Friday, January 29, 2010

January 29, 2010

My current resolution for health (try new foods to foster a varied diet) has me eating capers this week.  Last night I made chicken with a commercial lemon-caper sauce (spruced up with some fresh garlic, parsley, and lemon) and Crispy Cauliflower with olives, capers and parsley.  I was a little apprehensive since capers appear to be one of those "love or hate" foods, but I thought they were really good.  Of course I did some research first; I bought non-pareil capers, which are smaller, less bitter and more flavorful.  I also rinsed the capers in cold water before using them to reduce the brine.  I can see how they would very much NOT work in the wrong recipe since the flavor is so strong, but they really seem to compliment lemon and parsley flavors.  I'm thinking salty or sour dishes are the trick.  I'm playing with the idea of combining bacon, capers and brussel sprouts, but I haven't worked out the details yet.

I haven't cleaned out the hutch drawer yet, but that'll probably be an activity for Saturday. 

Books added to the reading list:

Richard Brautigan, Revenge of the Lawn
Love & War in the Apennines, By Eric Newby

Quotes added to the Quotes list:

"'Begin at the beginning,' the King said, very gravely, 'and go on till you come to the end: then stop.'"
- Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland, Ch. 12

"You can safely assume that you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do." ---Anne Lamott

Fat Positive Images: Sir Peter Paul Rubens

This series is an attempt to collect positive portrayals of fat men and women in art, media and life. 

I doubt there's many fat women in the world who haven't at one point or another heard the term "Rubenesque" applied to them.  Sir Peter Paul Rubens was a Flemish painter in the 17th century who frequently painted large men and women, frequently nudes, in sensuous detail. Every bulge and wrinkle is recorded and the whole is beautiful pieces of art with the bodies of real people.  Perusing his works is an excellent antidote to the airbrushed fantasy people often pictured today. 

Technically the term should be Rubensesque (Rubens-esque), but the first s is often dropped for easier pronnounciation (Ruben-esque).  The camp is split between those who think saying Rubensesque is grammatically correct, and those who think it's simply pretentious :-)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

On Passive Aggressive and Petty Things

I had an interesting introspective moment today. (I was going to say a self-examination moment, but that just sounds dirty). 

I posted a sign on the inside of the door in an employee-only bathroom at my office yesterday, which is a single stall/locker room/shower setup with no ventilation fan. A few people have complained about smells over the years, so I thought I’d try a joke and see what happened. I posted this: “If you don’t use air freshener, the terrorists win. Do you hate America?” (wording credit to

What happened was that many people laughed.  Some people came up to tell me how funny it was.  One anonymous person ripped the sign off the door, crumpled it up and threw it in the trash. Without saying a word to anyone.

This passive-aggressive act (ironic considering where I borrowed the wording for the sign) snapped on an ugly side of me that tends to over-react, fight dirty, and rage over inconsequential’s. So I fished the sign out of the trash, smoothed it a bit, and hung it back on the door. When they do it again, I planned to print a new one and hang it back on the door. Repeat ad nauseum until they grow a spine and use their words like the other children.

Right afterwards I felt triumphant. I had “scored a point” against my unknown opponent. I would “win the game”.

But what a stupid game to waste time on trying to win. I got a burst of energy and snark-credit amongst a few people I told, but I also got stress. The energy was highly negative. I, like anyone who engages in this kind of passive-aggressive battle, became slightly paranoid wondering who my “opponent” was. I worried that it might become a “thing” that would end up creating more negativity in the office if the person dragged supervisors into it (or worse, it WAS a supervisor). All morning I’ve been more sensitive to perceived slights and negative gossip and less receptive to good news or positive events. Truthfully, once the initial “victory” energy wore off, I was in a pretty damn bad mood.

