned that you’re not going to.”
    “Go away, I don’t want to talk about it.”
    “Laura, how are you going achieve this?”

    Seriously, I am insane. This is what happens when I go off the coffee cold turkey. But that’s another post.

    I did run today. Thirty minutes of run/walk in the previously described manner. Week 2, day 2 of the c25k. It is getting somewhat better. I notice that it is easier if I am not thinking, “Okay, how many more seconds??” with every running step. Occasionally I catch myself just running along for a minute (well, 4 seconds).

    Today I made a deal with myself that I could buy a new running shirt at the end of week 6: a reward. Dale, who is the super-ego to my id, says that in order to build a new habit, you should reward yourself immediately after doing the activity you want to um… habitualize (is that a word?) (And did I mention that Dale is Mr. Good Ideas Guy? He knows how to get better at everything. He reads about how to get better at things, and then he takes all that advice, and then he does the things they say, and then he gets better at things! It’s nuts!). So in order to turn running into a habit, I started eating a bit of chocolate when I finish up. Valrhona Manjari. Dale tells me he read that it builds neural pathways. So that’s why I’m doing it. Really. Eventually, says self-improved Dale, I’ll have my brain all trained up to look forward to running.

    Maybe I should eat chocolate after folding the laundry.

  3. Running on empty

    December 28, 2012 by Laura

    Let me start this post with a simple question: Who the hell brought caramel flavored chocolate covered cashews into my home? There’s a mutineer, and I will have his head.

    As promised, I started my run program today. When I started blogging 2 years ago, I could give up anything: Chocolate, cheese, bread, booze, you name it as long as I could sit in my chair and check my blog stats every 3 minutes. I would not give up my sedentary lifestyle. Now, I’m going to try to kick it up a notch. I just want you to know that in real life, I would never say, “kick it up a notch.” If you said it, I would stop listening to you, because I think it sounds stupid. But right now, I think it’s funny. Yesterday I called my cousin Eric to ask if he wanted to do this half marathon too. Somehow, when he said the longest he’d ever run was 7 miles, I told him it was “time to kick it up a notch.” I sounded possessed, I think. Now I can’t stop saying it in “possessed by a trainer” voice. “C’mon People, lets’ KICK IT UP A NOTCH.” See? Possessed, I tell you.

    Yeah, so, today I kicked it up a notch, which, as we already know, means I stood and moved forward for 30 consecutive minutes. I am following the C25K program (or “Couch to five kilometers” for those who still like words). Here’s what I like about the program: you ease into a doable exercise thing. Sixty seconds of jogging here, 90 seconds of walking there, before you know it, you’re practically Uta Pippig, but without the blood and poop (Boston Marathon 1996 reference. God I feel old). What I don’t like: getting out of bed on a non-work day before 8 am to go out and run. And by “run” I mean make funny little joggy motions with my legs while wearing new running shoes and Lycra tights. I’m out there on the badly paved, dangerously canted road, running past neighbors I don’t know, trying to look like I’m not dying, because I have no ID on me. Each little 60 or 90 second increment becomes it’s own little mind game.

    Me running with 20 seconds left: Oh my God! 20 more seconds?? Fuck, I’m going to die.

    Me running with 5 seconds left: Oh thank God! Only 5 more seconds! Fuck, I’m going to die.

    Me walking with 20 seconds left: Oh thank God! 20 more seconds! Fuck, I’m going to die.

    Me walking with 5 seconds left: Oh my God! Only 5 more seconds?? Fuck, I’m going to die.

    I had basically rolled out of bed, snarfed down my coffee, avoided my kids, and out the door I went (now I have George Thorogood in my brain). No breakfast, no water, just winging it. Also, I have a cough. And it was kind of cool from minutes 7 to 14 maybe. Wintery day, up with the early birds feeling all superior ‘n shit. At some point I had to spit, and that was just embarrassing, because I didn’t really get a clean trajectory. Not good. Finally as I was in the last eight minutes or so, I was starting to feel like I’d get through, but then the chorus of “Whipping Post” by the Allman Brothers started going through my head. Probably not the best choice for the playlist.

