On Sheeple and Smart Cars

Everyone has an opinion.

For a few years now, I’ve had no car. It’s been moderately unpleasant, but not excruciating.

On one hand,  life without a car in New Jersey can be tricky, especially as a lawyer and as someone who dabbles in local politics.

On the other hand, I live in a very urban area.  My town sits directly on the Hudson river across from midtown NYC, and having a car around here is a pain. Parking is expensive (200-300$ month), unpredictable, and inconvenient.  Even if you can afford parking, good luck finding it.

Despite living in an urban area with a terrible parking situation, I recently came to feel like my lack of transportation was holding me back.

I needed a car, but I needed something cheap and I wanted something tiny. I did my research, and test drove about a billion cars (well, actually just a few). Finally, I narrowed my search further to just two contenders:

  • The Fiat 500; and
  • The 2016 SMART ForTwo

In all honesty, I preferred the Fiat. The Fiat is slightly bigger (which I didn’t like) and slightly more expensive (which I felt was OK). But the Fiat is real car whereas the SMART is *almost* a real car.  So in an ideal world, I would have gone with the Fiat.

Unfortunately, although similarly priced, the lease terms on the Fiat were not feasible for me, while the SMART was very much affordable. Also, if I chose Fiat, I’d have to shell out an additional $200/month for parking (at least!), whereas the SMART parks for free. So I went with the Smart car.

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Here I am in my silly little car.

I really love my little Smart car, but it’s a weird car and it’s not for everyone. First, it’s about half the size of standard car. Second, it only has two seats. To make things worse, previous models have been heavily trashed due to poor performance.

For most people, the SMART is the definition of impractical. But for me, it’s the most practical car I could have right now. I have no children and no need (or desire) for a roomy car. I live in a land notorious for a lack of parking. I like how it drives, and also, I can afford it.  Most importantly, I can park it.  In sum: it works for me.

So why am I posting this on FatGirlsFitness?  Because my car works for me, and it might not work for you. And that’s a metaphor that transcends the automotive realm.

Here Come the Trash Talkers

Since I’ve gotten my new car, I’ve heard nothing but trash about my decision.  A normal thing to say to someone upon the acquisition of a new vehicle might be something along the lines of “hey dude, congrats!”  But be wary my friends.  If you get a weird car, the opinions will come, and they won’t stop coming.  They’ll say:

“Wow – you actually paid for that golf cart?”
“That’s not safe on the highway”
“Did you do your research? You could have gotten a 2003 Acura for the same price.”

Here’s the thing.  I  really don’t want a 2003 Acura, so please don’t make me have one. I want a 2016 SMART. How do I know? Because that’s the car I got. And interestingly enough, every single person who has actually stepped foot into my car loves it. It’s only those who have zero experience with my car who seem to develop such strong feelings against it.

So yes, I actually paid for the “golf cart.” Actually, I find it drives beautifully on the highway – you should try it.  Yes, I did exhaustive research. In fact, it was based on that research that I determined that the Smart is the most practical choice for me.

But still, it might not be practical for you.  And that’s OK.  That doesn’t mean it’s impractical for me.

Teachable Moments

I think there are more than a few teachable moments in the tale of my new adorable car.

  1. People have a hard time wrapping their heads around things that are unusual or new, but most still feel a need to have an opinion on all things. It could be your car, your diet, your job,  or your fitness routine. This is human nature.
    • “CARS SHOULD HAVE FOUR SEATS AND SHOULD BE A OF A CERTAIN SIZE”
    • “Fat is the devil”
    • “If you don’t eat six meals a day, you’ll go into starvation mode”
    • “You can never lose weight without a dedicated workout regime”
  2. What works for you might go entirely against conventional wisdom for any number of reasons. Maybe conventional wisdom is wrong, or maybe it simply doesn’t apply to your circumstances. Maybe conventional wisdom is 100% right, and you are a freaky mutant who just won’t listen. So who cares? Be your freaky mutant self. You weren’t put on this earth to be practical. You were put on this earth to do whatever  it is you want to do. (Unless what you want to do is diss my car).
  3. Peer pressure is strong.  We are hardwired to want acceptance. Why else am I writing this blog post? In some way, I’m still trying to justify my “impractical” decision to the universe, even though I know in my brain that I made the right choice for me

Moral of the story?

