Sunday, February 27, 2011

a week of good decisions

Let me put it this way:

I'm drafting this blog entry as I sit and watch my husband make dinner (which he almost always does ... I'm lucky!), and I'm drankin' an entire beer to eat up the last of my bonus Weight Watchers points.

Not even my activity points (I earned 33 of those this week, by the way). No. Just the standard 49 extra points that Weight Watchers doles out to, I think, everyone.

I'm also indulging in a simple and decadent dinner: some Patrick-made tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich (on homemade spent-grain bread!). Even with all the cheese and butter in the meal, I had to make sure to include a little dessert (bittersweet chocolate and a granola square) to finish up those extra points.

You know what else? I exercised a lot this week: four trips to the gym to hop on the elliptical (plus some stretching and crunches), one visit that included a 55-minute body flow class, and a 20-mile bike ride up a mountain and along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Not only am I working hard to use up my extra points, but it's on a week I would have assumed I'd need them most.

But I haven't needed them. It's interesting ... every time I've come home from a hard workout, I've maybe wanted a piece of fruit, but that's it. It's usually at least an hour before I eat a real meal (and I've been returning from my workouts around mealtimes).

The reason I'm working to use my extra points? I suppose if I left them on the table, I'd technically be eating fewer calories and possibly speeding my weight loss. But I've always thought of the Weight Watchers allotment as an indication of a healthy intake. Under-cutting my allotment, consequently, has seemed like a bad accident waiting to happen.

the week and its accomplishments

What you read above is just an indication of how good my week has gone. Some other things I think were pretty brilliant include:

» I was as sugar-free as I aimed to be and I saw the results that I thought I might. Namely, I didn't experience my typical end-of-week doldrums. My cane-sugar consumption was limited to the granola squares I made last week, bittersweet chocolate and a single indulgence in three Fig Newton's (on a day I was desperately hungry for I-don't-know-why). Otherwise? Fruit and honey.

I'll keep my low-sugar goal for the week ahead. I only anticipate breaking it when I know there's a good reason to enjoy a super-sweet treat.

» One pound, lost. I'm not *worried* about losing weight as much as I am about getting in shape, but it was getting ridiculous that I was making some fairly good decisions and not budging an ounce. Sometime earlier this week I wondered if I was eating too muich "zero points" fruit. Which, of course, still has calories.

So I checked out the USDA's guidelines for daily fruit: 2 cups. Umm. I was eating a load more than 2 cups.

That day I decided to cut back to 2 cups of fruit, and since that day I've felt less full ... and I'm finally down one pound on the scale.

» I got the gym four times, as hoped! The previous week, I'd only found my way to the gym twice. This week, though, I headed to the gym three times before work; then I headed to the Saturday body flow class at 9:30 AND followed that up immediately with 50 minutes on the elliptical; AND AND did a 19-mile training bike ride with Patrick today.

I've felt able and willing to do all this exercise. If my good mood and high energy continue, I think I might have another week like it ahead.

» That bike ride ... It felt pretty good. Patrick and I rode 19 miles. We started by heading straight up Mill Mountain. At the top, we headed left (away from the (Star) and connected with the Blue Ridge Parkway. We rode that until we hit Vinton, at which point we headed back into town and headed home.

We averaged a little better than 10 miles an hour and my top speed on the toughest part of the ride (the final climb on Mill Mountain) was 4 mph. Those are both numbers I want to improve, but I'm happy just to have established a precedent for myself.

And this is what I looked like upon my return ...


Just so's you know.

» Spreadsheets! Oh wait ... this deserves its own blog entry ...

Saturday, February 26, 2011

a week of food ... almost

Two weeks ago I set out to improve my photo habits my committing to a week's worth of food pictures.

I did it, nearly.

monday lunch (14 pts)
(see the full gallery on flickr)

I forgot my camera a couple of times; I ate my meal too quickly others. But I think the images I did capture are a good representation of my food life.

some changes i've already made

I've decided that 2 + 2 = don't eat sugar. So no more of these blueberry muffins, or cake truffles (which were admittedly a seasonal treat: Patrick surprised me with them on Valentine's Day). No more danged delicious scones for breakfast! (OK, that's only a little harsh: treats are fine occassionally, and if I'm going to have a sweet for breakfast I absolutely must pair it with a protein).

You'll also see a lot of fruit in those pictures. I was kinda stuffing my face with fruits, because Weight Watchers no longer assigns points values to them. But my weight hasn't budged since I started counting my points several weeks ago, and I was often feeling pretty stuffed at night. Answer? Cut back fruit to 2 cups per day. One cup would be about 1 banana or three clementines or 1 apple.

have these changes made a difference?

