Thursday, April 28, 2011

Magical day at Cornet Bay

Marjan at lunch break
Only nine hardy souls showed up at the Senior Center today for our usual Thursday hike. It could have had something to do with the headlines in the Bellingham Herald yesterday: "Possible snow, hail, and thunderstorms on tap for Whatcom County," with the warning that we could wake up to snow here in Bellingham this morning. I looked outside and shook my head at my folly as I woke to rain but headed out anyway. We decided to forget our scheduled hike to Stewart Mountain and go to the Hoypus Hill trail system in the Deception Pass area. It starts at Cornet Bay and winds through the forest.
I was thinking we were a bunch of crazy seniors as we drove south through the driving rain to our trailhead, windshield wipers at full strength and thinking that driving thirty miles to hike in the rain was going to be one of the least pleasant hikes I could imagine. But as we approached the Deception Pass area, the rain lessened, then finally stopped before we left our cars to start the hike. And yes, it was a truly magical day, with us winding through the green forest with sun and clouds. It was a bit on the muddy side, since the area had received a lot of rain.
As you can see from the picture, my boots and gaiters were well used as a patch of sunlight illuminated the situation. Although the clouds came and went, it wasn't cold and the mud was navigable. There were even bike tracks through the worst of the mud, as those mountain bike riders wouldn't let a little thing like MUD stop them! The trails were well marked, with whimsical names marking the way.
Al had downloaded the trails onto his GPS system from a website, and he was able to keep us from getting lost. The trails wound gently uphill and downhill, nothing like our usual elevation gain. But we did see that the trails were sometimes overgrown with fresh nettles. Last year I brushed against one of these and my hand burned and tingled for days. The fresh greenery around this tree is a very healthy patch of the stuff.
It makes me itch just to look at that picture! But we were careful as we wound through the thickets of nettles and nobody made the mistake of touching any. Even Mike who usually wears shorts was covered from head to toe on this hike. When we reached our starting point, we had traveled eight-and-a-half miles and gained and lost a mere 750 feet. But the entire day we never had a raindrop fall on us while we were hiking, although we certainly did on the way there, and on the way back we also had rain. So, it was indeed a magical day. I will leave you with a picture of Cornet Bay, showing the Deception Pass double bridge. Nine happy seniors headed home after a fine hike!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My kooky brother-in-law

I've been thinking quite often these days about my brother-in-law, Pete, Norma Jean's husband for almost five decades. Don't ask me why these pictures kept intruding into my consciousness, but I remembered he had sent me this series of three pictures sometime in 1985. They made laugh then, and they make me smile with fondness now. He died on February 10, 2011, just a few days past his 67th birthday. He wrote a post about his final birthday here.

Pete finally decided to start a blog in early September 2010, after having spent a vacation with his daughter Allison, who was promoted to Lt. Colonel in the Army and who also gave birth to a beautiful daughter in June of the same year (and is raising alone). After having been badgered about it from all sides, he didn't actually say he would do it, but he left the door open. He ended up writing more than a hundred posts before the end.

I was visiting Allison also, as her guest, along with my sister Norma Jean. The five of us, counting Lexie, or the seven of us if you also count the two dogs, Lou and Moose, all gathered in Alexandria, Virginia, last August for the ceremony to celebrate Allison's achievement. It meant a lot to Pete, and it is the subject of his first blog post, which you can read here. Pete was a gifted writer, and since he's been on my mind lately, I hunted down those three pictures and scanned them for this post. I think he is probably having a laugh himself; if there is a heaven, he's there.

Pete was not a perfect person, but then again, who is? We sometimes engaged in enthusiastic arguments. I enjoyed many things about him, not the least of which was his intellectual curiosity.  Sometimes I think that those who are intellectually gifted have a particularly hard time fitting their square pegs into the round hole of society. During those three weeks I spent in Florida with Norma Jean, she shared a piece of his writing with me that is dated 1/20/85 (about the same time those pictures were taken), and he entitled it "To My Children: A Layman's Guide to Living, or 'Life Isn't Fair, Allison'." It is in outline form, listing 11 different categories: Friends; Work and career; The Cosmos (universe); Family; Education; History; Politics; Everyday living; Religion; Self; and Your future society. I'd like to share with you that last category, as he wrote it.
  1. Accept concept United States is no longer power it once was
    • United States, as we know it, will probably not exist in far future
    1. Global society -- we're no longer self sufficient
    2. Fear a new wave of conservatism and repression
    3. United States economy too increasingly dependent upon non-essentials
      • Recreation and leisure-centered economy
      • Information services replacing goods and products that are basic needs
      1. Will see increasing separation of classes
        • Believe there will be a political revolution
        • Increasing separation of affluent/educated and the lower classes
        1. Outer space will be place of future, predicting now:
          • Global warning systems, civilian visits to space, colony to moon
          • Space will likely be the primary battleground of the future
          He wrote all this in January 1985!!! The guy was not only prescient in many ways, but I truly hope that some of the things he predicted will not come to pass. However, many of the things he wrote have definitely come true today, with no hint back in 1985 (to me, anyway) that the United States would be like it is at this juncture. He saw it, though. It seems quite clear to me that Pete was someone I am proud to have known, proud that he was part of my life, and I wish we could talk together about all this.