Don’t give in to those who will shower you with haterade.  If you do anything in this world, you’re going to get criticism that you probably don’t deserve, even if it’s something as seemingly inconsequential as leasing an unusual car.  Take the criticism, and use it only to the extent that it benefits you.

But if you do give in,  that’s ok too. You might end up with a 2003 Acura. And maybe (just maybe) that would be the perfect car for you.

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Weekend Hiking

I’ve begun to think differently about movement and exercise in general. There’s something about that gym lighting, that repetitive gym motion that just doesn’t satisfy me as much as finding other ways to move.

My thoughts on this were probably influenced by an audiobook I listened to recently (incidentally, while walking). The book is called “Go Wild: Free Your Body and Mind from the Afflictions of Civilization.” It’s written by John J. Ratey, Richard Manning, and David Perlmutter. 

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m highly afflicted by the afflictions of civilization. I try to be zen about it, and while I enjoy ordering food on grubhub, I also long for the days without email and constant contact.  I need to spend some time in nature, and disconnect. I think we probably all should.

In any event, this book talks about a lot of things. But one of them is the many benefits of taking a “wilder” approach to exercise. And I’m kind of loving the approach.

Don’t get me wrong. I think the gym is great. But I find myself lately focusing more on movement that just comes through natural activity. And while I’m hiking less than I did in previous years, I’m being careful not to let Fall entirely pass me by without getting at least a few nice hikes in.

Last weekend, I did two mini-hikes that I thought I’d share with anyone who might happen to live in the NY/NJ area.

Hike One

On the weekend, a few friends and I hiked Campgaw Mountain County Reservation .

This one was surprisingly close to home, although not very challenging. And I hate to say, it wasn’t the most exciting hike I’ve done.

However! There was one exciting aspect, a ski lift at the top. Sitting on it was fun 🙂 Why didn’t I take any pictures??? GRR.

Also – it’s Fall. So everything is orange and pretty. Plus, friends. ❤

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moderate, but festively fall

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view from the top 🙂 

Would I recommend? Maybe. If you live close by, it’s worthwhile.

Hike Two (barely a hike, but still).

This one I’d definitely recommend!!

I’m lucky enough to live just off the Hudson River in New Jersey, which means I’m super close to palisades hiking.  This was a weekday, and it was already late afternoon, so we kept it short. But you could hike all day if you’d like to!

We took an Uber from West New York to Fort Lee Historic Park which was nice and beautiful and orange everywhere. It’s part of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, which has a ton of highly unique terrain you can only really find here.

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Fuck People Who Hate on NJ

We then did a short hike on the “Long Trail” towards the bottom of the palisades, where we chilled in some chairs. It’s pretty there and I’d recommend it.

You can hike up or down, and theres also a shore trail.  A nice starting point is the Alpine Picnic Area (although, that’s where we ended up).

Anyway…

These were not the most intense hikes, and I have not been the most intense hiker lately. But still a great way to spend time outdoors with friends, while working out the hot bod. Exercise really doesn’t have to be a chore – it could be awesome.

If you know of any local hikes, I’m always on the lookout so hollz at me.

Happy Hiking!

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Happy Holler-ween

As the sluttiest of all holidays, Halloween is a great time to enjoy those weight loss results.

Here is what I look like now:

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neanderthal

And here is what I used to look like just a few years ago:

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yikes!

Just in case you think I’m particularly strong in the willpower department, I can assure you that I’m not.

I’m also not particularly hard-working, never deny myself chocolate, and NEVER exercise unless I actually want to (that said, I enjoy walking).

I’ve struggled with weight for a long time, and it took me a lifetime to figure out what works for me. For me, it boils down to three things:

  1. Keeping bad stuff out of the house;
  2. Setting myself up for success (ie.. understanding the reality of willpower depletion, and knowing my own weaknesses);
  3. Eating mostly veg, and a little bit of everything else

This is not just about looks.  It’s about empowerment mental health, and also physical health.  It’s about being a version of yourself that you are genuinely proud of.

