I was working today at Body Dynamics with Grace, the ballet dancer Pilates instructor.

(Grace demos an exercise and I just want to burst into applause. I don’t think we’re the same species, but she sure is pleasing to watch!)

We’d been doing bridges.

Bridges – oh, SURE, they look easy. You lie on your back with your knees bent, and then lift your hips up and down. That’s seventeen words to describe what it looks like. Here’s what it FEELS like:

Lie on your back with your knees bent. Hands at your sides, pulling towards your feet to keep your shoulders down and active, but very quietly. As you inhale, lengthen your spine as much as possible – feel a force going from your sit bones out the top of your head. When you exhale, let your ribs deflate along with your lungs until the ribs are drawing into the body. Zip up the spine from the back of the neck, down the backbone and around to the front, engaging the flat, deep muscle deep in the low belly. As you flex that muscle (the transverse abdominus), clench your butt muscles. Do that more. More. MORE. Eventually it’s inevitable between your abs and your butt that your hips will just float upward. Feel your knees pull forward and down so the head of your femur pours up and forward, forcing a stretch along your hip flexors from your core to your thighs. At the top of that movement, hold it. Inhale. Soften your ribs. More. MORE. Lower your shoulders; pull down with your hands. Feel your knees pulling you long. Now come down for the exhale; let your ribs melt more. No, more. MORE than that. If you can’t roll down vertebra by vertebra, then imagine a rope tied to your sitz bones that is pulling you towards the far wall, stretching you long from your shoulders down. Rest.

That’s 237 words.

It’s no wonder I can’t keep it all straight, and Grace often takes pity on me and tells me to forget about this muscle group or that muscle group and just concentrate on one thing. I do it and she looks at me kindly and says “Well, it’s a process. You’re getting there!”

In moments of inaction (like, say, typing a blog post, perhaps), I try to imagine a scenario in which being able to do a bridge that satisfies a really skilled trainer would prove indispensable. Like, maybe Martians land and announce they will use their ray guns on anyone who can’t bridge properly… or because of an improbable sequence of events, the only way I can close the gap in the track that will allow the secret microfilm to roll safely into the hands of the handsome government agent is if I bridge into the space, allowing the canister to roll from hipbone to hipbone on the perfect trajectory.

Yeah, I’m stretching. I don’t really know WHY one should be able to bridge so exactly, but I trust that I don’t need to know why. Where Barbara and Grace lead, I follow.

After working assiduously on the “process” of my bridges, Grace had me stand up and we moved on to other exercises – or so I thought.

I stood with one foot on the ground and one foot on a slide-sideways moving platform. At first, all I had to do was turn my upper body. If the left foot was up, I turned to the left. Left hand behind my head. Spiral to the left.

Obviously, if you don’t want to move the platform, you have to put all your weight on your right foot. And the only way to get a turn going – given that you can’t let your hips move – is to turn on the right butt muscles – or as Grace says, “WRAAAAP those muscles all the way around your hip.” Then once you’re fully stable and turned as far as you can go, NOW slide that moving platform to the side, away from the standing foot.

I immediately fell over, of course, and Grace went through the careful process of explaining movement to someone who can’t do it naturally.

She was showing me how you can shift your hips (which was wrong in this case) or you can pull the head of your femur forward to engage the butt muscles without moving the hips. I watched her tiny little hips show me – THIS is wrong, THIS is right – and was just getting my head around that concept…

…when she said – like it was obvious – “This is the motion at the top of your bridge.”

Vapor lock.


I went from lying prone with bent knees on the table to twisting awkwardly on one leg with one pudgy arm behind my head; there is NO WAY these movements could possibly be connected by anything other than the fact that I was the one doing both.

I felt like a sponge left in a dark cupboard for a few months until it was rock-hard, and then someone swiped me through a puddle. Can’t… absorb… brain… too… stiff. Help!

It was obvious to Grace that I was swamped by her statement, and she clarified that these small movements were how we were going to organize the disorganized muscle movements that make it all but impossible for me to step up on the mid-sized table in the P.ACE room with my right leg.

In the echoing confusion of my suddenly overloaded brain came two thoughts – first, THIS is what’s going to help?? Standing with one foot on a moving platform and twisting like a barber pole?


They’re plotting. They’re going to fix me despite myself!

I told Grace we would have to revisit this concept a few times, since I was pretty sure I wasn’t really internalizing all of it. (By which I meant – VAPOR LOCK. I am internalizing NONE of this.) (Which she understood.)

Patting your head and rubbing your stomach would be child’s play compared to this stuff!

