What makes these feet superior? What gives them the right to feel smug towards all other feet? What puts the “high” in high arches?

Oh, like you don’t already know.

I went for a stagger, that’s what. Most people would call it a run, but let’s not get TOO high in the arches.

But wait, you say, because you are very attentive – Pru, you don’t normally run on Fridays, do you?

Well, no. But my last weekend sugar binge has been slow to relax its grip on me; my get-up-and-go got up and went. I actually skipped Balance Class yesterday (which is unheard of; sometimes I don’t make it to class because I have to do something else, but I never, ever give in to the urge to roll over and go back to sleep… except for yesterday). And when I’ve committed to running on my own over the weekend, I obsessively watch the weather to ensure I run on the coolest possible day.

And today it’s SEVENTY-FOUR DEGREES. Lord love a duck, that is some kind of blissful. Tomorrow it’s going to be in the 80s; same for Sunday. So: Run on Friday.

(You might say Fun on Riday if you were whimsical, but “fun” and “run” might rhyme but honey, they don’t go together.)

I had an all-morning meeting today. By the time I got home, it was ALMOST time for the local high school to get out. If there’s a way to make it worse to plod along in a pudge-trembling sham of a run, it’s to do it through drifting rafts of teenagers.

No – wait: It’s to plod along like a sea turtle amidst parrotfish AND THEN HAVE TO SLOW TO A WALK. Huffing and puffing.

So I really, REALLY would rather do my trotting before dismissal.

But I underestimated the speed of high schoolers when the release bell sounds. There I was, stomping along, perpetually confronted by the startled look of horror in the face of the tiny life form who only looked up from the phone at the last possible minute to see that the iceberg was DEAD AHEAD, SIR!

Sorry, kid, I huffed. Or would have huffed if I’d had any spare oxygen.

BUT I made it around the loop anyway, and no adolescents were harmed in the making of this run.

And now I’m sitting on the porch with my feet up, feeling smug. So, THAT’s done.


By the way – here’s the update: 81 is still too hot, but 74 is pretty danged dreamy. If you have to run, I mean.



Barbara walks like she’s going to a birthday party – or she’s heading to the swimming pool on a hot day. She walks with grace and purpose and energy; she’s eager to see what the day has to bring. And it drives me up the wall.

I saw her in the large mirrors in the Pilates studio at Body Dynamics. I was doing the pre-running stretches she’d taught me to do while she changed from her graceful work clothes (the staff at Body Dynamics does NOT dress like jocks; they dress like professionals). We were going running; it was a sunny 79 degrees and there was no way I was getting out of it.

So I’d done my calf stretches (the fibers of my calf muscles pull reluctantly apart like very stiff Velcro) and my quad stretches (the thigh muscles are more like cold taffy; there’s stretch in there, but damn, Sam – it takes a long time for things to limber up) and I was kneeling on this sliding board contraption (they call it something by three initials – the TRX machine or the GPS machine or the UEX machine – unexploded ordinance, which is a highly flattering way to consider my dud muscles) and I was attempting to stretch my hip flexors.

And Barbara reappeared in her entirely inoffensive running clothes.

(Do you know what I mean about inoffensive running clothes? If you’re a non-runner, then you probably do. I’m talking about when people appear in high-performance gear, togged out to tackle an Ironman or a breezy glide through the Mojave; I hate those people instinctively and feel that we are not of the same tribe. Barbara wore a plain old t-shirt and shorts. She looked PERFECT and once again I had no excuse to hate on her.)

(I know – because Barbara and I “follow” each other on a running app – that she’d already run for one solid hour before the sun came up, and I bet she was dressed in high-performance gear for that; my slow and plodding mile-long run-walk wasn’t going to challenge her much, but she certainly wasn’t rubbing my face in it.)

She appeared and I realized that I was ALREADY absolutely exhausted.

I felt like I was made of lead and wet sand while she was a soap bubble, effortlessly floating along. A subtle shimmer of iridescence plays about Barbara. She’s not a glittery person; far from it… but she’s got that brightness to her.

I wanted to lay my heavy head down on the exercise mats and have a nap.

“Why don’t I have any energy?” I complained. It would be SO EASY to jog a mile if I had Barbara’s power plant in my cells. Of COURSE she can run until there’s no time in the day to run farther; she’s light. She’s not made of lead.

