Feet thudded up the stairs endlessly. Was it Prince Charming rising to his Rapunzel? Was it Roland DesChaines of Gilead, ascending the Dark Tower at last, the bodies of all those he loved littered in his wake? Was it an ascetic yogi, making his way to the very top of the tower of wisdom?

Nope. Just me.

Barbara is working on my cardio endurance, so my at-home HEP (Home Exercise Program) includes going up and down the stairs at least once a week, and more if I can stand it. When I began, it was three circuits – from basement to second floor and back down again – and I walked.

Now I’ve increased my stairs to four times, and I do a sort of very ugly half-shuffle that might be considered “running” up the stairs if I was a hundred years old. This involves a lot of elbow-pumping, to heave my rib cage up in the hopes that my hips – which are definitely attached – will also go up, dragging those brutally-heavy feet with them. And I lurch from side to side like a sumo wrestler getting up his mojo…

…but by damn, I make it up those stairs! I hold up the number of “ups” that I still have to go when I pass by the two Chinese ladies on the basement staircase landing; they don’t speak English, so I have to use sign language.

And then I hold up fingers for the victory at the top of the stairs; I do this to show the door to Rusty’s room how far I’ve gone. The door, like the Chinese ladies, expresses neither encouragement nor contempt, but I like to keep them informed just the same. Keeping it straight (four fingers on the way down, one at the top, three on the way down, two at the top, two on the way down, three at the top, one on the way down, four at the top – usually followed by a victorious fist in the air) keeps me from thinking about just how loudly I’m puffing and panting.

It’s eight flights in all; 112 steps. A pathetic number to leave me winded and gasping… but in truth, I suspect I could throw in a fifth circuit if I had to. Maybe even a sixth. And I’m not as winded as I once was.

So I guess I’m climbing to somewhere pretty great after all!

PS: Prince Charming never climbed to his Rapunzel, bub. She took matters into her own hands and climbed down herself, because she was a badass who kept herself in shape in her locked tower. Stick with the HEP, children. You never know when you’re going to have to take action to get to your less-than-capable Prince Charming!


These are the cherry blossoms who watch serenely over my endless up-and-downing. I keep them posted on my progress.



‘Tis the season of gross indulgence – and oh, how I love it!

No – I mean O LORDY I feel guilty for eating that cookie… that pasta… that delicious, yeasty, yielding, substantial, magnificent, crusty, drool-inducing dinner roll.

All right. I mean I am TRYING to feel guilty about the dinner roll. Not having much success (in fact, plotting how I can score the last one in the basket before someone else does), but still trying. Still whispering “Zinc, zinc, zinc, don’t eat sugar, sugar will use up all my zinc” like a magical incantation. (It is as effective as whispering “wingardium leviosa,” if you must know, but I keep trying anyway.)

But the one good-health weapon I seem to be able to hold onto (at least so far) is my HEP – the Home Exercise Program. Last night, filled to the brim with pho (Vietnamese noodle soup – “noodle” being the carbohydrate no-no) and cup after cup of tea (in which I put no sugar, but caffeine drags hydration out of you and so is also a no-no for me) (Chip says – if you drink 8 ounces of something with caffeine, not only does that not count to your 100-ounce water goal per day; you also have to REPLACE it before you can continue to strive for the goal)

(Hang on – I need a new paragraph. Yes, in mid-thought. Deal. Here’s the water rule – do you remember? Take your weight – divide by two – that’s the number of ounces of water you need to drink every day. High limit is 100 ounces, so because I weigh 230, I need to drink 100 ounces. If I drink 8 ounces of tea (and when I drink tea, I drink a lot more than 8 ounces at a sitting), then I have to drink 108 ounces of water plus the tea… and since the max is 100, if I drink tea, then there’s no way I can reach my goal. Not for another 30 pounds or so.)

