If it was a movie, the music would be building from something light and ALMOST harmonic… but a tiny thread of atonal would be weaving through the melody. And you’d know: Something bad is coming. Something wicked…


Our heroine bites her knuckle and braces herself for the nightmare. Oh, no! Not cardio!

I’m healthy. I have the numbers to prove it. Weight and cholesterol dropping. Blood pressure enviable. Fasting blood sugar not so sweet (get it?). Waist? SMALLER.

Really, Maud – shouldn’t that be ENOUGH??

No. Barbara is never satisfied. (Well, she’s never satisfied with me… but I’ve got a long way to go!)

Alert readers (both of you) might recall that when I first threw myself on Barbara’s mercy some 17 months ago and begged her to train me, my original statement was “I’m ashamed of my cardio conditioning.”

That’s been true for just about all of my life. I remember insisting on playing fullback during endless, broiling nightmare days when “gym class” took place on the field hockey field. Why? Because at least half the time, I could SIT DOWN while all the action took place on the other half of the field. The rest of the time, I stood around looking thick and dumb while getting in the way of other, more fleet players.

No, cardio has never been my “thing,” man. It’s just not ME.

But I’m forced to admit: It ought to be.

If I’m serious about securing my health, then IT IS TIME. Barbara agrees. She’s built up in me the muscles I need to try for cardio health, and I’ve had such surprising success working with her that I’m going to dare to hope I can make cardio progress, too. My friend Steve says it builds up quickly, but I’ve never known that to be true… still, where the wise ones lead, I shall follow.

I asked Barbara – I’m the idiot student who reminds the teacher to assign homework – what she wanted me to add to my HEP (home exercise program) that would boost my cardio endurance.

“Any stairs in your house?”

“Two flights.”

“Good. Go up the stairs and then come back down. Do that three times.”

“Am I running up the stairs?”

She looked at me skeptically.

“No, not running.” I interpreted, and then admitted, “Good. I don’t think I could. How many times?”

“Three times.”

“Every day?”

“Once a week.”

“Once?? I’m doing my HEP every day I’m not here. I only have to do the stairs once?”

“Once, but three times.” She watched me; Barbara is getting very good at reading my tells. “And no fair doing it over an entire day. You have to go up and immediately down, then up and immediately down, then up and immediately down.”

While I think that will leave me sweaty and panting, I really DO think I can achieve this pathetic, remedial goal. I’m going to try.

Cardio. My Moby Dick. Call me Ishmael.

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One-Question Survey


Will you do me a favor?

Put your hand on the small of your back. Best if you can worm your hand through whatever late-October clothes you’re wearing to reach actual naked skin.

Note the temperature of your own flesh against your hand.

Now slide your hand down until you’re about halfway down your butt.

Is THAT flesh a different temperature? Just give me a one-word comment to my one-question survey – say “warmer” or “cooler” or “same temp.”

I’m interested because I’ve discovered that while most of my amply-fleshed body is warm, there’s a strip across my tail, from about side seam to side seam (if bodies had side seams) from below the waist to almost exactly where the chair hits my butt that is noticeably cooler than the rest of my flesh.

Now, who do you ask if that’s normal? Who else? Gwynn, the most experienced, most knowledgeable therapeutic masseuse at Body Dynamics in Falls Church, VA. (Who else can you honestly ask to judge the variation in temperature from your ass to your elbow?)

Gwynn said “I’m sure it’s just a factor of how you were sitting.”

I shook my head firmly. “It’s not. I’ve checked.”

She left so I could strip down and slip naked under the sheet. I know this question interested her for two reasons: First, when she came back into the room, she went straight for my butt. “You’re RIGHT! It’s much cooler!”

Second, she then said “Mine is, too!”

So I know that wherever she goes while clients are changing, she was back there groping her own flesh.

We don’t know if it’s normal or unusual or evidence of some horrific butt malaise that we need to seek treatment for right away… so tell me what you think. Is your butt warmer, cooler, or the same temp as the rest of you? Thanks for letting me know!

Tell me



What the hell is a macronutrient? I envision broccoli as big as trees, and dried protein dust storms. Seems intimidating and alarmist, so I was psyched to have Chip the nutritionist explain it to me at a “Macronutrients” workshop yesterday at Body Dynamics.