Living a lifestyle that allows you to feel and look your best is not easy, but it’s also not that hard.  Every person deserves to look as beautiful and vivacious on the outside as they feel on the inside.  You just need to figure out what works for you. And never give up on yourself.  Past results are NOT binding! 

If you find yourself in a bad place now, just know that I’ve been there, and so have my friends and co-contributors to this blog. I don’t mean to say you’re not good enough as you are, but rather that you should live the full life you want to live.

You don’t have to lose a billion pounds this week, and you don’t have to run a marathon today.  Just make one small change and stick to it this week.  Next week, try another.

If I can do it, then anyone can do it.  Put in the effort now, and make the small changes.  By next Halloween, you’ll be strutting your stuff with the best of them 🙂

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Dream Big, Plan Small

Sandwich with avocado and poached egg

Regardless of how you plan to get into shape, there is one psychological trick that I believe will be helpful to most.  You have to dream big, and you have to plan small. 

By dream big, I’m referring to your ultimate goal. Visualize it, taste it.  It can and will be yours, no matter how far away it seems right now.

You don’t have to write it down, you don’t have to meditate on it.  In fact, now it’s time to  (for the most part) throw it away. Because it doesn’t matter how big your dream is if you aren’t able to break it down into smaller parts.

By plan small, I don’t mean anything specific. But here is the general idea. Imagine that your “dream big” goal is to lose 50 pounds. Realistically, you think you can do that in 5-6 months. Assuming you’re starting in November, you should safely be able to hit that goal by May (losing 8 – 10 pounds a month).

Now – imagine yourself in the springtime, 50 pounds lighter and feeling so free. Wonderful! But in order to get there, realize that right now, 40 of those 50 pounds don’t matter. What matters is that you lost the first 10 pounds. The prospect of losing 10 pounds is much less daunting than the prospect of spending the next 5 months trying to lose a total of 50. So the last step is to forget the rest, and plan small.

Your “plan small” goal is now to lose 8 – 10 pounds in the month of November.  How are you going to do that? I don’t know. There are a million different ways. But here are a few tips that might be helpful:

It might be a good idea to plan even smaller. Forget 8-10 pounds this November, how about 2 pounds this week?  How about .3 pounds today?

One Small Caveat

Planning small is great, with one caveat.  The smaller you plan, the more you need to realize that fluctuations will happen while still losing fat. This is especially true for females as we go through our cycle.

If your goal is to lose two pounds a week, realize that you might do everything you can but still not lose those two pounds in any particular week. Assuming you are doing everything right, you might lose 1 pound one week, and 4 pounds in another.  This is the nature of attempting to measure fat by  using weight – it’s far from perfect. So you have to be sufficiently psychologically healthy that you will survive apparent disappointments (which really, are not disappointments at all).

My Method

When I first decided to lose weight, I printed out a blank calendar for a period of one month. I subtracted 10 pounds from my starting weight, and wrote in that new weight on the last day of the month. I knew I had 60+ pounds to lose, but unlike any of my previous efforts, I decided to just focus to the here and now.

In order to reach 10 pounds by the end of the month, I’d have to lose 2.5 pounds a week.  So I subtracted 2.5 pounds from my current weight, and wrote it in on the last day of the first week. I then subtracted 2.5 pounds from that weight, and wrote it in on the last day of the second week. I did this one more time, and voila – I now have 4 weeks and 4 goals.

I realize that 2.5 pounds is a lot of weight to lose consistently week after week, but because this was my first month – I figured I’d be losing a lot of water. I decided that even if I only lost 8 pounds by the end of the month, I’d consider it a huge success. In fact, any weight loss would put me in a better position than I’d been in at the beginning of the month.

In any event, I’d now start out on my first week, not thinking about the three weeks to come. My only goal this week is to lose 2.5 pounds.  When I reach the end of the first week, I’d write my new weight down.  If I lost exactly 2.5 pounds, I’d leave my goals as is. If I lost less, I’d adjust my goals to only 2 pounds per week. If I lost more, I would adjust my goals so that they reflect 2.5 pounds per week starting from my new weight (but still only until the end of the month).  Even if I gained weight, my new weekly goal is just to lose 2.5 from my new weight.

