Archive for May, 2014

My 30-Day Transformation

Saturday, May 17th, 2014

Somewhere around March 7 of this year, it occurred to me that I should probably clean up my act. This meant taking more vitamins (or just taking any vitamins to be precise), eating less beef-on-buns products, and exercising more (or just exercising in general).


I’d been feeling plenty run down, stressed, and bulky for several years, and I often cycled through periods of conscious health and detoxing, only to jump back on the eat-hamburgers, enjoy-the-wine, sit-on-the-couch-working-for-eight-hours train days later. Then, after a period of extreme exhaustion and ultimate burnout in late February, I knew that vicious back and forth had to stop.


What held me back slightly was that the nature of my work means I stare at a laptop for hours a day. Sometimes 12 hours. Sometimes 16. I try to optimize my working time during the kids’ school hours because I know that all getting-things-done bets are off the moment I pick them up and bring them home. This tendency means I’m loathe to take any time for myself from 8:30-3:20 because that is productive time wasted (I say in my mind). Also, if I don’t capitalize on every kid-free second I have to freelance, it means I’ll be taking my laptop to bed and working into the odd hours. Translation: going to the gym or popping in an exercise DVD took precious time I didn’t think I could spare. I always eat lunch at my computer, too, so chose simple edibles I could pop into my mouth with my non-writing hand, such as nachos and potato chip sticks.


Also, there was a general lack of restorative sleep happening, ill-advised relaxation methods such as Cabernet, and gravity pulling at my face.


So, after three days of thinking, on March 10, I decided to implement a 30-Day Transformation Plan I mishmashed together from Google advice and my own brain. I figured I would be bold and go big; and that I could do anything for 30 days, except sit in a spider den, and so I could probably live through less starch and more calcium.


I wanted to share what I did during this time because I truly felt more energetic and less nacho-y, and I always love to hear what people do to be better, and so maybe you will, too.


Here’s the breakdown:




I would do Jillian Michaels’ 30-Day Shred every day. This exercise plan consists of three levels, each lasting 20 minutes, and implementing a two-minutes-of-cardio, two-minutes-of-strength, and one-minute-of-abs interval training sequence. I rather liked the quick, get-it-done nature of the levels and felt sore afterwards, which my husband assured me was a good sign.


After week one, I added in 20 minutes of AMT training at my gym, which was essentially an elliptical/treadmill/stair climbing combo exercise helped tremendously by the fact that a large TV was situated in front of my face. I tried to use the AMT every day, but in practice, I did it every other day.




I eliminated sugar, most dairy, white flour, processed foods, and soy. To survive, I made these protein pancakes almost every morning for breakfast, learned how to make paleo crabcakes, which saved me for many a lunch, and bought enough dips from the farmers’ market to drown the taste of all the other healthy stuff I ate. I also bought those all-natural grilled chicken strips from Costco and dipped them in Thai sauce or chopped them into salads. Finally, hardboiled eggs became my best snack friend.


Vitamin Regimen

All of the vitamin ingestion was complicated by the fact that I can’t swallow pills, and instead must chew them due to an unfortunate Thanksgiving incident when I was eight, so I went for liquid or chewable versions where I could.


 Mind Wellness


I would do five minutes of meditation, and ask my husband “how was your day?” every evening.


Face Wellness


To combat the downward pull on my cheeks, eyes, jowls, and neck, I compiled a daily facial exercise routine, some of which you can see here. I did these every day, faithfully.


I also added a product to my usual beloved Skin Authority skincare routine. The Resurfacing Accelerator is designed to exfoliate and “youthen” skin, which is a word I made up that should totally be a word.




There was zero wine in my 30-Day Transformation Plan, but lots of looking at it longingly.


(This awful pic shows me just before the 30-Day Transformation Plan)



(This similarly horrible pic shows me just after the 30-Day Transformation Plan)



(This ridiculously horrible pic shows me just before my tendons broke)



The Results


It turned out that 18 was my magic number because that’s the day I made it to with the plan. I completed nearly all of Jillian Michaels’ level two Shred, until something terrible happened to my hand and its tendons could no longer accommodate my weight resting on it from the five million planks I had to do. Despite this unfortunate appendage anomaly, I indeed felt firmer in places and my stamina rose dramatically.


I noticed a large energy shift for the better with the vitamins. I also observed that my hair and nails seemed stronger.


The meditation helped sharpen my focus somewhat when I could stay silent in my head long enough. I stopped asking my husband about his day after night three because I’m an awful person who was doing too many planks.


The best part of the transformation for me turned out to be the facial exercises. I really noticed a difference, and so did a lot of other people. I was told I “glowed” and looked years younger, which could have been the Resurfacing Accelerator, but I really felt that the exercises toned and lifted my face.