I found it really interesting once I stepped back and realized what was going on. I’ve been in a pretty good mood since I started the happiness project, so the contrast with what I’ve felt this morning is pretty clear. Simply by taking a hostile action towards an unknown person (who probably isn’t worth the effort or concern) I disrupted my mood, which disrupted my physical well-being (acid stomach, tension headache), my relationships (it’s harder to hide a piss-poor mood than most people think), and my work performance (since I was wasting time, energy and thought on such a stupid thing.) When you count up the negative effects, the small pointless victory and the fleeting smug illusion that I might change someone’s behaviour become very much not worth it.

While the world of an office is very small and boundaries are important, there is a point where the loss outweighs the gain. Certain little things will do me more harm than good to fight. If there’s a choice between being happy and being “right”? Sure it’s a case-by-case decision. Fighting for a worthwhile cause can be very satisfying in the long-term, boosting confidence, self-esteem and creativity. But there’s a definite like to be drawn between the worthwhile cause and the worthless. Petty things are not worth my anger, even if they’re entertaining to others.

I should work out a resolution to address this. Maybe, “Let the Petty Things Go”? or “Decide First Whether it’s Worth it”?

Fat Positive Images: The Adipositivity Project

This series of posts is my attempt to collect a lot of links where you (and I) can find positive portrayals of fat people in media and life. 

Today I want  to feature the Adipositivity Project  (warning; photos are generally not safe for work).  This is a project by artist and photographer Substantia Jones. who seeks to expand the cultural perceptions and definitions of beauty to include the fat body.  Most photos focus on just a glimpse; a breast, a back, an arm.  It took me a while to really appreciate this project, because it's more straightforward, in a way, than I was comfortable with at first.  Normally a photograph of a fat woman attempts to "hide" certain body parts and emphasize what is conventionally beautiful (eyes, hair, breasts).  It attempts to normalize her.  The adipositivity project takes the parts we're most interested in hiding and displays them as beautiful, right alongside the conventionally beautiful.  A single fat roll.  A thigh.  A belly. 

I highly recommend the site because it challenges our own body preconceptions. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

On Clutter and Roadblocks to Priorities

I have a category of resolutions called "Environment", because I think your surroundings can contribute or detract from your happiness to a great degree. I spent many years living on the "shovel a path to the closet" level of clutter before I realized it was making me miserable. I'm not a neat person by any means, but I found out that if you reduce the amount of stuff you actually own it makes it easier to make it look neat and organized.

When I seriously thought about why I owned certain items, the actual unnecessary clutter came in two categories: scarcity thinking and project potential.

Scarcity thinking led me to hang onto items without or past usefulness because of a fear that one day I would need them and not be able to find or afford them. This is what led to an accumulation of excess furniture, worn out clothes, nice dishes/cosmetics/shoes that were never used, etc. I still struggle to convince myself that I don’t need to save nice things, or hoard old things, against some future disaster. I need to first consider here and now, and trust that when I’m in that future I’ll be able to scale my life to my resources.

Project potential is my biggest temptation and money sink, especially thrift projects that re-use or restore discarded items. The seduction of hoarding things for projects is that it’s actually saved me time and money in the past. I ran out of wrapping paper this Christmas and ended up wrapping several presents in fabric remnants. I’ve suddenly needed a particular piece of wood to brace something and was able to scrounge it from the garage without spending any money. These are moments that make me think I’m justified in my clutter.

The downside, besides the mess, is the pressure. Items saved for later use beg to be used. I find myself unable to relax because somewhere in the house there’s a stalled or potential project I could be working on. I can’t read tonight; I have to make some progress on the braided rug so we can get rid of the pile of old sheets. I can’t spend time online when there’s pattern making to be done and the attic holds three enormous bins of fabric waiting to be something.

At some point I believe there will be a moment when I’m Done. I’ve experienced it before when I’ve taken several days to deep clean the house and reach a point where I honestly believe there’s nothing left to do. The obligation is finished. My time is my own.

The fallacy in this thinking is that ALL time is my own. I choose what to do, and when. I choose to spend a certain amount of time at work because I don’t like the alternative (i.e. being without work). I choose to spend a certain amount of time cleaning because I enjoy its rewards or dislike the consequences of the alternative enough to do so. There is no external obligation to anyone to accomplish certain things in my day or my lifetime; there are only my own choices, based on my personal priorities.