The effect is that no matter what, my goal is always “lose 2.5 pounds (or 2 pounds) this week.” The month is not important, and the goal re-sets each week.

Here is what I found. Three out of four times, I met or exceeded my weekly goal. Usually about once a month, I lost slightly less than my goal, and very rarely I gained.

Over time, this method worked for me.  My mind is overcrowded, and I’m sure yours is too. We want to fast forward to the future, but things just seem to work out better when we try our best to focus on the here and now.

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Falling into Fatness

8t8r2rr

As a basic millennial of the female type, I am under enormous pressure to enjoy Fall.

Yes, I’m white. Female. Twenty-something.  I understand well what my obligations are.

Boots are cute, everything is orange, and all the pumpkins have features carved into them. I get it. And I don’t mean to distance myself from my cohort, but I just don’t enjoy Autumn.  (Except, of course, for all the dogs in costumes.)

Fall makes me cold, and when I’m cold I want to eat creamy delicious things called “food.” When the leaves drop off, my body begins to sense that Winter is coming. This bodes poorly for my upper arms.

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my only consolation

In Summer, hot long days bring me joy and food barely crosses my mind.  During Fall, I sometimes find myself wondering how the fella adjacent to me on the subway would taste drenched in Nutella.

Speaking of which, I had a rough weekend.

I ate a jar of Nutella – the whole jar. (In all fairness to me, it happened over a two day period. But also, I ate it with buttery crackers).

This is what happens in Fall. Bad bad things. Bad chocolatey things.

I don’t consider eating a jar of Nutella a setback, actually. And I’m not “Falling” into Fatness.

My former self would ruminate, and to be perfectly honest – my current self is doing some of that also. But my current self also has a sense of proportion: Nutella happens, life goes on.

Fall is an easy time to put on weight for me, as I suspect it is for many people. But the key, I think, is to allow yourself to let go a little and remind yourself that not every decision needs to be a great decision.  The important thing is that you regularly make good decisions.

There is no such thing as falling off the bandwagon. There is no such thing as “all or nothing.” To the extent these things exist, they are products of your own imagination. Products of my own imagination, and I’ve lived with them for years.

This weekend I ate an entire jar of Nutella. With crackers. But today, I’ll eat eggs and veggies. I love eggs and veggies, and I’ll enjoy the contrast.

I don’t think weight maintenance should be such a tricky thing. It’s hard as long as you make it hard, and for me, it’s harder in the colder months.

My simple tricks are these:

  1. don’t freak out;
  2. don’t keep tempting caloric things in the house;
  3. don’t avoid the scale (catch problems while they’re small)
  4. exercise if you want (long walks are nice)

I’m also going to try a bit harder to find joy in the colder months. Starting with cute new Fall boots, and MAYBE (just maybe) a new fitness regimen 🙂

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Be a Robot/Fail Forward

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“Failure isn’t a badge of shame. It’s a rite of passage”

– Tony Hseih, co-founder Zappos

One hashtag I check regularly on the WordPress Reader is “diet.” I’ll usually find a variety of posts ranging from informational to motivational to interesting to just plain silly.

There’s one type of post I find EVERY time. I call it the “wah wah failure post.” It goes something like this:

“Dear Internet:

Wah wah wah. I’ve only been on my diet six days, and already I’ve caved and eaten seventeen hamburgers smothered in cheese, marshmallows, and gravy.

I knew from the beginning that I was a fat stupid failure, and now once again I’m reminded of what a stupid fat failure I am.

Well, I figure if I already ruined this diet, might as well enjoy the weekend. It is Easter after all! I guess I’ll  start again Monday.

It’s hard staying motivated with this slow metabolism. So unfair! Especially since my sister eats anything she wants and stays rail thin. #ughhhh”

 

Stop Expecting Not To Fail

Why do people expect that they will declare themselves on a diet, and from that day forward – they will never fail?

In the whole of human history, no person has ever achieved ANYTHING without failing at it first. And no, I’m not talking about large or notable accomplishments. I’m talking about the basics. For example, tying your shoe.

