Collected works from Fat Camp

Follow the progress of one fat lady through a month’s stay at the Duke Weight Loss Management center in Durham, North Carolina and in the year following.

Before... Picture courtesy of Phillip Blackmon

One month later and 13 lbs lighter. Photo courtesy P. Milhous Weil

Six months later--and 40lbs lighter

Easter, 2012. About 45lbs down. Picture courtesy Tom Head

 

 

I’m trying to make me go to Rehab     July 3, 2011

I am on my way to Fat Camp in North Carolina (many more details to follow—I’ll be in Durham for all of July). Last night, I made it to the VA/NC border just as it was getting dark. As a viewer of Discovery ID, I know to select a family-friendly chain hotel in a busy area. I picked a remote motel, (est. 1929) beside a gas station.

“Smoking or non-smoking?” asked the lady on reception, a question dusty with disuse in most other parts of the world. I asked for non-smoking, got my AARP member discount (sadly no questions asked) and adjourned to the restaurant.

Now, bear in mind that this is going to be my last time on licensed premises for a month. The menu offered four or five different wines, listed by complexion. White Chablis, Blush and Red Burgandy (sic). I went for the Red Burgandy which was $4.50 a glass, $5.95 for half a carafe and $9.00 for a carafe. I took the middle road. “Ok at room temperature?” asked the waitress, who, like all the rest, had sore feet, swollen ankles and a bad back but still managed to be cheerful and genuinely welcoming.

The restaurant had four or five families in, some black and some white. I looked around and slipped off my cardie. This was one of the few places on earth where my upper arms would not offend.

The wine arrived. It wasn’t under-priced.

An abject busboy with a monstrous mono-brow leaned on a huge slop cart, waiting for diners to finish their meals. He was quite superfluous to requirements as everyone cleaned their plates.

My pork chops, steamed cabbage and baked potato arrived and I was pleased to note that the chops were breaded and fried, although this wasn’t mentioned on the menu. I could manage only one, although I did have butter on my potato and soaked the soft super-white bread roll in my buttery cabbage water. Yum.

The menu offered two slices of homemade pie for $5. There was no suggestion that one might do. I considered the offer carefully. I might never have pie again—and here was a God-given chance to say goodbye to two varieties, both at once. For only $5 the pair they couldn’t be that big—could they?

I had a slice of coconut and a slice of lemon. I didn’t like the lemon, so I didn’t eat it. Discipline, that’s what I call it.

The hotel gave me a coupon for a 6 inch Subway sandwich when I checked in. I shall pick it up this morning. I might be glad of it later.

Check your comprehension. Take the first of the Fat Camp Polls below

Starting Somewhere  July 3 2011

I have been filling in lots of forms, all of which seem to be concerned with my weight-loss and fitness goals. Perhaps part of my weight problem is that I am not very good at setting goals, much less working toward them.

So, what would success look like?

  • I would like to be able to show my arms in summer without people seeing an awning from armpit to elbow
  • I would like for my left ankle to stop wearing it’s own water wing when the weather is hot
  • It would be good to get out of the bath in one nimble move, and to walk 10 blocks without my knees grinding and complaining
  • And to shop for clothes I like, not clothes that fit
  • I might quite like to rent a bike and ride it in Washington DC. It would be good to bend to weed in the backyard, and climb the 5 flights of stairs to my apartment roof terrace, and to do these things without puffing

Will this do to start?

Willpower is for dummies  July 4, 2011

All the roads in this part of North Carolina seem to have at least three identifying numbers. Tonight I was simultaneously on the 15, the 501 and 85. A road can be marked both South Alston and East 55. Rt 147, which must be some sort of ringroad, is everywhere.  It is very confusing for someone new in town and was a particular problem this evening because Durham was in the grip of a thunderstorm and the rain was the worst I’ve ever seen. I was looking for East 54 (a very different thing from East 55, which I passed several times) and was on the road so long and so pointlessly that I became convinced I was to meet my end on this stormy night, the victim of a lightning strike, a tailspin or a sinkhole, “Poor thing” you would have said at one of the many fundraisers needed to give me a decent send off (the funeral money has been spent on fat camp) “She tried but she was never meant to be thin”

It was a traumatic end to a day otherwise filled with quite good news. Dr Eisenson congratulated me on having a heart, lungs and other vital organs in much better nick than I deserve.  He passed me as fit for exercise and gave me a green dot to add to my name badge. I am so competitive that I beamed with pleasure–before remembering that I don’t like exercise.

Exercise seems to have changed though since I last tried it. Now, they have step machines where you can sit as you work both your arms and your legs. I did it for 20 minutes-100 calories. The treadmill has a little emergency button you can clip to your t-shirt so that if you stumble, the machine will stop as you fall. “”I’m a clumsy person and I fall of things a lot –my balance is terrible” I told the good doctor ” We have a class that can help you with that” he said. The absence of jeering (“what are you–drunk?”) yelling ( ”stand on your two feet and get moving”) or  pity (“perhaps you’d better just sit this one out”) came as a welcome surprise.

I swam 36 lengths in a pool open to the sunny outdoors and planned my menus for the rest of the week. I attended a behavioral health class. ” Willpower should only be relied upon only by those who don’t have skills and tools” said the instructor “It’s all you have left when your plan A and back-up plans fail. Smart people work out how to take the stress out of the job at hand, and recalibrate the plan when they hit a problem. We are here to help you come up with a plan that works for you and which you can stick to without having to steel yourself–a plan you can adapt when you need to and get back to again and again” Willpower is for dummies. I like that.

Name the Casey Anthony Cologne

I  was sitting (not chewing the fat) with two fitness instructors today when the Casey Anthony verdict came through.

“I wonder what she’ll do now?” mused one of my spandex-clad companions, for Ms Anthony will be free in a matter of days.

” Launch a new perfume” quipped instructor number two, who is both quick-witted and well-toned.

If my new friends at the Duke Center for Fitness and Weight Loss Management start upping their calorie counts I will challenge them to come up with a name for the Casey Anthony cologne–enough to put anyone off their dinner.

Fat For Forty Years

I once had an Aunt of whom I was not fond. One of the ways she used to irritate me was by setting down her fork between bites. Here at the Duke Diet and Fitness Center they recommend this practice, because it helps you eat more slowly and savor your food more. You aren’t even meant to load up your next mouthful until the one you are chewing is completely swallowed. Try it–my aunt is the only person I know who ever pulled it off.

Being reminded of my aunt eating has taken me right back to a particularly painful time in my family’s history, which, surprise surprise, was when my eating problems started. I was 10 then, which means I have been fat for forty years. “Do you need four weeks?’ said my father when I told him I was spending all of July at fat camp. Seems I do–and then some.

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Crunch Time At Lunchtime

I haven’t felt hungry since I arrived at fat camp. This is a testament to the skills of the nutritionists, and the kitchen staff at DFC. Overall the food is delicious, although I will admit to missing salt. The other thing I miss is crunch. Oh not the juicy snap of celery or the rubber mat quality of uncooked cabbage, but the texture of something tiled on the tongue.  White fish and steamed vegetables are unrelentingly flaccid and by lunchtime today I longed for something with a little bite to it. Something tough enough to hold together, something worth tearing apart.

Just in time, the recipe below–300 of the tastiest, crunchiest calories to be found this side of two bags of Tayto.