I wanted a good photo to illustrate this post, but felt it would be unlikely to find a barber pole stretched over a river like a suspension bridge and then shaking apart in huge, car-flinging waves to best express my current mental state of hopeful confusion. Thus – no photo available!

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Barbara dragged over a – what, a really short table? A really tall stool? I dunno, there are several of them in the big P.ACE room at Body Dynamics.

(I don’t know what P.ACE means; it says that on the door and people say “Is she in the pace room?” “No, she’s in fitter-ex.”)

(Yeah – I know. It’s Fit/RX, but it comes out sounding like what happens when your former boyfriend gets bulky. Fitter ex.)

The table is maybe as tall as two steps on my staircase. You might, possibly, sit there comfortably in exhaustion after Barbara makes you increase your interval time on the elliptical. Not that I’D know, of course…

My task was to stand in front of the table and put up one foot in a “Captain Morgan” stance. Arg, matey. Foot flat; heel well onto the table. Now true up the hips; I tend to let the up-leg’s hip fall downward. Got it? Standing tall and balanced?

Okay – now step up onto the table. Push the heel in, engage the up-leg’s big ol’ glute muscles, and just stand up there. Go.

When I’m Captain Morganing on my left leg, all is well. Sure, I need a LITTLE momentum to get the whole party up and onto that table, but not so much that Barbara gives me The Look.

(The Look is shorthand for Barbara saying “Do you think I don’t notice how much you’re cheating when you telegraph your shortcut that much and I have x-ray eyes? Because I noticed, and don’t do that again.”)

But when I put up the right leg – it’s like someone has cut some muscles or nerves or something. (Barbara says everything is there, but I’m oddly disorganized – a curious notion.) I give fruitless little hops on the down leg that barely change the angle of the up-knee at all and then grimace in a combo of shame and discomfort.

I think about 50% of my inability is mental; I’m SO sure my knee is going to hurt when I try to yank upward that I can’t bring myself to test the theory. But the other 50% is physical… because when I try, my knee really DOES hurt. (The muscles are weaker; I pull my knee inward to compensate, and that hurts. I now know WHY – I just can’t overcome the DOING.) (If Barbara wraps one of those therabands around my leg just above the knee and hauls my knee outward while I go up? Pain-free. But she says I have to strengthen the muscles and has refused to constantly stay at my right side, applying traction with a theraband as I go through my days. She’s such a prima donna.)

But today, I added something else – a shooting pain at the top of my thigh, in a part of the leg that is simply inappropriate to point to. Definitely the thigh/groin intersection. I’d felt it several times this week, usually when I exercised, sat down for too long, and then got up. Ouch.

Barbara will chivvy me through general discomfort or the complaint that “it’s HAAAARD, Barbara!” But if there’s any pain at all, she stops everything immediately until she’s figured out what’s going on and has solved it. We worked on the adductor magnus for at least twenty minutes, and while we definitely diagnosed the muscle in question, none of Barbara’s stretches and exercises did much to unlock the tight place…

…so because we were at Body Dynamics and that’s a place where you can hardly swing a dead cat without hitting an expert (an image that both grosses me out and delights me), she grabbed the first Big Brain through the door.

It happened to be Josh, who has so many initials after his name that he’s entitled to be called DOCTOR Josh but is too charming to demand such obeisance from lesser mortals. Josh and I have been on a smile-and-nod level of acquaintance (an “I see you and recognize you and have never said a word to you but we’re satellites around the same moon so hey” sort of arrangement), but this was the first time I’d ever actually introduced myself and shaken his hand.

Barb laid out my issue in wizard-talk (they use accurate, technical terms that mean nothing to me beyond “Man, that was a lot of syllables!” and “Was that English?”), and then Josh and I had a five-second discussion about whether my feet generally turned inward or outward.

(Outward. Like a duck.)

And BOOM, Josh had two exercises teed up for me to try that IMMEDIATELY affected the pain in that only-in-private location. I’m adding one to my Home Exercise Program. (The other involved tying a long jump rope around my ankle and then – I don’t remember. I cheated anyway on that one, so Barbara has to stand there and watch me to make sure I’m doing it right. NSFHEP.) (Not Suitable For Home Exercise Program, of course. Duh.)

So I’m going to work on that new stretch/exercise this week, and next week maybe I’ll get closer to standing on the taller (but not the tallest) table in the P.ACE room.

I continue to be dumbfounded by (a) the completely new aches and pains my body can come up with as I attempt to repair my alignment and (b) the uncanny wealth of arcane knowledge at Body Dynamics that would NEVER have occurred to me on my own to repair my body and strengthen things that are weaker. It’s like I’m a really cool ninth grade science fair project and Barbara and her fellow wizards are determined to win. That is SO COOL!

