Archive for the ‘Preparation’ Category

Categorizing my pathology

January 2, 2011

I feel the need to categorize my month off the wagon. I seem to want to believe that putting the reasons for the behavior into buckets will help me see it coming next time, and do something about it. It’s a reasonable hypothesis, even if it is perhaps overly hopeful. In any event, it can’t hurt, right?

So. Why did I spend a month off my diet? Here are the possible reasons I’ve come up with.

1. Self-loathing

Of all the reasons for suddenly going off the wagon, I find this one to be both the most tempting and the most dubious. It’s satisfyingly new-agey, yes? Painful relations with my family and friends caused me to regret my part in the blowups. I didn’t particularly like myself, so I abused myself. Simple, yes?

Well… I don’t know. I don’t doubt that self-abuse could have played a part, but I feel like it must be a smaller part than the more theatrical bits of me would like. This feeling comes mainly from #2.

2. Comfort

As I said in the previous post, I love to eat. I think that this gets lost in my sober regrets and reflections on the damage I’m doing to myself. It would be a mistake for me to forget the joy I get from eating, because it lies very close to the core of me. It’s real. It’s simple. And it’s immensely powerful. So I think that Occam’s Razor tends to slice a bit of emphasis from #1 and apportion it to #2. In other words, there’s little reason to conjure a psychological construct of self-punishment when it’s quite clear that I get a direct and simple pleasure from the act of eating. I was hurting, so I took comfort in food — simple as that.

3. Balance of forces

This is a passive version of #1. It requires only a decrease in my self-respect, as opposed to an active self-loathing. Picture my level of dieting success as the resultant of opposing forces: on the one hand I have the drive to be healthy; on the other hand, I have the desire to eat the world. If the former is bigger than the latter, then I will stay on my diet. If it’s not, I won’t. Which means that, if my drive to be healthy is tied to my self-respect, I may have disliked myself into falling off the wagon.

That’s all I got. So. What can I do about these factors?

Where #1 is concerned, I see little I can do on my own aside from telling myself that I’m not a bad person, and that I don’t deserve to punish myself.

I’m not sure if I can or should do anything about #2. I was hurting, and I needed what I needed. Hmmm. I’m going to have to think about that one some more, because as a truism it’s obviously prone to being overdrawn.

Similarly to how I might tackle #1, I might be able to ameliorate #3 by giving myself a break. I need to understand that, even though I’ve made mistakes, I’m no less deserving of treating myself right. #3 also lends itself to the sort of clinical analysis I mentioned in the previous post. If I can keep in mind the deleterious effects on my body, it will help me tip the scales toward wanting to be healthy.

I don’t know if all this mental gamboling amounts to much. I hope that it helps me understand why I fall off the wagon, and that understanding the mechanics of one fall can help me forestall another.


Redirecting my energies toward planning

January 2, 2011

It’s day two of being back on my diet, and I’ve had my small egg sandwich, a cup of tea, and a few nibbles on Gwyn’s fruitcake. Now I’m immersed in planning, not only for the sake of preparing to eat right, but as a means of redirecting my mind from all the food I’d love to be eating.

I just created a “Recipes” folder in my Yahoo mail and moved all the recipes I could find into it. Not only did I find some old family recipes that I’d sent myself over the years, I found some things I’d forgotten about. I’m very excited about one in particular: the Joy of Cooking refrigerator cookies that Grace made back in 2007. She made the butterscotch variant, and the cookies sent me into paroxysms of delight. So now I’ve got something to look forward to that will help me get through this week: making a batch of refrigerator cookies on my eat-whatever-I-want day next weekend.

Another recipe I found was for my mother’s “German Filled Cookies” that she made according to her mother’s recipe. I remember that the filling contains at least apples, pineapples, raisins and cherries; I need to suss out the details with my sister. Here is the recipe for the dough.

4 eggs
4 c sugar
1 c shortening
2 c sour cream
2 tsp baking soda
4 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
add flour to make a soft dough – 10 or 12 cups

…and then of course there’s the other old family recipe I’ve been wanting to make for years: suet pudding. Next time I’m at the family home, I’ll have to get the recipe from the old black three-ring binder in which my mother kept all her recipes. January is the ideal time for suet pudding.

