Asking Amy Issue #5

April 2: Losing, Gaining, Self helping, Whining, Worn, Weighed, Stained

I am very into “self-helping,” which I interpret as trying different things — physical, mental, spiritual — in order to feel better.

And by “better,” I mean — more alive.

I’m a loser:

In a previous issue I mentioned my progress in an almost two-year effort to lose 25 pounds. Like many people at my stage in life (bye-bye middle age; I hardly knew ye), my weight has crept up by a couple of pounds a year for the last decade or so.

My goal has been to return to the weight where I’ve felt most “myself.”

Over time I realized I’d outgrown most of my own clothing — things I’ve loved and worn since college. I had slowly gotten used to feeling like a sausage casing.

I wish I could insert a “before” picture here, but — there aren’t any, because for the last several years I have avoided being photographed in any way that might reveal my sausage-status.

Here’s an “after” picture, from today. I haven’t worn anything with belt loops for the last decade. And here I am, wearing my 12-year-old “natural-waist” boot cut jeans! Those jeans are so old, I think they might have gone out of and come back into style.

Go me!

(I said: Boot cut, Baby!!)

I have been dealing with disordered eating and weight issues for 50 years — but my disordered eating and fad dieting more or less kept me in stasis until 10 years ago. I’ve put myself on every diet you’ve ever heard of (and some you probably haven’t) — from the American Ski Team Diet of the 1970’s (eggs and grapefruit), to the Caveman Diet of the early-2000s (lots of meat), which morphed into Paleo (lots of meat), which morphed into Keto (more meat. Plus lots of bacon).

This time, I’ve tried to handle things differently, and here are some random tips, in case anyone else might find them helpful.

I used CICO (calories in/calories out). Pretty basic, right?

I track my eating on the Loseit app every day. Every day. This has helped to make me more aware (and accountable) for what I eat. The app also calculates protein, carbs, etc., as well as exercise. You can weigh yourself and note that, too. Here is a screenshot of my progress as of this morning: NOTE: IT IS NOT A STRAIGHT LINE.

(also note: my original goal was to lose ONE POUND a week. In reality, I have lost, on average, ONE POUND A MONTH). Yes — that’s one pound A MONTH.

It’s a head game with me. I have had to develop an awareness of the reality and consequence of choices. A glass of wine is 200 calories. After a glass of wine I sometimes make poor food choices. And yes — knowing this, I can choose to have one (or two), anyway.

I don’t have “cheat days” or “bad days.” I just have … days. A dieting pitfall I’d often slipped into before was to let a rough patch completely derail the rest of my efforts. So this time — I’ve tried to accept that my days are not all the same. (I mean, check out that graph!) I just keep going. Every day starts with a clean slate/plate.

Eliminating entire food groups that I consider “healthy” doesn’t work for me. My under-20 carb Keto plan had me counting the carbs in broccoli and apples, eliminating all fruit (except for berries) and skipping lots of vegetables, due to their carb count. Nope: if it grows in or on the earth and I want to eat it, I’m eating it.

I saw a dietitian. Honestly, after 5 decades of dieting, I could probably be a dietitian, but seeing a professional helped me a lot. It helped me to take my own challenges more seriously, and it kept me accountable.

I don’t eat breakfast. I’ve never felt hungry in the morning, and even though most sound eating plans insist that you must eat breakfast — I’m not hungry in the morning. And eating when I’m not hungry is not something I want to do. Skipping “the most important meal of the day” always felt like an unhealthy thing to do, until “skipping breakfast” started being known as “intermittent fasting. So now … not eating in the morning is OK!

I exercise, but I keep it light. I’ve always been fairly active, but over the years I have noticed that vigorous aerobic exercise seems to kick-start my roaring overeating.

This winter, I focused on walking. Outside. Every day I walk for at least a 30-45 minutes, once (sometimes twice) a day. Walking outside throughout the winter has helped me battle my seasonal depression, and that alone has probably had the biggest impact on my overall health and wellbeing. Plus — I like it!

Late breaking — this just in:

A-ha! This story in GQ on the benefit of “just walking” was published today — Click on the link below:

Walking! It does a body good.

FINALLY: It helps to have a compassionate partner. My husband never undermines me (some partners do). He notices and celebrates my successes. When I feel good — he feels great! But most important: I know I am loved and appreciated — just as I am.