    There are people who don’t believe that I am as positively non-athletic as I am. That’s because I am a total poseur. I have a bunch of gear, and I really do like watching almost all sports in a general girly way, and I have slept with hung out around athletic types (I even married one eventually!). I’ve ridden my bike around Lake Tahoe and backpacked all over the place. I used to be a snowboarder too. Ten years ago, I vowed to have a daily exercise habit by the time I was 35. Did that! And I might still be a little active if it weren’t for those meddling kids. They’re ruinous. But they should have a mom who is healthy. I’m going to see if I can’t get myself into the shit hot shape I was in for 15 minutes 10 years ago. If not for myself, then for the children.

    Isn’t this totally inspirational?

  4. It’s that time of year again…

    December 27, 2012 by Laura

    when those of us with inconsistent habits (or a habit of inconsistency), few formal goals, a propensity for indulgence and sloth, and a love of dairy fat, wheat and feeling a little tipsy start feeling badly about ourselves. We next make wild promises of self-improvement in an attempt to rectify the situation or to at least appear to make an effort. Memberships are activated, athletic clothing is purchased, kitchens are purged. Menfolk weep at the sight of cured meats, cheese spreads, and nut brittles being packed off for work break rooms.

    Since my last post, I have spent most of my days trying desperately to fit back into my size 12 jeans. Size 8 (ok, 10) was just attracting too much attention from the cougar hunters. It’s embarrassing having all those 28 year old dudes staring. Dale had to punch someone, and well, I thought I’d better just eat chocolate croissants and keep the peace. It was a sacrifice, to be sure.

    But last week some delighted old bag in the cafeteria asked my 44 year old self if I was, “in a motherly way.” After I slapped her dentures across the room (in my mind), I took my pickle-enhanced lunch to a dark, lonely, corner table and took stock. No I didn’t. I just ate a bunch of chips and felt bad about my abs. I didn’t take stock at all. I kind of whimpered a little bit.

    But then I remembered MY BLOG! (Well not just then, just then my ridiculously short 30 minute lunch break ended, and I had to haul my pregnant-looking ass back up to the ICU to care for my obese patient.) I remembered how much I love writing about how healthy I occasionally am. So I’m back! Yay me!

    Okay, here’s where I’m at, as they say in places where it’s okay to talk like that: I have signed up to run a half marathon on August 25, one day after my 45th birthday. I am signed up for a 5k on St. Patrick’s Day and am looking for a 10k in there somewhere. I cleaned out the kitchen of all things non-Nutritarian (remember, that’s my deal), and I bought a bazillion dollars worth of running shoes and Lycra tights (which really means one pair of each). C25K starts Friday. I’d start today, but I have a tebbible code id by dose.

    So, you want to know what’s for dinner tonight? Teriyaki Chicken drumsticks (gotta use up some stuff), Black rice salad, and Brussels sprouts. At least the kiddos will eat the chicken.

    Year end stats: 5’4″, 156 (ish), and 0 miles. By this time next year, I’d like to be 5’7″.

    Happy New Year!



  5. Gung Hay Fat Choy!

    February 11, 2012 by Laura

    It was a little more than a lunar year ago that I embarked on my epic quest for glowing skin, bony shoulders, and perfect teeth. You’ll recall that I was successful in losing approximately 30 pounds and squeezing into a slinky beige-ish dress for my brother’s wedding, all while eating delicious, healthy meals and barely budging off a kitchen chair. I thought someone out there, perhaps my one visitor a day (Mom? Is that you? Don’t answer that, I know it’s you.) might wonder what’s going on with me now. Since I never call, I don’t email, I hardly even acknowledge you exist, I thought I’d give you all an update.

    First the good news: My quest for perfect teeth is being advanced by a nice Jewish boy named Dr. Bernstein, an orthodontist no less. Yes, I got braces. Again. I was hoping that with all the restrictions on what can and can not pass through my trellised incisors, I would have an advantage on the healthy eating front. Nope. Not true. I’ll have two fistfuls of popcorn down before mumbling, “Oops, not s’posed to eat that.” Did you know that you can also suck on a dark chocolate covered sea salted caramel? You can. You don’t have to chew them. So 18 months and a year’s worth of private school tuition from now, I should have teeth straight enough to indulge in professional whitening. I probably could have bought myself another MGB in decent condition for the same amount of money, and I now I’m feeling a little wistful about this decision. A vintage sports car is a way hipper statement of midlife crisis than caged teeth. Ask anyone.