I decide which projects to make a priority. Low priority projects (i.e. neither necessary nor enjoyable enough to commit to in the next year) will not get done. Therefore the supplies to do them serve no purpose cluttering up my life or my limited living space. Scarcity may enter my life someday, but there’s no amount of “stuff” that will cushion the blow if it does. My real priorities (self-awareness, good health, strong relationships) will serve me much, much better.

Body Positive: Men in Full

I know I've mentioned it before, but today in my series on positive fat imagery I'm re-introducing the LiveJournal blog Men in Full.  Owner Stef posts images of fat men ranging from classical art to current events.  She focuses on re-defining cultural associations with large men by showing them as strong, beautiful, powerful, kind, respected and/or sensual.  I love her interpretation of the images, pulling the piece together with the positive attributes of the men.  She also chooses interesting images to show in the first place.  There's naturally some nudity in the classical art, but she posts the rare picture that might be interpreted as "adult" under a NSFW cut. 

Many of us not currently visually impaired are greatly affected by what we see.  Advertisers count on their images making more impact than their words.  This series is to help stock up a collection of positive fat imagery to boost mood when the media barrage gets overwhelming. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

January 26, 2010

On Resolutions:

The experiment with Grapefruit was fun, but taught me that I need to scale back.  If I try to eat the same food every day I will burn out on the resolution.  By the way, I liked the grapefruit best with salt or cooked into savory dishes, as it brings out the flavor and represses the bitterness.

This week, continuing the resolution to introduce a variety of new foods into my diet, I'm going to try three new recipes involving capers.  I've never tried them before, but suddenly they've come up twice in random recipe searches.  I honestly used to think they were some kind of fish, until I took the time to look them up and found they were the pickled bud of a Mediterranean plant.  People seem to either love or hate them, so I'll find out for myself!

Also, my resolution to de-clutter my cosmetics was successful.  My next resolution in the Environment category is to clean out two drawers in the kitchen hutch.  Small steps add up to a big effect!

Books added to my list:

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, by Dr. Betty Edwards
Chronicles, by Bob Dylan
The Artful Edit: On the Practice of Editing Yourself, by Susan Bell

Quotes added to my list:

"When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up. "
-CS Lewis

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects." -Robert A. Heinlein

Body Positive: The Museum of Fat Love

I've decided to start incorporating some FA messages back into regular postings, as a way to tie it into the happiness project.  I'm going to focus on positive messages, and begin with positive images.

Today I'm focusing on The Museum of Fat Love.  It was started by Lesley, who put together submissions from real people in happy moments with their partners.  This amazing project proves that our bodies are not a barrier to finding happiness.  Click on each thumbnail to see the couple's story.  The photos are work-safe (i.e. no nudity or adult content). 

Beyond just the message, the very act of looking at and reading about happy people can sometimes give your mood a boost.  So give the site a try when you need an antidote for the barrage of fat negativity. 

Monday, January 25, 2010

Resolution for Organization: Sorting Cosmetics

I accomplished my resolution for the week to organize my cosmetics! I gathered everything on the kitchen table and threw away about a third.  I used makeup bags and pouches I already had instead of buying new, so the project cost nothing.

Also in accordance to my rule to take "Before" shots so that I can remember what I've accomplished, here is my entire collection of cosmetics, makeup, hair stuff, etc.:

Here is after I've thrown things away and sorted what I could into bags:

In accordance with the advice from many organizing blogs, I've separated the stuff into zones according to frequency of use.  Since frequency of use is very, very subjective, your sorting may look very different from mine!  I have fairly few cosmetics because I don't bother with makeup, jewelry or styling my hair on an every day basis.  I only need those tools for when I go out socially.  I don't even own hairspray, a hair dryer or a curling iron.