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Long ago in the time of dinosaurs and mastodons and cuneiform (yes, I know that’s an impossibly long period of time; stop harshing my literary buzz with your critical reality), modern agriculture had not yet filled every shelf with loaves of Wonder Bread and a dizzying array of Hot Pocket flavors.

Seven years of plenty were followed by seven lean years.

(This may not be factually correct; I draw the numbers not from the Bible but from Charlton Heston Bible movies from my childhood, in which Edward G. Robinson would improbably gargle “Where’s your Messiah now, see?”)

My brain is pinging like pinball. MY POINT IS that once there were famines.

When there were too many people for the available food, the ensuing starvation would kill off all the weak and slim-hipped. People fortunate enough to have the metabolism to pack on the fat could endure the lean years while those who thought the plenty would last forever would have to crawl off into the wilderness (there was a lot of wilderness back then) and obligingly die without issue.

Pudgy girls got all the dates. Plump children were more likely to survive. Sculptors made little goddess figurines of women with enormous butts and life-rich boobs. This is the Venus of Willendorf; she’s just a few inches tall and is perhaps the earliest form of art in the world. She’s the absolute acme of beauty from about 30,000 years ago.

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And then? Modern agriculture. Diversification of labor. Civilization. No more famines, mostly.

Suddenly the ability to store more energy than you needed was a BAD thing. So, taking massive steps across the stream of time, we see the progression of the concept of beauty is: The Venus of Willendorf…

… followed by modern agriculture…

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… followed by Twiggy.

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My point is that MINE IS THE SUPERIOR METABOLISM in all circumstances save this one. It’s only been since naturally-occurring clearings filled with grain grasses have been replaced by regimented fields of genetically-modified wheat stretching farther than the eye can see that being skinny has been a good thing.

And so I protest the modern concept of beauty.

I protest it uselessly and futilely. I protest it even though I myself admire slim-hipped women and sigh regretfully over pretty asses and wish I looked more like Twiggy and less like the Venus of Willendorf…

…but let’s get back to the point: My body is capable, strong, efficient, and famine-proof. Fuck the fashion industry (she said with the hypersensitivity of the overweight)!

I had this thought last evening when I was talking with lovely Barb at the opening of my sister-in-law’s art show at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton, VA. (Check it out; it will be up through February and it’s GLORIOUS. Lura Bovee – Building 10. You can see a portrait she painted of my husband Jonathan that is so good I almost cry looking at it – plus a huge painting of my gigantic son forging a spear. Bonus!)

Barb and I were talking fitness (because we are famine-proof so fitness is constantly consuming our energy and attention), and she mentioned that she walks her dog FIVE MILES EVERY DAY.


That’s a dog, not a plan. She doesn’t ever think to herself, “maybe I’ll skip the walk today and pick it up again tomorrow” the way I do with the gym. She’s got a barking, demanding alarm clock that won’t LET her not do her five miles – even if it’s cold. Even if it’s raining. Even if it’s snowing. Even if she’s sick.


And yet, there she was, waiting by my side for the next famine to clear out the supermodels so we would be properly appreciated for our luscious capability.

Surely something is wrong with society’s attitudes on beauty. Surely something is wrong with MY attitude on beauty.

Barb ate nothing but fruit and veggies at the art show opening. She’s taking very good care of herself. I find her to be an inspiration.


That’s me with Barb and my tiny mother-in-law, Alice. (Photo taken by the gracefully slim-hipped Susan, who you have to love EVEN THOUGH she wouldn’t last a month in a good famine.) Would you put money on who in this trio you think would survive a famine? Don’t count Alice out; that’s one strong old lady!



Rear View


Facebook, in its algorithmic, Machine Overlord simulacrum of dispassionate binary friendliness, offers me those “Prudence, we thought you’d like to see this post from XX years ago” looks at something from my past.

Today, it was a ten-second video from one year ago of my dog Strider taking a Frisbee off of my husband Jonathan’s head. Certainly not Academy Award bait. It’s a poor plot, there’s no character development, the lighting is pedestrian… I’d posted it because as Jonathan’s diseases caused such a significant personality shift, it was nice to show his friends a tiny clip of him smiling with a now-rare sweetness. Posting that video helped us to hide what was really going on with him.

Of course in hindsight, I know when I watch it that he was about six weeks from his death. I can see that he looks gaunt and fragile. I can see that his ability to engage with the world was so deteriorated that playing with the dog was worthy of not just photographing the event but also posting it.

