A Crisis of Faith

I was off the diet this summer, and I didn’t do too badly. In fact, even with all the gnocci and ice cream that the summer brought my way, I only put on about six pounds. I kind of hoped to lose those quickly and even get rid of the few other pounds I still had to go, but it’s been hard to stay motivated.

First of all, there’s the job. I’m stressed there and at home, and also, the lunches in the cafeteria are pretty good! Wouldn’t it be my luck to find two of the only four probable gourmet-type lunch ladies in the United States? I’m thinking these ladies could have a show on the Food Network or something. The theme would be something like how to cook delicious meals for 400 or more people. Seriously though — what school do you know of that serves lobster bisque on a regular basis? LOBSTER BISQUE!! I don’t know about you — but I have trouble passing on any kind of bisque, let alone the lobster.

But, as I said, I have been trying. I’ve been going every week to my Jenny Craig appointments, albeit each week taking home smaller and smaller orders of food because I have yet to eat the victuals of the week before. This past week, I was sitting in the lobby, waiting for my appointment, and I had a crisis of faith. You see, footprints-in-the-sandlike all diets, Jenny Craig is a religion. But that doesn’t bother me. I know it’s a religion. What bothers me, is the way they market it like it’s a religion.

First of all there’s the big Jenny Craig sign that hits you in the face as you walk through the door. Is it any coincidence that the letters “J” and “C” are three times the size of the others in the phrase? I don’t think so. Then, behind the words “Jenny Craig” there is a poster of two pairs of feet walking on sand leaving footprints behind them. So, I was sitting there thinking, Are you freaking kidding me? FOOTPRINTS IN THE SAND? I can’t believe I had never noticed it before.

I’ve always kind of joked that the appointments are a bit like the sacrament of Reconciliation. You go in and you confess all your transgressions each week. “Forgive me counselor, for I have sinned. This week I ate a bag of Funions.” For your penance, you must step on the scale, experience the weight of your guilt, and then she will likely ask what temptations lie before you in the week ahead. Once you have confessed, then you may partake of their low-cal bread.

valerie jennyLast week, as I was having this moment of dietary agnosticism, I really started to look around. And you know what else I noticed? All the posters they have of the celebrities who have had success with Jenny Craig, like Valerie Bertinelli and Felicia Rashad; in those posters, the women (in their “after Jenny Craig” photos) are lit from behind in a kind of glowing light. These are the saints, the apostles of J.C. They were even touting Bertinelli’s book, Losing It, etc. It was as if they were saying,  “Hey, would you like to read the Gospel According to Valerie?” Yeah, tell us all the good news, Val. What was this place? Had I joined some kind of cult?

It was as if I had an epiphany, or an anti-epiphany right there in the lobby, sitting on that pastel-swathed nondescript office chair between the faux ficus and the overflowing stack of well-perused copies of the Star Magazine. And I honestly don’t know where I will go from there.

I just started to think, okay, the food isn’t bad, and yes, I have lost a lot of weight, it’s good, it’s great for me and all, but when it really comes down to it, this is just a lot of marketing crap. I’m not sure if it has anything to do with the fact that I have kind of plateaued, and I admit that the bisque isn’t helping, but still, I feel a kind of void when it comes to faith in the program currently.

 

And one more thing, while I am kvetching about my apostasy, I have one more thing that I found that day. Just before the saleslady went in the back to collect my food, she mentioned a new promotion they are having in November. I started reading the flier about it and noticed a disclaimer that struck me as kind of funny: Jenny Craig is owned by the Nestle Corporation. I don’t know why, but that seems a bit ironic in some way. Like, I can lose all this weight on Jenny Craig, and then over the winter gain it back by eating crunch bars. It’s like they’re hoping to  get those of us who struggle with weight both coming and going.

What’s that economic term when a company owns all phases of production and distribution?  Isn’t the Nestle-Jenny Craig relationship a kind of vertical integration?