Grilled Vegetable Pita with Goat Cheese

Servings: 1

Ingredients:

½ whole wheat pita (should be 80-90 calories for half the pita)

1 cup of grilled vegetables (see below)

1 tbsp of basil pesto (see below)

1.5 oz goat cheese (by weight)

Directions:

To make the grilled vegetables-

Cut 1 yellow squash in half length wise

Cut 1 zucchini in half length wise

Cut 1 red pepper into four large pieces

Cut 1 red onion into quarters

Place vegetables in a large bowl, toss with 1 tbsp of olive oil, 1 tsp of lemon

juice, ¼ tsp of salt and ¼ tsp of cracked black pepper.

Heat the charcoal grill and place vegetables on the grill to cook-turning

frequently until they are tender about 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool slightly and then

cut into small pieces to fit into the pita. This should make enough grilled

vegetables should make enough for ~4 pita sandwiches.

To make the basil pesto –

Combine the following ingredients (except oil) in a mini chopper or food

processor. Add the oil after everything else is well chopped and give it a final

few pulses to combine. This should make about 10-12 Tbsp pesto. Save the

leftover pesto in the fridge up to a week or in the freezer up to 6 months. (Tip:

freeze in 1-Tbsp portions for a quick sandwich or vegetable topping!)

3/4 cup chopped basil

1 Tbsp pine nuts

2 Tbsp parmesan cheese

1 clove garlic, minced

3 Tbsp Olive oil

Assemble sandwiches with filling portions specified above. You may heat the

pita ahead of time if desired.

Nutrition Analysis per Serving:

Calories: 305

Fat: 17g

Carbohydrates: 28g

Protein: 14g

Sodium: 490mg

Recipe Duke Diet and Fitness Center

 

Flexibility with Foam Rollers

I once worked with a personal trainer who couldn’t touch her toes. It used to give me great satisfaction that I could do this without  too much difficulty while she ran out of stretch when she reached mid-calf. For this reason, I signed up for a couple  of flexibility classes at DFC assuming that I would shine. Not so. Indeed it appears that parts of my anatomy have entirely seized up.

The first alarm sounded during circuit training. I couldn’t move the shoulder press at all–and that was without weights. The shoulder exercises in the pool give me problems too so it seems fair to assume that my trapezium has lost its swing and that my rotator cuffs would be better labeled as rotator ffucs.

Even worse than my flexibility is my balance.I took part in a class intriguingly titled “Flexibility with Foam Rollers”. I had imagined Hilda Ogden’s accessories and something more akin to a craft class than a work-out. Wrong again. The instructor, who walks like a ballet dancer, bade us lie on mats with what looked like a 4 foot polystyrene bolster beside us. “Scoot your lower half up on to the roller” she said “and then slide your top half up there too” I tried to scoot and slide but to no avail. Try it if you happen to have a railway sleeper handy—but bear in mind that the roller, well, rolls.

With a little assistance I made it to the top of the roller. Imagine a watermelon balanced on a cheese stick, or Humpty Dumpty lying on the ridge of the wall. I ached at the shoulders, back and hips. The proposition seemed to be that we should work out in this position. Ana Pavlova (not all the instructors are named for desserts) suggested we lift both legs straight into the air, still balancing on the poleaxed foam pole. My feet seemed inclined to stay firmly on the ground, and I can’t say I blamed them.

The fitness staff at DFC emphasize a mix of aerobic work out and exercises designed to improve strength, flexibility and balance. When I look at people not much older than me struggling to go down stairs, trying to haul themselves out of chairs or having trouble walking with their lunch tray, I begin to see the value in stretches, twists and reps.

I wonder if I could find my old personal trainer again. We used to go on hilly walks and she would tell me her life story. A Brit, she first crossed the Atlantic to become an undercover drugs officer in the Caribbean. She was lesbian but married a gay American Airlines exec so she could live in the U.S. and his mother could die content. The marriage wasn’t particularly happy. Her small talk was worth keeping up with and I bet she has several new exciting instalments by now…

Through the Wringer

I have been sleeping like a lumber yard since I came to Duke DFC. That’s what 3 hours of exercise will do. Oh, and not drinking. It also helps to have no work to keep one awake with worry.

My home for the next month is the Candlewood Suites where for $1395 a month, a person can have their own room, bathroom and kitchenette. It is all a bit brown but otherwise perfectly clean and comfortable. There is no housekeeping, so you have to use the onsite laundry to wash your sheets and towels, and, of course, your mountain of workout clothes. Candlewood Suites pride themselves on their standard of service and so they have added a fitness suite just beside the washers and dryers, allowing residents to use the treadmill or ride the recumbent bike while their laundry also twists and turns. Is there no escape?

https://blarneycrone.wordpress.com/2011/07/09/the-key-to-success/

My car won’t start. The key won’t turn in the lock. Several of my new fat friends have tried it, and it really won’t move at all. It is stiffer than I was this morning after my flex and stretch class yesterday. Triple A have called a car locksmith “It will take him an hour and a half to get to you and he may not be able to get it started. It will cost $95 whether or not he can fix it. If he can’t help, call us back and we’ll send a tow truck”

Great. It is of course too hot to sit in or anywhere near the car. Under what used to be normal circumstances I would have repaired to a restaurant and filled the time with 1500 calories until Triple A arrived. For now, I am working on being grateful that the Duke Diet and Fitness Center is still open, although it won’t be 90 minutes from now. I am trying not to catastrophize about either the problem or the cost. The nice man will turn up with his set of picks, fix the lock, start the car and I will be on my way to the Candlewood Suites with enough money still in my bank account to pay my fat camp bill. I have to learn to deal with stressful situations without the aid of carbohydrate–but please God not tonight

Breakfast in the Outside World

Readers, I am not writing from the parking lot at the Duke Diet and Fitness Center. I made it back to the Candlewood Suites (it seems a stretch to call them home)  thanks to the efforts of Benny, a specialist in automotive locks. He arrived about 8pm, just as the center was closing and in two minutes had shaved the key and persuaded it to turn in the ignition. “If you have trouble in the morning just hammer it on the end–push it right into the lock” he advised. I hope it works.

The car will still have to go to the Mazda dealer, which is likely to be expensive, but at least I didn’t spend all of last night, and all of my funds, dealing with crisis and frustration.

This morning I plan to drive to Duke Chapel for the 11am service where I will give thanks for Benny–and pray the car key holds up until I make it back to Itchy Ankle.

I treated myself to a lie-in this morning and have thus missed breakfast. Can I be trusted to buy something to eat in the outside world, or should I skip breakfast altogether? I will go in search of a cup of coffee and two pieces of fruit.

Not a Great Day

“You have a great day” This is how all Triple A service people end their calls and it is a mistake. It is so unlikely that anyone they are speaking to will.

Take my own case: the car refused to start again this morning and however hard I belabored the end of the key, I just couldn’t get it to turn enough to spark the engine. I have now called a Triple A tow truck which will take me to a Mazda dealer which will not be open today. I will then have to hire a car, or spend a fortune on cabs. A great day does not seem to be on the cards.

My new best friends

I am not usually a lonely person but I will admit to feeling a bit lonely this morning. A broken down car in the middle of nowhere with no help at hand will do that to you. Of course the only thing to do is get to know people.

I started with Greg from Triple A. He had a bushy blonde goatee, multiple tattoos and a tow truck. He was able to get the car started, of course. For a moment I was tempted to ask him to just stay with me until home time, but in the end we both agreed it made most sense for me to drive the car right to the Mazda dealership: I could carry on my social outreach from there.  He gave me his card though, in case I need anything else.

The dealership was just opening, although the service section was closed today. I put my keys, the details of the problem, and my contact details in the drop box. The temperature was 103 degrees and so I hurried into the showroom to get some shade. A nice man in a salmon pink shirt provided address details while I phoned a cab. Didn’t get his name, but I’ll catch up with him tomorrow when I pick up the car. I’m sure he’ll be glad to see me.

