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Eating constantly…and then eating some more…

09/25/2006

Beautiful Readers,

Want to know the real reasons that I am so fascinated with fitness, a healthy lifestyle, and weight control? Well, reason number one, is that I am very vain, and was raised to think of beauty and fashion as beauty and fashion, which really just suggests that, growing up in the company of gay men, I have elevated vanity to an act of artistic expression in my own mind.

The other reason, is that I was diagnosed with adult attention deficit disorder in college and have found that regular intense exercise works as well, or better, in fact, than Ritalin did. I no longer take Ritalin, and my ability to focus is absolutely fine now. Hey what’s that thing over in the corner of the screen?…

But the third, and most important reason, is that I love food. A lot. I especially love food with sugar in it. And I also love trying everything in restaurants, sampling everything that my kids eat, and everything at the buffet at every party, and anything anyone cooks at home. Even things I don’t really like.

I also tend to snack when I am nervous and when I am tired.

Lately, beautiful fitness is in the throws of a major website revamping (due in November we hope), and just this week the proverbial work ball has been passed to me, and I have a whole lot to do.

The good news is that the result of all this labor should be fantastic. I am quite excited to be able to reveal the sexy new form that our homespun little fitness company is taking, to all of you, very soon. But the workload makes me a little tense. And I am not sleeping much these days.

As I mentioned earlier, stress and fatigue are two things that make me want to nosh on Teddy Grahams by the handful (can you imagine any better comfort food than little smiling, high fructose corn syrup laden, teddy bear shaped Graham crackers with games on the box?). And what’s worse, keeping all that sugar coursing through my bloodstream, actually makes me feel better.

And it’s not just psychological. Sugar is a sedative, plus the childlike excitement of eating something that I know I ’shouldn’t'  gives me a bit of a rush every time, and that rush makes me feel a little less tired for a while. A lethal combination for me.

And then there is this weird phenomenon that I do not completely understand, but I bet I am not alone in it, which is that sometimes when I am really under slept (like for a week or more), I end up feeling hungry almost all the time. My only guess is that maybe because my brain knows that feeling tired is to no avail, it conveniently moves that craving sensation somewhere it can be gratified–eating Teddy Grahams.

Or maybe the feeling of being hungry all the time is something hormonal. Studies have shown that women who get too little sleep tend to produce more Cortisol, a stress  hormone, that helps your body retain fat in the event of an emergency, or for a period of protracted starvation (starvation is a stressor). I guess that could be me. Maybe it makes you hungry too.

So after losing several pounds a few weeks ago following too much eating out and a little drinking this summer–I have gained it back again, from stress this time, and as my daughter cuddled up to my arm-flap this morning and cooed "Mommy, I looooove your arms. They are so squishy and soft…" I realized that I will have to tackle this new dietary challenge too, as cute as my daughter’s love of fat arms is.

So here we come to tips that might be helpful to you for losing weight, if you can possibly imagine that you were ever to eat too much due to stress:

1) Having realized that I am eating all the time because I am stressed–I have to cut it out. No way around it. There is very little that one can eat constantly without gaining weight. That whole notion of eating apples or celery sticks whenever you feel hungry, really doesn’t work when you are snacking all the time

Also, my binging stress mechanism is no fool. At times like these, carbohydrates are my only friend, and the cold, bitter taste of celery will only disappoint and annoy me.

2) I must get more exercise. Right this minute that sounds nearly impossible, since time is tight, and I am really tired, but I have to figure out how to do it.  And, in truth, all my trips pacing around the kitchen hoping that the Teddy Grahams will rescue me from the work I have to do, do take some time.

Maybe my focus on the work I am doing will improve if I work out more. In fact this afternoon I did something that I have not done for awhile. I did a sort of wild flash dance-like dance number in my living room, and was in a much more motivated mood afterward.

3) This last tip may be the most honestly helpful bit of advice because it is the most specific, and has the feel of having your cake and eating it too.

There is a short list of sugary treats that I have assembled over the years that have very good bang for the sugar buck. I will not kid myself that I will be going cold turkey on what is a well established stress/sugar habit.

* Fat free whipped cream in a can: like 15 calories per serving, no disgusting additives. Can be eaten on a spoon, a cracker, on fruit, or straight out of the can.

* Anna’s cookies. Thin Swedish butter cookies. They come in ginger, orange, and chocolate varieties. Serving size is 8 for 100 calories. Very satisfying. No weird chemicals.

*Teddy grahams really aren’t bad. The little smiling teddy bears cheer me right up and the 24 count serving size is only 130 calories. Just can’t eat a boxful. Have some chemical additives.

*Also, jelly beans are good. Jelly Belly are best, though the kind with sucralose (which could be a nearly perfect sugar-like fix at 4 calories each) give me, ahem, rather loose bowels, which is not uncommon. Otherwise, regular jelly beans are 8 or so calories each, and are very very sweet, in a way that works out well when sugar is what I am looking for.

*Smoothies are good too. Lots of ice, a liquid of some kind, maybe some fruit, and some sugar. I find that in general, the mere fact that it has the consistency of a milkshake seems to satisfy my deepest sugar cravings, no matter how little sugar I use. Also, if I am dehydrated at all, drinking a blender full of crushed ice, tends to clear that right up, and is also very filling.

So that’s the plan, a bit of restraint, a little more exercise, some smoothies, and soon I will be my skinny self again! I hope this will work for you too!

Cheers!

Alix

Taiji: the new yoga?

