Sunday, 27 May 2012

Something to Get By On

While the road to weight loss is full of pitfalls, there are a few things I keep in my tool kit that have helped me on this journey. I thought that it might be helpful to some of you, who might be looking for some helpful hints. The most helpful tool of all, of course, is good, common sense. If you're not hungry, don't eat. If you're in serious pain, stop moving that part of your body. If it's light-colored spandex, don't EVEN think about it.

Moving on...

Foods That Let You Eat Healthy Without Making You Feel Like You Want to Kill Yourself:

1) Unsweetened Cocoa Powder. Overcome any cocoa crazy moment with what better than the real deal? I'm a big advocate of this stuff, especially the Trader Joe's kind. You can dump a spoonful in just about anything: smoothies, mushed banana, oatmeal, yogurt. You can even make a chocolate mousse-type dessert by slowly stirring in a little almond milk (add Splenda or Stevia to taste). If you're feeling especially daring, grab half of an avocado and blend it with a little sweetener and a spoonful or two of this stuff to make a superfood pudding!

2) Fage Total 0% Greek Yogurt. Whoah. Even if you don't like yogurt, grab this stuff. It's not quite as sour as most plain yogurt, and it's extremely rich and creamy. Try it in your fave recipes! It fills the role of so many creamy ingredients: sour cream, mayo, heavy cream, etc. I even eat this stuff plain with berries and it's really not disgusting.

3) Trader Joe's Roasted Seaweed Snacks. Most people love these or hate these. I admit that I'm more partial to the Wasabi flavored ones than the plain ones. I like to dip them in hummus or salsa in place of pita or tortilla chips, or just grab them for an afternoon snack. A whole package of these is only 60 calories, so you can chomp away guilt-free while catching up on your fave show on Hulu.

4) PB2 by Bell Plantation. O.M.G. So, powdered peanut butter sounds a little gross, but, believe me, it is a lifesaver if you're PB obsessed like me. First of all, we all know that two tablespoons of good ol' PB packs nearly 200 calories. That's a good chunk (even if you're a creamy lover like me) of your daily intake. So, some genius decided to dehydrate it and magically suck out all of that fat, which weighs down those normal TBs with unnecessary calories. PB2 has ONLY (wait for it) 45 calories per two tablespoon serving. You can put the powdery stuff in smoothies, baking recipes, and even reconstitute it with a little bit of water to make it spreadable. It's like a dream come true. Now I can have my chocolate and PB too--and I can die happy (after the races this year, of course).

5) Menage a Trois(red variety). Okay, so wine isn't really a "diet" food, but I feel like a glass a night is really beneficial. Not only is wine a great anti-oxidant, but one glass after work can really help as a stress reliever, especially if you make it kind of a nighttime ritual. Don't go over one glass (and I'm not talking a HUGE wine chalace--go for a small one). More than one glass can add more calories and cause a person to lose control after that (alcohol tends to make you hungrier in the first place). If you're a stress eater, a glass of wine and, like, five strawberries can be just as satisfying after a long day as a chocolate cake binge.

Additional L.A. mentions: I can hardly believe it, but Native Foods' vegan cupcakes are only 150 calories and head-poppingly delicious. So, yeah, get some!

Honorable "Unmentionables"("Diet" Foods I'd Skip):

Lean Cuisine and other microwave-ready meals. Dude, anything you microwave in plastic is not going to be good for you. Also, these things are loaded with sodium. There are so many other items out there that take as much time to prepare as these and are WAY more satisfying.

Most "Light" yogurts. These are usually watery and unsatisfying, IMHO. Yeah, they come in crazy, cool artificial flavors, but I prefer the real stuff that I can flavor myself so that I know what's going into it.

Reduced Fat Peanut Butter. The fat in nuts is probably the one thing that's good for you. Also, these PBs just use fillers to cut the fat. It doesn't even cut calories that much (maybe 10-20 per serving, which you could burn off walking around the grocery store). Honestly, most peanut butter out there is not good for you and filled with sugar and weird oils. If you are going to go with real PB, read labels. There shouldn't be anything but peanuts (and MAYBE salt) in that jar.