And today I can see that I didn’t realize where I was going until I looked in the rear view – because I watched that video not with my accustomed anger but with the first uncertain blushes of sorrow.

Is it possible I’m moving into a new phase in my mourning process? Christ, I don’t want to get weepy… even though I know a little quiet, reflective weeping might do more than anything else to help me get to healing. If such a thing is possible.

And if I’m shifting emotionally, might not that explain my strange inability to remember to meet Eleanor for lunch or sit in on the high school reunion phone call? Might it be a part of why I don’t seem to be able to pass up dessert after MONTHS of eating for my health? I really have been sugar’s bitch lately… and sugar has ALWAYS been a coping drug for me. A reaction to stress.

Yeah. Might could be.

So this is what I know: I’m not going to let my sugar dependency derail me. I’m going to assume the next few months will be harder than expected, and I will simply have to forgive myself for eating crap…

…but I can’t stop ALSO eating veggies and drinking water and making smart food choices when I can. And I can’t stop working out. After I saw the Jonathan-and-Strider video on Facebook, I did my six minutes on the stairs. I fretted over the video and what my reaction to it might mean the entire time, but I did it. I’ll do my HEP this evening, too. Maybe I can’t be perfect – nor should I expect perfection – but I can be good. I can take care of myself, as he could not.

This is ALSO what I know: I posted a LOT on Facebook after Jonathan died. I process things by writing about them, and airing my mental confusion for others to see was somehow helpful; I must be a hopeless exhibitionist. Therefore, I need to steel myself in the coming weeks because Facebook is sure to algorithm me into some pretty intense flashbacks to Jonathan’s death. No matter how bright the road ahead looks, it’s smart to remember there’s a big storm in the rear view, and it still has the potential to reach out and smack me when least expected.

And if that leads to chocolate cream pie, so be it; it will also lead to rapid and determined trips up and down the stairs, and the support of my dear friends, as well as my Body Dynamics family who will see me through this as they have through everything else.


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I had occasion this morning to ponder the difference (in my mind, anyway) between “feh” and “meh.”

“Meh” is accompanied by a shrug of indifference, while “feh” includes a raised eyebrow and a chin circle, as if outlining a potential cut line around the heart of my enemy. “Feh” is uttered with a little growl; “feh” isn’t passive and it isn’t good.

I was lying awake staring at the ceiling, a full 40 minutes before the alarm was to go off. I was thinking about…

  1. How screwed up my sense of time has been and how I don’t trust myself to get to places I’m supposed to go to.
  2. The big job I need to write. The client gave me until Friday and I laughed and said “Don’t be silly, I can get this to you by Wednesday, no problem,” and now Thursday was dawning and I’ve only got the lead. All I have to do is research the issue and write the back three pages; I gave myself all of yesterday afternoon to do it and somehow it remains undone.
  3. The lack of electricity in the new bathroom portion of my bedroom.

My bedroom, built in the 80s along with the rest of the house, has what I’m sure some designer thought was a very groovy feature: A tiny, dinky toilet/shower room, outside of which is an enormous bedroom with a sink next to the closet. You know, like a Motel 6.

Sure, I know – it’s so I can brush my teeth AT THE SAME TIME (ooh) as my now-departed husband takes a long shower, reveling in the thought that he is not blocking my access to exceptional oral hygiene, but that’s STUPID and now I have a bathroom in my bedroom.

I digress from my digression.

I’ve had a new bathroom vanity installed, as well as a new mirror and a new light feature. It’s stunning and makes me happy. But the guys who installed it apparently cast around and found only one lone lightbulb to put in the four-light fixture. So last night I had a clever thought and took the four lightbulbs out of the old fixture, still lying on the floor of my son’s room as part of the pile of generalized crap that needs to be hauled away.

Jonathan loved those Edison bulbs – unfrosted glass bulbs. You’re supposed to use them without a shade to show off their radiant filaments. Very groovy, but I dislike them. They’re blinding. But my four-light fixture has shades (well, it’s got three shades because one of them arrived broken and now Home Depot is shipping me a replacement and THAT’S a whole ‘nother thing) so I could use those groovy, annoying bulbs and the shades would protect me.

I screwed in the first Edison bulb (of course in the arm that had no shade; easiest access) and immediately the fixture made a sound like a cat just as its paw lashes out to trace a circle around its enemy’s heart and then all the power went out in the bath/bedroom.


