Monday, December 31, 2007

Getting into the "Zone"

I'm quietly getting myself into the zone--no, not the Twilight Zone, although sometimes it feels that way (and probably reads that way to you, gentle readers).

I'm resuming CRON tomorrow, January 1st. It's not a New Year's Resolution-thing (see my previous post for thoughts on that). I'm not making any resolutions or promises. But despite all that, I find it hard not to look at January 1 as an opportunity for a fresh start, symbolically. And also to use that symbolism as a mental tool to free myself of the past. To shed 2007 like an old cloak that I no longer wish to wear. It's still there if I want to look at it, but it's not hanging on me, weighing me down. Symbolically unburdened of all the dramas I've been wallowing in lately, I can enjoy the beginning of the new year, savor each new moment as it comes, and not need to view it through the lens of the past. Sounds good, doesn't it? Well, that's my aspiration. Reality will be somewhere between that and where I am now, I'm sure.

So I'm getting my mind into the CRON zone by tinkering with CRON-O-Meter today, plugging in foods that I know I have on hand, and seeing what sort of menus I can come up with for the next several days that fit the basic CRON scenario.

I'm also quite literally adopting "The Zone" as my macro-nutrient target. I know many CRONistas (thanks for the great new name, April!) use Zone-like ratios. I've researched The Zone but have not read Sears's book itself. But I'm aware that reducing inflammation by achieving some sort of hormonal balance through proper diet and nutrition is part of the plan. And reducing inflammation is something I very much need. I am a bundle of aches and pains these days. Some are brought on by the mechanical stress of extra weight burdening my joints. But I think some are definitely caused by diet issues and hormonal imbalances. And I also know that I do much better at lower carbohydrate levels, in terms of energy, mood, and all-around sense of well-being.

So, I've started the process of planning my diet out for the next few days. I'm in the position of being a little too broke at the moment for an all-out grocery shopping blitz this week to stock up on CRON-friendly foods, so I'm needing to work with what's in the pantry already with just a few additions. This means I need to plan carefully. I'll also need to take supplements because I'm probably not going to be able to balance nutrients as well as I'd like until I can do more grocery shopping for veggies.

So I'm optimistic, ready for change, ready for what comes. At the same time, I know myself pretty well, and I know my challenge will arrive not tomorrow, or the next day, but in a week, in a month. Sustaining good habits and behavior when temptations arrive to tease me with the promise of instant gratification. Staying present in the moment, being willing to endure the discomfort of predictability and boredom, perhaps pangs of hunger, an overwhelming desire and appetite for escape--these are the bugaboos that await me. I don't know when they will strike, but when they do (and they will), I have the opportunity to experience personal growth. And in that sense, perhaps I will remember to welcome their appearance and embrace the pain.

I will see you all on the other side, in 2008!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Abandon all hope.

No, this isn't a dreary, depressed, despondent call to give up. I was reading Skinnybitch the other morning, and she had this to say about the end of the year 2007:

But in the calm after the storm [of the holidays], as we survey the damage - bulging waist lines and a wicked hangover, most likely - most of us will become reflective and, perhaps, a bit remorseful. Another year is about to die, and with it, all our failed good intentions of the previous year. What about that resolution to go to the gym every day? To eat less and exercise more? To be more patient, organized, forgiving, productive and self-disciplined?

Meanwhile, April submitted a post on New Years Resolutions.

They and most of us are tapping into an essential undercurrent that flows at this time of year, this urge for self-reflection and introspection. So many of us share this sense that we haven't done it well enough, that we could do it better, and that therefore we should do it better. Sometimes loudly proclaimed, and sometimes unspoken and whispering around in the subtext, is that we are just not good enough as we are. Nothing is ever good enough as it is.

I see this as derived, in a way, from the Protestant work ethic. We should always be busy. Always working. Working at our jobs, working on ourselves, basically work work work. You better work! Time to lean is time to clean. Cleanliness is next to godliness. Ad inifitum. Ad nauseum.

But careful: our culture does not reward this introspection and self-reflection unless it results in concrete action. You will not be an effective, virtuous person unless you channel those New Years resolutions into successful accomplishments. If you fail--and you will (even disciplined April jokes about which resolutions will be the first to go)--you will be revisiting a self-prescribed litany of failures at the end of 2008, wondering how you got off track, while hopefully planning your salvation in 2009. Lather, rinse, repeat in 2010. Ad infinitum. Ad nauseum.

I'm not immune. I've practiced CRON only in fleeting fits and starts, actually gaining weight while simultaneously stopping exercise and losing muscle tone. I'm stretching the seams of my fattest clothing. I've all but abandoned work on my novel. I hatched elaborate plans to train for and run a marathon, then bailed as soon as I found out the Chicago race had filled up and I couldn't get in.

If I wanted to sit down and revisit my shortcomings, either explicitly by listing the failures, or implicitly by mapping out the resolutions for "positive changes" next year, I could easily do it. I could do it in my sleep. With my hands tied behind my back. Hell, with my hands AND legs tied behind my back. Hogtied, I could list and wallow in the muck of my shortcomings, my dashed hopes, and my failed expectations for the work I could and should have been doing all year long.

For me, however, this year has been about survival. At some point in 2007, I finally abandoned hope. I started giving up on my perfectionism, and my expectations for perfectionism in others. I started learning to wallow in my slothy, lazy ways, to calmly recognize my impetuous ego-clinging, to look clearly and honestly and without judgement at my difficulty in resisting the apetites that defeat me.

Always wanting to be noticed and appreciated and adored by others, I learned somewhwere along the way this year to embrace the anonymity that comes from not being virtuous and beautiful and perfect. It became comforting to realize that people were looking through me instead of at me. That I could at times become invisible. To feel a sense of comfort and relief when no one was thinking about me. To not mind when no one expected anything from me, and to not feel that others owed me something.

Losing hope sounds scary and depressing and nihilistic, but that's not how I mean it at all. If hope is one side of a coin, what's on the other side? Fear, it seems. We hope for better, but fear the worst. Our fear drives us to hatch harebrained schemes which THIS TIME will free us from the truth about ourselves for sure! We have fears about our story, our character, our essential nature. We hope to change them all.

New Years resolutions are all about clinging to hope that we can be better. We find it so easy to accept that we were bad before, and yet so difficult to accept that we were good. Or good enough. We are afraid to not be good, to be better, to not be the best we can be. We're afraid that we were bad last year and if we don't do something we'll be worse than ever this year!

We want to run away from our fears, but we're stuck because we can't run into the future where everything has already been solved. Hope is our way of getting around that pesky fact of our time-space continuum: we only have access to right now--this instant. And since we can't solve our problems this instant, we turn to hope. Hope gives us a place to locate our longings.

2007 was a tough year for me. And for my family. And for the world, for that matter. I'm glad I made it out alive, in one piece, and not too much worse for the wear. But I can honestly say that for the first time ever, I am not filled with remorse for the things that didn't happen in 2007. There are plenty of things I'm glad did NOT happen in 2007. In fact, the list of things that didn't happen that could have been or surely would have been worse is infinite! So I'm thankful for that!

I'm sure I had high hopes for 2007, but with all that actually occurred, I cannot really recall what they were. I can't quite bring forth the specter of who I was at the end of 2006 and all his horrible shortcomings and failures. Nor can I materialize the ghost of who I thought I'd be at the end of 2007.

I'm learning to abandon hope. I think the more I'm able to do that, the better I'll be able to abandon fear. Maybe I won't be afraid to go to bed a little hungry some night, maybe after a day in which I've eaten enough, but not as much as usual. Maybe a 230 pound man going to bed a little hungry isn't that scary after all.

Maybe the discomfort of getting up at 5am so I can squeeze a reviving workout in at the gym, and the irritation of being a little tired, maybe that's not so scary.

Maybe being bored and lonely isn't frightening enough to make me flee to the warm comfort of an extra glass of wine.

Maybe being alone and quiet and still isn't so bad, and even if it feels so bad in the moment, well maybe feeling bad doesn't always require an escape or a remedy.

Maybe if I'm not so afraid to confront and engage with the pain (whatever type it is), I won't hope so hard for it to go away. Maybe I won't feel so strongly the urge to act based on my hopes and fears, instead of acting on what's actually happneing here, now, in this moment, where and when I actually have the ability to act.

I can't honestly say that I don't have hopes for 2008, and fears too. Those thoughts will surely cross my mind every day. My idea is to not be ruled by them. To let those thoughts cross my mind the way a bird crosses the sky...see them up there flying by, and let them continue on their way to wherever they are going, leaving me to sit here quietly.

So I'm abandoning hope.

The hand gesture depicted in the image at the top of this Gratuitous Musing is called the Abhaya Mudra. It means "no fear."

I'm abandoning fear.

(But I might still blog about it once in awhile...)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Grandma: "I think we'll all feel better after we see a few people getting slaughtered."

I'm in a dark place. Allow me to share.

Well, it's been awhile. I haven't submitted updates to CRONOLOGY for a very long time primarily because I haven't been practicing CRON. At times I entertained the thought of treating this blog as my own general journal/diary, and going ahead with postings about miscellaneous stuff unrelated to my stalled CRON practice. But in the end, I felt I wanted to keep things somewhat on topic.

The reasons for my lack of CRON are varied and numerous. Or maybe that's "excuses" rather than "reasons." So much has happened since my last entry that I'm not sure how it all fits together with my CRON practice. Maybe I'll just start back in July and see where this goes. [Author's note: Danger--it goes pretty far--and pretty far afield; turn back now.]

