soft in the middle, hard in the head

April 2012

According to the goals I set for myself earlier this year, I should have lost 23 pounds by now. I have not lost 23 pounds.

I was not depressed about this until I saw recent photos of myself.

When I imagine how I look, I don’t see myself as this…curvy. If I catch a glimpse in a shop window or see a photo, there’s a brief moment of surprise as I reorient myself to reality. Do I really look like this?

Here’s an example of how I imagine myself to look…

January 2001

…cute little cardigan, skinny waist, sexy long neck, and petite little arms.

I know how I got here, but the thing I’m finally allowing myself to admit is that I might never go back. I’m 40, I had a couple kids, I have a desk job, I drink a lot and love to eat good food.

And let’s face it, I don’t have the against-all-odds kinda will power that people make documentaries about. Sometimes the need to wear pants is a roadblock to my day. So, while it’s technically possible for me to lose 40lbs, I guess maybe I just don’t want it bad enough.

It’s much easier to write this whiney blog post from the comfort of my wifi-enabled bedroom.

I feel a New Year’s Resolution coming on.

My butt needs a new zip code

I haven’t whined about my body lately, so I shall now break the silence:





Sometimes when I whine about my body it’s justified – like when I exercise daily and eat right for three months and lose a whopping 7 pounds. But today I whine unjustifiably.

I’ll wait here while you sigh and click over to a different blog.

I’ve been carrying around 40 extra pounds for a long time now – about 5 or 6 years, depending on your math. I gained about 40 pounds with both my kids’ pregnancy, and lost all the weight after Ruthie was born.

But after Thomas, I didn’t lose a thing.

I was on anti-depressants, birth control, and mint-chocolate lattes at the time – none of which provided a way to lose the birth weight.

I have a pretty realistic vision of how I want my body to look. I know I can’t return to my pre-marriage weight – age, two kids, and gravity are working against me. But when I look in the mirror I don’t feel like me. I don’t recognize who I am. I still gasp when I see myself, as if I went to bed looking one way, and woke up looking like this.

I’ve searched for the motivation of my heart. I want to feel comfortable in my own skin, and for the most part I do. I don’t like the way I look, but I’ve accepted it.

But still.

Hot Yoga Nearly Killed Me Last Night. In a Good Way.

My butt needs a new zip code

This is me. And that is my ass. And my arm, and several of my chins.

I’m not really sure why I thought it was a good idea for Bryan to take a picture of me on the ferry this weekend, but clearly I was out of my mind.

I’ve gained weight since January when I started working. I haven’t gained any weight in the five years since I had Thomas, but sitting at a computer for most of the day is working against me. I guess the daily rigor of being a full time household manager was enough to maintain my weight, eh? Who knew?

I love to run. I love the endorphin rush, the discipline, the breathing, the steady rhythm, and the way it de-stressed me between the shoulder blades. However, my body is soft and my muscles are weak. Any time I try running, my body breaks down and betrays my will.

To help strengthen my muscles and learn better posture – and quite honestly to break it up a little – I thought I’d try yoga. There’s a HOT yoga studio near my house, and I went for the first time last night.

This is what I learned:

  1. It’s hot in there.
  2. Really hot.
  3. The ice water in my stainless steal water bottle was luke warm by the end of class.
  4. That’s hot.
  5. I placed my mat in what I thought was the back of the room.
  6. It turned out to be the front.
  7. The entire class got to watch me fail over and over again.
  8. Ninety percent of yoga is mental.
  9. I wanted to quit so many times, but pressed through.
  10. My mind tried to talk me into quitting.
  11. I had to quiet it with my will.
  12. I have a better idea of the way I’m supposed to stand.
  13. It is not the way I’m standing in this picture.
  14. My feet are tiny and my hips are ginormous.
  15. Basic physics will tell you I tipped over a lot.
  16. Yoga instructors really like their short shorts.
  17. I was not able to do some of the poses.
  18. I couldn’t get my fat out of the way.
  19. I didn’t let this paralyze me.
  20. One position made me fart.
  21. Actually, I farted twice.
  22. When you bend your body in half and squeeze, these things happen.
  23. One hour in I panicked.
  24. I thought I was going to suffocate.
  25. Yoga is ninety percent mental.
  26. I finished the class.
  27. I will probably go back on Wednesday.
  28. Unless I’m too sore to get out of bed.