(Maybe I don’t weigh 230 any more. Barbara persuaded me to stop weighing myself obsessively, so I am free to imagine I weigh a breath-taking 229 – or fear I weigh a back-sliding 231. See why weighing myself is a bad idea??)

(Yes, this is a second parenthetical thought in the middle of the same sentence. Really messy, writing-wise. I shall begin the interrupted sentence again so you don’t get lost.)

Last night, filled to the brim with pho and tea, I still managed to roll out my yoga mat and slosh my way through my HEP. I figured – I’ll do it badly, but at least I’ll do it. And then, of course, I found I had the oomph left to do it more or less correctly after all.

Here’s my HEP. It takes me about half an hour, and I usually do it while Rachel Maddow is telling me about the Russia investigation; we suffer together:

On the foam roller, roller along the spine from head to tail:

  1. With eight-pound weights held overhead – left arm out and down to the side, balanced by right knee going out. Bring them back up and do the same on the opposite diagonal. Count of twenty (or ten on each side). Revel in the feeling of the obliques along the ribs gripping like anacondas.
  2. Overhead flies, again with the eight-pound weights. Arms overhead, wrists facing each other. Lower the weights down overhead as if trying to put them down, stiff-armed, on the floor behind my head. Back up again. When I began doing this, it was all about the lat muscles; now – months later – it’s all about trying to keep my ribs down and my shoulders away from my ears and my knees straight and tall, and I worry that I’m not using my lats even slightly. Count of ten.
  3. Set the weights aside and feel around for the latex band. (It might not be latex; the trainers at Body Dynamics call it a thera-band, I think, but it feels like latex.) Wrap it around my hands at about shoulder width. Arms overhead, then stretch the arms straight out and down to full wingspan. Theraband comes to the chest just over the boobage. Don’t let my wrists break – hold it straight. Then resist on the way back up. This exercise is oddly easy; it’s unlikely Barbara is taking it easy on me, so I’m probably doing it wrong.
  4. Set the theraband aside. Hands on the ribs, so nothing is on the ground but both feet – everything else is on the roller. March. Flex the foot and lift the left knee up. (Helpful to grip with the right butt; otherwise there’s a lot of wriggling that accompanies this movement.) Knee down; repeat on the right. Count of twenty (or ten per leg). Sometimes this is a breeze; sometimes this is like walking on a boat deck in high seas. It seems to have to do with how successful I am at pulling my ribs down toward the floor.
  5. Arm and knee flies again.
  6. Overhead flies again. Now put the weights away; stored neatly under the Rachel Maddow cabinet.
  7. Theraband flying again.
  8. Marches again. Set the foam roller aside.
  9. Lying on the mat, do ten bridges. These are so damned complicated – especially when you try to weave together the Barbara bridge with the Grace bridge. United, the exercise is this: Lie on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Hands on your ribs. Inhale while spreading the collar bones out wide. Exhale while pulling the lower shelf of the ribs down to the floor and then imagine an imaginary zipper pulling the muscles taut from the back of the neck down the spine and up through the crotch to the low abdomen, tilting the hips upward. Use the butt to raise the hips up high. Inhale. Just hang out there and inhale. Exhale and slowly lower your hips. If you have any control, you can do a vertebra-by-vertebra lowering – or if, like me, you aren’t flexy that way, you can lower while imagining your entire pelvic girdle is being pulled out as much as down toward your feet. On the way down, fold in one of the fingers you’ve left resting on your ribs. Repeat until all ten fingers are folded in.
  10. Lie on your side; pillow your head on your outstretched arm. You have to keep your hips perpendicular to the floor, which is extremely hard for me (I just can’t feel any difference when I tip forward or back a bit), so you have to watch that your knees, bent like you’re sitting in a chair, are in line with each other. If the upper knee is a bit ahead of the lower knee, you’re tipped forward. I’m never tipped forward; I’m usually tipped backwards. Now that you’re aligned, keep your feet together and raise the top knee, like a clam opening. When you lower your knee, check the alignment again; you tipped backwards, didn’t you? Fight it. If you do, then you’ll begin working a muscle deep under your butt that will almost immediately begin to protest. That’s how you know it’s working. Do 15, because at least five of your clams were out of alignment. Flip over; do the other side.