I was just getting back into CRON at the end of July. I think I wanted to drop some pounds before a Labor Day trip to New Orleans that I'd been excitedly anticipating. Well, that didn't happen. I'm not even sure why I didn't stick with it that time. It was summer, there were gobs of great fresh vegetables and fruits available at farmer's markets all over Chicago.

New Orleans was fun--I stayed for 8 days with three friends from DC. We ate nothing but horribly unhealthy (but so delicious) food the entire time. And of course, we drank massive quantities of alcohol. I mean, a LOT of alcohol. Like "frat boys on spring break" quantities of wine, beer, gin--you name it. If I was conscious, and it wasn't morning, I probably had a drink in my hand. We started at the hotel, and continued on the streets of the French Quarter until all hours of the night (or morning...).

This alcohol business is not an insignificant issue for me: I have long struggled to keep my alcohol intake to a low moderate level. On CRON, it's pretty easy, because alcohol eats up calories without providing nutrients, and I'm usually unwilling to feel that hungry in order to maintain a high level of alcohol consumption. Never mind that it's counterproductive for longevity. Or depression.

And I'm always mindful that I come from a long line of heavy drinkers. My grandmother on my father's side died of either lung cancer (from smoking) or cirrhosis (from drinking) or both--we can never remember. At any rate, she was often "in her cups" as it were. My grandmother on my mom's side went to rehab twice before kicking her long-time addiction at around the age of 55. She's been sober now for 25 years. I have spent my adulthood partying with my parents. Family occasions are always occasions for drinking. Alcohol-drinking behavior is encouraged and reinforced constantly in my family, and in our culture at large, and resisting it, just like resisting our obesigenic food environment, is difficult when you thoroughly enjoy the stuff.

My own drinking habits have been spotty over the years. I've gone long periods with moderately normal consumption, then gotten a little carried away for awhile, then turned to abstinence for long periods. When I go too far for too long, a switch seems to flip in my brain that orders me "stop drinking completely," at least for awhile, and I usually comply with that command. Inevitably I quietly start drinking again later, and the whole process repeats.

New Orleans at the end of August was rather a binge for me. I came back to Chicago feeling polluted and ill. I went "on the wagon" yet again, for a couple months. Then I started drinking again in November. So far, so good--for me at least. I'm managing moderation for now, and I'm enjoying the times I can have cocktails or wine with my friends over dinner. When I resume CRON, the drinking will necessarily be further diminished, and I'm fine with that.

But from the period of just before Thanksgiving until today, I have had an ugly glimpse of the possibilities that await me if I should fail to remain vigilant about my alcohol use.

My uncle (my mother's brother) has been a long-suffering alcoholic, just like his mother. He's fifty, and the last 10-15 years have seen his alcohol abuse go from an immoderate low-level to the level of "how the hell is he still alive?" While my mom and I knew about his problem, he'd been concealing it from his parents (my grandparents).

Then Grandpa died the Friday before Thanksgiving. Grandpa was 96 years old, had lived a long and happy life, pretty much did what he wanted to, and his death itself, while sad for the family, was not a tragedy. It was just his time. He failed pretty quickly, spending a week in the hospital before dying of heart failure.

But during that week when he was dying, my uncle was on a 24-hour a day binge for a week. He didn't go to work. He didn't go to Ft. Wayne to be with his dying father. He missed the death because he was drunk and felt guilty and then drank more.

When we finally all got to Ft. Wayne to deal with things, my uncle was a physical train wreck. He was so sick, we persuaded him to go to the ER. He was admitted to the hospital two days before Thanksgiving with kidney failure. Everything about his addiction finally came out in the open at the hospital. We had Thanksgiving dinner with him in the hospital cafeteria. It was dreadful. We were mourning grandpa's death, and at the same time worrying about my uncle.

After a few days of detoxing in the hospital, they got his kidneys working again. He was released on the Friday after Thanksgiving, pledging to enter rehab and deal with his addiction. He was contrite. He said all the right things. But he was not ready, it seems. Three weeks later, he was at it again.

Meanwhile, with grandpa gone, grandma decided she didn't want to do the usual Christmas, so we all went to a bed & breakfast in South Bend, Indiana, for a Christmas away. I should clarify: when I say "we all" I mean me, my mom and her husband, grandma, and my drunk uncle. My druncle. We are a small and dwindling family. Neither my uncle nor I show signs of producing offspring, and in both cases, I can't say that's a bad thing. Some families are just better off dying out, I think.

My druncle was already deep in his cups when he arrived late at the b&b. Everyone was pissed because he was 5 hours late and had made no effort to call and provide an update as to his whereabouts. The holiday went downhill from there.

Christmas was basically a captive, two-day long intervention filled with acrimonious exchanges, bitter recriminations, petulent stomping off, faux-contrite returns, promises of rehab followed by pouty retractions of promises of rehab, veiled suicide threats, excuses, excuses, and more excuses.

On Christmas eve, we needed escape from the pressure cooker we'd stepped into. It was decided we'd go see the new film version of "Sweeney Todd" with Johnny Depp. My sweet, little old grandma said without a trace of irony, "I think we'll all feel better after we see a few people getting slaughtered." It was one of the few times I laughed over the holiday. "Grandma, I have waited my entire life to hear you say something like that!" She was kidding, but on the other hand, her little joke quite illustrated the dark place we all felt we were trapped in together. When violent, vengeful, bloody murder seems an escape, you know you've got issues.


The trouble is, we didn't feel better. "Sweeney Todd" is NOT a feel-good movie. Vengeance doesn't deliver redemption here. Everyone dies horribly. Well, perhaps not everyone, but you get the strong sense that the few who live aren't looking forward to living. Squalid London is a depressing prison captured in an aggressively grayscale color pallet. You can smell the sewage in the streets, taste the rotten cat and rat meat in Mrs. Lovett's pies.

I enjoyed the movie--the performances were terrific, the music gorgeous, the cinematography breathtaking--but it was also thoroughly disgusting and depressing, and perhaps not the best choice for a break in our intervention. After the bloodshed, we headed back to the Inn for round three (or was it four?).

More acrimony, more bitter recriminations, more promises of rehab, and Christmas was over. Happy Birthday Jesus...hope you enjoyed our ill pageantry.

But lo! There is a new light on the horizon: my mom and grandma headed to Indianapolis Wednesday to escort my druncle into rehab. Seems they persuaded him to do it, and so while he was drunk as ever, he managed to work out arrangements with his employer, and was checked into an inpatient facility Thursday! That may sound depressing and traumatic, but honestly it's the only spot of good I've felt in, well, I can't really remember.

So, how to tie all this back to CRON, and thus, render it appropriate for CRONOLOGY?

The events of the past two months have really exposed a reality of human life that I identify as helplessness, or perhaps it's more accurate to say powerlessness. In so many things, we are powerless: powerless to save dying grandpas. Powerless over drugs or alcohol. Powerless to help the ones we love when they meet their match, be it alcohol, faulty relationships, or simply circumstances beyond their control.

I may be powerless, helpless to fix all these problems in others. But I can make some choices here and now about how I respond to them myself. Will I use the pain and darkness as a reason, or excuse to abandon my aspirations? Will I medicate myself with food and alcohol and escapist television and anything and everything else I can grasp at to avoid the discomfort of the present moment?

I've concluded that the vices that haunt me--my immoderate food consumption (I've ballooned to 230#, the fattest I've ever been my entire life), my occasional forays into problematic drinking, my seeming difficulty committing to CRON--these all stem from my very human (yet ironically mindless) impulse to avoid the occasion of discomfort, and to escape it when it appears.

I tend to give in to the itch, to scratch until I bleed, rather than wait it out with equanimity and an open heart and mind. Discomfort and pain are not abnormal things to be eradicated at any cost. They are facts of life. Learning to stay with that notion, to non-judgmentally label pain and discomfort and thoughts that distress me and then relax into them, to stay present, to sit with them awhile with a sense of curiosity instead of fear: that is my challenge.

If you've wondered, yes there are Buddhist principles at work here in my gratuitous musing. Buddhism is something I've been exploring lately. And reconciling certain Buddhist principles with a quest for health and longevity (with their inherent forward-looking hopefulness about the future and the desire to delay or even prevent death) is something I have pondered. But that's a topic for another day, one that deserves its own entry.

For now, for today, I'm just satisfied to have reopened this blog. If anyone is reading, thanks for hanging in there. And while I am considering my options for re-engaging in CRON, and I'm sure I will have some things to say about it in the coming days, for now, well, no promises. I've got a few more pressing things to get through first.

I wish the best to all for an acceptable conclusion to 2007, and a good opening to 2008.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Grilled Vegetable Gazpacho!

I spent a couple hours yesterday with the grill fired up, cooking up all those veggies I'd bought. I tend to use the two-level fire technique, where all the charcoal is piled up on one side of the grill, and my food is on the other side, where it can roast more slowly instead of charring over the flame. Putting the lid on with the vent holes over the food directs the flavorful smoke over the food on its way out of the grill. (Again--I acknowledge there may be hazards to eating smoked, grilled, or charred food. I hope I only do it in moderation.)

First was the yellow and green squash; then the green and purple green beans (purple green beans cooked); cremini mushrooms; red onions; a fennel bulb; red bell pepper; poblano pepper; asparagus spears; grape tomatoes.

Wow: grape tomatoes are magical on the grill: they wilt and soften, and their flavor concentrates stunningly, like something between a sun-dried tomato and fresh ripe one. It was all I could do to stop myself from eating the whole batch like candy. I think April has this problem with grape tomatoes from time to time....

