Sunday, April 11, 2010

I don't know how I did it without exercising regularly, but I've lost 10 pounds in 3 months.

Maybe that is not an incredible feat, given that my clothes still fit the same, and 10 pounds is literally a drop in the bucket from the figurative tonnage that I can afford to lose. It's a start, however, and a reinforcing one to keep me on the straight-and-narrow when it comes to making better food choices. Having to go on the generic equivalent of Zocor kind of puts the fear of Cthulu into you.

Anyway, I was playing Bejeweled after popping my homemade organic lean-beef meatloaf in the oven and thinking of the director's commentary to which I'd just listened on the special edition of "Titanic" for the first time. (I'm such a geek for director's commentary!) As much as I loved "Titanic" as a movie and appreciate James Cameron as a director, I couldn't help but thinking maybe the right-wingers have a point when it comes to their visceral disdain for anything "Hollywood a.k.a. limousine liberal."

Kate Winslet really does kick ass in this movie

The overlying theme of the movie "Titanic," which is not an unusual one in a lot of films from the late '80s to the present, is that money and material things cannot buy people happiness in this life; it is the love of people around you and the pursuit of all that life has to offer that can give people true happiness. This is a beautiful and true ideal, but the movie, like many films like it, represents this theme in extreme terms. During Cameron's commentary, and even without it, when I watched the film for the first time in '97, I couldn't help but notice that the lives of ordinary 2nd-class passengers on the ill-fated Titanic's voyage were never touched in the film. With precious few exceptions (e.g. the first-class passengers who heroically--and with historical accuracy--chose to go down with the ship so that others would have a chance to live), Cameron and his cast and crew portrayed the wealthy as being either harmlessly aloof to the plight of the less-fortunate passengers among them or malevolently greedy or cowardly in their pursuit to stay atop of the food chain, at the expense of everyone else around them. Third-class passengers, on the other hand, were portrayed as most of the only foil of humanity and virtue to combat this crass elitism, whereas the "merchant class" that existed in the 2nd-class quarters were conspicuously absent. In reality, many 2nd-class passengers lost their lives or survived in the sub-Arctic waters to be rescued by the Carpathia the next morning, just as the upper crust and "steerage" passengers portrayed in the movie had perished or survived. Like a lot of things in Hollywood movies, there was no in-between in the movie's portrayal of events.

One of Leo DiCaprio's key scenes in the film is when his character praises the virtues of living life to its fullest and "making it count," even with little means. After his character perishes (whoops--was that a spoiler??), the newly-impoverished Rose of the movie lives on to a full, long life of silent-film acting, horseback riding, plane-flying, and pursuing other such dreams without a penny to her name. For 84 years, she hangs on to the priceless diamond necklace her ex-fiancĂ© had left her, without even a thought of pawning it or even renting it to put a roof over her head and food on her table. When I was watching the movie again, I was thinking only in Hollywood can a woman in 1912 make her way in the world with no connections, no income, no family or friends given her relinquished identity, no nothing. (And how the hell did she make her way to California from Ellis Island to get into silent-film movie-making?) For the record, I still chuckle to myself when I think of that pawn-shop commercial with an older “Rose” jumping in after the Heart of the Ocean she just dropped, only to cash in at the pawn shop moments later. :p

Edward Norton has to be reminded to like himself

Similarly, the excellent movie "Fight Club" explores the banality of living an IKEA existence, working for the Man and the dollar, and going insane due to lack of living a full life. Like "Titanic," the movie seems to communicate in extremes. There is no middle ground between giving up everything and "just going for it" and selling out to punch a timecard, drive to a nine-to-five job, and be generally pissed off with life. The film “American Beauty” conveyed a similar message, with a work-a-day family man who quit his stifling job and admonished his family's lifestyle of having too many possessions that were, in the end, “just things.”

