Category Archives: food

Choose Your Own Intensive: Days 3 & 4

Yesterday, I had nothing before ballet, so I was properly fed and rested and so forth.

As a result, BW’s class went very well.

After, I went and played at Suspend, where we did all kinds of lifty things in Acro 2.

After that, my car decided to throw a fit and D had to come rescue me (fortunately, I noticed that it sounded weird and didn’t get on the expressway). As result, an already late night got later, and I was too tired to pack lunch.

This morning, D came home early and sent me to Cinci with his truck, which was really sweet of him. I had eaten two hot dogs for lunch, with the intention of grabbing some real food when I got back into Louisville.

In Cinci, partnering class was half really frustrating: I couldn’t hear because my allergies were trolling me, and we were learning partnering phrases, so I kept not quite understanding what was going on[1]. As a result, I kept frustrating my partner, which made me nervous, which makes my brain not work too well.

  1. Also, my body wanted all the fouettés to be tour jetés. WTF, body?

Anyway, we got there eventually.

During the second half, we did group lifts, and that bit went really well. Didn’t hurt that Acro 2 last night was all about the dynamic group lifts :p

Anyway, after Partnering, my plans for food were scuttled by a traffic jam. I resorted to buying Chex mix at a gas station when I refueled the truck. I would be surprised if that even brought me back up to baseline.

Anyway, BW’s final class was more challenging than it should have been, since I basically ran out of juice. I got all the way through anyway, but my grand pirouettes weren’t really all that grand. They started out nice going right, then fizzled, going left, I just worked fourth-passé-second-plié-relevé-plié-relevé, etc, without the actual turns.

On the other hand, I cracked out some nice grand allegro: it was kind of my way of saying, “I value your class and, dammit, I’mma try as hard as I can!”

That backfired, of course, when we proceeded to follow the second grand allegro combo with even moar petit allegro.

Oh, I can now check entrechats six off my goals list. Or, at any rate, I can mark them as done with baseline success but in need of werk, werk, werk, werk. They’re not pretty, but they’re there.

We did 36 of them.

Also, after that, so many Royales, which are my least favorite jump. I mean, seriously, in France there’s a hamburger named after them[2].

  1. I may be employing artistic license here. Who knows?

    Anyway, my legs felt weak and resentful (I suspect that, if you’re a dancer or a cyclist, you understand what I mean), and I resented their resentful attitude (note to self: I need to draw a resentful attitude 😁) until I realized that it wasn’t fair to resent them when it was my own fault for not feeding them.

    Evidently, it takes a lot of calories to run this body at peak performance, or at any rate more than the ≈600 I have it before tonight’s ballet class.

    …Oh, well.

    At any rate, I’m pleased with myself for not giving up. There were a few times in class tonight that my dark side whispered,”You could just say your foot is unhappy!”

    But I didn’t.

    So there’s that.

    Anyway, I’m going to go have a wee soak in some Epsom salts. Tomorrow, I have to leave at 7 AM for Cinci because evidently I’m insane, so after that I’m off to bed.

    Finally, a Mostly-Good Class

    mostly-dead

    From The Princess Bride, via blatant heckin bamboozlery.

    First of all: THANK FREAKING G-D. I have broken my week-long streak of disastrous classes, FINALLY.

    Today in BW’s class, I was not a giant freaking disaster area.

    I did not feel weak.

    I did not forget every single combination (in fact, I managed to remember all but one of them, though for some bizarre reason I kept doing inside-out turns on one of them).

    I did not feel horribly nervous or completely unworthy of BW’s tutelage and as such didn’t spend have the class talking, though I did ask several clarifying questions (another really nice thing about private class).

    My legs didn’t fall off and my foot didn’t start screaming at me.

    …Which is good, because it was, once again, the All Asher, All The Time show.

    When you’re having a terrible week day, nothing will make you feel worse than a private class.

    When you’re having a fairly decent day … erm … well, you’ll probably come out of your private class feeling fairly decent.

    Today definitely fell into that zone: I can tell I’m making progress, but the goalposts keep moving, so I keep thinking I’m so bad at this one thing, but I also think, I’m way better at this other thing.

    I wouldn’t say that I’ve got 100% of my strength back, but I’m also not sure that’s accurate. Were it accurate, I think the 8-8-4-4-2-2 grand battement would’ve killed me.