A note about the poblano peppers: I used a technique of blackening them on the grill, putting then in a paper bag to steam, then peeling the waxy skin off and removing the crown and seeds inside (see the picture for an example of a blackened pepper ready to be peeled). What you are left with is a lovely, soft roasted dark-green pepper with mild heat and great smoky flavor, but no bitter skin. You can do this over the flame on your stove too, but the grill made super-quick work of it. Grind up one of these into your next fresh salsa--it's your new secret salsa weapon.

Now on to the soup:

To me, standard gazpacho is wonderful, featuring all the flavors of vegetables fresh from the garden. But I was dreaming of a deeply red, smoky, slightly sweet tomato-based gazpacho with assertively developed flavors from the grill--flavors that would remain prominent even in a soup served cold.

The grill flavor was done: I would use all those vegetables I'd just roasted last night. I didn't just want those rich, concentrated grilled vegetable bits to float listlessly in canned tomato juice. But I did want the bright acidity of tomato juice--and not, as per my usual gazpacho base--V8, which includes vegetal flavors I didn't envision in this recipe.

I borrowed the standard technique for making hot pureed soups, starting with 2 cups of room-temperature tomato juice in the blender. In went the smokiest--and sweetest--grilled vegetables: poblano peppers, red bell peppers, onions, fennel, and those amazing reduced grape tomatoes.

The resulting puree was a gorgeous, burnished red with tiny flecks of black from the grilled vegetables. The flavor was smoky, sweet, and rich--exactly what I wanted, but too concentrated. And it still wanted a little something more...

I took care of the concentrated flavor simply by adding two more cups of tomato juice. I decided on a tablespoon each of Worcestershire and soy sauce. The soy added complex salt, and together with the Worcestershire, provided a hit of umami that really brought out the depth of the smoke flavors. I had my base soup!

All that remained was the addition of the veggies that would provide something to chew on. I added diced yellow and green grilled squash, diced grilled fennel, and a fresh cucumber for a bright hit of green among all the burnished dark flavors. I just love sweet corn, so I tossed in a cup of frozen grilled corn from Trader Joe's, adding crunchy sweet nuggets and a bit of carbohydrate that, if you wanted fewer calories, you could leave out without sacrificing much flavor. Perfection!

And at just 100 calories a cup, I could afford to eat the whole 7-cup batch if I wanted too and still have more than half my day's calories left! (But I think I'll savor this masterpiece in smaller more frequent servings!)

Monday, July 30, 2007

So far so good...

Well, it's awfully nice to still be noticed after my long absence. MoMR commented, April noted my reappearance in her blog today. I half worried that I'd fallen off everyone's radar because of my long silence.

I'm sure my initial posts will be a bit dull, since I'm basically working to psyche myself up to vigorous CRON practice, so I'll be focusing a lot on my food, and less on my Gratuitous Musings. Beside, I can't write those on demand--they are the result of something hitting me in a certain way that I simply must write about it.

So if you are in the mood to be bored, here's how my Re-CRON-ized life is starting out today:

I had my usual favorite breakfast, which I'm not sure if I've ever listed, so here it is:

Chris's Breakfast Smoothie

  • 1 cup egg whites (pasteurized, from Trader Joe's)
  • 1 cup fat-free yogurt
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1 scoop vanilla Spiru-Tein (more on this below)
  • 1 tbsp flax seed oil
  • 2 rounded tbsp Lewis Labs brewer's yeast
  • 2 tbsp psyllium husks

Nutrient Info for Smoothie

General (33%)
Energy620.7 kcal 34% 
Protein65.4 g 48% 
Carbs64.7 g 30% 
  Fiber18.4 g 48% 
Fat15.3 g 25% 
Water461.2 g 12% 
Vitamins (91%)
Vitamin A5080.7 IU 169% 
Folate496.7 µg 124% 
B1 (Thiamine)2.8 mg 235% 
B2 (Riboflavin)4.7 mg 359% 
B3 (Niacin)31.2 mg 195% 
B5 (Pantothenic Acid)12.1 mg 242% 
B6 (Pyridoxine)3.0 mg 229% 
B12 (Cyanocobalamin)7.3 µg 306% 
Vitamin C66.3 mg 74% 
Vitamin D400.0 IU 200% 
Vitamin E33.1 mg 221% 
Vitamin K25.7 µg 21% 
Minerals (74%)
Calcium629.4 mg 63% 
Copper1.1 mg 125% 
Iron6.9 mg 86% 
Magnesium171.9 mg 41% 
Manganese5.3 mg 229% 
Phosphorus463.9 mg 66% 
Potassium1564.5 mg 33% 
Selenium138.0 µg 251% 
Sodium714.6 mg 48% 
Zinc18.0 mg 163% 
Lipids (30%)
Saturated1.5 g 8% 
  Omega-37.4 g 464% 
  Omega-62.0 g 12% 
Cholesterol2.7 mg 1% 

Some notes about this meal: yes, it's pretty high in calories, and the Spiru-Tein ups the carbs more than I'd like, but it also ups the protein, vitamins, and minerals. I've also used whey protein in the past--or just left it out altogether. It also functions as a supplement for vitamins and minerals, which if I'm supplementing, I prefer to take with food and an oil (the flax oil here), for better absorption.

I should be more sophisticated in my supplementation approach, and somewhere I have notes from Michael Rae on how to do this better, but right now I just don't have the time nor energy for it, and it's more important for me to get started and ease my way back into CRON.

Also, I am never hungry in the morning. This is a meal I can get down, because it's a liquid and mildly sweet tasting. I'm no good for chewable food until late mid-morning. I think coffee is somewhat responsible for my a.m. "anorexia" since it's an appetite suppressant, but I am unwilling to give it up--and it has niacin!

For the rest of my day: I'm eating more fruit right now than usual. Why? Because about half the time, I work outside in the sun all day, and my appetite is not good in these circumstances, while dehydration is a real risk. So today's food, which I've been grazing on all day is: an apple, a grapefruit, 400 g of wonderful cantaloupe from my local farmer's market, some almonds, some white-meat chicken, and 10 g of 85% cacao chocolate.

It's 2:45 pm, I've been munching all day and still have the melon left to devour, and then a whole dinner still tonight! It's amazing how much food you can cram into a calorie-restricted diet. I can't imagine why people eat low-volume, calorie-dense foods when they are on a weight-loss diet. No wonder they are hungry all the time. I bet 90% of my food is 90% water--and I'd say that's a good approach. Granted, CRON is not necessarily intended as a weight-loss diet, but still, if you DO want/need to lose weight, is there a better way?

Tonight I'm cooking up a bunch of veggies on the grill that I will eat on all week long (yes, I'm aware there are some unfriendly compounds produced on the grill...I'm willing to risk it for the taste, at least this week when I'm craving barbecued pulled pork and worse nasties!). And I can hardly wait for tonight's dinner! I'll make wraps with the grilled veggies and my previously mentioned whole sprouted multigrain Fat-Flush tortillas, a Quorn Naked Cutlet (jauntily sliced on the bias), a couple tablespoons of guacamole, and just a smidgeon of Sweet Baby Ray's Barbecue sauce. Delicious!

All of this will get me very close to my 1800 calorie goal, but I'll be short on protein. This seems ever to be the case for me--I have a hard time getting enough protein, and I don't like egg whites much (except uncooked in my smoothie). A calorie goal of 1800 might be too low for someone my size, but that was my target before and I was hardly withering away. I have proven to be resistant to weight loss in the past. I will be all too happy to increase my caloric load in a few days if I start melting away. I can hardly wait to eat dried figs with goat cheese...but I'm gonna wait until need 'em! I'll check in again later.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

I'm back(ish)

I've been on a CRON hiatus for a bunch of months now, but decided to give it another shot. As I've pointed out here on my blog previously, the probability of success increases with each attempt! I recalled how helpful it was for me to blog about my experience, so my first move is this post.

To be honest, I'm very motivated at the moment to lose some weight. I'm going on a trip at the end of August, and wouldn't mind slimming down a bit between now and then. Going back to CRON seems the best and easiest way for me to do that and remain healthy. I'm getting tons of exercise now because I spend 20 hours a week doing field work on my bike for my job. All that exercise plus CRON should help me lose weight pretty easily. Hopefully I can resist the urge to lose too fast!

I've taken the old CRON-o-Meter out of mothballs, dusted it off, and started building a diet up. It's funny, I've been out of touch with this healthy way of eating for quite awhile now, but playing with CRON-o-Meter reminds me that I already have a very good repertoire of CR-friendly foods I really like that instantly come to mind. Getting back to CRON is in many ways easier than first starting it. However, missing in this next attempt is that mad energy and enthusiasm that accompanies any sort of turning over of a new leaf. I hope to talk myself into that enthusiasm between now and tomorrow morning!

I've been to the farmer's market today, and loaded up on summer squashes, green beans (including a variety that is deep purple), and melons--my favorite summer dessert. I've already got my favorite flourless low-carbish sprouted grain tortillas that I like to make veggie/quorn wraps with. Later today I'll be grocery shopping at regular markets to pick up the stuff not available at the farmer's market.

I'll weigh in and take measurements tonight to see where I'm starting from, and begin in earnest tomorrow morning. Wish me luck!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Just checking in....

I don't have any particularly stirring musings to post today, but just wanted to check in, for the discipline if nothing else.

We've had a blast of absolutely gorgeous weather here in Chicago since Friday with temps in the upper 70s and clear sunny skies. I spent a good deal of yesterday manufacturing vitamin D in my skin!