Khalid is my new driver. His cab has two giant cracks in the windshield so he wouldn’t be everyone’s first choice of chauffeur, but he suits me just fine. He’ll come and pick me up tonight after dinner and bring me back to fat camp tomorrow morning.

I feel a lot better now I have a social infrastructure in place. Oh, and I swam half a mile today.

The Mystery of the Swimsuit Slasher

Huge drama tonight at the Duke Diet and Fitness Center—we do everything big here. I left the pool at 3pm and noticed that lots of swimsuits seemed to have fallen off their hooks in the ladies locker room. Odd.

Two sisters left the pool minutes after me. One of them picked up her spare cossie from the tiled floor to discover it had been cut across the crotch. Closer examination of around 20 suits revealed that they too had had their straps or gussets slashed.

A young policewoman came and took photos and made notes, but she didn’t appear to think that 20 ruined swimsuits was a serious crime. We think otherwise, for a plus size bathing suit that you would want to be seen in costs around $100. They are hard to find and of course my fellow fatties plan to spend a lot of time in the pool in the next few weeks, so every swimsuit counts.

Worse than the lost swimwear though is thinking about who dunnit. Who would be angry enough to take what looked like a pair of craft scissors to the bathing suits of middle aged women trying to lose weight?

It seems hard to believe it could have been a man–surely there are security systems to stop that kind of thing? But if it was a woman, was it one of the clinic clients? Someone leaving today? Someone still in our midst?  A deranged member of staff?

The sisters and I, being the ones who reported the crime, are determined to solve it. We’ll be undercover in cover-ups.

Feet of clay at Fat Camp

Duke Diet and Fitness Center could learn from an after action review of the swimsuit slashing incident. The drama in the women’s locker room has harmed them more than they know, because all the women in the facility now feel a little less comfortable at the clinic–and a lot less confident about the DFC crisis response should something really terrible happen here.

Of course, the trouble had to happen on a Sunday afternoon when there is only skeleton staff (Hah! As opposed to their usual skinny staff.) but then, terrible things always do happen when you least expect them to. Princess Di died on a public holiday weekend. The tsunami struck at Christmas. Toast always falls butter side down.

When I and my swimming companions discovered the trouble at 3pm, there was nothing to suggest that we were not the first. I went to the front desk to report the crime. The receptionist did not turn from her computer screen to make eye contact “We know” she said “the police are on their way” . No “I know this is very upsetting and we’re glad that no-one is hurt” or “Thanks for letting me know–I’m printing a sign now to let everyone know what we’re doing” or “Why don’t you write down what you know so you can give it to the police”

There was something so angry and hate-filled about the destruction of the swimsuits. Was it a fatophobe who wanted to hurt the heavyweights here? Was it one of our number, suddenly scarily unbalanced? An intruder? An inmate? A member of staff who would next posion the oatmeal or add bleach to the hottub?

New clients check in at the end of Sunday afternoon and were immediately filled in on the drama by those who had had their swimsuits cut up. A great start to a stay that most have saved hard to afford. Other clients turned up for aqua aerobics this morning to discover that they had been victims of the swimsuit slasher. Wouldn’t it have made sense for the clinic to send an email to all female clients explaining what had happened, and what was being done? This would at least have allowed people with only one (destroyed) swimsuit to make another plan for this morning’s exercise. It would also have been reassuring to know what steps had been taken to stop Edward or Edwina Scissorhands running amok again.

The clinic is coming down with psychologists and coaches but no attempt was made today to address the incident. To varying degrees, those affected are angry, upset or fearful. As one person said to me “The trust has gone. Now we are looking at everyone thinking ‘was it you?’ and it doesn’t feel like Duke cared–or even knew what to do”

We are now advised, by a sign hanging on the changing room door this morning, to lock our wet swimsuits in our lockers. Lovely.

Several ladies went to Macy’s today and bought themselves replacements which, luckily, were 50% off in the sale. Rebecca, who is here for a couple of months, had miraculously brought her sewing machine from AZ and set up shop in the cafeteria after lunch. She repaired sundered straps by stitching a piece of ribbon behind them to strengthen the join. A group of clients gathered around her to chat while she made the much-needed repairs. There was not a staff member to be seen.

Some day, probably a Sunday, a client will die while in the pool or on the gym equipment. Before that terrible time the clinic would do well to review its crisis plan and communications process. Thin is good but thin on the ground is not. Small portions and short rations are healthy, except when people need news. And empathy costs no calories.

The Swimsuit Round

One of my fellow campers at the Duke Diet and Fitness Center refers to me as “Miss Ireland”. I like it. I am not quite ready for the swimsuit round in Miss World, but getting there ;-)

Where JK Rowling went wrong

Conversation over lunch (curried turkey salad with grapes served on bibb lettuce–delicious) turned to Harry Potter. ” A lot of trouble could have been avoided if only those kids had talked to an adult” opined one diner at Duke Diet and Fitness Center. I assume she feels much the same way about any story involving Scooby Doo.

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I’ll have a side of assertion with that

This morning, while completing 4000 of today’s 10000 steps on the nustep machine (yay–go me) , I heard Susan Cheever being interviewed on the Today Show.

She has written an article in this month’s Self Magazine. “Is Being Too Nice Making You Fat?” argues that women who take crap often eat crap. They eat to comfort themselves when they are upset and tamp down their feelings with another and another bite of food. Susan calls obesity  ”the American Burqa” –the way that women become invisible to the world and cut themselves out of having a choice about what they want, say and do. Susan says that by sticking up for herself and speaking up about what’s important to her (nothing major, just “I’d rather sit over there”, or “let’s see Larry Crown not Harry Potter, or “I’d like to use the computer now”) she has lost 20lbs.

Lack of assertiveness is not really my issue, but it is for many of the women here at Duke Diet and Fitness center, and perhaps it is for you.  Might finding your voice help you lose your appetite?

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Black goes with everything

I am cut out for institutional living. It is one of the reasons I was so very happy at the BBC. My car is now back on the road (more of this later) and I could have driven to the mall myself, but when I heard Duke Diet and Fitness Center were offering an outing last night I signed up to join the others on the mini-bus.

Miss Dallas was particularly excited, for she loves to shop and intended to hit the sales hard. I went to the Apple store and bought an armband to carry my iphone. This way I can use a pedometer app to count my daily steps. The armband looks like a blood pressure cuff crossed with some kind of militia paraphenalia. It is instantly noticeable.

“What have you got on?” said Miss Dallas as she loaded a suit bag, and two large carrier bags on to the back of the bus. I explained and finished with “and I don’t need to tell you how important it is to accessorize”

“Oh I know” said Miss Dallas “and black goes with everything…”

Today is a beautiful day and so I plan to go for a walk after I go to the gym. Today I WILL walk 10,000 steps.

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Sniffy about exercise.

I have now attended two classes on overcoming barriers to exercise. Duke Diet and Fitness center has identified a list of frequently used excuses, and of course I am guilty of using them all:

  • Too tired
  • Too busy
  • Not athletic
  • Scared I’ll hurt myself
  • Scared I’ll make a fool of myself
  • It’s too far/too late/ too expensive

To these I add “it smells bad” which seems to be a sensitivity all my own. It started at elementary school where I hated the smell of the gym floor and rubber mats almost as much as I disliked the feel of a pimpled basketball thwacking my hand or face, or the suggestion that I should attempt to mount the wall bars or the knackered horse. The floor smelt of gutties and cheese and warm dust and made my hands and nose itch and prickle. ” Get a mat and lie on the floor” said the instructor in this morning’s core strength training session. I just couldn’t make myself do it.