    In case you’re wondering, that particular grand battement is fairly hard, but still not as hard as Rayevsky’s which, if I remember correctly, went: 8 front, 8 back-inside, 8 side, 8 back, 8-front inside, 8 side, EFFING DETOURNE, straight into the other freaking side. Honestly, I feel like I’m probably missing something in there. Regardless, it’s clear that Mr. R wants his dancers strong—and he teaches with enough precision to warrant it.

    In the hands of an ineffective teacher, that combination could easily become a turnout-destroying exercise in futility, but Mr. R is one of those teachers who have 27 pairs of X-ray vision-equipped eyes arrayed all over their heads so they can call you out on failing to engage one wee finger of your deep rotators even when they’re looking at someone at the far end of the barre.

    Edit: I suspect invisible eyestalks may be involved.

    BW also teaches with that kind of precision. I am still totally in awe of the moment when he shot me exactly the right correction with his back to me and no mirror for guidance.

    Anyway, I think I’m in that in-between zone: kind of between levels. I’m working on sustaining higher extensions and so forth, and that requires a greater degree of strength in the supporting leg. I’m working on cleaner, sharper, turns with higher turn counts[1], which requires a better spot and more accurate placement[2].

    1. …Though, today I was just having a remedial “don’t turn the wrong freaking way” kind of day. There were singles and doubles and one triple, and that was fine, since we were aiming for precision.
    2. …And a steady supporting leg, which in my case also comes down to strength—or, more accurately, the balance of strength, as do extensions. BW noted that, for me, the challenge is balancing the extreme mobility of my hips and the natural strength of my quads by strengthening the rotators and other muscles that oppose the quads. Basically, I need to work on my butt. Even more. And not ever do anything extra with my quads, period, end of story. He might not have actually said that second bit, but it’s kind of implied?

    We also managed to get our petit and medium-ish allegro on, though we skipped entrechats this week. BW was pleased with my changements, which we’ve been modifying to improve my tours[3].

    1. This works because ballet is systematic and sequential: sus-sous balance begets soutenu turn and soubresaut, which in turn begets changement. Soutenu turn and changement together, combined with a strong plié, beget tours and then double tours (or, if you’re me, 1.5 tours >.<).

    BW has a way of saying to me, when we are in the midst of Accidentally Private Men’s Class,We do this this way…” and then explaining some subtle point of men’s technique and what makes that subtle point important.

    A solid double-tour requires that one’s legs squeeze together and stay there through the change of feet and through the rest of the jump, essentially because physics.

    If you ever had the opportunity to play on one of those rotating tire swings as a kid, you probably remember that you could make it spin faster by tucking yourself into a ball or slower by stretching out and leaning outwards.

    If you’ve done dance trapeze, lyra, rope, or any of the other free-spinning aerial circus apparatus that allow it, you also know that you can create insanely fast spin by making yourself into a vertical line that runs right up and down the vertical axis of the spin.

    The same principle applies to tours: the closer everything stays to the vertical axis, the faster you can turn.

    You can’t have your calves flapping around when you have to rotate twice around your own vertical axis before you land (facing the correct direction). That means you have to snap-squeeze your legs right the heck in from the tips of your toes to the tops of your thighs[4].

    1. …So if you’re a dude and you’re going to work on double tours, wear your best dance belt (and a smile, I guess?).

    To build this habit, you do a billion changements in which you do not snap the legs out and bring them back (as pretty as that is), but instead sort of pivot them around each-other as you would in the midst of a soutenu turn[5].

    1. This is moderately counter-intuitive, because in a soutenu turn it doesn’t feel like that’s happening … but it is.

    Anyway, that’s about all the braining I can manage tonight.

    The funny part is that I remembered our medium-ish allegro combination, but still proceeded to do it wrong because my brain would not engage. It ended with assemblé back no change, assemblé changé. That assemblé back no change tripped me up soooo many times, because (like every dancer on earth) I do assemblé changé a lot more often.

    In the end, though, I ran it until I got it right, which is another nice perk of flying solo in class. If you need to get a thing down, you can drill it ’til ya kill it.

    Anyway, I’m taking an extra class tomorrow in honor of BG’s birthday, and then the usual assortment of weekend shenanigans, and then it’s onto my self-imposed Dancer’s Hell Week; my wee Choose Your Own Intensive.

    You guys, I cannot believe it’s June already!!!!!!!