The photos are from week before last. I've applied my two changes in the past week, and I've absolutely seen a difference.

happier I still can't believe how much energy I have and how positive my attitude has stayed through the beginning of the weekend. In weeks past, I'd invariably find myself in a slump by Friday night or Saturday morning. My early bet is on my having reduced sugar this week. The only sweets I've indulged in are my homemade granola squares (which come in at about 1/10 oz. of sugar per ounce of square) and the bittersweet chocolate I nibble on daily (minimal amount of sugar there). I'll keep this up for as long as I can do it. I'm even getting excited to brainstorm a good, healthy Sunday brunch that'd satisfy my sweet tooth ...

a tad lighter Not terribly lighter so far. Maybe 1/2 lb. But it's still something! And I haven't felt overstuffed or bloated this week. And I've found myself perfectly happy with 2 cups of fruit a day.

excited about this weekend

So many things to look forward to on a Saturday morning!

» Firstly, I'm excited that I'm excited on a Saturday morning. I can't tell you how many weekends I've started totally down in the dumps, despite the fact that the preceding weeks were productive, successful, happy-making. The culprit? I'm guessing the end-of-week sugar indulgences and Saturday-morning pancake-breakfasty habits. Score one for making a healthy decision (the week in review & its lessons) and sticking with it!

» Yoga! Actually, Body Flow at the Y, which is apparently a mix of pilates, yoga and tai chi. I'm looking forward to the stretching and core workout I expect I'll get out of this class. Also, it's this morning (I'll finish this blog entry and head out the door!), and I have a feeling it'll be a great start to the weekend.

» Making more spent-grain bread, which I think Patrick and I should do our darndest to document so we can share it with you all in detail (and pretty pictures). This stuff is so good, I think we'll make a double batch and freeze the finished loaves that will be in excess. Also? I'll make some malt syrup from his leftover, unboiled wort! It's earthy and sweet and I plan to use it in an upcoming batch of buttercream frosting for god-knows-what.


» A "real" bike ride. Patrick's gonna lead me through my first "real" training bike ride. Meaning it'll be long (I've asked him not to tell me how long until we're done), and that I should attempt to pedal continuously (Patrick observed in a previous, casual ride that I coast a lot, which is a no-no for group road rides and if I plan to ever compete, which maybe I do ...). I'm so looking forward to the challenge, and to spending quality time with Stinger.

» My first "follower" through blogger that I don't know in real life! Liz Loses! I can't tell you the little thrill I got at seeing that someone was following my blog who lives in Ohio (where I have never been), and who's doing the kinds of things with her food and exercise that I aim to do. Thanks, Ms. Liz Loses, for making my day!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


"cookin'" » Looky my husband in the kitchen, where I often find him after my long bus ride home. I'm a lucky lady.

Originally uploaded by lindsaybeeson

This, by the was, was orginally posted using the Flickroid app, which gave me the option of posting my photo directly to this blog. If you saw it lookin' a bit strange, it's because the app doesn't provide options for how the photo renders. I may or may not use this option in the future, but it sure is nice to know it's there.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

the week in review & its lesson

The past week was ... pretty good. I didn't reach any of my goals from last week (I didn't hit the gym at least four times, only two; I didn't wear my heart rate monitor once, because I still haven't found it; the closest I came to waking up at 5 a.m. -- regardless of my intention to go the gym -- was the morning I got out of bed at 5:55. "Yay! Still the 5 o'clock hour!").

The thing that makes this all kinda OK is that the weekend was great. Seriously.

Patrick and I, as I mentioned earlier, rode our bikes up a mountain and made our first trip to a Star City Brewers Guild meeting. We met a ton of great people who brew beer. Additionally? The food spread included a lot of healthy options (I ate fresh greens, hummus, tabouli, flat bread and some spinach dip). And, AND ... how many different versions of homemade lifestyle did I hear about? Among them: compost worms in someone's house, homemade kimchi, other folks' versions of beer breads, home-cured ham, homegrown mushrooms, hop gardens. This group meets once a month and I expect I'll learn something new about beer and about scratchmade living at every meeting.

So that was how amazing Saturday was.

Sunday was pretty great, too: a hike halfway along Tinker Ridge; homemaking an Italian loaf, granola bars*, granola cereal; and a delicious dinner of that fresh bread, toasted and accompanied by sliced pear, tomato, roquefort, fresh mozzarella and honey.

Are you f*cking kidding me? The weekend could not have gotten much better. And it's one I want to replicate again and again. I want a bike ride every weekend, a hike, homemaking, and good tasty nutritious eating.

Is this some version of spring fever?

this is the tasty italian, made by patrick. i'm so glad we finally started making all the bread we eat ... so simple and yet such a feeling of accomplishment. below? the bread mid-mix, and a little saazie-face to get you all "awwww"-y. (this is what we see anytime we're in the kitchen: her trying to be as close to us as possible without getting in the way. ok, sometimes getting in the way.)