I had my first official training run for the marathon yesterday--just 3 easy miles--but it felt good to re-establish the weekend rituals that marathon training imposes on me: healthy dinner Friday night, early to bed, early to rise Saturday morning, a good run, then a delightfully low-key, yet productive day that begins with an earned sense of self-satisfaction.

Since Tuesday I've had a great CRON week. My averages for the week are good, but not perfect: 93 calories/day over target, and short on protein and Vitamin K, but all other averages are well within acceptable (to me) parameters. This includes a bit of a splurge last night: I attended at a party where I a) drank NO alcohol; and b) nibbled very modestly on the delicious snacks, then dutifully recorded them all in CRON-O-Meter this a.m. The results weren't as bad as I'd expected.

Friday was so beautiful that I walked all the way to work--five miles. Then I did the 3-mile run on Saturday. Everything felt great! But then last night I got soooo hungry. I ate well, but it was a wakeup call: I know from experience that there is no way I will be able to function at my current target calorie level on Saturdays, particularly when my training runs start creeping up above the 5-6 mile mark. Endurance exercisers might recognize what I mean when I say there are times when you experience a deep-down-full-body-hunger that will not be denied. It's a kind of hunger most Americans rarely if ever experience, and it turns food into a kind of orgasmic magical elixir.

The fact is that burning calories at the rate one does in training necessitates the consumption of more fuel, and significant post-run refueling as well. It's just a simple fact I'll need to accept even as it conflicts with the very basic foundation of CRON. But it's a nice excuse to eat more--whoopee! And it's only for 6 months, while CRON is (theoretically) forever. We'll see!

That is all for now. I'll try to post something a bit more interesting in the coming week.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

An e-mail to a friend

I received an announcement today that a friend has decided to do the Paris-Brest-Paris Randonnée this August.

For the uninitiated, this is a 745 mile bike ride in 90 hours with NO support. It's an exercise in self-sufficiency and personal commitment.

I found myself so cheered by his news that I composed a reply that, after I sent it, I realized would be perfect for my blog. It follows at the end of this post.

In addition to getting back to CRON (which I've finally been doing lately), I'm beginning training this weekend for the October marathon here in Chicago. Lengthening my life through calorie-restriction, then shortening it again through ridiculous endurance-running. I've definitely got myself a confused little masochistic streak.

And gentle readers (if any remain, given my hiatus), go ahead and note my falling off the CRON wagon, but then recall what you read right here a couple of months ago:

Quit attempts should be thought of like practice sessions in learning a new skill—at some point one hopes to “get it right,” but one should not put undue hope on any single given quit attempt, and take solace in knowing the probability of success increases with each try.

Indeed. I'm living for that probability right this very second.

Okay, so on to my message to my inspirational cycling friend:


I'm extremely delighted by this pleasant news. Allow me to make it all about me for a moment.

In 1999, as I was hatching my plans to move from DC to Chicago (and my plans were only that: to move here; I had no plans beyond my arrival), I decided to run the Marine Corps Marathon.

I was 29 years old, I'd never been a runner (or an athlete of ANY kind), and I was then--as I am again--about 40 lbs overweight. I also have some mild foot problems that require special running shoes, but thankfully that was an easily solved challenge.

They call my running cohort "Clydesdale." I wasn't terribly amused by that, but then again, Clydesdales are very sturdy, handsome horses, and they haul beer around, so what's not to like?

The point is that as I was contemplating major life changes, and I needed a powerful shot of confidence, proof that I could muster a bit of some weird thing called "discipline," and actually finish a long-term, hard project before I packed up the truck and headed west. I conjured up the idea that in running the marathon at the end of my time in DC, I wasn't running away from my old life, but running towards my new one.

I trained for six months, and then I ran (and sometimes hobbled) that race, crossing the finish line barely before they closed the event. Then I came to Chicago and staggered around on unsteady legs for several weeks. I was wrecked physically, but high as a kite emotionally.

It was easily in my top three majorly awesome life-changing experiences (even above my first CCM) [Author's Note: CCM is "Chicago Critical Mass"]. That sounds corny, but I'm a sentimental guy, and I was as self-satisfied as I could be. I also didn't feel too badly about raising nearly $2000 for AIDS (it was a fund-raising program), though that wasn't honestly why I did it. I did it for me.

Here I am at 36, fat again, getting ready to finish school and start my interim-career (yep, working for you-know-who), and finally making some serious and steady progress on the novel I've been belaboring for years (that's my REAL career). I'm at another crossroads, another moment when my whole life is gonna change around again. Everything's good--no everything's GREAT, but...I need a serious kick-start to push me out of the gate. Not to mix metaphors.

So, coincidentally I've decided to train for and run another marathon, and my training begins soon. Of course, what you are doing requires a much greater level of commitment and self-sufficiency than doing a marathon, but I bet the results will be similar in some ways.

While I don't really know what your reasons are (or mine for that matter), I bet there's at least a bit of some of the following: Maybe we are having pre-midlife-crises? Maybe we want our youthful bodies back, and all the fun and health and even MORE fun that promises. Maybe we're hoping to impress others (at least a little). Maybe we're bored, or curious. Maybe we're in pain (physical, psychological, spiritual), and more pain seems like it might be curative, like some bizarre metaphysical homeopathy. Personally, I sometimes wonder if I'm looking for ways to dig the knife in a little deeper and give it a twist--after all, it can't feel worse than what I've been doing to myself over the last six years, with all my addictions and self-destructive impulses. It's like a bleeding, a cleansing ritual. Maybe you just wanna see France by bike, and I wanna see the backsides of 44,999 other runners.

Whatever the reasons, I promise you will enjoy what happens to your body along the way (provided you're careful to avoid injuries--and injuries are NOT inevitable but preventable, so do take care).

But the big surprise to me was realizing that these things train our minds as much as, no--more than--our bodies. Endurance sports require, to my mind, a great deal of mental discipline that is much more difficult than meeting the physical demands we place on ourselves. Our bodies are just the vehicles, and they are very adaptive and malleable ones, at that. Our minds are where resistance is located. That's where the real workout is. Enjoy this trip--it's mind-blowing. You'll be a whole new T.C. when this is over. (Not that there's anything wrong with the old one.)

I'm really excited for you, and I'll read your blog faithfully. (Actually, I read anything you write. I dig your "voice.") So make sure you actually post to it.

And thanks for the shot of inspiration on this depressingly gray, damp, April (the cruellest month) day. My conviction was wavering today, but now I'm fired up again!



Thursday, March 22, 2007

Just checking in.

This started out as a quick "hey there--I'm still alive!" post, but as I got into it, well...

First, I assure anyone reading that I haven't truly disappeared. These long breaks between posts are simply the result of my being so busy with work and school that I haven't had much time for the blog--or for CR, for that matter. My CR practice is all but suspended at the moment, but I remain committed to it, and as soon as things settle down, I look forward to getting back into the swing of things.

Next week is my spring break, and I will spend it helping my beleaguered mother care for her ailing parents, so she can take a break herself. Grandma and Grandpa are old (96 and 79, respectively), and Grandma has been fighting off a rare infection in her lungs called nocardia, a bacteria that typically infects only immunocompromised patients or those with damaged lungs. Grandma was a smoker for many years, and her lungs are full of scar tissue (amazingly, no cancer). She's also immunocompromised by virtue of being old and frail. Over the last year she has been in and out of the hospital a dozen times in as many months. Last year she spent two months in a long-term care facility, trying to recover enough strength that she could go home and do simple things like cook for herself and bathe.

Grandpa isn't much help: though mentally sharp, his body is failing him too. He's been diagnosed with an "age-related" condition called spinal stenosis for the last 10 years or so. It's a narrowing of the spinal canal that squeezes on the spinal cord and nerves. For him, it results in numb legs after a short time standing, so he can't do much walking before he starts losing sensation in his legs. Back when surgery was still a viable option, he was afraid of the risks. Now he's too old and frail for the surgery. Coupled with that, he had an old and deteriorated hip replacement touched up surgically a couple years ago, and things never returned to normal afterward. He gets around with a walker, and can bathe and feed himself, but is in no condition to be a care-giver to his equally frail wife.

Grandpa is 96--that's pretty old by almost anyone's definition. But his quality of life sucks. He can't get around, has nothing to do, and we all believe he is probably depressed (he is rarely willing to cop to physical pain--admitting emotional pain is not part of his stoic constitution).

Grandma would almost certainly be in much better shape had she not smoked cigarettes all those years. But she battled alcoholism, and dealing with that--which she has done quite successfully (sober for something like 30 years)--made the smoking seem less a problem--something to put off until sobriety was a part of her life again.

I am grateful that so far, they've been able to live at home with relative independence despite their failing conditions. But that's thanks to my mother looking after them constantly. My mom's been a superhero through all this--I guess that's what we do for our parents.

This whole experience has been instructive for me--particularly in light of all I've learned about health and nutrition since I started reading about CR last November. The pair of them are simultaneously a great example of lots that's wrong with how we live--and lots that's right. They are old, and they have survived a lot--so it doesn't seem unreasonable for me to conclude that, in terms of genetics, I probably have a decent shot at a long and healthy life--if I take their situation as a lesson, and make wiser choices now.

I have to live at least 60 more years to catch up with Grandpa (and likely longer--he's not dead yet!). I plan to do that, and I'd like to do it well, with strength, self-sufficiency, and the knowledge that at 96, I will still be capable of seeking out and experiencing the pleasures of life.