    Moar Whinging, Feel Free to Skip This 

    I’m really feeling a lot better — which is to say A) better enough that I realize how long I’ve been feeling like crap and, B) better enough to have energy to complain about things. 

    Before, I was basically feeling too awful and tired to resent feeling awful and tired (besides which, I basically spent the better part of ten days asleep). Now I’m well enough to be past that, but not well enough to be back to normal. So instead I’m feeling cranky and resentful and sorry for myself. Poor me. Le sigh. 

    I guess that’s progress? 
    The weirdest complaint  is that I’ve apparently forgotten how to eat. This illness just basically killed my appetite, and I kind of don’t think I’ve really been eating enough. 

    Anyway, today we took our friend KH out for dinner, and I ate half a small Caesar salad and three small seared ahi nigirizushi, and then I was ridiculously and depressingly full. 

    Mostly it was depressing because the ahi was so good, and I wish I had skipped the salad (which was horrible because it was overdressed, even though this place does a good, legit Caesar … slimy lettuce is just kind of revolting) and just eaten the fish. I couldn’t even bring it home — it would’ve had to sit in the car for a couple of hours, and it isn’t yet cool enough here to pull that off with fish. (I know: First World Problems all the way, quel dommage.)

    But it’s also annoying because now I’m eating Graham crackers in bed because I know I’m going to wake up starving at 2 AM but everything else seems nauseatingly oversized. I think I’ve taken in maybe 900 calories today. Bleh. 

    I hope my stomach will get its stuff together soon so I can go back to eating like I normally do, because this is no way to fuel a dancer. 

    I don’t have energy enough to complain about real problems right now, at least, so there’s that.

    Anyway, I’m done whinging for now. Tomorrow I shall attempt class, so I’m sure I’ll whinge  about  that, too.

    G’night, errbody. Feel free to drop your own ridiculous, frivolous, but still irritating whinges in the comments; I feel like a self-aware Open Whinging thread could be kinda fun, actually. We can collect them into a book later and call it Fine Whines, and we’ll all be famous on the internets and make a million yen (which is only, like, $10,000 dollars, but that’s a start). 

    Cooking with ADHD: Bread 2.0

    I think I may may have posted my bread recipe at some point in the past, but I’ve updated it a little bit, so here’s the update!

    I have a kitchen scale now, so later on I’ll add metric mass values so those of you cooking in Europe can give it a whirl without having to guess. It works fine by the fairly-inexact American volumetric method, though! 

    You will need:

    • 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus extra for dusting
    • 4.5 teaspoons highly active dry yeast (I recommend SAF red; also, that’s 1.5 tablespoon, by the way; or if you’re using packets, 2 packets)
    • 1.5 cups hottish (not boiling) water (or 1 cup hottish water and .5 cup milk)
    • 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil (margarine or veg oil will work, too!) 
    • 1-2 tablespoons sugar, brown sugar, honey, or malt syrup (your choice)*
    • 1.5 teaspoons salt *

    Ingredients marked * are optional. I like the flavor of bread better with salt (and need tons of salt because my body is crazy), but you can leave it out. The sugar/honey/syrup changes the flavor of the finished bread only a little, but it can help get your yeast going if it’s sluggish. Honey or malt syrup add a little moisture, but not enough to require adjustments (edit: usually).

    I think you can also bake bread entirely without fats, but I haven’t tried it, so I’m not sure how it would turn out. 

    To make the bread:

    1. Combine water, yeast, and sugar. Stir to blend them, then set aside. 
    2. Combine flour, butter/oil, and salt in a large bowl. 
    3. When the yeast mix gets foamy, pour it into the dry mix (if you’re using butter, the hot water will help it melt).
    4. If you’re using milk, pour it in, too.
    5. Stir with a stirring spoon to everything is fairly well blended (don’t worry — it doesn’t have to be anything like perfect!). 
    6. If you have time, give the ingredients about 5 or 10 minutes to rest. This lets the flour take up the liquids. It also lets you find some awesome podcasts to listen to while you knead (might I recommend the History Chicks?). 
    7. Squish everything together a little with your hands, dust your work surface with flour, and dump your dough right onto it.
    8. If you’re like me, set a timer so you don’t find yourself thinking, “OMG, I have been kneading this dough foreeeeeeeevaaaarrrrrr.” 6 to 8 minutes should do the trick.
    9. Ready … set … knead! Remember, no grouchy TV chefs are here, and even if they are, it’s your kitchen — so knead that dough in whatever way works for you!
    10. Ball up the dough, cover it with a damp cloth, and let it rise for 30 minutes (if you’re in a hurry) to 1 hour (if you’re not). Longer than 1 hour is fine, too. If it’s going to sit all day or overnight, though, maybe stick the dough in the fridge so it doesn’t go completely crazy.
    11. When you’re ready to bake, preheat dat oven — I like a darker, crisper crust, so I set it for 450 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
    12.  Punch down your puffed-up, self-important doughball friend, then shape your baguettes or batards or loaf or rolls or boules or what have you. I often do one baguette and either four submarine rolls or eight dinner rolls. 
    13. If you have time, let your dough rise again (like the Mary-Ellen Carter!) for 15 – 30 minutes. this step is optional, but gets you a pooftier end product. 
    14. Bake for 15 (for dinner rolls) to 30 minutes on or in whatever kind of pizza stone, cookie sheet, loaf pan, and/or baguette pan you’ve got on hand. You can probably even use muffin tins (though I haven’t tried that).
    15. Cool (preferably on a rack) for as long as you can stand it.
    16. The most important part! Enjoy your bread while collecting accolades from your friends and loved ones who will be like, “OMG, this person is amazing!”  (Unless they can’t have gluten. I should learn a good gluten-free recipe, because Celiac is no joke.) 

    That’s it! I’ll try to add pictures, and someday, I swear, I really will do a video post about this. 

    Edit: Oh, yeah. You can also also combine steps 1 through 4 and just mix everything together right away, as long as you have good yeast. I like to proof mine because it makes me feel like a mad scientist, but it isn’t really entirely necessary. 

    When I make pizza dough (exact same recipe!), I usually omit the second rise. 

    Pretty Sure I Am Officially A Hippie Now?

    Since returning home from That Thing In The Desert, I’ve been playing catch-up and haven’t been able to resume my normal schedule because reasons, so my apologies for radio silence over here.

    Anyway.

    Just made a quick shopping list, read it to myself, and am feeling vaguely appalled because it reads:

    +bread
    +cucumbers
    +hummus

    I feel like I should put bacon (the ultra-processed kind, not the free-range artisan-crafted kind) or hot dogs on there just to de-hippify it a little.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with hippies; it takes all kinds. But, wow.

    Today’s Lunch

    Lunch today at J. Carino’s Italian Grill, an Italian-American casual dining sort of place with a $7.99 small plates lunch menu from which I didn’t order, because I was tempted away by eggplant parmesan (which I could fully justify, as I’m certainly going to burn it off tonight!).

    Decent bread and seasoned olive oil arrived immediately, and I chose to start off with a Caesar salad, which was quite good in spite of the usual Midwestern lack of anchovies. The dressing still carried those nice umami-salty notes one hopes for from a good Caesar. The croutons, alas, did not live up to the salad; they weren’t terrible, but rather roundly mediocre. I added fresh ground pepper from a pepper mill at table.

    My entree was quite good – crisp, tender, and flavorful; the fruit well-chosen to avoid the bitterness that sometimes characterizes the flavor of larger specimens (which, to whit, I don’t mind, but many dislike). A sound but-not-excessive coat of cheese and a layer of spinach between the eggplant slices (a welcome innovation, to my palate) rounded things out.

    An enormous pile of spaghetti (cooked slightly less al dente than I prefer, but quite acceptable) and a very serviceable marinara — willing to take the back seat, but far from flavorless, and not suffering from the unfortunate sweetness that often plagues Midwestern marinara – topped it off.

    I saved half of my eggplant and most of the pasta for supper; it’s true that dancing is hungry work, but I didn’t want to explode!

    I finished up with a nicely-portioned mini chocolate cake (a lemon cream cake looked tempting, but wasn’t available in the manageable miniature size). Plenty of bitter cocoa flavor here, which offset a slightly-too-sweet chocolate frosting. A tiny scoop of quite nice vanilla ice cream dusted with cocoa powder played very well.

    Overall, quite a bit better than I had expected for an Italian-American joint in a the orbit of a shopping mall in Lexington, KY. Service was also good — attentive without being invasive. I would have liked a little more time with my salad, but I eat very, very slowly, so most will probably find the timing quite acceptable.

