Monthly Archives: March 2011

This is How I Lost 40 Pounds.

I can’t believe I just wrote that.

This is the second week that I’ve been at my imaginary “goal weight” that I set oh so, SO long ago. (And I mean consistently at that weight, not those first-thing-in-the-morning-completely-naked-before-breakfast-but-after-you-poop kind of weigh-ins). Anyone dieting knows what I’m talking about. I think. Right?

Anyway, today I went for a run and I was thinking about what it took to get me here, and all the lessons I’ve learned about myself along the way… all four years of the way. Surprisingly, almost nothing about my life now is the way I imagined it would be when I thought about what life would be like “as a skinny person,” as I would say.

I don’t think this post will contain the answers for many people. I think that’s just it – weight loss is 100% individual.

But as a form of reflection, here’s how I did it anyway:

1. Got happy. I recently realized that I used to think of it all wrong. I used to think, “Once I’m skinny, I’ll be happier.”

Wrong. It wasn’t until after I addressed my bad habits, took on new challenges, tried new things, and made some big changes that my self confidence improved. Along the way, the weight came off. Once I became happier by actually doing things that make me happy, I spent a lot less time stressing about and wishing things were different, and more time just living a happy life than sitting around thinking about living one. (Usually with a snack.)

2. Got realistic. I still don’t look good in skinny jeans. I won’t go running only in a sports-bra, and I still have a lot of… well, jiggles. Being at my goal weight doesn’t look like what I thought it would, and I’m surprisingly OK with that. (And who has the time to do all those sit-ups?!?!)

3. Made goals. Lots and lots of goals. Many of them I never met. So then I made smaller ones. For example, last year I wanted to run a half marathon. So, I started by running for 25 minutes. Then I added a block at a time. Then I ran 3.5 miles quite regularly and came to really enjoy it. Once I made it 5 miles. I never ran a half marathon, but I did complete a 5k and loved it. It wasn’t my original goal, but it got me running across a finish line and that felt awesome.

3. Got going. I used to look at blogs, attend meetings, read books, and actually fantasize about weight-loss and healthy people. But it was so hard to translate reading about someone else’s success to my own success.

First, I got going the classic way: Weight Watchers. There, I learned exactly how much of what I usually ate was superfluous to what I needed to eat. I talked with others with the same habits and actually really, really enjoyed it (the chatting, not the non-eating). Weight Watchers’ Points system sucks and takes tons of time to adjust to, but it is a great way to learn what my body needed, how to find good healthy alternatives to favorite foods, how to create and maintain portion-control, and very importantly; it teaches you the lesson that if you screw up and over-eat, it’s OK.

All that said, I would never go back to Weight Watchers. My last 20 pounds were lost in a much more simple way than points equations and weekly weigh-ins and I think if I would have come up with it from the beginning, it would have worked just fine.

It finally took me equating “getting going,” with “getting happy” to eventually get healthy. Once I wanted to see some scenery on a hike, unwind by taking a jog, ride my new bike, or try cooking a new recipe, (and actually make time to do these things regularly) I simply found myself busier, and then healthier, and then happier, and then skinner. And it was fun. I don’t think I could have lost the last 20 pounds without a whole lot of fun because prior to that, I was in a big, fat rut.

And that’s what I did. 🙂


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This is what DE-MOC-RACY looks like

Beep – Beep – Beep – Bah – Beep – Bah – Beep – Beep – Beep.

Though there have been many, this is the tune of the “crowd favorite” chant over the past 3 weeks at the Wisconsin capitol. Protesters yell it, car horns honk it, and my mind constantly replays it throughout every part of the day (wait, was that in my mind or did a passing car just honk it?).

This morning, as I sit and drink Just Coffee’s aptly named, “Revolution Roast” and try to get that beepbeepbeep out of my head, I am amazed, once again, looking through the images of the turnout to the state’s capitol yesterday.

Since Clean Wisconsin’s office is located about 4 doors down from the center of the action, it’s been day after crowd-packed day of chants, honking horns, clever signs, free pizza, marching union leaders, marching students, marching firefighters, and marching teachers, all determined, angry, mobilized, and very, very persistent.

While I am usually hesitant to write a blog post about political matters – especially this one that’s about as divisive a topic as you can imagine, I still want to make sure my out of town readers realize just how amazing these protesters have been – that amidst day in and day out of bad news, the crowds come peaceful, organized and in big, big numbers.

On Wednesday, the sneaky Senate found a [potentially-illegal] way to vote on the Budget Repair Bill (the bill that includes the contested collective bargaining piece) without a quorum. Sam and I were at a film festival near the capitol at that time, and went down afterward to see what was going on. It was madness. Before I get to the crowds, you should really watch what it is exactly that happened that night in the Joint Finance Committee before it moved to the Senate. It’s pretty crazy. Watch here.

…Hearing them vote as Rep. Barca is yelling at them that the vote is illegal, while you can hear the crowds yelling right outside the door. Wow. Representative Gordon Hintz also did a good job of expressing the frustrations of many in this awesome speech the week prior:

Well, anyway. The crowds were quite riled up when Sam and I got down there. We made it inside and up to the third floor of the packed capitol and made a few loops around looking for a spot to stand and see the drama unfold in the rotunda below. The place was noisy as hell and filled with such an array of people. Sure, there were your smelly, stoned, dreadlocked protesters that you’d expect at any protest, but for the most part, the capitol was full of normal everyday pissed-off people who are just frustrated, and standing there is the only thing they can think to do at this point.