So I am acknowledging two things to myself right now: 1) I will get on the ball with this CR lifestyle by year's end, and 2) I will not add to my stress and at times overwhelmingly hectic life by beating myself up for not doing it right now.

I started flirting with CR in November, after Thanksgiving. If it takes me a full twelve months to achieve, at last, a single full month of committed CR practice, so be it. Grand life changes are difficult, take time, and the most important lessons are learned slowly.

I do have some good news that I believe will make getting my lifestyle under control a little easier: I have a job lined up for May, when I pseudo-finish school. I say that because I was meant to graduate in May, but it turns out I'll be short a few credit hours and will have to squeeze in a class or two part-time over the next year while I experience gainful full-time employment for the first time in more than five years.

I'll give more specific information about my burgeoning career in a future post, but for now I'll say simply that I'll be working for a non-profit advocacy organization whose mission I've been committed to for many years. And it's not just an administrative job like all my others. I will be a program manager, and in time, the expert in my field--not just in Chicago, but in all of the United States. That's not meant to sound grandiose--it's just that Chicago is a leading city for my field.

I consider earning this job to be the fulfillment of a commitment I made to myself after getting laid off in 2002. I returned to school with a plan to change my life and do something good. I set my sights on this organization, and five years later I have the job. Sometimes I fail to take credit for my successes, for the systematic way I took all the necessary steps to arrive here. I had a loosely defined plan (which is about as close as I get to "ambition"), I allowed myself to be influenced and motivated by good people along the way, and now I have what I set out to get five years ago.

Best of all, my new career has nothing whatsoever to do with my degree. When I returned to school at the age of 32, I vowed to study something I found interesting and fulfilling to me personally (Latin American and Latino Studies), without regard for career. I believed things would work out if I was true to myself and my values, and it turns out I was right. I have received a wonderful gift, to be able to live like this, and I want to prolong it as long as I can.

And I'm mindful that I'm just starting a real career at the age of 36, and while I may only be a post-pubescent teenager in CR years, I'm still beginning perhaps a decade late compared to my peers who are graduating and beginning the careers in their early twenties. So, obviously I must live longer (and even longer!) so that I can enjoy a similar--or even longer (longer longer)--career! CR is my ticket to do it--I believe that--so now I have yet another reason to get back to CR!

Finally, I'm also continuing work on a novel I started last year, and what creative energy that remains after my writing for school has been funneled into that instead of the blog. It's a passion of mine that needs to be nurtured at all costs, and one of those costs is the frequency of my blogging. Sorry--but any of you who are artists of one sort or another understand what happens when a creative endeavor begins to gather critical mass and take off.

So, that's where I'm at right now. Thanks to those of you who left comments wondering what had become of me. I'm right here, and I'm still reading the blogs and the e-mail list. I swear I'll be back in full-force when this semester is over!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Existential Crisis!

I have some great news: I am not suicidal!

I'd always suspected that I was not suicidal, but how could I have ever known for sure? I mean, it's really easy to sit there and say, "I want to be alive! Living is great!" But where do you find your proof? How do you know your desire to be alive springs from a passionate lust for life, or some sense of purpose, and isn't just instinctive and reflexive, the product of the basic survival impulse?

However bad things get, however defeated I ever might feel in an individual moment, it seems that I generally return to an optimistic attitude. I know that I can probably have a good life and make a difference, and all that stuff. But sometimes I wonder, "what's the point of it all," and "why bother?"

I realize that I am not breaking any new ground here, and people far more well-read and well-spoken and intelligent and possessed of more philosophical curiosity than I have waxed eloquently about these questions for, like, a really long time. If I have nothing new to say about these things, then, what am I going on about here? Well, a week or two ago, this question popped into my head, unbidden:

"Why would I want to live even LONGER...when this is all meaningless, and I could die today and I wouldn't even care because I'd be dead, so I wouldn't know any better, right?" What would I want with all that extra time? Why not just "live it up" now and who cares when I croak, if it's at 50 or 80 or 120?

It occurred to me that this was a really, really important question to discover an answer to if I seriously want to do CRON (or any other healthful thing) for the purpose of longevity. It seems to me that if you are asking for more time, you should have some sort of idea what you plan to do with it. I realized I wasn't sure.

This sophomoric existential crisis was looming large a week or so ago when, in an intensely strange moment while I was preparing my (decidedly non-CRON) dinner, I vividly imagined having a massive heart attack and dropping right there in my kitchen. Making the moment more surreal was the fact that opera music was streaming from the living room (something from Prairie Home Companion). I felt like I was in some kind of artsy movie. The diva was wailing, and I imagined myself on my knees, clutching my chest, begging, "No! Not now!'s too soon! I have so much to do!" before slipping into the darkness.

I stood there, paralyzed, waiting to see if it was really happening. You know the funny way time seems to stretch out and everything goes slow-mo when something horrible and traumatic is happening, when seconds seem like minutes, and minutes seem like hours? I found myself stricken with the idea that I was in the midst of a sudden, surprising death, and time was stretching out forever, so I could experience every moment of it. Not that I was experiencing any bodily sensations or anything--this was all in my head.

When I'd recovered my senses (just in time to drain the gaky pasta I was cooking), I couldn't help but chuckle with relief, that kind of insane chuckle that really isn't because something was funny, but rather, served as a pressure-release valve we sometimes need after averting disaster. I mean, obviously I was relieved that I wasn't really having a heart attack. But more than that, I felt an intense relief to suddenly know for sure that I actually wanted rather seriously to be alive, as opposed to descending into the aforementioned sophomoric existential crisis.

I know that all sounds so silly, but I realized that I've never really been endangered in a way that made me seriously fear for my life. My mortality has never posed much threat. It's been more theoretical than actual.

I suppose that sureal moment (revelation? ephiphany?) was at least in part the result of all my new knowledge about health and nutrition, and the tension inherent between all that knowledge and my continued bad behavior.

I'm sure I was fantasizing what I actually do fear will be the likely consequence of my continuing the path I've been on. That path has been strewn with fitful, sporadic CRON practice, peppered with frightening bouts of ad lib abandon. I was in the midst of preparing macaroni and cheese, a meal so off my CRON list it shouldn't even be recognized as food so much as poison!

I realized something else: I've been thinking of my bad feelings about food as "guilt" and "shame," but those are imprecise characterizations of something that I think is much more primal. I think, at least for me, my bad food feelings spring from fear. I was suddenly imagining what was going to happen to me thanks to the very food I was preparing that moment.

Guilt came next, in the moment I realized I wasn't having a heart attack and everything was fine. As I shoveled greasy forkfulls of macaroni and cheese into my mouth, I felt like, "Ha! I've gotten away with it again!" But getting away with something always makes me feel guilty. This is why I cannot bear to play practical jokes on my friends--if I get away with it, if I fool them, I feel guilty!

So, what does all this mean? I guess the answer is, "I don't really know." It's a relief to be made aware in no uncertain terms that I don't want to die, that in fact I'd prefer most strenuously to remain alive. I never did think I was suicidal, but isn't it nice to know for sure? But I also know that if I want to stick with CRON, I need a plan. I need a goal. I need a rationale for prolonging the time that I plan to spend here, a justification for the greater amount of resources I will then have to consume in order to do that, for the greater footprint I will leave on the environment.

The answer, it seems to me, is that I must do something good. I need to prolong my life, and most especially, the period of my life during which I am most robust, because there are some good things I am meant to do, and they take more time than I'll have if I continue the way I have been. What are these good things I have to do? I have no idea. But I'd prefer to have the luxury of time in which to figure out the answer to that question. And so, I must do CRON.

Existential crisis averted, for now....

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Bad Mantra, or "This is the blog where I say 'fuck' a lot."

As often happens, I was inspired this morning to write after reading a blog entry of a fellow CRON practitioner, Emily (, who was expressing frustration over her recent lapse into making some food choices that she felt regretful about.

First, I recognize this frustration, but just for a little reality check, let's consider the foods in which she indulged during her moments of weakness:

  • cereal
  • chocolate
  • almonds
  • tortilla with peanut butter and jam

These are hardly the food equivalents of a shot of heroin, so let's not completely freak out here. You wanna know what my recent binges included?

  • pizza (delivery)
  • donuts
  • Chinese food (delivery)
  • wine (lots of it)
  • more pizza
  • monte cristo sandwich (ham, turkey, cheese, on FRENCH TOAST!) and fries--FRIES!!!
  • even more pizza
  • did I mention pizza?

Aw, fuck it.

That's what the old me would have said. I have a long history of attempting some life-change, "failing," and saying "Aw, fuck it" and simply abandoning the cause entirely. I'd done it so many times that "Aw, fuck it" had become something of a mantra for me. Not the kind of mantra that helps organize and quiet the mind. No, this is a bad mantra. A self-defeating mantra. A self-indulgent mantra that serves the purpose of giving me all the excuse I need to head to Dunkin' Donuts for an old fashioned buttermilk donut, chocolate frosted cake donut, and glazed chocolate cake donut. I sure like me some cake donuts.

Not to sound all pop-psychology-self-helpish, but we shouldn't underestimate the power of our self-talk. Saying "aw fuck it" is just another tool for making sense of the choices we are confronted with. It's a poor tool for the job, but it is a tool nonetheless. I know, Emily didn't say "aw, fuck it," but she did say "I felt positive and great and totally in the CRON-groove, and now... I just don't know." That's close enough. It may say "I just don't know," but it whispers "aw fuck it." It's just a few slides down that slippery slope from "I just don't know" to "aw, fuck it."