    I will definitely keep Carino’s Italian Grill in my roster of lunch places in this area.

    Total came to $19.36 before tip. I tipped generously for excellent service that took me seriously even though I showed up wearing my octopus swim trunks and a deep-v t-shirt (and probably looking like some broke kid who might not tip well) 😉

    Modern Monday: Thoughts on Picking Up Combinations; Also on Food

    I’ve been working on a strategy for combination-acquisition that Modern T recommended to me, and I really think it’s probably the best way to go.

    In short, instead of hand-miming or subtly marking the combo as it’s handed out, you just stand (or, in some cases, sit) there and watch — really watch and ingest; get a good, solid mental video.

    Then, if there’s a repeat of the demo or a verbal explanation, you can mime or mark as needed. It also helps to program in the counts (and swing and swing and swing and around, or what have you) on the repeat if you think you’re going to get lost.

    This approach prevents you from missing critical points — the direction of a turn; what exactly happens during a change of direction; whether there’s an extra step or a direct weight transfer; what’s happening with arms and necks and shoulders and backs.

    I did this throughout most of class today. Sometimes it felt really weird to be standing there just watching while much of the rest of the class was doing the subtle-marking method and my brain cells were firing like crazy, trying to make parts of me move.

    On the other hand, it worked.

    Throughout much of the class, I had the choreography down about as well as anyone. I felt solid doing it, even though sometimes my body was busy going, “WTF, THIS IS NOT GOOD BALLET, I WANT TO DO GOOD BALLET.” Sometimes my body doesn’t get the memo that modern != ballet.

    To be frank, this kind of watching is hard for me. I tend to space out (and then start jiggling) when I’m standing still (thanks, ADHD!) — so this kind of “just watching” involved a very conscious, intentional imbibing*.

    *Belatedly, I’ve realized that it’s the same way I watch compelling dance performances (which also explains why I have really good mental “video” of quite a few of them).

    I totally failed to apply this lesson going across the floor. I started out with good intentions, but then realized I was in somebody’s way, took a step — and suddenly I was soft-marking along and missing really critical elements (Wait, isn’t there a third triplet? And is that hop-tour lent thing on the upstage leg or the downstage leg? And why am I doing it as if it was an sauté-fouetté?!).

    As such, my across-the-floor combination was a straight-up disaster.

    I did it wrong, then did it another flavor of wrong, then did it a still another flavor of wrong… Literally every pass (and we did the combination at least four times each way) was a new, unique, and different kind of more-or-less entirely incorrect.

    Yeah, I got a bit frustrated, there. Like, seriously, for once in my life, when Modern T said, “Do you want to do it again, or are you guys done?” I was the one who said, “I’m done.” (And then did it twice more anyway.)

    But, at any rate, I learned a valuable lesson about how I absorb choreography (and, um, knowing is half the battle, I guess?).

    Okay!

    Moving right along.

    Some thoughts I’ve been kicking around with G+ friends have led me to reflect on my eating patterns, and I’ve realized that I eat quite differently for a strongly dance-based lifestyle than I did when I was training for bike racing.

    I’m not at all sure I’m Doin’ It Rite™, but — at any rate — I’ve noticed that dancing doesn’t seem to make me as hungry as cycling (I think I’ve touched on this before) and that my “fueling” strategy is quite a bit higher in carbs than it was for cycling.

    Some of this, of course, is sheer disorganization. I have not adapted amazingly well to my current schedule, which often involves dance classes in the morning, a brief break in the afternoon, and aerials or more dance classes in the evening.

    Basically, I am not good at changing gears, and thus am not the kind of person who can get much done in the gap — so I do less cooking than I should and more, well, scavenging for anything quick, basically.

    I have at least finally managed to mostly get on top of breakfast, for the most part. Breakfast is usually ~113 grams of plain Greek yoghurt, ~70 grams of unsweetened frozen berries (I happen to particularly like the blends that include cherries), and 25 – 30 grams of whatever kind of not-super-sugary granola looks promising.

    If this sounds astonishingly precise for me, I promise, it’s really a function of the fact that it’s easier to scoop yoghurt out with a spatula, weigh it, and hit “tare” a few more times as more things are added than it is to shove it into a measuring cup, then transfer it into a bowl or whatevs.

    I also have fancy yoghurt bowls that keep the crunchy stuff separate until you’re ready to eat. Using frozen berries means I have to make the yoghurt parfaits ahead of time, which saves me from having to fumble around with the kitchen scale in the morning.