In any case, as good as the weekend was, I still want to take some notes from my less-than-stellar week ...

the lessons

1. I need to seriously cut the sugar out. And I need to give credit to my fruit & oat bowls for satisfying my sweet tooth.

I was pretty go-go-go all week ... until Friday.

I've tried to bring a certain tradition into the workplace (which I borrowed from Patrick's old job in Knoxville): #coffeefriday; celebrate payday with coffee and breakfast! It's brilliant and important and something to look forward to every two weeks.

In past weeks I've brought in homemade scones and biscotti, a co-worker brought donuts another week, and yet another everyone contributed to oatmeal breakfast (bringing spices, oats, fruit, coconut, etc.)

This week? I brought in some delectable treats from Bread Craft, a sweet little shop serving up European-style goods. I highly recommend it, and I will eat there on into the future (their salads are tasty, their sandwiches hearty, their cheese is housemade!).

But between my coffee Friday morning and my ginger scone from Bread Craft, I turned crabby instantly. And then I ate another pastry in the afternoon (danish).

I knew what was happening, but I was not able/willing to fight it. I knew that sugar is no good for me first thing in the morning (or in that quantity, or unaccompanied by protein and fiber). But I picked up the scone and ate it. I knew that the reason I wanted the second pastry was because I'd eaten the first. But I ate the second pastry.

I'm going to challenge myself this week: I'm going to limit my cane-sugar intake to the little amount that's included in my newly homemade granola-bar-squares (one ounce of granola square has about 0.1 ounce of sugar) and bittersweet chocolate. Otherwise, I'm going to look to fruit to satisfy my sweet tooth, or to forgo a sweet when I would otherwise indulge the craving.

What I hope to see is a week of me feeling full of energy and ready to take on all the challenges that await me.

here's a nonsugar dessert I enjoyed earlier in the week: chopped pear, plain old-fashioned oats, malted barley, semisweet chocolate & honey. it was delicious and it's the kind of thing i plan to reach for whenever i think "sweet!"

2. I absolutely must have all my morning stuffs prepped if I want to get my ass successfully and energetically to the gym. I lost my keys last week. Also, I have no idea where my heart rate monitor is. Some mornings my lunch wasn't ready and when as I was going to bed all I could think about was how rushed I was going to feel trying to fit in a trip to the gym, getting ready for work, eating breakfast and making my lunch. I'm pretty sure that anxiety kept me in bed some mornings.

So I want to remove all simple obstacles. I aim to have: my gym clothes folded and ready for me, my keys stored alongside them, my iPod full and charged, my lunch made.

I'll limit my goals to these two, but I think of them as very small, integral cogs in a very big machine. I hope to be running more smoothly one week from today.

* The recipe for granola bars (shown above cut into about 2-point portions) is from America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. I recommend just about anything that this behemoth food brand creates (Cook's Illustrated, Cook's Country, the America's Test Kitchen PBS show, Their business model is built around being only mildly open source, so to speak. I'll respect that and post a recipe for the granola bars only after I've tweaked it enough to feel like I can call it my own.

a sunday of home work.

I'm excited for Patrick and me today. We have a hike ahead of us (Tinker Ridge to Hay Rock Overlook). We're going to bake and make (Italian bread, granola cereal, granola bars).

I'm going to find my camera USB chord so I can upload all the food photos I've taken this week. I'm going to write some blog entries about our beer-grain bread, about my meals throughout the past week, my goals for the week ahead.

day of indulgent productivity

I believe in a day of rest, but there's this interesting thing I've noticed my past few weekends: I'd much rather get my full-on restfulness out of the way on Saturday.

Yesterday we rode our bikes along the greenway and up Mill Mountain. Then we headed to our first Star City Brewers Guild meeting (for homebrewers and those interested in homebrew). We indulged in lots of scratchmade beer, good food and excellent company.

I suppose we didn't rest, per se, but we also didn't do anything that I'd consider work.

Today, though? After the hike, all that baking and making is what we need to stock our pantry for the week ahead. Maybe we should add hummus to the list, in fact. And we *do* have a lot of frozen blueberries on hand (Patrick woke up early this morning to start our coffee and make us delicious scratch muffins). I think I should turn the extras into quick jam.

And I'll come back to my blog and edit photos, think on the work I've done and the work I want to do. I get to steep in thoughtfulness about the lifestyle I'm trying to attain.

I like Sunday for this kind of work because it feels like I'm gearing up for a productive week ahead. I like the fact that restfulness is starting to feel like a chore I know I need to get done (if I don't take time for rest, I will crash after a few weeks and find myself useless for an entire weekend and in terrible condition at the beginning of my work week).

And I'm not sure how much better it gets than filling a home with the sweet and savory smells of scratchmade food.