Life in suburbia

When I first watched both movies with my husband, I found myself getting pissed off at these movies. Like James Cameron, I'm sure, David Fincher and Sam Mendes don't live their lives squatting illegally in an abandoned house with a leaky faucet dripping on a magazine cover with Drew Barrymore's face on it. In fact, I suspect these directors and Cameron live their own lives even more luxuriously than Edward Norton's nameless character or the fictitious DeWitt-Bukaters of Pennsylvania. People didn't have Blu-Ray, HDTV, and the Internets back in 1912, natch.

So I can see where Middle American right-wingers clinging to their gods, guns, and government--and in these times, most likely struggling to make ends meet on paltry wages or unemployment--get pissed off when they hear multi-millionaires in Hollywood vicariously preaching to them via their movies that one doesn't need money to live life to the fullest. It's kind of hard to live any sort of life at all when one is working two or three jobs just to afford the mortgage/rent, electricity, utilities, food, and clothing for themselves and their children. It's true that money doesn't solve all one's problems, but it takes money to travel the world and the country, and to indulge in the fun things like a) renting time horseback riding; b) renting a plane; c) even putting gas in the car to do something free or cheap like hiking or picnicking.

There is truth in the core message of these films--that people can't find happiness only in material things, and that an abundance of money can and does corrupt ordinary human beings and can deplete the inherent value of human relationships with one another. Americans in general are too much in love with having what their neighbors have, even if they can't afford it. Everyone wants to get the boat, the golf-club membership, the SUV, and the granite countertops that cost up to $52 a square foot. However, life is not as simple as the nostalgic dream of packing it in, giving up on society, turning off, and tuning out. Especially if you have a family as the character Lester Burnham in “American Beauty” did, it is simply irresponsible to quit your job and cut off your family's income just so you can “be who you are” and satisfy your own ego when others are counting on you to help with their livelihood. These days, when two household incomes are needed just to make ends meet, that principle goes for women as well as it does for men.

Perhaps my ennui at these trite messages from Hollywood smack of a general resentment I have at not being able to break into the biz myself. Bitter, party of one, I guess! Since I was 19, I have worked within, and sometimes outside of, my means to write and sell screenplays. To Hollywood, to indies, to film students, to basically anyone who will consider them. This is something I've pursued with quite a bit of seriousness rather than idle dreams or wishes. Even with a full-time job, I've taken graduate-level coursework at two colleges and tried to build a network of fellow writers, producers, and directors to whom to call upon for referrals and productions. I've spent hundreds, perhaps thousands, of dollars in postage fees, printing costs, and other tools necessary to produce, print, and submit hard-copies of film scripts, of which I've completed six. (Thank the FSM for email, which many producers/directors/agents now use to accept submissions--and it's free!) I've read books--some crappy, some actually very valuable and informative--on the art, business, and practice of screenwriting. I've spent long hours letting a lot of "fun times" in my twenties and thirties go by the wayside so I could sit at my computer and just write--and do research. In short, I haven't just thought about writing or talked about writing to try to impress friends at the coffee shop--I've actually done the work. And have only optioned one screenplay short for $50 to show for twenty years of it.

During that time, I sacrificed a lot of energy, money, gainful career ambitions, and just plain time doing fun stuff that everyone else my age was doing so I could pursue the very lofty goal of making it as a screenwriter. And you know what? This is the ugly secret that Hollywood movies will never divulge to you, despite their wonderful New Agey stories of pop wisdom: sometimes, you can work really hard at your dreams and do all the right things--and even have the talent it takes to make it--but a lot of times, you just don't make it. So you have to have a pragmatic, and sometimes less romantic, alternate plan just to pay the bills, because face it--shit costs money.

I am not egotistical or self-centered enough to believe for a second that I am the only one who has done her/his homework, paid his/her dues, and put in the time to get ahead. I'm quite certain that, for every Ted Tally or Callie Khouri who accepts either an Oscar or a paycheck for a scriptwriting job well done, countless thousands or even millions of the rest of us get a flush letter--or enough of them to wallpaper a small building--and we still have to pay that cable bill and send our kids to school.