Exercising in L.A. (Ways To Get Max Results For Little Time WITHOUT a gym membership):

1) Pilates Platinum. Everyone I've met who has tried PP has said the same thing, "I tried that. It kicked my butt!" Yep, that's right. This class is challenging. When I was heavier, it was even harder, and I felt SO incredibly out of place as the only fat person huffing and puffing in a perfectly synchronized group of slender, strong chicks and dudes. However, if you stick with it, it's worth it. I had to quit for a while because of finances, but, now I'm back and find myself getting worlds stronger with just one class a week (the company recommends 3x weekly for maximum results, but I don't have that kind of cash or time at the moment). It's a total body workout: you get balance and core workouts side-by-side with leg and arm strengthening moves. Your whole body works in sync with this class, which, after my recent hip strain issue, I discovered is actually pretty much how your body should be working all of the time.

2) 1,2,3, Hike! There are several short, yet very effective hikes in Los Angeles. Find one near you! For the West Side, I recommend the Baldwin Hills scenic overlook, with its famous killer stairs, Charmlee State Park (3 miles with little elevation, but very scenic), Temescal Canyon State Park, which is 2+ miles straight up to the top. If you have time for a longer one, definitely, without a doubt, get to the Mishe Mokwa Trail near Ventura (it's gorgeous AND they allow doggies--Sheila loved it). Also, the Malibu Creek State Park hike is a lot of fun, where M.A.S.H. (the TV show) was filmed. A lot of people like to mountain bike there as well, but it gets pretty rocky and twisted in parts. I'd be scared to bike it.

3) There are TONS of groups that meet up for all kinds of activities all over Los Angeles. You can find run groups that meet in the evenings in your area, or on weekends. Some may have a yearly participation fee, which is usually nominal, but many of them are free. Check out the Nike runs. They have a mid-week run in Santa Monica and then a Sunday run every week, and they are totally free.

4) Get A Bike. Yes, it's expensive, yes it's annoying to find a place for in your home, but it also gives you SO much freedom. Once I stop wussing out about L.A. traffic, I plan to ride to work at least 2x a week, but you can ride so many places: grab a few things from the store, explore your neighborhood, visit a friend--all the while getting in some valuable cross training (especially if you're a runner like me).

5) Get A Dog. Okay, so this one's not for everyone obviously if you have allergies, a small budget, mega time constraints or you're out of town most of the time, a dog isn't the right choice. However, if you can fit a dog into your life, there are so many that need homes right now, and, guess what, the relationship is mutually beneficial. Dog gets love and food from you, you get lower stress and anxiety, less depression and more exercise! Even my little beag needs a good 45 minutes of walking a day, and so, no matter what, rain or shine, I have to get my butt out the door. A dog is like you're own personal motivational tool. "Get up and get out there or I'll pee on the carpet," is a better motivational phrase than I've heard from any of my previous personal trainers. Har har.

Honorable "Unmentionables" (things I'd pass up):

Joining an ultra-expensive gym unless you have a program in hand or a personal trainer, and it's on the way home or to work. People might be surprised that I say this. There are a thousand excuses we could give ourselves not to work out. So many people join a gym, get going for a few weeks or months, and then lose motivation. That gym membership tag hangs unused on the keychain for many months. Why? Working out at the gym is not fun, and when you have no direction, you quickly run out of ideas or stop challenging yourself. Instead, it's often better to find practical ways to fit fitness into your life and then join classes to push yourself to the next level.

Clothes Places That Are Awesome:

1) Target. Believe it or not, Target has some pretty decent workout wear for not a lot of money. I purchased 4 moisture-wicking shirts for $4 each recently! I found some really great loose-fitting yet supportive sports bra/yoga tops there that I wear all of the time for cycling or Pilates. If you make your way to the sporting goods aisles, there are also some less expensive DVDs and other gear. Not everything is amazing, but the workout wear is pretty good quality, just sayin. If you need something, check here first.

2)REI. Not only is REI staff knowledgable, but they also have some really high quality gear. I recommend the one in Manhattan Beach over the one in Santa Monica, actually, because I feel like they don't get as busy and are more attentive to customer needs. REI also often holds free classes for members in the store, so it's worth taking a look at what's up next.

3) Athleta. Yes, this company is owned by The Gap, but, in my book, it has two really positive "points": One, it has quality, functional gear, and, two, the company uses fit models in its catalogues, not twigs. I feel good about shopping at this place, but, like REI, it can get pricey, so like I said, for some stuff, check Target first.