If I saw this picture I’d TOTALLY wanna be friends with us.

Photo by Randy Stewart

I’ve been worrying all week about my ugly hair and my chubby face and generally being all Charlie Brownish about my appearance because I’m going on a business trip to where all the Beautiful People are.

And then I look at pictures like this and I’m all, “Giiiirl, you are HAWT!”

Way to make us look good, Randy!

end of an era

I’ve held a gym membership for about five years, now, and during that time ownership changed three times – from something I don’t remember, to American Woman Fitness, to Pure Fitness, to L.A. Fitness.

If you’ve been around The Pile for awhile you may remember the love affair I had with American Woman Fitness, which was located about three blocks from my house. That was an amazingly friendly, small, intimate space filled with all variations of Woman – fat, buff, and everything in between. They also had a high population of Muslim immigrants who worked out in full length skirts and head coverings, made possible because there were no men allowed in the facilities.

Sadly, American Woman couldn’t make it work as a business and had to shut down. Members like myself who had paid for a year in advance were transfered to Pure Fitness, which was bought by L.A. Fitness shortly after. I was guaranteed the American Woman membership rate for a lifetime, but nothing about the equipment, classes, or staff measured up to the blissful experience I had at American Woman.

So when my membership came up for renewal last week I had a tough decision to make. I was actually using my membership at L.A. Fitness, but I Hated it with a capital H.

Here’s an example of how shitty their customer service is:

One day early on in the L.A. Fitness take-over I decided to try the morning yoga class, but I don’t have my own mat. Previous gyms have provided mats so I asked the pretty boy behind the desk if there were mats available in the yoga room.

He answers, “No,” so quickly I barely have the question out of my mouth.

Other boy behind the counter looks puzzled. “I thought there were black mats in there.”

“No.” says the Pretty Boy. “We don’t have extra mats.”

Other boy says, “Then what are those black things in the gym? Aren’t those yoga mats?”

“No.” says Pretty Boy.

I’m all What. The. Hell.

Suspicious, I peak my head into the yoga room. And?


This is not an isolated incident. I’ve had other similar experiences with L.A. Fitness’ customer service, and have lamented with friends over their poor experiences as well.

Realizing I only used the gym for its treadmill, sauna, and ability to shower without wondering whether my kids have climbed the refrigerator looking for candy, I decided to let my membership lapse.

I am no longer a gym member.

I am sad about this – I do like going to the gym, but I just can’t justify the expense when all I use is the treadmill.


God is good, and all hope is not lost. A kind and generous friend is passing on her treadmill to me. The Greatest Chiropractor in the World gave me strength training exercises using my own body weight. And it’s SPRING!

Who needs a gym now? NOT ME.

as if I’d never started before

Call me morbid
Call me pale
I’ve spent six years on your trail
Six full years on your trail

Call me morbid
Call me pale
I’ve spent six years on your trail
Six full years of my life on your trail
– “Half a Person” as sung by The Welcome Wagon

I was at the gym this morning feeling motivated and invigorated, imagining myself 40lbs lighter by summer and training for a 5K.

Then I tweaked my knee on the way to the locker room and could barely walk.

I wonder how many times I’ve started over? Set goals? Had hopes? I pondered this as I stretched after my workout, and this song came on the iPod.

Have I spent six years chasing the tail of success? Is that morbid or tenacious? For a split second I felt discouraged and frustrated by my broken record self promises. But then I resolved to put it all behind me and start fresh – as if I’d never started before.

It is, after all, a new day, a new year, a new birth.

LA Fitness: Marketing to the Brat Pack generation


Does this look like me? Does this look like anybody who goes to the gym in 2008?

I think the LA Fitness Corporation is run by a single guy who was born circa 1971 and is reliving the Glory Days of hot pink, clown makeup, and Frankie Goes to Hollywood.