Zone A items are items I use daily or weekly, and are all somewhere within easy reach of where I usually use them.  Things like hairbrushes, deoderant, etc. I don't really count in cosmetics since they're basic grooming items, but they should be within reach of the bathroom sink without my having to stoop or rummage through other things. Lotions, hair-ties and a bag of the basic make-up I use when I go out are all within reach when I'm standing at the bathroom mirror. 

Zone B are the things I use maybe once a month or two, but don't want to go crawling into the back of shelves for them.  I don't often do anything fancy with my hair, so I consolidated things such as clips, barrettes, styling combs, etc. into an old makeup bag.  Ditto for a bag of nail things (man/ped tools, polish, remover, etc.) and another with seldom-worn jewelry items sorted into snack-size ziplocks to keep the necklaces from going Gordian.  Jewelry I don't wear at all went either into the trash, my craft area (to cannibalize beads and such) or a "give-away" stash, depending on condition.

Zone C are things I use once or twice a year at most.  Most items like this I tossed, but there are a few things I wear around Halloween, at Ren Fairs, etc.  that I kept.  These are relegated to the back of a shelf in the bedroom closet and labeled "Costume" so that they're not taking up valuable bathroom real-estate.

Zone D are things that I never use or don't like (i.e. expensive lotions I don't like, gifted jewelry I never wear, old makeup in bad shades).  The proper places for Zone D items are either in the trash, or at someone else's house :-)

Cosmetics Zone D:

Scents are always tricky for me.  As you see, maybe a fifth or more of my cosmetics are fancy scented lotions, perfumes and body-washes.  I love these, but because they're expensive I tend to "save them up".  There's one bottle of perfume I've had for 12 years. I love it, but I know I'll never be able to replace it.  It was a gift from an exchange student from Brazil the year I was getting ready to go on my own exchange year, and the company that makes it doesn't export to the U.S..  So I keep it, and use it maybe once a year.  But there's a difference between a sentimental perfume, and a bottle of lotion from Bath and Body Works.  There's no point in "saving" easily replaced items like that for some special occasion.  If I enjoy it then I should use it every day.  There's a certain level of crazy in having an enormous stash of nice lotions, yet walking around all day with cracking dry skin.

So my new resolution is in the category of Self, and is to every day this week use one of my "saved" lotions, for no other reason than that I enjoy them.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Happiness is Sand and the Fugs

So I found a fantastic new time sink that I can't use at work.  It's called "This is Sand"  It basically turns your screen into sand art.  Click on the little grey box in the upper left corner to get started.  I made this:

And This:

So I shared the site with JD this morning.  He played with it for a couple of minutes, then his only response was "Their algorithm is wrong."

Sometimes I honestly think that being able to see the underlying function and structure of some things kills his ability to appreciate them :-)  Then again he might have just been winding me up.  I remember when we first met, I told him a joke: 

"Decartes walks into a bar and orders a beer.  When he's finished, the bartender asks if he'd like another.  Decartes considers it, says, 'I think not,' and disappears."

His reaction?  "Actually, Decartes was really more of a wine drinker."

To this day I can't tell if he was serious, or engaging in the straight-faced leg pull that I occasionally catch him in.

But I cannot disparage his abilities after last night because out of nowhere he came out and presented me with The Fugs First Album, in all its subversive protopunk deliciousness :-)  Such a simple thing, but so happy-making!

Added Websites:

Added Books:

Verbal Judo: The Gentle Art of Persuasion, By George J. Thompson, Jerry B. Jenkins

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Hurt and Anger; To Tell or Not to Tell?

I’m giving some thought to an issue where I see a lot of logical but conflicting advice. If you’re angry or hurt about something, is it always better to let it out? Some may argue that expressing the anger somehow releases the emotion and makes room for healing. Others argue that all it does is transfer the anger to other people, reinforce it in your own mind, and you should try to re-frame it and let it go instead of expressing it.

Now I do believe that if expressing the emotion can:

1. cause positive change in your environment (i.e. it makes me angry when you do/say X, I’m asking you to please not do/say X, at least around me.)