4) Columbia. Columbia's gear has some awesome benefits, like amazing technologies in fabric that help to cool you, protect you from bugs and the sun, or heat you in the winter. Above any sporting gear company, they have far and away the best quality. I bought this amazing long-sleeve running shirt that cools to the touch when it gets sweaty. I've bought other shirts that claim to do this, but they don't. It's so amazing, I might just buy another one in another color, even if that other color is chartreuse :P

5) Besides being a generally awesome site on which to find discounted designer duds, you can also find discounted designer workout gear, which can be very easy on the wallet. My last pair of name brand running shoes from here cost me $35.99. I've seen shoes there for as low as $19.99. Enuff said. Just, sign up already.

Honorable "Unmentionables" (stuff I'd do without):

Thrift Stores. When it comes to sweat gear, you're probably not going to want to recycle someone else's stuff, no matter how cute it is. Like I said, check Target, but don't don someone else's stanky bacteria-infested clothing. Bleh.

Finally, I'll leave you with some overall self-improving tips:

1) You don't have to love your body. Did I just say that? Yes, I did. A lot of magazines and self help gurus give this trife blanket statement, "Love your body, no matter what size it is." This is total hippie bull puckey, and, practically impossible for most people living in today's Western society. There is no love for flab. Buuuuut--pause a minute--you need to learn to love the self, the self you are regardless of your body size. Get to know that person by challenging yourself in different ways. Write, talk, think about who you really are and what's going on inside. Listen to yourself. Forgive yourself. When all of that negative self talk comes in, learn to ignore it, just keep focusing on your goals and getting to know who you are. Beating yourself up is not going to help you get to your dream weight. I've tried it both ways, the self love thing works a lot better in the end.

2) Prepare for the long haul. Most people who embark on a weight loss goal lose weight rapidly in the beginning. The body starts responding to the diet and exercise changes by shedding pounds and the person feels motivated and ready to tackle the world. Of course, then, there's the inevitable point where the weight loss slows or even stalls and that's where most people get derailed. One thing I'll say that I've learned is that there is NO quickie diet that is going to sustain you, long term. The key is to make healthy eating a part of your natural lifestyle, and that takes time to adjust to. Also, life's not black or white. One day you might eat a big, fatty meal. Instead of bemoaning your loss of "control", take it in stride. One meal isn't going to pack on weight. In fact, your body probably isn't going to store all of those calories. A good rule of thumb is to eat within your daily caloric intake 80 percent of the time. A couple of "cheat" meals during the week (as long as you don't go crazy and eat a whole pizza), will still get you to your goals. It will take longer, but you'll be doing it in a sustainable, healthy way.

3) Think of non-food rewards. Buy a goal dress or pair of jeans, save up for a new gadget or workout item for when you hit milestones on the way to your final goal. I just got into a pair of jeans I bought last year that I could not even fit over my thighs then. Having measurable, visual accomplishments can be such a fantastic high along the way.

4) Compare yourself to others. Yes, another controversial thought. There are SO many people in the world and EVERYONE has struggles. There are so many people who are like you out there. Read success stories on the internet or in magazines. Use other people's stories to motivate you. Don't get bogged down in looking at what you don't have. Look at what you can achieve.

Honorable "Unmentionables" (thoughts I'd ditch):

Don't lose weight for anyone but yourself. Sure, having support and encouragement helps, but if you feel like it's someone else's dream, and not yours to see yourself thin, then that's not the right headspace you want to be in.

Don't use your fat as a scapegoat for everything. Even when I was at a thinner size, I used to think that, if a guy didn't like me, it was solely the fault of my fat. While that may have been true in some cases, there was no way that I could have known what the guy was thinking. I'd bog myself down with self loathing and spend a night bingeing, fulfilling the fat slob fantasy in my head. Take ownership and push past the whole "fat person" thing. Try new things, smile, get up in front of people. Don't shame yourself before anyone else can. Yeah, rejection and failure hurt, but not as much as it does in the end when you never try anything you're afraid of.

Now, go forth and conquer.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Why No Mountain Roads Go Straight Up

As a friend pointed out to me recently, Los Angeles is probably the worst city in which to deal with weight loss and body issues. It's not what people think, that Hollywood and people in "the biz" in this town are the strongest influences over the general population, but it's more like a cultural phenomenon. Fit people exude privilege here, their spindly limbs or huge shoulder bulk send a subconscious message: this person is one of the desirable ones.

