The Last Stand of Carbohydrates

Photo Credit: tik_tok via Compfight cc
We spoke earlier this week about our unscheduled trip to the grocery store due to poor dietary planning on my part. But, what was coming down the pike for today was an even bigger trauma – today is the last “real” trip we will be making to the store. Like, ever. The ultimate food funeral is about to commence.
In 10 days, everything changes. Lor enters her pre-surgical liquid diet, and I pass into my “baked chicken and steamed vegetables” phase. (Unlike some members of the household, I have no problem eating the same thing every day.) While Lor is dealing with the low energy and food cravings of the all-protein-shakes-all-the-time-diet, I am showing solidarity by making sure I don’t eat anything Lor would find amazingly tempting.
It’s either that or eat in the garage.
Accordingly, Lor is working diligently over our meal planning for the upcoming week, making sure that she inserts healthier versions of our previously favorite meals into the menu. It is still critically important that we maintain the < 45 grams of carbs per meal cutoff, so we don’t end up sabotaging ourselves in the process. Weight gain before surgery is a no-no, But, we are still going to be performing one last week-long food funeral, albeit a low-carb one.
It is simultaneously exciting and depressing – never again will I eat sausage lasagna, but I also am able to bend over and touch my toes for the first time in about 20 years. I will never enjoy a few beers again, but I will be able to shop at stores without a “big and tall” section. In life, we make choices. Bad choices got me to obesity, good choices will hopefully return me to a healthier life. It is as simple (and as complex) as that.
In the meantime, we’re off to the store for our final week of not protein-centric grocery shopping, One last blaze of glory before life turns into all protein shakes and yogurt, all the time. Everyone have an awesome weekend, and we will catch you all here on Monday.
Regretting That There Is No Such Thing As A Low-Carb Chocolate Cream Pie,
– Hawkwind

Stand By Your (Wo)Man

Photo Credit: hugovk via Compfight cc
Our surgery dates are getting ever closer, and we are now at the point where we are ticking off days on the calendar before Lor’s liquid diet begins. In about a week Lor will have her pre-surgical appointment, and I will have the appointment where my surgery gets scheduled. Tense times in this neck of the woods.
As we’ve gone through this whole process together, I’ve had the opportunity to really observe Lor’s daily operations in a detail I had not ever been privy to before. The ins and outs of her daily life, her schedule, and her diet have left me with one overall impression.
Sometimes, it sucks to be a woman.
Take our weight loss journeys for example. Lor was chatting with a family member and mentioned how “unfair” it was that, while I have lost about 29 pounds so far, she had only lost about half of that. I mentioned that I started off at more than 30% heavier than her, so why wouldn’t I lose more? And then promptly forgot about the matter.
But, during our most recent meeting with our nutritionist, I found out that this is a real, live issue. “Men lose faster than women, and in the places where bariatric patients want to lose,”she told us. “Women tend to lose weight in all the areas we don’t want to lose in before we ever start reducing the areas that we want to lose weight from.” She went on to talk about how important it was to not compare weight loss, that each journey was our own, etc. – but I had seen the flag of Female Solidarity being raised in that medical office. I was outnumbered and I kept my opinions to myself after that.
The fact remains that Lor has always had a healthier life than me. She has always wanted to eat fruits and vegetables while I wanted crap. She has always wanted to go outdoors and be active while I wanted to stay inside and play video games. The fact that she is having to go through this surgery to manage diabetes is manifestly unfair – but there you have it. Life isn’t fair. If you are a woman, apparently less so.
Women are still 400% more likely to undergo bariatric surgery than men.This despite the fact that there are more obese men in this country than women. Sadly, many of these surgeries are not really motivated by health issues like mine and Lor’s, but instead by self-esteem. The “beauty cult” in the U.S. tells women that they must be young, slim, and beautiful forever. Men, meanwhile, are free to pile on the pounds – because it represents success, or power, or something. And just spend a little time talking with any group of bariatric surgery survivors, and you will hear the horror stories of men trying to talk their ladies out of having surgery, of sabotaging their partner’s weight loss, or even leaving their wives after surgery. Why? Fear of infidelity, mainly – these men believe that once their spouse has reclaimed some self-worth, she will leave them for someone better.
I say if your husband or boyfriend is that much of a prick, you should trade up. Bariatric surgery is hard enough without some insecure man stabbing you in the back at every turn.
A friend of ours was visiting the other day, providing moral support, and she and Lor began chatting about “female problems.” With nothing to add, I decided to keep my own counsel. She finally looked over at me and attempted to bring me into the conversation. “What do you think?” she asked. 
I blurted out “I think I am glad I am not a woman,” and I cringed the minute I said it, hearing how blatantly sexist and superior it sounded.
No one took any offense. Our friend just patted me on the shoulder and said “And you should, honey. You should.”
Thinking I Dodged A Bullet,
– Hawkwind

5 Reasons TextBroker Doesn’t Suck

Photo Credit: Roo Waters via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Roo Waters via Compfight cc

Spend just a little time out in the forums and message boards of Internet freelance writing, and you will begin to see common themes. “How do I earn a living writing from home?” is a recurring refrain. “Why doesn’t my blog get any traffic?” may be a close second. But no question seems to produce polarizing opinions quite like “Should I use TextBroker? Are they any good?”