Now, on to my plans for today. First, I need to get some exercise. Second, I need to get to the store and buy some broccoli, bananas, oranges and biscotti so that I can get back into the habit of strategic satiety via healthy snacking. Third, I need to get some more exercise.

Well. Here I go!

Hold steady

November 12, 2010
Antibiotic and chest decongestant

Antibiotic and chest decongestant

I’ve been very sick this week. Until Wednesday I was focusing on fighting off the sickness, and between Wednesday and today I was focusing on diagnosing and treating it. This morning I went to the Minute Clinic at CVS, where the Nurse Practitioner diagnosed me with an upper respiratory infection and a bilateral ear infection. Since then I’ve started taking amoxicillin, Mucinex and pain-relieving ear drops, in addition to the frequent doses of cold medicine I’ve already been taking.

I’m feeling a bit better but I’m also feeling apprehensive, and a wee bit sorry for myself. I remember well my usual reaction to a ten-day course of antibiotics.

Days 1-5 “Hey, this is barely affecting me at all. I’m awesome!”
Day 6: Ugh. Can’t. Move.
Days 7-10+: Moping about and feeling useless.

I’ve been thinking not only of my past reactions to antibiotics, but of my past reactions to being sick. Too often during the last several years, I’ve found myself feeling sad and frustrated about not being able to exercise, and reacting to this in the worst possible way: by spiraling down into a hole of depression and overeating.

I can’t let that happen again.

Today I got a strong urge to go out for “comfort food” to assuage my misery. I narrowly avoided this pitfall by reminding myself that my eat-whatever-I-want day is tomorrow. After tomorrow, and especially when the antibiotics start playing merry hob with my system, it’s going to be much more difficult. I have to stay focused. I can’t go off the rails again.


September 14, 2010


I got this thing years ago when I wanted to increase my grip strength, which was important at the time because I was ramping up my dumbell exercises. I never used it much.

There’s no reason not to use it on my walks aside from laziness. And I have several good reasons to want more grip strength right now. First, I want to get into lifting again, and I’ll need it for that. Second, I’m frustrated that I can’t seem to give much of a massage these days without my hands aching. I must be getting old. I want strong hands so that I can give Grace a nice long foot rub.

So I took this picture thinking that, if I posted it and told you that I’m going to start doing grip exercises every day, it would increase my chances of actually doing so.


“I am going to start doing grip exercises every day.”

Bushwhacking and hiking Black Bear Mountain

September 11, 2010
From Bushwhacking south of Uncas and Climbing Black Bear Mountain – September 11, 2010
From Bushwhacking south of Uncas and Climbing Black Bear Mountain – September 11, 2010
From Bushwhacking south of Uncas and Climbing Black Bear Mountain – September 11, 2010
From Bushwhacking south of Uncas and Climbing Black Bear Mountain – September 11, 2010
From Bushwhacking south of Uncas and Climbing Black Bear Mountain – September 11, 2010

I loaded up my pack with the tent, a sleeping pad, a gallon of water, and pretty much everything else that I’d need for an overnight hike. We weren’t planning to camp out, but I want not only the pack’s weight, but its weight distribution, to match what it will be when I am camping out. That way I not only burn more calories, but I condition my body with a full dress rehearsal.

Last Sunday we had a lot of fun bushwhacking back to the trail around the base of Black Bear Mountain. The character of the hike was pleasingly different from a trail hike. We had to climb up over downed logs, mossy boulders and granite ridges, so we got the pleasure not only of working our way through isolated deer and bear habitats, but of exercising different muscles than we would have otherwise.

Since we enjoyed bushwhacking so much, we decided to do it again today with one variation: we’d cut south-by-southwest rather than southeast, the idea being to climb Black Bear from the west, descend along the eastern trail, and take the main trail back to Uncas Road.