With the cost of living here, weight really does separate the "haves" from the "have nots," or at least it provides that illusion of "having" from "have notting." Even if you "have notting" you try to look like you do. Unless you're a hipster, of course. ANYYYWAAYY...

Like I said, L.A. and weight loss goals can be rough on a person. It's annoying to lose a big chunk of weight and to still be fat and know you'll be "fat" for a very long time yet, perhaps forever, if you choose to stay in a town full of sticks and skinnies. I really sympathize with folks who are very obese and have hundreds of pounds to lose before they get down to a healthy weight. Back in St. Louis, I might have thought that a size 10/12 was a normal size, a size that didn't make me seem too chunky next to my peers. Here, however, I stand out like the pudgy sore thumb in a sea full of pinkies. Not cute.

What's worse is, while getting closer to my goal, I know that the progress will be arduously slow. And, all the while, I still battle not to let food have power over me. It's certainly much easier now to control my food intake, as my body is normalizing and my blood sugar levels are becoming more stable, but it's still a conscious effort. I still fear losing control, even though it hasn't happened yet. Sure, there are days when I eat a bit more than I should eat, but I keep telling myself that it's a lifestyle and that even skinny people have pig out days. One day of "pigging out" is not going to ruin all of the hard work I've put into this. I'm learning to communicate with my body, to find out what it's really craving, how much it really needs and whether I'm really hungry or just bored or anxious.

And I find substitutes for things. Instead of a big desserty binge after a stressed out day at work, I unwind with a bit of fruit and a glass of red wine. Weirdly enough, that works great for me instead of chocolatey ice cream or cookies. Weirder still, I haven't really craved chocolate, the love of my life, in at least a month. Wild.

I'm trying not to get frustrated about my hip keeping me from reaching my speed and distance running goals for the time being. Injuries can really make you feel like a lazy slob, especially when you were just getting that immense high from being strong and in-shape. I know that I will find that strength again, especially after starting my Team in Training sessions (you can follow my progress with that here: Patience is the lesson for this year. I guess I am a glacier.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Fear Factor

Facing your fears can almost be a baptismal experience. Each week, I try to do something that I'm scared of doing, from small things to larger things. I might do the same thing more than once, if I'm still scared of it.

Last week, I went rock climbing for the first time. I'm the type of person who will never go too near the edge of anything, who will never stand on a high platform or rock to get a closer look, unless there's something secure to clutch onto there. Walking off of a cliff backwards, as I did for the rappel, is normally not my idea of a picnic. Yet, rope in hand, I slowly scooted backward off of a 50-foot rock formation. Subsequently, I found myself digging deep within to fight the nerves that told me that my climbing legs were not strong enough, that my body, that I, was not meant to climb 30, 40 feet. Other people did that. Other, braver people did that. I couldn't possibly. But, I did.

Had I not had a patient, yet perfectly "asshole"-ish instructor in my friend, Travis, I would not have know what I was capable of doing. I would have given in to my own whimpering at 15 feet and called it a day. Travis did not let me give up on myself. And, you know what? I did it, and came out with my "Confidence Meter" moved up a notch.

Every time you do something that you don't believe that you're capable of doing, you build up that confidence meter. Thinking or saying "I can't," doesn't help with anything. You need to acknowledge your fears and push past them, even if it's a little at a time. This doesn't mean you have to be a daredevil, but look at the things you don't do or haven't done with your time. It could be joining a club, going on a 3-day juice fast, trying a new form of exercise or a starting a blog. Why don't you do that thing? Is it because you are afraid of some aspect of it?

Fear is not an excuse not to do something. Plain ol' fear can often trump common sense. Even when you're not in severe physical danger, fear can stop you from doing something you might otherwise enjoy. Your brain will come up with every excuse in the book to get out of doing something you fear.

This week, I told myself that I was going to ride my bike to meet a friend for coffee. As a newbie biker, L.A. streets terrify me. As time to leave drew near, I started thinking things to myself, like, "Maybe you should just drive. It'll be faster. Besides, you don't want to be all sweaty when you get there."

"NO!" I told myself. "Stoppit! Backing out of this is not an option."

