Stalker

1.29.18

She thought she was safe in the Macy’s housewares department. Tucked away at the very top of the mall, surrounded by curtains and flowery sheets and enameled fondue sets, she thought she could relax her guard.

Then she saw him, hiding at a table of See’s Candies left over from the holidays.

She clutched her collar nervously to her throat and hurried on – but not twenty feet later, at a pre-Valentines’ Godiva display… there he was again! Smiling knowingly. Watching her lower her eyes fearfully and scurry past.

Out the mallside door and into the filtered, processed air of shining brass rails and escalators and palaces to consumerism. She fled Macy’s and sought refuge in the nearby steak house. Spotting her dining companion waiting at the hostess stand, she exhaled in relief – only to gasp again at what she saw at his elbow:

The dessert tray. Creamy cheesecake. A skillet of warmed apples in syrup, wrapped in buttery pastry and crowned with a slowly-melting orb of ice cream. Berries – innocent, healthy berries – trapped in their screaming terror in the claustrophobic embrace of sugary flavored whipped cream. O the horror!

I am stalked by sugar. It is EVERYWHERE.

I went to lunch with my financial guy at that steak house at Tyson’s II. Fortunately, Rick is a fellow sufferer; he, too, is beset by demon sugar. He ate a kale salad and I had wild field greens and we compared our work-out routines and our breakfasts. We turned our eyes away from those around us, not comfortable witnessing what they were doing to themselves with mashed potatoes and rib racks and mac and cheese – what we LONGED to do – and told ourselves that lean cuts of meat and plenty of veggies with water, water, more water was enough for us.

(Actually, I decided I was going to have to kill off the unknown Mrs. Rick and take him for myself when the waitress asked what we wanted to drink. “Can I just have water with a wedge of lemon, please?” he asked, and I had to restrain myself from throwing myself on him and sobbing into his neck, “Me, too! That’s what I order, too! Oh, you poor darling!”)

(I’m pretty sure Rick doesn’t follow The Adventures of a Fat Lady in Fitness Land; wouldn’t he be surprised?? Oh, I’m sorry – tell me again about long term versus short term capital gains; this time I PROMISE I’ll pay attention.)

I know enough to fork the sign against the evil eye when the dessert tray is wheeled past, but I’m still having to snatch back my hand when the bread basket appears, or the French fries are laid all hot and tender and crispy on the table. I never look pasta in the eye – that only encourages capellini – but like any abused wife, I secretly miss its dangerous nature and long for its delicious toxicity to fill me once more. Like Piper Laurie in “Carrie,” I’d scream my shameful secret: “And I LIKED it!”

It’s a process. A constant challenge. And sugar stalks me wherever I go. I wonder if I can take out a restraining order? NO CLOSER THAN FIFTY FEET, YOU! BY DAMN!

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PS: I am aware that my small battle with sugar is not at all as serious or alarming as an actual stalker, and I apologize to those who (rightly) see no humor in the situation.

Spiral

1.28.18

Gaw, I love to brag!!

I’m talking clever HUMBLE brags – but they’re brags all the same. “I’ve only sponsored 17 orphans; I feel so bad that I haven’t done more.” Or “isn’t it awful how hard it is to get the new hood on my Mercedes waxed?”

(Full disclosure: I DO need to get the hood on my car waxed, but I have not sponsored 17 orphans.) (Just one.) (Humble brag.)

But I do NOT love to disclose my failings. Who does?

So I’ve been silent. A few people were kind enough to notice, which is very flattering. (I think that’s a humble brag, too.) I’m doing home renovations (painting, repairing, etc.) and it’s caused a typical amount of chaos. But chaos, it turns out, is not typical for me. It reminds me of the post-dead-husband period, when I was in deep mourning and processing that by purging all the crap out of the house.

Now I’m surrounded by the crap of moving the contents of three rooms into two other rooms, and I find I’m having flashbacks to that time of shock and confusion. I felt (and it was all feeling – no logic) that I’d fallen back into a very bad time and mindset. So somehow I stopped doing my home exercise program. (Because – where the hell is the yoga mat? Where did I put the weights? That theraband could be ANYWHERE. I give up. NOT MY FAULT.)