We ran into the exec director of Clean Wisconsin, many fellow students, interns, UW professors, WI Supreme Court hopeful David Prosser, Tia Nelson (the daughter of Gaylord Nelson, founder of Earth Day), one founder of Clean Wisconsin, the previous mayor of Madison (who had apparently snuck in through a bathroom window at the time the capitol was locked in order to protest the vote) and 8 policemen with mustaches (hey, we needed something to do).

What’s truly amazing though, is with as angry as everyone has a right to be, the protesters have made their occupation of the capitol somewhat of a science. This HuffPost blogger paints a really good picture in his post, “The Unbreakable Culture of the Occupied Capitol,” but that night Sam and I probably got there at 9:30 pm, and by the time we left at 11:30, in anticipation for protesters staying over night, fellow-protesters had come distributing free water, fruit, and pizza to the crowds, and holding “peaceful protest info-session” gatherings in the assembly. There were people delegated to go around and get signatures for recall petitions, and others delegated to go around with mega-phones on each floor announcing over and over: “This is a peaceful protest. The police are waiting for us to become violent so they can kick us out; do not let this happen. Later tonight the police might tell you to leave the capitol. You do not need to leave, but do not resist arrest, do not become limp…” etc.

My pictures don’t do justice, but there are many that do.

Alright, I’m disappointed by my inability to describe the powerful scene that night (and many previous to that night), but it’s time to wrap this up. But I do think that despite all the bad news, the scene at the capitol has been truly amazing, and I feel really lucky to have gotten to see so much of the action. Although I might go crazy if I hear that protest again, this really is what democracy looks like.

Oh also, one major lesson of all this:


Wisconsin elections are April 5th. And according to a friend, “If you were down there protesting this bill and you don’t go vote, you’re the worst kind of person.”

Here is any info you need to know (for Wisconsin).

Beep – Beep – Beep – Bah – Beep – Bah – Beep – Beep – Beep.


Modern Jackass: XC Ski Edition

I have always loved the outdoors.

But I have to admit (and anyone who has known me for more than a year has caught on to this already), that I’ve taken my love for the outdoors to a whole ‘nother level this year. Annnnd, as much as I had always wanted and intended to spend more of my time in the great outdoors prior to this year, I’ll admit that this change is most definitely related to the fact that I began dating someone who doesn’t merely love the outdoors… he needs the outdoors. Like, he needs it in the same way a fish needs water. It’s a life or death thing.

Anyway, this post is about stereotypes. I hope I don’t offend anyone in the process, but since Sam’s from the Northwoods (Or, excuse me: “the Hub of the Northwoods”) and I’m from Minneapolis, I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about stereotypes and different types of people and the certain social classifications they fall into pertaining to what they like to do for fun. (In other words, am I “outdoorsy” now that I do things outdoorsy people do? What does “being outdoorsy” really mean? Do I have to sign something somewhere? Am I still allowed to wear high heels and nail polish if I sign?)

There’s this great episode of NPR’s This American Life entitled, A Little Bit of Knowledge. The episode discusses “stories about the pitfalls of knowing just a little bit too little.” It basically stipulates that when you talk at length about a topic in which you know just a little bit too little, you become the modern jackass. (This analogy isn’t great for anyone who hasn’t heard the episode, so if you’re interested, you can download it at the link above.)

Although I previously fell into “modern jackass” classification for many of the activities I now frequently partake in, this post is supposed to be about skiing.

This year is the first I’ve ever stepped into a pair of skis (aside from the family Colorado downhill ski trip once every 5 years or so). Naturally, I learned many lessons about skiing that I would never have known before:

I learned the difference between backcountry, nordic, skate, and downhill skiing (think: snowshoe hiking-type trails, versus groomed tracks, versus speedy Olympic race people, versus down hills, respectively). I learned that ‘cross country,’ ‘nordic’ and ‘XC’ all mean pretty much the same thing. I learned that you can’t just go skiing, you have to have different types of wax to put on your skis depending on the weather and trail conditions. Ok, I’m going to stop now before I leave jackass territory and enter idiot territory.

Anyway, I previously had many stereotypes about cross-country skiing that I have now had some time to investigate. Many actually ended up being true. Some include:

1. XC Skiers have no sense of style.
How could you if you’re willing to be seen in public wearing neon spandex onsies? No, I’m not sure that this is true when it comes to them in real life, but on the trails, style is the last (and I mean LAST) thing on anyone’s mind. Today we saw a guy wearing spandex pants that had this orange, blue, red, yellow and black swirly design. Did you know those colors were ever all found on the same single item of clothing? I didn’t.

2. XC Skiers are intimidating. I always thought this, but it’s false. They just always look intense. I don’t think we’ve come across a single person that didn’t greet both of us. Some have even said supportive things like, “you’re doing great” (obviously being able to tell that I had originally come with Sam and they’d just passed him up trail about 10 minutes ago taking a nap while waiting for me).

3. XC Skiers are freakishly tall and skinny. This one is largely (but not always) true. Although, I will say that most anyone willing to brace the cold for hours “for fun,” when the rest of the world is curled on the couch drinking hot chocolate just tends to be skinny by default. Good for them. Well, increasingly, good for me. (Well, actually, good for Sam for convincing me to get off the couch…)

You get the idea. Overall, skiing has been awesome, and a wonderful addition into my pointless ongoing investigation of what it means to be outdoorsy.

Not to mention, it has made a HUGE impact on the major blues I’m usually feeling right about this time of year (pertaining both to the fact that I usually wouldn’t have been outside at any one time longer than the amount of time it took me to walk to class, AND that I usually barely fit into any of my clothes by the time March 1 rolls around…).

Anyway, sorry for the long blogging hiatus, and stay tuned for Modern Jackass: mountain biking, trail running, road riding, canoeing, and fly fishing editions. 🙂

– J