Monday, February 14, 2011

another argument for whole foods

See this stuff? I think Dr. Lustig would approve.

veggie sampler

I woke up Saturday morning to an episode of The People's Pharmacy called "Sugar Hazards." It featured this Lustig man, and later a Dr. Teitelbaum, both of whom were discussing how harmful sugar-laden (read: "processed") foods are to our metabolisms and health.

This radio program happened to be one of Those Moments ... when a few truths that were already hinted at in my life suddenly found the ground they needed to stand on, firm.

what i came away with
One of the audio clips you'll find in that link above is an extended interview with Lustig. He's coming from a place of science and medicine (he's a pediatric neuroendocrinologist).

Following are some of the points he makes (paraphrased by me), ones that resonated.

» lustig likes to say that when god gave us the poison, he packaged it with the antedote. In this case, the poison is sugar, or fructose, and the antedote is fiber. Think of fruits. Even sugar cane, which is a plant -- mostly stalk -- that contains a relatively modest amount of sweet. (He adds that the only time that's not true is with honey, "and that's guarded by bees.")

Our bodies are refined systems and, as with so many things in nature, they rely on a particular balance. The level of sugars that nature provides are low, in addition to the fact that our bodies have to work pretty hard processing fiber to access them. This setup is how we evolved and how our bodies, when healthy, function optimally.

» sugar is readily available to us now, and it's messing with our insulin levels. and this is contributing to obesity. and low energy. and hunger. Here's something I didn't know: Sugar is two things: glucose and fructose. Glucose, as Lustig says, is metabolized into energy immediately. Fructose, on the other hand, is metabolized only by the liver, which stores it immediately as fat and increases our level of insulin (which is "the energy storage hormone" ... something else I didn't know).

Basically, all the fructose we eat can never be anything but stored fat; consequently it can never be used toward our energy output, it's never given a chance!

So even if I eat as many calories as I burn, if some of those are fructose, those calories work against me in two ways by: 1) immediately turning into fat, and 2) putting me at an energy deficit. I've just gained weight but I'm still hungry. And I lack physical energy. And so I reach for more food. Which may contain fructose. And if this cycle goes far enough, I become a tired, hungry, fattened individual.

Lustig points to the sugars added to processed foods as a main culprit in the nation's increasing obesity problem. What's the best way to avoid them? According to him, shop the perimeter of a grocery store to buy produce and whole foods. If it's on a shelf, it's built for shelf-life by way of preservative sugars. ... Another argument for whole foods!

» don't exercise to lose weight. exercise because it makes you feel good. Lustig says "diet is about weight; exercise is about health. Diet is about pounds; exercise is about inches."

One incredible thing Lustig repeated throughout the interview: it is a false notion that if you *simply* burn more calories than you consume, you'll lose weight. One reason? If a diet continuously feeds you fructose, you'll immediately store it as fat and rob yourself of healthful, useful energy. Another: studies, he says, have shown that exercise does little in the way of "burning" fat. Instead, it converts it to muscle.

So, he says, "go out and get some exercise done, just don't look at the scale." Don't use exercise as a tool for weight loss, but as an absolutely necessary tool for good health. "The more exercise you do," he says, "the better you're gonna feel."

I've known that I wanted to stay away from processed foods, but I didn't have a full picture of why that was. I knew I liked the idea of eating things that came from the earth or wholly from animals (and I started a list of whole grains that are on my bucket list). It just seemed right. This radio program, though, put this idea in full focus.

I've known that too much sugar makes me feel off-kilter: hungry more quickly, irritable, tired. I even confessed that I needed to nix donuts from my breakfast options after a crabby weekend that should have been splendid. Now I know why, biochemically, I was right.

And I've just recently started understanding that activity can be a part of my life for the the damn *fun* of it. I'm determined to emphasize activities that bring me happiness (and aren't just an item on my list of daily chores). Now here's Lustig saying exactly that.

This radio show, man ... good timing.

but don't take my word for it!
There's so much more to get from this discussion. I truly think it's worth the hour to listen to it. The first ten minutes may require your undivided attention as they involve the most intense science, but if you don't have a full hour to spare, at least multi-task with this in the background.

... and let me know what else you get from it!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

the week in review & the one ahead

First, look at this, will you? My husband made this for me for our early Valentine's Day dinner.

5 oz. pan-fried steak topped with 1/4 oz. roquefort butter, 3 oz. homemade whole-grain bread, braised endives with bacon & cream.

Plus (PLUS!): 6 oz. sweet mashed potatoes that needed just a few more minutes to cook, and a slice of cheesecake drizzled with homemade malt syrup and garnished with pear slices.

42 points. But I had them to spend and I was happy to do it.

the things i did
It was a good week. Patrick and I shared a Saturday and Sunday cooking delicious food, riding bikes and being generally productive. We made bread using the spent grain from his beer-making! We ate lots of fruits & veggies (and have already stocked back up on mangoes, pears, apples, avocado ...). We shared happy-hour beers at one of our new favorite spots, Lucky.