What the heck are they talking about?

For those not already “in the know”, TextBroker is a service that connects lower-end writers up with clients wanting lower-end work. 500-word blog posts, multiple copies of product reviews, sometimes even 160-character Twitter posts – they all show up on TextBroker. It is commonly referred to as a “content mill”, and this is not a term of endearment. The pay is astonishingly low (about a penny a word) and the turnover is very fast, with most clients wanting smaller articles completed within 24 hours of accepting an assignment. Think day-labor, for writers instead of construction workers.

Many of the best-regarded writers out in the blogosphere will tell you to avoid TextBroker like the plague. It has been referred to as a waste of time, a scam, or a way to take advantage of new writers. One blogger went so far as to say that TextBroker “can sap your love of writing.” The general consensus is that you would be far better served by spending your time polishing your resume and sending out pitch letters instead of writing a 500-word biography on someone you have never heard of before.

With all due respect to those that have come before me in the freelance writing business, I must disagree. Where are my top 5 reasons why you should be using TextBroker.

1. TextBroker pays you to hone your craft.

A great resume, a stylish web page, and a perfected pitch letter are all necessities to become successful as a freelancer. But, at some point, you are going to have to learn to write – not just the blog posts that only your Mother and Aunt Edna read, but articles for clients who have their own ideas about what makes a great piece of writing. TB (because I am getting muscle fatigue from writing TextBroker) will give you a list of assignments that you can pick from, so you can choose the one(s) that you like best. You write it, submit it, and wait. Within 3 days you will have a response from your client, asking for revisions. Don’t be discouraged – this is great! You are learning how to tailor writing to the needs of a client – an absolute necessity for a freelance writer. If you don’t get a request for revisions, awesome – you just got paid to practice writing.

2. TextBroker teaches you to work under deadlines.

Those of us moving from blogging to freelancing are usually in for a rude shock. While we were working on our own blogs, we were able to meander around, putting up a post here and there – sometimes in the morning, sometimes in the evening, whenever the mood struck us. TB will teach you to throw that idea right out the window. When you evaluate an assignment, you have ten minutes to decide if you want to write it or not. Upon accepting the assignment, you have only a few days in which to get it done (usually only 24 hours for shorter pieces.) You will learn quickly, as I did, that it is time to start using a calendar app of some kind, and to force yourself to write during a specific time, every single day. Early in the morning, late at night, whatever – you will find out quickly that you are going to have to treat this professionally. And turning writing into your profession is the whole idea, isn’t it?

3. TextBroker forces you to embrace research.

If there is one common complaint about TB, it is that the subjects are so weird. I have written articles about record companies, about funeral homes, about the subject of “crowdfunding” real estate investments. One of my most memorable articles was 3,000+ words on Egyptian Cotton sheets.  The common factor is that, in each of these cases, I knew nothing about the subject when I accepted the article. It forced me to go out hunting across the ‘Net, looking for reputable sources of information on these subjects. There is nothing that will trash your reputation as a writer quicker than the research method of “making stuff up.” As long as you are writing for other people, you will be performing research. TB gives you a great apprenticeship program for doing exactly that.

4. TextBroker fills in the gaps in your schedule.

Right this second, I have several pitch letters out, a couple of articles being reviewed for publication, and no actual writing assignments due. So, after I finish up my weekly blog post here, I am going to head over to TB. Why? Because spending time earning something is better than earning nothing. Being a freelance writer means leaping from assignment to assignment like a frog between lily pads, trying to keep your head above water. TB can create a series of smaller landing spaces between each of your “real” writing jobs.

5. TextBroker can springboard you to bigger and better things.

At the beginning of this month, I made about $200 writing 3 short blog posts for a TextBroker client. The client liked my writing well enough on a small project that he approached me about writing the first 3 posts for a new business website, with the promise of more work like this to come in the months ahead. TextBroker has built-in support for individual client/author relationships completely outside of the “pick an article and write it” model. I had a good looking profile with good writing samples, and the client liked them enough that he was willing to pay my “personal” rate of 25 cents a word to have me craft these pieces. This is not as uncommon as you think. TB can also invite you to “teams” where you will be collaborating with other authors and editors on steady streams of articles for regular clients. The opportunites are out there, if you are willing to invest a little time and effort to go find them.

Despite the many negative reports about TextBroker, I think it provides a powerful springboard for those of us getting started as freelance writers. Maybe we should be happy that there are so many writers out there working on “polish” instead of working on writing. That way, TextBroker can remain our little secret.