  11. Modified dead bug. Lie on your back with your legs bent so your shins are parallel to the ceiling. The trainers call this ninety-ninety because there’s 90 degrees between your back and your thighs, and 90 degrees between your thighs and your shins. A very uncomfortable position. Flex your feet. Lower one foot to the ground and come back up. Don’t let your back come up; keep your ribs down. Ten times per side. (If I was strong enough for a regular dead bug, I’d be alternating my arms overhead at the same time – right heel touches down as left wrist hits the floor behind me – but I’m not; I do this just feet for now.)
  12. Sit straight-legged against the edge of the bed; a little room between your butt and the bed – so, not rigidly upright. Raise your right leg upward and lower it. Do the same with the left leg; for me, I do the left leg as pigeon-toed as possible because I have a muscle (the adductor magnus) in my left thigh that shrieks when I do this, and pigeon-toed makes it barely possible.
  13. Time to stand up! Or rather, sit down. Or stand up. Or sit down. Do ten “sit to stands,” making sure the shins don’t rock forward and the knees stay together. (My instinct is to sit down by flaring my knees out like – well, like a clam! – and rocking my knees over my shoes, so sitting down in the Barbara way is hard. Nothing as hard as standing back up, of course!) Do ten, making sure to stand ALL the way back up between each. (I’m prone to not quite getting my thighs under me at the end of each stand-up; it’s easier to do it my way, but not better!)
  14. Get that theraband. I’m supposed to put a book or a towel under each arm but I don’t, which means I’m cheating. Hold the theraband, palms up, in front of you at waist height; wrap your hands in it so you can get a good grip. Now, swinging your arms outward from the shoulder, move your hands out to the sides in a sort of “Please – join me at the feast” gesture. Don’t let your wrists break; hands have to stay straight. Arms back to the front. Do this ten times. If I had something under my elbows, it would fall if I didn’t keep my arms close to my sides, which is how I’d know I wasn’t do it right – which I don’t because I don’t. The goal is to use the shoulder sockets for this move, not any flexibility in the elbows. This is a Grace exercise; I love it because it isn’t hard the way I do it!
  15. Ten more sit-down-stand-ups.
  16. Set up the timer on the phone. Stand straight, feet together. Lift up one foot and start the timer. Stand on one foot for 60 seconds. Switch to the other foot for another 60 seconds. The more you can grip with your abdomen and butt, the steadier you will be.
  17. Back to the yoga mat. Lie down, this time with the foam roller going from side to side under your shoulder blades. Hands behind your head; lie there for five deep, slow breaths and envision those frozen thorax vertebrae giving up and letting go. Then rock one elbow down and turn your torso to one side; the knees can come, too, so you’re lying on your side on the foam roller. Slow. Enjoy the agony. Go back to the other side. Do five full rolls across the roller, and then five more breaths lying flat. Five more rolls to the side. Put the foam roller away; roll up the yoga mat and stash it.
  18. Gwynn the therapeutic masseuse’s addition: Stand with your butt against the wall and your feet about six inches away. Slowly roll down until your head is somewhere around your knees. Lean against the wall. Hang there for 60 seconds. That’s enough time for your thigh muscles to begin to stretch; once they do, you can feel your back stretching slowly and creakily. Roll back up. Take a deep breath. Do it once more; roll down and hang out for 60 seconds.

There. Done! Now when I wake up and stretch in the morning, I feel like an anaconda, rippling with muscles. Let a goat wander past and just watch how I can constrict it into dinner! (Ew. That got gross, didn’t it?!)

This post is too damned long. So is my HEP. And I will keep going with it – which you seem to have done with the post. Good on us! Hep-hep-hep-hep.