I'd set small goals for myself last weekend, when I was celebrating the end of my return the gym. They went something like:

» go to the gym at least four times in the week head. And I did! Now, I'm committed to being easy on myself this go-round, but I have to give credit where it's due: when I headed to the Y this afternoon, I think I was at least 50% motivated by making sure I could say "I reached my goal!"

» do at least 45 minutes on the elliptical each gym visit / wear my heart rate monitor. Ehh. Neither. I mean, today I absolutely rocked 45 minutes *hard* on the elliptical. But other mornings I phoned it in. And I forgot my heart rate monintor every single time. C'est la vie! Next week ...

speaking of next week: goals!
» four gym visits! I could push it to five trips, but four still feels like an accomplishment. And I'll set my sights (again) on doing at least 45 minutes of cardio each visit.

» wake up at 5 a.m., regardless if I go to the gym. I was finishing at the Y one morning when I looked at the clock and realized that if I'd not decided to exercise that morning, I'd still be in bed, not even awake yet. And *then* I thought how much of my day I was giving up to sleep (when I stay in bed on my non-gym mornings, I'm almost always getting "extra" sleep ... somewhere beyond the seven-or-so hours that I need to feel fully rested). And then I thought of all the things I feel like I don't have time for. And *then* I put those two thoughts together and realized I could try to wake up at 5 every morning and get productive one way or another. So there we go. Goal! 5 a.m. wake-up call.

» a week of food photos. One thing I want to improve about this blog is more (and relevant) photos. I can do only so much justice to my adventures through words. Images are priceless, and I want to get in the habit of making' em.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

hikes & bikes move me.

I've written pretty extensively about how much I love my bike, Stinger. I'm excited for the onset of warmer weather so I can climb back on and up some of these mountains we moved into. In fact, Patrick and I might go out for a ride this afternoon.

So it's clear I love biking.

But after a hike up McAfee Knob with Patrick and my brother-in-law, Eric, last Sunday, I rediscovered my love of hiking.

{thanks to eric beeson for documenting our hike! all photos in this entry are his. see the whole collection from his visit.}

not all movement is the same
I have to drag my ass to the gym. I make myself do aerobics (and eventually I'll make myself do weightlifting again) because I know it's good for me.

Maybe I'll find a groove, or even a love, for these things. But that's a way's off. For now, they're work.

What has never been work, in that mental sense, is hiking. Yes, physically I get tired and sore. But mentally I'm engaged 100 percent. I even enjoy the strain of it: My favorite moments in a long hike are on the stretches of trail that require a little full-body climb, or a steep, lunging ascent. My legs are involved, my abs, my arms for balance.

Engaging these same parts of my body in a gym wouldn't do much for me. But on a trail? Exhilerating.

And this is what I take from that difference: Movement is very personal, and most people likely have a specific activity that engages their body, but also get their whole self excited. I'm thinking of dancers, soccer players, runners, gym rats. Being physically engaged is only part of the reason they commit to the activity. Or maybe it's no reason at all they're engaged. Doing that thing, whatever it is, excites their brains, their spirit.

Hiking is this for me. And biking. These things aren't easy for me, but I'm not put off by the difficulty.

what do they mean to me?
There's something similar in hiking a trail and hopping on a bike: I can do both in a pack, but even when I'm surrounded by people it's perfectly acceptable to exist within my own thoughts. The hike Sunday was full of good conversation, but equally full of a peaceful, easy quiet. When I ride with Patrick we speak occasionally, but I mostly concentrate on the road and my bike.

I know the solitary nature of hiking and biking plays a big part in why I enjoy them. But they're different in these simple ways (for me, anyhow):

My biking is an exercise in constant challenge. When I first got on a road bike last fall, I was challenging myself. When I first travelled a road by myself, that was a challenge. When I see hills, I dare myself to climb them with as much vigor as I can muster. When I find myself on a straight-away and with reserve energy, I attempt top speeds.

The fact that I even wished to push myself so hard in a physical way was an exceptional surprise. I did that through cycling, and I'll probably continue to channel my athletic ambitions through a bike.

So, there's that.

And then there's this ...

{the summit at mcafee knob}

Hiking gets me to a calm space, by way of the ground around me. The views on all the good hikes I've done around Roanoke are quiet and magnificent. The work is hard but the pace I choose is steady and easy. I haven't found a hike yet that escapes sounds of the highway or of planes traveling overhead, but the rest of the soundtrack is crackling and light. It allows me to reach some quiet and very comfortable place in myself that I couldn't get otherwise.

As I'm working to gain a more healthful lifestyle, isn't this supremely important? To be at peace with myself, at ease? I think it is.

so incredibly important
And what if I had never discovered them? I would probably make myself go the gym, and exercise would be a chore. Only a chore.