To compound the party-like atmosphere, the new, malevolent lightbulb was incorrectly threaded, so I couldn’t get it back out. A light bulb is a perverse mixture of dangerous fragility and belligerent stubbornness. I’m pretty sure it’s done all the harm it’s going to do; I think I could go flip the breaker and get my power back on, but just in case I need to get that ugly, grinning Edison bulb out of there first.

And I didn’t have the oomph to deal with it late last night. So I just went to bed and festered.

When I woke up this morning (for the third time; this perimenopause is wicked harshing my lifelong gift of being able to sleep deeply and happily) and lay in bed reviewing the bidding for the day, I thought – do I HAVE to go to Balance Class? At ten in the futhermucking morning? In tight, bulge-revealing clothing? Can’t I pull on a pair of jeans like everyone else and deal with my stupid lightbulb and my stupid occupation? Can’t I go get some cake, or something, and just roll around in it in a snit?

But change doesn’t happen when you’re happy. If you only do the hard things after a great night’s rest and you bounce out of bed eager to take on the day – well, how often does THAT happen? I can’t secure my health if I give up when it gets hard.

So I’m awake. Early.

I’m dressed in Lycra. Chilly, clingy Lycra.

I’m going to haul it to Falls Church, to Body Dynamics for Balance Class (assuming I get there on time), where Barbara will use her kind but undeniable authority to somehow cause me to do for a full hour things I wouldn’t be able to endure for two minutes under other circumstances. Like planks. Or “bear-walking” across a room. Or “stack the shelf” of about ten thousand imaginary books – all while visible to other humans.

Yes, I am aware that exercise promotes endorphins, and that I will probably leave class much sunnier than when I arrived. But I’m not sunny YET. I am contemplating the huge gulf between indifferent “meh” and contemptuous “feh.”


No need to point out that the wall behind the new light fixture (with its misaligned and lethal Edison bulb) needs painting. They’re coming back to do that. They’re always coming back to do that, whatever that might be. Every time they say “There – we’re all done!” I snort. Right. All done. Tell me another one. Feh.



In my youth, the scariest thought I could summon was not that there was a monster under the bed, but that somehow a long, slithery snake had decided to have a nap tucked lengthwise between the sheet and the mattress, over the edge to where the sheets were tucked in – and after I risked putting my bare, vulnerable feet down toward the undoubted snake pit, it would decide it was time to slither out, its flat reptilian eyes scanning the horizontal landscape between the sheets to find something to latch onto and maybe eat.

Unlikely? Utterly. Chilling? Sha.

But now I’m an old lady. Screw the snakes; I have a new terror:

I fear the ringing phone, followed by the voice of someone saying “Where ARE you? We’re all WAITING for you!”

In the last month or so, I’ve missed multiple appointments and plans. Really – multiple. One phone call during which time I was going to browbeat the members of the fundraising committee for my high school reunion into doing EXACTLY AS I WANTED, and I had good plans, too. Instead, I sat at the kitchen table thinking about working on a job but really moseying around Facebook like a waste product while, far from my awareness, the rest of the committee agreed to something utterly boring. DAMN it!

And then – I more than owed Eleanor, Steve, and darling Caroline a meal for all they’ve cooked for me, so I invited them to brunch at a local restaurant on Sunday. When Sunday arrived, I curled my toes in solitary splendor and turned over and went back to sleep. They called me several times to make sure I wasn’t wrapped around a bridge abutment with an 18-wheeler on top of me, but I never answered the phone. Too busy snoring. They had brunch without me, and rightly so. I was humiliated.

And today, I KNEW my appointment with Grace was at 9:30 at Body Dynamics; I was paying attention. Yet even as I knew it, I also decided I didn’t have to leave my house until 9:30. At 9:35, I chastised myself – silly. You’re running five minutes behind schedule; there goes your bubble of time for traffic.

At 9:40, charming Devon at Body Dynamics called me to see if I was making the up-close acquaintance of a bridge abutment. We’re expecting you – where are you?

(And it’s not the first time Devon and I have had such a call, either.)

I’ve gotten foggy about time. I don’t know what’s going on. If I’m found comatose in front of my computer, someone tell the EMTs “She said she was having trouble keeping track of time,” so they can trepan me in the right area of the skull.

Is it just because life is in upheaval with all the workmen tromping through my house at odd hours? Have I actually lost the ability to set up things outside of the normal schedule? Is there a brain tumor creating little bridge abutments in the grey matter? Am I just an idiot? Is this the true beginning of old age?

No me gusta.

Now I fear the call that lets me know I’ve screwed up again. If you really wanted to be cruel, you could prank me easily… but who would be that mean to the hopelessly disadvantaged?!