“Did you get enough sleep last night?” Barbara is extremely practical.

“Yeah. I guess so. Mostly.”

I’d cringed when my alarm went off; it took me almost 50 minutes to actually get vertical, by which time I was so late that the pre-workout yogurt/nuts/seeds/fruit breakfast was still sitting high and stubborn in my stomach as we were stretching.

So, maybe no. Not so good with the sleep.

“And,” I admitted shamefacedly, “there was an entire weekend of Peppermint patties.”

Barbara gave me the eyebrow.

“But,” I wailed unsuccessfully, “I bought them at WHOLE FOODS!”

Barbara is a mother as well as a trainer, and I could see that she was restraining the motherness of her. “And did you eat the entire package?” she asked.

“Well, not ALL of it…” It was quite a large container. I gave it my best shot.

“Can you throw the rest out when you get home?”

“I doubt it…”

“Come on,” she said. “We’re running.”

And off we went. It was dire. I was pathetic. She drifted beside me, making entertaining chatter about her weekend and mine, about the neighborhood we ran through, about all kinds of things kindly designed to help me ignore the sound of my own huffing and puffing, and I was left to consider just how thoroughly I’d poisoned myself with sugar.


There are people who suffer from far more damaging addictions than I do; I am daily grateful that I’ve escaped most of the things that hook people through the gills. But there’s no sense ignoring the reality that I am, unquestionably, addicted to sugar. And it won’t kill me as fast as heroin (although I believe they both go after the same receptors in the brain), but it’s really not doing me any favors.

And there are still the Whole Foods version of Peppermint patties in the cupboard; they call them Peppermint cremes, with that spelling that all but screams “there is no actual cream in this; you are eating solid corn syrup and sugar, sucker.” And do you think I’m going to throw them out? Well, I’m going to try… but if I get close, I’m pretty sure I’m going to eat some of them…

Sigh. I’m poisoning myself.

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I almost used a photo of the Peppermint cremes but figured that was too damned mean and might make YOU take a nice, healthy trip to your local Whole Foods where you can now buy solid sugar – blame Amazon; the original Fresh Fields would have burst into flames before offering such poison to its customers. Instead, I’m using a handsome black-and-white of a gurner I found on Google images. Isn’t he amazing?




Oh, and also fifty-five. For a writer, it’s surprising to be pretty much ruled by numbers. And me so good with the twenty-six letters, too. All vowels cheerfully used.

Eighty-one is not my age… yet. (But I’m going to get there, and beyond – just give me time.) It’s not my weight. (Try multiplying by three!) (Wow – that’s about right. Last time Barbara let me weigh myself, I was 242, with is almost exactly 81 x 3.) (And for a writer – 81 x 3 might as well = 242 exactly. What am I – a scientist?)

(But don’t misplace an apostrophe, man. I’ll land on you like a piano falling from the sky.)

Where the hell was I?

Oh, yeah – eighty-one. That’s the temperature today, according to my iPhone. And 55% humidity. Most people would say that’s about ideal in the Glorious Weather category; just about every person suffering through summer in northern Virginia would see it as proof of a benevolent God. I mean, it’s late August. We’re supposed to be set on “Wet Sauna.”

But I have just huffed and puffed my way around my one-mile jogging loop and I’m here to tell you: Nope. Eighty-one is STILL TOO HOT.

And now I’m sitting in my kitchen in full sprawl, lasering my contempt at my Wicks Away Moisture shirt, draped over the next chair. The advantage to living alone is that all 242 pounds of me can sit in semi-nudity and just exude sweat. It isn’t pretty.


I have jogged/walked my mile – fourth time in two weeks. The theory that this gets easier is clearly the worst kind of bullshit, but every time I do it, it makes it harder to come up with a good excuse next time to NOT do it, and maybe that’s enough.