At high school it only got worse.The gym didn’t smell so bad, but there was a suggestion we should take showers after exercise (not an option at Newtonbreda Primary) and I will never forget the heady mix of bleach on tile, Charlie perfume, shower curtain mold and teen BO.

I have checked out the fitness facilities at my new place of employment and am resolved to sign up for aqua aerobics, yoga and personal training in the fall. The website doesn’t offer a scratch and sniff service but, with luck, the aroma will be more boudoir than boot camp so even the super-fastidious can become super-fit.

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Duke Does It Right

It’s amazing how acknowledging a problem immediately begins to solve it. The staff of the Duke Diet and Fitness center this morning held a townhall meeting to allow everyone to air their views about the weekend’s vandalism. In so doing, they changed the buzz around the building and began to rebuild the trust that was damaged.

Dr Eisenson began by explaining how at odds the incident was with what happens here, and how alien it is to the culture they work hard to create at Duke. He apologized that people had suffered this bad experience, and for taking so long to hold the meeting. The clinic will give $75 to those whose swimsuits were damaged. Most people are likely to reinvest this in personal training, massage or work out tools.

A crime prevention officer from Duke University police was there, and offered a complimentary personal safety class to all clients of the clinic. He talked about improvements they can make to clinic security and urged the whole community to be alert ” We can’t stop people with the skill and desire to do wrong–but we can deprive them of the opportunity.”

People had a chance to have their say and the meeting ended with applause. It was the right thing to do.

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Think Popeye, not Popeyes

Today, in addition to 3 hours of aqua aerobics, aqua flex and stretch and aqua circuit, I decided it was time to venture on to dry land. I had a personal training session with one of the Duke Diet and Fitness Center interns. She was gentle with me and everything went well until she asked me to extend my arms, bend them up at the elbows and make a fist with each hand. The weights room has one mirrored wall and as soon as I saw myself in this Popeye pose I fell about laughing. “What’s so funny?” asked Racine ” This is not what I normally do” I wheezed ” I have never seen myself like this before”

We took a few minutes for me to get used to my muscle man pose and then Racine asked me to move my arms up over my head, touching my fists at the crown. As previously reported, my shoulders know only how to hunch, and my upper arms to hang uselessly by my sides, so I found this transition surprisingly difficult. The challenge was to move from Popeye to Butch Ballerina 15 times in a row. Racine mentioned that most people do it with weights. Imagine.

I think I’ll set up a mirror on my new desk in my new office next month, and do these reps when I need a break from work. If I don’t ever build upper body strength, the laugh will still do me good.

Note: the superfit comic hero Popeye is not to be confused with the fried chicken and biscuit franchise of the same name. Both fried chicken and biscuits are very calorie dense, and thus to be avoided. Be like Popeye (oh, and me) and eat spinach instead. ;-)

Shielded from the sordid perils of actual existence

There are people in my family who are regularly praised for their artistic talent, and I am not one of them. Nonetheless, I am very pleased with my efforts in watercolor class and found that, absent the involvement of brush-wielding blood relatives, painting can be an enjoyable and satisfying pursuit.  Perhaps Duke Diet and Fitness Center like Oscar Wilde believe that “It is through art, and through art only, that we can realize our perfection; through art and art only that we can shield ourselves from the sordid perils of actual existence.”

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Counting Beads

The evangelical branch of the family will have been startled to see the title of this post. They are alert to anything that feels like a move towards Rome, following yesterday’s appearance at Duke University Chapel (Very high church. Lots of thumb action at the mention of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John, and plenty of parading up and down).

They need not be concerned for my interests are more water-logged than worshipful. The beads I am counting can be bought in a florist’s or craft shop and are more like skimming stones than talismen for telling. These beads take all the tedious mental effort out of counting laps or lengths. I get a jar with 38 or so, and take one out of the jar everytime I swim both up and down the pool. The flat stones form a pleasing pile by the poolside and the hand in the jar action is cheeringly reminiscent of fishing for a brandy ball or humbug at your granny’s. These stones are beautiful shades of aquamarine which is soothing for the spirits and I will admit to liking it when other pool-users stop to marvel at the growing magnitude of my marble mountain. Counting lengths and laps becomes irritating after a while and I think the boredom has sometimes forced me out of the water. Using the beads allows me to daydream mindlessly while conducting my stately breast stroke up and down the pool, head held high above the spray.

The pool at Duke Diet and Fitness Center is filled with salt water and the roof and side doors of the building can be opened up so we swim in the sunshine, while birds sing above. Occasional leaves flutter into the water. It is easy to spend 3 hours a day there.

The life guard is a young man with a fondness for old country and western songs. Now that I am freed of the need to count, I amuse myself by creating foodie versions of each title. Today we had “Put Your Sweet Lips A Little Closer to the Cone”, “I have your Pilchard, She’s got Tofu” and ” Hello Low-Fat Roux, Goodbye Tart” to say nothing of the “Strawberry done Stawberry wrong song” and “Don’t It Make My Favorite Stew”, that well known hit from Rita Coolwhip. ;-)

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Keeping my mind off food

The sun puts in a full day’s work at this time of year in North Carolina. The constant glare makes it hard to take good photos. After the service this morning at Duke University Chapel the sky was jigsaw blue, with hardly a cloud to create background interest.

It was the same when I got to Cedar Creek Craft Gallery at 5pm for the National Teapot Show. The gallery is open 7 days a week, all year round and has a cottage garden selling unusual plants (the one with spiky leaves is not what YOU think it is—it is some kind of hisbiscus) and making me yearn for my Itchy Ankle quarter acre. (Is it wrong to miss your garden more than you miss your children?)

In between all this gallivanting, I met a friend of a friend who is also in Durham to lose weight. Melanie is using the Rice Diet and has shed 50 lbs in the last year, the kind of success I would like to see myself. We met at a cake shop but restricted ourselves to iced tea and iced coffee and left the iced butterfly buns and frosted flower cookies alone.  After lunch at Duke Diet and Fitness Center I swam 26 laps, a new personal best.

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Posted in Crone as art critic, Crone in America, Culture with the Crone, diet, Exercise, fat, Fat Camp, food, friendship, garden, itchy ankle, The Traveling Crone | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a replyEdit

Tobacco Town

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// The Duke family made their money in tobacco and later in hydroelectric power and the local power company here is still called Duke Energy. Nearly a century ago the family bought naming rights to the university—it used to be known as Trinity–and all the land hereabouts. Today, there is very little industry in downtown Durham and the old brick tobacco warehouses are used for shops, restaurants and apartments. The brick was made locally but it reminded me of Belfast and of London where it is much more common than on this side of the Atlantic. I had to tone down the color in some cases to make myself feel more at home: the gasworks in Belfast could only dream of being warmed by the sun that shone today on North Carolina.

Posted in Crone in America, Culture with the Crone, Entrepreneurial Flair, The Traveling Crone, You can take the Crone out of Ireland | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 ReplyEdit

What is making America fat?

A pound of weight represents 3500 calories. That’s what you have to eat to put on just one, and that’s what you have to work off (or deny yourself) to lose just one.

This week, I have lost 5lbs or 17,500 calories. I have eaten 1000 to 1,200 calories a day and I have exercised for 3 hours each day. When I swim laps, it takes me an hour to do 22, or half a mile. It takes me another hour to do 4000 steps on the nustep machine. I do not typically manage both these feats on the same day.

My blood pressure is an award-winning 74 over 112.