Here is a related “Ask Amy” Q and A that ran in my column this week:

Dear Amy: I am married to a wonderful, kind, and generous man.

We have a very good marriage. We've never had a real argument or nagged each other about anything.

I am worried about his weight, however.

He had lost a lot of weight, but now he's regaining it.

This is because he has a glass of wine just before bed.

I don't mind his daily glass of wine, but I wish he'd have it at dinnertime so that his body has time to process it.

I know he enjoys his bedtime snack, so I'm loath to bring it up.

How do I gently and kindly ask him to forego it at bedtime without sounding like a nag?

– Worried

Dear Worried: If your husband’s nightly glass of wine makes him surly or uncommunicative, or interferes with his sleep, your shared intimacy or sex life, then you get to bring it up.

In short, if his night-wine affects YOU, then you should initiate a conversation about it.

If his glass of wine at bedtime doesn’t directly affect you (and it doesn’t seem to), then you should keep your thoughts to yourself.

In my opinion, your basic assumption is off-kilter. More likely, his weight gain is the result of a dozen little and large choices he makes throughout the day, not the timing of his nightly drink.

Furthermore, if he has struggled with his weight and has managed to successfully reduce, then he knows the basic rules of weight-loss.

If you want to continue to support his weight loss, you should ask him, “What’s the best way I can support you as you work toward your goals?”

I hope he answers, “Just continue loving me, just as I am.”

I’ll offer an (unsolicited) opinion on how to have a happy marriage: Learn to fight. Learn to forgive. And try mightily to love one another — through thick and thicker.

A just dessert!

The day that Q and A ran, I was tagged on Instagram by David Ivar, AKA @yayathonman, who draws a daily cartoon strip about his own life and experiences. I’m so happy to have inspired this very clever and creative strip! (Follow him on Insta!)

[David Ivar is a singer-songwriter and visual artist. His daily comic strip Yayathon Man shamelessly exploits his life as an obscure legend in the town of San Pedro, California, with his girlfriend Lil Mayo and his three black cats.]

AND NOW, A THROWBACK to a “sax-ier” time, when many young women wore “prairie” style dresses, like those made by Gunne Sax :

That’s me — on the right — with friends Charlene (L) and Betsy (C). We are posed in front of the lovely lilac bush on my family’s farm. The year is 1976, and we are headed to the prom, wearing dresses inspired by Gunne Sax designer Jessica McClintock, who died last week.

My sister Rachel made my dress; she may have worn it to her own prom, three years before (which would explain the extreme hem; she is several inches taller than I).

Read Vogue's obit of Gunne Sax founder Jessica McClintock here:

DEPARTMENTS:

Railey Jane Savage’s JUNK FOOD:

Raising Arizona and Self-care

Railey writes: “I have struggled/battled/beaten/lived with depression for a long time. And I’ve been watching movies for almost as long. I loved ‘Raising Arizona’ from the first time I watched it in ~1994, and have been rewatching it (and singing the theme song) regularly since. 

When ne’er-do-well Hi (Nicolas Cage at his finest) and police officer Ed (the incomparable Holly Hunter) are trying to get pregnant to live out their salad days, a montage and accompanying voiceover show that, “Edwina’s insides were a rocky place where [Hi’s] seed could find no purchase.” Hi’s voiceover goes on to describe Ed’s depression as, “Iost all interest in both criminaI justice and housekeepin'. Soon after, she tendered her badge.”

TWIST! Until I got a DVD player with the options for subtitles I had always heard, “She took to her bed.” I think I assumed this was the line because I was used to hearing it in waking life. It was a phrase that was used to mask something deeper and more vulnerable--that some of us are born barely consolable, and that the thin veil between the observable and the perceived is sometimes full of holes. “She took to her bed” because getting up from it was just too hard. 

Hi and Ed’s journey to fulfillment is rocky--but highly recommended viewing!--and I still take to my bed sometimes. At my lowest I couldn’t get up for weeks, which stretched into months. Now I am more-or-less fully functional--thanks to therapy and management--but there are still days when the world feels heavy and my shoulders buckle. Prostrate on the couch, or swaddled in my creaky bed, some days are best used for gentleness, recovery, and self-care. Some days I still take to my bed, but it’s equal parts treatment and prophylactic; if taking to my bed today means I can get up tomorrow, then I have gotten closer to rescuing the euphemism from masking depression and, instead, infusing it with the good vibes of self-care. I still take to my bed sometimes, but I’m not ready to tender my badge.”

