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Where the hell have I been? 2007-02-19 12:10 p.m. *Hanging head*

I can't believe it's been more than a year since I wrote an entry. What a bad, bad diarist I've been. On the other hand, what a good, good life I've been living, and I hope the same is true for all the regular readers who used to stop by here.

Deb is doing great. She's still into her pottery and is working to improve her throwing, painting and glazing techniques. She sells pieces through a store called Square Roots in Decatur; we've learned that steet festivals are not really great places to try to sell pottery.

Sara is a detective now, and I'm so proud of her. You would not believe how hot she looks in her dressy street clothes with a badge holder around her neck and a pistol on her hip. HUB-BA. Unfortunately, she's been moved to evening watch (3:45 p.m. - midnight) with off days on Thursday and Friday (both nights when Deb is home), which hoses our traditional date scheduling (goddammit). We still haven't worked out a reliable way around that. She also ends up working until 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. on an all-too-frequent basis.

I'm still seeing Three, who is doing well but still struggling financially with her mid-life career change. She's looking for a better-paying job now, preparing for a few more semesters of school and planning to take the GMAT to get into business school. It's a long road ahead for her. I help her out as I can, but currently she's got a broken stove (she's cooking on a hot plate), broken central air conditioning (in the summer she uses a single window unit that a friend traded her for labor), and a broken clothes dryer (she hangs her laundry out on the line now) with no funds to have any of that fixed. She lives as frugally as anyone I've ever known, but she's got a steep house payment and is paying off a credit card debt on a single small income, so there's not much left over. Still, I love spending Saturdays with her. We laugh a lot together. And of course I enjoy the hell out of all the fantastic sex and being able to enjoy my body's responses like never before.

I have lost a little more than 20 pounds since September, largely thanks to exercising harder, changing my eating habits and a little hypnosis. I'll paste in my book recommendations at the end of this update. The short version of that story is that I started exercising more vigorously at the gym, read some books that got me eating and enjoying more unprocessed foods and whole grains, and started cooking for myself more.

I still had trouble with portion sizes and sweets cravings, though. I considered hypnosis, did some research on it, found that my therapist from a couple years back is trained in hypnosis, and hired her to help me out with the behaviors I wanted to change but was having a hard time changing. It worked like someone had flipped a switch in my brain. I had the hypnosis session in September (and she recorded it so that I could listen again if I needed a booster) and that's when I started losing a pound or two a week. The weight loss has slowed a little now, but it's still happening. I started at 172 pounds, and now I'm generally between 148 and 150, but still going down. I feel great and didn't catch any of the nasty colds that went around my office this winter.

Deb turned 50 in January and we're going to Santa Fe in April for her birthday trip (she changed her mind about Paris) and to celebrate our 16th anniversary. If anyone has a good Santa Fe spa recommendation, let me know (manualmode at earthlink dot net). I think I'm going to save up to get a nice massage and maybe sit in a mineral spring somewhere as my special treat for the trip.

Also big on my life improvements of late is getting our home budget together and working on paying off the last of our debts. I highly recommend the book "All Your Worth," by Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Warren Tyagi, if you want to get your personal finances in order for now and the future. Simple, easy-to-understand, great advice for those in a little too much debt. Your public library probably has it; it came out in hard back in 2005. I wish it was required reading for every 20 year old in the country.

Also highly recommended, the My Wealth Matters podcast. I love these guys. It's great free advice on handling money concerns. They even answer e-mail questions. I even like listening to it when the topic isn't related to any of my own personal money issues.

I also found a fantastic software tool to help figure out the budget once I'd tracked our spending. It's called Budget Calendar, and only costs $14.95 for the download (Mac, PC or Linux). You can try it for free for 30 days. Click the Help file in the menu to get the full instructions for use.

These are the books that helped me get in the right frame of mind for better fitness and eating habits. All of them are probably available at your library (if not you can request them), or you can buy them through the link provided and I get a kickback from Amazon. The magazine website has a good portion of the content, including recipes, posted online.