As in so many things, all of America would do well to follow my newly energetic example. Click here to see some scary maps from the Centers for Disease Control, which show how obesity has become a nationwide epidemic in the last 15 years.  It’s not just huge portions, fast foods and trans fats–we are all now the victims of power-steering, automatic car windows, online shopping, moving walkways and washer dryers. We slump dully all day and move only to stuff our faces.  Not me, not any more.

The only state where less than 20% of the population is obese: Colorado.

Zing went the strings of my heart

For Christmas you will all be receiving a bottle of gourmet sauce from North Carolina. It’s called Zing and you’ll love it. I have only tasted the diet version of course but you can let me know if you want the heavy duty variety. I intend to buy a case of each.

Brits, this sauce is more bitty and gritty than HP Fruity Sauce but less lumpy than Branston Pickle. Yanks, it combines cider vinegar with the fire of hot peppers and the sweetness of raisins.It is not as hot as Sriracha and is the color of black bean sauce.  I mixed it with my vegetable chili at lunchtime and my cous cous this evening and I am sure I can find a way to incorporate it into breakfast tomorrow morning.

This wonderful North Carolina condiment is made just up the road from the Duke Diet and Fitness center and is on their approved list because it is low in both calories and sodium. The creation of a Malaysian family who emigrated to the Carolinas, I have no idea why it is not world-famous.


Posted in Cooking with the Crone, Crone in America, Dangerous Obsessions, diet, fat, Fat Camp, food | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a replyEdit

True Love Weighs

5000 steps in one hour on the nustep this morning. 1 mile (44 laps or 88 lengths) in two hours this afternoon. Perhaps I’ll take up caber tossing next week.

Decided to channel positive energy in the pool by renaming the C&W swimming soundtrack  to include Duke Diet and Fitness center terminology. Songs to swim to included:

You’ve been walking in your sleep (lungeing on your mind)

I’ll be there before the next tricep curls

and of course, True Love Weighs.

They also played my enduring favorite, Lazy by Patsy Climb.


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The only state where less than 20% of the population are obese is Colorado.

Jul22

Trouble Breathing?

All my life I have been out of step with gym teachers and fitness instructors.  A tendency to daydream meant that at ballet class I was usually burling ( a Northern Irish term for spinning on the spot) while others were bunny-hopping. I once wandered off to planet Blarney in a road-safety class when I was about six and so still had my right hand in the air when the Tufty Club teacher asked to see everyone’s left.  She was not kind about the oversight.

Today in any kind of dance class or aerobics work-out I seem to start on the opposite foot to everyone else. I am out of step for step class.

The real problem though is breathing. Oh, I have mastered “in through the nose and out through the mouth” thing but I am typically inhaling while others are exhaling. I often have to work so hard to get my breathing in sync with everyone else’s that I have to abandon all other movements in order to get this right. It’s humiliating.

I had a turning point the other day though at the Duke Diet and Fitness Center when working with my personal trainer Racine. (Well, perhaps the possessive is overstating things slightly: I have worked with her once. )

We were on land, in the weights room. “Breathe out when you are working against gravity” she said ” and in through the nose when you’re not”. I got it immediately. In the pool it is the other way around—you exhale as your dumbells push down or out against the weight of the water. Easy when you know why…

Jul22

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

While I have been speeding up my heart rate and putting the brakes on bingeing at the Duke Diet and Fitness center, Gretel has been in driving school. She had to spend 3 hours there 5 nights a week for the last 2 weeks and pass a test every night. I pre-paid for her program and put together a complicated system of pick-ups, rides and drop-offs to be sure she was in the right place at the right time, equipped with pen and paper, and ready to concentrate. I need not have worried. Gretel has managed perfect attendance and scores in the 80s and 90s. She has passed with flying colors and earned the kind of credit, praise and attention that eluded her at high school. She is very pleased with herself and I am very pleased for her.

She now has to have 2 x 3 hour blocks of instructor-led driving practice to earn her full license. This is scheduled for August so I am facing a big insurance bill at just about the time I will receive my first paycheck from my new employer. Nonetheless, I will invest in a chauffeur’s cap. Shame I’ve sworn off the swill when I will soon have my own designated driver.

Jul21

Beautiful, strong, proud and black

I wish I could commission Kehinde Wiley to paint a portrait of my son. It is not until you see one of Wiley’s paintings that you realize that you almost never see portraits of young black men. Photos yes—either in gritty scenes of urban poverty, or poster images making icons of sports stars–but portraits, no. Much less portraits like these:

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// ]]>My son had a bad day today and was very much on my mind as I toured the Nasher Museum of Art this evening. The museum is free on Thursday nights and so Miss Dallas and Miss Scottsdale and I decided to add another few hundred steps to our daily totals by touring the contemporary acquisitions. The gallery collects art created by the African diaspora and for me the stand-out was this portrait, titled St John because it is a modern version of a renaissance painting where Jesus’ cousin is a white guy. Kinhinde Wiley draws on the sumptuous backgrounds and colors of baroque and renaissance fabrics and backgrounds for his work, and I fancy there is something of Versace in here too.

I doubt that I will ever have this quality of portrait of my beautiful boy but seeing this proud, confident, tongue-poking picture tonight made me think of him and hope he has a better day tomorrow.

Jul20

Happy with the Silver

The last time I ran it was in the company of an Olympic Gold Medalist.  Mary Peters won the Pentathlon in Munich in 1972 and came home to Belfast, Northern Ireland to face the kind of adulation currently enveloping NI golfers Darren Clarke, Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell.

Mary Peters raised money for a running track in Northern Ireland which was built in the early ’70s in the most privileged part of Belfast. (Nobody thought this was odd at the time). I, aged 12, happened to be hanging out at the site with my siblings, cousins and friends the day the Daily Mail was taking photos of Mary in support of her fundraising efforts. In lieu of any actual oppressed “children of the troubles”, we were drafted and thus photographic evidence of me in motion still remains. I am the child in unflattering stripes in the middle of the picture. I only did it for the cameras. Believe it or not, I am one year older than my sister and cousin who feature in this picture. No wonder I thought of myself as an Amazon from an early age.

In my view, walking is only slow running and is also to be avoided. Duke Diet and Fitness Center would like me to take 10,000 steps a day, speed optional. This is a distance of nearly 5 miles at my stride and truthfully there is nothing or no-one I want to see enough to cover that amount of ground. The nustep is an option here, but it won’t be at home, so how am I to make up the missing mileage?

The beavioral health team at Duke are full of bright ideas for creating Specific, Measurable, Action-based, Realistic and Time-focused goals. They ask us to come up with “Someday Goals”, “Everyday Goals”, “Bad Day Goals” and to look out for red flags. We then have to think in advance about remedies that can help us get back to our everyday goals and closer to our someday goals when we backslide.

So if the Someday Goal –what Mary would call a Gold–is10,000 steps a day, the everyday goal or Silver can be 4,000 steps a day and a commitment  to adding an extra 50 every week.

The Bad Day or Bronze goal can be remembering the everyday goal and being prompted to take the stairs, or park further a way from the house, or run round the kitchen half a dozen times.

The Red Flags might be failing to wear a pedometer for a week, or using the elevator 3 days in a row, or using the “it’s hot, it’s cold, it’s raining, I’m tired” excuses across a week to avoid walking to work or walking at lunchtime or whatever way you originally planned to cover those 4000 plus daily steps.

The Remedies? (these are hard) Well I am hoping these can work for me: Line up friends to walk with so they hold me accountable, boost my spirits and keep me company. (Marilyn and Peggoty, you have been warned) Treat myself to a new Pandora download or an itunes audio book for my iphone or give my kids my paycheck and keep after them until I can get it back –this last is a desperate measure, to be used only as a last resort.

