August 22, 2017

When I first asked to work with Barbara at Body Dynamics, it was because I was so embarrassed by my cardio fitness.

I’m a fat lady, yes – but I’m basically in good health. I’m strong and my back still works, and at the age of 57, I call that a win.

But Barbara (who is a wizard and deserving of more posts just on her) looked at me critically and said, “… and I think we can take some weight off you, too.”

“No,” I said instantly. “No, really – you can’t. Believe me. I’ve tried. Every diet I’ve ever been on, I’ve gained the weight back plus twenty to forty pounds more. I wouldn’t be this fat now if it hadn’t been for diets. I can’t afford to lose any more weight. Let’s NOT try.”

She nodded, but I could see the determination in her eye. “Another one I’m going to have to show,” I thought. “Well, I’m NOT dieting – I don’t care WHAT she says.”

When I said that, in June of 2016, I weighed 260 pounds – a shame-filled number that I sick up today in confession because guess what happened this morning?

I weigh 238 pounds.

And I never dieted – not a mouthful. I ate ice cream throughout.

Granted, the fastest change came (four pounds in the last two weeks!) when Chip the nutritionist finally showed me the effects of sugar on my zinc levels (zinc! Zinc! O you are my master now!), but the first eighteen slowly melted over the course of a year without me noticing.

And what else happened? See the photo. That’s me, bravely showing my belly in a lock-all-the-doors-first selfie. Instead of a vast, white expanse of flesh, there are now these marginal contour lines in the vast, white expanse. It’s like – when it snows, you can see these soft lines in the surface that show where the dog’s Frisbee is lying on the terrace. You can’t see the Frisbee, but you know that something’s down there, buried under the snow. And that’s my belly now.

I can feel the abdominal muscle down there; it’s a ROCK. I think I have a six-pack under the blubber. Me! My shorts are baggy; I have to hold them up with a belt, which is on the tightest notch. And when I train with Barbara and I warm up on the elliptical (admittedly on its easiest setting), I’m usually annoyed that we only get ten minutes for that; I can and want to go longer. Cardio fitness coming along!

I shake my head at the thought. Barbara is a wizard, I’m telling you.




I’ve gone from not even knowing my body had, needed, or used zinc two months ago (before I started with Chip the nutritionist) to now being FIXATED on it. Zinc! Zinc! My kingdom for some zinc!

It turns out my zinc is low. (And no wonder; I didn’t know I was supposed to be stockpiling it!) This affects my body in some very real way that I no longer remember. (I’m telling you – zinc has become like a Kardashian in my life. I have no idea why I’m supposed to care so much, but by gum, I care!)

But here’s why I’m so fixated:

When I first saw Chip, the charming nutritionist at Body Dynamics, he had me take an online quiz that asked things like “do your nails chip, peel, or break?” and “Do you have bad breath?,” and other things that I, certainly, wouldn’t lay at nutrition’s door as a first choice—but we are walking into the body of science here, and onward we go!

So I filled out the questionnaire and when I sat down with Chip two months ago, he handed me the results; a piece of paper with what looked like the Rocky Mountains on it. “These high points are areas of concern for you,” he explained.

(To be honest, I wasn’t terribly surprised; you don’t get to be my size without assuming something – or several somethings – need to be addressed quite sternly.)

We yakked it out. I had two Mount Everest-sized peaks – SUGAR HANDLING and also “Essential Fatty Acids” (which turns out to be high because I had my gall bladder out about 15 years ago, and contrary to what the doctor told me at the time, that DOES, it seems, have dietary implications; who knew?)

And I had several Denalis (that is, high next to anything other than Everest), and then a bunch of Old Ragg mountains. The “adrenal” peak was from stress and sleep (“sleep hygiene,” Chip calls it, which makes me snort. If I scrub my sleep regularly with a nice Borax, THEN will I have good sleep hygiene?) and the “thyroid” peak was blood sugar (and the doctor DID tell me my fasting blood sugar was getting up there; yikes. Don’t want diabetes, by damn!).