(Totally my fault.)

Then I had to haul the kid back to college and then I went further to visit my college roommate, and somehow I lost everything that Chip (the nutritionist at Body Dynamics) told me about eating to benefit my body. I had a total Road Trip mentality; by the ride home I made a pit stop in which I deliberately walked past bottled water and small packets of nuts and instead willfully bought an extra-large hot chocolate (because they didn’t have tea – Erwin, Tennessee. Sheesh.) and a packet of chocolate doughnuts.

You really can’t get much lower than that in the downward spiral. At least, I can’t. (Humble brag. No Mad Dog 20-20 or bath salts or child hookers HERE. My heroin is demon sugar.)

I was indulging like a junkie, and feeling BAD like a junkie because even if I tried to suppress the knowledge of what all that sugar was doing to the house party in my gut, I KNEW I was doing myself harm – and after being such a good steward of my health for so long, too. So I fell silent.

Because who likes to expose shame?

But then – good things started to happen despite my despair. First, I have steady appointments with trainers at Body Dynamics (Barbara and Grace, both of whom refused to believe I was now so decrepit that they ought to treat me like a first-time client) and two exercise classes there – and I kept all of those appointments out of habit.

Then I started with a new doctor. (I used to be with Carefirst Blue Cross, but they decided they could get away with almost doubling my rates in the new year so I gave them the boot and went with Kaiser Permanente.) Of course they did blood work, and my results came back with very encouraging numbers.

And I remembered: It’s not a week – or even two – of indulgence and shame that brings the cholesterol and A1C up to “you’re in trouble” levels. You can screw up – you can get into a vicious downward spiral of emotion and gluttony and sloth…

…but spirals go upward, too. You don’t HAVE to go down.

And it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been going downward. You can go upward with just one tiny effort, which stops the downward curl. Every choice is a new opportunity, and every good choice makes the next decision a tiny bit easier.

So I’ve trotted up and down the stairs for five minutes both yesterday and today. (Today was actually five and a half minutes because I forced myself to do an eighth lap – and those extra 30 seconds may seem brief to you but they’re a badge of total, panting, sweaty honor to me.) (Humble if pathetic brag.)

I’m doing my HEP again. I’m avoiding grains and sugars when I can. I’m drinking my water. I’m paying attention and remembering that beating myself up doesn’t help. I have forgiven myself and am continuing my journey.

And I’m beginning to clean up after the renovations. That feels like progress.

What a long, whining blog. You get brownie points for getting this far, because unlike real sugar, brownie points don’t upset the house party in your gut at all.

Onward!

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Inflammatory

1.12.18

It’s such a scandal; the pancreas told the small intestine that the liver was mocking the small intestine.

“She said WHAT about me??”

“Well, I heard that she said you were all puffed up – that you’d never fit into a bikini.”

“Who EXACTLY did you hear that from? I want to know! They can say it to my face!”

“You have no face; you’re a duodenum.”

“That’s doo-ODD-in-um to you.”

“I thought it was DOO-oh-DEE-num.”

“Never mind. Who’d you hear it from?”

“Don’t say you heard it from me, but it was the kidneys.”

“Those snakes. I thought we were friends!”

“Calm down. Maybe I heard it wrong.”

“You don’t just say that about someone without checking. All puffed up. Come on – I’m not swollen. I can fit into my high school jeans. Do I look fat? I’m not swollen; I have large bones.”

“Again, you have no bones. You’re a… small intestine.”

“Well, you’re a gland.”

“There’s no need to get personal. Really.”

Inflammation is all the rage in health circles. Poor digestion. Joint pain. Obesity. Cancer. Autoimmune responses. Arthritis. It’s all attributable to inflammation.

As a bloggist (self-appointed grandeur), I am aware that I should go research the very latest news on inflammation. But Christ – then you’d have to read it. And bla, bla, bla, intestinal lining. My eyes are glazing over.

Instead, I offer the above dialog as my version of “inflammatory.” If you want to soothe your inflamed innards, provide those fussy organs with avocados. Salmon. Walnuts. Broccoli. Ginger. Apples. Remember: sugar – demon sugar – is a definite inflammatory. A real mixer. Internal battles are sure to break out where sugar has been, and sugar will sit in the corner and smile evilly at the chaos she has wrecked.

