Sunday, February 27, 2011

I'm back -- or most of me, anyway

I’m now 20 pounds lighter than when I wrote that last post in August -- and 90 pounds lighter than last Jan. 18, when I wrote about my belated New Year’s resolution to “be more positive” by accompanying my mom to a Weight Watchers meeting (despite my aversion to paying someone else to help me lose weight.)

Needless to say, it feels great to be taking up less space on this planet. I‘m eating fewer resources, buying used clothes (another New Year’s resolution) that take less fabric to construct -- and now I’m helping the rest of my family make the shift to a healthier lifestyle.

You can read about that quest in more detail at In the meantime, I’m going to resume posting here at least once a week, and I might get my husband to post once in a while as well.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Let’s ban automatic windows

Just when I’d resigned myself to driving around with the van window permanently stuck in a partially closed position -- leaving a tolerable two-inch gap -- it finally came unstuck the other day.

The funny thing was, I’d just sent our paychecks through the pneumatic tube in the bank drivethrough lane when it happened. I was standing there with the van door open so I could reach the tube. While I was waiting, just for something to do I pressed the window button. And suddenly it worked! So I gave a little shout of triumph and hopped back in the van and opened the window -- only to discover that I couldn‘t reach the tube. So I had to get back out again.

And so now we have an apparently functional window that we never use, because I don’t trust it to not get stuck in some inconvenient position.

Which makes me wonder: Who decided that automatic windows were a mark of human progress? Can’t we all just go back to the old-fashioned cranks, which almost never break down? I mean, the worst that ever happened is a knob would break off or something, but you could still get the window open with just a little bit of extra effort. Do kids today even remember hand-cranked windows?

If I had a Facebook page, I’d start a campaign to demand automakers scrap automatic windows: Ban them! Wipe them off the face of the planet! Except for people who need special assistance, I guess.

So maybe this will get me over the inertia speed bump and I’ll finally plug in to the rest of the human interface. We’ll see.

Friday, August 20, 2010

A matter of perception

I was looking over granola bars at the store the other day when I found myself gravitating toward the cookies. Usually bars are found in the breakfast aisle and cookies in the bakery or snack aisle. But at Aldi‘s, granola bars co-exist with cookies, and with good reason: According to their labels, the primary difference between the bars on my list and the oatmeal-raisin cookies I was coveting was their shape.

The Benton’s Homestyle Oatmeal Raisin cookies I bought were 120 calories each, with four grams of fat and two grams of fiber. That comes out to two Weight Watchers points -- the same as a typical Fiber One bar and less than many other granola bars, which often have more fat and calories and less fiber.

Here’s an even weirder comparison: One serving of Nature Valley Oats ‘n Honey crunchy granola bars has 190 calories, six grams of fat and two grams of fiber. That’s four Weight Watchers points -- the same as one of those frosted bakery-style Lofthouse sugar cookies, which have 190 calories, seven grams of fat and less than one gram of fiber.

That doesn’t mean all cookies can compete nutritionally with granola bars, or that all breakfast bars are little more than rectangles of cookie dough. But when you consider that granola bars usually cost more than cookies, it’s worth checking the label.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Beach substitute yields cheap vacation discovery

We were going to go to the Warren Dunes on Lake Michigan last weekend, just drive up for the day because we’re squeamish campers and the Holiday Inn Express wanted almost $300 a night, this being peak season and all. But then we heard about the E. coli trouble they’ve been having up there, and decided to do the beach thing at Mississinewa Reservoir instead -- which was much closer and much cheaper, when you consider that we were able to rent a cabin for less than the cost of a tank of gas.

I was afraid it would be boring. I couldn‘t get the idea out of my head that this big old “lake” was really, underneath it all, just flooded farmland (and at least one flooded town, Somerset, Ind., the ancestral hometown of my husband’s family). But the beach was really nice, and as the kids played in the water it suddenly occurred to me that while this body of water lacks the grandeur of the Great Lakes or the Gulf of Mexico, the kids were basically having the same sort of fun they’ve had on tonier beaches.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Economical, environmental and cute, to boot

It’s not exactly groundbreaking news that reusable sandwich containers make a lot more sense than plastic sandwich bags. But it took the pop art kitsch of this Wonder Bread box to get me over the inertia hump and finally make the switch.