  • Jeremy

To Market We Must Go

Photo Credit: SunshineandRetail via Compfight cc
You know that moment when you realize your household is out of food, and you are 3 days short of the day you were planning on going shopping?
Yeah, we’ve arrived there.
Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t as though we can’t go to the store. It just means that we are going to have to go today to get us through the next 3 days, and then again on Friday to do our regular shopping for the month. And any week in which you have to go to the grocery store twice is not a good week, in my opinion. I must acknowledge my gratefulness that I have the means to go and buy groceries, but that doesn’t make me like the flickering lights, the lines, or the air of impatience in the average grocery store any better.
We have still not completely gotten a handle on shopping for the household now that better than 90% of our meals are prepared at home. We got a lot closer this month (only missing by 3 days), but holy smoke do we go through a TON of food nowadays, We’re having to buy things we never used to buy (shrimp and other seafood springs immediately to mind), and we’re having to buy daily quantities of items (like fresh produce) that used to only make occasional apperances on our plates. It takes an awful lot of provender to get two people through a month when you are no longer relying on fast food and pizza to supplement your diet.
One thing that has totally improved is food waste. We used to throw away pounds of unused produce and leftovers every month. Now we are scraping the bottom of our crisper drawers looking for one last pepper or cucumber. This makes me very happy – throwing food away every month used to drive me crazy. It feels not only wasteful but insulting given the amount of hunger in the world – a moral failure on my part, if you will. It is an unintended happy side-effect of healthy eating.
But the real kicker here is that starting this month we have to begin planning for 2 months worth of “protein shake only” diets in the next 90 days. (One month each, surrounding our surgery dates.) We’re getting lots of help from friends and relatives on the protein shakes already, but 180 protein shakes in the next 3 months eats an awful lot of grocery money. Not to mention that we’re going to have to figure out single-person meal planning for whoever is not current going through a pre- or post-surgical diet.
The bright spot? By the end of summer, this will all be behind us. With each of us only being able to handle only 2 – 4 ounces of food at any given meal, our grocery shopping should go WAY down. Leaving us plenty of money to spend on protein shakes, multivitamins, bottled water, dietary supplements…
Damn. I am never going to get out of this going to the store thing, am I?
Wondering If Cardboard Counts As Low-Carb,
– Hawkwind

I Have Been Measured…And Found Wanting

Photo Credit: Lisa_ms1 via Compfight cc

We’re a week into our new resistance band exercise regimen, and someone who shall remain nameless came up with the idea that we should start logging our body measurements.The idea was pretty simple: The scale is not a reliable source of information about our weight loss. But physiological changes will be taking place whether or not the scale moves, right? So why not start tracking that info?

It seemed like a valid idea, and it probably is, but taken as a whole the first set of measurements didn’t do anything but make me depressed. Since the baseline is being set now, I have no idea what kind of progress has been made over the last 4 months. Mainly what I have demonstrated to myself is that I have got so far to go that it isn’t even funny.

Take my waistline, for example. I clocked in at 47 inches. 47!! I have been shopping for 48-inch waistline clothing in FatLandia for as long as I can remember, so apparently I have managed only a single inch of loss in 4 months. Well, yes, I can now get into 46-inch pants, but only because my beach-ball belly has deflated a bit, and slid further down my abdomen.

My chest was close to what it used to be – 47 1/2 inches. Back when I was attending a gym regularly I used to clock in at a 48-inch chest. The difference is that then I had pecs – today I have breasts. They are not the size that would excite the typical teenage boy, but I really could get away with wearing a bra. After some of my more strenuous workouts, I actually kind of wish I had put one on before I left the house.

But the really depressing numbers were my arms: a measly 12.5 and 13 inches. Back in the day, I had 17-inch biceps. Mind you, this was back when I was doing things like 235-pound bench presses as part of my normal workout routine. Were I to try to bench 235 today I would likely drop the barbell and cut my own head off. I have had big plans for years for a 3/4 sleeve tattooed on my left arm, centered around a scene on a beach. I can’t fit a beach scene on this arm. Maybe a single palm tree. As long as it is a skinny palm tree, anyway.

Now, yes, a certain amount of this is nothing more than “The older I get, the better I was.” But mainly it is disgust at how far I have let myself slip over the years. I don’t think of myself as terribly vain, at least not about my appearance. So it was really surprising to me how strong of an emotional reaction I had to these numbers. It was as if every negative thing I have ever said about the way I look was being documented in black and white – the opinions of those who have tried to encourage me over the years being proved wrong once and for all. See? I have proof.

A month, or 6 months, or maybe a year from now, these numbers will demonstrate something about how far I have come at that point. For now, they’ve just bummed me out.

Avoiding All Reflective Surfaces,

– Hawkwind