Small bumps at “Liver and Gall Bladder” (not higher because – no gall bladder), something called “women only” (which I assume is because I’m menopausal), and also “Immune System” – but those three were mere foothills to the others, so we never discussed them.

Chip gave me my very first guidelines for incremental change—like, the guy never said “For the love of Pete, you’ve GOT to back slowly away from the Ben and Jerry’s, woman!” But he DID say I had to switch to sprouted bread for sandwiches, add in some nut butters that weren’t peanut (I put almond butter on apples and shut up; it’s a hell of a treat), and bla bla something else.

Mostly he’s got me drinking water. Water. Water. Water. More water. About 100 ounces a day, because I’m fat. (Their rule of thumb is take half your weight; that’s how many ounces you should drink – but cap it at 100. I weigh more than 200 lbs (by a fair bit!), so I drink 100 ounces.) I spend most of my time peeing out innocent, pale, aroma-free pee, but lordy, that water fills me up. I actually stopped eating a container of ice cream the other night BECAUSE I COULDN’T FIT ANY MORE IN. I know – right??

LONG story short (too late), I got the mountain profile yesterday from the second questionnaire, and EVEN CHIP was impressed – every single peak and bump had fallen, with the lone exception of SUGAR HANDLING.

Well, yeah. I know.

Even the gall bladder number had gotten a lot better. Chip and I frowned at that one for a while because it doesn’t make too much sense; it’s not like I obediently grew back a gall bladder… and I tried to not be too obviously pleased; we’re going to keep an eye on that number. (YEAH, we are! It’s awesome!)

And it turns out that my zinc hasn’t come up AT ALL. “What the?” I protested. “Everything else is better, better, better, but I still don’t have enough zinc? I’m eating pumpkin seeds every damned day!”

And then Chip laid the smack-down on me, out of the blue. “I’m guessing that’s because the zinc you’re taking in is being used to process the sugar.”

MOTHER PUS-BUCKET! You’re kidding! “It’s ALLLLL connected,” he said, waving his arms about and waggling his limber little eyebrows.

So DAMN IT. Now I look at anything sugary with grave suspicion. I actually growled at that candy mecca at the Staples check-out line today. “No way!” I muttered belligerently at a bag of Lindor white chocolate truffles, “I ate my pumpkin seeds this morning and I AM KEEPING THAT ZINC, damn it.”

So once again, something that I never in a million years thought could change – my adoring fixation on All Things Sweet – may actually be evolving just a little. Just for today. Just at Staples.
We’ll see.



Why I Do It

I can see that someone may wonder why, at the age of 56 (I’m 57 now), I became so determined to improve my health – and so I offer a not-particularly-funny entry to this blog.

My husband Jonathan had a gastric bypass when he was 50 (so, seven years ago), with impressive results. His diabetes disappeared overnight, the sleep apnea vanished, his kidney functions improved, and he lost about 140 pounds. Good news!

Alas, unbeknownst to us, he was also losing his body’s store of vitamin B-12. After about three years, this pushed him into the beginnings of dementia. Five years after the operation, I was at my wit’s end; he was actually diagnosed with tempero-frontal dementia by a neurologist, who looked confused and said “But I think it’s temporary…”

It was Jonathan’s GP who decided to try B-12 injections. This was pure serendipity; Jonathan’s blood work hadn’t come back yet by the first injection, but when the lab results came in, the B-12 level was normal. If the doctor hadn’t decided to try the injections before getting the results, he never would have made the attempt.

The B-12 was miraculous. It restored Jonathan’s sanity within four hours. I probably don’t have to tell you what an astonishing relief that was… and I never thought to ask if he maybe might have suffered permanent damage from the experience.

But from then on, he was changed. And one of the aspects of his new personality was an inability to make good decisions for himself. Doctors would tell him what he needed to do to handle health issues (and the health issues began to mount pretty quickly), but he decided that if he ignored his problems and the advice of his physicians, he wouldn’t have to deal with any of it.