Here are some scenarios with which I entertain myself while plodding along gracelessly:

  • I’m the messenger from Marathon, bringing news of the victory to the king of Greece. I’m going very, very slowly, but why does he need to hear about a victory so quickly? Is he holding off on a stock trade until he knows if his armies won or lost? How rude. Now, if he’d lost, it would have been smarter to send a faster runner, but he won. Hold your horses. In fact, give me a damned horse – I could get there a lot faster.
  • I could run from a mad dog if I had to. If the mad dog was crawling. And gave up quickly. Maybe I could run from a zombie. For a little while, anyway. If there were more than one, I’d have to start looking for a tree to climb. Christ – do I have the energy to climb a tree? Everyone in this neighborhood has trimmed off all the low tree-climbing branches. I’d be utterly stranded. Zombie food. This is why I stopped watching The Walking Dead.
  • Under the theory that something will get me eventually – cancer, diabetes, Dengue fever (it could happen) – then I choose to believe that every damned mile I manage to stagger around northern Virginia pushes back that inevitable Bad Diagnosis by, oh let’s say one week. If it’s a mile in northern Virginia in the summer, count it as a week and a half. Not very long… but I’ve been running with Barbara for a year or so now. And a year – yeah. That’s a long time. I’d take that.
  • I’ll keep running to the next street. Well, maybe that last driveway. How about the shade on the sidewalk – can I make it to the shade on the sidewalk? Nope. Apparently I can’t. Oh, hell – this is a great song to run to. (“Middle of the Road,” Pretenders.) I guess I can stagger along for a few more measures. Christ. Where’s that King of Greece horse when I so desperately need it?? I have an Uber account, don’t I?

I don’t think I’ll ever be a joyous runner… but I might be a joyous granny one day. Or a joyous romance author. Or a joyous winner of Bingo at the VFW hall. And I’ll be forced to admit that running played a part in that.

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But eighty-one? That’s still too damned hot.







My kid sister showed me something about my own car that I didn’t even know.

My sleek, beautiful little car doesn’t like to have its trunk slammed; it objects. It prefers to have the button pushed and then it will lower itself gracefully into place while I walk to the driver’s door, trying hard to look very cool while this automated wonder happens behind me… but secretly wishing there was someone I could gush to. “Lookit my trunk! Isn’t that awesome??”

But last week, Lexie said “Which button do you want me to push?”

I did a double-take. I’ve had my pretty beast for two years; what do you mean, which button??

She said “This one right here.” Hoot, mon – there was a button RIGHT BESIDE the “automatically close the trunk” button. I swear, it wasn’t there yesterday.

“What the hell does THAT do??” I hollered.

“Closes the trunk AND locks all the doors,” my sister replied.

I was dumfounded. “Gowan!”


I spent most of the rest of the day feeling like a fool, and like I’d been missing something pretty useful for a long damned time…

…and then today I was working out with Chip at Body Dynamics in Falls Church, VA, and the same freaking thing happened.

No, Chip did not point out the second “close the trunk” button on my car, but he might as well have.

“Chip, after I run with Barbara, the next day the hip flexor in my right leg is unbelievably cranky. After I sit for a while, when I get up to walk, I limp for the first five or ten steps. Can you fix this?”

Chip had me stand up in front of him. That’s all I did – I stood there.

“Yes,” he said. “We can fix that.”

“Gowan,” I said. “You can tell that by looking at me standing here?”

“Well, look. Your weight is mostly on your right foot; your left knee is bent.” I looked down in astonishment; he was absolutely right.

“But – this is how I always stand. I’m standing on two feet.”

“Yeah. I know. Look how far out your left foot is turned.”

Again I looked. He was absolutely right. “Gaw,” I said intelligently.

“The little muscles in your hip flexor area are trying to do the work your right glutes are supposed to be doing. We can fix that.”

I don’t actually remember WHAT he said the cause was; I know glutes were involved, and something about inner thighs. I don’t need to know; CHIP knows. And so Barbara will know, and Gwynn the therapeutic masseuse will know. And they will fix me.

But, seriously, now. I’ve been in that car for two years and never noticed the button. I’ve been in the body for 59 years and didn’t know what Chip saw in mere seconds.

Sometimes it pays to have someone else close the trunk of your car.

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Chip didn’t want me to take a photo of him doing something balletic. “Like what?” he said suspiciously. “Like the arabesque you just did.” He scoffed. “I certainly did NOT do an arabesque!” Former ballet dancers have a whole different level of standards. Instead he gave me a goofy pose, which I am delighted to share. (Barbara, working with my fellow Balance Class attendee Rosemary, was standing in the same room. “No, you may NOT take MY picture!” she forestalled me. I don’t know why; she’s got the prettiest alignment of anyone since Chip.)



“You’ve got my sister!” I gushed to Mario. He looked quite startled by this statement.