We need to become more skilled at opening up our tool boxes, surveying what's in there, and then--with the job in mind--choosing the best one to get it done. When we stray from our plan, we can say "aw fuck it," and go completely off the rails--that's what I used to do all the time. Or we can say, "oh well, it's not like I can't try again. And again. And again. However many times it takes until it sticks." The tool of negative self-talk makes us feel badly, and still it doesn't get the job done. Like beating on our thumb with a hammer, when we're supposed to be using wrench to tighten down a bolt.

The other issue here, besides the unhelpful ways we talk to ourselves about what we are doing, is our notion of what constitutes success. I argue that an attempt itself is a success, and every attempt, regardless of its outcome, should be applauded. We should be all self-congratulatory AND self-satisfied whenever we make an attempt to do whatever the good thing is that we want to do. Not fully succeeding in any attempt just means we get the chance to try again. Each new try offers the possibility of success, even if that's just an incremental success.

Consider this gem from an article on smoking cessation from PubMed Central:

"The most important aspect to smoking cessation is maintaining the motivation to make multiple attempts. Thus, quit attempts should be thought of like practice sessions in learning a new skill—at some point one hopes to “get it right,” but one should not put undue hope on any single given quit attempt, and take solace in knowing the probability of success increases with each try. (read the article)

Hey--you need to read that sentence again:

"Quit attempts should be thought of like practice sessions in learning a new skill—at some point one hopes to “get it right,” but one should not put undue hope on any single given quit attempt, and take solace in knowing the probability of success increases with each try."

You know, that sentence is so smart, we all need to read it one more time:

"Quit attempts should be thought of like practice sessions in learning a new skill—at some point one hopes to “get it right,” but one should not put undue hope on any single given quit attempt, and take solace in knowing the probability of success increases with each try."

I'm not an addiction specialist or anything, but I've certainly wrestled with addictions throughout my adult life (a topic I'm bound to blog about eventually) and I find it all too easy to analogize the Standard American Diet with cigarette smoking. It's addictive, destructive, deadly. And I have my own theory about why repeated attempts to quit lead to success.

I think we learn a lot from our unsuccessful attempts to quit things (like the Standard American Diet). We learn about the pangs of withdrawal--what they feel like, what eases them, how long they take to pass; we learn about that ephemeral "pink cloud," that wonderful, carefree high we feel in the first days or weeks of abstinence that inevitably dissipates, leaving us to face the long journey ahead with clear eyes not blinded by the comforting fog of euphoria; we learn about the physical and mental pain of relapse. Knowing all that makes the next attempt easier. Knowing the course ahead makes it easier to bear the pains, and not be unsustainably seduced by the joys.

Future attempts are easier too because we already have a chest full of useful tools to put into service: we already know how to distinguish between good food and gak, we already know how to use the software (don't tell me you aren't using software yet--that's like going to the job site without a tape measure), we already know what our own patterns are, our triggers, we've learned tips and tricks, we have our blogs and our online friends--these are all tools we have immediately available to us as soon as we're ready for our next attempt. These are all tools we didn't have in the beginning, so we are already that much closer to success.

I invite those of us new to CRON to look at it this way: quitting lifelong addictions is hard, it requires many attempts, and since we are all in this for the long haul, whatever is happening today, or whatever happened yesterday, is just a tiny piece of a great big picture. All our many (perhaps frustrated) attempts to "get it right" are a necessary part of our future success, so what we are doing now is good, and helpful, and productive. We'll get there in our own time, some faster than others, if we keep on working at it. And I can assure you, we will most certainly not get there if we say "Aw, fuck it," and quit trying.

If, like me, you are starting CRON all over again today (or tomorrow, or the next day), then remember, the probability of success increases with each try. So keep trying. And don't even let me hear any of you say "Aw, fuck it." I promise not to say it too.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Ack. ACK! Gak-Attack!

First: how cool is it that my blog has now been commented by April, MR, and MR's Mom? The CR Power Dynasty has recognized my blog as something other than the unfortunate case of verbal diarrhea that it sometimes feels like to me. (And please, no cheery assurances that it's not all so much verbal diarrhea--my self-deprecation is part of my winning personality.) Now, of course, the pressure is on to continue, and I think I actually need some of that "peer pressure" to stay the course, so thanks y'all!

Now on to the Gak Attack

I ate about 2800 calories yesterday, thanks to poor planning coupled with the convenient presence of a Sbarro at the cafeteria at school. The 960-calorie slice of saturated fat basically obliterated my nutrition for the day. I'd been doing field work for my job all afternoon, which meant biking around town in temps in the 20s, getting really cold, and really tired, and really vulnerable. I already knew this was a risk from last time, but somehow hadn't learned my lesson yet, I guess.

Worse, this has been a regular occurrence lately as I struggle to keep up with competing responsibilities and find meal planning to be hard to fit in.

Get this: I spent Sunday planning and executing a working recipe for what I'm calling "MegaSoup," a recipe I engineered in CRON-O-Meter to provide 10% or better of all nutrients per 100-calorie serving (although I eat more like 200-calories worth in a serving). I got pretty close to that goal (it's much easier to engineer a soup than a baked good like the MegaMuffins), and it tastes delicious. The whole recipe provides 11 servings. Along with my MegaMuffins, it should have provided easy, convenient grab-n-go options to take to school with me for the week.

Did my plan work? No. Why? I don't have any food-storage containers suitable for soup (keep it from leaking in my bag, microwave safe, etc.) I forgot to buy some when I was shopping for ingredients, so the soup sits in a big pot in my fridge, waiting to spoil instead of getting eaten. Such SILLINESS!

It seems that when times are tough, the most recently instituted habits are the first to get tossed out the window in favor of the familiar.

I've been stuffing my gob with gak at an alarming frequency and it MUST stop post-haste. I feel terrible. Where's my energy? Where's my feeling of well-being? Where's my self-satisfaction at a job well-done? Arghhh! [As an aside, the Urban Dictionary defines "gak" variously as slang for certain extremely addictive stimulant drugs. Appropriating the term for horrible food, therefore, seems more than appropriate.]

With no good news to report on the nutrition front, I figured this was a good time to point out--to myself as much as to anyone else--one of the seemingly obvious yet wildly ignored hazards of the Standard American Diet (SAD).

Although I did consume impressive quantities of protein and most minerals yesterday, I finished a nearly-3000 calorie day (!!) with just 12% of my vitamin C, 32% vitamin E, and 26% vitamin K. Sound unbelievable? It should, but sadly it doesn't. If that huge quantity of food still deprives me of such important nutrients--and I was actually paying attention to eating good food for the first half of the day--it's really quite startling to imagine how most Americans are getting by.

But there's a bit of good news, a positive way to look at this: the only reason I know about my deficits and overages from yesterday are because despite my feeling gross about what I ate, I dutifully plugged it all into CRON-O-Meter (as you should all be doing), so I could appropriately assess the damage and remind myself why I'm doing all this.

Working with nutrient targets is sort of like working with a financial budget. I'm more likely to watch my spending when I know how much I have and how much things cost, and plan ahead, usually with the help of a spreadsheet or at least notes scribbled on paper. Ignoring all the facts and figures does not lead to financial health (or plain old survival, for that matter). It leads to over spending, late payments, bad credit, poverty, homelessness and death! (Or at least unwanted and unnecessary psychological distress.)

Food budgeting is the same. If we're not tracking our nutrient info in CRON-O-Meter (or something similar), we really have NO IDEA WHAT WE ARE EATING. It's just that simple. So the take home message of this entry is: record everything you eat, no matter how embarrassing or disgraceful it all seems. JUST DO IT. For people like me, seeing the damage in black and white is a very powerful motivator to make voluntary changes to diet.

The software also facilitates a powerful sense of accomplishment: I can't lose 40 pounds and live forever TODAY, but I most certainly can eat food that provides 100% or better of all the important nutrients I need in a relatively small number of calories.

Nutrition software: JUST DO IT!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Greetings, and a Couple Recipes

I haven't blogged for ages. Why? I'm taking a heavy course load this semester so I can graduate in May, and also working part-time. I simply don't have time for much, unfortunately.

I've been eating dreadfully too, as a result of lack of time and failure to spend what time I can manage to plan meals. I need to develop a routine whereby on the weekend I plan out the meals of the week ahead and shop accordingly. Then I need to cook much of the food over the weekend, and portion it out in handy containers for lunches at school and maybe even dinners, since I so often drag myself in at the end of the day with no energy to cook or even open the fridge to see what's in there (which usually isn't much).

So, that's today's project, to spend some time and brain power on this today and tomorrow. Otherwise I'm going to wind up making my my life harder, as my body suffers the ill-effects of a gak-laden diet which certainly won't provide me the energy I need.

For you dessert fans, I wanted to share the following treat, a meal that eats like a dessert.

Toasted MegaMuffin with Blueberry Sauce

  1. Take about a 1/2 cup of blueberries (frozen is great) and put into a saucepan with some sucralose (to taste), a squirt of fresh lemon juice, and some grated lemon zest. Cinnamon, vanilla, and almond extracts are all good additions. For a touch of the exotic, try a dash or two of rose water--rose and blueberry is a gorgeous and flavor combination: you can tell there's something unusual in there, but it's subtle and elusive.
  2. Simmer until the berries break down and you reduce the liquid enough to thicken it somewhat. (You may have to add a few drops of water to get the simmering process started).
  3. Split a MegaMuffin and chuck it into the toaster (or in your regular oven) while you are simmering the blueberries.
  4. Remove MegaMuffin from the toaster (or oven), put in a bowl, and pour the blueberry syrup over it. (If you need some fat for the day, a drizzle of flax oil before the berry sauce is sublime.)
  5. Eat while your eyes roll back in your head and you wonder why you ever wanted cake with frosting.
  6. Imagine endless variations with other fruits and flavors.
Kale Chips

I've struggled to eat my kale. I chomp and chomp and after awhile I just can't face another bite. So I'm delighted to report that it is possible to turn leafy, chewy kale into a delightful crispy snack food that isn't out of place as an accompaniment to watching a movie: Kale Chips.