    As for bony shoulders and glowing skin, here’s the really weird thing that happened: I started eating bread, cheese, sweets, and drinking a lot of beer and wine and recently bourbon (thanks a lot), and I gained like 8 pounds. Ok, maybe 10 pounds? Isn’t that so freaky? And those super cute skinny jeans I bought… They’re like, totally uncomfortable now. At least, I think they are, but I haven’t tried to squeeze my bagel-eating ass into them for about a month. Just to clarify, my ass does not eat bagels. My ass is big because of my bagel eating mouth. Is that better? In fact, my ass is now so big, it has become my muse. More than one friend has heard me sing my “Fat Ass Blues.” It’s an instant classic.

    But all hope is not lost.  This week I decided to get back into good clean living next week. There is no time like soon, I say. I am signed up to do a 3 week purification/detox regimen with Tone Fitness, a local yoga studio. I did this a few years ago and felt great. The basics of it are: you buy a whole bunch of fairly pricey powders and fiber supplements, take them with yummy smoothies for 21 days, eat lots of high ANDI veggies, avoid all pleasurable foods and drinks, and voila! You are clean inside and out. If you’re really good, you drop about 10 pounds. It is an especially gratifying thing to do if you are bowel obsessed, believe that gluten is sent from hell, or are a middle aged woman trying to lose weight without exercising. I am doing it in order to get back to my self-righteous healthy living.

    Seriously, here is the list of things I will not be consuming as of Monday: Wheat, all other grains except brown rice and quinoa, beans except lentils, soy, dairy, eggs, sugar, coffee, alcohol, corn, nuts, seeds, potatoes, meat, anything cured, smoked or grilled. I am to eat twice as much vegetable matter as fruit. There are these supplement pills called “colax.” I believe the name addresses their function adequately. They suggest that you wean off caffeine in order to avoid migraines. I’m sort of doing that. Not really. I think I’ll be detoxing some ibuprofen out as well.

    Some people like to prepare before a “cleanse” and I am one of them. But rather than start to give up some of these things, I decided to double down. I have given up consuming any beer or ice cream produced outside of Sonoma County. Ditto for milk, coffee, cheese, wine and bread. The way I see it, I am going to have to eat a lot of out-of-season, non-local produce in the coming weeks, and I don’t want the county’s artisan producers to suffer because of my selfish need to be healthy again. I’m throwing a last wad of cash at them before the nibbling resumes. Fortunately, one of my neighbors grows microgreens, so I’ll still be able to help keep her afloat.

    I’ll try to keep this up to date while I scrape my tongue and examine the color of the slough. Maybe I’ll have a vision! Maybe my vision will get blurry. I really want to feel like the detox is worth it, so I’m going to go eat some baby back ribs now. Bye. Cheers!

  6. Summertime: Love, Death, and the County Fair

    August 21, 2011 by Laura

    You’d think that summer would be the ideal time time to eat nothing but fruit and vegetables. Berries for breakfast, gazpacho for lunch, and a pound of leafy greens for dinner, right? Wrong. Beer, beer, and beer with grilled tri-tip. Need I say more?

    Here’s a re-cap of the summer:  Whoa, wait a minute. Is it crazy that summer is basically over? Is this fair? Summer is over, and I still don’t have any ripe tomatoes. This has been the coldest summer in Northern California history, I think. But I digress.

    Remember that “Biggest Loser” challenge I joined at work? I lost 9 pounds in 12 weeks, or 5% of my initial body weight. I would have won if I hadn’t been away on vacation for the weigh-in on August 1. Impressive, no? Very impressive when I tell you just how far I’ve fallen off the Nutritarian wagon. I’m sorry, new reader “Deb,” I hope I can help you keep your food integrity by being a horrible example. Don’t do this!!

    How was that vacation you wondered? Glad you asked. We loaded up the Subaru at 3 am to catch the  7:10 Jet Blue SFO-BOS. It was a cool morning, promising to be another perfectly temperate day in the Bay Area. We had been warned about the “Killer Heat Wave” lurking over the Rockies, but nothing could have prepared us for the oven formerly known as New England. Holy shit. Who knew that I would need to travel to coastal Maine to experience summer heat & humidity unlike anything outside of Bangkok. And because Maine is, well Maine, there are no air conditioners in the entire state. It is simply un-Yankee to own an air conditioner. It falls under the “make-do and do without” clause of the Yankee Manifesto. We wilted.