2. promote understanding (I’m angry because I interpreted what you did/said as X, is that what you meant to do/say or am I misunderstanding?)


3. give you space to work things out in your head (i.e. I’m angry about X right now. I just need a little time/space to figure out how I can fix it or let it go. Could you give me that time/space?)

Then you should express it.

But if no good can come of it, do you let it out or let it go? Is it selfish to tell someone they hurt your feelings if it can't be fixed and isn't likely to happen again? Does it just prolong and spread the unhappiness?

It’s important that I explain that letting it go does NOT mean shoving it all into a little place inside where you can stockpile repressed resentment and dwell on it (I'm talking to you, Golem). It means literally letting it go; forgiving yourself and anyone else involved, re-framing it in your head into something constructive (a lesson, etc.), laughing at it and/or releasing it. If remembering it later dredges up anger and resentment all over again then you didn’t let it go.

This question comes from the idea that no matter what someone else does to you or around you, you only have control over yourself and your actions. For example, if someone’s making obnoxious fat jokes around me, I cannot actually force them to stop. I have no control over them. The only options I really have are to use my own autonomy to protect myself:
  • I can speak up, explain why its offensive and ask the person to stop telling those jokes around me.
  • I can sometimes physically leave the space and remove myself from their company.
  • I can avoid them in the future by letting my friends know the situation and ask them to let me know when the person will be at a party and avoid the party.
  • If it’s a stranger I can switch bus seats (or bikes at the gym, or place I’m standing in public), and if necessary report the person to the driver/waiter/manager/owner for harassment.

 To take that a step further, I have no control over something that happened yesterday (or last week or last year). If it’s likely to happen again then letting someone know it made me angry may result in constructive change. But what if I know the person didn’t mean to make me angry, isn’t likely to repeat the same scenario, and it isn’t something I can change? I think that it might just be healthier (if against popular thinking) to let it go instead of spreading the hurt and holding on. I think that keeping “score” on who hurt/forgave who is detrimental to both personal happiness and healthy relationships. I think that sometimes “winning” still means you lose.


So the resolution to try grapefruit every day for a week took a two day break. We went to see Stomp on Tuesday night and got home close to midnight. I got two hours of sleep Tuesday night and when I got home last night I just crashed and slept through until morning. Stomp was AMAZING, AWESOME fun.  I went with a big group of friends and our hands are all itching for a drum circle now. I'd love to see it again in an A-run city like Detroit or Chicago, where they really go all out.  The cast took donations for the Haiti relief afterwards, which was very cool. 

I do need to give some thought as to what food I’m going to try next. Anyone have a food you love but doesn’t get a lot of play in other peoples’ recipes? It should be a base ingredient, not a complex prepared food (i.e. flour is a base ingredient, bread is a prepared food that uses flour). I’m playing with the idea of kale, but I’m open to suggestions. (anything but fish, mushrooms, green peppers or tomatoes).

I’m thinking about modifying the resolution somewhat to fit my very busy life, and saying that I’ll try the new food at least three times that week, prepared in different ways. That gives me wiggle room. The best part about making resolutions is that they’re MINE, and I can alter them as needed to fit the intent.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

January 19th, 2010


The grapefruit experiment is going well; the Grapefruit/squirt (half and half) sorbet is also the very first use of the ice cream maker my parents gave me this summer. It is now my new favorite toy! The sorbet turned out amazingly yummy, but the flavor was so concentrated that about a half-cup serving is perfect. Tonight I want to try a grapefruit with salt instead of sugar, as suggested in comments yesterday (thanks for the many tips!). It makes sense; salt complements melons and sweet corn, why not grapefruit?

New Environment Resolution: Organize cosmetics

In the area of improving my personal environment, I’m focusing on creating uncluttered space around me because I do believe that mess and clutter create can stress and attract negative energy. I’m at the point where the main areas of the house have been de-cluttered and I’m down to pockets here and there. My resolution for this week is to sit down and go through all my makeup and hair products, toss old ones (makeup is an excellent petri dish!) sort ones I use often into a single bag and store stuff I only use once a year for dress-up (black nail polish for Halloween, etc.) elsewhere so that it’s not taking up valuable space in the bathroom.