That’s a purple yoga mat, a black foam roller, and a small, sleeping cat. There is no dust on any of these items.



In every direction, as far as I could see – nothing but water and sky and the sound of the wind whispering in the cup of my ear. Halyards clanked against the mast and the ocean curled past, creamy streaks of foam serving only to highlight the deep blue-green of the rushing water.

And then – what is that ahead? An island!

An island of tropical delights and temptations.

No – wait! A chain of islands! A miracle of islands! An archipelago! (One of my favorite words.)

The ocean is my determination – it is my good choices, my glasses of water and “oil and vinegar, please” requests and pumpkin seeds every morning; the sea is my pathway to better health.

The islands are where you can score some good shit – cane sugar and French fries and fresh, hot rolls. Islands are dangerous; it’s best if you avoid them. But if you’re sailing from here to there and your path takes you through the Federated States of Micronesia (which is nothing but islands), then you just have to do the best you can.

Christmas is my archipelago. I’ve got to pick up the kid over the next two days, and that means breakfast, lunch, and dinner at fast-food drive-up windows. I have the aforementioned box of goodies from my favorite client. I have lunch and dinner invitations. I’m going to the movies tonight with friends and the path to cinematic escapism lies, as you know, just past the concession stand.

And a lovely woman who just recently found out about the death of my husband expressed her love by sending me two containers of cookies – and so I IMMEDIATELY put on a pot of tea.

Go with the mint tea and honey? Or the Earl Grey with cream and lethal table sugar? Oh, what the hell. The islands are calling to me.

I’ll try to stay in deep water as much as possible, but I think the next week might just as well be considered shore leave. I’ll pay the sugar hangover price in the new year, so I’d best enjoy this indulgence while I can!


One Q Survey


I have a one-question survey that I hope you’ll answer, if you’ve a mind. Just curious.

Let’s say you have a beloved client who kindly sends you an entire box of baked goods in celebration of the season.

Let’s further posit that you have a wicked sweet tooth which has contributed to the size of your posterior, not to mention led you down a path that leads eventually to Diabetes Station, Cholesterol Heights, and Joint Replacement Junction (although you’re not there yet).

You can, being a rational person, think to yourself, “Oh, excellent – now I’ll have something tasty to serve my friends the next time we gather for Scrabble,” but let’s be real: That only lasts until you open the box and check out the wealth of deliciousness inside (including brownies, blondies, vanilla cookies, chocolate cookies, and shortbread appealingly in the shape of Christmas trees; I mean, this is the finest baked goods box in recorded history).

We know, because we listen to expert nutritionist Chip at Body Dynamics in Falls Church, VA, that the reason I’ve been low on zinc in the past is because I have consumed so much sugar that the zinc is spending all its tiny zinky energy on processing the sugar instead of doing what it was supposed to do, which is power every single cell in the body like Thor charging up his hammer with lightning. So when I eat zinc-rich pumpkin seeds with my breakfast every morning, I then spend the rest of the day looking at sugar and thinking “Hell, no – I need that zinc for other things.”

Well, that’s what I TRY to think.

But when ripping open bags of baked goods becomes inevitable, I face a dilemma.

Do I (A) parse out the treats over the next couple of weeks? Do I eat a single treat and savor it, washing it down with many quarts of water to help my body move it along as quickly as possible?

Or do I (B) pig out and eat the whole box in one revolting bliss-fit of excess, overwhelming my body but getting past all the temptation in a day or so instead of stretching out the draining of all my zinc over two long, deprived weeks?

Yes, this is a leading question. You can see which way I decided to go, despite knowing what Chip would tell me to do (which is Option C: eat one thing, enjoy it to the fullest, throw the rest out immediately).

In fact, I find that I can’t quite pig out; I’m out of training on the pig-out and ate two brownies for breakfast (instead of pumpkin seeds because – at this point, why bother??), and then I felt sort of gross and sick. But that feeling will pass, and there’s much more to snack on waiting in the cupboard where the dog can’t get at them.