    We arrived starving in Boston on a Thursday afternoon, and the first thing Dale reminded me of was Bertucci’s pizza. If you’ve never heard of Bertucci’s, it’s a Boston chain restaurant that arguably has the best chain restaurant pizza in the US. They earned a special place in our heart when they once messed up our order, and then sent us off with a free pizza. Free pizza is the best pizza of all. We didn’t go to Bertucci’s because by the time we got going, we were so tired we could no longer form three syllable words. We were grunting things like,”Exit here for sandwich.”

    We said,  “Exit here for sandwich” as we approached the “Topsfield” exit. We figured that Topsfield was a town with it’s own exit, and as such would have a grocery store. Nope. Town of Topsfield was as quainty-quaint-quaint as a New England town could be, with a bunting-festooned gazebo, big ol’ Congregationalist church there in the middle, shops with nice little wooden signs, but damn if we could find a grocery store. Hardware store, yes; martial arts school, check; laundromat, ay yuh. Finally we asked a sensibly-dressed New England type if there was someplace to buy food, “Is there a grocery store here? Where do people who live here buy their food?” Apparently this is top secret information in Topsfield, because she gave me a nice smile, a blank stare, and pointed at a forlorn looking sub shop(pe). So, we ate forlorn subs on our way up to Maine.

    And that was the start of the non-Nutritarian portion of my summer, which has continued up to this point. Excuse me, while I pour myself another drink.

    From a dietary standpoint, Maine was not a disaster. Yes, I ate lobster, but I managed to eat a lot of salads and greens. The high point was the garden salad I enjoyed with my old college classmate Becca. There is nothing like lunch with an old friend and a beer in the middle of the week, while the kids are playing with the hose. Blissful, really. The low point was the argument I had with someone over whether to continue to leave the deli sandwiches out in the 95 degree weather or not. This took place during the memorial gathering for my aforementioned sister-in-law, Diane.  I said “no,” and threw out a tray that had already been out for hour. Thrifty Yankee Woman looked aghast and suggested we “bring them inside and cool them off.” Lack of air conditioning and refrigerator space notwithstanding, “cooling off” rapidly dividing bacteria does not help. I won the argument and dumped a bunch of sandwiches, but not in time to save my mother-in-law from a bout of salmonella.

    We went from memorial week in Maine to wedding weekend in Philadelphia, Land of the Cheese Steak. Yes I ate one. I ate it at the baseball stadium where we watched the Giants beat the Phils. Go Giants! I think that was the last game they won… Oh right, my brother’s wedding. The event that started this whole blog in the first place. Ok, for sticking with me all this time, here it is, The Beige Dress:

    Not too bad, eh? A strategically placed bouquet and everybody’s happy. To give you some idea of how far I’ve come, here is a picture of me from September 2010 with a strategically placed baby.

    Those pants are way too big now. And that is my “Kooky Festival Lady” hat. You’ll have to go up to Strawberry if you want to catch its next airing.

    Anyway, the wedding was lovely.The wedding would have been perfect had my aforementioned father not DIED the night before. Sorry to drop it on you like that. It was a poignant day to be sure. I would post pictures of my brother and his beautiful bride, but they are both naturally tall, thin, and great looking, so forget it.

    So, there was much drinking and caking and snacking during all these travels and travails. When we arrived back in perfectly temperate Northern California, I was delighted to discover that I had gained not an ounce. Hooray! Sadly, the 10 day holiday set my garden way back. It looks absolutely feral.

    We had very little down time between the back east trip and Cur-ville, our annual party for our closest friends and everyone else on Earth. But I had just enough time to start taking on the summer party season with real determination, because between the trip and Cur-ville was the Sonoma County Fair!!

    I love county fairs. How far did I fall? More beer, fresh mini-donuts with caramel sauce, the biggest plate of spaghetti I have ever seen from Art Ibleto’s, and perhaps something like a deep -fried, bacon-wrapped, twinkie on a stick. No, not really. There was no stick.