I spend so much time focusing on my physical health. I think it’s time to look into my mental alertness!

You’ve been warned; if we’re planning something, a reminder call, text, or email might help!


Yes, I’m using the alerts on my phone. They are USELESS to me. (Thanks for the suggestion, though.)





Generally speaking, there are two kinds of people who make noise: People who are proud of what they’re doing and want to tell you about that – and me, because I talk all the time whether I have something useful to say or not.

(My college roommate used to say “Talking to Pru is like – not talking” because if she didn’t answer my question quickly enough, I would answer for her … How annoying of me. Aren’t you glad you and I are separated by a computer screen?!)

The chattiness of successful people is particularly apparent on social media. Most folken don’t leap to update Facebook when something stupid or boring happens. We save up our brio or pride or aggression for vigorous posts and brush aside the daily quotidian. That’s human nature.

But it means that sometimes it looks like EVERYONE BUT YOU is making progress. And that’s just untrue.

For every person posting about losing inches or pounds, or meeting a goal, or adding another lap on the stairs… there are uncounted numbers of people who feel most comfortable lurking on social media who think THEY ARE ALONE in not achieving.

It can make you feel… weak. Like you’re less than you should be; like you’re letting down some mythical standard.

This isn’t speculation on my part; I suffer from this all the time. People who I love, and who I trust love me, have accomplished things that I haven’t even considered doing yet. As an extreme example, my friend Victoria has not only done her taxes but already gotten her refund. COME ON! That’s asking too much of me to witness. It’s EARLY FEBRUARY, for Pete’s sake!

I think it’s worth at least one lone post to say that I don’t want ANYONE to feel bad about what they have and haven’t accomplished in terms of their health. This isn’t the first time I’ve said it, but I’ll say it again because I believe it so strongly:

We are all dealing with the maximum we can handle every day. None of us are lounging.

So if you wish you’d done more about protecting your health, you aren’t alone. And there is no value in judging yourself for past decisions. That’s the past. When the time is right, when you have the capacity to add something, you’ll make one or more of the small steps that will help you to a healthier life.

You know it and I know it.

You have it in you to make the tiny, marginal choices that begin a healthier process. But if you can’t do it today, then stay strong in spirit. Don’t put yourself down, because if you don’t zealously guard your own good opinion of yourself, who else is going to do it?

I make a lot of noise, I know – and you’re kindness incarnate for reading my blog. My journey is fraught with tiny traumas and dizzying (to me) successes, and I don’t have the delicacy to shut up about them. But don’t let my noise fool you. My taxes aren’t done, my bed is unmade, and the aforementioned Victoria is waiting for several writing jobs from me that I put off so I could work out. We all do the very best we can… whether noisy or silent.

Onward, my silent friend!






There was a time when if I had music on, chances were good it was a John Mayer playlist. These days, it’s most likely to be Ed Sheeran.

(I like charming men who play the guitar and who can hold a melody against my inevitable harmony. Anyone who knew Jonathan will recognize that I was lost with his first chord.)

Like every other human on the planet, I go through phases… and I evolve.

Not “evolve” like “My god – she can breathe underwater!” (although wouldn’t that be cool?). I mean that time and experience teach us things. If you have a dog, you learn to put your shoes away and not leave them out, a target for gnawing slobber. That’s not a fad; you evolve to make a permanent change. If you have a car, you keep an eye on the fuel tank and fill up before you hit dead empty – maybe even filling up before you’re terribly low because the weather’s going to turn nasty and it’s nicer to stand outside waiting at the pump when the wind isn’t stripping heat from your bones.

But sometimes it’s tough at first to distinguish the difference between a fad and an evolution. Maybe the only difference is time.

I’m thinking (of course) of fitness. I’ve gone through exercising fads, and far more dieting fads. I’ve held to them with rigid determination… until I failed in the plan, in which case – hey, that Ed Sheeran’s music is GOOD. I’m putting John Mayer aside for the moment.

(Translation: No more exercise. No more diet.)

My fads are characterized by intensity – by the aforementioned rigid determination. I focus all my will on the effort, and it’s hard to divert me. Until, that is, something succeeds in diverting me. At which point, game over. No second life.

But in an evolution, failure is just part of the process. Sometimes the dog DOES steal my shoe. Sometimes I find I’m gassing the car in the middle of a blizzard. Yet neither of those things is permission to stop correcting that behavior.

(I’m working this out as I type.)

So here’s my quandary. Is my current determination to improve and maintain my health a fad? Or an evolution? Do I trust it will continue?

In more practical terms – do I throw out the size 22 pants?