I had a friend once who told me she could keep a container of ice cream in the freezer and just go for a spoonful every few days; that was enough for her. I say she would NEVER write or read a blog called “Fat Lady in Fitness Land” – that the people of my tribe (and I feel your love, my sisteren and brethren) can keep a container of ice cream in the freezer long enough to get a spoon and a comfortable chair and then the ice cream is gone.

So be honest: Do you eat the box of treats all at once? Do you parse it out with iron discipline? Do you trash it? Do you invite friends over immediately and make them consume your temptation? Do you somehow hold off until the college student gets home and then watch him inhale it all while you attempt to live vicariously through a teenager’s caloric intake? How do you handle this very typical holiday dilemma??


Postscript to Victoria: THANK YOU for this box of treats – this is the kind of dilemma I LOVE to have. Demon!





“What do you DO in balance class?” my mother asked.

(She likes me more now that my butt doesn’t take up quite as much acreage. She can’t help it; she’s old, and was steeped in an era when women were judged by their physical beauty. The reappearance of my waist is a moral victory, in her opinion.)

It’s a surprisingly challenging question to answer, as Barbara (the ultimate personal trainer) wants to – literally and metaphorically – keep us all off-balance. We can’t anticipate what we’re going to be doing because she never does the same thing twice…

… which is awesome.

The premise is that you won’t lose your balance when you’re standing solidly on two feet. Instead, you’re going to keel over one day because you missed the curb, or slid on the stairs, or found yourself holding a bag of groceries at arm’s length while twisting to get tonight’s dinner into the trunk. So you need the muscles to yank yourself back to center while you’re in a twist, or shifted to the side, or are otherwise unprepared for whatever life throws at you.

Balance class, then, is about core strength – and core-strengthening exercises are the ultimate example of isometrics. There’s no use comparing what you’re doing to what everyone else is doing; the challenge comes only from below your skin, and what you do to strengthen your core is only measurable by how your muscles work together.

So switching up the class is par for the course. Today, for example, Barbara gave everyone balloons, which we had to inflate. (“Breath control,” muttered my friend Steve.) Then we attempted to control the balloons.

“First, pop the balloon up with your right hand – then hit it with your left.” (No problem. That’s easy and fun.) “Then tap the balloon up with your right foot, and then your left foot. One touch per bounce. See if you can turn in a circle as you do it.”

Oh, RIGHT. I was all over the room, traveling like the King of the Road. Trailer for sale or rent. Turns out to be much easier if you can work your balloon up against a wall or, even better, into a corner – but Barbara is no fool. “Out of that corner, you cheater!” (That’s not what she said; she’s far too kind for that – but it’s what she meant and I knew it!)

Then, after we’d chased balloons bobbing just out of arm’s reach at ankle height for a while, she had us cross the room in lunges, twisting each time to pop the balloon from one side to the other. More hilarity. More inadvertently using classmates as backboards. More startling balloon attacks to the back of the head.

Then she pulled out simple gym towels. Simple stretches became horrible planks with feet on the towel, either going in-out, in-out to the side or up-and-back, up-and-back in a ladder climb. And just as I was about to scream MUTINY! (once I got enough breath back to do anything other than my accustomed bitching), it was back to the balloons. This time, we all stood in a circle and attempted to keep ALL the balloons aloft while passing to the person on the right – and then the left – and then standing on one foot – and then the other foot.

Spoiler alert: We couldn’t keep them all aloft. We could keep about three of them up, and we started with EIGHT.

By the time she said “Okay – let’s stretch” (which means YOU SURVIVED ANOTHER CLASS YOU ARE A WARRIOR), we were fully wrecked by giggles – and utterly sweaty.

Balloons and towels. Who would have thought??

Sarah (I think it was) stopped into class to video us all kicking balloons across the room, so maybe I’ll be able to link to what will no doubt be an entertaining and dimly humiliating clip in a bit. THAT should brighten your day considerably. (If you’re having an unusually gloomy day!)