But I did discover them for myself. So I have a chance to experience exercise and movement in a very positive context. And potentially I get to explore it as a means to get to something else in my life. I've found a way to tap my ambition and to start to move toward a more peaceful, easy place within myself. Won't that lead to something?

It feels like it already has, but it also feels like there is something huge looming ahead.

PS: Look at this dog face. We are two lucky folks, Patrick and I ...
{saazie knows something we don't know. i can't wait till she tells us what it is.}

Friday, February 11, 2011

plum baker project: the stories

When I set out on this sudden idea to honor kindness with baked goods, I was ready to try a few times before I got any nominees. Not that there isn't enough kindness in the world, or that people don't eagerly jump at a chance to sample sweet treats. I just know that sometimes an idea spends time ... baking ... before it grabs folks' attention.

So wasn't I pleased when I received my first nomination? And then another ... and then two more! And wasn't I happily surprised to see how broad a range the submissions covered and from what far-flung corners?

What strikes me about all of them is the level of appreciation knitted into all the stories. I have a feeling that many of the folks being nominated, when they were doing their act of kindness, didn't even realize they were doing something special. They were likely doing something that just seemed like The Right Thing To Do.

Regardless, those who wrote in felt the weight of it.

Here are the stories, in the words of the folks who sent them along.

Nominator: Lydia
Nominee: Sarah
Note: Upon getting the OK from Lydia, I will include her and Sarah's full names. I've edited her nomination so I may share her story while honoring her privacy.

My friend Sarah should totally get a baked good! Even though we haven't lived in the same state for two years, she and her husband have always been there for me and my husband, and even flew to our home with their baby in November when they heard that we had a family health scare.

Nominator: Sharon Bonham
Nominee: A homeless shelter

"Is there a homeless shelter in Roanoke? (I assume yes.) I think the people who work there deserve a little recognition, and I think you should take a round of cookies to them and all the homeless people one day!"

When I was preparing to write this update, I asked Sharon to elaborate on her reasons for her nomination. This was her response:

"I made my nomination for the simple fact that homelessness has been on my mind lately. It's a major issue in Colorado Springs [where Sharon lives]. I know most people who work to help the homeless are probably fine remaining anonymous, but they also need to know that everyone is grateful for the work that they do. And, of course, the homeless need to be given dignified recognition as well, to let them know that we all care. Little things matter. I've seen it in the faces of homeless and hungry people: being told, 'I see you' can be the greatest moment of their day."

Sharon's nomination has inspired me to volunteer at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen in town within the next month. And if the staff is keen on it, I may return with cookies enough for them at those they serve thereafter. If anyone in Roanoke has suggestions for a place in particular need, please feel free to e-mail me (lindsay (at) theplumbaker (dot) com) or leave a note in the comments below). 

Nominator: Erin Wommac
Nominee: Maria St.Clair

"My nominee is Maria St.Clair. After 2011 had gotten off to a rocky start, she was one of the many friends that helped to calm the seas.  When she heard that I was having a hard time, Maria immediately offered to have me over for dinner with her family. A home cooked meal, the raucousness of being in a home with a laughter, and a crushing hug were pretty much all I needed in order to begin to feel that things were looking up. I will always be grateful that when I was probably at my crankiness and surliest, Maria was there to open her home to me."

Nominator: Laura Tuggle Anderson
Nominee: Larry Hill and his staff at Crouch Pharmacy

"I would like to nominate Larry Hill and his staff at Hill’s Crouch Pharmacy on Williamson Road, just up the road from Hollins. My husband and I have been going to this locally run pharmacy for years. When I got pregnant, I was sick A LOT, and husband was constantly going back and forth to Crouch’s to pick up meds. One day, I can’t remember why, husband couldn’t get to the pharmacy but I really needed the medicine – and so Larry Hill, the pharmacist himself, drove to our house to give us the prescription. We didn’t even have enough cash to pay him, he waved us off and said he knew we’d pay the next time we came in. Now, Crouch’s has a policy that they DO deliver prescriptions, but we’re young and hardy folk so we never thought we’d need them to do that for us – and we didn’t even have to ask.

"Now that our daughter is here, we take her to Crouch’s and she is toddling around and saying “hi” to Larry and his staff – especially Mary, who gives her lollipops. Larry even gave our daughter a doll for Christmas – telling us that he doesn’t do that for just anybody, but she’s  a special little baby to them.