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If the dress fits…

Several years ago, there was a Laura Ashley store here in town that was going out of business. I wouldn’t call myself a huge fan of Laura Ashley, but I happened to wander into the store, and I fell in love with a dress. It was this navy blue A-line timeless number, and it had soft, yet nubby, delicate navy blue roses embossed in its fabric. I bought the thing, I think without even trying it on, despite the fact that there were no returns because the store was closing.

Even at 60% off, it wasn’t cheap, but I figured that if it was too small, it would give me a goal. I brought it to the counter, and the salesclerk reminded me of the no return policy. When I said okay, she kind of gave a me a look that said Okay, lady, but you’re never going to pull it off.

That look, that parting thought, her resignation that the customer is always right, no matter what I might think has haunted me all these years, because as it turned out, she was right. I had misread the size on the tag, which said 12, but a UK size 12. In the States, it was a size 8 (and I think it was cut as a small 8 at that), and at the time, I was more of a US 12.  The thing fit me like a navy blue sausage casing. Those delicate embossed roses stretched across my mid section and looked more like warped clown faces than anything remotely floral.

I never wore the thing.  It has hung in my overflow closet, complete with the tags.  I thought about selling it on eBay, as I had other children, and my size ballooned to 14 and even 16, but something always kept me from parting with it. I really was crazy about that dress when I bought it.

Anyway, next weekend, I am going to a baby shower, and I was thinking of buying a new outfit, but then I thought, let me check and see if I have anything old that might fit.  The Laura Ashley does. It’s the tiniest bit tight across the bust (which Manfrengensen will be glad to hear) but it drapes beautifully over my abs and butt.

I wish you could see how I am grinning at the moment.

 


An Attempt, Albeit Failed, To Start Her Young On the Grammar

The Princess just had me change a Barbie into Cinderella Barbie’s dress so that the doll didn’t look like a tramp any more.

“Her looks beautiful!” The Princess exclaimed, and I corrected her.

“She,” I said,” SHE looks beautiful.”

And The Princess grinned, “Yes, she does.”

 

I have been the Super Mom so far this week.  Yesterday The Princess and I started her in a tumbling class that she took right to.  And I think it made her happier all day.  She didn’t really fight me on anything all day, even though she was tired, and we had a lot of laughs.

We also had a few errands to run after the tumbling, including a stop at PetSmart to pick up THE FISH.

THE FISH.

Edison and Clooney have been angling for fish since before the summer.  We first put them off with the excuse that we travel a lot in the summer, and therefor it might be hard to keep the little suckers alive.  Then when autumn came, I put them off with the idea that I didn’t know where we would put the tank.

Well, Friday we were in that shopping center, and I took them over there, because it’s kind of like a free trip to the zoo, and they started with the fish thing.

Goldfish in this one, but its the same tank.

Goldfish in this one, but it's the same tank.

It seemed like almost everything was on sale at the store, trying to get rid of holiday stock I guess. Heading for the automatic doors, I noticed a tank that looked cool and wasn’t much in the way of an initial (and let’s be honest with ourselves – ultimately fruitless) investment.

And so we bought the thing, with them in my wake, and at least in my mind’s memory they were chanting, “FISH TANK! FISH TANK! FISH TANK!”

We prepped the water over the weekend, and as of yesterday became the proud owners of three fancy-tailed guppies. The boys were so excited that they ran right up there when they got home from school without even bothering to take their coats off.

Edison named two of them: Red Tail and Red-Red. Clooney named the other one “Anthony.”

 

One other thing I have been meaning to mention, in case you are thinking about starting your new year with a diet:

I’m still doing the Jenny Craig, and it is working out well.  So far, I have lost 26 pounds in 16 weeks.  I have another nine to go to get to my goal.  Overall, it has been easy to follow, and I have enjoyed the food, though there have been times when I have gotten into a rut with the things I like, and that makes me kind of bored with the selection.

The holidays were tough, but I still did well.  I stuck to the diet, but gave myself Christmas Eve and Christmas dinners off.  There have been other times when we have been out to dinner or lunch, so I haven’t had EVERY meal for the last four months on Jenny Craig. But I watch my portions, and I think about what I am eating.  So far, I’ve kept losing, and that’s a pretty good feeling.