These photos were included in marketing materials sent to me when my gym reopened under the new ownership of LA Fitness, and they’re posted ALL OVER THE GYM. There’s even three large posters on the outside of the building WITH NEON PINK HIGHLIGHTS for accenting.

Through the speakers in the locker room Frankie tells me to relax, Madonna suggests I get into the groove, and Chaka Khan says she feels for me. When I work out I can’t escape the flashbacks of braces and awkward slow dancing and really really thick glasses.


My friend, Sarah, and I used to know this guy who always wore tight jeans and a worn, brown leather jacket that would make Starsky and Hutch proud. We concluded that a single guy’s body, mind, and soul must freeze in time if not rescued by a woman or a gainful career post high school graduation.

Clearly the marketing team of L.A. Fitness (coincidentally all from the graduating class of ’89) are all still painfully single.

I don’t know how you people in Los Angeles do fitness, but up here in Seattle I don’t see anybody like this at my gym, except for in the giant creepy posters all over the walls.

Back on Track? (pun intended)

I blew off everything I was planning to do this morning (no catastrophic surprise there) to hit the Monotonous Machine of Monotony in our basement. I wanted to test the pain in my foot after seven days of medication and a month and a half of no-impact exercise no exercise.

I forgot how much I love to sweat.

I forgot how much I love filling my lungs to capacity.

I forgot how much easier music penetrates through the noise when exercising.

I forgot how profitable exercise is to my creative mind.

I’m not sure my foot is ready for running again, but I will hit the Monotonous Machine of Monotony again on Monday.

In which I mourn publicly.

I’m writing this from my couch, where I’ve been lying for the last hour with my feet up, waiting for the pain to go away. There is something wrong with my left foot, a sharp pain on the left side that comes and goes, but mostly comes. Sometimes faint enough that I can still walk on it, sometimes, like now, so painful I can’t bear for anything to even brush up against it.

I don’t know what I did do it. I don’t recall an injury or event. One day it was irritating me, and like I always do, I ignored it for weeks until it became so painful I couldn’t walk. Give me a paper cut or stub my toe, and I holler profanities like a truck driver while dancing around shaking the appendage. But a pain in my foot gets ignored until it seems too late, like a frog sitting in a stove top pot.

I went to the chiropractor – the Greatest Chiropractor In the World. He adjusted it, massaged it, poked around a bit, and said it felt stiff, but that it didn’t appear to be greatly misaligned or fractured. I went to my naturopathic doctor, who sent me home with x-ray papers. X-rays revealed I have a Plantar Spur and a Sesamoid Bone, which make sense to other symptoms I’ve experienced, but my heal or my toe is not where I’m feeling this current sharp pain.

Last Sunday a guest to our weekly House of Barbecue asked if I thought I might have nerve damage. Nerve damage, I repeated. Yeah, he said, like when you step hard onto a shovel when digging, he said. Did you do something like that? he asked.

I think I have, though I can’t recall anything specifically. I have a shovel. I dig in my garden. It’s very likely I recently hurt my foot doing this, but it’s not like I get to report work-related injuries to OSCA. Anyway, I don’t remember hurting it so bad I couldn’t walk on it.

This week my doctor and I have been playing phone tag. She’s been treating the injury like a sprain, but I don’t want it to be a sprain, so I don’t do what she tells me to do even though she’s the best ND in the universe. I like this nerve damage idea, and want to explore that angle. I never quite felt like my pain was a sprain pain, but I didn’t have any other context for it. But nerve damage. That seems to fit how it feels – a combination of numbness and a sharp piercing.

Through most of this experience the pain in my foot feels incidental compared with the restlessness I feel at not being able to run. Other runners will get me when I say running is necessary for my mental well being. I am grouchy when I cannot run. The rhythmic breathing, the pounding of my feet, the music in my ears, the sweating, the endorphins – sometimes when I complete a good, hard run on the treadmill I start laughing. I laugh, and I can’t stop, and people at the gym glance sideways at me nervously.

Sometimes I laugh, sometimes I cry. The same thing happens if I stretch when my entire body is stiff and won’t let go, or when I get a full body adjustment at the chiropractor after a stressful week. I laugh or I cry.

