It only matters what works for you.

Archive for the ‘outside expectations’ Category

Unico 20.87- Unplugged

 

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Riviera Maya let us unplug. That’s not to say that Unico didn’t have complete wireless access everywhere on the property. It did. They also assured me that they offered free long distance calls to the States and Canada. But we had agreed that we would treat it as a cruise, where internet or phone access is ridiculously priced so we opt out. I checked my email twice a day to see if there was anything from my cat sitters and that was it. We unplugged. No phone, no news, no social media.

I don’t realize how much all the frantic activity wears on me until I opt out of it. I ‘knew’ that I’ve found this year to be particularly stressful, but I didn’t really ‘know’ until I got away. And now that I’m back, I’m very reluctant to completely reconnect.

I really enjoyed reading for long hours. I enjoyed having good conversations with my Beloved, and several with the random other people I met in the pool, or at the spa. I loved feeling that I had plenty of time to just sit back and watch the clouds and listen to the wind.

Where do we balance our need to be informed citizens and the desire to participate with our friends and loved ones, even if only online, with the need for quiet introspection and space to just think? Daily meditation practice, even when I’m good about it, isn’t quite enough.

One thing that surprised me was how distressed I felt watching other people at the quiet pool be on their phones. Not talking, that would have been rude, but intent on their screens. I thought it was sad. To go to such a beautiful place and stay connected to the electronic tether. To miss out on the moment while glued to the every day world by screen. That may not be at all fair. Maybe they were e-readers and no different from my own vacation choices. Not that it was any of my business anyway, but it bothered me quite a bit. Such an amazing moment was offered, and it seemed like they were missing it.

The other thing I didn’t notice until we returned was how beautifully quiet it was. I live outside DC and even though my neighborhood is thoroughly suburban and could be anywhere, you can always just barely hear the sound of the traffic, of airplanes. Of neighbors tending their lawns. It’s always something. The only mechanical sound I really heard there was the constant hum of the air conditioners, and honestly, I’d have really missed those if they weren’t there.

I wonder if there is a way to find that quiet and peace at home, or if it really requires stepping out into another world? The holiday season is almost upon us, so I guess I’ll have time to experiment.

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Unico 20.87- the Food.

Food, glorious food!

One of the questions we always have to ask is, can they handle a guest with food allergies. Yes, they did, and they did a fantastic job.

Breakfast and lunch every day was at the 20 87 restaurant, which is an enormous buffet. In the US I am particularly leery of buffets because you can’t be certain what is actually in the food, and cross contamination is a big problem. I ate at their buffet twice a day for 5 days and never had a single issue. You should be impressed.

While they did have all the traditional things an American tourist will expect, made to order omelettes, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, waffles, and pancakes, that was the very least of the breakfast offerings. There was an array of things to make breakfast tacos, which I never fully investigated. There were so many things, I often wished they were still offering breakfast at lunch so I could try things I missed. Every day I had beautiful creamy scrambled eggs and bacon and gluten free bread. Other offerings that rotated were various preparations of potatoes. Poached eggs with salsa, with salsa verde, and some creamy cheesy sauce that I sadly skipped. Several times shredded beef or chicken that was beautifully seasoned. An entire section…six or seven trays…of sliced meats specifically a salami type item that I ate for breakfast and lunch every day. Trays of cheeses that made me sad I can’t eat cheese any more. Tray after tray of cut fruit, the expected watermelon and pineapple, cantaloupe, mango, something I didn’t recognize, and sliced peaches and plums, which was a very nice treat for me.

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And a huge selection of every possible pastry that my Beloved enjoyed ruthlessly. On the weekend they offered a selection of gluten free muffins that were lovely.

The juice flowed endlessly, and if you’re a fan of watermelon, I’d just like to recommend fresh squeezed watermelon juice to start your day. Or strawberry juice, if that’s your thing. Definitely my thing, along with orange juice, which was always fresh squeezed and far superior to what I can usually purchase here in the DC area.

Lunch was the same layout. More fruit, cheese, and sliced meats. Made to order lunch steaks, hamburgers, or fish. Tacos. Curries. Random veggies. Interesting potatoes. So much variety every day. Beloved was particularly enamored of the no less than 5 varieties of ceviche that were presented every day. And of course, desserts, if you possibly had any room. The gluten free chocolate chip cookies were very nice.