I’m not big on working out, but I have been doing that as well for the last few weeks.  I hate to go, but after I do, I feel really good too.  My goal is to be in a bikini this summer….lofty.


Misc. Updates

Yesterday The Princess and I baked together for the first time.  It was fun.  She was into pouring all the ingredients into the bowl and mixing them together, but for me, it meant so much more to do this mother-daughter thing.  Nothing special, just brownies, which from what I have heard, turned out to be delicious.

The Princess Making Brownies

I haven’t talked about the diet for a while, but to give a quick update, I am doing great with the Jenny Craig.  I am more than half-way to my goal weight, having lost more than 18 pounds since I officially began the diet.  More importantly, I went back to the doctor yesterday, and all of my numbers have come down.  Since July, when I last saw him, I have lost 21 pounds.  My cholesterol has gone from 252 to 175, and my trigycerides, which were embarrassing — over 700 — are now 122.  It’s great to look in the mirror and feel better, but I have to tell you, when they gaveEdison in his play me the numbers yesterday, I teared up.  The numbers are the important thing.  Overall, I feel pretty great.

Edison was in a play this week, written by his music teacher and performed by everyone in the third grade at his school. He spent weeks singing and dancing around the house, and even though there were times when I really wished he would stop, there will be times in the future, when other pursuits have garnered his attention, when I will miss that singing.

I am finishing up a book I had to read for the book club called The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff.  It’s one of those books I can’t wait to be done with.  The writing is just okay, nothing overly literary, and at times the narrative is cliche, or just doesn’t feel real, like the author is stretching a limited imagination.  It tells two stories in two separate narratives that the author is trying to somehow relate to one another.

One is a historical fiction about Brigham Young’s 19th wife, who divorces him and sets about on a crusade to end polygamy in the late-19th Century. That part of the book I really like.  It’s fairly well researched and feels authentic.  The other is a modern sort of murder mystery about a 19th wife in a cult-like sect that split of from the Mormons after 1890 who is accused of killing her husband.  Her estranged gay son returns to the small town and proceeds to investigate the case, and I don’t want to ruin it for you, but you know, the mother’s innocent.

But I had some real problems with that part of the book.  First of all, the solving of the murder comes abruptly and totally from left field.  There’s no building of the clues, only a bit of meandering around them.  The explanation of the murder is less than a page, and the motive isn’t fully believable, especially given that the climax is the first we’ve heard of it.  Also, the confession comes after a totally contrived scene where the main character is captured and seems to be threatened, but again, it doesn’t feel as real as the author had been hoping to make it.

My biggest problem was with the main character, who as I mentioned, is gay. Why? Because I guess that would make the story more interesting? The author tells us that the guy spent a little time selling his bod, and on more than one occasion mentions that he was paid by a dude to let him put his “arm in a place where no arm should go.” Ew.  And then, about 2/3 through the book, he meets a guy who falls in love with him and wants him to stay, make a commitment after ONE NIGHT TOGETHER, and the author tries to kind of make a case that it’s hard for Jordan to do that because of how he was raised in the polygamist sect.  He can’t love, you see.  But I felt like — well, he did just meet the guy. Frankly, the love interest comes off more like a creepy stalker than a sincere life partner.  (I pictured him as Kenneth Parcells from 30 Rock, only you know, as a creepy stalker.  If they ever make a movie of this book, Jack McBrayer should totally play the character of Tom.)

 

But I keep turning those pages, because I do want to find out what happened to Ann Eliza Young, Bringham’s 19th wife.  I’m not sure I will find out, and I also worry that we’ll never find out what happened to the son she left behind when she left Utah, though the fact that she misses him is mentioned several times in the course of the story.  I have like ten pages to go.  Then, like Ann Eliza, I will be free (to read something else.)