I am not sure that the late, lamented Buster McShane ever had to employ these tactics with his world-beating pentathlete. It’s been 40 years since Dame Mary and I were last in touch. Perhaps I’ll write her another letter and find out.

Jul19

Zing went the strings of my heart

For Christmas you will all be receiving a bottle of gourmet sauce from North Carolina. It’s called Zing and you’ll love it. I have only tasted the diet version of course but you can let me know if you want the heavy duty variety. I intend to buy a case of each.

Brits, this sauce is more bitty and gritty than HP Fruity Sauce but less lumpy than Branston Pickle. Yanks, it combines cider vinegar with the fire of hot peppers and the sweetness of raisins.It is not as hot as Sriracha and is the color of black bean sauce.  I mixed it with my vegetable chili at lunchtime and my cous cous this evening and I am sure I can find a way to incorporate it into breakfast tomorrow morning.

This wonderful North Carolina condiment is made just up the road from the Duke Diet and Fitness center and is on their approved list because it is low in both calories and sodium. The creation of a Malaysian family who emigrated to the Carolinas, I have no idea why it is not world-famous.

Jul22

Trouble Breathing?

All my life I have been out of step with gym teachers and fitness instructors.  A tendency to daydream meant that at ballet class I was usually burling ( a Northern Irish term for spinning on the spot) while others were bunny-hopping. I once wandered off to planet Blarney in a road-safety class when I was about six and so still had my right hand in the air when the Tufty Club teacher asked to see everyone’s left.  She was not kind about the oversight.

Today in any kind of dance class or aerobics work-out I seem to start on the opposite foot to everyone else. I am out of step for step class.

The real problem though is breathing. Oh, I have mastered “in through the nose and out through the mouth” thing but I am typically inhaling while others are exhaling. I often have to work so hard to get my breathing in sync with everyone else’s that I have to abandon all other movements in order to get this right. It’s humiliating.

I had a turning point the other day though at the Duke Diet and Fitness Center when working with my personal trainer Racine. (Well, perhaps the possessive is overstating things slightly: I have worked with her once. )

We were on land, in the weights room. “Breathe out when you are working against gravity” she said ” and in through the nose when you’re not”. I got it immediately. In the pool it is the other way around—you exhale as your dumbells push down or out against the weight of the water. Easy when you know why…

Jul22

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

While I have been speeding up my heart rate and putting the brakes on bingeing at the Duke Diet and Fitness center, Gretel has been in driving school. She had to spend 3 hours there 5 nights a week for the last 2 weeks and pass a test every night. I pre-paid for her program and put together a complicated system of pick-ups, rides and drop-offs to be sure she was in the right place at the right time, equipped with pen and paper, and ready to concentrate. I need not have worried. Gretel has managed perfect attendance and scores in the 80s and 90s. She has passed with flying colors and earned the kind of credit, praise and attention that eluded her at high school. She is very pleased with herself and I am very pleased for her.

She now has to have 2 x 3 hour blocks of instructor-led driving practice to earn her full license. This is scheduled for August so I am facing a big insurance bill at just about the time I will receive my first paycheck from my new employer. Nonetheless, I will invest in a chauffeur’s cap. Shame I’ve sworn off the swill when I will soon have my own designated driver.

Jul21

Beautiful, strong, proud and black

I wish I could commission Kehinde Wiley to paint a portrait of my son. It is not until you see one of Wiley’s paintings that you realize that you almost never see portraits of young black men. Photos yes—either in gritty scenes of urban poverty, or poster images making icons of sports stars–but portraits, no. Much less portraits like these:

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// ]]>My son had a bad day today and was very much on my mind as I toured the Nasher Museum of Art this evening. The museum is free on Thursday nights and so Miss Dallas and Miss Scottsdale and I decided to add another few hundred steps to our daily totals by touring the contemporary acquisitions. The gallery collects art created by the African diaspora and for me the stand-out was this portrait, titled St John because it is a modern version of a renaissance painting where Jesus’ cousin is a white guy. Kinhinde Wiley draws on the sumptuous backgrounds and colors of baroque and renaissance fabrics and backgrounds for his work, and I fancy there is something of Versace in here too.

I doubt that I will ever have this quality of portrait of my beautiful boy but seeing this proud, confident, tongue-poking picture tonight made me think of him and hope he has a better day tomorrow.

Jul20

Happy with the Silver

The last time I ran it was in the company of an Olympic Gold Medalist.  Mary Peters won the Pentathlon in Munich in 1972 and came home to Belfast, Northern Ireland to face the kind of adulation currently enveloping NI golfers Darren Clarke, Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell.

Mary Peters raised money for a running track in Northern Ireland which was built in the early ’70s in the most privileged part of Belfast. (Nobody thought this was odd at the time). I, aged 12, happened to be hanging out at the site with my siblings, cousins and friends the day the Daily Mail was taking photos of Mary in support of her fundraising efforts. In lieu of any actual oppressed “children of the troubles”, we were drafted and thus photographic evidence of me in motion still remains. I am the child in unflattering stripes in the middle of the picture. I only did it for the cameras. Believe it or not, I am one year older than my sister and cousin who feature in this picture. No wonder I thought of myself as an Amazon from an early age.

In my view, walking is only slow running and is also to be avoided. Duke Diet and Fitness Center would like me to take 10,000 steps a day, speed optional. This is a distance of nearly 5 miles at my stride and truthfully there is nothing or no-one I want to see enough to cover that amount of ground. The nustep is an option here, but it won’t be at home, so how am I to make up the missing mileage?

The beavioral health team at Duke are full of bright ideas for creating Specific, Measurable, Action-based, Realistic and Time-focused goals. They ask us to come up with “Someday Goals”, “Everyday Goals”, “Bad Day Goals” and to look out for red flags. We then have to think in advance about remedies that can help us get back to our everyday goals and closer to our someday goals when we backslide.

So if the Someday Goal –what Mary would call a Gold–is10,000 steps a day, the everyday goal or Silver can be 4,000 steps a day and a commitment  to adding an extra 50 every week.

The Bad Day or Bronze goal can be remembering the everyday goal and being prompted to take the stairs, or park further a way from the house, or run round the kitchen half a dozen times.

The Red Flags might be failing to wear a pedometer for a week, or using the elevator 3 days in a row, or using the “it’s hot, it’s cold, it’s raining, I’m tired” excuses across a week to avoid walking to work or walking at lunchtime or whatever way you originally planned to cover those 4000 plus daily steps.

The Remedies? (these are hard) Well I am hoping these can work for me: Line up friends to walk with so they hold me accountable, boost my spirits and keep me company. (Marilyn and Peggoty, you have been warned) Treat myself to a new Pandora download or an itunes audio book for my iphone or give my kids my paycheck and keep after them until I can get it back –this last is a desperate measure, to be used only as a last resort.

I am not sure that the late, lamented Buster McShane ever had to employ these tactics with his world-beating pentathlete. It’s been 40 years since Dame Mary and I were last in touch. Perhaps I’ll write her another letter and find out.

Jul19

Zing went the strings of my heart

For Christmas you will all be receiving a bottle of gourmet sauce from North Carolina. It’s called Zing and you’ll love it. I have only tasted the diet version of course but you can let me know if you want the heavy duty variety. I intend to buy a case of each.

Brits, this sauce is more bitty and gritty than HP Fruity Sauce but less lumpy than Branston Pickle. Yanks, it combines cider vinegar with the fire of hot peppers and the sweetness of raisins.It is not as hot as Sriracha and is the color of black bean sauce.  I mixed it with my vegetable chili at lunchtime and my cous cous this evening and I am sure I can find a way to incorporate it into breakfast tomorrow morning.