Sometimes, a self-defeating voice enters my head, telling me, "maybe you just don't have the talent, Michelle. Maybe your writing really isn't as unique and good as you think it is." Yes, I admit, sometimes I do feel sorry for myself, but then I move on, because I have to. Life goes on, and I have a husband and kids who need me, and there is still shit to clean up in this world that maybe I can contribute to instead of whine about. Y'know?

I just do the best I can, because as the old saying goes, I guess it is better to try and fail than to not try at all. But failing still sucks. It would help if a Cameron or a Fincher could have compassion for that, instead of making sanctimonious movies obliging us all to squat in buildings with leaky faucets, for a change. Maybe I'll just have to write a screenplay about the opposite of what they're preaching, just to fill the void. :p

Thursday, February 25, 2010

All of These Weight-Loss Efforts are Making Me Think About Good Vs. Crappy Diet Books and Health Care Reform

So I finally have a night off from work (!) and am resisting the urge to hang out on Facebook and/or DailyKOS in the waning minutes before I need to head to bed. I feel I've long neglected my blog after just starting it off, so hope that, as I do with my plans to reduce poundage, it too doesn't fade into the great beyond. Thus, I'm making myself stay up and write a blog post, dammit!!

On the recommendation of both my doctor and a waiting-room magazine article (can't remember which magazine--honestly--but it was most likely one of those wimmen's rags), I picked up a copy of The Volumetrics Weight-Control Plan. I remember the magazine article was one of those "we rate the most popular weight-loss plans on safety and effectiveness!" deals, and ranked Volumetrics as being one of the few plans that was nutritionally sound, cost-effective, and realistic/reasonable to implement as a lifestyle rather than a "diet"--all of which I was seeking when I decided to take losing weight seriously.

Moreover, the article stressed, Dr. Barbara Rolls (the book's author) did not approach her advice or the weight-loss plan condescendingly. As I am half-way finished with readidng the book (and have already started implementing some of its recommendations), I can assert that the article in whatever magazine I was reading in the Honda Service Center's waiting area was spot-on in this regard. I can't stand it when nutrition gurus talk down to you like either a) you're some kind of failure if you indulge in a weekend couple of beers or handful of M&Ms on occasion, or b) you're a clueless infant who wouldn't know his/her ass from said armpit when it comes to even moderately common-sense maxims around weight loss and maintenance. In a nutshell, the book's author and her co-writer treat the readers like adults, and expect that they'll behave as such when it comes to phoooood.

Dr. Rolls and her Volumetrics weight-loss approach seem, so far, to represent a 180-degree turnaround from a weight-loss "expert" I read when I was in high school. Richard Simmons, too, was esteemed as a credible (if not a little nutty) diet guru who placed less of an emphasis on "dieting" and more of an emphasis on making healthy lifestyle choices, which I appreciated when I was 17 and still appreciate today. In fact, I borrowed his book, Never Say Diet, from a woman for whom I babysat during the summer while she worked. She was a huge Richard Simmons fan and thought that, given that, even back then, I had a "flotation device" to shed, I could get a lot of benefit from his book.

Back then, when I read it at age 17, I thought Simmons's advice was pretty right-on and reasonable, and I didn't have much of an opinion about the general tone he directed toward his readers. In retrospect, I will say this about Never Say Diet--it IS easy to read and logical to follow, and it does have some sound nutritional advice, albeit he does come across at times as being somewhat fanatical about diet and exercise. For instance, he suggests that, if you have a craving for a mall-bakery cookie (like Mrs. Fields), you should just eat half of it and walk the entire mall not once, but twice, to "walk it off." Girlfriend, please.

But I digress. Although I haven't picked up the book in more than twenty years, two things stand out in my mind about how detestable and asinine his book was toward his readers when it came to issues of weight management. (Yes, I know--it's been twenty damn years since I've read the book, but I'm Irish, and we Irish people don't let go of memories or grudges that easily.)