Since we were bearing roughly south-by-southwest, I was hopeful that we’d encounter a memory from my childhood: a granite cliff that my father used to take me to see. Sbout twenty minutes into the hike, I spotted a cliff face to the left. We walked toward it, and sure enough, it was the one I remembered.

I walked along the base, awash in pleasant remembrances and wondering what, if anything, my father was trying to communicate to me when he brought me to that place. Had he told me something specific about it that I’d forgotten? Was it special to him in some way that he didn’t share? Or was it just a dramatically beautiful spot?

We worked our way around and up, and explored the top of the giant granite slab. The “ground” was the biggest, thickest carpet of moss I’ve ever seen, and the lichen population was more lush and varied than I’ve ever seen. If I ever want to spend a few hours taking macro shots of lichens, I know where to come.

As I made my way over fallen logs and around dense patches of trees toward the edge, I had a thought. It’s possible that this was the site of an incident my father used to tell me about. He was out in the woods hunting, and night fell before he returned. So he was walking back (to camp? right here?) in the dark, and he climbed up onto a log. He was about to jump down over the other side, but to be safe he shined his flashlight down first. The light shone down into a thirty-foot drop.

We continued on our original bearing, making our way up over ridges and down into ravines. Judging from the number of droppings I saw, we were going straight through deer central. The woods seemed unusually quiet and windless: I suspect that some peculiarity of the terrain causes this stillness, because I’ve never seen a small branch just sit on a rock until moss covers it, as the one in the picture did.

We joined the trail well to the west of where I was shooting for, but I did pretty well considering the irregularity of the terrain. We wound our way east to the trail junction, marveling at several species of plants, such as a sessile pine, that I don’t think I’ve seen before. At the junction I smiled with the pleasure of finding a big spider enjoying its latest meal in a curled leaf where one of its web anchors was fastened.

We climbed Black Bear from the west side. We like that trail because there are lots of fun rocks to climb over, and there are several sudden and breathtaking views that heighten the anticipation for the summit. Right at the steepest part, where the tail goes up over sheer-faced slabs of granite, we met a family hiking down. They had two young kids with them, which was great to see. We told them about other hikes in the area that are good for kids, such as Moss Lake.

Even though I was very tired and uncoordinated from lack of sleep, and wearing a fairly heavy pack, the climb up Black Bear seemed easier than it’s ever been. I felt triumphant and happy: after working for months to lose weight and condition my body, I could feel the fruits of all my labors.

We drank water and took pictures at the top, and made our way down the other side among thick mats of red-tinged moss. We got back to camp at about 7:20, just before the sky got dark enough to matter. It was a satisfying and successful hike, right down to the timing!


September 11, 2010

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Now that’s a great thing to see: the “CLOSED” sign in the window of Mary’s being moved just as I pull up!

When the alarm went off at 6:40 this morning, about three hours after I went to sleep, I did not do what might seem the only sane thing. But you see, Grace had set the alarm per my request. The donuts and cookies and pastries at Mary’s are that good.

My cinnamon doughnuts and pillow cookies, and Grace’s plain doughnut, were all waiting on the racks. But I didn’t see an eclair, which was part of Grace’s order. I mentioned to the fellow behind the counter (Gosh I’m terrible with names!) that I was looking for an eclair, and it turned out that there were some coming out in five minutes! So I got everything we wanted.

One of the main hopes for this process of reexamining my relationship with food is that I may change what I want. I want my desires to less resemble the hedonistic and feral imperative “Eat all that I can.” So, since last night, I’ve been focusing: I’ve remembered how bloated I felt last weekend, and the weekend before, at the end of an excessive eat-whatever-I-want day; I’ve remembered the disappointment of seeing a three-pound weight gain over the weekend, despite climbing a high peak; and I’ve planned today’s eating so that I don’t even try to pack eight gallons of food into a five-gallon day. Because gorging myself is not what I want.

And that’s why I came back from Mary’s with less than on previous trips — notably without one of those delicious cheese Danish. Today, “everything I wanted” amounted to less than it once did. That makes me hopeful.