(Chip has the BEST words – like macronutrient. And bio-availability. And parasympathetic.)

That was yesterday at 11. I saw it on my calendar on Friday and told myself to remember to go.

At 11 yesterday, I was luxuriating in my bed, wiggling my toes in the bliss of a Saturday morning lie-in, having completely forgotten about The Looming Threat To Our Children Of Macronutrients. (Maybe a jazzier name would have helped??) Actually, by 11:00 I think I was editing a letter for a friend… or maybe fixing an appeal I wrote for a client… Changing the kitty litter? Bragging about my greatly-reduced waistline?

The point is, I was NOT at Body Dynamics learning the arcane, occult secrets of macronutrients, and so have nothing to say today in my blog. Not very interesting for YOU.

I think this is the third workshop I’ve signed up for and then missed out of sheer inept scheduling. I actually saw the workshop again on my calendar last night and thought “Now, don’t forget to go to that” – and then D’OH! Missed ANOTHER one.

So as far as I know, macronutrients are enormous broccoli, whipped in the vicious winds of a protein powder sirroco. Take cover!

I forgot



It shouldn’t be a surprise that the people in my balance class are so nice. After all, the serious jocks are all down the street at Gold’s Gym, strutting around with swollen chests (the women as well as the men) trying to impress each other.

The normal folk—the people who see that age is coming and think it would be better to start moving now and keep it up rather than grind to a halt before you absolutely have to—have found a home at Body Dynamics in Falls Church, VA. Nobody postures; nobody looks down their noses at anyone. Some are quiet, natural athletes, but the less-coordinated among us (I raise my hand – hello!) are also absorbed into the group and welcomed.

(Yes, there are ballet dancers who drift elegantly through on their way to and from physical therapy with wizards, but they seem oblivious to fat asses and dumpy postures. It’s like they’re mostly existing on another plane, where ethereal grace is worth unending pain – a place I, myself, have never been!)

So I shouldn’t have been surprised when one of the blissful women came up to me after balance class on Thursday and told me I was looking like a shadow of my former self. She’d been in Maine for the summer and hadn’t seen me in four months – and now look at me!

Yes, DO look at me, for I am awesome! I had my annual fitness assessment with Barbara on Wednesday, and although I know it’s rude to brag, I’m totally bragging: I’ve lost TEN INCHES off my waist.


I was utterly astonished by the number. I’ve lost weight, yes – and losing somewhere between 24 and 30 pounds is impressive. But it’s not ten inches impressive. What had me fooled was that all the dense muscle I’ve been working on, of course, weighs more than the fat. I know that… but I’d lost track of the fact that it also takes up less space. Ten inches less.

I found it hard to tell people. I know from grim personal experience that when another woman tells me how well she’s doing physically, my happiness for her is tempered by jealousy and anger and shame. I hide it, of course, but I feel it just the same. And it’s inappropriate to go up to some male friend and shout about a smaller waistline; it sounds… sort of slutty.

So I called my friend Kevin, who is gay. He was thrilled for me and immediately agreed to go with me to buy clothes that fit. (Once again the value of a gay friend is proven to be beyond measure!)

And now I’m blogging about it. I gave it a few days to think it over, and I’ve decided that if I can be honest about my failures, I should also be honest about my successes. I’d still have to be described as fat – a 45-inch waistline is only glorious when compared to a 55-inch waistline – but I see such exciting progress that now I’m hungry for more.

That’s got my determination all fired up. Nothing succeeds like success.

PS: I asked Barbara if she’d like to sign her work; I could get a Sharpie and she could write her name on my waist. She immediately said “Let’s make it a tattoo!” I love Barbara…

But I’d need a LOT of tattooing, because while Barbara is the chief architect of the lessness of me, I’d also need Chip the nutritionist to sign, and Gwynn, the therapeutic masseuse, and Grace the pilates instructor/personal trainer, and Chad who teaches the stretch class. And Patrick who did my assessment when I was ill. And Devin at the front desk who greets me like a sister. And Mario. And Penny. And Jorge who assessed my feet. Alas, my waist is no longer big enough to give thanks to all the people at Body Dynamics who have played a role in shrinking me!




Chip said “Eating is a parasympathetic event,” as if everyone would understand what that meant.