Day-to-day events weigh on the side of evolution. I’ve missed fitness sessions at Body Dynamics; I’ve skipped the Home Exercise Program; I’ve eaten entire containers of ice cream AND KEPT WORKING ON FITNESS.

But my sense of self shies away from that. I’ve always been fat; I’ve always hated exercise. I have a supermodel brain and a hausfrau body. To even THINK that my progress could be – sheesh, I can’t even write the word “permanent” without looking for wood to bang on or something to fork the evil eye at. We don’t tempt fate that way. Don’t say that out loud. As Al Swearingen said in “Deadwood”, “Announcing your plans is a good way to hear God laugh.”

I hope I’m evolving to better health. But John Mayer thinks it’s a fad.

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Overweight people don’t trust their bodies. At least, I never did.

After all, I could ignore reality and eat whatever came within arm’s reach (and I have quite long arms) and the number on the scale would stay exactly the same.

And I could diet like a herb-eating hermit monk, adhering to barbaric rules for a shockingly long time and discover that I had gained weight. GAINED weight.

Plus – every time I lost ten to fifteen pounds, I gained back forty. I wouldn’t be this pudge today if not for diets.

All that leads to a “what the hell does it matter” attitude. We’re supposed to lead a “cause and effect” life. If you live off doughnuts, you begin to look like a doughnut. That’s what commercials and doctors promise us, anyway. If you live off kale and wheat grass, handsome people will invite you to join their beach volleyball game.

(Which sounds actually like a nightmare to me, as volleyball makes me cry and I hate the beach, so – no wheat grass for me, thanks!)

But fat people have contradictory experiences about weight management all the time. THE RULES ARE DIFFERENT FOR US. So all this training with the Body Dynamics team in Falls Church, VA has really opened my eyes, and I’m learning a huge amount about what actually has to happen if I want to go from a size 22 (two years ago) to a baggy size 18 (today) and eventually to some stopping point that I begin to trust will be even farther down the hall into the “normal” women’s clothes department.

Like – I’ve learned that the scale is almost certainly the worst measure of health you can use. It’s like saying “What color do you think this sweater is?” and the answer being “It’s definitely a color.”

Thanks for that info.

The scale can’t tell you how much fat you’re thoughtfully carrying around as you make your way through your day, nor how much muscle is carrying you around. It can’t tell you how likely it is that you’ll burn more calories in your sleep, or what your cholesterol is, or your blood pressure.

And here’s what I learned recently: It can’t even measure when you’ve lost fat.

Look at this article I got from Michelle Grady: http://100down.org/the-whoosh-effect/ or read my summary here:

Let’s say you’re a good girl and eat purely and healthfully for a WEEK (which is a damned long time to eat purely – Chip the nutritionist says that for every eight good meals you eat, you can and should have two that are just for joy). You know what happens when you get on the scale.

Nothing. Same as it ever was – same as it ever was. Look where my hand was, same as it ever was. (Are you making the Talking Heads cutting gesture down your arm? Wisdom from the Gospel of David Byrne.)

Well, it turns out that your body is obediently losing fat – but for reasons that are as yet unclear, it’s also replacing that fat with water, which it holds onto for a while. Your bulgy places might feel a little extra-squishy, or maybe you don’t notice a thing.

(In that case, I recommend envisioning your fatty liver getting a spa treatment. Ahh, that’s better!)

Then – and it’s often triggered by a higher-than-normal calorie meal – all of a sudden you find you’ve gotten up to pee a few more times than usual in the night and when morning comes, the scale has taken a nose dive. (Assuming you stayed pure and good and didn’t gorge on everything within arm’s reach.) (See above re: large wingspan). Whoosh – you peed away all that water your body was holding in place of the fat that had been melting at a constant rate.

It happened to me last night. I’ve been attempting to rein in the sugar cravings for a while, but yesterday was totally crowded. I’d spent the entire afternoon with my crazy mother. I still had many more things to accomplish in the evening. I had three things in my shopping cart: A rotisserie chicken. A head of cauliflower. A container of Ben and Jerry’s. (Oats of this Swirled; my particular brand of heroin.)

Tired. Grumpy. Stressed. Guess what I had for dinner? Right – the ice cream.

No, I didn’t scoop out a third of the container to carefully parse the sugar out over three days. I sat down with malice of forethought and a spoon and got around the entire thing in one sitting. And enjoyed it, too.

THEN I cooked up the cauliflower and ate it. The whole head. With butter.

So all things considered, this morning should have been a bloodbath at the scale, right?

I weigh 224 – the least I’ve weighed in modern history. I think I whooshed.