“In with Gwynn,” I clarified. “She’s getting a massage!”

Mario, one of the Big Brains at Body Dynamics (in Falls Church, VA), looked both disinterested and relieved that he wasn’t being accused of kidnapping. “Oh,” he said – which, honestly, is about the only acceptable answer under the circumstances.

I’d waxed so rhapsodic about Gwynn, the therapeutic masseuse (one of four at Body Dynamics – and I’m sure the other three are just as brilliant) (but how could they be? I mean really) (No, I’m sure they are) (methinks she doth protest too much)… lost my train of thought. Hang on.

I’d waxed so rhapsodic about Gwynn that my sister Twig finally caved and made an appointment. Just in case you don’t keep track of these details (what – you’re not a crazed stalker?), Twig is my sister who says things like “Damn it, I’m going to have to miss cardio tennis” or “I just had the greatest kick-boxing class.” She lives for Orange Theory. Beneath her beautifully tailored, utterly simple wardrobe is one long, springy muscle; Twig could kick your ass but wouldn’t because DARLING how rude would THAT be??

Her inaugural Gwynn massage was at 10:15 yesterday, and I was working out with Barbara at 11 – so when I arrived, I knew that Twig was lying on Gwynn’s massage table, being brought to the very edge of pain and then washed in the euphoria of a muscle that was at last getting oxygen again. I knew Twig was being educated about things in her body that she’d never known before. I knew Twig was prone and near drooling. And I was as excited as a kid on the day parents come to school to talk about their careers.

“My sister’s here!” I crowed to Chip. Chip, who I see on Wednesdays, wasn’t even looking for me. He was eyeing the waiting area for his next client when I all but body-tackled him. “My sister’s here! In with Gwynn!”

“Oh,” he said. (He and Mario use the same playbook.) “That’s nice.”

“You can look at her when she comes out!”

Chip regarded me with a slightly alarmed air.

“To see if she’s like me! You know – is she lordotic? Do her hips do what my hips do? Don’t you want to see a sister? Like a control in a lab experiment?”

Worn down by my puppy-like enthusiasm, Chip allowed as how that might be interesting. “I have a client with six sisters,” he said. “There’s not a commonality among ‘em. All different.”

Huh. At the stroke of eleven, Barbara appeared, and I swiveled my focus to her. “My sister’s here!”

“Are we running?”

“Yeah – come on. We have to run now to get back to catch her before she leaves. I’ve already stretched. Let’s go!”

I gasped my way through my little mile while Barbara trotted gracefully alongside me, a tug boat guiding the Queen Mary. I tried – I tried! – to run a little faster, but even the promise of “My sister’s here!” couldn’t turn my engines up to eleven; it took the same 15 minutes it always takes. I was doing my panting cool-down walk out front of Body Dynamics when we finished (down to that curb cut – touch the curb with my foot; pivot, walk back up – breeze, hopefully, blowing away the thermonuclear level of heat I generate when I jog – past the front door to that curb cut – touch it with my foot, walk back – an anal-retentive ritual that must be observed) and peering hopefully through the windows to see if I could see her. Nope.

And then as I went past – “Oh, whoo-hoo!” The call we all learned from our mother (her “come down for dinner” call) rang along the street and I swiveled like a laser-guided missile. Look! It’s Twig!

I trotted back as eager as if I hadn’t seen her in years (rather than spending the last two weeks at her side cleaning out Mom’s house). “This is Barbara!” I said eagerly. “Hello, Barbara,” said Twig politely.

“Nothing like you at all,” Barbara said. “Not even close.”

And somehow, this made me howl with laughter. Barbara knows what my feet are doing inside my sneakers; she has the most uncanny ability to understand how a body is working purely through her astonishing powers of observation – and she could see in an instant that Twig’s body was completely different from mine. Of COURSE our bodies aren’t anything alike. Something in Twig’s chemistry makes her crave cardio tennis. Something in my chemistry makes me measure every piece of furniture for its potential value in a marathon novel-reading session.

Twig and Barbara were having a friendly, gentle chat while I was biting back a ridiculous grin. I wanted to shout. It was like a lifetime of struggle clarified in one moment. I don’t like cardio tennis because I am nothing like my sister. I wanted to go up to every gym teacher I ever had, every scornful saleslady in a dressing room – I wanted to get Mom’s ashes off the shelf in the hall closet and say I AM NOTHING LIKE MY SISTER! Isn’t that awesome?!