I watched him go through this; I tried to help him. He would not be helped. I was so horrified and stressed by this that I thought – maybe I am guilty of the same thing. Why aren’t I dealing with health issues that I know are right in front of me?

So I followed my friend Steve to his balance class at Body Dynamics.

And then I asked the Balance teacher, Barbara, to help me with my cardio endurance.

And things progressed from there. The worse Jonathan got and the less I could help him, the harder I tried to repair my own health.

When Jonathan died in March, 2017, the Body Dynamics team was like my family. They took care of me and helped me. And the body that they helped me refine was strong enough to bear Jonathan’s death.

And now I can see what ignoring the problem ends with – and I can envision what dealing with the problem will earn. So that’s why I do it.

Fix It

I had a massage with Gwynn yesterday. I love her – she’s another of the wizards at Body Dynamics. They ought to call the place Hogwarts.

Gwynn’s massages are the polar opposite of the spa massages I’d been addicted to in the past. There’s something glorious about the laying on of hands – of having someone follow the muscles under your skin and work through the tensions and pull you into a new shape with just strong fingers and know-how. On a massage table, I feel like a lump of clay and someone clever is forming me into Uma Thurman.

But a therapeutic masseuse is to a spa masseuse as a surgeon is to the guy who tapes the high school football team. They’re both useful; one just knows a staggering amount more than the other.

So Gwynn will have spoken with Barbara about me by the time I get to my massage appointment. We stand in the treatment room and Barbara says “Keep your hips forward and turn your waist and shoulders as far as you can to the left. Okay, now to the right. Yep. Got it.”

Then she dims the lights and goes away and I strip down to nothing but me and slip under the sheet. (In the winter, she warms the table and it’s an immediate invitation to fall soundly asleep and be snoring by the time she comes back.) While I’m fussing around trying to hide my large underwear under a discretely spread shirt, she’s out in the hallway with her computer, plotting her plan of attack.

Low knock – in comes Gwynn – hushed voices – very spa-like. And then WOW what are you doing?? What the hell is that you’re working on?

Gwynn knows I’m a nerd about this stuff and she delights in explaining her whats and her whys; I’ve learned so much about my own body from her, and how I can give her the feedback that makes her work with even greater focus. But if I wanted it, she’d totally let me lie there silent, alternately gasping at what her strong fingers have tracked down and then purring when she gets muscles to surrender. I’m all chat all the time, though, so we pretty much gab throughout. Gwynn is awesome.

Two weeks ago, in the pre-massage discussion time, I told her that when I stepped into pants or underwear, I always splayed my leg out to the side because if I held the knee forward, it was painful deep down at the top of my thigh. Gwynn LOVES these mysteries and the light of challenge lit in her eyes, but before she left so I could strip down, she asked me, “What makes you bring this up now? Is this new?”

“I just didn’t know things like this could be fixed before.”

She beamed with approval at me and I realized that WAS a pretty big leap. I’m beginning to believe that with the right help, I can address body issues that I’d always – ALWAYS – accepted as just the way things were. So the ache at the top of my thigh wasn’t new, but the belief that we could fix it sure was.

By the way – the answer: Adductor magnus. Or something like that. Last week, Gwynn worked on the front of the thigh. She pulled tight muscles long, but it didn’t fix that specific pain. This week she went to the inside of the thigh. Again, my legs felt great at the end, but the pain was still there. The vast, clicking machinery in her brain was turning the whole time, and after I got dressed, she came back in. “Okay – lie face down on the table for a minute.” And then she ran her thumb straight up a live wire. “STOP THAT!” I shouted. “Hah!” she replied, satisfaction dripping from the word. “Adductor magnus. We’ve got it. When do I see you again?”

I have no doubt at all that next week, Gwynn will do something to a leg muscle no-one outside a medical anatomy class ever heard of before. She will release a trigger point or clean out the fuzz or in some other ways work her wizardry and I will suddenly be able to step into my underwear with my knees pointing forward. I guess that’s not a very big payoff… and yet, it’s a HUGE payoff. Now I trust that if there’s an issue, we can fix it.Magnus


August 2

“My feet are getting tired just STANDING in your shoes,” my fabulous trainer Barbara said to me.