 

p.s. — just searching on youtube, I found these clips.  Seriously, this is the funniest show on TV:

 

 


What’s Going On

Haven’t written in a while…I have been busy putting dresses on princesses from these Disney sets The Princess got for her birthday.  The dresses are made of rubber, and she can’t really put them on the dolls by herself.  Though she can take them off like nobody’s business.  The sets are great.   I’d say she spends 70-80%

Cinderella Precious Princess Sparkle Bag

Cinderella Precious Princess Sparkle Bag

of her playtime imagining with them.  I had bought her a small Snow White set at the grocery store last month that came with two outfits and a little Dopey doll.  No idea what’s become of Dopey.  Her aunt and uncle got her more expanded sets of Sleeping Beauty and Belle, each of which came with three outfits and some other accessories like Mrs. Pots and Chip, the teacup.  Then yesterday, we were shopping for gifts for upcoming events, and she came across a Cinderella set.  I don’t really like to buy stuff “off-holiday,” but I buckled yesterday because she was so excited about how this set came with Prince Charming.  Plus, like I said, she plays with it almost all day.  So, I caved. And it is pretty cute seeing her imagine them dancing together, humming her off-key, awkward-rhythm waltz.

The only slightly negative thing I have to say about them is that every dress comes with a matching pair of shoes that don’t stay on too well. We have probably lost a third of them so far.  I’m sure if we busted open the vacuum cleaner bag, we would find them.

Speaking of toys — have you ever experienced a kids game called Lucky Ducks?  It’s kind of like the duck pond you would find at a carnival, only there’s no water, and the ducks go around in a motorized circle, making repetitive and squeaky quacking sounds as they do.  The object is to find four ducks with the same color on their bottoms.  The Princess is playing it right now.  I’m telling you, if we took a few of these games down to Guantanamo, and fired them up, we’d be able to find Bin Laden within an hour.

Though I am sure the use of this game is outlawed by the Geneva Convention.

 

Diet Update

In other news, the diet continues.  So far, I have lost 7 pounds, which is motivational for the continuation.  But you know, I still think about the money.  Maybe it’s the part of me that’s always been broke, (a sense I will probably never shake — which I am sure is somewhat comforting to Manfrengensen) but I think, yeah that’s great, but what is it, like fifty bucks a pound?

But I feel good, I must say.  I do see a bit of a difference in my carriage.  Yesterday I actually found an outfit that fits me nicely (though it will look infinitely better with a little tummy control) which is good because in the coming weeks I have many social engagements, baby showers, baptisms and the like.  And of course you know that when you look good, you feel good, dahling.

I have tried a few other things on the menu, and I would like to tell you that if you are planning to do Jenny Craig, you should avoid the Breakfast Scramble.  It’s like an egg and cheese thing served over diced potatoes.  In general, I don’t like to mix my egg and potatoes in a hash-like state, but that wasn’t the worst of it.  I think it was the cheese…too tangy?  Or maybe it was the turkey bacon cubes…too smokey? I don’t know.  Not for me.

 

Good stuff though — Chocolate Walnut Brownie.  Too small.  But brownies always are.


Jenny Craig – Week 1 Overview

Okay — went back to Jenny Craig today.  Over the last week, I lost 3.8 lbs, so I am happy.  They assigned me a new counselor, who was a bit of a seller, which I don’t particularly care for.  I like to just go in, get weighed, get my food, and get out frankly.  I don’t need any cheerleading, or fawning, or anything like that.  So anyway, she was making all this small talk, meanwhile, I’ve got the Princess with me, and she’s running the length of the hall, making like she’s going to leave without me.

She had been pretty good today.  First, we had to go to the doctor in an effort to get rid of this cough I have that’s now on day 11.  Enough already with that. (More about the visit later.)  Then we went to the grocery store, and by the time we got to Jenny Craig, it was like 12:30.

So, the girl’s selling, and she sold me the discount program, which I had already figured I was going to get.  First of all, like I said earlier, I was on Jenny Craig before my wedding, and at that time, I got a “lifetime” membership, so I didn’t have to pay any kind of fee to sign up this time.  They’ve got some promotional deals, like I think they have a “Lose 20 lbs. for $20” deal going on now, but currently, the “membership” is $399.  Then, they have this discount deal where you pay $99 (“for the first year”) and you get 10% off the food for the first ten weeks, 20% off for the second ten weeks, 30% at 30 weeks and 35% off when you reach your goal weight.  Needless to say, I hope to reach my goal around the 20 week mark, but still, I figured I’d make the money back with those discounts.