    On days that I fail to crawl out of the crypt bed in time to actually eat like an adult (or at least a toddler), I still tend to desperately chug protein shakes on the way to class. For such emergencies, I use Orgain (Creamy Chocolate Fudge) because it’s low in sugar, decent in the fiber department, tastes okay, and isn’t horribly expensive. My base of choice is unsweetened almond milk, but it’s perfectly good with regular milk. I usually add coffee concentrate and a touch of vanilla extract, but it’s acceptable without.

    *There is also a fine line between just enough breakfast and too freaking much breakfast, OMG, please stop the sloshing, but I really prefer not to think about the far side of that line. I’d rather err on the side of caution — ’tis better to feel puny in class than pukey.

    Dinner is frequently some species of pasta — I’m particularly fond of ziti and penne rigate — because I can make that ahead in huge batches and reheat it later. My sauce of choice comprises an “Italian seasoned” tomato paste, a ton of diced tomatoes (usually canned, because laziness), basil, oregano, garlic, onions (sauteed in a little olive oil and red wine), sometimes mushrooms, and either meatballs (sometimes frozen, sometimes turkey) or sausages.

    This makes it sound like I plan better than I do.

    If I were really any good at planning, there would be far fewer nights on which we eat dinner at 9 PM when I’ve arrived home at 7:45 :/

    Interestingly, I almost never ate pasta when I was racing bikes (except when I was intentionally carb-loading). Training rides tended to make me insanely hungry and I would just go crazy with the pasta; I generally substituted raw cabbage for the actual noodles (the sauce heats the cabbage just enough to be crisp-tender, which is awesome).

    I’m much better, now, at figuring out when I’m full, so I actually do eat pasta. I still often add either raw cabbage or raw baby spinach, though (because veggies ftw).

    In the past, my breakfasts were also generally lower in carbs than they are now.

    Meanwhile, lunch is just a horrible, ongoing, unmitigated disaster of food-on-the-fly right now. How desperate my choices are depends upon how well I’ve walked that fine line between just enough breakfast and way the hell too little breakfast*.

    I am not too proud to admit that I lunch has recently featured such stellar choices as a fried chicken sandwich, half a Whopper (apparently, I can’t eat an entire Whopper), or pizza from a gas station’s convenience store.

    This doesn’t really seem to be making any impact on my baseline health statistics (if anything, it’s the only thing stopping my blood pressure moving from “low” to “undetectable”), but it probably does significantly impact my ability to not be a horrible, face-eating hypoglycemia monster by the time my evening classes roll around.

    So basically, in summary:

    When I raced bikes I was hungry all the time, limited my carbs, and was much better at lunch.

    Now, my appetite is more manageable even though I burn roughly the same number of calories on any given day (if not more, because I have more upper-body muscle than I used to — so, seriously, wtf), I eat pasta like it’s going out of style, and I am terrible at lunch.

    The next step, then, is to figure out how to eat lunch on the fly without spending a gajillion dollars. I mean, obviously, I know how to eat lunch (open mouth, insert foot food), but the question is how to plan ahead and make food to bring with me (because apparently it’s not super safe to just leave a giant bowl of pasta in your car and assume it’ll be nice and hot by the time you get out of class…).

    So that’s today’s installment. Not incredibly informative to anyone who isn’t me, I’ll wager, but it has helped me identify a “next step” I wasn’t thinking about (that is, how to handle lunch).

    To Build A Birdhouse: Why “MyPlate” and All The Lifestyle Guides In the World Aren’t Enough

    (Or, well, some of the reasons, anyway.)

    I’ve been reading some really good articles about re-framing our cultural conversation around body size and, for once, reading the comments*, and I’ve discovered that, when it comes to talking about things like diet an exercise, many of us lose sight of one really critical idea:

    Knowing about a thing isn’t the same
    as knowing how to do that thing.

    *You guys, deciding not to even look at the G-d-forsaken comments except in special cases has been one of the best decisions I ever made.

    I repeat:

    Knowing about a thing isn’t the same as knowing how to do that thing.

    …And it really isn’t the same as knowing how to do that thing in a way that works for us, that feels good (which is far, far more important than we like to acknowledge), and that lets us keep doing it indefinitely.