Giving up wine was a good thing. I slept better and that is wonderful for everyone concerned, said the crabby-no-sleep-getter.


Overall, I would do this again, except with less niacin and more “how was your days?” for my husband. Toward the end of the plan, I hit an exceptionally busy patch with work that derailed a lot of my routine. In the process, I observed how easy it was for me to get off course with a crazy schedule and realized that time MUST BE MADE despite it to be healthy. That was the most valuable lesson I already knew but needed to know deeper.


And that’s true for anything really, isn’t it?


The Park

Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

I watched from the park picnic table as four young teen-aged girls walked to the restrooms, shoulder to shoulder. The group caught my attention because they seemed to be dragging their feet, rather than actually picking them up one in front of the other, lending a sort of slow motion effect to their approach. They went on painstakingly this way, looking up every so often at the group of parents gathered under the covered patio for an end-of-season softball party with our kids. My eyes continued to follow them as they made their way inside the bathroom, and I saw one of them pat her jacket pocket as if to say, “I got it.”


“That seems suspicious,” my husband said from next to me. “You should go in there and see what’s going on.”


He’d read my mind of course, because that was exactly what I planned to do. This particular park acted as a sort of gathering place for teenagers after hours and it was never unusual to find used condoms, beer bottles, and small containers littered with something powdery strewn across the sidewalk as I walked my kids to school in the morning. From the moment I’d glimpsed the girls headed in our direction, I imagined they planned to use the bathroom for drinking or drugs, hesitated when they saw a dozen adults near the entrance, then decided to go through with their funny business anyway.


I called to my youngest, intending to use her as a decoy. After convincing her she needed to clean herself up, we walked hand-in-hand to the bathroom. I entered making noise just in case, I don’t know, they were in the middle of something horrible, and had time to put whatever it was away before I could confront them. Frankly, I didn’t know what I would do if I caught them in some sort of act, and I’d rather not be put in that position, even if catching them was my intention all along.


I pretended to wash my daughter’s hands and noticed that the teens were packed into the handicap stall at the far end of the restroom area. I made my way to my own toilet, and heard them start to sing very low. I looked straight at the closed door they stood behind to see the Uggs of one of them protecting the latch. We locked eyes through the too-wide gap between door and door frame.


I kept on, closed my door and stood inside the stall for several seconds. I rustled around a bit, then flushed the toilet to continue my charade. I was a lousy private investigator. I wasn’t going to catch anyone in the middle of anything; and so I left to wait them out.


I positioned myself outside the bathrooms as the other parents and kids started a kickball game in the field several yards away. After about ten minutes, two girls came out of the bathroom and with that same slow gait, made their way to the bleachers to watch the game that had just unfolded. Several additional minutes later, the remaining teens emerged, and one of them took a white paper bag from her jacket and placed it in the trash.


They joined their friends, no one saying a word, no one looking at the other. I stayed where I was and stared at their backs, silhouetted against exuberant ten-year-olds running to bases and high-fiving their dads.


I knew what was in that bag.


I needed to confirm it, and I would, five minutes later as the girls eventually left to walk again so very slow, to the end of the park, shoulder to shoulder as they’d come in the first place.


I didn’t explain myself to the other parents still sitting at the picnic table. I just walked to the trash can, removed the lid, pulled out the bag and dumped its contents into the empty Gatorade bottles, errant Goldfish, and birthday cake remnants.


The pregnancy test box settled among the other trash.


I returned to my picnic table post, and a furious blizzard of thoughts pockmarked my brain.


They only look 14, 15 tops.

At least they had each other.

What happened? Was this her first time?

Her mom doesn’t know.


The park sat at the end of a cul de sac, three blocks from my home, and surrounded by houses where my friends lived and by people I know on sight. Chances are, these girls belonged to someone I knew, and that thought persisted as I watched my oldest running in dirt and giggling with her teammates. When I moved to this town, chosen for its family friendliness and safety, I visited this park with my daughters the very first day we took possession of our house. My firstborn was entering kindergarten then in 2009, just five years old, and those girls I saw today were more than likely my oldest’s age now.


It happens so fast. All of it.


I had to know. Despite what the softball party participants would think, I grabbed two toilet seat protectors from the bathroom, covered my palms, marched outside, removed that trash can lid a second time, and shook the pregnancy test out of its box. It’d been awhile since my last scare, so the lines wobbled and confused me for a minute or two, but as I drew the test closer, I saw it was negative.


I wondered why the girls had left the bathroom so somberly; why they weren’t congratulating their friend; why they stopped to silently watch a kickball game where they didn’t know any of the players.


I decided they were remembering; when they were still kindergarteners, when they high-fived their dads, when the only trash they hid was uneaten vegetables.


How long would it be until I wouldn’t know my daughter spent her Saturday afternoon buying a drugstore pregnancy test?


Because it happens so fast. All of it.