For less formal lunch or afternoon snacks there were several choices. There were some areas around the pools that were just walk up bars. One specialized in fried fish, one had a big brick pizza oven, one seemed to specialize in sandwiches. I never had room to try them.

For dinner, things were just a bit more formal. The space that was a buffet two meals a day became a steak house. I had to most amazing flank steak possible. It didn’t taste like anything but flank steak, but it was the richest, most tender flank steak you can imagine and I have no idea how they managed it. Beloved had something they called a strip roast, which seems to be what a rib roast would be if you cut it the other direction along the ribs. It was also very good, but we agreed mine was the best tasting.

There was a Italian restaurant that I admit we didn’t try. They do offer a gluten free pasta, but neither of us were particularly intrigued by the menu.

Mura House is their Japanese restaurant. We ate there twice because Beloved adores sushi. Everything he ate was beautiful and he raved about the freshness. They offered gluten free soy sauce, so all the sushi was available to me, except that I don’t care for it. Instead I had custom prepared teppanyaki, which wonderful. They also offered a specialty beverage called a Momo which went down so smooth on a hot day that it’s only by careful pre-planning that I didn’t over do. They are saki, peach liqueur, peach juice, and something else I think. Really spectacular. In this picture Beloved has received his tempura, but we’re still waiting on our drinks. With multiple open grills, I found it a bit warm, hence the fan.

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Cueve Siete is their Mexican signature restaurant. It is not what you think of as Mexican, but it was amazing anyway. One night there was table-side fresh to order guacamole. My favorite dish was a beef and sheep’s tongue appetizer that was just amazing, tender and flavorful. Both nights we were there I had the duck as my main course. It was rich and tender and not under cooked the way it often is here where it’s practically raw in the middle. It is not done to lick the plate, but it was difficult to maintain my composure. Sex on the Beach was the drink of choice those nights.

And on the off chance you might possibly still be looking for more food, Cafe Inez was on the walk from the restaurants back to our room and they offered a dangerous selection of desserts, baked goods, and they had a little three-tier case with three lovely gluten free choices, a fantastic apple tart with an almond base, a super rich frosted chocolate brownie-thing, and a lovely crumbly round pastry with a rich sweet taste and a light chocolaty layer in the middle. I’ve never seen one before, but it was delicious.

They took being accessible to those of us with food allergies very seriously. After check-in I was presented with a laminated card with all the food allergies I’d submitted printed on it. I showed this at every restaurant and it was noted down. I think that as they go along they’ll come up with a better method for keeping the information on file, but for now, in their first year of operation, they are obsessively keeping statistics.

It made our experience that much more stress free.

And because it matters to me, so maybe to you, in a conversation with part of the customer care team we ran into on the way back to our room one afternoon, I learned that almost all the food is local, either organically or hydroponically grown. They have a very aggressive recycling policy and have a whole team devoted to minimizing their impact.

Here at home I eat organic as much as possible, and I try to make the freshest choices, but the difference in the  food is astounding. Everything just tasted better there, and I don’t think it was solely because I didn’t have to cook it myself. I think real, fresh, untainted food is a gift it’s hard to get here. I’m not sure we as a culture even know where we’re missing any more.

If you missed the first part, it’s here.

 

 

Is it giving up or living the fullest?

We just got back from an amazing trip to Mexico, so of course I’d like to talk about wheelchairs.

Let me back up. Last year I finally saw pictures of my arthritic knees. Poor knees. They need replacing, but I am both too young and too fat, so that isn’t an option right now. What I may, or may not be doing about that is for a different day. Today is about how can I make the most of life with the knees I have today.

First step involved the cane I got for my trip to visit family in Missouri. I got the cane last year for the trip that got cancelled in favor of my beloved having heart surgery. So I was able to use the cane for innumerable trips back and forth to the hospital. And everywhere I’ve gone since when I’m concerned about how far I’ll really need to walk. It makes a surprising difference. I thought it would just help for things like stairs, but it makes me much more stable and limp less. Who knew?