You can encourage the scandal of inflammation, or you can broker peace and enjoy a little balance and harmony. The food choices will make the difference.

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This is one of the first things that shows up if you Google “angry intestines.” Damn, I love Google images.

 

Primavera

1.11.18

You know those infomercials that suck you in at two in the morning? You know perfectly well you should be asleep, yet there you are watching in fascination as ripped blondes and stunningly beautiful male torsos gyrate through a workout in a groovy converted warehouse gym while being shouted at by a former Marine drill sergeant who nevertheless somehow broadcasts his overwhelming approval by how his students are WORKING it as they leap high, drop to the ground, do a push up, and leap up again, over and over again.

Yeah, I’ve watched them too. And I’ve found myself thinking “Well, I’D like to have abs like that blonde lady’s.”

There’s always a passage where they show the “before” pictures, and all those buff bodies look just like blobby people before they surrendered their will to the drill sergeant. They looked like me. You too, probably.

So it’s simultaneously fascinating and shaming. After all, they once looked like me – and now LOOK at them. It must be my self-discipline; the only thing standing in the way of that eight-pack body is that I’m just lazy.

Then 60 Minutes or 20/20 does a searing exposé in which they uncover the fact that all the students have ALWAYS been gym rats, and the “before” photos were taken a year after a significant sports injury. Given the chance to sit on the couch and eat Doritos, even athletes will take it (even as they itch to get back in the gym and do more wind sprints) – and they, too, can blob up.

Of course, below their blubber is STILL an eight-pack – so when they sign the agreement with the drill sergeant and begin to melt back to their natural state, it LOOKS like a normal blobby person can do this, too. It’s a con, in other words.

I’m thinking about that because I HAVE A NEW OUTFIT to work out in. I’m pretty sure I love it, but there’s a chance I look like Botticelli’s “Primavera” about a year after a significant sports injury.

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Primavera, for those not up on their Italian renaissance iconography, stands not just for spring but for youth, freshness, innocence, hope. (And now that I think of it, it’s entirely possible that “primavera” means “first greening,” which I think is the very best phrase for springtime I’ve ever heard. Don’t tell me if that’s not what the Italian word means.)

I assume she’s pretty buff, in her Renaissance “I’m pregnant like Mary” way; under her flowing robes there’s the 1500’s  equivalent of a six-pack. (She’s too modest to show off the eight-pack; you have to show a LOT of belly to see the lowest striations in the fascia.) So say she pulled a hammy at a Maypole dance and had to sit out the festivities for a bit; think she’d come back looking a bit like this outfit??

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SHUT up!

1.10.18

Sometimes you hear something so novel and new that you can only gape at the speaker. Usually my witty retort is “SHUT up – you’re kidding?!”

This is, of course, self-defeating. How can someone both shut up and confirm what they’re saying? Chip, the nutritionist at Body Dynamics, is not dissuaded. He does NOT shut up (and a good thing, too!).

I had several epiphanies while meeting with him today, but here’s the one that got the SHUT up command.

(If I actually want someone to shut up, the emphasis is on the “up,” know what I mean? Emphasis on the “shut” means “that’s awesome!” Inflection. Very important.)

Chip told me of a research study. Two groups of subjects were asked to wait in a room. In one room, they were given a bowl of fresh cookies and a bowl of radishes and were told to snack as they preferred.

In the other room, they were given the same foods, but asked to leave the cookies alone. If you want a snack, please have a radish, not a cookie.

Then the participants were asked to trace a complex shape on a piece of paper without lifting their pencil or retracing the lines. In fact, there was no way to do that; the study set the subjects an impossible task.

The group that was allowed to snack as they pleased averaged 19 minutes on this project.

The radish eaters averaged EIGHT minutes.

Here’s why:

We have a FINITE amount of will power. (The study referred to self-control, but I like the concept of will power better; screw those scientists!) If you use up all your will power on resisting a bowl of fresh cookies, then you run out later. You can’t keep going on a tough task. You get exhausted.