My chain came off just as I rode out of my driveway and I had trouble fixing it. I wanted to give up, turn around, grab the car.

"No!" I said to myself. "You made a promise to yourself and you're going to do this."

I finally got the chain to right itself and quit clattering, and I was on my merry way again. Yes, I may have looked silly to a family walking by as I tried to start my bike up facing a huge hill, but, I made it there. And I made it home again. I felt free, happy and my Confidence Meter jumped up again.

Part of being good to yourself is helping yourself to grow. Challenges are great fertilizer. And, I promise, they don't stink :)

Tipping the Scales

DISCLAIMER: This piece is just my opinion. Feel free to disagree with me. I'm not a doctor, nor do I claim to be a fitness or nutrition expert. However, I have done my homework on the topic and speak mostly from personal experience.

The other day I was listening to someone on California's local NPR station talk about child obesity and ideas about how to combat it. He was the first person I've heard say, "P.E. is not enough." Yet, there exists a common misconception that weight gain and low physical activity are invariably linked and that overweight people are also indisputably lazy.

Exercise, while providing many,many health benefits, some that aid with weight loss, as well as a calorie burn boost, is often over-exalted in the war on obesity. Exercise alone cannot turn a food-addicted fat person into a thin person. Not no way, not no how. Or, at least, not without spending all day in the gym.

A thin body is primarily created in the kitchen, through choosing the right kinds of foods and, MOST OF ALL, controlling portion sizes (something I've often struggled with myself). Healthy habits over the long term will help a person get down to a normal weight. Add exercise and you get a winning combination, and a body that looks healthy and strong.

I've known many people, myself included, who were quite fit, but also fat. Why? They ate more calories than they burned in the gym. When I lived in London, I was quite hefty at 180-185 lbs, and I was in incredible shape, fitness-wise. I ran 3-5 miles every other day, used the elliptical, bike or row machine for 45 minutes 2x weekly, weight trained for 30 minutes 2x weekly, did 1.5 hours of Bikram yoga 2x weekly, PLUS I walked everywhere. All of the beer, chips and sweets, however, packed on the pounds.

Recently, I spoke with a triathlete who just completed her first Ironman. She told me that she gained weight while training because she thought that she could eat whatever she wanted. People training for an Ironman probably work the hardest of any athlete out there. If SHE can't eat whatever she wants, then someone who runs 3+ miles every other day at the gym certainly has to watch his or her intake.

I dislike the stereotype that fat people are fat because they are lazy. Rarely do I find that to be true. Do they eat too much? Yes, most likely, they do. Do they lack willpower and self control? In most cases, I would say, "No." I believe that there are several factors at play here. One is most definitely a person's overuse of the dreaded "carb." The sugars in refined carbs and even unrefined carbs have addicting qualities. They can trigger a person to overeat. Even if a person is not binging on carbs all of the time, the overload of sugars in the bloodstream (explained to me by several doctors as an effect of being pre-diabetic) cause sort of a chemical dependency on the sugars that come from food. Secondly, these sugars cause a boost in serotonin (the feel-good chemical in our brains). When we're feeling stressed or depressed, we often turn to food, even when we're not particularly that hungry. Pretty soon, we get addicted to that feeling as well. Combine those factors with a general overload in portion sizes, misleading packaging (like a big cookie being two servings instead of one, or a "snack" bag of something having two servings), and ads everywhere for food, food, food, food, FOOOOOODD...and you have a perfect storm for someone to get fat.

Losing weight when you have all of these factors against you is hard. If it were easy, then it wouldn't be a billion dollar industry. I've struggled and failed, and I've seen many other people I know struggle and fail. Maybe we get all the way to losing weight and looking great, and then our lifestyles change and we don't know how to adapt, or we get really depressed and we just don't care, and we gain it all back and more. It's heartbreaking, really. It bugs me that this country stereotypes the overweight, when MOST people in this country are overweight or obese.

Yet, here we are, with TV shows like "The Biggest Loser" where obese folks are publicly shamed, humiliated and "whipped into shape" by ferociously barking personal trainers. These people are our modern gladiators, struggling for their lives in an auditorium full of spitting spectators. We make weight loss seem even harder than it really is, and that these fatties need to suffer for their lazy transgressions. We need to see them sweat! Meanwhile, such a small portion of the program places emphasis on food choices and portion control, which is realistically a much larger chunk of the whole weight loss pie. Plus, shaming people may motivate them initially, but,in order to truly be ready for weight loss, a person must come from a place of self love.