09/16/2006

Beautiful Readers,

Now that I have milked every last drop of your interest out of my fake tanning adventures–I have moved on to something totally new that I strongly recommend that you try.

That thing is Taiji, otherwise known as Tai Chi.

As far as I am concerned Taiji has all the makings of the perfect new, trendy and worthwhile exercise. First, it is familiar-ish enough that you have probably heard of it before, and it has been around in the western world long enough that the image of all those old ladies moving in slow motion in the park has had a chance to seep into your subconscious.

Second, it is rich in cultural tradition, and with China on the rise in a very big way–right now might just be a good time to start thinking about China as a serious player in Western life.

Third, it is decptively easy to do (the reason you probably never tried it), and yet, like yoga, if you can suspend the notion that you will be an instant expert long enough to take a real class–you may find that you are inspired by how hard it is to move as though you are wading through molasses.

And, best of all, there is a set of Taiji moves that are done with a sword, called, aptly, Taiji Sword, which are as hard as the dickens to do properly, and are also extremely beautiful.

Now, mind you, Taiji  will not offer any cardio benefits, but it is certainly not just for the elderly–though it  is a supurb exercise for people who are looking to avoid impact, and want to increase their balance.

Spray-on tanning

09/03/2006

Beautiful Readers,

Boy that was weird–like something out of a sci fi film in the 50s.

So, after my little harmless adventure with good old-fashioned UV tanning, I decided it was time to try the spray-on tan. I had read about it, but the sensual experience was still a mystery.

I had planned to take a Pilates Reformer class at a suburban NYSports Club location, and despite my four or so confirmation phone calls to make sure the class was really going to happen at the time posted on their website, plus special arrangements with a manger and a sales rep eager to sell me a package of Pilates Reformer classes, I found myself, once again, standing in front of a dark empty Pilates studio. I find this experience is pretty typical of gyms. I try to treat it as an exercise in staying loose.

So, with a little time on my hands until my ride came to pick me up, I decided to check out the next door tanning salon. I was greeted warmly by the pretty forty something woman behind the desk who I guessed from her prematurely aged, though perfectly tanned, skin was a regular UV worshipper.

I told her I was interested in trying out Mystic Tan, a spray-on tanner, which advertises itsself as being ‘recommended by dermatologists’ (hmmm…). She pointed to the chart on the wall and explained that Level 1 tanning would cost $25, Level 2 would be $27, and Level 3 $30. "Looking at you, I would suggest you don’t go above 2" she offered, shaking her bleached hair around.

I asked how long it would take, not wanting to leave my escort waiting in the parking lot. "2 minutes for tanning, and 3 minutes for the video–and you can’t shower for 4 hours afterward." I was intrigued by the video. What on earth would the mandatory video be about? Not cupping your mouth over the spray nozzle? Removing all but beige clothes before getting into the booth?

I handed over my credit card and signed the waiver. The woman, who I was trying to impress by telling her that I was going to be writing about the experience in my blog later on (hoping that still had a little cache at least in suburban tanning salons), looked bored, and turned on the overhead VCR.

The bikini clad girl on the tape began to demonstrate the intricacies of optimal spray-tanning protocol. The basic instructions were no surprise…take off your clothes, use barrier cream on hands and feet (if you have ever used self tanner, you understand why–the webbing between your fingers and toes absorbs the stuff better than other places, and you can get a kind of amphibious, dark-between- the-toes look if you don’t cover up, or wash those areas right away), turn on the machine, and stand still, then when the machine pauses, turn around. Get out and dry off when it’s over.

The thing that came as a bit of a surprise was the protective gear. Goggles, nose plugs (eeew.), paper shoes (which the tape gave very detailed instructions about proper wear), and a shower cap.

By this time my friend had showed up early and was happily reading the newspaper in the front area, so I was good to go without the guilt of knowing that I was running late. The tan woman showed me to the booth. She directed me to the Barrier Cream for my feet and hands (no slippers), explained that there were no nose plugs, that I simply should not breathe much while the machine was spraying (great.), and counseled me against the bronzer-included option (which sprays a bronzing cream along with the clear self-tanning spray) unless I had ’somewhere to go’ right afterward.

Wanting the complete experience, I elected to use the bronzer too. I told her that streaky was OK with me as long as I could scrub it off in the shower later if it looked really weird. Then she left me alone with the machine which looks like a refrigerator.

Got undressed, put my jewelry into a pocket in my wallet, donned the shower cap, moved the chair that was propping the door open, and stepped into the dark booth. As the door slowly closed, I pushed the green button, and was suddenly freezing. The booth was cold, but the spray was colder. I winced as the mist gave me goose bumps all over, and was relieved when it was momentarily off, and I could turn around. It was better on the back.

In a minute it was over, and as I stepped out of the booth, I checked my new shade in the mirror, to find that the effect of the bronzer (remember, the clear tanner has to react chemically with your skin, and thus doesn’t develop a color for several hours) was somewhat less dramatic than I had hoped ( I was imagining that sort of fake orange Malibu Barbie kind of color that would make me laugh, and embarrass me a little), but the effect was actually rather subtle, and nice. And now that I look at my forearm, I think it may have metallic particles in it because I have a bit of a sheen.

Well, it’s been four hours, and I look tanner. As plausibly tan as I did coming out of the UV booth, without burning or sun damage. No streaking, no patches, no telltale signs of fake tanning at all that I can see. Just a nice even coat of toasty brown. So, unless it all washes off in my next shower (though the spray tan veteran who was coming in to use the booth just as I left said it lasts ‘a long time’) Mystic Tan has won this little fake bake contest hands down.