New Rule of Life: Take “Before” Shots. That’s because when we make a major change to improve something (re-doing the bathroom, changing hairstyles, starting a garden, cleaning out your closet, etc.) we quickly go from the awe and satisfaction of novelty to the boredom of every day. We are adaptable creatures, and quickly become accustomed to new things, even things that once made us happy. It’s called hedonic adaptation. Right now JD and I are putting the final touches on gutting the bathroom. It started as ugly brown carpet and yellowing walls with ancient drops of the previous owner’s nicotine tar leaching through the paint. Mysterious plastic bits and pieces were glued, screwed and foam-taped to the walls at random, marking long-discarded holders for Dixie cups, toothbrushes and air fresheners. I ripped out the moldering carpet and the room progressed to ugly bare plywood floors with dried carpet glue and a rotting patch around the toilet. In the last two weeks JD and I ripped everything out down to the studs, installed vinyl flooring, patched some drywall, replaced all the trim and coated everything in two layers of KILZ. It was really hard, smelly, hot, satisfying work. I still tiptoe into the doorway and just stare at all the sparkly newness of it. I can take pictures now, but anyone who didn’t see the horror where it began will only see a rather boring contemporary bathroom. The wow factor is lost in history. So take “before” pictures. Heck, take “during” pictures. Always have something to remind yourself how far you’ve come, lest you think you never accomplish anything!

Added to Reading List:

Flannery O’Connor, Wise Blood

Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love.

Elias Canetti, Crowds and Power

Elias Canetti, Auto-da-Fe

Georges Bataille, The Accursed Share: Consumption

Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class

St. Therese of Lisieux, Story of a Soul

Robert Calasso, The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony

Virginia Woolf, The Waves

Alexander et al., A Pattern Language

Randall Jarrell, The Animal Family

Monday, January 18, 2010

Grapefruit Update

Thoughts on the Grapefruit Resolution:

On Saturday I started with a plain, raw grapefruit to get a feel for the flavor.  I was surprised to find it much less bitter than I remember it back in the days when it was a dieting-obligation food.  I chose a nice red fruit from Texas and got a net bag full of them.

Today (Sunday) I added sugar to the raw grapefruit and found a curious thing.  Adding sweetener actually enhanced the bitter aftertaste of the fruit!  It was as if the first intense simple sweetness of the sugar intensified the contrast with the more complex bitterness of the grapefruit.  I'd be willing to bet that the reason I disliked it as a teen/YA is that I had loaded it up with sweetener (and artificial sweetener to boot), and as the bitterness intensified I added more to compensate.  After a while it was just saccharine with a bitter aftershock.  Of course I hated it!

We put the ice cream maker in the freezer overnight in prep for the Grapefruit sorbet, which for budget reasons I'll make with Squirt soda instead of Champagne and sugar as the base.  I'm also playing with the idea of whether a grapefruit substitution in a key lime pie recipe would turn out well or not.   

In an ironic twist, my psychotic swamp cat (Mad Sweeny) who rejects all human food from bacon to tuna....loves grapefruit. I let him have a little taste from the empty halves to convince him he didn't like it, and he was ready to fight me for the rest (and yes, I checked first to make sure grapefruit isn't toxic to felines; it can upset their stomachs in large quantities but he only got a few licks in).

The idea of taste is an interesting one.  It's my understanding that people are often "inclined" towards one of the tastes (sweet, salty, bitter, sour...and the East Asian umami/savory) based on the genetic coding of the taste receptors on your tongue.  Personally I'm very sensitive to bitterness and sourness.  I hate walnuts, even masked in desserts.  I can really taste the bitterness in white grapefruit, marmalade, or iceberg lettuce. I cannot stand the taste of fresh tomatoes, because to me they are bitter and sour at the same time (like something rotting).