Next stop was upping my regular workout at the pool. Walking mostly. Stretching. Practicing range of motion with my weight and gravity taken out of the equation, although the inertia is higher, so that’s an adventure. Walking in water gives the same benefits as land walking in terms of joint mobility and gaining strength without stressing the poor damaged joint. The goal is 45 minutes 4 days a week.  I usually get close to that.

Next up, extend the timing out a month and get my quarterly cortisone shot in October instead of September, two weeks before leaving so my knees are at their best. It does the job for now.

My insurance covers a certain amount of physical therapy, so I asked my doctor to send me. I got really lucky with my therapist and he did much better work than the people I saw last summer. He explained that my worse knee doesn’t fully extend, and he was able to dramatically improve my range of motion in just the number of visits my insurance would approve. And he gave me stretches and exercises that will help me continue improving on my own going forward.

And then there was the wheelchair. That’s a tough call to make, because it trips some sort of mental switch. My beloved is pretty unhappy with the idea. But it works like this. I can use up everything I have and all the work I’ve done struggling through airports, or I can accept help, get rolled through concrete floors and have a place to sit for long lines, and save my endurance for walking to the pool, to the spa, and to lovely places for dinner.

So it is not, in fact, ‘giving in’, it is making the most of what I have. Can I just point out that Beloved’s step counter said he walked about 3 miles yesterday. Just dealing with airports.

There are lots of places the same lesson applies. Figure out what you can do, and what you can’t do, and then figure out how to close the gap. If you need a wheel chair, or a wheel barrow, or whatever, get one.

When they make it right: why fat people should fly Southwest Airlines.

Once upon a time in 2010, Southwest messed up but good. They kicked a fat guy off a plane in a ham handed decision to unevenly apply their rule about larger passengers who encroach on other seats.

They picked the wrong fat guy, because that happened to be Kevin Smith of Mallrats and Dogma fame. He’s a fat guy with a rabidly loyal fan base and a mouth more like Jay than Silent Bob. So, seriously bad move on their part.

On the other hand, every business will eventually publicly make a horrible decision (United anyone?), so what will set them apart is how they fix the issue.

Southwest claimed at the time to have a written policy, and their FAQ says their policy has been in place 30 years. I don’t know. I don’t really need to do that much research on the past when I know they are getting it right today.

Today, Southwest has a clear policy that is easy to find, and actually makes sense, and has worked for me exactly as advertised.

If you need a third seat, you can negotiate at the counter with staff and they may, or may not have one to issue you. Flights these days are often packed completely full. Also, with their boarding method, it doesn’t guarantee you early boarding if you check in later. So the only other spare seat may be in a different row, which is not useful and awkward and embarrassing to fix.

Buy a third seat. Just do it. And when you get home from your trip, call Southwest, give them your details, and they will refund the cost. In full. Super easy. You’ll get your money back in about a week. No fuss, no hassle.

A third seat will guarantee you have the space you need. You’ll even get an extra boarding pass that says reserved seat that you can discretely place in the empty so the Fight Attendants all know why that seat is empty and not include it in the empty count on a full flight.

Your third seat will also allow you priority boarding, meaning you skip the lines and you can pick your spot. It will allow one companion to join you in priority boarding, so you can claim your whole row (not the exit row, don’t be ridiculous) with minimal fuss.

I know it’s an extra expense up front, but it is worth it. My stress levels about travel have fallen dramatically. I have never had a Southwest employee be anything less than professional and pleasant about what I need, and frankly, my extra seat is more comfortable for everyone.

That’s how we got here:

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Is it really hate?

I recently read this viral post on Facebook about one woman’s journey to Thin, and how it wasn’t as great as she’d always been told it would be. (It was such a big hit that Cosmo did an article on the post.)

A life long fat person, she finally decided that society was right, and everything that was wrong with her life was because she was fat.

I felt deep inside that as long as I was fat, I wasn’t going to be able to stop hating myself enough to ask for more. So much cultural messaging says that if you are fat, you should be grateful for whatever love you can get – even if that love isn’t love at all.