That sounds like a metaphor for life – as though someone was saying “Lordy – walking a mile in your shoes is TOUGH, my, how I admire you!” (Don’t we all want to assume that we cover gracefully about how hard our lives are? Oh, if they only knew, we think, and imagine the medals and accolades we would receive if someone realized that we’d been to the bank AND the post office while REALLY having to pee. Such martyrdom!)

In fact, Barbara had commented that I tended to stand on the outsides of my feet. Instead of attempting to correct my posture, I (of course) whined that it was the SHOES – see?? They’re all THICK under the arches! (And they are. I stand by that statement.) (Stand. Get it?)

Because she knows she is right and has x-ray vision and can see my bones through all impediments, Barbara said “Okay – do it without the shoes.”

(The “do it,” by the way, was a highly remedial exercise involving touching a fat workout ball to the ground, standing from the squat, and reaching the ball overhead. This is the kind of exercise that makes me giggle, because it’s simultaneously incredibly easy and yet also impossibly hard – like rubbing your belly and patting your head. I do these exercises while giggling through mutters: Arches down. Pelvis neutral. Abs engaged. Ribs down. Use the glutes – the GLUTES. And then, because I cannot accomplish all this, I giggle. Whoops – missed the abs. “And the arches,” says Barbara.)

So gleefully, I took off my shoes. I always do better when barefoot because A. I live my life barefoot and B. I’m always trying to show Barbara that I should NEVER have to wear shoes and laws should be rewritten to make exceptions for me. (Seriously: Why CAN’T I be barefoot in a restaurant? It’s not as if shoes will stop me from tracking in something nasty from the sidewalk – and if you’re protecting me from something nasty on your floor, shouldn’t that be my choice?)

Then Barbara, because she is a badass from the DNA out, asked if she could put on my sneakers. Ew! How much would YOU have to get paid per hour to put on someone else’s hot, icky sneakers??

Admittedly, I wear these sneakers ONLY when I’m at Body Dynamics; I put them on in the car once I’ve parked out front… sometimes I put them on in the waiting area. Not a shoe fan. So, they aren’t as nasty as you might think. But still: Warm from the body, so again: Ew.

Wide-eyed, I nodded. She slipped her elegant runner’s feet out of her shoes and into mine and immediately made me get back to squatting and lifting and other remedial, hugely simple exercises that somehow leave me dripping with sweat.

After a long, distracting discussion about a click in my shoulder (“Keep your chest open when you lift. No, pull your wing bones back and in. But keep your shoulders down. Now where are your headlights?” That’s Barbara-speak for have I again allowed my pelvis to drop forward, and away from the carefully-won neutral position; the answer is always “Damn it!”), she suddenly said “My feet are getting tired just standing in your shoes.”

That made me howl like a loon, just barking with laughter in the large work-out room while others nearby looked in to make sure I hadn’t slipped into hysteria as surely as I’d slipped – again – into improper pelvic alignment. Barbara, who is naturally quieter than me (isn’t everyone?), was also laughing, and agreed that she hadn’t intended such a profound statement when she spoke.

So now she’s going to research minimalist shoes for me.

Is it any wonder that I just LOVE giving those people every red cent I earn? I am constantly entertained!

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Eating Healthy, Part 1

July 10

I’ve recently come under the care of Chip, an absolutely lovely nutritionist at Body Dynamics in Falls Church. I love Chip even though he’s a dancer who told me with no irony at all that he felt guilty because he ate a piece of pizza A FEW DAYS AGO; I love him because he is more interested in my zinc (low) and pH levels (also low) than he is in my weight (“It’s just a number”), and no one else has ever even told me I HAD zinc levels to wonder at.

Now I’m eating pumpkin seeds to help. How curious. (It was either that or raw oysters, which – ew.)

