Thursday, December 27, 2007

A few words on weight

As the New Year approaches, we are inundated with advertisements for the weight loss industry. New year, new you... but the same old, tired shtick. They tap into people's (women's, mostly) low self-esteem and sell you on the idea that you can only be happy and healthy if you follow their weight-loss plan.

A few statistics about dieting:

- The diet and weight loss industry is a $30 billion dollar a year operation.

- At any given time, 62% of American adults are dieting, and 18% are constantly on a diet.

- 98% of people who lose weight on a weight-loss diet will gain it all back, and then some, within 5 years.

- The risk of dying from heart disease is increased by 70% in individuals with fluctuating weights (yo-yo dieting) than in individuals with a stable weight, regardless of their weight and other factors such as smoking, blood pressure, and cholesterol.

- The list of illnesses associated with dieting includes: anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, hair loss, gallstones, gall bladder disease, heart disease, ulcers, constipation, anemia, skin rashes, amenorrhea (absence of menstruation), gout, infertility, kidney stones, reduced resistance to infection, osteoporosis, and of course, eating disorders.

- In the USA alone, 150,000 women will die from the effects of eating disorders complications in the coming year.

- Most of the diseases that are touted as being "caused by" being fat -- diabetes, heart disease, etc. -- are actually, at their root, caused by endocrine (hormone) imbalances. One of the first symptoms of any endocrine disorder is weight gain. And so the "cause" -- fat -- is actually a symptom that something is wrong. Many other "fat-related" illnesses are actually caused by yo-yo dieting.

- "Overweight" is a designation based on weight charts, which were based on statistical reports developed by Metropolitan Insurance in 1959. These statistics are based on the normal range of middle- to upper-class white males in the 50's. Do you fit into that category? Me neither. 78% of American adults have a weight that's not in the "normal range".

- People whose weight is 20-40% "over" the charts actually live longer and have lower rates of most cancers, respiratory diseases, and hip and vertebral fractures (all that extra padding is good for something!)

(*these stats courtesy of NAAFA)

But Maggie, you say, you've been regaling us with the tales of your weight loss for 9 months now! You've lost 42 pounds, you look and feel better, and yet you're writing all these damning statistics about weight loss!

Well, actually, these statistics are mostly about dieting, not just weight loss per se. And I'm happy to report that I am not now nor will I ever again be on a weight loss diet. For the past nine months, I've been working out with my personal trainer to improve my overall health and fitness, to build lean muscle mass to make my body's metabolism work more efficiently, to reduce the effects of the multiple endocrine disorders from which I suffer. And yes, I have shed quite a few pounds as the natural result of improving my metabolic profile. But all the while, I've been eating normally.

Now, "eating normally" for me may look a bit different than it does for many Americans. As a rule, I do my best to avoid certain types of foods: overly processed food, hydrogenated fats, refined sugars, aspartame, soy foods, etc. You won't find very many frozen dinners or pre-packaged meals in my fridge or pantry. I only buy organic, full-fat dairy products, free-range meat, poultry and eggs, and as much as possible I buy my produce locally and in season (I make exceptions for things like bananas and lemons, which don't grow locally, but I do try to buy organic versions of these things). But I don't count calories, fat grams, carb grams, or anything else. I don't weigh my food or measure portion sizes -- I eat when I'm hungry and stop when I'm full. And yes, I do occasionally indulge in take-out, sweets, and restaurant meals.

I just don't believe that depriving myself of certain foods accomplishes anything other than creating a strong desire to binge on those foods. I don't believe that creating a healthier, stronger body can be accomplished by limiting my calorie intake to near-starving levels. My body needs an abundant variety of healthy, nutritious, "real" foods in order to perform all the functions it needs to every day. My body needs exercise in order to remain healthy, and it needs calories -- energy -- in order to be able to perform the exercises I do. By loving my body and providing it with what it needs, rather than desperately loathing the way I look, I am able to create wellness within myself. It's not about the weight, it's about taking care of me.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


The first presidential primaries will be taking place the next few weeks. Want to know something? I don't even care.