"Winning By Losing" by Jillian Michaels
This is the plan I used to kick up my exercise regimen, and I started seeing results fast. Michaels was one of the trainers from "The Biggest Loser" reality show (which I've never seen). This book is great for self evaluation, motivation, understanding caloric intake and glycemic load, and the 12-week exercise program is tough but doable. I did not use the eating program from this book because it was too far away from how I wanted to eat.
Best Results: Because of this book, I bought a heart rate monitor to use in my workouts and learned how to push myself beyond just walking or elliptical training. By alternating strength training with short bursts of cardio, Michaels' exercise program keeps your heart rate up during your whole workout, which makes a huge difference in burning calories. Bonus: I can now run for more than a mile, and that's not even part of the 12-week exercise program.

Jillian Michaels

"Eat, Drink and Weigh Less" By Mollie Katzen and Walter Willet
This book is a great introduction to eating a balanced, very nutritious diet and feeling full and satisfied. It also introduced me to some whole grains I hadn't had before and encouraged me to give whole wheat products another try. It also teaches you how to tell real, good-for-you whole grain products from the ones that are just brownish in color and have some green in the label to make you think it's good for you. The recipes are more complex than I like, but I use the basic grain cooking instructions a lot.
Best Results: There's been a huge decrease in processed foods in my diet. I eat more grains, vegetables and fruits, and I feel great. I have oat groats and dried cranberries for breakfast on most days -- oat groats are what oatmeal is before it gets rolled into little discs. They're nutty and have a great consistency that's not mushy like oatmeal. I get mine at the DeKalb Farmer's Market. With that breakfast, it's much easier to get to lunch time without needing a snack.

Mollie Katzen

"Don't Eat This Book: Fast Food and the Supersizing of America" by Morgan Spurlock
You've probably all heard of the movie "Super Size Me" about the guy who ate nothing but McDonald's food for a month. This book is about what he learned through his extensive research and what happened to his body when he ate nothing but fast food. It's funny and scary and enlightening. Great, easy to understand nutrition info, especially in relation to kids. I listened to this book on CD, mostly in the car, and was completely engrossed.
Best Results: Learning how much of an effect what you eat has on your energy level, attention span, mood, and just how you feel in general. Understanding better how all of the huge portions that fast food places (and everywhere else) serves is more about making easy extra profit for the restaurant by making you think you're getting a great deal and encouraging you to eat way too much. I haven't eaten at a fast food restaurant since September, and I don't miss it one bit, plus I've saved a lot of money.

Super Size Me

"Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think" by Brian Wansink
This was my favorite, a quick read, and perhaps the most helpful of all. Wansink is a college professor who studies how and why people eat the way they do. This book shows, using his studies as examples, how we are unconsciously influenced by visual and social cues to eat more than we really want. Some of the studies are hilarious, like the one where they gave moviegoers free 5-day-old popcorn in two different bag sizes. Most people ate all or most of the popcorn, even though it was stale and they didn't really like it, and the ones with bigger bags ate more.
Best Results: This book helped teach me to stop eating when I'm not hungry anymore, not when I'm full (which feels too full 20 minutes later), and not feel like I'm missing out on anything because I didn't eat more.

Mindless Eating

Eating Well magazine
This is where I can always find great, realistic recipes that don't take forever to cook. Each recipe also includes nutrition information and tells how many calories are in each serving. The website has tons of recipes that you can look up by ingredients or category, available for free. I highly recommend the magazine itself. It's probably the only magazine besides our own that I read cover-to-cover. The articles are interesting and easy to understand and always teach me something I didn't know.

Eating Well

Finally, how did I research hypnosis? Again, I went to the library:

Moving on - 12:11 p.m. , 2007-08-14

Where the hell have I been? - 12:10 p.m. , 2007-02-19

Holy shit! - 2:24 p.m. , 2006-01-11

Stuffing recipe - 6:17 p.m. , 2005-12-13

Good Life Update - 10:22 a.m. , 2005-11-11

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