"I know that when people work in service-oriented fields, these acts of kindness can often be overlooked or explained away, humbly, as just “part of my job.” But I feel that Larry, Mary, and the others who work at Crouch’s take a true personal interest in our well-being, and they have become like family to us. I never would have thought of my pharmacist as family, but they are!"

thank you!
Thank you again to all who participated in the first round of The Plum Baker Project. I was honored that you shared your stories with me, and I look forward to getting more next time. See you in a few weeks (if not sooner), do-gooders!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

this go-round: kind to myself

Getting fit / losing weight / eating better can focus so much on all the things that have been wrong, plus a long list of things that Must Be Done To Do It Right.

The process can revolve around setting high goals, introducing good habits, eliminating bad ones, and all this all at once. Because things were bad! And I want them to be good!

In previous attempts to adopt a healthy lifestyle, I've spent a lot of time making plans, writing lists, establishing incremental goals and imagining a finish line.

But this is all to say that this approach can be ... stressful. It can feel a lot like setting myself up for failure. If I decide that certain actions fall in the "good" category and others fall in the "bad" category, I seem to leave myself little room for forgiveness when I inevitably stumble back into a bad habit, or fail to achieve a good one.

this time around
I can feel a difference in myself with this most recent attempt to be healthful: I talk about my goals for the gym as my "ultimate" goals; I eat the donut (and count the points); I sleep in some mornings that I'd planned to head to the gym.

I hadn't found it terribly easy to articulate why I think this is the right approach this time, but I tried to relate it to someone just the other day, and I think I hit the nail on the head. It went something like:

I'm working very hard to do the right things, but I'm taking an approach this time around that allows me to sleep in some mornings. I have to believe I'm making the right choices for myself; that belief is going to be the foundation of my success.

So why is this looser tactic good for me right now? I see two key things that make it feel right:

1. (Specific to my gym goals) I want to establish a happy relationship with my exercise. There are some mornings I DO NOT WANT to go the gym. On those days, I would be very grudgingly hitting my alarm clock at 5 a.m., I'd be donning workout attire that would likely feel a size too small (because of my own frustration at even being awake) and I would take my heavy, slow legs to the elliptical machine.

I ain't dumb. I know that on days like that, many people say that once they make themselves go and get on the machine, they feel better. And I'll get there, one day. But right now, I want to work on building a strong and happy relationship with exercise. I want to reinforce the notion that the gym is a place I go because I'm excited to go there. That it's a place I go because I have the energy and motivation to make it part of my life.

And I have those days a lot. And I have this strong notion that those days will breed more days like that. And then longer visits to the gym. And  then adding weights to my routine. And a class.

I want to nurture my exercise through positive experiences. I *also* want to have room for forgiveness on the days I don't wake up at 5 a.m. and don sneakers. I don't want to rack up guilt over my actions. I know me. Feelings of guilt feed my bad habits. So how about eliminating that guilt?

2. (And I think this is perhaps more valuable) I want to trust myself. The lists, goals, enumeration of bad habits that I've taken up in the past, they sometimes felt like penance for having made wrong, unhealthy choices.

The thing is, I'm not a bad person. Nor am I an untrustworthy sentinel of my own happy life. I treat myself like I am sometimes, and that's another way I rack up guilt; another reason to berate myself; another way to introduce negativity into my life.

I can trust myself. I refuse to do otherwise.

So adopting the attitude that I know it'll all be OK if I decide to skip the gym this morning or to eat that one donut, it's empowering. Because what I *know* is that I'll continue to make good choices. I'm going to find bad choices peppered through my life. It will seldom be the bad choices themselves that lead to trouble, but the idea that I can't recover from them, or that they define me.

I'm defined by the smart, able person that I am. I'd like to start giving her credit.

caveat, of course
These two concepts only work in the context of me having finally come to terms with the work that it takes to be healthy. If I had never learned how to eat nutritiously or that exercise was an absolute must in my life, these could easily be crutches to justify bad decision after bad decision.

I get the feeling, though, that I have learned some things that I cannot unlearn ... about how to be a thoughtful eater and a motivated, active person. Within *that* context, this approach feels absolutely right.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

gym confession: i judged.

Let me lay out my little judgy confession right here:

In some immature attempt to help myself feel superior throughout my gym-going years, I've occasionally looked at folks who are going 2.5 miles an hour on the treadmill with ... disdain? With a little eye roll. With a "really? You call that exercise?"

Now, in these moments, I have completely wiped from my memory my *own* slow days, as if I've never been the person showing what seems to be very little effort. I've also laid aside, in those judgy moments, the Lindsay that I know and love. The one who understands that people have bad days and good, that they have different abilities, goals, backgrounds, futures.

And that Lindsay -- the kinder one -- often does chime in when I've had these judgy thoughts to give me a good smacking. Like "girl, *what* the hell do you think you're doing there, thinking that person isn't as good as you?"

why the hell would i judge?
Of course the answer is insecurity. Of *course* it is. Because I know that I'm not naturally inclined to be active, that I'm afraid I'll lose whatever gym mojo I've gained and give in to the lazy person lurking inside me. When I gain my little footholds at the gym, I rarely do so with confidence. This question resonates constantly: "will it last?"