How many times did you mess up tying your shoe before you finally got it right? Three times? Seven times? One hundred and three times?

You failed a lot at first. And then you got a little better. But, although passable, your knot was still probably not great for some time. Finally, you became a shoe tying expert. And once you did – you forgot how hard it was to get there. And then some bastard came along and invented velcro shoes. You become a nihilist. After all, what’s the point?

Basically, we are born with three abilities: suckle, breathe, defecate. Everything else we need to learn.

Our bodies are basically sensors and processors. We act then measure then act then measure until we get an action down decently enough to call it “not a failure.”  And we still probably suck at it. We have to fail more and get even better.

And Yet…

And yet, when you go on a diet – you expect that you’re going to magically summon some untapped reserve of willpower and never fail.

The foolishness is TRIPLE here, because:

  1. If your willpower were excellent, you prrroooobably wouldn’t find yourself in this current predicament (not that I believe in willpower, see my post here); AND
  2. Your body doesn’t WANT to lose weight. It wants sweet sweet homeostasis.

When you tie your shoe, your shoe isn’t fighting you at every step. 

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Or is it? 

..But when you diet, your body IS fighting you. And it wants to win badly.

That’s because your poor hot body thinks it’s dying. And you’re the sick nut who’s killing it. “Why won’t you feed me?” asks your poor hot body. But it only hears its own echo.

When you fight your body, you’ll win sometimes. But you won’t win every time. No big deal. You don’t have to.

You just need to fail forward.

You ARE going to fail. You will. So you need to fail forward.

Failing forward means taking accountability for your failure. Which is VERY different from making yourself feel guilty about it.

Be an alien robot from another galaxy. Don’t color your failure with emotions that don’t serve you. Instead, examine your failure with the disinterested mind of a curious yet mechanical being, programmed by a wizard lightyears away in a galaxy called “Disintrestrex Four.”

What are the FACTS behind your failure? Separate them out from the story you weaved yourself.

Robots don’t care about stories. They have no idea about your childhood or your mean aunt Mae or your white privilege or all of those terrible things your third grade teacher said to you when you accidentally killed the class pet.

Robots only care about the root cause of  your malfunction. They need to compile an error report to send back to the mothership, and they don’t want your humanoid opinion. They want facts.

Why do you fail?

I never fail, because I’m an exemplary person. Wink wink.

..But if I ever WERE to fail (WINK WINK), it might be because: 

  • I didn’t get enough sleep
  • I ate a carby breakfast
  • I drank a tub full of alcohol
  • I kept tempting foods in the house (ahem…girl scout cookies)

Knowing this list keeps me in the habit of making good decisions. And that’s enough.

You don’t need to be an angel like me to look and feel hot as Satan himself. You just need to make a lot more good choices than bad ones.

So know yourself! And know thyself! Even if those both mean the same exact thing.

Know why you fail, and how you fail.
Know that it’s ALL YOUR FAULT. And yet, know also that you’re not at all to blame. Losing weight is hard! Food is good. And your body is fighting you.

Finally, fail forward!!! 

  • Leverage your failures to learn more about yourself.
  • Use this knowledge to improve and refine your efforts.

How can YOU use YOUR last “failure” to improve your odds of success?

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Personal Gains

This is a “pat myself on the back” kinda post…and one that is well deserved.

I haven’t written about my struggles and weight gains and losses yet. I’ll share those stories with you another time.

Yesterday, my best friends and I (including my blog-mates, Dorit and Val), went bridesmaids dress shopping. Exactly 4 years and 10 days ago I got married. On that day, I wore a size 22 wedding dress. Yesterday, a size 8. I can’t explain that moment. So many emotions. When I was shopping for my wedding, I was hoping and praying that something would fit me and yesterday, the possibilities were endless.

You all know my Husband joined this health journey with me. Today is six weeks since he’s started and he has lost exactly 19 pounds. Hard work does pay off!

What about you guys? I really want to hear your stories. Tell me your accomplishments. It doesn’t even have to be weight loss related! Did you have a goal to run a marathon and you finally did it? Did you finally fit into a pair of jeans you’ve been trying to wear for months? Anything…We all deserve a pat on the back once in a while.

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