Our culture does not create a self-love-fostering environment. If you're fat, forget it. It's as if you're not worthy of love of any kind, so why love yourself? Men walk around wearing shirts that say, "No fat chicks." Jokes abound. Weight gain and loss are such a huge focus in this country, but few of us actually focus on what's going on inside. We react with such disdain for fat people, we don't even give them a chance. People are cruel. While hate speech is unacceptable for certain groups of people, overweight people endure mooing, whale jokes and other such horrors. It really feels like people don't really want fat people to stop being fat. They'd have nothing to make fun of if the fat people lost weight. And still, in spite of everything working against them, a select few overweight folks manage to get healthy. Those people are a force to be reckoned with, in my opinion.

The worst of it is that some of these taunters are the "skinny fatties"--as I like to call them--people who are thin on the outside but who don't work out or eat particularly healthfully. They just naturally know how to get the right amount of calories that their bodies need, and their bodies probably waste a lot of those calories as well. They're the "lucky ones"--I guess--but also the types who are at extreme risk of health problems later in life, as well as obesity, once the "magic metabolism" begins to slow.

Overall, I think people make fun of things that they fear. Being an outsider can be scary. It's very easy to make someone the scapegoat for your fears and insecurities about not being a part of the "cool kids." Maybe saying that fat people are the lazy ones absolves a person from their own responsibility to be physically active. Or maybe they're afraid of what will happen if they stop hitting the gym. It's easy to find yourself scrutinizing a fat person. At a younger age, I even did it. I'd see an obese person walking down the street and think, "That person must do nothing but sit around and eat mountains of food all day." And, yes, it would make me feel good about myself. Looking back at it, I think, "What if that person would have been able to hear my thoughts?" And, what about the number of times that people didn't keep their opinions about her to themselves?

While I wish the best of health and happiness for all, I do think that we need to change our attitudes toward overweight folks. Why get hung up on stereotyping a person, when what they really need is our support in order to succeed.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Baby, Baby, Baby

Earlier in the week, a friend posted a brilliantly thought out and executed Jezebel article about childless women in their 30s and 40s. It was fascinating to me because I'm now in my 30s and definitely see the "now or never" age sort of looming in front of me, and I'm not sure what to make of it.

I've never felt a desire to have children, nor any motherly instincts. In fact, honestly, I think babies are mostly disgusting and not that cute. As a child, people tried to force baby dolls on me, but they'd be pristine in the package while I dug around in the dirt in the backyard or played with my My Little Ponies and Pound Puppies. As an adult, people always want you to hold their babies. Instead of feeling all motherly and kitchy-koo, my stomach clenches. Also, how am I not supposed to drop it? The things even lubricate themselves in a mixture of saliva, mucous and vomit, then, when you try to hold them, they wriggle and squall in your face. Yeah, babies are "SO appealing." Still, every mother tries to shove her baby in your arms. Maybe she's thinking, "Here, you kill it; I don't have the heart to."

At any rate, I thought that, by now, some kind of maternal instinct would have kicked in if it was going to do so. I mean, if kids came at least partially formed and potty trained (say, age 2-3 and up), I'd definitely be warmer to the idea of having one. It's the gross baby thing I really can't get over. It's so bad that, when I hear the word, "pregnant," I automatically think, "Ewww."

Pretty soon, as it says in the article, my window for even considering the idea will close. I mean, 10-15 years isn't really a long time in the grand scheme of things. And, if I want to further my career, a kid is pretty much a nail in that coffin. Not that careers can't be made with children, but it takes a lot of outside help and sacrifice to move things along. Still, there's that part of me that thinks, once the window closes, am I going to regret it?

There are moments I remember, that play back like home movies inside my head, of my mother reading to me when I was little, of her doing the voices of all of the characters in the story, or of walking in a wooded park and imagining together that it was some kind of magical faraway place, with fairies and unicorns, or Jim Henson characters. Nothing can replace those moments in my head. They are special treasures for me that, somehow, I'd want to pass on.