I haven’t run in six weeks, and I mourn this. People say I should use the elliptical, or swim, that there’s other ways to exercise. I know this. Of course I know this. But running, she’s my thing. She’s what brings it all together for me – the spiritual, the emotional, the physical. Nothing else is quite the same.

Though admittedly, I have not tried these other things. I am still in mourning over losing my best girl, my run.

What I look like in the morning after coughing all night…

bed head

Yea for me because I lost 5 lbs this month! I gained one back this week, but I also started my period. We all know what that means: BLOATING! (Sorry to the guys for my lack of warning on that TMI). Overall I’m happy with how it went down. I managed to get through PMS and the flu without stuffing myself with comfort food or gorging on chocolate.

Also? This means I crossed over a plateau threshold AND dropped down into a new set of digits on the scale. Double yea! If I continue to lose 5 lbs every month, I’ll be right on track for my goal weight next October.

In other news…

After recovering nicely from the flu, I continue to be tortured by post nasal drip as my body clears itself of all the funk. I think a lot of this drainage has settled into my lungs, which are not at all happy with the situation. In fact, my lungs are violently rebelling against this intrusion, and have been working tirelessly at expelling all fluid from them – all. night. long.

Not that I’ve ever been a morning person, but the days this week have been especially slow to start.

We are expecting sun and temps in the 60’s this Saturday, which is a welcomed improvement from last weekend’s snow/hail/sleet storm. I seriously thought I was going to go Jack Nicholson from The Shining insane. IT’S APRIL! … IN A MODERATE CLIMATE!

At any rate, I hope to be outside and not on the computer, so have yourself a great weekend.


It is Spring on the calendar, even if it did snow on my cherry blossoms last Friday. Spring means I’m supposed to be 40 pounds lighter by next month, according to the trainer who evaluated me last fall. May was supposed to be my due date. My glory days. My goal month.

This being April, I doubt I’m going to lose 40 pounds in just a month.

But this Winter wasn’t a total loss, and I’m not completely depressed about the outcome. Despite the fact I haven’t lost any weight, I have developed a routine of working out at least three times a week. If I had time in my schedule, I would work out every day, because working out relieves my stress, curbs my anger, and gives me energy (not to mention that I get to take a shower in peace while my kids play in the kids club).

I heart endorphins.

I feel great. I feel skinny. I feel toned. And despite the lack of movement on the scale, I had to buy a new pair of jeans last month because my old ones were looking baggy.

One thing I’ve learned about myself is that I can’t take on more than one new habit at a time. I get too overwhelmed. So I haven’t let myself get too discouraged over the scale, and just allowed myself to settle in to the routine of working out. And now? I love it. I love working out, and I hate it when I can’t.

So this is the time to tackle the food issue. I’ve been lazy, undisciplined, and haphazard about it. I graze all day, eat the crusts I cut off the kids sandwiches, and don’t think about the food choices I’m making. I haven’t gained any weight, but I haven’t lost any, either.

So this week I’ve started keeping track of my calories. I’m not doing any particular diet, but just making better food choices and keeping track of how much I’m eating. And so far, so good.

I’ve dreaded this day for months, knowing it needed to be done, but hoping that somehow exercise would be enough. But now that I’ve got three days behind me, I don’t know what I dreaded so much. Because in reality, I wasn’t eating out of hunger, but out of … I don’t know, the convenience of being able to.

So now, October is the new May. My new goal for losing 40 pounds is October.

Does this clutter make my butt look fat?

clutter book cover.JPGI saw a commercial for Oprah the other day about the connection between the clutter in your home and the clutter on your ass. Well, they didn’t quite put it that way, but you get the idea. The author’s name is Peter Walsh, and his book really is titled, Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat?

I didn’t watch the show, but the idea really does make sense. I don’t see it as an IF/THEN statement, as in IF you have clutter THEN you will be fat. I see it more as the clutter mindset of laziness, taking shortcuts, and not following through. Here is a quote from the show’s article on Oprah’s website:

“Your head, your heart, your hips and your house are all interconnected, and I really believe that,” he says.

I’ve been kicking around these two verses in connection with an essay I’m working on about my own selfishness hindering my ability to Get Things Done and take care of my family:

For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice (James 3:16).