It’s not strength of will (or lack thereof) that has padded my entire middle like I’m swaddled in pink ceiling insulation. It’s not a lack of effort.

I’m just not like that.

I’m so proud of my sister… and I’m so proud of me.


By the way – Twig says she’s a total Gwynn convert. Her massage was amazing. TOO RIGHT, IT WAS! This photo is of me (on the left) and Twig in the “fascinators” she cleverly made for us for a luncheon of the Smithsonian Women’s Committee. Twig is off-the-charts creative.



O Lord of Boredom, please spare me any dry-as-dust financial planning talks. I nod brightly at The Wise Advisor while trying to work out if I can remember all the lyrics to Scooby, Scooby-Do, Where Are You?

The answer is – yes, I can. You can, too. Go ahead – I’ll wait.

Here’s the point: You know you’re supposed to put a few dollars aside each week so when you’re decrepit and frail, you’ll have enough money to play Bingo at the VFW Hall on Saturdays. What else is retirement for?

(I have no idea where my local VFW is, nor if they offer Bingo – but I like the idea of knowing these things once I’m old and frail. I’m going to be a hell of a Bingo player in my dotage.)

So now I’m thinking there’s a different kind of investment I can make to have a better decrepitude.

If I put in a few hours every week on keeping my muscles flexy and less likely to snap under pressure, then when I trip over a curb on my way to Bingo, I won’t actually break an ankle. Or a hip.

I’m 59 years old; there’s no sense in deluding myself into believing I can exercise my way to a supermodel ass. It’s just not going to happen. But I can delay the onset of the Scooter Season for as long as possible.

I went to Balance Class today. Barbara’s legend as a spectacular trainer is only growing; there were sixteen people in Balance Class. Body Dynamics frowns on this; they’re quite serious about keeping their small classes SMALL. But Barbara just starts grinning as more and more people stream into the exercise room.

She loves a crowd. “This is where your balance is necessary. You’re not going to fall over in the middle of your kitchen floor. You’re going to get into a situation where you have less control – a crowd, an unstable surface like ice – and your body needs to know how to protect you.”

So the many multitudes worked across the room, giggling and snorting as we squeezed past each other. Charming Karen and I did a do-si-do of truly epic grace, and Barb and I were hip to hip during the warm-ups, discussing which songs we could work out to. (We are of one mind on needing a lot of harmony to sing along with.) Penny, graceful as any ballet dancer, and I tossed and caught the big grapefruit-like weighted ball and danced to Earth Wind and Fire.

And we were all making an investment in the Better Aging bank.

Sometimes I think of these peculiar exercises (and in Gabby’s Stretch Class, right after Balance Class) as applying an oil can to the frozen joints of the Tin Man. Whenever an exercise is particularly awkward, I know I’m getting into a joint or a muscle or a tendon that thought it was done; it had settled down to playing Bingo at the VFH Hall. But I’m not quite ready for that, and the strange, awkward exercises are the ones that are doing me the most good.

So, seriously: Would you rather listen to someone talk about investments? Or sweat for 30-60 minutes? I know; me, too. They’re both dire. Adulting is so BORING… but you know it’s the right thing to do!

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I know we’ll catch that villain!



Couture gown or parachute; can you imagine? You could drape princesses in midnight blue silk… or suspend soldiers leaping by night behind enemy lines FROM THE SAME FABRIC.

It boggles my mind. Tough and fragile; lightweight and strong as steel.

This huge contrast brought to you by the inside of your cheek – which (stay with me, here) is the silk of the human body.

I just had a tooth extracted. I lost the massive molar that’s almost at the back of the horseshoe of your teeth. Did you ever notice? That one is almost twice the size of the guy right next to it; it’s a whopper. Funny how many things about our own bodies that we take for granted until something gets up-ended, and then I’m all “hang on – this tooth is freaking HUGE. Has it always been this vast, or did I run afoul of some nuclear waste, or something??”

So there’s a gap in my tooth wall. A big one.

Everything is streamlined; there’s nothing poking into my cheek. It’s all sleek ivory and smooth gum wall and sibilant, slippery smoothness…

…and yet my inside cheek is being driven up the wall. I can feel tender places abrade as my teeth wear a new topography onto the silk that lies against it. I don’t understand it, but I know it’s going to take a while for my mouth to learn its new contours – and until that’s done, I might be slightly insane. Beg yer pardon.