Anyway, one of the things Chip told me to do was to buy my dairy at Whole Foods (which I still call Fresh Fields); I was to look for a brand called Trickling Springs.

Now, I find that name rather disgusting; it sounds like something that might happen in a Russian bordello. But I’ve tried ‘Turkey Hill’ ice cream and it did NOT taste like the droppings of large birds, so I realize I need to get over my distaste based on what some mythical farmer named his mythical farm.

“Why Trickling Springs, Chip?”

“All their cows are grass-fed, so they don’t need to pasteurize the milk as much.”

“I thought pasteurization was a GOOD thing. One of those advancements of modern society.”

“Some pasteurization is a great thing. But if your cows are kept in feed sheds and fed antibiotics, then you have to pasteurize the milk so intensely that you pretty much lose the nutritional value.”

“Get out!”


Well, there you go. Okay – off I went to Fresh Fields – sorry, Whole Foods – to buy pumpkin seeds and Trickling Springs.

A troll was stocking the dairy case. I don’t mean to be mean, but he was actually a troll. Short, stocky, curly hair, darkness in a cloud around him; either painfully shy or actually surly. Let’s hope for shy.

“Excuse me – do you have dairy products from Trickling Springs?”

His trollish nose wrinkled at the name as mine had. “What?” he grunted.

“Trickling Springs?” I was beginning to lose my enthusiasm.

“Neverheardofit.” He turned back to being elbow-deep in the goat yogurt.

“Oh thank God,” I thought. “That name really is disgusting. Now I can go back to eating my whole-fat, unsweetened Dannon from Giant Foods, which is more convenient and cheaper.”

I was in the frozen food aisle seeking out Ezekiel bread. (Chip was quite firm about Ezekiel bread. It’s sprouted, you know.) (What??) (Yes – they let the wheat germ sprout before they make it into flour which does miraculous things to the nutritional value, or something like that; I didn’t quite understand that one as well, but I dutifully bought frozen bread. It turns out to be nutty and pleasant and not at all annoying. I can live with it.)

So I was seeking the Ezekiel – as you do – and there was the ice cream case, so I gave it a gander. Because – Ben and Jerry’s Oats Of This Swirled, obviously.

And what did I see?


They make ice cream.

So I bought it. And ate it. A vanilla, smooth and creamy and tasting not at all of any kind of pasteurization (because what would that taste like anyway??) and featuring huge slabs of chocolate – I mean like paving stones of chocolate, dark – rich – sweet – salted chocolate. MY GOD, good nutrition is delicious.

And I don’t feel guilty. I had to get it. My nutritionist said.


When I began with Barbara at Body Dynamics, she asked me a question I’d never heard before.

WHY didn’t I like to exercise?

We were standing in one of the treatment rooms, doing my initial fitness assessment. (Just – stand up and sit down for 30 seconds. Now stand on one foot for a minute. Stuff like that.)

(The standing on one foot thing was a surprise. I have great balance; I can walk with a book on my head up and down the stairs. However, this exercise – my Mom’s attempt to make her daughters glide like Grace Kelly – has NOTHING to do with what Barbara thinks balance is. I stood proudly on one foot and she looked at my ankle, wiggling to compensate, and asked, only semi-seriously, “You haven’t been drinking, have you?” Dang. Another self-delusion exploded!)

(I can do it now, though – like a one-legged boss!)

And then Barbara asked me why I didn’t like to exercise.

I’m 57. I have both experience and intellect. I am rarely caught without a strong opinion on any subject. You ask me anything about exercise or diets, I’ll have an answer at the ready. (I’m learning just how many of my answers are misinformed, but see other posts for THAT revelation.) But Barbara asked “why” when no one else ever had. Why? Why?! I don’t know – because! She left me gaping with that one.

“Why? Um… It makes me hot. Uh – I sweat. Erm… I make impact tremors like the T. Rex on Jurassic Park stomping around. Uh… my back gets tight. I, uh – ”

“Wait. Stop. What?”

“You know – Jurassic Park. When Jeff Goldblum sees the impact tremors in the glass of water.”