First, Simmons had an annoying habit of screaming at you (in ITALICIZED ALL CAPS, with more than one exclamation mark, even) when it came to even simple directives as to what and what not to include in low-fat recipes. Even in the list of a recipe's ingredients, he'd list: "One minced clove of garlic, lightly sautéed (DO NOT cook in OIL!!!!)" Sheesh. I almost thought he was going to reach out from the recipe's page, wring my neck with both hands, and add "...damn you!!"

Second, and this perhaps pissed me off the most about his book than even the borderline neurotic screaming at his readers in the recipe ingredients, Simmons also--regularly--laced his book's instructions with letters from his readers, many of which he'd hold up for ridicule, almost like an Ann Landers, Weight-Loss Edition column. Now everyone should be able to take a little ribbing and even honest criticism when it comes to writing to any kind of celebrity pundit for advice. However, Simmons sometimes came off as not only petty and condescending toward these people (mostly women) who took the time to write to him, but even downright mean-spirited.

One example that sits in my mind is a recipe that some lady sent to him as a low-fat dessert idea. I think she called it "Dieter's Delight" or something silly like that. Anyway, it sounded pretty disgusting to me, mostly because I'm not a huge fan of Jell-O, and the thought of Jell-O and Cool Whip mixed (as she had done in the recipe, with fruit and such) just turns my stomach. However, that's beside the point, as she was really trying to offer an idea to Simmons and he just pissed on it. I mean, he really ripped her apart, saying that whomever would send him such an awful recipe with such a gigantic portion size (it was admittedly unrealistically huge) HAD to have been a huge person herself, or else the recipe was just a bad joke. I remember reading that recipe and his take on it, going, "Sheesh, what an asshole!" In my opinion, the tactful thing to do would be to a) NOT print the shitty recipe in his goddamned BOOK!! or b) write something to the effect of, "Well, this might work as an occasional low-fat treat in a smaller portion size," but to trash this poor lady and a recipe she submitted, even if it sounds gross to me, was just plain dickish.

And NO, before anyone starts wondering, I was NOT the lady who submitted the recipe. The book was printed in 1982. That would have made me 12. I was into Joan Jett and MTV at the time. But I digress.

However, the example in his book that was the most offensive to me--it bothered me somewhat when I was 17, but totally pisses me off now when I think of it--was the lady with the pizza cravings. Simmons printed her letter in full, and to his credit, he was at least gracious enough not to print her real name. Her letter in brief went something like this (I'm paraphrasing from the best of my memory from 20 years ago--nope, I didn't even need to use Amazon's "Look Inside!" feature for this one):

I'm writing to ask you for advice. I'm really trying hard to lose weight, but I can't shake my cravings for pizza. My husband watches me very carefully to make sure I'm not eating the wrong things, but when he's at work, I tend to backslide. Each day, for lunch, I decide on a salad. When it comes to be lunchtime, though, I get so hungry for a pizza that I call my neighbor next door, and she invites me over her house for lunch. There, we have pizza, salad, and cake. I'm not losing any weight, and my husband is really starting to get angry. Please help!

Simmons's "advice," if you could call it that, was devoid of any compassion, tact, empathy, or humankindness whatsoever. He positively reamed this poor woman. Not just for backsliding on her weight-loss plan, but for "deceiving" her husband.

Okay, ONE...

(steps back from the keyboard, takes a deep breath)

This woman should NOT be losing weight for her husband, but ONLY for herself and her health. Both her letter AND Simmons's response to it seem to suggest she should be doing otherwise. Any spouse worth his or her salt--worth being married to, for that matter--would realize the value of the whole person s/he married, and NOT the numbers on the scale or the size of his/her waistline. I can see where a husband or wife would be concerned about an overweight spouse's health, and would want to encourage a sound, healthy change of lifestyle that is lasting and helps to prolong his spouse's health and life. However, the very tone of this frightened woman's letter--"my husband watches me very carefully," that clause stuck in my mind like a fishhook--and the fact that her husband was getting angry at her for not losing weight to HIS liking!!!--is what makes me think that this woman was married to a really terrible, and possibly abusive, asshole of a husband.