So she went on a program of extreme weight loss. She doesn’t detail her method, because that’s not what this is about. I’m sure it was calorie restrictive and exercise abusive, because that’s what she says, and she got down to a place called Thin.

And you know what? Every horrible voice in my head, every bit of horrible anti-fat messaging from society was validated when I lost weight.

Attention from the opposite sex and better jobs and everyone was nicer and more thoughtful. The heartfelt dream of every fat person in America.

For five years, I got to be treated like a human being.

And it pissed me the fuck off.

I think that quote, right there, is one of the most important things she says in the whole piece. We the fat are told that all our problems will go away if we can just get to Thin. So she did. And sure enough everything was fixed and everyone was nice, even though she was exactly the same as she’d always been.

I understand completely. Glennon Doyle Melton talks in some of her interviews about how women are taught to be smaller and smaller and take up less space until we’re barely even there. Being fat flies in the face of this cultural imperative. Not only that, we do it on purpose. It’s a different kind of prejudice than racism, because your skin color is luck of the draw. If you’re fat, It’s Your Fault. So we deserve every molecule of heaped scorn and derision. No accomplishment can ever balance out the size of your behind. It boils us down to one, single aspect of ourselves and balances the entire universe of our experience on that soft, jiggly fact.

Statistics prove that We the Fat make less money, get less comprehensive medical care, have fewer opportunities, and miss out on more social niceties than those of normal weight. Put a normal weight person in a fat suit and they are horrified and astonished every time. It’s not codified. There is no law that allows it. But it is unending and universal.

Then life happened, and she didn’t have time to obsess about every bite of food she put in her mouth, and she didn’t have time to exercise every day. And she had a baby. And over time, she put all the weight back on. And now she doesn’t care, and she’s going to fight a society that says she has to.

My allegiance lies with fat me who missed out on half of her life because society said that she didn’t have the right to live it. …My allegiance lies with every kind and wonderful person out there who is told that they have nothing to offer the world because their body takes up too much space.

The second line that really, really stuck in my head is this.

I will not give the abusive assholes who say that they matter more because they weigh less the satisfaction of watching me hate myself into a small enough body to be loved by them.

Is the obsessive dieting and the endless determination to be thin at all cost a form of self hate, rather than the self love that society and medical professionals tell us it should be?

Frankly, I haven’t decided what I think yet. They tell us to diet to be healthier, but it hasn’t actually done me any good in the long run. Extreme dieting isn’t sustainable, every bit of data and research proves that. Yo-yo dieting is worse than no dieting at all. The research shows us that too. Did I diet all those years because I loved myself and wanted to be healthier? Or because I hated myself and wanted to be the ‘good girl’ that society wanted to see?

I think I know the answer, and I think I don’t like it.

Dear young self

If I could go back in time and tell my young self one thing, it would be to not diet, no matter how many people told me “If you just…” and other annoying untruths. Because the science is clear now. While short term a diet can and often does improve some health markers like cholesterol and blood sugar, over the long term what repeat dieting is mostly likely to do is make sure you stay fat.

And if you think about it, really, would dieting be a multi-gazillion dollar industry if it actually worked long term? Of course not. If it worked, you’d do it once, the weight would stay off, and that would be it. They make all that money because you have to keep going back and doing it again longer and harder.

I found this article written by a neuroscientist to have some interesting things to say.

The root of the problem is not willpower but neuroscience. Metabolic suppression is one of several powerful tools that the brain uses to keep the body within a certain weight range, called the set point. The range, which varies from person to person, is determined by genes and life experience. When dieters’ weight drops below it, they not only burn fewer calories but also produce more hunger-inducing hormones and find eating more rewarding.

Evolution designed us around periodic famine. If too many died too quickly, then we’re a failed experiment. So those who had some way to slow their metabolism when necessary are the ones who didn’t starve to death. Fat is important for survival, if you don’t live in a world with a McDonald’s and a Starbucks on every corner. Your basic functions do not believe that a size 2 is more desirable than a size 22, and every time you ‘starve’ (ie Diet) it is more convinced that you need all the help you can get to survive.