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life (Proverbs 4:23).

It reinforces my theme for the year of maintenance, though I want to see more than mere behavioral change. I want to see heart change. I want to desire new things. I want the changes in my life to be a symptom of transformation, not merely a result of strong willpower.

Changes are happening, but they are happening slowly. I think I’m okay with this. I feel as if I’m tackling the mess in my mind along with the mess in my house. I’m making changes and establishing new routines, but I’m doing it because I desire to do it, not because I’m supposed to do it.

So far I have not desired to change my eating habits. This would be a nice addition to the New Jen, but frankly I’m still comfort eating. I do, however, desire to exercise, so Jen is maintaining status quo on the scale (though all my pants mysteriously require belts, now, to keep them on).

I’m okay with this for the time being because I am seeing progress in other areas. I am experience a renewal of my mind, and I’m finding joy in the changes that are happening. I have faith my eating habits will change in time.

Thanks to Red Letter Girl for the reminder of the Oprah show!

My Christmas present to Bryan (and me!)

My girlfriends will be happy to know I had my wedding ring resized while on vacation.

Wedding Ring Resized

They have been quite persistent that I wear such a beauty. And can you blame them?

I haven’t worn it since I was seven months pregnant with Thomas, when I became too bloated and chubby for it to fit comfortably. I just figured I would put it on again after I gave birth, like I did after Ruthie was born. But then the combination of anti-depressants and birth control and Thomas not really being into nursing and my consumption of a few too many whole milk mint chocolate lattes (among other things) meant the pounds did not come off within a couple months.

That was my excuse then. Three years later, of course, there really is no excuse. I am no longer on anti-depressants or birth control, so really what you have left is all those bowls of cereal I eat when the kids aren’t looking.

I considered waiting a few months before resizing the ring since I’ve established a good routine of working out, and have been more disciplined in my eating. But the truth is, I’ve really missed wearing it. I love it’s petite-ness, the delicate intricacy of the filigree, the unique cut of the sapphire – I’m very proud of it. And since it cost barely anything to resize (I had built it up in my mind as a major expense), I can just have it done again when the weight comes off.

Besides, I’m working on other goals for weight loss mile stones – like putting fuschia highlights in my hair.

workout on strike

I am skipping the gym today, or at least postponing until the afternoon. For the last month and a half I have sacrificed community, productivity, and time spent mothering my kids to make this a priority in my week, and I am highly discouraged that I have seen absolutely NO results on the scale. I know muscle weighs more than fat, and I’m likely building more muscle, but COME ON.

I’m not quitting for good or giving up in any way. I’m just feeling particularly overwhelmed right with all the things I need to get done, so I’m giving my gym the finger in order to check some things off my list. I need to feel like I’m accomplishing SOMETHING today.

Work-out update

I met with a trainer at my gym last week for a fitness evaluation. We assessed my current…situation…and compared it with my goals. He punched a bunch of numbers into a little doohicky and came out with my current BMI and my goal BMI, and predicted that at an average weight loss of 1.5 lbs/week I would hit my goal weight in about six months.

That pretty much blew any plans I had for losing twenty pounds by the end of the month.

I did not join my gym’s training program because it is rediculously expensive. I mean, come on. One half hour with trainer costs more than the monthly fee to use the gym and the childcare center combined. Plus, you have to “join” the training program like a seperate membership, and pay a one time fee of 149 bucks. Even if I had that kind of cash I wouldn’t join based on principle.

If you truly want people to be healthy, then make it possible for them to get help.

Anyhow, the trainer I met with gave me enough information to put together my own plan. I will start each day lifting weights, then wrap up with 20-30 minutes of cardio. He says if you lift weights first, the calories you burn while doing cardio are more likely to come out of your fat. Whatever. I have no idea how anybody knows that.

This morning my legs hurt from lifting leg weights on Monday, and my arms, back, and chest are sore from lifting those weights yesterday. Today I’m supposed to work on strengthening my core, and I’m terrified that by tonight every muscle in my body will be groaning and I will have to use my teeth to cook dinner and do the laundry.