This is unsurprising if you think about it in daily life; I am more likely to blow good eating habits if I’ve had a tough day. Everyone is. Some people turn to wine. Some to drugs. Some to latex and undersized Thai sex workers. (Judge not, ye prude, lest you be judged!) For me, it’s ice cream. We’ve all got something.

But I didn’t realize that you can think of will power as a finite resource – as dollar bills in your pocket. You can only spend them once, so you have to choose what you buy. And THAT made me give Chip the mighty SHUT up!

Chip’s point was to calm me down; I’ve been pathetically pouty lately for feeling like I’m backtracking on my fitness journey. (It’s not even the dreaded plateau; I feel like I’m receding. Now that I have all these new muscles, the carefully-won neutral pelvis position is no longer neutral and I have to relearn how to stand, sit, walk – I’m exhausted and annoyed and demoralized. Barbara and Grace and Chip have ALL used the term “process” – as in, “this is a process and what you’re going through is expected and normal and you should calm down and stop being such a baby” except they didn’t QUITE say that.)

Chip said – “do what you can. Recognize that your will power is finite and don’t be so hard on yourself.” That’s a good lesson.

But I was wondering. First I asked him if will power was like a muscle; can you increase its capacity? He didn’t know.

Then I said – “If you KNEW you were going into a stressful situation, you could maybe eat hummus and carrots before the meeting because you were going to have less will power at the end of the meeting, from restraining the urge to leap across the table and throttle the idiot who wouldn’t shut their yap.”

To his credit, Chip did NOT look across the table at the idiot who wouldn’t shut her yap; instead he agreed that it would be a smart strategy. He said he had pumpkin seeds to snack on, so that probably accounts for his restraint…

So I offer this to you for what it’s worth. You only have so much will power, and you can only do so much with it. Pick your battles.

Here’s a link to some guy talking about the research; he never claims who DID the research, and his message at the end about “visit this website for more on this fascinating study” turns up a 404 error (page not found), so the whole thing could be hokum… but it SOUNDS right, doesn’t it?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RpiDWeRN4UA

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Oxford Cloth

1.8.18

I love an Oxford cloth button-down shirt. That’s what my father wore throughout my childhood (and well into my adulthood), and I don’t think you can find a female who doesn’t unwittingly decide her definition of masculinity by what Daddy did long before she even realized she was liking this and disliking that.

Then I went to snotty prep school, where all those Oxford cloth shirts had bony, adolescent boy wrists peeking from the cuffs, and growing shoulders straining the seams, and the cloth at the back that billowed out from the khakis was deliciously warmed by the boy-heat underneath and then broadcloth shirts took on a whole new degree of appreciation for me.

(See, not so lesbian today. Ooh, I liked those boys in their button-downs!)

You can starch Oxford cloth. It takes starch very nicely, and then everything looks very crisp. The trouble is – it doesn’t MOVE nicely if it’s starched. An old Oxford cloth shirt takes on a chamois-like suppleness and softness. It’s compliant. Obedient. Forgiving. Friendly. Starched Oxford cloth is unmoving and unnatural. Not wanted on the voyage.

This occurred to me (in the isolated word-pictures that stagger across my brain while enjoying a massage) when I was discussing fascia with Gwynn, the massage therapist wizard at Body Dynamics (where? Falls Church, Virginia, of course).

Do you remember about fascia? It’s the membrane that holds all muscles in place. (It might be other places, too, but think of it as that thin, while film that covers a raw chicken breast.) When it’s in good shape, fascia is pliant and liquid. It makes no attempt to restrict the muscle.

But sometimes fascia gets woody. Stiff. Tight. So when you think you’ve got sore muscles or you just generally feel locked up, it’s entirely possible the issue is the fascia, not the muscles.

Gwynn was working on my low back. I’d been having stiffness there because (now I know) I hadn’t been using my low abs to hold my pelvis in neutral, especially when doing my HEP. Now that Barbara has identified my slackerly ways, I’ve been exercising with my tongue between my teeth in concentration, attempting to keep the pelvis tipped upward like a fool. That’s really helped my low back, but things were still tight, and I was grateful for Gwynn’s ministrations.

“There’s a whole sheet of fascia back here,” she said, using her hands to outline a sweeping triangle from the midback down to the butt. “Yours is very tight today.”