Cleverly, I replied, “Huh?”

I have a lust for new words, so I forced him to define what a nutritionist thinks the definition of “sympathetic” is, and then unpack “parasympathetic” for me.

A nutritionist (maybe anyone in a health related field; I don’t know) thinks that “sympathetic” is the “fight or flight” response. That’s it. He could care less about someone going “Awww” when you stub your toe; that has to be some OTHER word.

And “parasympathetic” is the opposite of fight or flight; Chip puts it as “you’re just chilled out,” with his graceful hands floating out to either side to indicate a calm, zen-like balance.

Okay – so what do you mean that eating is a parasympathetic event? I can eat while fleeing; I do it in rush hour traffic all the time. Maybe I could eat while fighting; I guess it would depend on how tasty the food was…

“Anything you eat in a sympathetic state – while stressed – is going to be less beneficial to you, no matter how healthy it is.”

This is the way Chip thinks; it’s not enough for me to eat pumpkin seeds and wheat germ – he wants my body in a state to accept those nutrients gladly. So picky.

“Carbohydrates begin to digest in your mouth. Protein gets going in your stomach. Fats are pretty much digested in the GI tract. But if you’re stressed, what happens? You don’t produce as much saliva – the carbs don’t digest from the beginning. Your stomach doesn’t produce the acids it needs to handle the protein. And your intestines get inflamed. That’s constipation – or diarrhea. No, eating needs to be PARASYMPATHETIC if you want to get the value from your food.”

It may be impossible; if you’re on the run and the only hope for survival is a Pop Tart behind the wheel, then you have to do what you have to do. But there are nutritional, physical reasons to chill out while you eat – and reasons why your most stress-filled days are so hard to overcome. You’re not getting the fuel your body needs, and that just makes stress worse.

That’s interesting, don’t you think?

Sympathetic Parasol

I had a friendly chat with a lawyer last night on the subject of copyright infringement. He says I really ought to get signed releases from Michael Keaton and Kim Basinger before posting their photos. That feels somewhat unlikely… instead, here’s a hand-drawn rendering not of parasympathy but of a sympathetic parasol. You’re welcome.




Happiness Drug


Chip was hitting me with epiphanies like a baseball player at the batting cages. Left field, right field, a guaranteed homer hanging wedged into the mesh, forty feet in the air.

Chip is the nutritionist at Body Dynamics in Falls Church, VA. Talking with him about food is eye-opening; there is SO MUCH I didn’t know.

“Eating is a parasympathetic process,” “of COURSE your gall bladder attacks came when you were stressed,” “it’s no surprise everyone is grumpy on a low-fat diet.” Each time I itched to take notes and generally had to cry out “HOLD IT! Let’s unpack that, can we? What do you MEAN?”

“What – grumpy on a low-fat diet? Well, you know serotonin is the happiness hormone.” (Maybe he didn’t say hormone; maybe that’s my error. The point is: serotonin in the brain = happiness. It is known, khaleesi.)

“Yeah.” (Me, focusing hard to make sure I don’t miss anything, like whether or not serotonin is a hormone.)

“And what is serotonin made of?”

“What?” (Suspicious.)

“Protein and fat. What happens if you don’t have enough fat in your diet?”

“Poor quality happiness?”

“Exactly. The chemical in your brain that allows you to experience happiness is weakened.”

“But that must mean I’m sitting on a huge cushion of potential joy – couldn’t my body use that?”

“Remember: Dietary fat is not the same thing as body fat. Body fat comes from carbohydrates. Eat butter. It will help you to be happy.”

SHUT UP. Where’s a note pad? Someone get me a pen, stat! I need to explain this to MY MOTHER, who believes dietary fat is a tool of the devil and who has, not coincidentally (I see now) been grumpy for decades.

In our next episode (unless I get distracted): What a nutritionist thinks “parasympathetic” means. You’re KIDDING – that’s so COOL!

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Chip eats a cupcake, like a normal mortal. He really is the most wonderful nutritionist. Body Dynamics, give that man a big raise!



That Which Must Not Be Named


I lost track of the many Batman movies years ago, but in an early one, Batman says to Kim Basinger (as he calculates whether he can spring them to safety via the steel harness in his belt), “How much do you weigh?”