C’mon to balance class with me. Thursdays at 10. You’ll love it.

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Balloons. They look so innocent, don’t they? Huh – right.



How much does it cost me to have a five-person panel of experts on hand to guide me as I work to improve my health? To work out with Barbara AND Grace, both personal trainers – to have Chad stretch my tendons, ligaments, muscles – to learn from Gwynn, the therapeutic masseuse – to goggle in astonishment at the insights Chip provides about nutrition?

Well, it ain’t cheap – and I suppose if you’re looking at your disposable income as something that could pay for entertainment and action and hijinx, then maybe you’d think I spend too much.

But if you have a chronic health issue – for me, it’s obesity – then you can’t afford NOT to pay for people who can actually help.

So far, all I have is obesity. All the attendant things that go with being consistently, chronically overweight – like diabetes, high blood pressure, joint replacements, susceptibility to disease – have passed me over. So far. I’m lucky. But before I started with Body Dynamics in Falls Church, VA, my blood pressure was beginning to creep up. My blood sugar was no longer consistently low. My knees had begun to hurt. And I’d been ignoring high cholesterol for years.

So trouble was coming.

I had the opportunity to choose. Did I want to decay slowly – or maybe not so slowly – as I aged? Or did I want to spend a fair chunk of change on something that would keep me healthy and active not just today but throughout my aging process?

So I’m spending the money. My blood pressure is back to the same as my teen years. My cholesterol is in the “normal” range. My blood sugar is perfect. My knees never hurt anymore. I’ve lost 11 inches off my waistline and have retired my size 22 pants in favor of size 18s (which, I note, are beginning to be a little baggy in the butt).

I’m a noted spendthrift; I’m fortunate to not need to pinch pennies. I know a lot of people couldn’t afford as much one-on-one time with trainers as I get. But Barbara’s Balance Class and Chad’s Stretch Class both cost $19 per class. That’s not too “spendthrifty,” is it?

I’ve joined three different gyms in the past – places I went to once where I felt awkward and out of place. I didn’t go back, even though I’d paid my membership dues. They were cheaper than Body Dynamics… unless you measure the cost by how effective the care was. In that case, Body Dynamics is by far the most frugal, efficient, effective money I’ve ever spent.

We all make the best choices for ourselves, of course. This is the best choice for me.


You can see this photo of three $20s as a nice evening out – or it could be one Balance class, one Stretch class, and one Zumba class with Devin, whose feet fly like she’s wearing winged shoes.  All that AND $3 change. Health, entertainment, and the glow of having done something good for yourself; I’d say that’s a pretty good way to spend $60, me!



Gwynn applies gentle tension to my neck, lifting my skull up and away from my shoulders. Little ripples of bliss roll down to the soles of my feet. All the chat drains out of me – the questions, the comments, the idle thoughts – they evaporate like mist. I fall silent.

Then she curls those clever fingers into faint hooks and digs into the suboccipital muscles, right where the skull meets the spine, and if I was in any position other than flat on my back, I would be drooling.

This is what people in opium dens were chasing, I’m sure of it. This blissful, floaty feeling – this endorphin rush – this fragile moment exactly before you slip into a deep, restful sleep. This is how you make a Manchurian candidate. This is why a therapeutic masseuse must be entirely trustworthy, because at that point if Gwynn leaned down and whispered into my defenseless ear, “You need to go out and kill my mailman,” I’d be asking for details and schedules.

I know lots of people who say they don’t like massages. My husband used to say “I don’t like people touching me,” like a massage was just someone wandering by patting you in passing.

But if that’s you, you should maybe give it another thought – because a massage from a trained expert like Gwynn (as opposed to a spa massage from someone who thinks they know what they’re doing) isn’t what you expect. Gwynn’s ministrations are PART of my workout routine; she identifies things that might limit or impede my fitness progress and then she fixes them. Sometimes her work is uncomfortably forceful; she’s not there to put me to sleep – she’s there to work. And STILL she leaves me feeling stoned and blissed.