The silk of my inner cheek – so supple and flexible – is learning a new pattern. AND THAT IS HARD.

Today I was doing remedial work with Barbara (the master guru trainer at Body Dynamics in Falls Church, VA) and thinking about patterns.

I was stepping on and off a low platform – maybe six inches – attempting to keep every part of me facing forward. (I tend to let my feet swivel outward, or my knees, or lord knows the many directions my hips can go.) Step up on right foot – swing left knee up and forward, don’t put the toe down – step back down on left foot – bring right foot back to start. Like all of Barbara’s “simple” exercises, it was leaving me drenched in sweat and muttering “Glute – left glute… aaaaaand RIGHT glute… weight on heel, knee up, hinge from the hips, step back, foot straight, right glute, LEFT glute…”

Sometimes I did pretty well; sometimes I was teetering all over the little platform. People nearby looked nervous as the “TIMBER!” looked more and more likely.

And I thought about the silk in my cheek.

We learn these patterns over the years and decades – like how the second-from-the-back molar lies against the cheek, or how the hips tilt to accommodate glutes that aren’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing – and they’re so ingrained that we don’t even recognize them. It’s not until something gets up-ended that the quick-fix solution loses its effectiveness.

Barbara’s goal, then, is to up-end my quick fix so I can learn to move more intelligently before something actually goes wrong. What a luxury that is! It’s so very hard to re-learn a decades-old pattern… but that’s no excuse not to try. Because it will be far easier to relearn it now than it will after something (like advancing age or a life of stress) takes the option out of the equation.

I have a bone graft in my jaw, healing so the dentist can put in a screw (the concept gives me the huge heebie-jeebies) and then implant a fake tooth. I know it’s the right thing to do, so I’m going to re-learn the patterns on the inside of my cheek… and my tongue is going to continue to wander, confused, into that empty socket in wonder… because that’s what it will take to maintain my health. I don’t like it, but the alternative is worse.

And if you’ve made it this far, then I’ll share that the stress that caused my tooth to finally crack was the rapid illness and death of my mother in June (she died on July 1), and the subsequent massive marathon my sisters and I underwent to empty her house. That’s done now, and I can focus on safeguarding my health once again. More blog posts in “The Adventures of a Fat Lady in Fitness Land” to come, and I’m sorry (more than I can say!) for my extended absence.

Now go think about silk gowns blissfully made from midnight-blue parachutes, because that’s way more fun than filling your head with remedial exercises and mortality. After all, silk (like you) is impossibly strong – but one rip in the wrong place and you’re naked on the ballroom floor. And you’re going to want to look good when that happens!

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May 21, 2019

If you charted your weight over the course of your life, you’d have an upward swoop from birth to adulthood, while your body is doing things like forming bone and growing muscle. Common knowledge (and medical history) says that your health is best maintained if the chart then levels out and you live on the flatlands for the rest of your life. River bottom land; good soil there. Stable. Maybe the occasional spring flood, but for the most part, the living is easy.

I’ve come to see that my weight is FAR from the best measure of my health, but it’s certainly a convenient one. My doctor says she can spot potential problems if she weighs me even when I come in for a skin thingy. I think she’s just doing it that way because doctors have always done it that way – “step on the scale” being as automatic as “and your co-pay is how much?” But she thought she could spot malignancies if the weight fluctuated in surprising ways, and my annoyance  at that is trumped by my superstition; there’s a lot of cancer in my family, and she shuts me down with that one.

Where was I? Oh – weight is not the only measure; it’s not even a particularly good measure. But it’s one I’ve known over time – and I know that the chart of my weight would look like the approach to the Rocky Mountains.

There’s a gradual slope up in the foothills of the college years, and then the first of the low mountains. Then I “got a grip” and lost some weight, only to discover I was now climbing an even higher mountain. This pattern repeated, and every time I lost weight, I’d put it back on plus more, until I got up to 260 pounds.

That’s where Barbara stepped in.

I’ve been working with Barbara at Body Dynamics in Falls Church, VA for some three years now. She told me in the beginning that she could help my cardio endurance (and she and I ran and walked a mile today, so she was right!). She also looked at me critically and said “And I think we can take some weight off you.”