Acadia map!

September 8, 2010
Me with my new waterproof, tear-resistant National Geographic map of Acadia National Park

Me with my new waterproof, tear-resistant National Geographic map of Acadia National Park

Woo hoo! Grace just got home, and she brought with her a package from Amazon containing two things: a CD of Charlie Parker’s “Jazz at the Philharmonic 1949” album, and the map of Acadia that you see me holding with great delight.

This couldn’t have come at a better time. I have two days left at work, and in order to make sure that I don’t explode during those last two days, I need to focus on my post-Goldman-Sachs Maine getaway more than ever. Holding that map in my hot little hands helps me do just that.

Oooooh, I’m so excited. Looking back at my climb up Giant on Monday, remembering how easily I hefted that pack, and feeling my pride in all the conditioning I’ve done, I’m more thrilled than ever at the thought of two solid weeks of exploring all the trails of Acadia. I will climb enough mountains to burn off the beer and barbecue I plan to eat every day. You watch me!

Delicate negotiations

September 7, 2010

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Grace and I were both getting hungry by the time we reached Route 87, so we decided to just take an exit and find a diner. The first attempt was as time-consuming, frustrating and fruitless as those searches often are. We took a right after the exit, following the blue knife-and-fork signs. They didn’t lead us to an eatery, at least not one that was still in business. Instead we got a poignant blast from my past like some perverse anti-consolation prize: the decrepit remnant of Frontiertown!

Soon after we got back on the Northway, Grace googled and found a diner in Glenns Falls with very good reviews. But we were getting hungry, and something unpleasantly familiar was happening in my brain.

When we went to Bar Harbor in July, I became crotchety and sullen because of the conflicting imperatives crowding out every other thought: must follow diet; must enjoy vacation by eating local food. I was obsessed, and there was no solution. When we got back, I decided that it wasn’t worth it: on those occasions when following my diet is going to tear me apart and make me hard to be around, I’m just going to cut myself some slack and pick up the pieces later.

As we drove south along Route 87 I realized that the same thing was happening again: I desperately wanted to follow my diet; but dammit, I’d just climbed a high peak and I deserved a real breakfast! Once I recognized the sound of gears jamming in my head, I cut the power before they started to smoke: I told myself that I’d get whatever breakfast I needed to not make myself crazy.

Once I’d decided to cut myself a little slack, I had to figure out just how much slack myself would be satisfied with. I thought that I could live with the compromise of eating a substantial cheese omelet but making like Nancy Reagan with the bacon and home fries.

But there was a problem. If we stopped at that diner in Glenns Falls with the good reviews, myself would do its level best to convince me that I had to have the bacon and home fries: “I’m never in Glenns Falls at breakfast time! This may be the only opportunity I’ll ever have to experience the bacon and home fries at this little hidden gem of a diner, certainly unique in all the world!”

So I expressed all this to Grace and, bless her heart, she was fine with avoiding the highly-rated diner. Anyway, we were both getting very hungry and she desperately needed coffee. So we got off at the next exit, which turned out to be Pottersville.

We followed the signs with the knife and fork symbol, hoping that these weren’t lying like the ones in dinerless North Hudson. Maybe I should have asked the sign what its counterpart up the road would say if I asked it whether there was a diner nearby.

Just around the corner from Stone Bridge Coffee Shop, which turned out to be closed, we found Hometown Deli & Pizza. We got a table and then I remembered that the plan was to get our food to go. This would not only save time; it would also minimize the time spent inside the establishment, that perilous window of opportunity for me to order bacon and home fries.

So we went back to the counter and I ordered a three-egg omelet with Provolone and a hot chocolate. And that’s all I ordered, which turned out to be more of a trick than I’d anticipated. Just look what was waiting for me on the pastry shelves a few feet to the right of the cash register.

Come on. Chocolate muffins with cream cheese filling? Give me a damned break here!

Well, we gave the waitress our order. And I stared at the muffins and turnovers. And I waited for our order. And I took a picture of the muffins and turnovers. And I paid for our order. And I walked outside.