It’s worth noting that she couldn’t make me drool in my first two or three visits because – she told me later – my suboccipitals were frozen into place and it took her weeks to loosen them enough to be able to actually relax them. So if you gave therapeutic massage one try and then discounted it, you sold yourself short.

There’s an amazing natural high available to you. It’s not illegal, it’s not fattening, it isn’t chemically addictive (although – I’d like more, please!). Why deny yourself the feeling of your muscles sliding easily against each other? Why turn away from a hand-applied narcotic?

It’s tough to get on Gwynn’s schedule; her patrons are pretty quick to grab her available appointments, but if you’re in or near Falls Church, VA, you could try. Body Dynamics – (703) 527-9557. My friend Steve says Catherine (Gwynn’s coworker) is every bit as insightful and drool-inducing. If you’re out of range, ask around. Find someone who has studied. You’re looking for a certified massage therapist. Accept no substitutes!

This photo is of one of my very favorite views in the world – the ceiling in Gwynn’s treatment room. Another favorite is the small square of rug on the floor when I’m on my stomach with my face on the padded ring, but with the occasional exception of a glimpse of Gwynn’s feet, that image is even more boring.




If you are offered some poutine (which turns out to be a French Canadian treat consisting of gravy poured over French fries) and the server asks “Do you want it with or without the traditional cheese curd?” then it is simply rude to life and karma and opportunity to answer anything OTHER than “With, of course!”

I was invited last night to a very fancy company Christmas party by my dear friend Chuck. I’m used to the non-profit world, where it’s important to not only BE frugal but also to APPEAR frugal; Christmas parties in this universe are renowned for paper decorations held over from a few years ago and Betty from accounting’s rum balls.

Chuck helps to run a for-profit enterprise; it is in their best interests to not only be but also appear to be prosperous. This makes for a much more luxurious holiday celebration. I felt like the country mouse in the big city; they had a live band at a country club paradise decked out for the holidays in a million lights and swags and huge Christmas trees. The food options were simply charming:

  • The aforementioned poutine, with a choice of three gravies. (Do you want brisket? Turkey? Perhaps the lobster and shrimp gravy?)
  • Cheese – an entire cheese shop’s worth – and a charcuterie board of preserved meats and pickles.
  • A team behind a series of woks; you could put together your choice of stir fry and they’d wok it up for you and serve it in adorable Chinese food take-out containers.
  • An entire Christmas dinner served in martini glasses – turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce stacked in a glorious pyramid of deliciousness.
  • A carving station featuring tender, bloody Delmonico steak with bearnaise, tiny perfect asparagus, and sinful little potatoes swimming in butter.
  • A decorate-your-own-Christmas-cookie bar with varied frostings, sprinkles, chips.
  • And a hot chocolate mecca; build the cup (or three) of the perfect cocoa for you.

Did I sit primly, hands folded, murmuring a prissy little “No, thank you” when the silent, efficient waiters offered me smoked salmon pizza? Did I sip abstemiously at my water with lime while calculating my body’s preferred ratio of protein to fat to carbs? Did I remember all the work I’ve put into staying (or getting) fit?


If life offers you such an opportunity, it is impolite to decline. If you want life to keep offering you wonders, you have to reach out and enjoy what’s out there. Like writing a thank-you note to Aunt Martha; you want to ENCOURAGE her to keep giving.

So I ate. No – I feasted. By the time I left, clutching a large to-go cup of hot chocolate into which I had melted half a candy cane, I felt mildly ill. But only mildly. Mostly I felt satisfied and full and sleepy.

There’s a time to be careful. And there’s a time to embrace wholeheartedly (and whole-assedly) what so generously appears before you. We will all die eventually; a long life is less enjoyable if it doesn’t also include a few forays into the wild, uncontrollable world of poutine.

