Yesterday I had to stop by the Mall to drop off our Nespresso recycling at the Sur La Table store. In the inefficient European way that is my only option to recycle the coffee pods we use. Since I rarely go to the Mall because I hate shopping while lots of people are also shopping I took advantage of the Tuesday morning lack of crowds to try and find some new smaller clothes.
To most women I know they see loosing weight as an opportunity to buy new clothes. To me I see it as a pain. I used to have to buy clothes in the “women’s Department” which is code for fat people’s clothes. It was not so bad because I knew exactly who sold those clothes and the “Big” departments were not that big. I also knew what size I wore and how the clothes would fit. The other bonus in the larger sizes is they tended to be age appropriate for me.
Now I wear regular size people’s clothes. I find this definition interesting since according to fashion retail experts more people are a size 14 or greater yet most of the clothes in stores are under size 14. There are so many things that made this shopping trip bad.
I don’t really know what size I am so I had to gather multiple sizes of the same item to try on. And it is not so simple as just 10, 12, or 14. In the pants department of one store there were seven different kinds of fit, all with names that mean nothing to me, like “Heritage” or “Signature”. Are “heritage” for people who have ancestors who have been wearing pants for many generations? Come on, I was looking for the name that meant, “Smaller waist than hips and a sagging middle aged belly to hide.” You might think “Curvy was the right name, but no, my butt is not big enough for curvy.
One problem about shopping when the crowds are low is that the stores don’t bother having anyone work then or they have the clerks who are only capable of folding sweaters and not actually helping customers.
I went into Banana Republic and picked up one dress, one blazer and one blouse and headed back to the dressing rooms without ever encountering an employee. The only problem is that I needed someone with a key to let me into the locked dressing room.
Eventually Jason came along and he insisted on knowing my first name and let me into a dressing room. I tried the dress on -too small in one part too big in another. Blazer – not a flattering fabric. Blouse – like the dress, too big in the shoulders, small in the bust. I decided this was not a store worth exploring further. As I walked the length of the store to get out Jason screamed across the room, “Dana, what was wrong with those clothes?”
“Too Young for me,” I said as I breezed out to Anne Taylor next door. As I walked in the door a light pink shirtwaist dress caught my eye. Not that I want a light pink dress that looked so much like one of my boarding school uniforms, but I wanted to see what size I might be in that dress and then explore the possibility of it coming in another color. I took two dresses to a room and tried them on –too big and too much material at the skirt. I repeated this exercise in five more stores. Not once did I ever have a clerk who offered to find me the right size or something that was a cut that fit my body.
All that shopping and I did not buy one thing when there are basic things I need. One problem with loosing weight is that I have become much more picky about the way things fit and you would think it would be easier to find things that fit, but it isn’t. I know the answer is the tailor, but I would love to find one pair of pants right off the rack without having to find a “pant’s translator.”
Yesterday I saw on the news a story about how we can catch other people’s stress. I know that stress plays a big role in my success at weight loss and good health in general. The worst thing I ever had a doctor tell me years ago is that I needed to reduce the amount of stress in my life. That just added to stress. Reducing stress is not easy to do. It is not like reducing the amount of sugar in your diet. Now the news told me that other people’s stress adds to mine so when a doctor says reduce my stress I also have to reduce the stress of all the people around me. Ha! How is that going to happen?
Here is the part that really makes me crazy… I have a fairly easy life. Come on, I have a wonderful husband, only one child, who granted is 15, but is growing up, I have a good education, meaningful work, but thanks to my hard working husband we are not dependent on my earning a living, healthy parents and wonderful friends. How much real stress do I really have compared to the majority of the world? Even given all that there are things that happen that cause me anxiety and now I am learning that my anxiety affects others as their stress effects me. No kidding.
So in the whirlwind of stress yesterday something happened that was so surprising and wonderful that it countered any tension I was feeling. Out of the blue, Peter, the CEO of the Food Bank forwarded me a card that was sent to the Food Bank with the news that a $1,000 donation was made in my honor and because of the enjoyment of my blog.
The donation came from Heather and Craig Mallard who live in Delaware. Now before you think I have a greater blog reach than I do, Heather is a friend of mine. She used to live in Raleigh and I first met her when she and I served on the board of the Food Bank in my early days on the board. It was very sad for me as I was coming into my role as board chair two years ago, that Heather, who was chair of the Finance committee, was taking a new job and moving away.
Heather did not let me know she was making this kind and generous donation. She just quietly sent it off to the Food Bank to help feed people in a state she does not even live in. That loving gesture did more for me than she will ever know while at the same time will provide $10,000 worth of food for people who face real and hard stress everyday.
The lesson I am taking away from this is that although I may not be able to avoid stress I can at least counteract it in others by providing an act of kindness. I wish I could make all my good deeds $1,000 acts, but I can’t. I hope that I will just remember to thank people appropriately, acknowledge good works, praise and pay tribute and brighten someone’s day.