The fact that Richard Simmons enabled this abhorrent behavior on the part of her husband is even more appalling to me. If he really wanted to give this poor fan of his some sound advice IMO, he would've asked her what she was doing--or NOT doing--to fill the void in her life that she apparently needed to fill with cravings for pizza. I'm guessing that she was a housewife, and it wasn't clear from her letter if she had children or not. The year 1982 wasn't ancient history, and it was post-Women's Lib-era, when women in the workplace were becoming more and more common. Even if she and her husband decided that she didn't have to work to sustain a household income (much more do-able back then!), was there any volunteer work she could do? Did she have any hobbies she was keeping on the back-burner for so long that she could engage herself in, to get her mind off the cravings and onto something that both filled her time and enriched her life?

THAT would be the core of how I'd have handled that--not some parentalized reprimanding some woman you don't even know for "deceiving" her husband or some silly horseshit like that. Cheating on your husband with another dude is deceiving. Falling prey to pizza cravings when you're a bored housewife? Lack of willpower, maybe, but deceitfulness? What, is Richard Simmons all of a sudden a marriage counselor? (I sure as hell hope not!!)

I keep thinking back to how long ago this book was written, and wonder if she's still married to that shithead of a loser asshole husband, or is even alive anymore. It pains me to think that Simmons's coldhearted response could've driven her to depression, or worse. What a fucking asshole Richard Simmons is. Srsly.

I wish I could reach across the years and the pages to give this woman a hug instead of a piece of pizza or a tongue-lashing. It sounds like she needed love and compassion in her life most of all, and some fitness guru and his crappy book sure weren't going to extend her even a hint of supportive arms.

But anyway...Health Care Reform Summit! Damn, I spent so much time writing about a twenty-year grudge over a diet book that I kinda lost focus of the whole Health Care Summit thingie. Believe me--you can read all the news that's fit to blog on the Great Orange Satan or any other lib'rul blog your heart desires, or not. :p I need to go to bed!

'Night all.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Wow, I just discovered a really cool blog.

On a political note (because my weekly weight-loss "update" went oh so swimmingly), I was checking out the rescued diaries tonight on dKOS, and my eyes happened to hit a diary title called Gay in Aggieland. Texas A&M, home to the Aggies, is actually my alma mater. To see its name appear on a liberal blog was certainly a first in my recent memory.

Intrigued, I clicked the link to the diary and skimmed it. The article's rather long, but I'll "hotlist" (bookmark) it and read it when I have some rare leisure time. Turns out that the diarist, LiberalTexan, has his own blog, Left of College Station. In a short phrase, it is VERY cool. I am definitely Friend-Connecting it. Props to LiberalTexan for getting this party started.

Gee, it really HAS been a long damn time that I've been to Texas A&M if they even have a liberal blog and such. I remember my bravely-written letter to The Battalion when I was 19 was summarily hammered by most of the college's conservative population, leading me to wonder whether I should transfer or not. (Actually, I did transfer somewhere else, for a year, but that's a whole other blog post.) My scholarship and a boyfriend eventually brought me back to Aggietown.

Mind you, I graduated in '91, so the blogosphere was nonexistent back then. I did learn how to use an Apple Macintosh Classic, though. Good times. My foray into what would become two decades of fun with computers. :p

In any case, I am glad that LiberalTexan has interviewed some students who are gay at Aggieland, and I'm doubly glad that there is a group on campus called Aggie Allies. :) Back in the day, I don't think I bumped into a single gay or lesbian person in college, much less knew one personally. It is good to hear that, nearly 20 years later, the closet door is opening, and college kids in the GLBT community are finding their voices at a young age--saying, no, we will NOT be 2nd-class citizens any longer.

Gig'em!

Working Constant Overtime Is Inconducive to Weight Loss

It is all too cruel a coincidence that, in the same week that I created this blog, my hours at work were thankfully restored to 40-plus hours a week (emphasis on the "plus," apparently). Don't get me wrong; I'm cool with the hours, the increased job security, and the extra money that moving from 3/4 time to full-time will bring. My husband and I were blind-sided by some unexpected car repairs that cost us over a grand, and we were ill-prepared to handle that kind of hit to our pocketbooks right now. So suffice it to say that the increase in workload is most welcome.