So, then she says, “What about a pedometer?”  And I was like, “Huh?” And she says how having a pedometer can be really motivational.  So I said, “You know what I find really motivational?  My American Express bill.”  I don’t think she got the joke, but that’s okay because I was kind of kidding on the square.

Anyway, I wanted to tell you about the best and worst of the food I’ve eaten in the last week:

Breakfast:

That stuffed sandwich turned out to be pretty good when paired with taco sauce.

Banana Nut Cereal — surprisingly filling

Maple Nut Cereal — I’d been warned that this was hot, but okay, I like oatmeal, right?  Yuk.

French Toast — Pretty good

Pancakes – Okay too.  The Princess actually begged for and ate a lot of that one.

Lunch

Chicken Salad — not bad.  Adds the sensation of spreading something on a cracker like you’re at a cocktail party.  Came with an unsweetened applesauce that was okay.

Tuna Salad — not as good as the chicken.  And it came with a fruit cup of diced peaches.

Personal Pizza — took a lot less time in my toaster oven than the directions indicated.  Was burnt, but still edible.  I think it will be much better next time. Comes in both a tomato and a pesto variety.  Both were pretty good.

Turkey Burger and Chicken Sandwich — both okay.  Turkey Burger comes with barbeque sauce.  I chose to bake it in the toaster oven, but the middle was still frozen, even after baking it for more time, so I ended up having to pop it in the microwave for 20 seconds.  This seemed to happen often with the sandwiches.  Like this morning, I did the Sunshine Sandwich for breakfast, and the egg was still frozen in the middle, even after baking for 20 minutes.

Dinner

Mesquite Chicken — good, though again, I messed up, read the directions wrong.  It said to “remove mesquite chicken from box.”  So, okay, I peeled back the cellophane on the entree and pried the chicken out from the broccoli and potatoes.  I thought it was weird that I couldn’t remove several potatoes that were frozen from the chicken, but whatever.  Turned out that the directions just meant to remove the entree from the box. Oh. I mean, who cooks the thing inside the box?  At least I’m not that much of a moron. So though it was tasty, because of my glitch there, the chicken was a little rubbery and the broccoli was microwaved to a limp grainy paste.

Sweet and Sour Chicken — Yummy. Made me regret the portion control part of the diet.

Chicken Fetuccini — Not bad. The cheese tasted more “real” than some of the chicken fetuccinis I have gotten at the grocery store.  My microwave kind of burned it a little, so next time, I will scale that back some.

 

Manfrengensen and I went out to eat one night, and I just had a soup and salad at the restaurant. But overall, it was an easy diet to follow.  Of the snacks, my favorites were the salty ones, the cheese curls and popcorn were quite satisfying.  I also had double chocolate cake, which was a little dry, but not bad, and also double chocolate cheesecake. Last night I had the smores bar, which the girl at Jenny had recommended, but it was small, and just okay.  I’m not a big fan of the smore anyway, so don’t go by me on that one.

 

MY DOCTOR’S OFFICE

I really like my doctor, but she has her practice in an urban hospital.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but just sometimes, I see things and people that kind of surprise me.  Like I said, I had to take the Princess with me, so I brought some books and snacks for her.  We were reading, and I was paying attention to the book and her.  The waiting room filled up, and a woman sat on the other side of the Princess’s chair.  She made a bit of a fuss over the Princess, as people sometimes do, and the Princess then proceeded to crawl into my lap and bury her face in my shirt.  This was nothing out of the ordinary.  The Princess is often shy of strangers at first, so though I was looking at her, I was making excuses to the woman, you know, she’s shy, etc.