And while I'm not bullying these people who I judge, I'm taking on that persona of a bully within my own thoughts: belittling their efforts to make me feel better about my own, which I apparently have little faith in.

and it finally clicked
It was just yesterday that it clicked with me. No particular reason. I'd gotten my ass to the gym *after* work. It was unexpected, but I had the energy and found myself with the motivation, so I said why the hell not?

I got on my elliptical machine and pushed my hardest. Afterward, I walked the indoor track for a cool-down.

I walked slowly to really enjoy the restfulness and peace. I was listening to Sufjan (Age of Adz). And all around me were folks walking. It looked to be their primary exercise that evening.

There was one guy in particular: young, heavy-set, walking the whole loop at a steady pace. And instead of thinking "wow, shouldn't he be pushing harder? Maybe with some weights? Maybe walking faster?", I thought "This guy is taking time out of his day to dedicate to activity. He said to himself that activity is important enough to reserve time for."

And it was just like that, that I realized it's not the level of activity that's important, it's the dedication to it.

I, of all people, should know how hard it is to bring exercise into a daily routine. It's an effort. It's an action in and of itself. And it should be lauded. It should *not* put someone in the position of being ridiculed -- not for any reason, not even privately, not even in my own thoughts.

Monday, February 7, 2011

plum baker project winners!

Maria St.Clair and her nominator, Erin Wommack, were the random-kindness-winners for this first round of The Plum Baker Project! And these are their cookies, about to be delivered to GET Coffee & Bubbletea, for easy pickup.

I can't wait to tell more about their story — and the stories of all the other do-gooders — later this week.

Also, don't you think it'd be nice for me to share my ginger chew recipe? I think so, too. Soon! Soon!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

first week back at the gym

My very first day — just this past Monday — feels like ages ago. And while I only got to the Y three times this week (and never ventured beyond the elliptical machine for 20- to 35-minute bursts) I *will* celebrate the fact that I went at all. I *will* celebrate that I've started taking some notes on ways to motivate myself to get back.

gym notes.
>> i think these old guys must know a thing or two. Patrick and I moved away from Roanoke four years ago, at which time I'd had a membership to this very YMCA, on-and-off for several years. My best runs were probably when I attended with my friend Melizza. Mela and I were roommates, and we were great motivation for each other to do good ... or to indulge (Mela, do you remember Sunday morning pancakes in that yellow kitchen?! I do. With syrup, and me trying to do the crossword).

In any case, when we went, we saw the same guys over and over. Doing the same exercises. Making the same jokes. Smiling, as I recall.

So I go to the gym this past Monday morning at 5:30, and I see no fewer than four of those same guys, plus a lady or two who looked familiar. Same exact ones. Dressed the same. Same smiles, same machines.

And do you know that it was only in that moment that I realized I'm going to have to look at this fitness lifestyle as *lifelong*? It's something I'd kind of known. Something I've heard people say. Something I'm sure I've said before. But it was in seeing those same faces, years later and still at it, that I knew it deeply. My first week back wasn't stellar, but it was just the first of what will apparently be very, very many.

>> music. I let Patrick do technology things for me. So I let him fill my iPod shuffle last Sunday night before my first return to the gym.

Well, no offense to my lovely husband, but it was silly of me to put something so personal in someone else's hands. Because once I started on my elliptical Monday morning I realized all I wanted was the latest Girl Talk album, streamed front-to-back ... and Patrick's a shuffle-lover. He's a random-music fan. And do you know that my lazy ass didn't remedy this until today, after my most recent trip the gym?

I ended up frustrated every morning I went. What happens is that the randomness of the music makes for varied tempos, which makes for me being variably motivated to move fast (or not fast at all), or to get so into the music that I forget how hard I'm working on the machine (which is what happens when the right song comes on).

Next week I look forward to a consistent, pounding workout accompanied by Girl Talk (and maybe a little Big Boi, cool down to Sufjan or Grizzly Bear).

>> walking the track. It's not particularly strenuous. OK. It's not strenuous. At all. But it's time for me to nestle gently into my thoughts. To be quiet and slow but moving. It's peaceful, is what it is. And it's nice. Ten minutes is all I need.

>> getting my shit together, the night before. This is no surprise, but it's important: If I stack my gym clothes and headphones in a neat pile; if I make my lunch the night before; if I know what I'm going to wear to work ... I'm much more likely to get to my mind wrapped around the idea of heading to the gym at 5:30 in the morning.

mission! Get to the gym four times next week, not three. Do at least 45 minutes on the elliptical each trip, if I don't also add some weight-lifting. Wear my heart-rate monitor every visit so I can get an accurate reading of my workout (as well as establish a way to mark my progress).