“Huh,” I grunted in pain/pleasure. I thought about that, and finally offered up a complete thought (it takes longer to think during a massage). “So some people just have stiff fascia throughout, huh?”

Gwynn swatted away my hopeful suggestion effortlessly. “No, that’s not right. Fascia responds to a lot of things. Diet. Chemo. Some medicines.”

“Diet?!”

The ghost of Chip the Body Dynamics nutritionist appeared and crossed his legs in the nearby chair as he waited pointedly for me to make the connection.

(The body of Chip was probably down the hall tormenting some hapless client with exercises on a reformer; Chip is also a trainer and very inclined to grin happily while someone is groaning through an oddly specific movement. They ALL grin; they feed off it like psychic discomfort vampires.)

“Sure,” said Gwynn. “You know what’s most influential on fascia, don’t you?”

I sighed. “Sugar?”

“That’s right. Sugar is definitely bad for your fascia.”

“So sugar absorbs all the zinc I eat. It throws off the bacterial house party in my gut. AND it stiffens my fascia like starch in an Oxford cloth shirt.”

“That’s right.”

“Well, damn it.” I thought about it as Chip’s ghost gave me the hairy eyeball. “So you’d better REALLY want that piece of cheesecake, huh?”

Chip and Gwynn both nodded.

I wasn’t as indulgent through the holidays as I COULD have been, but I certainly wasn’t terribly careful, either. The bathroom scale is only one of the ways to measure the effects of Christmas cookies on the body, and it’s not even a very accurate method.

I’d turned the supple, pliant, friendly button-down shirt just under the skin of my back into something starched and crispy. The cookies weren’t even that good.

Dayum. It all comes back to sugar. Grr!

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Boys singing in soft, worn button-downs. Could anything be cuter?

Ice Grin

1.6.18

I’m sure it will come as a tremendous surprise to learn that the East Coast is in the grips of an arctic blast (because no one anywhere is talking about it, right? I mean – SHUT UP. It’s cold. Get over it!).

I think I’m the only person moving through this polar landscape with a huge grin peeking out from the layers of coat and hat and scarf – because if you don’t walk FAST through this weather, you’ll freeze solid to the ground like the Greek gods have rooted you next to the stream and now you have to be a laurel tree for the rest of time. Or something.

My point: I need to move quickly from car to door. Sometimes that’s the three feet across the garage (in which case I can mosey) – but sometimes it’s a few blocks because I found a parking space and the office where I’m dropping off some papers is down the road a step. Or from the movie theater to the parking garage.

Half the time I’m thinking, like everyone else, DAMN it’s cold out here.

And half the time I’m thinking “I am really moving fast – and well. This feels AWESOME.”

You know how you don’t know how blissful it is for your toe to NOT hurt until you stub it bad and realize just how much that toe was doing for you, silently and unprotestingly, until now? Well, that’s me with my back, but in reverse. First the hurt, and then the lack of hurt.

When I first asked Barbara (at Body Dynamics in Falls Church, Virginia – and you’d best hope you live nearby, for they are amazing and sooner or later you’re going to need them) to help me get into better shape, she used Sherlockian skills to finally narrow down WHY I don’t like exercising. The answer is because I tilt my pelvis down. Not out of laziness – it’s just the way I am. But that puts a significant strain on the lower and mid back. It means my lower abdomen wasn’t doing its job, and that my thighs were compensating for butt muscles that had been coasting for decades.

So when I walked more than thirty or forty paces, my back muscles would get tight and tired and angry. I always wanted to stop and sit, to stretch the back muscles.

If you’re very bored and housebound in snow and ice, you can read back through this blog to witness the beginning of my learning process (for it surely continues through this day) – but the shortcut is: I can walk now (and walk fast) without putting any strain on my back. And it feels DAMNED GOOD.

People have smiled at me indulgently and said “You know, you can’t change your gait. That’s how you’re put together.” And I’m here to say they are WRONG. I have changed my gait; I’ve built up the muscles that pull my pelvis into the proper alignment. I no longer walk like a duck, with my feet splayed so far out to the side that you could follow me on a crowded beach just based on my footprints in the sand.