I have yet to find a candidate whom I feel comfortable supporting. But, since I live in Pennsylvania, which doesn't hold its primary until May, it doesn't really matter anyhow. By the time I'm allowed to vote, the Democratic nominee will already have been decided by the voters in other states.

In 2003/4, I was all about Howard Dean. He was my dream candidate -- I couldn't really find an issue on which I disagreed with him. But then he lost out to John Kerry in the early primaries/caucuses, and by the time I got a chance to vote (and I did pull the lever for Dean, anyhow), he wasn't even in the running any longer. And then of course, Kerry lost in the general (did he even try to win?) and the country fell once again into the hands of the Repugnicans.

And so, I feel like I can't even care about the primaries, because I don't have a vote. And this year, even if I did have an actual vote, I don't know who I'd choose. None of the candidates appeal to me. It's almost as if the Democrats have given up, which makes me so sad that I'm becoming increasingly apolitical -- yes, me!

I really wish I didn't feel this way, too, because there are some seriously misguided people trying to hijack this country, and they are VERY political and will do whatever it takes to get their candidate elected. The people who believe that their religion should be the law of the land, and that Jeezus wants us all to have the right to carry concealed semi-automatic weapons, but not the right to universal health care. They would love for religion to shape public policy. For instance, I was reading a message board the other day on which someone actually said that they didn't believe in global warming, because why would "God" create a world that humans could destroy? I threw up a little after reading that.

Increasingly, I feel the desire to flee this country and its backwards, ignorance-driven politics. I told Matt yesterday that what I would really love is to sell one of my books and then be able to buy a small farm in the French countryside. I dream of living in a place like France -- where they have universal healthcare (and live longer), where you can attend college for free, where you can eat French food and drink French wine and speak beautiful French every day! Oui oui! ;)

I know it sounds like an off-the-wall pipe dream, even for me -- I mean, I've never even been to France, and I know that book royalties don't pay quite *that* much -- but the idea of leaving the USA behind is really appealing. It's frustrating to be a progressive in a society that seems bound and determined to move backwards, where even my own political party has taken to kowtowing to the religious right. I've tried for a long time to be a part of the solution, by doing my part and voting, calling/emailing my representatives, donating to progressive causes, going on peace marches, etc., but sometimes I think the most graceful thing a person can do is admit defeat and try to move on rather than continue to bang their head against the wall.

Monday, December 24, 2007

How cool is this?

You can watch "It's a Wonderful Life" in its entirety online at Google video (and now, at my blog! LOL).

Since I've been feeling a bit George Bailey-ish lately, and I missed seeing it on TV this year, here it is:

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Lights, please?

Despite the fact that I know the Christmas story is just a fable, based on recycled solar mythology that was passed down for thousands of years before Jesus is said to have been born, this remains my absolute favorite holiday special, and this is still my favorite part:

I think that it's because I know now that the story is an ancient one, rather than just a tool of the church (even though that's how it's used) that I still have some reverence for it. The story of the god-man born of a virgin on December 25th is an allegory for the rebirth of the sun -- the light of the world -- at the winter solstice in the constellation of Virgo. The three kings, or three stars in the constellation of Orion, point the way to the place where the sunrise takes place on the morning of December 25th. Everything in the Christmas story (and all the gospel stories, for that matter) is an allegory for the movements of the sun, moon, and stars, which, before the invention of television, were the most fascinating thing for people to stare at in the evening ;) The story -- and the holiday celebrating the winter solstice -- has been recycled and attributed to many gods and religious traditions throughout history, although the original meaning has been all but forgotten.

I love it that when we gather to celebrate Christmas (or whatever we choose to call the celebration we observe at this time of year), we're observing a tradition that goes back tens of thousands of years and that is relevant to all people, rather than exclusionary. The sun is the source of life on this planet. Without it, we'd all perish. And so despite the fact that I am no longer of the Christian persuasion, I still enjoy the "Christmas story" -- because I can recognize it for what it is.

Have a wonderful holiday, everyone!

Friday, December 21, 2007

The traditional holiday hyperventilation

Xmas is just 4 days away, and I'll never get everything done, and what's worse, the universe is conspiring against me to make my holidays miserable. Truly.