“No. Your back. What was that?”

“When I walk or something. My back tightens up. I want to sit down every five minutes to stretch it.”

“Where on your back?”

“Now, hang on – my back is fine. I’m the only person I know with no back problems.”

“I’m not saying you have a spinal issue. Where on your back do the muscles get tight?”

So we discussed it. And I walked for her. And I stood for her. And then she announced that I was lordotic.

I’m a writer; I love new words. “Lordotic” was a new one on me; I demanded an immediate explanation.

It turns out that the pelvis drapes around the spine like a lady wearing a shawl. (This is my description, not Barbara’s, so my imagery could be very, very wrong.) The shawl is supposed to be even, but my “shawl” tends to dip forward. The points of my hip bones – Barbara calls them headlights – tend to point down.

Now, there’s nothing physically forcing my pelvis down; it’s just the way I stand. So my lordosis is entirely treatable simply by building up the abdominal muscles that will pull my shawl back up into alignment.

And when that happens, the muscles across my mid- and low-back that have been trying to make up for the slipped shawl will be able to relax and do their usual job. So – no pain. No need to stretch or sit down every five minutes.

“Shut up – you’re kidding. You can fix this?”

“YOU can fix this.”

That was over a year ago.  I’ve done all these hopelessly remedial exercises, giggling while I did them because they are SO SIMPLE and yet SO HARD. And now I walk down the street and unconsciously pull my headlights up with my mighty, mighty abs, and I extend through the thigh to engage the big ol’ butt muscles, and I draw my ribs down and in and hold my neck long and my head proud… and nothing hurts. I can walk, and it feels pretty good.

And I think my impact tremors are getting just a bit less powerful, too. Hah!


June 22, 2017

I know this photo doesn’t look like much, but really – it’s a small milestone for me. (Or actually, a 2X milestone for me!) I’ve been working out at Body Dynamics – this gym that my friend Steve found in Falls Church, where all the staff are just dripping with advanced degrees and they’re not drill sergeants and they actually want to find out WHY you don’t like to exercise and then they work to change that. And for a year or more, I’ve gone there dressed in baggy sweats and even more baggy t-shirts. This is “shame” clothing, and a useless attempt to hide the bitter truth.

My glorious trainer Barbara gently persuaded me to take the leap and buy new shoes specifically for exercising. Doesn’t sound like a big deal to you? It was to me; I had to go to a running store and have a bearded (and very kind) millennial watch the way I walked, like I was some Take Myself So Seriously athlete.

And the shoes were not such a big deal, after all…

So I threw myself on the mercy of my sister Twig, who derives tremendous joy from exercise, and she was so pleased to be asked about getting me into less shame-based workout wear that she bought me a selection based on what makes her comfortable – which is exercise pants under a loose top that skims over the upper body. What a blissful idea.

It took a few weeks for me to get the fit right; had to send lots of clothes back and order new sizes for a while… but today I bravely put on my new arm-baring garb and went to the gym and sweated in it. My classmates were hugely supportive and said nice things, and I worked out hard and easily in my not-quite-so-shamed outfit. This is a bit of my internal dialog as I faced the mirror in the work-out room at Balance Class:

  1. I feel like a five-year-old dressed in a Wonder Woman costume; people will smile on me fondly and think – how cute! Look – she thinks she’s all that!
  2. I’ve got a pretty good oompa-loompa/jodhpur thing going on there at the midline.
  3. Next time, white socks, so I look less like a boxer in a Boston gym. Okay, okay, okay.
  4. I’m used to wiping my face on my t-shirt – neckline or sleeve, which is gross but easy. Where’s a damned towel? This is a prima donna outfit. Sheesh.
  5. I’m looking better than I did; now I look less like a fat lady and more like an East German Olympic swimmer.
  6. I’m looking better…

So that’s my long-winded post on the glacially-slow evolution of body image. Tomorrow I go back to the same gym to start working with their nutritionist. Maybe I should go scarf some sugar now while I have the chance!