Without a muffin or a turnover.


Deferring my eat-whatever-I-want day

August 21, 2010
Man with Carrot

Man with Carrot

Morgan is having her wisdom teeth taken out on Monday morning, so I offered to keep her company on Monday and Tuesday. Then, a few days ago, it hit me: I should save my eat-whatever-I-want day until Monday. That way I can have pizza from New York Pizzeria in Sherrill, ice cream from Zems in Canastota, and my rarest of all treats: a bear claw and some cookies at Provisions Bakery. I used to get goodies from Provisions when I worked right across the street in the late nineties. Since it’s not open on weekends, I’ve had the opportunity to get food there about three times in the ten years since I moved away!

So. Here I sit with my carrot. This will be the first time I’ve delayed my eat-whatever-I-want day this far. It won’t be fun, but come Monday I’ll be glad I did.

So… Damn… Psyched…

August 13, 2010

The other day I e-mailed Atlantic Brewing Company, telling them how much I loved their beer and the Mainely Meats barbecue, and pointing them to my post about it. I got response from Barbara at the brewery, thanking me and asking when they could expect me. I told her that I was thinking of coming up for a week or two ending on Columbus Day, and asking if they had any special events I should plan around. Today I got the following response.

Hello Hugh,

Columbus Day Weekend is a good one. Saturday is the Octoberfest in Southwest Harbor, and Mainely Meat BBQ participates in that too.

At noon on Sunday, there is a war canoe race on Long Pond to benefit the Muir Cancer Fund, which was started in honor of one of our former tour guides. They are always looking for more paddlers, if you would like to join in. After the race, all the canoeists come back to to the brewery for BBQ, and then at 3:00, weather permitting, we hold belt sander races in the courtyard (yes, the power tools; they race side by side in wooden tracks).

We look forward to seeing you.

Thank you,
Atlantic Brewing Company
15 Knox Road
Bar Harbor, ME 04609
207-288-BEER (2337)

Are you KIDDING me?? Canoeing, beer and barbecue??? I’m not even certain I’m rated for such a surfeit of pleasure, much less deserving of it.

I found the following on a Bangor Daily News calendar of events.

Sunday, Oct. 10
At Bar Harbor, Long Pond, War Canoe Race, flat water, registration 10:30-11:30 a.m., $20 includes all-you-can-eat barbecue at Atlantic Brewing Company, noon start, call Tammy Kelly at 667-3947 or email

I sent Tammy an e-mail about the war canoe race. Then I found a site about last year’s Oktoberfest. It looks pretty sweet, yeah?

I dug around the Acadia website and quickly concluded that Blackwoods Campground was my best choice. I used the reservations site to find out that there are still around 200 sites at Blackwoods available for the weeks leading up to Columbus Day!

I looked at bus schedules and concluded that, although I’ll have to transfer from one bus route to another, getting from Acadia to the brewery and back should be fairly easy. However, the last bus back from near the brewery is at around 8:00 PM. That’s not late enough for an evening beer and barbecue outing. So I started thinking in terms of going out to the brewery in the middle of the day. This idea seemed better and better the more I thought of it, because I remembered that my eat-whatever-I-want days go best when I have strenuous exercise before and after my huge meal.

I found a calendar of sunrise and sunset times, and finally came up with my tentative plan: I’ll spend the two weeks ending with Columbus Day weekend hiking in Acadia, spending only $20 per night to camp right there in the park. I’ll get up at around 5:00 AM each day, grab a shower, load my pack, and hit the trail for three or four hours. I’ll hike north over Cadillac or Dorr or Champlain or whatever strikes my fancy. Then I’ll catch a bus, transfer to another bus, and hit the brewery for lunch. I’ll take buses back to Acadia in the afternoon, work off a good bit of lunch with more hiking, and then head back to camp at dusk.

This is what I needed: a reward to focus on that will get me through these last agonizing weeks at Goldman Sachs. I’m motivated now more than ever; in the next five or six weeks I’m going to condition, and be leaner and stronger when I hit those trails in late September.