This wonderful North Carolina condiment is made just up the road from the Duke Diet and Fitness center and is on their approved list because it is low in both calories and sodium. The creation of a Malaysian family who emigrated to the Carolinas, I have no idea why it is not world-famous.

Jul28

Dancing Sheet to Sheet

I was discussing my plan for ongoing exerise post fat-camp with one of the behavioral health specialists at Duke Diet and Fitness Center when it transpired that she didn’t know about dancing in bed. I filled her in so with luck this art form (invented by me and my sister in Belfast, Northern Ireland in the mid 1970s )will soon catch on with DFC clients. It may even win Michelle Obama’s attention and prove a turning point in America’s fight against teen obesity.

This is how it goes. Set your alarm to a music station. When you wake up, the first thing you will hear is pop, rock or r&b. In our case, it was the Noel Edmonds breakfast show on BBC Radio 1, but today I use disco hits via Pandora and suggest you do the same.

Instead of getting out of bed, dance energetically while horizontal, enjoying a disco ‘neath the duvet and postponing the evil moment when you must rise and face the day. You should not attempt any vertical action until at least three tracks have played. For added intensity,tangle with the sheets or pound the pillow. If you have company, invite them to join in–you never know what a first dance may lead to.

Enjoy your morning gyrations –the best possible start to the day.

Jul27

Even DaVinci Started with Cartoons…

Edna and Tracy Turnblad are role models here at our own Hefty Hideaway and so I and a number of other ample Americans rushed to buy tickets as soon as we learned that Hairspray was playing in Raleigh this week.

If you are having trouble remembering that girth can rhyme with worth be sure to see this show the next opportunity you get. If you are trying to get your own 10,000 steps away today, take a turn around the floor with someone you love, and my favorite song from the fabulous movie version starring Christopher Walken and John Travolta.

Jul27

Why all choice is difficult

Choice is a watchword at the Duke Diet and Fitness Center. We can choose whether or not we want to exercise, what we want to do, and how much and how hard we work. It is not at all like the Biggest Loser. We are encouraged of course to give new activities a go, and to push ourselves if we really want to lose weight, but there is no Jillian Michaels to make us cry. “Choose something you like to do” advise the fitness instructors, “and mix it up a little. You are more likely to stick to your exercise plan if you pick activities you enjoy”. I hate sweating and move like a drunken weeble on land, so I prefer to work out in the water. I’ve lost 12 pounds in 3 weeks this way.

The dieticians are big on choice too. They provide us with menus at the beginning of our stay and, following a talk on calories and nutrition, ask us to make our menu selections for each meal across our four week program. Our job is to balance protein and starch and to use fruit and vegetables to put together appealing plates that will make us feel full and happy, within a calorie limit we have chosen, based on advice from the nutritionists. There is no Gillian McKeith with her unattractive grains. ”We are not food police” says Lisa “You have chosen to come here for a reason and what you choose to do while you are here is your business”. Fat and dairy are treated like frankincense and myrrh–a dab on special occasions.

Filling in the menus is hard work. We can pick and choose between prepared foods or make up our own meals. Will I have chicken satay, edamame and carrot salad or make my own sandwich with hard boiled egg, low fat mayonnaise and whole wheat bread with some lettuce and tomato? The idea is to help us understand the calorific worth and volume of different foods and to help us work out the mix of food groups that satisfies. The aim is also to equip us to think about and plan what we are going to eat in advance, rather than taking whatever comes. Of course, the fact that we have chosen what we will eat prevents us accusing the staff of starving us, or complaining that we don’t like what’s on offer and should have a chip sandwich instead.

Some people find the choosing very difficult, either because they eat or will try only a very limited range of foods, or because they are so unused to asking themselves what they really want that they find it hard to identify a preference. I have neither of these problems. Others feel miserable when they don’t like what they chose two or three weeks ago, and when they see what looks like a more delicious plate piled high for someone else. I will admit that I have had a pang or two of this sort. The food service staff aren’t allowed to “just throw a sweet potato on there” or “swap the carrots for the corn” or give in to us when we plead ” I made a mistake and missed the dessert when I handed in my menu” It is helpful to note that the disappointment is only fleeting and that no-one ever died of this kind of deprivation. I haven’t even felt hungry all the time I’ve been here.

At first, when I filled in my menus, I thought I would find it hardest to forego potatoes and so I requested this serving of starch every chance I got. In fact, the center chops up its baked potatoes into two or even threes and so the portion isn’t much of a perk. The thing I miss most is bread. I almost wept with happiness the day I had a jalapeno corn muffin with my vegetable chili for lunch and the slice of toast I had the other morning was breakfast bliss.

The center recommends that we plan and shop for a week’s meals at once, making it less likely that we give in to a whim or eat badly when we are hungry, lonely, angry or tired. Those who let the cupboard get very nearly bare are more vulnerable to slip ups than those who have a fridge and larder stocked with Duke-approved supplies.

In the pool, we leave the choice of music to the instructors, who each have their own selections on their iphones. They must scan the class and work out the average age before they press play, for the music always seems to strike a chord with the people in the pool. I hear a lot of the music of the 70s and 80s–Abba, Elton John and Earth Wind and Fire. I joined some oldies for an afternoon class earlier this we where we ranged from the Rolling Stones to the Beach Boys and back. When I pass the step class, it is usually Beyonce or Bieber. For Flex and Stretch last week we all sang along to Frank Sinatra. We had the soundtrack to O Brother Where Art Thou for lap swimming yesterday ( I did a mile and a half) because one of the bigger men was brave enough to make a request of the Loretta-Lynn loving lifeguard.

Jalapeño Cornbread Muffins

Servings: 10

Serving Size: 1 muffin

Ingredients:

1 cup all purpose flour

½ cup whole wheat flour

½ cup yellow cornmeal (whole grain)

1 tablespoon + ¾ teaspoon baking powder

1 Tablespoon honey

1 cup skim milk

1 large egg plus 1 egg white

3 Tablespoon butter, softened

2½ Tablespoon grated cheddar cheese

2½ Tablespoon chopped green onion

1½ Tablespoon chopped jalapeño

Directions:

Combine flour, cornmeal and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. In a

separate bowl, whisk the milk, eggs, and butter. With a wooden spoon,

stir the wet ingredients into the dry until most of the lumps are dissolved.

Don’t over-mix. Mix in the grated cheddar, scallions and jalapenos and

allow the mixture to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 10 individual

muffin tins (or use paper muffin cups). Pour equal amounts of batter into

the cups (about

⅓ cup batter per cup). Bake 30-35 minutes or until a

toothpick comes out clean.

Nutrition Analysis per Serving:

Calories: 150

Fat: 5 g

Carbohydrate: 22 g

Protein: 5 g

Sodium: 190 mg

1.5 S, 1 F

Recipe courtesy the Duke Diet and Fitness center cookbook

Jul27

Don’t forget your Clean Wipes

News reaches me from Washington DC that the Camelot strip club is trying to boost lunchtime business. They are encouraging local professionals (Transparency Towers is just one of the organizations headquartered close to the club) to bring their smart phones, ipads or netbooks for what they describe as a “tap and lap” working lunch. Just as long as nobody plans a video conference call…

Jul25

Clean Pot, Dirty Pot: The Joy of Painting

Clean Pot, Dirty Pot: The Joy of PaintingI don’t care how dismissive my family is ( sister re last week’s efforts:”Oh Dear!”  Father on the same subject: “You’re very abstract” in a tone that suggested this was not a plus) watercolor painting is my new hobby. It’s highly enjoyable, and hard to eat while you are wielding a paintbrush. My new love will be one of the things that keeps me out of the larder.

