My Solution to Not Wanting to Exercise

This morning, my new friend walks me to the gym (it takes us 25 minutes).  Then, she pushes the elliptical machine time so that we exercise for 30 minutes.  Then, she drags me up the stairs to do arm weights (she shows me how).  Then, just when I’m about to suggest that we stop and get very fattening and delicious coffee drinks, she says, “Now we do push-ups.” 

Then we walk home for another 25 minutes.  

It feels like five minutes because I’m with my new friend. We talk about everything. 

She’s getting me out of bed tomorrow. 

Living with flair means if you don’t want to do something, you find an enthusiastic friend to do it with you.  Enthusiastic friends make everything better.  Even exercise.  I’ll report my fitness achievements at the end of the summer!

Journal:  What enthusiastic contribution can I make to a friend’s life?  What would my friends say I’m enthusiastic about? 


Overwhelming Cravings for Fattening Things

I’m currently obsessed with all things coconut.  I love the smell, the texture, and the flavor.  I realize it’s strange to love coconut so much.  This week, I indulge in coconut cake and then, as if that weren’t enough to ruin my weight-loss plan, I must have coconut ice-cream.

Last night, I actually dream of eating coconut cream pie.  

This morning at church, I ask the ladies for their help in managing my coconut addiction.  It’s a horrible thing to love:  even in just one small cup of the stuff, I’m eating so many calories and fat that it’s hard to justify.

I actually pray about this.

Later, I’m out running errands with my daughter, and we’re about to stop for a fun treat.  Immediately, I imagine us eating coconut cake, and I know just where to get some.  Instead, my daughter asks for a treat in the form of crafts: new markers that you can twist and blend together. 

I’m stuck longing for that fluffy white coconut confection that I won’t be getting.  

I have to find some coconut, or I just might die. 

In the craft store, my daughter points to a rack of candy.  Small and unassuming, a package of tiny coconut candies from Belgium sits.  Because of portion size, this coconut treat represents a reasonable, low calorie, and remarkably low-fat little treat.

Back in the car, I have just one, and I’m satisfied.

Living with flair means I have to remember that I don’t need to gobble the whole cake or scoop out mounds of ice cream.  I can find healthy alternatives in small portions.  When the craving hits, I know what to do.  

That leaves me time to get to the good stuff:  drawing pictures with my daughter’s new blending markers.

Journal:  I’ve learned in my Weight Watcher’s meetings about “substitutions” for my favorite unhealthy snacks.  Instead of potato chips, I can grab a healthy substitution like air-popped popcorn or pretzels.  What “substitutions” can I make for other unhealthy food, thoughts, or behaviors?


Make Yourself That Somebody

For months, my friend and I travel by this one treacherous patch of sidewalk on our walk to school–the place that dips down towards a jagged ravine of rocks and icy water–and say, “Somebody should really put a fence up.”

We rescue kids as they slide off the sidewalk, shake our heads and say again, “Somebody should really put a fence up.”

As the months go on, we realize how much we say, “Somebody should really…”–whether referring to cleaning the house, fixing something, or generally improving the world.

We laugh about this expression: somebody should really. . .

Who is this Somebody person?  Can I meet her?

It occurs to us that we are the Somebody.  We stop saying, “Somebody should really put a fence up,” and we decide to make ourselves that somebody.

I don’t know where to start, so I ask someone at the school who tells me I should “call the county.”  (I didn’t realize you can call people in your county and get help with things your community needs. You can!)  I look up in my phonebook the name of my township and call the number there.  A man answers the phone, and I explain that children are slipping off the sidewalk and falling into a ditch on the way to school.  Can we put a fence up?

“Yes,” he says.  “Let me check who owns that property, and I’ll send a crew out today.  We’ll take care of it.”

I even ask the man if he could make it a nice fence, charming, and not some metal thing with orange mesh reserved for danger zones.

He sends out his crew and builds our fence.

Now, on the walk to school, my friend and I look at that fence and remember to make ourselves that somebody.  