This is just the beginning of my process; I know that. I went over my HEP (Home Exercise Program) with Barbara recently and was shocked to discover that it was getting easier because I was ignoring the need to crunch up those lower abs. DAMN IT. So THAT’S why my back was bitching so hard every morning; how disappointing that the “neutral pelvis” position still isn’t instinctive yet. There’s more work to be done… but I can walk through icy climes with confidence and no pain – allowing me to focus on how efficiently metal eyeglasses can trap cold against the orbital sockets holy mother. I can even give in and trot to the car. Without any discomfort at all.

Yeah. I’m grinning.

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Tandem

1.5.18

Let’s say you go to dinner with Friend A (who for the purposes of this post is now named Annamaria, a sultry brunette with masses of soft hair and curves to die for).  (Oh, I seem to be a bit lesbian today.) Dinner is charming and when the plates are cleared and the waitress leans in confidingly to ask, “Did you save room for our Chocolate Salted Caramel Slab of Really Bad For You Deliciousness?,” you will look to Annamaria to gauge her reaction.

(Oh – I see. I’m not trending lesbian; I’m trending hungry.)

If Annamaria says “Hell yes, I saved room,” then you will feel a great sense of relief and demand to see the entire dessert menu because perhaps what you really wanted instead is Warm Fruit Stewed With Heaping Cups of Sugar Over a Slab of Buttery Golden Pastrylike Something, with a side of ice cream to cut the sweet, and you need to know you’ve been presented with all your dessert options. After all, if Annamaria is getting dessert, it would be RUDE and stick-in-the-muddish not to do the same. You’re friends, after all.

Now let’s say you go to dinner with Friend B (which stands for Birgid, a natural warrior goddess with a light, face-only ski tan and close-cropped golden hair). Birgid is fueling her body for her upcoming trek through Mongolia (she’s studying Przewalski’s horse) (I have oddly specific images of Friends A and B), and the waitress’s offer of dessert meets with a disinterested smile that says – perfectly kindly – “Of course not; don’t you see I’m on a mission here? I can’t carry gooey caramel with me into the grasslands; I’d be eaten by a snow leopard.”

In that case, you too offer your “no thank you” smile and head shake. You’re not going to sit there spooning in whipped cream while confronted by a swanlike neck and cheekbones of Cumberbatchian sharpness. It would be rude… and stupid. She’s glowing with good health; you should probably follow her everywhere and eat only what she eats.

The trouble with humans is that most people’s bodies crave a taste of sweetness at the end of a meal. (Chip, the nutritionist at Body Dynamics in Falls Church, VA, explained the science behind it, but I can no longer remember the why – only the fact that it’s real.) That craving fades after about 20 minutes, but for those 20 minutes, we are sugar’s bitch.

Plus, culturally, we like to act in tandem. As a species, most of us crave consensus. How many times have you heard “Well, is anyone else getting salad? Okay, then I won’t either.”

And of course you KNOW that person really wants a salad – they just don’t want to be the odd man out, eating at a table of people who aren’t, and being watched by those people; assuming they’re thinking “Look at her eat around the frisé lettuce. She’s making such a fussy little pile of the parts of that salad she won’t eat. What a prima donna. Eat your damned lettuce if you were so hungry for a salad!”

(Paranoia tends to increase in intensity as the event wears on…)

(I also won’t eat the dates in my salad. My college roommate Lynnae always said, with a glint in her eye, “I ALWAYS eat my dates!” as she popped the oversweet fruit into her mouth, and I thought that was so naughty and funny… Alas, I don’t like dates. You know, the fruit kind. As to the other, I make no statement either way. Remember, I’m a lesbian.) (No, wait – that’s not right. I’m hungry.)

WHERE WAS I? I know I had a point.

Right – got it. This is it:

You don’t have to refuse to go to dinner with Friend A because you’re more likely to indulge in the food that you know isn’t terribly good for you. Instead, you have to be Friend B, and be the one to smile “No, thank you” to the waitress. And then your other friend(s) are more likely to say “Yeah, I guess I won’t have dessert either.”

And if they do order a treat, then you can eat off their plate. There are NO calories if it’s someone else’s dessert. Everyone knows that.