And when your old and alone in the nursing home, what then? Everyone else's kids would come to visit and I might watch then and sit there, thinking, "I missed out on all of this love because I was too selfish or too sicked out to have children?"

I guess every decision in life comes with consequences. But what most people don't realize is that indecision does too.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Raisin Hell

WARNING: Forthcoming rant involves dried fruit.

I woke up this morning with a craving for spiced oatmeal with raisins. Since I occasionally allow myself the steel-cut goodness, I thought that this was not an entirely unreasonable request from the bod. Vons was right next to Starbucks, so I'd grab myself a skinny latte, a pack of raisins, and I'd quickly be on my way to having a rock n' roll breakfast.

As far as strategic display marketing goes, Vons has a lot to learn. They position a tiny turnstile right in front of the bakery. This setup means that a person has to squeeze his or her way through the turnstile, and then faces the cookies. Now, I'm no retail expert, but I'd say that, if I were a person with a much larger than average posterior, I probably wouldn't feel like buying a dozen donuts after eeking my blub through that vice-like portal. I could be wrong, but, anyway, I digress.

So, on to the raisins. I sliced my way up and down every feasible aisle, looking for the dried fruit section. The baking section, I thought, might house dried fruit, or maybe the breakfast aisle. No such luck. I rooted around the fruit section, and, nothing but figs and apricots. Finally, down at the end of the snack aisle, I saw a section titled, "fruit snacks." Ohhhhhhh, okay. Right next to the fruit roll-ups and other sugary fruit-like kid treats, was the dried fruit section. I saw, Craisins, prunes, mission figs, YOGURT COVERED raisins, but...what was this, no plain ol' raisins? I was furious. How can a grocery store get by without carrying raisins? That's, like, a staple around the world. Are we so obsessed with sugars and corn syrupy goods that we can't be bothered with a traditional dried fruit? Plus, I mean, I don't eat raisins often, maybe once every 3-6 months, and the one time I have a craving, they just don't exist in the store?

Yes, I could have complained to an employee, but I didn't. I merely bought a box of Kashi oatmeal-raisin flax cookies, walked out, got my latte and went home. Two oatmeal flax cookies and a blog later, I guess the whole raisin debacle isn't that horrible, but, still, I'm astonished. Not that raisins are the epitome of healthy foods (they are very sugar loaded), but that we're teaching kids to eat them covered in sugary, fatty yogurt mixtures, or to try stuff that isn't even real fruit, is so contrary to what we now know to be nutritionally sound. If that's the norm, then, well, I'm happy to be the weirdo writing a rant about raisins.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Defense De Fumer

The signs in Paris, home of the stereotype of chic smokers, who wear black trenchcoats while spouting existential musings between cloudy nasal puffs, "Defense De Fumer" are now everywhere in support of public health. The signs mean, of course, "No Smoking," but, as an English speaker reading the sign, you'd think they were supporting it, defending it, if you will. In California, all smokers have been relegated to the outdoors. Nobody's allowed to smoke inside anymore, so those that do all seek their refuge on sidewalks, puffing away, ironically, as if their lives depended on it. As a former smoker, I fully understand that comforting feeling of a breakfast of black coffee and a cigarette (oh, yummy :P ), but, now, as a non-smoker, I'll say that there's nothing more bile-churning than whiffing a person's cig trails first thing in the morning. I think, because I used to smoke, the internalizing of the smell makes it even worse. My body remembers the damage, perhaps. It's even worse when I'm running, and I happen to pass a bus stop, or a person heading into work, and, as I gasp for oxygen, I get a big gulp of nicotine, ash and carbon monoxide. Eeeeeek and iirrrgg! Far be it from me to deprive any smoker of his or her right to smoke. You're an adult, you know the risks. I know I have to suck it up (yuck) and deal with the occasional nearly asphyxiating breaths of toxic air as I pass you people. I know what it's like to smoke and think, "I'm outside, the smoke isn't getting on anyone. No one is forced to breathe it." Occasionally, though, we are, and it does still get on us, in our hair, in our clothes. It's nasty. Even smokers will admit, it's nasty. I guess I'm just ranting. I'm not advocating to end all smoking, indoors or out, like I said. I'm just grossed out, like I am with all the dog poop and garbage on the sidewalks of Los Angeles. But that's for another chapter, another rant, in this semi-urban adventure.