Kim simpers and says “Oh, around 118.”

Every woman in the movie theater groaned.

Batty does his advanced calculus in his rubber-gloved head and off they go, into the air above a grim, dark alley – but halfway to salvation, they grind to a halt. He looks at her accusingly.

“You weigh a little more than 118.”

And every woman in the movie theater cheered.

If tall, beautiful, healthy Kim Basinger couldn’t own her weight, who among us can?

Several kind people have noted that my blog is “brave” or “unusually frank;” I think it’s because I’ll say out loud what I weigh – which as of this morning is 230 pounds.

If you don’t say your weight out loud, then it can’t really be true. Right?

Once I told my son when he was about 12 that we were going to the dentist that afternoon; in a panic he raced around the house looking for his toothbrush. “Why can’t you find your toothbrush? When did you have it last?” “When we went to Vermont.” “That was three weeks ago. Do you mean you haven’t brushed your teeth in three weeks?” “Don’t tell the dentist!” “Oh, I think he’ll know without me telling him…”

If you don’t say your weight out loud, IT DOESN’T MATTER; you still weigh that. People won’t look at you and say “I wonder if she’s overweight; if only I knew what her scale said this morning…”

LOTS of women are overweight. It’s not a moral failing, even if that’s what society is telling you. You can own the number; you can even say it out loud, if you want to. It’s not Voldemort. It’s just a number – only the very most crude measure of health. It says nothing about who YOU are.

If you believe the only women worthy of rescue weigh 118 pounds (or less), then you’ve bought into a myth. Be who you are. If you want to change something, go ahead and change it. But begin without fear or shame. That’s just who you are. It’s not who you may be tomorrow, but it’s who you are now. No courage needed. NO ONE is happy with their body – and why not? Is it the fear of being suspended halfway above the Joker’s men, caught in the lie of what you don’t weigh?

C’mon down. It’s okay; you’re okay.

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This picture is of Kim Basinger (look at those skinny girl cheekbones, dang) and Michael Keaton (who could do the Batman growly voice somethin’ sweet) in the 1989 movie “Batman,” which a quick Google search reminds me is based on DC Comics. There – is that enough to satisfy copyright laws? Perhaps I’ll just add the words “Stan Lee” because why not?




“You should wash those pants in really hot water,” she said to me.

The pants in question were covered in dog hair – like, shaggy Austin Powers groovy pants covered – so I thought this was a comment on my general hygiene. But then my sister-in-law went on.

“Then put them in the dryer. See if you can get them to shrink up.”

It’s true, my staple black trousers (I have three identical pairs) would fall off me if I took the belt away (a little shimmy and it’s moon over Miami), but I’ve been here before. You don’t trust that the loose clothes are going to STAY loose.

“But then what would I wear when I got fat again,” I asked.

And then I had to stop… because… Yes, I’m daring to admit that I’m so much of a fool that I believe, AGAIN, that the weight I’m losing might stay lost. Maybe I’ll never need a size 22W pair of pants again. Do I dare believe it?



I don’t know.

I’m not going to boil my pants anyway (although I might take a curry comb to them, like a shedding horse)… but I think I might venture forth to the mall and see if a size 18 wasn’t a better fit…

Trust. When do you decide to do it, and when do you let cruel experience be your guide?

I’m off to work out with Barbara and then Chad. That’s Body Dynamics in Falls Church, Virginia, children. They’re changing my life. More later!




I found myself prostrate on my mother’s sofa like a Victorian woman deprived by her corset of vital oxygen. Was it a fit of the vapors? A terrible fright? Had I fainted away at the sight of something alarmingly unladylike?

No. It was one quarter of an English muffin.

At least, I THINK that’s what did it.

It was day 13 of the 14-day sugar reduction diet yesterday, and because 14 is the maximum number of days you’re supposed to be on it, I’m trying to break the grip of “the only carbs you can eat are veggies” easily and gently.

I’d ordered Eggs Benedict at the restaurant – I love that you can eat all the protein and fat you want – and was honestly surprised when it arrived on the traditional English muffin. How could I have forgotten? “Hah,” I thought – “I can indulge myself in this humble bread because I’m weaning off the sugar reduction diet!”

(The road to hell is paved with such justifications.)