[Railey Jane Savage is an armchair commentator who lives in Ludlowville, NY with her two cats. Find her on instagram @cartoonsandcats]

CONSUMER CORRESPONDENT Emily Mason reports on this week’s

TARGETED UPSELL

“While cruising the ‘gram the other night, instead of pictures of cats I found ads for Shapa, a scale that shows you your weight. 

Using...colors.

According to their rather vague website, this scale was designed to help those of us (me) who have a complicated relationship with the scale. As far as I can tell, Shapa doesn’t show your numeric weight at all, but measures your body composition and uses a color scale to show your progress. Dark gray to light gray means you’re gaining weight, green means you’re holding steady, teal and blue mean you’re losing weight.

I hope you’re not in a hurry though, because you won’t get an immediate answer, it takes over a week to “calibrate” and get your specific results.

So, if you hate the scale but you’re a masochist, instead of looking in a mirror or trying on your tight pants to see if you’ve lost weight, you can stand on this thing twice a day for two weeks! 

(babe...that’s not how scales work) 

All yours for the low cost of $96...plus $9.99/month.

Why am I seeing this ad?

I bought yoga pants. And googled “stretching”...I never stood a chance.

Did they sell me?

I...thought about it. But I’m giving this a HARD no.

I don’t care about weight loss right now, but if I did, I'm not convinced the color system would be better than a regular scale. The mental image I have of me using this is: instead of freaking out about a number, I’m having a meltdown because I’m in “green” instead of “blue.”

“Most importantly though, I don’t trust household items that have been UpGrAdEd to such a degree that they now require an app AND a subscription to work (lookin’ at you, Peloton). The website actually says that if you cancel your subscription the scale won’t work anymore, but it’s yours to keep...umm, thanks?

I will save my money and put it towards useful things, like in-app purchases in Diner Dash or bottled water. 

If I really get desperate I can just stand on an empty pizza box, I feel like it will have the same benefits for me.”

[Emily Mason classifies herself as a “curious consumer but a tough sell,” which is probably why she gets so many targeted ads. You can follow her on twitter @themistakemaven and instagram @abitahooey]

LAURA LIKES: Where my friend Laura recommends GREAT stuff:

“I don't wear a whole lot of makeup every day -- I'm more of a "spend your money on skincare and sunscreen" sort of person. I've done some TV and stage work, so I know my way around the world of cosmetics, but generally save the full monty for special occasions unless I'm actually being paid to look somewhat less pasty-faced. But I must say that I'm fond of lipstick, probably because that was pretty much all the makeup my mother ever wore when I was a kid. Anyway, I feel like I look washed out if I don't have any on. I may not want to do a 45-minute prime, prep and set every day, but I want to look like I at least made an effort. 

Enter the pandemic, and masks, and suddenly, I have a makeup problem...which is actually a laundry problem, but I digress. Lipstick generally doesn't play nice with masks. Fortunately, I'm a long-time fan of lip stain. Goes on, stays put all day. I started wearing lip stains in the 90s because I found myself with little time or inclination to reapply lipstick all day at my job, wherein I talked and drank tea and coffee pretty much all day. Most of the stains I have are pretty dark, because my lips are naturally fairly colorful on their own (I have a heck of a time with nude lipsticks, which make me look like I've just smeared foundation all over my mouth). But don't let the vivid color in the bottle frighten you. They might look like a Technicolor nightmare, but they're generally very sheer...just potent enough to make you look like you just ate a cherry popsicle. Or maybe an orange popsicle, or grape -- they really do come in pretty much every color range, from true reds to corals to berries. 

You paint it on, it dries, then it more or less just does what it says on the tin and stays put all day. No mess on your mask! I might go over it with a swipe of a moisturizing lip balm. If you've been missing lipstick, give it a try...comes in oodles of colors, is fairly inexpensive, and is more or less cheerfulness in a bottle. 

[Laura Lorson is a news editor, radio producer and broadcast announcer. She lives in northeastern Kansas with her husband, a Great Pyrenees dog, and a lot of books and records. Follow her on Twitter! @prairielaura]

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