First, my pregnancy test on Monday come up a big fat negative. Then, of course, I spent a stupid amount of time wallowing in my misery and engaging in self-destructive behavior, which always has such wonderful consequences. Bleh.

Then yesterday, after finding the perfect tree, we came home only to find that we couldn't find the lights we usually put on it -- Matt and I have a thing about M&M's, because of our names, and we have these super-cute M&M lights that we always put on our tree. They weren't packed away with any of the other tree decorations. All we could find was these boring plain lights that don't even blink, and I *need* my tree lights to blink, dammit!

I have my dad for family pollyanna this year and I ordered him the coolest gifts, and was so proud that I had gotten my shopping done early. I placed the order on T-giving day for a set of personalized Irish Pub glasses, and everything else I got centered around an Irish Pub theme (a cookbook, mustard flavored with Guinness, etc). Because of the personalization, I expected to wait a while for the glasses, but by Wednesday of this week I had started to panic, so I called the company and they assured me that I would have them by Friday. Yeah. Right. I don't have any glasses, and I see my dad on Monday. WTF?!

So it would seem that even when I'm determined not to let the holidays get me down, I get screwed. So much for putting on a happy face! Bah humbug! Bring on the New Year!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Santa in the Age of Technology

This Sunday, we took Jacob -- and his list, which he carefully typed out on his computer! -- to see Santa Claus at Neshaminy Mall.

When we got to the part of the mall where Santa was, I was surprised and happy to see that there was almost no line. But, we were soon to find out, there was a reason for the line's absence. It seems that waiting to see Santa, like so many other things in this world, can be improved through the use of technology.

The deal is, you go up to the counter and they give you a pager, which will work anywhere in the mall... similar to the ones they give you in the chain restaurants like Olive Garden. Once they page you, *then* you can come get your photo with Santa. We were told that the wait would be about 2 hours.

Once we got over the initial shock of being handed a pager, I decided that it was probably a good thing to not have to stand in line for two hours, and was able to appreciate Santa's new electronic breakthrough. But it was just so weird that a guy who still travels by sleigh and has all his toys made by elves would be so technologically advanced ;)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Never mind...

... I toyed with it a bit. It doesn't look like I originally had it, but it'll do.


Blogspot is messing up my header now... grr! What do I do?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

'Tis the Season

I'll admit it: the past few years, I've been pretty grinchy. There are a lot of things about this season that annoy me. The crowded malls, the gaudy outdoor displays, the rampant materialism, the fundie-invented "War on Christmas" -- it's all taken a toll on me. But nothing has made this season as difficult as the fact that my grandmother, who loved this time of year more than any other, passed away just 15 days before Christmas in 2004. I miss her terribly. All our little traditions at this time of year, and helping her with preparations, especially as she got older, were things that I really looked forward to. And without her, the holiday feels empty.

But this year, I'm making an effort to really let myself enjoy the season. I've been listening to the all-holiday-music station on the radio, I've got some decorations up, and I'm even thinking about baking cookies. I suggested to my extended family that we do a polyanna among the adults this year, and everyone was enthusiastic about my idea, so fortunately we have less expenses this year. And I'm really looking forward to Christmas Eve at my sister's -- she's making a traditional Italian "seven fishes" dinner. I don't know much about the tradition, but I'm bringing mussels marinara! Yum!

So, in the spirit of allowing the little things to make me happy at this time of year, here's one of my favorite holiday tunes from the 80's. I'm planning on sharing a few more of my faves as the holiday season continues. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 6, 2007


This past weekend, Matt and I finally had a chance to rent Sicko, the latest Michael Moore documentary. I honestly don't know what took me so long, as I am an avid fan of his. But no matter your opinion of Michael Moore (or your political leanings), this film is a necessary expose of what really goes on in this for-profit system, and I can't imagine anyone walking away from seeing it without being persuaded that real, lasting change is needed.