Now I seriously know that I will also continue to add stress to people’s days, but let me learn to do it in a constructive way that will build people up. So thanks to Heather and Craig. You are my hero’s and, Heather I miss working with you, but hope our paths will continue to cross.
Recently a new reader to this blog sent me a message saying that she wanted to lose weight, but since she loved food so much she did not see a way that she could. This is more or less my response to her.
Hey friend! I hear your pain. I am a life long food lover. I started cooking as soon as I could reach the stove, which was about age five while my parents slept late on Saturday mornings. At that point in 1966 I was not cooking because I had any culinary interest, I was just hungry. Eventually food became a bigger part of my life, and I let it have more power over me than I had over it.
More people I know are food lovers than “Food, what’s that? I forgot to eat today” people. In fact I can count on one hand, a hand that lost three fingers in a horrible Cuisineart accident the number of friends I have that really don’t care or think about food. They are the food outliers and they as you can imagine are naturally thin.
Then I know plenty of people whose lives are not ruled by food, although they like to eat, some are heavy and some are thin and a few are just right. That leaves the group I am in. The people who think, plan, talk, read, smell, everything about food – some are heavy and some are thin, some are just right.
Here is what I have come to learn in my most recent two-year journey to control my own life and food:
I love food
I think about it everyday
I cook, grocery shop, read about it
I write about it, photograph it
I make food for others
I eat it.
I try and eat smaller portions
I treat some foods as treats and so I limit sugars and white flour foods to special occasions
I recognize that I will always be a food person. I also understand that being a person who loves all things about food does not have to mean that I am fat. So the excuse that you are a “Food Person” is just that, an excuse. You can love food and not give all the power to the food. It actually holds no power. The power is in your own brain. Once you decide to take control of food then you will lose weight.
Good Luck. It’s not easy.
Today I spent two hours in the West Queen Studio of my friend Morgan Moylan taking a flower arranging class. Morgan has spent twenty years studying all things floral. Her husband Mike really made Morgan’s passion come alive when he built her a room for her to not just do her own flower arranging in, but one that was large enough for her to teach classes.
I remember when Mike and Morgan put the addition on their house that included a number of garage bays that were beautifully paneled in old wood. Mike found a old hardware store in some place like upstate New York and got a truck to go and collect all the store fittings so he could build out Morgan’s studio with walls of old drawers and glass fronted cabinets and shelves.
Gathered in this glorious space today were friends who had bought a seat in the class at the Durham Academy Auction. The levels of expertise of the students varied at the start, but with a small tutorial from Morgan you would never have known who was a novice and who was not when we all had created a moss covered pocketbook arrangement.
Morgan explained the basic rules; flowers should be one-third the height of the container or two-thirds, either way the arrangement is broken into thirds, all showy flowers should be in odd numbers and try and make a triangle in the lines your eye sees. Now I am sure I got some of this information incorrect, but I still liked my finished product nonetheless.
The flower arranging rules are a lot like the eating rules. One third of your plate should be protein and the other two thirds should be vegetables. The healthy eating guide is a triangle and for me the odd number thing is only one odd number – 1. That is never eat more than one of anything, because the first one tastes the best and anything after that is unnecessary.
It is amazing how almost everything I do somehow reminds me of food. The good thing about the flower arranging class is that it has no calories at all, as long as you skip the wine.
I highly recommend a visit to Hillsboro to take a class from Morgan. I guarantee you will go away with something beautiful your family will think you bought on the way home. Here is Morgan’s website to learn more about her and her classes –
It’s been the longest and the coldest winter. For months I have been wearing warm socks because I have no circulation in my extremities. You would think that now that we have a beautiful 80-degree sunny day I would be thrilled to run barefoot or at least just have sandals on.
I started the day in my Dansko Mary Jane sneakers and no socks. As the day went on I kept taking my shoes off to shake out any little speck of dirt that was annoying my barefoot as if I was the Princess and the Pea. Barely an eyelash of dust would fall out, yet when I put my shoe back on it felt so much better.
When I was a kid we went barefoot all summer. The bottom of my feet would be black by nighttime from running in the driveway. I remember this because my mother used to use the cleanliness of the bottom of our feet as proof we had taken a bath. When we did not want to take a whole bath my sisters and I would run a few inches of water in the tub and run around until our feet were clean and the tub was black. Once in our nightgowns when we went to say goodnight to my mother and had the feet check we appeared clean. Of course we were only cheating our selves, as is always the case.
Now that I am older not only do I prefer to be clean I apparently am totally annoyed by dirt. I wear disposable rubber gloves when I dig in the garden because I hate to have to scrape my beautiful black earth out from under my nails. And I guess that six months of socks has spoiled my feet.
As I walked on my treadmill today without socks on I kept shifting my toes and then my heels because the smallest thing was annoying my walking. I realized that all the cold months my socks had been keeping my feet cocooned, clean and safe and able to walk farther and faster. I guess with the spring here it is time to toughen up my feet and learn to ignore small irritants.