Then I looked up, at this woman.  She had one tooth. One.  That was it.  Maybe some in the back, but none that I could see.  Only one of her eyes was fully functional, and her face was kind of set in a Popeye-like expression, not that I haven’t set my face in such a way (hey, I don’t claim to be Mrs. America), but I thought, my God, the Princess must think this is like something out of a fairy tale — the kind of scary part.  It was very hard, for me not to act as though I were taken aback, because honestly, I was.  I’m not saying that I expected to see Annette Benning when I looked over there, but the person I did see was wholly unexpected.

 

Here’s another thing about my city: My city’s urban landscape is one littered with the bones of half-eaten chickens, and usually those have been fried at some point. Not always, but usually.  The sidewalks of the downtown area are speckled with old gum and fresh spittle.  It’s not a beautiful place to visit.  I don’t want to seem like I don’t have home town pride.  I do.  But I think these spitters, these gum depositers and the half-chicken eaters kind of ruin it for the rest of us.


Jenny in Practice

So, yesterday I began the full Jenny experience.  Started the morning with the Breakfast Stuffed Sandwich, which is basically a Hot Pocket filled with egg, cheddar and smoked ham.  Not the most tasty thing I have ever eaten, but I’m not a fan of the Hot Pocket in general.  I left about 1/4 of it on the plate.  What I really wanted was the Sunshine Sandwich, which is like a turkey McMuffin, but they were out of that.  Should have opted for cereal or something…maybe if I add some hot sauce or something next time?  I also had some OJ as my fruit serving (1/4 cup) as I seem to be coming down with a cold, and that always helps.

For lunch, I had a salad with the Jenny Asian Sesame dressing.  Not impressed by that.  Too much soy, I think.  In the future, I think I will do my own lo-cal dressings, as the selection at Jenny is limited.  Also had the chicken sandwich. Probably would have been better if heated in toaster oven rather than microwave.  But, I had been out all morning, and forgotten to eat the morning snack (more fruit) so that by the time lunch came, I was ravenously hungry.  Toasting would have taken thirty minutes, and microwave took like two minutes, so you know which way I went. The bun came out a bit soggy, so I toasted it after.  The chicken came out a little rubbery as well, though I kind of expected that.  The honey mustard sauce that came with it was okay. I ate it like a stray dog since I was so hungry, but honestly, I don’t think I will be getting this for lunch again.

Mid-afternoon, I enjoyed the Jenny Anytime Bar in chocolate peanut butter flavor.  It was okay, with an interesting texture to prolong the chewing experience.  Just kidding, it actually wasn’t bad as far as protein bars go.

 

Chicken Fajitas in the foreground

Chicken Fajitas in the foreground

Tonight there were chicken fajitas, which were actually quite tasty, plus I was allowed to put taco sauce on them, so they were even more enjoyable.  There were two of them, and you heat the chicken, peppers and onions in a skillet with the powdered flavoring for five minutes and then roll them up in small tortillas. Overall, very satisfying.

 

All in all, I have to say, I wasn’t too hungry between the meals. I was allowed to have two fruits and pretty much carte blanche in the veggie dept.  For lunch, I added the salad, and that kept me afloat for the better part of the afternoon.

In the evening I got a snack, chocolate graham twists.  Now, on the package, they look a bit like chocolate covered pretzels.  There are some shiny looking twists there, so I was expecting a carob-coated-chocolate like experience.  In actuality, they were a pretzel-shaped-teddy-graham like substance.  Not bad.  A bit drier in texture than a teddy graham, but okay.

This was kind of a different day because we were busy in the evening with soccer practice and a meeting at Edison’s school. Manfrengensen had leftover chicken for dinner and the kids got chicken with their favorite (the only thing they all agree on) mac-n-cheese.  Tomorrow will be more challenging as I will need to cook for all four of them in addition to making my own meal.

I also drank a good deal of water during the course of the day.  It wasn’t bad, though I woke up hungry in the night. I’m thinking this is just an adjustment to diet mode.  My body is still asking for more than the 1200 calories I gave it yesterday because it is used to being fed on demand. But I stepped on the scale this morning, and there was a difference (minus two pounds from Monday).  Maybe some of that is the concerted effort I made before I started, and maybe some is Jenny, but I’m happy.  Seeing the lower number on the scale is always motivational.