I rolled my eyes. Having tracked up and down over this mountain range for five decades and more, I wasn’t just skeptical. I was defeated. There was NO WAY she could do it – and even if she did, it wouldn’t stay off. It would be back. And more.

Today, I weigh about 240 pounds. (I’m not exactly sure because she won’t let me weigh myself anymore.) But the loss of “only” twenty pounds is deceptive. More significantly, I’ve gone from size 22 jeans to size 16s. I’ve lost more than a foot off my waist. And – see above – I can run/walk a mile without EXCESSIVE complaint.

There’s a terribly nice lady who works out at Body Dynamics while I’m working with Barbara. She’s friendly and funny and supportive and we exchange bitches happily. Today she told me I looked particularly slim. I thanked her, but said that nothing had changed; I’d lost many, many inches in my first year with Barbara, but I was holding pretty steady now. I asked Barbara to measure my waist against the number she’d gotten last December, and I was right – I’m the exact same as six months ago.

So I was ginning myself up to be fussy about my lack of progress when it occurred to me:

I’ve kept the weight off for about two years. My size 16 jeans are getting kind of old and might need to be replaced soon. My weight and size is STABLE – after a significant loss.

Do you see what’s so staggering about this?

I’m sitting on a ledge on the side of a mountain – a ledge that’s actually broad enough to be considered the high plains. From where I am, I can see the heights to which I had ascended (and believe me, there was higher still to go). I can see how far I’ve come down from the top.

I’m still miles above the rich bottomland along the river – I’m still many, many pounds away from where insurance company actuarial tables say I should be. But I’ve been at a lower level for the longest time (by FAR) since I’ve been keeping a mental chart of my weight.

I’m stable.

And healthy as hell.

I’m sitting on my landing on the path down the mountain, thinking – damn. This is the prettiest view I’ve ever seen.

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Thank you, Barbara!

Team BellyButt


You can have a favorite Avenger (are you a Captain America person, or an Iron Man type?) and you can say Arya is the baddest of the badass or you can think that’s Dany on her dragon. You can be sure Bella should have gone with Jacob instead of freezing-cold Edward, or that Kate should have thrown her chips in with Sawyer instead of prissy Jack…

…but if you’re on one team, it’s hard as hell to switch to another team.

This brilliant assessment brought to you by Team BellyButt.

Chip, one of the clever, intuitive trainers at Body Dynamics (Falls Church, VA – look it up), says that the body has “forced couples” – like Brangelina. (Yes, I’m old.)

The back and the quads like to work together, and the glutes and the abdominals like to work together. And if you’re used to using the weaker of the two couples – if you’re Team ThighBack – then it’s very, very hard to suddenly switch to Team BellyButt.

I’ve been ThighBack since the dawn of time. It’s only since I’ve been working with trainers Barbara and Chip and miracle masseuse Gwynn that I’ve come to understand that my hip flexors are ALWAYS ON.

(If I stand quietly on two flat feet – no tsunamis or attackers attempting to push me over or anything – and attempt to relax the two straps that run from the tops of my hip bones down into the thighs (the hip flexors), I immediately fall over. This dazzles Barbara, who is instinctively Team BellyButt. She can’t understand why I need to use my quads for exercises that have nothing to do with the quads.)

The problem with being on Team ThighBack is that the back muscles are strong – but they’re not supposed to be used for power. They’re supposed to be used for supple movement and the ability to stand erect. The thighs aren’t supposed to pull you through a walk; that’s not what they were designed for.

Instead, the biggest muscles in the body are in the ass. The glutes are supposed to PUSH you though a walk. The abs are big because they’re supposed to stabilize everything. (This is so foundational to good health that all of us in Balance Class have learned that it is the answer to any question Barbara asks. “How are we today?” she’ll say and we’ll shout like Marines, “ABDOMINALS, MA’AM.”)

So those on Team BellyButt have a huge advantage over those on ThighBack…

…but I’m astonished to discover that it is not impossible to switch allegiances.

I’ve been working with Barbara for three years now. We were doing squats today. (Well, I was doing squats, and Barbara was hawk-eyeing me for issues of form that meant I’d found yet another way to cheat.)

When I was done, she asked me how they felt… and I realized that it felt like there was one of those late-night-TV ad “chair lifters” under me. You know the ad; help Granny get out of her recliner with a mechanized seat assist thingy.