I have my own beef with my health insurance company, which refuses to pay for my personal trainer sessions at the gym, which have helped improve my health dramatically as well as facilited a 37.5 (and counting) weight loss, but would have easily approved me (at my starting weight) for weight loss surgery, an expensive, risky procedure with long-term side effects. I pay almost $275 a month for my trainer sessions plus my gym membership, and if I didn't think it was worth every penny, and absolutely necessary for my long-term health and well-being, I wouldn't have such a high credit card bill right now.

I've also been deeply affected by our nation's failure to provide healthcare as a basic, fundamental service to all its citizens. In 2002, Matt's godmother was out of work and had been for some time. However, she made too much money with unemployment -- $20 a month to be exact -- to qualify for medical assistance. She suffered what she believed to be a heart attack, and despite her lack of insurance she went to a local emergency room and tried to get treated. The hospital ran some tests, claimed they couldn't figure out what was causing her pain/shortness of breath/fatigue/etc., and sent her home. Later she tried the same thing at another hospital, where her weight was blamed for her problems. A few weeks later, she died at home, having suffocated as a result of her heart not getting enough oxygen due to scar tissue caused by the heart attack that the hospitals said she never had. She was 54. I believe fully that if she'd been insured, she'd still be alive today.

In Sicko, Michael Moore exposes the lies and propaganda we've all been fed for so many years regarding universal care. He takes a look at the government-provided health care systems of Canada, Britain, France, and even Cuba, and finds that not only do citizens there not have to pay for their health care, they receive care that is superior to what we offer here -- including preventative care -- and they live longer, healthier lives than we do, have lower infant mortality rates, and nobody EVER goes bankrupt because they can't pay their medical bills.

In what was for me the most deeply moving part of the film, Moore exposed the sickening practice of hospitals kicking patients out for not being able to pay. Tears spilled down my cheeks as I watched these poor, often elderly people dumped on the sidewalk, some still in hospital gowns. What kind of a country do we live in, where hospitals can treat people this way? Where profits are so important that we can treat human beings like garbage?

After the first of the year, our insurance co-pay is going up to $20 for a visit to the primary care doctor; $30 for a specialist. The co-pay for my thyroid medication is going up to $40 a month -- that's almost $500 a year out of pocket just for one drug, and Matt takes medicine, too. How long will it be before we have to decide between paying for healthcare and paying our bills?

In my state, SCHIP -- the State Children's Health Insurance Program -- has recently been expanded to cover ALL children not already covered by private insurance or medical assistance. This is definitely a necessary step in the right direction. However, until everyone in this country has the ability to receive healthcare, without worrying about how they're going to pay for it, I really don't think we can call ourselves a civilized country.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


My first post on my brand-new blog! I thought it appropriate to blog about, well, blogging.

Seems like everyone has a blog these days; some of us -- like me, now! -- have more than one. So, first a question: why do we blog? What is it that appeals to us about keeping a journal online?
For me, blogging has always been about having a place to express myself, explore my thoughts, and communicate about what's going on in my life. I've never been one to keep a diary or a private journal. I've started dozens of them, but somehow it never seemed like there was a point to writing if I was the only one who would ever read it.

When I was in elementary school, in the dark ages before the internet, my friends and I wrote letters to one another. We used pretty stationary or notecards with pictures of kittens or rainbows, and we poured our hearts out to one another in pink and purple ink. In high school, my close friends and I shared a notebook which we would pass back and forth to one another between classes. In addition to writing notes to one another, we also kept lists of favorite things and pasted clippings from magazines.

I've always felt more at ease expressing myself through writing than through talking. Perhaps it's the ability to correct my mistakes as I go along, or the desire to review what I've written before I finalize it. I think it's also the chance to make sure that I can say what I need to say without worrying being interrupted. In conversation, I have a tendency to let others dominate, but in writing, I get to "let it all out" on my own terms. I think this is one of the main reasons why I've always been one to write notes/emails/text messages when I have something to say rather than call someone on the phone or show up at their door.

With this new blog, my desire is to create a place to share my thoughts, and also to get into the habit of writing as often as I should. I'm hoping to gain enough regular readers that I can attract some advertisers. The more personal stuff will remain at the MySpace blog I've kept for almost 4 years now, accessible to friends and family.

So, welcome to the new blog! Take a look around, make yourself comfy, and tell me what you think.