    If it was, a lot more of us would look exactly the way we want to look (within the limitations imposed by our genetic makeup, anyway — some of us build bigger muscles easily, some of us have long and elegant muscular insertion points, etc.).

    Read the rest of this entry

    Getting By: Food

    Occasional forays into the world of fast food notwithstanding, most of the time, I eat pretty well — blah blah, varied diet, lots of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, cook from scratch, etc. I can’t really gloat about that, by the way; it just happens that if you made a Venn diagram in which one circle represented “foods I really like” and the other “foods I find easy to prepare” basically includes all that stuff. I am lazy; I like leaves, therefore, salad.

    I don’t bother my pretty head about the hot micro- or macronutrient of the moment, I don’t place anything off limits (except walnuts and their relatives, because I’m deathly allergic); there are just some things I eat less often and/or in smaller portions. If I want to eat steak, I eat steak; if I want to eat cake, I eat cake (isn’t that a Cat Stevens song?). Consistently excellent basic health indices — blood pressure, pulse, cholesterol, triglycerides, etc — confirm that this strategy works just fine for me.

    When I’m struggling with Bipolar crap, though, sometimes that goes out the window. Depressions represent the tanking of, among other things, dopamine levels and the attendant ability to perceive pleasure. Manias represent … jeez, who even knows, let’s call it wild over-activation of so many systems … but they obliterate the small capacity for planning and patience required by my normal diet.

    What this boils down to is that, sometimes, I more or less live on bread and butter for days. Denis is my saving grace; usually, I have to feed him at least once a day, so I generally manage to feed myself as well … though sometimes what I feed us is macaroni and cheese from a box, because that only requires one pan and, like, twelve minutes.

    Meanwhile, I find baking bread pretty therapeutic. It’s one of the few things I can reliably do during depressions and manic episodes — there’s a lot more stomping and cursing involved during mixed manias, but even then it still gets done almost every day. I’ve baked enough bread now that it’s essentially an automatic process (though when I tried to bake bread while still fighting off the dregs of my most recent illness, I was sufficiently out of it that I forgot to add yeast).

    A few minutes ago I was “woefully wonder(ing) why, my dear” (because depression) I have abandoned actually eating real food in favor of sort of grazing on bread… and then I realized, “Oh, right. Depression.”

    And then it occurred to me that, while it’s not an ideal solution, it’s one that gets me by, and I guess that’s okay.

    Depression can be reductive like that.

    Personally, I don’t believe that worrying about what you “should” or “shouldn’t” eat is a very effective strategy in the first place — it’s much better to work your way in, cultivate a taste for a group of more health-sustaining foods, and allow yourself room for foods that other people might call “bad,” but less often and perhaps in smaller portions, if you find they’re affecting your health. Arbitrarily declaring foods to be “bad” and “off-limits” is far too often a recipe for cravings and disaster.

    The acute phase of any depression, meanwhile, renders the whole point moot. If you’re someone who just plain can’t eat anything except bread (or chocolate, or boxed mac-and-cheese, or things prepared by other people, or curry takeaways) during the worst parts of your depressions, there’s a good deal of sense in doing so.

    Better to eat a ridiculous, unbalanced diet for a few weeks (or even for years) than to starve to death — especially if something within that ridiculous, unbalanced diet grants you even a little pleasure.

    Every drop of pleasure counts when you’re fighting a tidal wave of depressive anhedonia (in short, because neuroscience). That argument breaks down a bit when you’re talking about things that can swiftly create much worse problems — acquiring an addiction to a substance that can wreck your health overnight probably isn’t really going to help, for example, so it might not hurt to try to avoid doing that, if possible … though it’s not always possible; it’s not always as simple as “just saying no”  when you’re trying to reach the other end of the tunnel alive.

    Which, I guess, is kind of what I’m saying. Like physical illness, acute episodes of mental illness take the niceties of life off the table. The idea is to survive; you can sort the collateral damage later on.

    So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go eat some bread and creep one day closer to the light at the end of my tunnel,which I hope won’t turn out to be an oncoming train.

    Dear Internet

    … I suspect you may have reached Maximum Irony when you first offered up what sounds like a great recipe for nut-free fruitcake…

    … and then suggested TOPPING IT WITH ROWS OF NUTS*.

    >.<

    *I realize that this is, in fact, a totally valid configuration for people who aren't allergic to nuts and maybe just want their fruitcake to really, really feature the nuts.

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