    Anyhoot, it’s pretty much been pahty, pahty, pahty since then, with things really ramping up this week. It was Dale’s birthday last week, our anniversary the next day, and my birthday is next week. Last night we went out to the coast for a date (!) and I had duck confit & creme brulee. I probably took a year off my life with dinner alone — hopefully a crappy year. Now I need recipes for an excruciatingly healthy birthday cake. Anyone?



  7. Day 1 results

    June 29, 2011 by Laura

    It’s funny how one day I can be feeling all svelte and self-congratulatory, having lost a bunch of weight, and the next day, with no physical change, can decide that I feel fat. What a crock of shit the mind is. I’m feeling back on track now.

    First of all, that Banana Surprise Breakfast, or whatever it’s called, is fantastic. I kid you not, it is really good. I didn’t have pomegranate juice, so I subbed soy milk. I make it every day now. Other gastronomic re-discovery: Collard leaves as tortillas. Cut the spine out of the raw collard leaf; spread almond butter (I’m thinking of you, Elie Perez) on the leaf, sliced banana on that & roll ‘er up. Surprisingly tasty, and it builds hippie cred.

    So I’m down 4, count ’em, 4 pounds from when I re-started. Wasting away, really… sigh.

    Interestingly, people have commented on how “skinny” I am now. Granted I’ve lost a bunch of weight, but the scale doesn’t say “skinny;” my BMI doesn’t say “skinny;” and my clothes are not size skinny. When I say I have 15 more pounds to go (actually 11 now), I get that sort of sideways, bewildered dog look, as if I’d just said I was planning to vote for Michelle Bachman. And then comes the “What? No, you don’t have to lose more weight!” Like that’s so silly! And then there are the ones who ask,”Are you still doing that crazy vegetable diet?” Sorry I mentioned it.

    I think we’ve forgotten what healthy looks like. More and more–and this is the crux of the whole Nutritarian argument– what’s normal is not what’s healthy. I mean, I was a pretty normal college student. If I’d continued to behave like a normal college student into my forties, I’d be a normal ICU patient.

    So I wondered what “normal” is these days. I found on the CDC web site that the average measurements for an adult woman in the US are 5’3.8″ and 164.7 pounds. I plugged these measurements into the handy dandy BMI calculator and lo and behold, average is solidly overweight. And although I am below average weight, I am still in the overweight camp. Fat camp?

    Oh, another thing is that I’ve become super judgmental. Just kidding, I’ve always been super judgmental. Now I’m judgmental and slightly contemptuous. A winning combination, to be sure. I now think fake food is a sign of low IQ. You want to offer me Coffee-mate? I’m going to assume your parents were related.

    Holy shit, look at this fun FAQ about Coffee-Mate:


    COFFEE-MATE Liquid and Powder products are non-dairy and are Kosher according to the Orthodox Union (as indicated by the “O.U.” symbol). As a courtesy, we place a “D” next to the kosher symbol (O.U.) to alert those who adhere to strict religious practices. COFFEE-MATE contains an ingredient called sodium caseinate, which is a milk derivative, though it’s classified as a non-dairy product. How is this so? When sodium caseinate is processed, it is so materially altered that both dairy scientists and government regulators no longer regard it as a true dairy substance. This is why sodium caseinate can be an ingredient in non-dairy products, according to FDA, regulation 21 CFR 101.4 (d). Sodium caseinate is also not a source of lactose.

    Oh my  God. What is wrong with people? IT”S NOT FOOD!!

    Ok, I have to go to bed now. Sweet dreams. Naturally sweet, that is.





  8. Vegan Pad Thai Serves As Red Meat In A Food Fight : NPR

    June 18, 2011 by Laura

    More from the entertainment sphere. Upper West Side divas duke it out in Trader Joe’s…


    Vegan Pad Thai Serves As Red Meat In A Food Fight : NPR.

  9. YouTube – Whole Foods Parking Lot – Music Video [HD]

    June 17, 2011 by Laura

    “Your the most annoying dude I’ve ever seen, Bra. Now would you please move, you’re right in front of the quinoa.” Classic.



    YouTube – Whole Foods Parking Lot – Music Video [HD].

  10. When Food Kills –

    June 12, 2011 by Laura

    When Food Kills –

    Nicholas Kristof’s essay in today’s NYT describes the problem of widespread antibiotic over-use in livestock, and the subsequent development of drug-resistant pathogens in the environment.