My Charming Fence

She says, “Somebody should really write a book with that title.”

Up the Big Hill Towards School

Somebody should.  If you make yourself that somebody, you can really change something.

In fact, what initiates my friend’s 100 pound weight loss last year is a t-shirt she sees that says, “Somebody should really do something about how fat I am.”

She decides to make herself that somebody.

I want to make myself that Somebody in 2011.


When Temptation Comes, Tell Yourself This Story

Today I celebrated not giving in to an obvious temptation.  Perhaps this victory will carry over into larger, more insidious ones.

I’ve been thinking about temptation all day.  Daniel Defoe, one of the first known novelists, wrote that “we are instruments of our own destruction.”   We hurry towards things that are not good for us.  We run away from things that are.  Why can this be?  

This concept rings true primarily because we are experts in self-deception.  We are very good story tellers.  

I wonder what story I’m believing that makes the perceived benefit of that thought or action outweigh the harm it causes.  It’s amazing to me, for example, that a bowl of chocolate ice cream can overpower me.  I can be ruled by appetite.  Here I am, a full-grown woman, strong and sure, and yet, I’m brought down by sugar and chocolate.   No matter what resolution I make, it wins.   Sugar wins.  Sugar!  Isn’t that just. . . ridiculous? 

And it’s not just food.  It’s overindulgence in many things.  

But not today.  I had this moment–this flair moment–when I figured out why the temptation wins in my life. Temptation wins when I change the story of what harm that thing I want brings.  I tell myself only half the story (the good part).  And it makes sense.  I teach rhetoric.  I was a debater.  I know how to persuade, and I’m really good at convincing myself.  

Today I told the whole story.  I told the story of what happens when I do what I shouldn’t do.  I stopped and worked out the extended narrative–the director’s cut.   I let myself imagine myself doing that thing (in this case, eating the entire carton of ice-cream).   But then what?  If I tell the whole story of what happens next–after giving in–I remember the false promise.  I unmask it, reveal the lie, and tell the truth about it.  There’s no life in the chocolate ice cream.  It’s just empty calories that provide exactly 3 minutes of chocolate pleasure followed by 3 days of getting back on track with my diet.  It’s not worth it.  It’s not that good.

Telling the whole story of what happens when I give in to temptation helps diminish its power.  It’s one way out.  Living with flair means I see the full story regarding my choices.  It means I become aware of my capacity for self-deception and tell the truth instead.  That thing I want to do is just not that good.


How to Savor (and Lose Weight) with Flair

Living with flair means to savor. You take the smallest thing (a punctuation mark, a turtle, a hand in the wind), and like some judge on Iron Chef, you test its quality. Then you announce its worth. Announcing the worth of small things has changed my life this month. I anticipate the greatness of common moments.

Today’s “flair moment” came in the form of a meat cake. They do exist. A friend celebrated her 28th birthday party at my home last night, and someone honored her with a meat cake. The frosting was mashed potatoes whipped as lovely as buttercream. The rosettes were perfectly formed swirls of bacon. It was food art at its best.

I tried a little–just enough to savor the taste. Appreciating its artistry provided more pleasure than the actual eating (although it was good). I love to consider the art in food. Give me sushi or lemon meringue pies, and I’ll enjoy the composition and admire the chef. I tend to not overeat when the food itself is lovely.

And food is lovely. Why don’t I notice it? Eating is common; I do it usually 3-5 times a day, every single day of my life (sometimes more–sometimes a lot more). I tended to not notice my food, though, until this year.

I’ve lost 35 pounds, and it has something to do with living with flair–with savoring things. Stopping to enjoy the beauty of my food has helped me not shove it so quickly, and in such large amounts, into my mouth. Can eating be an act of thanksgiving, of worship, of . . . flair? I want to savor flavors, textures, colors, and smells. I want to take small bites and be completely satisfied with the greatness of small portions. I really don’t need more.

Living with flair means savoring. And, as a result, being satisfied with much less than I thought I’d need (in my stomach and in my life).