  1. Chop or tear a large quantity of kale leaves into small pieces (they will shrink so much in the oven that a mountain of kale is reduced to a mere mole hill)
  2. Drizzle with the smallest quantity of olive oil that coats the leaves enough to allow a bit of salt (or other flavoring--I'm going to try brewers yeast) to stick. You should be able to get by with a teaspoon if you take some time to really toss the kale until it's all lightly coated. Cooking spray might be an alternative.
  3. Spread out in a thin layer on a cookie sheet (parchment helps); you'll likely have to do several batches.
  4. Bake in low oven until dry and crispy (I started out with too-high a temp and some of the leaves browned which is less desirable; try between 250-300 degrees).
  5. Pour into a bowl and snack away, or bag 'em for later.

These are incredibly light and crispy, and though some of that cruciferous bitterness gets a bit concentrated, I still found them to be highly palatable. I offered them to friends and everyone was amazed that these light crispy little delights were actually kale. And because their volume is so reduced by the elimination of all the water, you can easily consume 1/2 pound of raw kale in a handful or two of easy to chew and swallow crispy Kale Chips.

"Perfection is attained by slow degrees; it requires the hand of time."

That quotation from François Voltaire seems a good way to start out today's belated Gratuitous Musing.

But first, a note about my recent silence: I started back to school the week before last, and am taking a lot of classes, plus working part-time. As time evaporates, I'm finding it difficult to spend as much time on the blog during the week. The blog is an important tool for my CR practice, and I really relish working on it, but have to keep my priorities clear so I can graduate in May. So, please pardon any longish delays between posts. I really appreciate that folks are reading and drawing some usefulness from my prattle, and I'll keep posting, just a bit less frequently. Now on to today's Gratuitous Musing.

If you haven't read "On Setting a Good Example," over at Apri's blog (1/24/07), do so at once, then come back and read this entry, which was inspired by it.

April writes:

"I'd have to admit, I've been a bit concerned as of late that some of you have the idea that I'm some sort of ice queen of food perfection. I mean, you sounded so shocked when I ate some hummus! If you want food discipline perfection, you've got to look to MR. Cause I do pretty well, much better than ever before, but I'm by no means invincible. That's one reason why I build a little margin into my daily calories, so that I don't end up messing up my long term CR program. Life happens! It's okay!"

The unfortunately conjoined-twin subjects of CR'ers behaving in non-CR-like ways, and the emotional and psychological gymnastics we perform in order to cope with our slip-ups, have been a recurrent theme in the CR newbie blogosphere since I entered the discussion a few weeks back. I've commented on it before myself in my "Shut the Hell Up on Pain of Bitch Slap" post.

I am one of the few males I know who wrestles openly with my self-demands for perfection, and the inevitable failures for which I then scold and criticize myself. I say "openly" because many--perhaps most--men experience self-doubt, lack of confidence, fear of failure, dissatisfaction with achievement, fear of being judged weak, and on and on, but almost as many seem to be conditioned to avoid expressing it. I don't know how those tough dudes work it out, but I get through it by boring a few very select, dear, close friends (plus the whole CR newbie blogosphere) to death with my mutterings. They then set me straight ( to speak).

Speaking of straight, I dunno, maybe the fact that I'm gay has something to do with all this. I was certainly exposed to some specific sorts of unfair pressures growing up. I lacked the physical desire to do the sorts of things that the other boys were doing, things that would have established me as a more "normal" member of the tribe. I was a deviant in the purely sociological sense: I was different. It's no surprise I developed my closest, longest-lasting relationships with females, people who make up just over half the population of the United States and still somehow are still treated as if they are "other" or "different" from normal (which is of course white, male, and heterosexual). Perhaps I absorbed more than just companionship from my close platonic friendships with girls who were carrying around--or struggling against--society's ludicrous and oppressive gender baggage.

Now as a young(ish) gay male adult, it's easy for me to see some similarities in the pressures I face to those of many women in our society, including the pressure to look a certain way. Tyra Banks was recently mocked for being 30lbs heavier now than at the height of her modelling career. Noel Gallagher of Oasis described Jack White (from the White Stripes) as "Zorro on donuts." Okay. So these wildly successful, career-oriented, accomplished folks gained a little weigh. That somehow means they should be publicly ridiculed? Society demands perfection and so breathlessly and gladly sneers at anything less.

I commit the unspeakable sin of being too fat for a gay man. Try being a youngish urban gay male AND too fat, and then try to get noticed by gymbot physical-perfection-obsessed urban gay male society. My basic identity has long included being constantly aware that I'm not perfect. My fear of being too fat inevitably becomes an element of my CR goals and practice. How could it not? Enter my obsession with perfection, as expressed by that Embittered Nasty Little Troll: "Oh no! You ate a chicken burrito with sour cream and cheese at Chipotle Mexican Grill for an astonishing 1200 (delicious) calories! You failed! If you can't do it perfectly, you can't do it at all. Might as well say 'fuck it' and hop right off the wagon." You guys see why I don't like to listen to this guy, right? He's such a dick.

I had a friend in my hometown of Ft. Wayne, Indiana, who like me wanted nothing more than to leave town and live somewhere else, somewhere cool like Chicago. In 1993, at the age of 22, I packed whatever I could fit in a big suitcase and headed east to Washington, DC, where I lived for six years before moving here to Chicago. I did my messy and exciting and and tragi-comic growing up in DC (The drugs! The booze! The sex! The really bad food!), then came to Chicago to enjoy my maturity. Soon after moving to Chicago, I visited my friend in Ft. Wayne who still wanted to move to Chicago himself, so badly. But he was going to wait until he could "do it right." I wasn't sure what "right" meant, but whatever it was, it kept him in Ft. Wayne, where he remains today. Granted, much more is at stake with relocating than eating a burrito, but still my friend had a sense of perfection that, if he couldn't achieve it, immobilized him--quite literally. He didn't even try.

Meanwhile, people who appear to actually be perfect in some way get stuck in a different kind of trap: if perfection is the achieved norm, then losing that perfection becomes a constant concern and source for fear. The risks in fear-driven behavior are many, and include the propensity to be very annoying and humorless.

And let's not forget there are some unpleasant forms of perfection. There are people who seem to have perfected being assholes. Some politicians have demonstrated that they are perfect idiots. Some manage to commit the "perfect crimes," and the perfect aspect in grammar has caused more than a few headaches for students of languages.

So, I think it's more than totally cool that someone who is a visible and charismatic proponent of CR publicly acknowledges her imperfection and the struggles that make CR challenging for her, even after years of practice. Especially for us newbies, this candor about struggle is also absolutely necessary in order to build an authentic, solidly supportive community that we hope will grow into larger grass-roots movement.

Adjusting to this lifestyle is HARD, even on the very easy, low-hunger days, and I don't trust anyone who tells me "it was nothing." It's such a radical departure from what we are used to. Food is so emblematic, so tied to tradition and ritual, that we sometimes feel we are cutting ourselves loose from our moorings, set adrift in a strange and by turns inviting and intimidating sea. There's no way that sort of heavy transformation isn't gonna hurt. We are going to stumble around in the dark, stubbing our toes on the furniture, and then when we finally find the light switch and flip it on, we'll see that the room is a mess, and it's going to take awhile to clean it up. And we have to find a place for all the clutter before we can even think about vacuuming the floor, or dusting, or repainting.

It's so great to be able to stumble around and yet keep going, and that's easier when we can be reminded that the experienced CR folks still stumble too. The trap of perfectionism is not going to turn out to be a useful tool for making this transformation. Put on some old ripped jeans and a stained t-shirt and prepare to get messy. Prepare to come up with a brilliant plan today for your "perfect" quotidian diet, and then find yourself at Chipotle Mexican Grill tomorrow. Prepare to make four trips to Chiptole Mexican Grill this month, but only three next month. And only two the month after that. And then sometime two years from now, to look back and say, "I haven't been to Chipotle Mexican Grill for six months...maybe I should....naw, I don't really want it that much anymore."

Prepare to think about this lifestyle in terms of months and years, not days and weeks, and readjust your notion of what perfection is. Perfection is not "all or nothing," and this isn't a "zero-sum game." Perfection is a process, not a goal. Perfection is deciding what you want to do, then taking frequent and steady--albeit small--steps towards that goal, steps that include stumbles, stubbed toes, maybe even an all-out face plant or two. Just remeber that even stumbling, you are moving forward. Even taking two steps forward and one step back still makes progress.

I'm not just musing gratuitously here. I'm engaging in a therapeutic reframing of my own successes and failures, because lately, since going back to school, I feel like I've been doing CR more in theory than in practice. Not yet fully comfortable with my new tools, in moments of weakness I've been choosing some old, comforting ones. For every three good days, I have one bad.

I haven't been successful at keeping my calories as low as my target, and my weight loss--one of the easiest but also most psychologically loaded metrics--has leveled off at just five pounds since January 1st. Maybe I'll hit that magic eight pounds by January 31, but I doubt it. So I probably won't meet my first monthly target.