OTOH, this past week, it hasn't been doing much for my weight-loss goals. I have been getting off work later, coming home/making dinner/helping with kids' homework/getting kids ready for/into bed, and then catching up on the Internets news I missed while I was busy (Facebook, DailyKOS, and other sites with which I am currently obsessed). That leaves little to no time to exercise, something that, in addition to cutting down calories, my hypothyro-idiotic body really needs to accomplish any kind of poundage reduction.

Well, you may ask, "why not wake up an hour earlier and work out before everyone else wakes up, like Michelle Obama does?" That is what I have been asking of myself for about a year now. One, I am no morning person. Two, it doesn't help matters much that my fingers hit the snooze button to let me sleep for an hour before I drag my ass out of bed and into the shower with just enough time to get ready for work and get my kids ready for school.

"But Michelle has two kids, and it never stopped her, did it? Plus, wasn't she Vice President of some hospital network in Chicago or something? That must've been more than 40 hours a week, easily." Oy. I guess I really don't have much of an excuse, do I? Maybe I'm just lazy.

It's not that I don't like to exercise--I do. It's just that I like to be in a relaxed, happy state to exercise--even if it's just a 30-minute power walk--and not feel like every second of my time is budgeted. I also like sleep, when I can get it.

Maybe I should be posting all of this on SparkPeople's message boards, because it sounds like what I really need is some kind of third-party kick in the ass, from someone. Better yet, I wonder if, now that I'll be making more money, I shouldn't invest in Dr. Bernstein's or one of those more organized weight-loss programs where my progress can be monitored somewhere other than the quiet anonymity of the Internets.

Anybody out there ever have this problem, and how do you solve it? Is it really a matter of being a working parent, or is it laziness, lack of motivation, or a combination of these things?

Yes, I want to lose liberally--and I need to, for my health, my energy boost, my self-esteem, and my self-respect. Most of all, though, I want to take better care of myself overall so that I can be around for my kids as they grow into adulthood.

I will give Dr. Bernstein's a call in the morning.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Losing Liberally: The Maiden Voyage

Hello all,

Welcome to the maiden voyage (first post!) of my new Losing Liberally blog.

Why "losing liberally"?

One: I'm a liberal fatass who needs to lose some serious weight. I just created an account at http://www.sparkpeople.com to assess my weight-loss needs and set some concrete fitness goals, and found out that, at 234 lbs., I am OBESE. Which is wild, because every time I look in the mirror, yeah, I see someone who is chunk-eh, but not necessarily obese. So having that reality check is oh so painful.

Two: Delete the word "fatass," and you get, "I am a liberal," and damn proud of it. I believe that losing weight can have political ramifications in that, by consuming fewer calories than I normally do (which must be in the multiple thousands, I'm sure), the planet will have more for others to eat.

I am also a relatively newly-adoptive parent, and am acutely aware of the need to be alive and healthy for my two beautiful sons as they grow into adulthood. If I happen to keel over in a few years as a result of--well, being obese--then I will have only myself to blame for not taking better care of myself. I don't want to see my children become parents without having a Grandma to be there for them and their own children, so take care of myself, for them AND for myself, I must.

It is going to suck, because I'll have to refrain from drinking soda and ingesting a lot of fun things I normally find, well, fun to ingest. However, in moderation, I can still enjoy eating the foods I like--just smaller portions of them--while following a healthier lifestyle and having an overall more positive outlook on life in general. Because, in this economy, and with inept politicians in WDC who don't seem to be doing Eff All to improve the quality of life for all Americans via universal healthcare, environmental responsibility, and labor/consumer protections, we all damn well could use a little positivity, can't we?

So again, welcome to my weight-loss journey--and maybe some side discussions on not just politics as usual, as well. Thanks ahead for reading.

Cheers,

The Boof