What this leads back to is an idea that Gretchin Rubin of the Happiness Project puts forward:  "although you can choose what you do, you can’t choose what you like to do."   

I'm lucky enough to be able to choose what I eat, but I have little ability to change what I actually like.  I could force myself to eat fish, venison or mushrooms in a starvation situation. But if it's not something I like and I have the capability to choose...why eat fish?  Or tomatoes?  Or green peppers?  I don't think I have that kind of time to waste in my life.  I also don't like the current movement that treats food as medication.  If you're eating something you hate simply for the beta-carotene, you might be better off with a pill.  It's easier to swallow.  What I'm after isn't medicine, it's a variety of tastes and the pleasure of experimentation. 

Friday, January 15, 2010

More on Grapefruit and Resolutions

For my first actual content post relating to my experiment in fat happiness, I want to kick it off with a resolution.

My first happiness resolution is in the Health category.  In my own interpretation of HAES (Health at Every Size) I subscribe to the whole "varied eating with fruits and veggies" theory of healthy eating, but frequently fall down in practice because I don't make time to prepare daily complicated meals.  It's so much faster and easier to make a plate of nachos or a bag of microwave popcorn for dinner so that I can get back to the day's project.  But I do feel a physical difference when I'm eating a more varied diet with unprocessed ingredients.  I feel better, my energy is lighter and cleaner, and my mood is elevated.  I know that for a lot of people it makes no difference at all in how they feel (or not enough of one to compensate for the trouble).  So all FDA claims aside, is this actually something that would improve my personal health or do I just get a "feel better" feeling from eating "right" according to pop theory which then wears off when it becomes routine?
So I'm starting a resolution that is also an experiment.  Each week I need to choose a new base food (an unprocessed fruit, veg, meat, grain, etc.).  It should be something in one of these categories: 

1. Something I've never tried before.
2. Something I haven't tried in years since I hated it as a kid (our tastes change as we get older!)
3. Something I've made but only have one recipe or preparation I make over and over again.

I have to eat that new thing at least once per day during that week, each time prepared in a different way.

The theory is that doing so will force me to widen my options and explore new foods.  There's no restrictions on how I prepare it.  

So, for the next week, I will be eating Grapefruit.  I've only eaten it in the traditional diet prep many years ago: raw with artificial sweetener.  It was miserably gross.  I've always associated Grapefruit with dieting, which made them too bitter on many levels.  But now I can go and re-visit them as a "real" food, instead of some kind of obligation.   By the end of this week I'll know for sure if there's such a thing as a Grapefruit I like.

I'll find some help from the all-knowing google, including:

By the way, a real Mexican margarita is made with grapefruit juice, with accents of orange (triple-sec) and lime, not the sickening-sweet fake-lime stuff you get in stores and restaurants.  I usually make them with Squirt soda as the base: a trick learned from my parents when they lived in Ajijic.  I wonder if my "no restrictions on how it's prepared" rule extends to booze? :-)

Also, I'm adding the following to my Reading list, based on Gretchen Rubin's recomendations:

Reading List:

Jonathan Haidt, The Happiness Hypothesis: Why the Meaningful Life is Closer Than You Think
Daniel Nettle, Happiness: The Science Behind Your Smile

David Lykken, Happiness: The Nature and Nurture of Joy and Contentment

Gregory Berns: Satisfaction: The Science of Finding True Fulfillment

Barry Schwartz, The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less

Daniel Gilbert, Stumbling on Happiness

Martin Seligman, Authentic Happiness

Kahneman, Diener, Schwartz, Well-Being: The Foundations of Hedonic Psychology

On Resolutions, Reading Lists and Grapefruit

I've been thinking about the structure of this experiment in happiness-seeking.  I'm a planner, not a doer (as evidenced by the massive amounts of unused fabric and home renovation supplies in the house) so I have to be careful before throwing out complicated structure and resolutions that I won't stick to.  I also hate structure in general, and usually end up resenting new routines or habits I try to establish.  So.....