These sell for $3.99 at various online sites, including Amazon, but I found this one in the bread aisle at Walmart for about a buck less. That’s Rowan in the pic, with her first-day-of-school PBJ (on whole wheat, of course).

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The liberation of disposable clothing

A horse used my shirt for a napkin the other day at the 4-H fair, drooling green grassy slime all over my shoulder. The stain didn’t come out the first trip through the washer, so it remains to be seen whether this is a napkin of the reusable or disposable variety.

The bad news: It was a brand new shirt. I literally cut the tags off just before I put it on that day.

The good news: Thanks to the “no new clothes” vow (and my rapidly changing clothing sizes as I cut weight), I’ve developed an “easy come, easy go” attitude about my wardrobe. (Though this really was a brand new shirt, with its original tags intact, I bought it at Goodwill.)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Micro meals: A “frugal fuel” experiment

Last week I wrote about the weirdness of learning to accept my frugal fuel needs even while living in a super-sized society -- realizing that my body type, underneath all that padding I’d accumulated before losing 60 pounds in six months, is actually much closer to an economy car than an SUV.

Well, in an attempt to make the most of a day’s worth of fuel, I decided to try an experiment: Taking in my 23 allotted Weight Watchers points one at a time over the course of the day.

For those of you not familiar with the points system, use this for reference: A McDonald’s quarter pounder with cheese and medium order of french fries equals 20 points. So it’s rather easy, eating the typical American diet, to blow through your allotted points in a single meal if you aren’t careful.

But you can also take the opposite perspective, and marvel at some of the delightful things you can eat for only a single point: A cup of grapes or blueberries or strawberries, for instance. Half a cup of fat free refried beans with salsa, using carrots instead of chips for dipping.

By eating only one point at a time, I’d essentially be eating 23 snacks and mini-meals all day long. Hard to feel deprived doing that. And I didn’t. For the record, here’s what I ate the day of the experiment:

1. 1/2 thin whole-wheat bagel
2. 1/2 tablespoon peanut butter (eaten from the measuring spoon)
3. 1/2 cup skim milk
4. 1/2 thin whole-wheat bagel
5. 1/2 slice American cheese, melted over mushrooms in the microwave
6. 1/2 tablespoon peanut butter (see above)
7. 1/2 thin whole wheat bagel
8. Fiber One 90-calorie bar
9. 1 cup blueberries
10. 1 plum (at only 35 calories, this item is only half a point)
11. 1/2 cup fat free refried beans, eaten from the measuring cup with a spoon
12. 1/2 cup baby carrots dipped in two tablespoons of salsa con queso
13. 1/2 banana
14. the second half of the banana
15. 1/4 cup rice and beans
16. Fiber One 90-calorie bar
17. 1/2 slice bread with 1/2 tablespoon jam
18. 1/3 cup bran flakes with 1/4 cup milk
19. 1/2 cup fat free ice cream
20. 4 tortilla chips with 1 tablespoon chili conqueso
21. 1/3 ounce swiss cheese
22. 1 sugar free popsicle (at only 15 calories, this item has zero points)
23. 1/4 cup rice and beans

Total snacks and micro meals: 23
Total calories for the day: 1,370
Total Weight Watchers points for the day: 21.5

As you can see, that’s quite a lengthy list of food. No single thing took very long to eat, but because one of the rules I made up was that I had to consume each “point” separately, as its own meal or snack, I felt like I was constantly eating. And I was: If you average 23 snacks or “fuel stops” out over the approximately 18 hours I was conscious last Thursday, then it was meal time every 47 minutes. Yet I never did use up all the points I was allotted, coming in 1.5 points under my limit.

The most amusing part of this experiment were the “micro meals” I came up with: that three-bite serving of cereal, for instance, or the tiny plate of nachos.

And then there were those tasty 1-point items I completely forgot about: A 12-ounce bottle of Miller Genuine Draft lite beer (only 64 calories), a three-egg white omelette with veggies and salsa or ketchup, a 3-ounce baked potato with salsa or ketchup.

Oh well, maybe next time.