On my most serious diet, in my late 20s, I got down to 125 pounds, 30 pounds below my normal weight. I wanted (unwisely) to lose more, but I got stuck. After several months of eating fewer than 800 calories a day and spending an hour at the gym every morning, I hadn’t lost another ounce. When I gave up on losing and switched my goal to maintaining that weight, I started gaining instead.

The author’s own story mirrors mine. There was a joyful time when I quickly and fairly easily (if you consider involuntary vomiting easy) lost 100 lbs in just a few months. I was on a strict low carb diet, and I was being introduced to my soy allergy. Soy is in everything, so every salad with soybean oil dressing, every handful of snack nuts roasted in soy bean oil…a huge list of common every day foods caused me to be violently sick almost every day. It took me quite a while to figure out why. It wasn’t intentional, but I took the weight loss gratefully. But then I got down to a certain point and that was it. Nothing else I did over a several years following ever took me down below that point. No matter how dramatic.

The causal relationship between diets and weight gain can also be tested by studying people with an external motivation to lose weight. Boxers and wrestlers who diet to qualify for their weight classes presumably have no particular genetic predisposition toward obesity. Yet a 2006 study found that elite athletes who competed for Finland in such weight-conscious sports were three times more likely to be obese by age 60 than their peers who competed in other sports.

I find this particularly interesting. Devoted athletes, no genetic predispositions, and yet repeated dieting seems to cause overall weight gain over time.

But our culture’s view of obesity as uniquely deadly is mistaken. Low fitness, smoking, high blood pressure, low income and loneliness are all better predictors of early death than obesity. Exercise is especially important: Data from a 2009 studyshowed that low fitness is responsible for 16 percent to 17 percent of deaths in the United States, while obesity accounts for only 2 percent to 3 percent, once fitness is factored out. Exercise reduces abdominal fat and improves health, even without weight loss. This suggests that overweight people should focus more on exercising than on calorie restriction.

And here’s the real winner. Despite the media telling us what a horrible drain on the system fat people are, the data actually shows that it’s being sedentary and out of shape that is the issue. Sure, those often go together, but our sedentary life style is the real problem.

So if I could go back an talk to my young self, I’d ask her to take another dance class. To ride her bike every day. To ignore how she thought she looked in sweats and go to the gym anyway.

So this January, don’t start another diet. Find something physical that you enjoy, and put your time and attention to that instead.

 

 

 

Appreciate the journey.

Not long ago I got philosophical about the difference between gratitude and appreciation. I think we all need more appreciation in our lives. Certainly I do.

An issue I’ve had for a long time is the admonishment to ‘enjoy the journey’. That life isn’t about the end result. It’s extremely difficult to ‘enjoy the journey’ when you are limp and in pain, but now that I’m feeling better and moving forward with my life again, I’ve come back to that idea with some new insight.

By taking time to appreciate things in your life. To “to understand the worth, quality, or importance of something”, really can help you to slow down and enjoy the journey by reminding you that each minute can be precious, just like the books say.

We have a practice in our house where, should you see a moment of amazing natural beauty or a particularly adorably sleeping cat, then that moment should be mentioned immediately so that the others in the area can admire and appreciate it too. This does not count as an interruption of whatever is going on around it, rather it’s an elevated moment that is much more important that what was going on.

It can be very difficult to do that with more prosaic things. It’s easy to give thanks for the amazing spread at a special holiday meal. We’ve lost, many of us, the habit of giving thanks for the smaller meals of every day. It used to be a very common part of religious observance. The understanding of religion is changing, but maybe we should look back at some of those regular observances and see what they still have to offer.

A recent topic of conversation in our house has been the untempered need in American society to increase. Every business must get bigger. Every person must become richer and more successful. My beloved’s company has been small and doing extremely well. Somehow they determined they had to grow, and suddenly things haven’t been doing nearly as well. The partners were all making a very nice living and running a company that did excellent work and had very happy employees. Why did they have to decide that wasn’t enough?

Have we always been that way, or have we lost the understanding between wanting to be more versus wanting to have more. Certainly if I look around it isn’t difficult to see that the dollar has become the bottom line for everything.

I’m pretty sure the value in the journey isn’t supposed to be about the price tag. How do we get away from that? I guess I’ll stroll along for a while and see if I can figure it out.