But not so fast: I lost five pounds and stayed that way! My jeans fit noticeably looser! That means despite my stumbles, I really did ratchet down my calorie consumption enough to lose weight, and that is undeniable progress, just a bit slower than I anticipated. But who cares about two or three pounds when I want to do this for the rest of my (long) life? For the month of February, I'll set a more modest goal: instead of having three good days followed by one bad, maybe I'll try for four good days in a row, followed by one not-so-bad?

So down with perfection, and up with progress! I just want to be happy with moving steadily forward with the rest of you on our long, slow journey!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Supplementation, Redux

Did I really get a comment on my blog from Michael Rae? Isn't that like a bike racer having Lance Armstrong comment on his blog?

It seems all I need to do is propose a reckless supplementation program to get individualized attention!

His response was so thorough that I felt compelled to repost his initial recommendations for anyone who is reading my blog and maybe didn't read the comments. Also, I'm finding it difficult to do much original posting now that the semester is in full swing AND I'm working. I'm also not eating as well--I'm having "growing pains" as I figure out how to do CR on the run. I do believe establishing that "quotidian diet" will help with that. And the MegaMuffin!

The good news, I suppose, is that my weight loss stopped, and that's good while I figure out what I'm doing. No sense melting away at too fast a pace for good health and longevity.

MR says:

Congrats on doing this carefully, supplementing nutrients that you need based on detailed nutrition analysis rather than just shotgunning everything. Do have a look at the following for some principles for supplementation: ... and the products based on this research (whose writeups give much of the above info in more compressed form):

See my important disclosure here:

[link currently broken :( ]

Wow--thanks MR!

Sunday, January 21, 2007


Sorry I've been quiet the past couple of days. Just busy and/or tired. Today's entry will be dull, I'm afraid. No Gratuitous Musings today (though I have a a few in the works, so stay tuned).

I've decided, after a few weeks of CR, that it's time to add supplements to my routine--but just a few. I never knew much about vitamins and minerals because I never really paid much attention to what I was getting from my food. Food labels would have you believe the only things you need to pay attention to are Vitamins A and C, and the minerals Calcium and Iron. Sodium is the only mineral labels report by actual number of milligrams, while the rest just give percentages that may or may not reflect my needs.

Like most people, I always assumed that I was getting everything I needed if only because of the sheer volume of food I was eating (wrong), much of it artificially enriched.

What nutrients have I been lacking?

Like every other aspect of my eating routine, CRON-O-Meter has radically affected my understanding of my micronutrient needs and intake, and revealed some potential problems:
  • Vitamin D: Unless you delight in eating sardines on a daily basis or consume large quantities of fortified dairy products, it's extremely difficult to get adequate vitamin D, and recent list chatter suggests this vitamin is more important (and required in greater quantities) than we have thought in the past.
  • Zinc: I never knew before that men require so much more zinc. It's roughly analogous to a woman's need for iron, and like women, related to our reproductive equipment. But I'm not happy to eat oysters every day (or any day, really...I have not yet acquired the "taste" for these snotty little globs of grayness).
  • B's: I regularly find myself short on various B vitamins, but never the same ones, so determining one that I'm typically short on was impossible.
  • Biotin: While it's extremely unlikely that I am biotin deficient (especially since I've given up on my recent "discovery" of using raw (pasteurized) egg whites in my breakfast smoothies, when I read the list of symptoms, I had to acknowledge that it got my attention: hair and skin problems similar to ones I regularly experience. (I still wonder of pasteurization makes it safe for biotin: cooking egg whites denatures their protein in a way that prevents its binding to biotin, but since the pastuerized egg whites won't "whip up," I wonder if the process also makes them safe for biotin. I don't know how I'll figure out the answer to that one.)

How did I decide which nutrients to supplement?

I reviewed CRON-O-Meter nutrition reports that averaged my intake over the period that I've been doing CR, and looked at which vitamins and minerals were lowest, especially below 80%. This included the following:
  • Various B's (occasionally)
  • Vitamin D (regularly)
  • Vitamin E (occasionally)
  • Potassium (regularly)
  • Zinc (regularly)
Some others that I suspected I was low in were actually quite high on average. The only ones that remained low were zinc, Vitamin D, and potassium.

I decided that it was most important to supplement Vitamin D and Zinc; probably safe to supplement B's with a B complex (just to be sure); and to tweak my quotidian diet to fix the vitamin E and potassium deficiencies, which was pretty easy to do with a little attention and a daily MegaMuffin.

Here, then, are the supplements I am now taking:

  • Vitamin D, 400 IU, from fish liver oil
  • Chelated Zinc, 50 mg
  • B-Complex
  • Biotin, 1000 mcg

I'm interested in any tips and/or advice, and especially if I'm making any big and/or dangerous mistakes here. I'm especially concerned about zinc--is this the best form? What about balancing it with copper--that's something I don't understand very well yet.

It's a learning process, and I want to treat supplements as something very specific and deliberate, rather than the "one a day multi" approach most people take.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Pooping in the blogoshpere

I hope you all are doing well, and thanks for all the support yesterday with my Skull and Crossbones dilemma. I am so much looking forward to going to the brunch now that I've resolved (with your help) my ambivalent feelings about what's "okay" for me to do, and confronted and (I think) disarmed my guilt reflex in advance. It takes time to make peace with food and all the emotional baggage attached to it. But I've never had it as easy as I do now. I hope it's not too sappy to say--especially for a man (but then I am a very sensitive type of man, after all)--but it feels like an emotional and physical healing is taking place, and you are all part of this effective treatment, so thanks for being there!

By the way, I find it interesting to note that it seems most of the blogs, and most of the comments on my blog, are created by women. Where are the men? There is something culturally interesting going on here, that both women and men are doing CR, but the support network seems heavily weighted towards women...this seems a good topic for a future blog. Your thoughts, ladies?

The picture to the right is beautiful psyllium, which in its herbal state, is really quite lovely and delicate in appearance--I think I would welcome it in my herb garden (if I had one)--especially when you consider the rather indelicate function it often serves. Yes, I'm going to talk about poop, here in public. But before you jump to the conclusion that my blog has descended into the e-toilet, let's talk about MegaMuffins, because as you'll see, in the same way MegaMuffins inevitably lead to good poop, MegaMuffin discussions can lead to good poop discussions.

I am flush with the fervor of the recently converted. I'm ready to go tell it on the mountain, to knock on doors, to rouse people from their slumber to let them know about the miracle of the Mighty MegaMuffin.

It's really quite impossible to overstate the allure of the MegaMuffin. It is the ultimate convenience food--so easy, and so satisfying that every time I eat one, I feel like I'm "cheating" (if there is such a thing). MegaMuffins have single-handedly saved my CR program during this hectic first week back to school, just as I was counting on them too. Isn't it great when you open your toolbox and find just the tool you needed for the job, waiting for you? MegaMuffins are like a super-fancy nutrition bar, only I made it myself and I know exactly what's in it and none of the ingredients frighten me (well, okay maybe one or two are sort of creepy). I trust the mighty MegaMuffin. Mighty MegaMuffin--I [heart] you!

I made my inaugural batch last weekend, and I wasn't able to obtain a couple of the ingredients, so it's hard to know if what I produced is like the MegaMuffins others make. But I guess that doesn't really matter--I like them, and on more than a couple occasions they've been the sole barrier between a good CR day and an ad lib disaster.

I see room for improvement though. I think I want to pump up the flavor with more spices. I'm the type who, when making a pumpkin pie, automatically doubles the spices called for in the recipe because I like it spicy and most people are spiceaphobic. And where's the vanilla? Vanilla is a must! I can't believe I didn't think to add some in the first place. And though there is already an entire orange (peel and all) in the recipe, I can't help feeling the flavor could be brightened considerably with the addition of a judicious amount of grated lemon zest! Fresh ginger instead of powdered, and a bit of clove, and I think I'll have a recipe tailored just for me.

And then there are the endless variations: why not some almond extract in one batch, and coconut extract in another? How about some rose water (or maybe even some rose hips--lots of vitamin C in those!) and cardamom, for a little Indian flair? It seems the basic ingredients of the muffin are so mild that almost any flavor profile could work. I'll be turning out another batch this weekend, so I'll post details about any delightful new ideas I come up with.

And now for a little graphic exploration of something very private, so tune out NOW if you are squeamish about discussing our elimination habits. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. But I feel compelled to share this in case anyone else has experienced the same problem as me:

During the first couple weeks of my CR practice, I was finding that I needed to have a bowel movement (sometimes quite urgently) after almost every meal, up to three times a day, and the results were not pleasant: loose and watery. I was consuming vastly greater amounts of dietary fiber than in my prior ad lib diet, but I think perhaps I was missing certain types of fiber for bulking up my stools, with the inevitable watery result, since it seemed there was nothing to bind it all together.

Enter MegaMuffin. I've been eating at least one of them daily, and sometimes two, and I have to tell you, thanks to all the bran and fruit fibers and the psyllium husks, that watery problem is gone without a trace. I've begun having large, firm (but not hard) stools that I'm able to eliminate without any effort and little mess. I'm convinced I was missing important types of bulking fiber, perhaps of the soluble sort. I haven't had bowel movements this healthy and comfortable and clean and effortless in years. So, that's yet another great thing about MegaMuffins: nice poop.

We'll be talking about poop more in the future, I feel confident. I mean, how long can we go on discussing what goes in without at least some mention of what comes out? But for our first poop discussion, was that really so bad?