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Jul25

Fat Camp is Fab

People ask me what kind of people come to Duke Diet and Fitness Center and the question is surprisingly hard to answer. I have met two fathers and daughters, two mothers and sons, one set of sisters and several couples. People come with friends or plan to meet up with friends they’ve made on previous visits. Most, like me, come alone. There are lots of women who seem to be glad to have shaken free of their families for a few weeks, men who talk a lot about their wives–and curiously often about the weight of their wives, tiny trophies they treat as talismen. ” She was 98 lbs when I married her 44 years ago and she is 108 lbs today”. “She’s only a little bit of a thing and she runs marathons”  We have seen a steady stream of gay men. Here, there are brilliant students, doctors, lawyers and professors who have mastered everything but their weight. This month, there are lots of teachers and faculty members, taking advantage of their summer break. For some people, money is clearly no object, but for most it’s a bit of a stretch to stay here and something they’ve worked hard to make happen.  There are more women than men and more people over 40 than under. Most people are white but there are a smattering of Latin would-be losers and two or three African Americans out of a shifting population of around fifty. Hassana has come from Pakistan and there is a French lady here to support her son.

Some people have horror stories- ” I have lost 100 lbs 4 or 5 times with diet pills and put it back on every time”- but many returnees are great advertisements for the program. Marilyn has come back every year for the last 18 years and is 100 lbs lighter today than when she first arrived. Many come to regulate their blood pressure, or sort out their blood sugar and some need to lose only a few pounds. Others are slimming so they can have hip or knee surgery and some are dealing with years of dysfunction around food, and trying to save their own lives. All are fat and want to be more healthy.The staff seem able to work with us all. You should come here just as fast as your (delete as appropriate) stiff/cellulite-covered/stubby/weak-kneed/swollen-ankled/ulcerated legs can carry you. Fat camp is fab.

Jul25

Belly ache

I woke up in some discomfort and the feeling persisted all day. The large white area known as my stomach was sore. I tried to diagnose the problem without the aid of medical staff at the Duke Diet and Fitness Center: Was this the kind of cramping that might warn of an attack of food poisoning? Perhaps a touch of constipation? Even period pains? None of these seemed quite right. The feeling was worse on each side, and particularly when I stretched. Eventually it dawned on me–a whole new physical sensation. I swam a mile on Saturday and used my abdominal muscles, a bit of a shock to them and to me.

Jul23

The Oopsadaisy Principle

I’m fat, but I’m thin inside… there’s a thin man inside every fat man.”
  – George Orwell

My skinny second self (the thin person who lives inside my fat person) does not have much experience of life for the poor thing has been a shut-in for 40 years. It is not clear if my height-weight proportionate alter ego has made much attempt to free herself. I thought I saw a hint of her the other day–just a suspicion of cheekbone–but generally she sleeps swaddled in layers of fat. It seems fair to assume that the poor thing is not much of a one for planning, perhaps lacks focus, drive and energy, and may suffer from low self esteem.

Duke Diet and Fitness center know her type. They have strategies for dealing with the stunted development of our inner thin people.  They teach us to bring them out and bring them on without bringing them down.

“Think of yourself as supporting an infant learning to walk” they suggest. “Create a safe environment by removing things that can do harm. Don’t make stationary life too easy. Encourage experimentation and effort. Applaud even unsuccessful attempts and offer a helping hand for every try. Don’t overreact to the fall downs, for the fall downs are part of learning to stand up”

I call this the Oopsadaisy Principle for weight and fitness management. There will be missteps, tumbles and boo-boos in store for my hidden willowy form. With patience, perserverance and love she will one day walk tall without me.

My nephew Joe recommends I follow his regime, which consists of jogging to pick up his takeaway. As previously discussed, I do not run.

Scottish Susan points out that she lost 7lbs after she was banned from driving. I have been booked twice for speeding while in North Carolina (well, they just shouldn’t make the roads so wide and so empty) so a ban is a very real possibility, but I do not think that giving up the car will work for me.

After an evening at the Sarah Duke Gardens I am seriously considering taking up the cello, which, in the right hands, can help to burn off a lot of calories.

There are recitals at the Gardens on summer evenings and tickets are only $10. Although the season is called Music in the Gardens, the recitals actually take place indoors, where the air-conditioning works beautifully. Miss Dallas and I were the only ones there who smelt of chlorine.

Bonnie Thron, lead cellist from the North Carolina symphony was the star of the show and demonstrated that playing the cello can be quite a work-out. Stop and think about it for a moment: Casals, Du Pre, Yo Yo Ma–you don’t see many chubby cellists.

One of the pieces Bonnie played was Britten’s Sonata in C and her triceps and biceps took a beating as her bow worked through 180 different angles. She also strummed the cello’s strings with both hands, something I have never seen before. It was fabulous, especially the Scherzo-Pizzicato.

My favorite piece was Mendelssohn’s Variations concertantes Op.17 which also seemed to take a fair bit of strength and stamina. It was good for the heartrate just to watch and listen. I don’t know who is playing in the version below–it’s not Bonnie–but listen and enjoy.

Letter Home

Dear Family and Friends,

I leave Duke Diet and Fitness Center this weekend and it is good to know that I will have your understanding, encouragement and company as I strive to continue to look after myself back in the real world.

I have a plan for eating less and moving more which I think will work well for me, just as your own plan works for you. If you wish, you can check out the details of my plan here–the everyday plan is the one to focus on. If I can get the process right, the outcome will follow.

I will be happy to accept your compliments on looking good, moving well and working at my plan. Of course, it will be great if you can walk, exercise or swim with me, and if you want to cook a calorie-conscious meal for me, or buy or bring me healthy food.

Supportive comments on the blog are always welcome.

It is important for me to be able to make my own choices and find my own balance between treats and duty-foods. Please don’t become the food police or the exercise patrol.

If you are concerned that I am falling back into old habits and neglecting my own welfare, please ask me a direct question about my plan and my progress, and let me know you are willing to help.  Answering you will help me analyze my own behavior and frame of mind. If I ask for your help, it will be because I value your compassion, flexibility and imagination. Thanks in advance for your support.

Jul28

At least he knows his motivation…

Patrick is a nice looking man of a certain size. His manly frame could certainly show-off 300 lbs, but it is fair to say that he demands rather more of it than this. Patrick is full of fun, up for anything and always willing to help, so he was an obvious choice for leading man in a training video being made today at Duke Diet and Fitness Center.

Patrick was nervous as he prepared for his moment in the spotlight. It asks a lot of any star to shoot only in swim shorts. The director did not have to remind Patrick of his motivation: he is here for many weeks in his struggle for health and fitness and does not waver from his goals.

“How did it go?” I asked when I saw Patrick at lunchtime (pork loin, coleslaw and red potatoes roasted in their skins–delicious)

” Fine” said Patrick “as long as the camera doesn’t add 10 lbs…”

There have been many more posts about food, eating and weight loss since my return from Duke Diet and Fitness Center. If you want to see them, go to my home page and search on food or fat. Thanks for reading.

3 Responses to Collected works from Fat Camp

  1. Kim Shrader says:

    Liz,

    Just wanted to let you know that I am keeping up with your progress. I enjoy reading your blogs… you have such talent! Thanks for sharing with all of us!

    I miss you terribly!

    Kim Shrader

  2. blarneycrone says:

    thanks Kimmie–I miss you too. Thanks for reading 😉

  3. Pingback: Shrinking Doris 2 « Doris Brazil Speaks Out

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