My squats felt like SOMETHING was under me pushing up.

And the only thing I can think is … it was glute muscles.

Now how could I use muscles and not feel myself using them? Am I THAT detached from Team BellyButt that I have no nerve endings connected in there? For three years, Barbara has been strengthening those glute muscles – and Chip and Grace have worked on the tiny stabilizer muscles that make the big muscles more efficient – and Gwynn has been releasing muscles…

…and now something powerful is working in my backside that hasn’t worked there before.

I can’t yet feel the “push” of glute muscles when I run – but I’ve gotten to the point where I can feel a push for a few steps if I focus on it while walking. It’s weird.

And sort of encouraging.

By the way – Iron Man, obviously. Arya – because Dany’s just a pretty girl without those dragons. Jacob. Sawyer. I like the bad boys…

…but maybe I’m switching sides at a glacial pace to Team BellyButt. Will wonders NEVER cease??

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We all start out innocent and unskilled. But time, determination, and a long road trip with the Hound (plus a tenure with face-changing assassins) can make a world of difference. I’m rethinking the wisdom of comparing myself to sweet, lethal Arya, but let’s go with it anyway.

The Foreshortened Pru


Without even realizing it, we all present ourselves carefully when in the presence of any reflective surface.

Me, I’m thick. When you look at me face-on, you think – meh. Whatever. But if I turn sideways, the reaction is “I hope I’m on a plane with THAT lady when it crashes in the Andes – we could live off her for a long time.”

So naturally I don’t look very hard when the mirror is to my side. (Who wants to look like long pork?!) Instead I face a mirror and pull up as tall as possible, so the bulk is stretched a little longer.

The exception is when I’m sitting in Stretch Class, which happens at Body Dynamics (in Falls Church, VA) on Thursdays at 11. (It’s really “Stretch and Roll” class because we use these tormentful, awesome, addictive foam rollers to torture and delight our muscles.)

I sit on my little mat and do my best to bend in willowy fashion, holding stretches while the starch in my muscles creaks and groans and eventually gives up the ghost…

…and then I sit up again and find I’m confronting myself in the mirror in my best Winnie-the-Pru pose of solidity and I realize that facing the mirror is NOT HELPING my self-confidence!


It’s those legs stuck out in front, looking all stubby and adorable. It’s the expanse of waist, the generosity of flesh. I look so STOLID.

And I get to giggling. There I am in a class with women (and occasionally a lone man) of all shapes and sizes, all of us attempting to be willowy or at the very least maintain whatever bendability we have, and I’m hooting like an owl. Trying to be quiet as I snigger at my own reflection. I go to the gym to look and, most important, feel better and instead I’m looking like Sweaty Buddha.

HOWEVER I’m Sweaty Buddha with a little bit more flexibility. So I keep going. Because looking good in the gym is desirable – but looking good OUTSIDE the gym is better.

When I took art history several centuries ago, we learned about a painting from the Renaissance. It was just after people had figured out perspective, and one artist conceived the unbearably radical idea of painting Christ (after he was taken from the cross) FROM THE FOOT OF THE BED, which makes Jesus look stubby and short. This was not how he’d been portrayed in every other painting ever ever ever and people were OUTRAGED.

The painting (by Andrea Mantegna) (that’s not Joe Mantegna, the actor, nor is it Joe Montana, the quarterback, although I’m sure they’re both excellent painters) is actually called “The Lamentation of Christ,” but it’s so commonly known as “The Foreshortened Christ” that I found the image on Google just by using the incorrect title. Cool image, huh?

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The takeaway is – the perspective you have on a scene affects what you see. Ragged holes in hands and feet in one case – determination masked in plumpness in the other. I guess my point is – maybe you’ve been seeing the wrong thing when you look in the mirror. Instead of focusing on the parts of you that you hate, why not look at the larger whole? At the strength and compassion and humor and goodness that create a far more complete picture of who you really are?

Let us all giggle – for we do not have ragged holes in our hands and feet. At least, I don’t.

(Upon re-reading, I feel I need to make a point: I am NOT drawing a parallel between me and the person upon whom a huge religion has been built. I AM drawing a parallel between the perspective in the Stretch and Roll mirror and the rebel artist Mantegna. I intend no disrespect to any faith.) (Or work of art, natch.)