It was GLORIOUS. Not the runny, hot, delicious egg. Not the creamy, fat-rich Hollandaise. No, I mean the bread. It was… mm. Good. Staff of life good.

So good, in fact, that after I ate a quarter of it, I slide my ham and egg off the bread and set the rest of the staff of life aside. One full slice, one half slice. They sat there watching me reproachfully as I tried to mop up the remaining goozle with steamed zucchini; a most unsatisfactory caddy.

And then I walked four blocks to my mother’s house. And then I threw myself on her sofa and promptly fell asleep.

Could it have REALLY been the English muffin? Could almost two weeks of a sugar reduction diet really so seriously recalibrated my metabolism that the quick-burn energy from such a small amount of bread left me with such a huge crash that my only option was to fall asleep?

Or was it just the power of suggestion?

I’ll admit to being fascinated. My body seems to have become a ninth-grade science fair project. Can’t wait to see what happens today!

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I refuse to worry about copyright infringement with this photo, as this whole post has been a hymn of praise to the English muffin, and Thomas’ should be grateful I used this photo by which to tempt my TWENTY-NINE followers. Oh, I’m a trend setter, I am.



It is pompously said, “When the student is ready, the teacher will come.”

Guh. Quit with your preaching, wizened old zen master! And then DANG if it didn’t happen to me TWICE in two hours.

The other day, Barbara (my trainer and personal guiding wizard at Body Dynamics in Falls Church, VA) was going over my “hep.” (That’s Home Exercise Program to you.) I was showing her that the marches I did each evening on the foam roller were getting better; I said “Last week, you said to concentrate on the glute muscle of the leg that was stable – that REALLY helps.”

Barbara gave me a slightly pained smile. “Good – but that’s not the first time I’ve pointed that out.”

“It’s not?”

“I’ve been saying it from the very beginning.”

“You’ve been telling me that for 17 months and I just heard you last week? You’re kidding.”

“Well, during those 17 months, you’ve learned how to engage your glutes. It’s been hard for you; last week was apparently the first time you could actually do it. So that’s when it made sense.”


It makes you wonder. What ELSE have I been hearing – possibly for years or decades – that I haven’t been ready to apply?? Is there also a sure-fire way to make sure my laundry not only gets done but folded AND put away? Or to defuse a grumpy coworker or client? Can I build up THOSE muscles, too??

Not one hour later I was in Chad’s stretch class. (Tuesdays are my double-class day at Body Dynamics; I come out of there feeling like Super Woman.) We were all flat on our backs with one leg straight in the air, holding a wide, soft strap across the sole of the foot to tug the leg gently toward the head, to stretch the back of the thighs.

Chad, who prowls like a tiger watching for un-relaxed shoulders and other correctable postures, lightly touched the big toe of my down leg. “Point that toe to the ceiling, now.”

(My feet fall to the sides; I am splay-footed.)

Feeling impetuous, I foolishly questioned my sensei. “Why?” I asked as he moved on to align the next student. “If my foot naturally turns out to the side, what does it matter to this hamstring stretch if the down foot is not awkwardly being held upright?”

His answer was like a mini epiphany – one I KNOW I’ve been told before, but I guess I wasn’t ready to hear it. “When your foot lays over like that, it’s very hard to turn on your glutes. Get in the habit of keeping your feet straight and you’ll have better access to your butt muscles.”

Holy moley – was he conspiring with Barbara in the hall between classes??!

(Yes, he was; Barbara ALWAYS tells Chad something fiendish that she wants the entire Stretch Class to endure just because my rhomboids are tight, whatever they are.)

For 17 months, I’ve been learning – so slowly – how to access a major muscle group that was sound asleep in me. Now, twice in two hours, I heard about why, and what to do about it. I was ready, and damned if the teachers didn’t appear.

There’s no use pretending I can repair and maintain my health alone. These wizard guides know SO much more than I do.

The photo, from the 1970s TV series “Kung Fu” (improbably starring Keith Carradine as an Asian named Kaine), is what you get if you type “Snatch this pebble from my hand, grasshopper” into Google images. (Get it? A teacher says – when you can snatch this pebble from my hand, you will be ready to leave your studies.) (Okay, so it’s a long stretch. It’s still a cool image!)

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