There’s mention in the article (check the link) of something called the Minnesota Starvation Experiment, which sounds MOST alarming, so I tend to think the magazine article is at least grounded in truth… plus I believe I’ve experienced the whoosh phenomenon myself.

And I bet you have, too. Whoosh, anyone?

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The Whoosh Phenomenon is so astonishing to me – and yet I also feel like shouting out “I’ve experienced that!” – that I had to have a “you’re kidding – right?” meme staring the delicious Hugh Laurie. He is the most dreamy curmudgeon on the planet, IMHO. Whoosh.



People walking with me tend to end up looking at me kinda funny.

It’s justified – I admit. I hit a stretch of flat travel more than four or five feet in length (a hallway, a parking lot, whatever) and I start thinking about my alignment. How do I walk right??

So my conversation trails off and my eyes get glassy. I’m focusing so hard on the internal (on the position of my pelvis, if you must know) that the outside world mists over. I could easily walk in front of a car and not realize it.

So while small children in my path are forced to scuttle left and right, I tuck my tailbone, and envision cross garters going from my low hips to cross just below the belly button and connect to the bottom of the opposite ribs. I ensure my shoulders are down and my butt is flexing. I extend through the top of my femur.

It’s most definitely not natural, and my muttering “ribs – keep the ribs down” doesn’t help. But all of this put together means my low back does NOT hurt when I walk. My low back stays happily out of the whole thing, and really: I’ll take that benefit.

Both Barbara and Grace (my trainers at Body Dynamics) have walked a careful line between encouraging my determination and wincing whenever I interpret their instructions as a command to GRIP my muscles as tightly as humanly possible. Barbara, the more cerebral of the two, says “I’m not comfortable with the word grip. Can you tone that down?”

(The answer is – No. My muscles are on a regular light switch. You can have them on or off; take your pick. I am not yet equipped with muscle dimmer switches; I can’t ease back.)

Grace, a person of movement and sensation, says “No – don’t grip. SOFTEN your muscles.”

(This is Grace-speak that I, frankly, have not yet fully interpreted. How do I soften something that requires gripping at max force if you still want the effect that the clench provides? To soften something is to let it go slack – right? Apparently not. Grace sees some alternative; I don’t understand it. This will take still more time to figure out…)

Yesterday, Grace paid me a compliment. “When you started, we helped you to build up the muscles you needed. But now you have them – and now you have to trust them.”

I was immediately filled with foreboding. Trusting my musculature does not come naturally to me.

She went on. “Instead of thinking about tucking your tailbone or cross-bracing your obliques, I just want you to think about being TAAAAAAAAHHHHHL.”


“TAAAAAAAAHHHHHL.” She made an effortlessly graceful gesture with her ballet dancer hand to indicate the stretch of a spine. “Forget about the rest. If you think about being TAAAAAAAHHHL, then your body will be in the proper alignment.”

I had one of those “Whachoo talkin’ bout, Willis?” moments. I have walked for blocks in the wrong direction because I’m focused so hard on the muscles I’m using to walk down the street and now she says just thinking about being tall will take the place of all that??

Between you and me, I already have a petty complaint about height. Now, I know that Grace isn’t saying that I should feel tall because I AM tall; she could and would say the same to anyone, of any height. If you walk around envisioning a string coming out of the top of your head being pulled to the ceiling, you’ll have better alignment – theoretically.

But I actually happen to be tall; I’m 5’10”. I’m PROUD of being 5’10” because on actuarial tables, you get to weigh a few more pounds than women who are 5’9”. (Yes. THAT is why I like being tall. Having a perpetual problem with obesity has dyed my personality THAT thoroughly.)

But when I went to my new doctor the other day, the nurse measured me and announced with heartless disregard that I was five feet and 9.41 inches.


That’s not even nine and a half! According to statistical norms, we have to round my height DOWN to five-nine! GIVE ME MY HALF AN INCH BACK!

I almost demanded a re-measure; I was stressed that morning! Shrunken! I wasn’t standing as bitterly tall as I could possibly stretch! Get those brokers back in here – I want to reopen trading!

I didn’t. But I was already feeling aggrieved about my height, so being told to think TAAAAAAHHHHL hit me weird.

Anyway, that’s what I’m doing now. I’m walking around being TAAAAAAHHHHHL. Except for being tough to keep up over longer distances, it feels deceptively easy. I don’t trust it.


This is the only photo I have of Grace; I took it last year. She’s gotten an adorable haircut since; with bangs. So cute. If she told you to think TAAAAAHHHL, you’d do it just from the swanlike example she sets.