But the small things that annoy us can turn into the biggest things. A splinter, a paper cut or a thoughtless comment in passing. Today I realize what a big role socks have played in my walking life. It reminds me to pay attention to all the little things, like thanking my family or acknowledging a kindness, because I know too well that what is little to one might be big to someone else.
“Honesty is the best policy,” is a saying that can be improved. I would rewrite it as “Honesty is your friend.” The problem with it saying it is the best policy implies that something other than honesty might be a good choice, not just the worst choice. The opposite of “Honesty is your friend,” is that being dishonest is either not your friend or your enemy, either way it is bad for you.
As a person who has gone up and down the scale multiple times there is one big lesson I have learned, forgotten, relearned, ignored and relearned again; that is that I must be honest with myself everyday. People who lose and gain weight know why it happens. It should not be a surprise.
When I went to Weight Watchers years ago and stood in line week after week to stand on the scale in front of some nice underpaid Weight Watcher worker I always knew if I was going to have a good week or a bad week. I was not alone there. I never once heard anyone say, “You’re kidding, I really gained two pounds?”
I was successful at Weight Watchers. It was easy. They gave me the rules and I learned that if I followed them, measured correctly, wrote down exactly what I was eating I would win the game. Eventually I got to the point that I knew way more than any Weight Watcher Leader, but I still went to meetings so I could be weighed in by someone else. I thought that I needed that accountability to be successful.
Then I started lying to myself, I can eat a cookie and maintain, then two cookies, then four. Then I gained weight, then I stopped going to meetings to get weighed in because I knew I was failing. So I kept failing and gaining and failing again.
Luckily I woke up one day and had an honest conversation with myself that I was the only one who could help me lose weight. If I just did the right things that I already knew, and held myself accountable then I would win. I did not need to have someone else weigh me, because that kept me one step away from my own accountability.
Not that I did not weigh myself everyday when I went to Weight Watchers, but somehow in the warped mind of a food addict I thought that if I was having a bad week and I did not get weighed in by that other person then that weight did not really count. I was giving my accountability away.
That poor person who did the weighing in had nothing to do with the food I put in my own mouth or the lack of exercise I might have done that week, but just having someone else in the equation somehow offered me a scapegoat. The bottom line is there is no fall guy in life. We are all responsible for our own SH%T, whatever it is.
Living honestly adds simplicity and life is hard enough. Dishonesty is truly your enemy.
My first job out of college was as a Sales Engineer selling Mail Opening and Extracting Machines. Don’t let the title impress you. I had a five state territory and as a twenty-two year old kid I was solely responsible for rooting out every possible receiver of more than 500 envelopes a day that needed to be opened, get to know them and then sell them at least one machine to do the work. Think of all the companies you paid your bills to back in the 80’s that had millions of dollars coming by checks that needed to be opened and extracted in order to be processed.
I know it sounds incredibly glamorous, and it was especially at 4:00 in the morning when I would be staking out the major post office sorting station and following trucks that would go and pick their mail up at the post office rather than waiting for it to be delivered back to their business to find new customers.
The mail opening business only had about three or four major players and I knew everyone of my competitors in my territory. I not only had to find new customers who did not have any machines and sell them, but I had to make sure my current customers were happy and up-to-date as well as try and steal away my competitors’ clients. It was more like the TV show Scandal than I’d like to admit.
The worst part about my job and the most memorable these 30 years later is when at quarterly sales meetings we had to review our losses in front of the worldwide sales team. Think of a hospital Morbid and Mortality (M&M) conference where a Doctor who has made a mistake had to stand up in a room in front of all their colleagues and discuss in detail what they did wrong. That is what review of losses was like for me, the youngest and usually the only woman in the room, only no one had died. The only saving grace was if I had already shared the loss with my boss and asked for his help all along the way. If the loss was news to my boss as well as everyone else in the room it was hell to pay. I only made that mistake once.
It is inevitable that in life we all are going to make some mistakes, but most of the time you do not have to dissect that error and lay yourself open for critique. I can relive in my head each time I had lost a big sale to one of my inferior competitors. It was not just the commission I was sorry about losing, it was the fact that I had to admit in front of God, (and the people that owned the company thought God worked there) and these witnesses that I had made mistakes, not called on a Vice President in a timely manor, or visited the operations center in time to know that they were getting a big new account and doubling the amount of mail that needed to be opened. In the end it was my fault and I had to own it and more importantly learn from it.
In the last few days I have had a couple of hard conversations with people who needed to do an M & M on the way they were handling a situation. The details of the story are not important, but a bigger problem was created because someone ignored having a hard conversation or thought someone else was going to do the dirty work. In the end that one hard conversation turned into many harder conversations. The loss was amplified because the details were ignored.
Ignoring bad news has never been a plan that works. The bad is still there and might be growing when you have your back turned. To paraphrase a song from Carley Simon, “If you think this blog is about you” it is. We all have bad, hard difficult things we have to deal with. Dealing with them head on is by far the easiest solution. Own it, learn from it and move on, never to make the same mistake twice.