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House Party

1.3.18

Imagine if you had a house party of all your absolutely favorite people. Your best friend from college. Your seventh grade English teacher. Stu (a guy so decent and kind and sweet that when you and your friends recovered from broken hearts and announced “All men are dogs!” and then someone would say “Well, there’s Stu…” everyone would have to allow that maybe not ALL men were dogs). This is the house party of your dreams.

Better yet, Benny – the annoying not-really-a-friend who insists you’ve been besties for decades – just HATES Stu, so Benny won’t arrive unannounced for as long as Stu is in residence. Bonus!

If all those beloved people were happiest when provided with a high-fiber diet that included lots of fresh veggies and fruits, you’d buy them that, wouldn’t you? You’d want to keep this outstanding house party going for absolutely as long as you possibly could. Who wouldn’t? You could sneak out and buy some chocolate chip cookies every now and then and nosh them while no one was looking, but you’d sure come back home laden with grocery bags from Whole Foods.

I mean – it’s STU. He’s AWESOME.

This is an analogy, of course. (Except for how fab Stu is; I’ll give him a shout-out on Facebook and maybe he’ll leave a comment so you know there are men in this world who can restore the female faith in masculinity.)

The analogy comes to me courtesy of this DA BOMB article forwarded to me by Chip, the nutritionist at Body Dynamics in Falls Church, VA. If you’re the kind of person who likes your facts straight, check out the link, here:  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/01/science/food-fiber-microbiome-inflammation.html?_r=0

But if you’re okay with my “Idiot’s Guide” version, here’s what I learned:

There’s this whole house party in your gut. There’s a huge gathering of benevolent bacteria – like, many, MANY different kinds – performing critical tasks for your health that you didn’t even know were necessary. If you give them high fiber foods like veggies and fruit, if you stay low on the fat and sugar stuff, then the house party is the kind of place that others will envy and wish they could go to, too.

And while that house party is in full swing, Benny – also known as diabetes, heart disease, and SHUT UP arthritis (really?!) – will pretty much stay away. (The connection was pretty clear for me between eating healthfully and both diabetes and heart disease – but to learn that you could keep arthritis away simply by including a lot of fiber in your diet?? Yeah, that surprised me.)

Mumsy always said primly, “Eat your broccoli. It’s nature’s broom.” I never really understood that, except for thinking that broccoli, held upside down, might look a bit broom-like, but when pressed, she would only add “It will sweep away all the bad things.”

Mumsy had it wicked wrong; broccoli won’t sweep away bad things. It will nourish and delight some very, very GOOD things in the intestines. I think that what she meant was that it would help avoid constipation (although who would say that to a small child? I certainly don’t blame her for omitting that part!). And in that she was right – because if the bacteria in your innards are lifted off the walls of the intestines by a nice, healthy mucous coat, then everything slides along more smoothly.

(Don’t believe those cough medicine commercials that imply that mucous is nasty, green, redneck blob things. In the gut, a good coating of mucous is like a butler and maid for your house party, so good at their jobs that you don’t have to lift a finger other than to simply enjoy yourself and relish the absence of Benny.)

Chip gave me the breakfast recipe I eat every day. At first I thought it was yogurt with good things mixed in (nuts, pumpkin seeds, wheat germ, fresh fruit, a drizzle of honey or maple syrup if the fruit is winter-dull), but now I know that the yogurt (which has better press on gut health than any of the other things) is only the beginning of the glory. I’m actually eating many, many high-fiber foods that are fueling the house party and protecting me from conditions I never suspected could harm me.

Chip told me not to get set in my ways; to mix yogurt days with oatmeal days – and to mix up my nuts, my seeds, my fruit. I DO get set in my ways; I have walnuts and cashews and almonds in the cupboard, but I only reach for the walnuts, and I have a real lust for pumpkin seeds… but now that I realize the house party needs many, many different sources of fiber, I’m going to make more of an effort to mix things up. And even eat oatmeal more than twice in the last six months. (Oatmeal and I are not particularly happy with each other, but for the houseguests that I love? I can choke it down!)

Wotta party!

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Adorable Stu, when we were in college. Isn’t he dreamy? He has the nicest wife and smartest daughter now. Sigh. What a prince!