What I want to include in the project:

Inspirational Quotes
Resolutions to improve happiness in areas of Health, Organization, Relationships and Self
Lists of books and links to pursue later or often
Rules for my own personal happiness, distilled from whatever lessons I've been learning.

I want to try to post at least every weekday (I'm often away from the computer on weekends) but I definitely do not want to try and include every element above in every post.  I work better freestyle.  If I tried to scrounge up a "book to read" every day, the list would be completely useless and disengenious.  I'd be adding stuff just to add something, not because it caught my attention at random and made me think, "Hey, I should see if the library has that..."

Some of the lists will be consolidated into one page and updated frequently (lists of books, links, quotes, etc.)  As each of these areas contain content they'll be accessible via a link in the sidebar under "Happiness Tools" or the "topic list" that is automatically generated from post labels. 

I'm sure a better structure will emerge as I go on, but it will be a result of my habits rather than imposed.  Somehow that works better for me in almost every endeavor.

(I've been craving Grapefruit lately.  That's very weird for me because I always hated the stuff.  I wonder if I can make that my first experiment/resolution!)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Vita Nova

I took a few weeks off from blogging, and realized something. Being my particular brand of activist boils down to finding something to be angry about as often as possible. I was actively seeking out hate and outrage which I could take personally enough to write a page-long rant, and daily reading the rants of others on topics that made me angry or upset. Seen in that perspective it doesn’t surprise me that my brand of activism wasn’t exactly contributing to my happiness.

Should that matter? Should being happy trump significant work? I think it does. I’m also okay with anyone who thinks I’m selfish for thinking so. See, I’ve learned a lot about personal boundaries and expectations, happiness and energy in the last two years. I’ve learned that depression makes me unable to help anyone, even myself. I’ve learned that we are first and only responsible for ourselves and our own actions. I’ve learned that being responsible for myself is the only way I can make myself able to effectively help others. I’ve learned that there is a difference between selfishness and self-care.

I’ve also learned that wrapping my world up in anger and reading too many activist posts on the feeds was making me unhappy, angry, outraged, preachy, negative, paranoid and stressed.

Instead I’ve been reading Gretchen Rubin’s “The Happiness Project” archives, along with other blogs (Unclutterer, Positivity Blog, Zen Habits, etc.), in the downtime of the last few weeks. The blogs I’ve been reading are inspiring, but don’t work as actual guides for me. My life is radically different from most of the bloggers’, and the blogs are peppered with triggers (dieting advice, calorie warnings, weight loss encouragement, conflating fitness with weight, etc..) The combination prompts me to take the question of happiness into my own hands and work it out for myself.

So this is the announcement of the beginnings of my own examination of my happiness. I’m starting with the premise that this project will encompass the year 2010, but, like the activist phase of my life, it will go on until it ends and then end when it is ready. All things end, which is one key to happiness in itself. Learn to let things run their natural course and end without regret.

My intention is to continue as a blog relating to Fat Acceptance, as in my happiness project includes self acceptance as a fat woman, HAES, and other principles that have coalesced for me in the last two years. If that changes, I may have to leave the FA feeds. Until then I hope I’ll be able to stay. I will also continue articles on Sewing For Any Size and cooking, because those are things that make me happy. The blog will hopefully become more personal, but also more positive. If I do feel the need to write the occasional Fat Activist post I will send it to Fatties United, where I’m technically a co-blogger even if I haven’t done much for it lately.

I may or may not archive or delete old FA activist posts here to free up tags or start a new blog altogether, depending on what level of versatility and closure I need. At the very least there will be a transition period where I work out my new format and frequent layout changes. Also, I do still believe that Fat Acceptance is a necessary movement in the face of the false Obesity Panic, and hope that others in the Fatosphere continue to do their excellent work in building a culture of body acceptance and diversity. I will also continue to keep my blog free of diet talk and fat hate, as both are detractors from mental and physical well-being.