You know what I say? I say MORE!!

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Middle Ages


The serf bowed as he approached the lord in the great hall. Lacking a hat, he nervously tugged his forelock and waited to be recognized.

“What is it, my good man?” the lord of the manor said from his warrior’s chair.

“Beg pardon, milord, but I think I can get a higher yield of beans from your fields if I plant from north to south this time.”

The lord smiled benevolently on his peasant. “Good thinking – but this season, we’re planting alfalfa. The soil needs the nitrogen.”

“Alfalfa, sir?”

“I’ll send you the seeds. That’s how we will increase our bean yield next season.”

The peasant, walking away to his humble but warm hovel, marveled at the wisdom and care of his lord and master. “Thank God,” he thought reverently, “that I don’t have to keep track of all of this stuff!”

Flash forward about a thousand years and hear the same conversation (almost) – this time between me (the serf) and Barbara (my lord and master) standing in the large gym at Body Dynamics in Falls Church, VA.

“Barbara,” I said, tugging my forelock nervously, “My scale has been stuck on 230 pounds for months now. It’s so much better than the 260 that I started from, but now it’s driving me up the wall. I want it to go down. What do I do?”

“Don’t look at the scale.”

“What?” (I might as well have said “Alfalfa??”)

“How did you lose the thirty pounds?”

“Oh. I ignored the scale.”

“That’s right. Just do these exercises and don’t weigh yourself. It’s just a number.”

“But it’s such an easy number to track.”

“It’s getting you OFF track. Stop weighing yourself – seriously. Do what I tell you, eat the way Chip taught you. Ignore the scale. Okay?”


I wandered away, deeply grateful that I have someone to keep track of these things for me so I can go on about my life thinking about why my dog has taken up barking as a hobby, or whether anyone can buy a Christmas gift for a 19-year-old that would actually be wanted.

These aren’t just my chronological Middle Ages; they’re my fitness Middle Ages too – progress has been made, but the enlightenment still waits ahead. I follow behind Milord Barbara wherever she leads me!

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From Monty Python. The Holy Grail, of course.




Last night I was driving home from my bedside duties at the hospital. (Mom’s gall bladder will be popped out like Lego at 3-ish today, theoretically.) I was thinking about the previous night’s MacWallow, when I was too tired and too hungry to make a better decision than a Big Mac AND a quarter-pounder. Yes – both.

I decided to go to Subway. Still fast food, but I could make a few marginally better choices. Whole-wheat bread. Oil and vinegar instead of mayo. Ham and provolone, lettuce and lots of black olives.

I walked past the chips and the soda. I made my better-than-bad choices. When I got to the cash register, the sweet little girl said “Would you like a complimentary cookie?”

It was clear they were about to close, and their cookies were going to have to be thrown out.

“Oh, COME on!” I thought. It was almost 9PM, I was exhausted and starving, and a darling little high schooler was innocently offering me fast-burning carbs at a time when I was fighting the sugar craze tooth and nail.

And shit – they had the white chocolate chip cookies just sitting there, looking all fresh and tender and a little undercooked – perfect, in other words.

“I’d like the white chocolate chip, please,” I said weakly.

“Do you mind if I give them all to you?”

She was stacking up six or seven cookies, preparatory to bagging them in the little paper sleeve.

‘“No!” I shrieked as if I’d been pinched. “LOOK at me!” I grabbed a fistful of the ampleness of me just where hip becomes ass. “I’ve been trying so hard!”

She looked so startled, this adorable creature who had been trying to do something nice for a late-night customer. “Two,” I said with resignation. “Just give me two. And thank you – that’s very kind of you.”

She didn’t look very appeased by my lame thanks…

My friend Fern warned me about this slippery slope (the “caring for an aging parent instead of yourself” slope) – I just didn’t realize pretty little imps were going to leap out at me from ambush to increase the demon temptation!