          He was not a believer, but I am. If I am right, we will have that conversation someday (somewhen?). 

          Sunday, April 24, 2011

          Easter reflections

          I know, it was a cheap shot (the title, I mean). I took this picture at Lake Padden this Easter morning. It is a little swampy area off to the side of the path around the lake. I also saw quite a few skunk cabbage, but since we were out for a walk, I didn't take a lot of pictures. This one had possibilities, though. I've been looking for pictures of reflections to send Joan for her April contest on Reflections. (The link takes you to her site, the winner of March's contest, and the rules for entering.) I've already sent her my entry; you have until next Saturday if you decide you want to send one in.

          But, since I got started reflecting on Easters past and present, I will indulge myself a little with a reminiscence or two. When I was a little kid, I loved the pastel colors of Easter, the fact that I always got a new dress, and that I would have an Easter basket filled with chocolate things, along with those icky pink-and-yellow peeps. I actually disliked their texture. Not to mention that they are made of some mysterious sugar mixture. The link takes you to a page that explains about many efforts to dissolve those things; they don't. But I did like decorating hard-boiled eggs and eating chocolate bunnies. That, and the magical look of the Easter basket filled with shiny cellulose "grass" that managed to get tangled up with the jelly beans. Thinking about past childhood Easter events always gives me a little indigestion. I must have indulged in sweet things one time too many.

          Although I probably did go on some Easter egg hunts, I don't have any recollections of any. However, as an adult after I started skydiving, I do remember one Easter at Skydive Arizona. I used to travel from Colorado to Arizona in the wintertime, and the last boogie of the season was usually at Eastertime. I was camping out in the tent area and woke early one Easter morning, making my way to the showers, when I heard an announcement over the loudspeaker that early birds MIGHT find some hidden Easter eggs. Peeking under the bannister next to the showers, I spied a plastic egg! I picked it up and looked inside; there was a ticket for a free jump! I used it that Easter Sunday. Talk about a happy skydiver! The staff had hidden a few dozen eggs with prizes inside. The grand prize was free jumps for the entire day, but I was happy with what I had found.

          This Easter Sunday is particularly pleasant, even if I haven't felt moved to eat any Easter eggs, chocolate or not, and I haven't got any plans after a wonderful morning walk with Smart Guy. I have read all the blogs that I follow and am filled with warm wishes for a blessed and happy Easter, and I have given a few of those myself. It's a wonderful day.

          Thursday, April 21, 2011

          Oysters, Lizards, and a blogger

          Beginning of hike at Chuckanut Drive
          I had a hard time thinking of a title for this Senior Trailblazer trip. We met at the Senior Center and discussed our options: it was already raining and the skies looked terrible over Stewart Mountain, our scheduled hike for the day. We decided to flip this week's hike with next week's, so fourteen of us headed to Chuckanut Drive to start what was to be our nine-mile (round trip) hike to Oyster Dome and back.
          We also had a new hiker with us today: Kimberly from just me - alive, a blogging friend who barely qualifies to hike with us (being a grandmother and in her mid-fifties, we let her get away with it). She had been reading my blog and decided to head to Bellingham from her home twenty miles south, and visit the Trailblazers! She walked in and introduced herself. If you visit her blog (which I linked), she compares what her medical numbers were before she decided to get in shape, and what they are now. It's very inspiring.
          She was worried about keeping up. It was not a problem, as she is running half-marathons and is very strong. Not to mention a very fun person and I hope she comes back! This picture was taken with the only view we had all day, as the clouds thickened and made it feel quite cold, if you can call 37 degrees (2.7 C) cold (I can). Once the rain and snow hit (see previous picture), we decided not to make the final push to Oyster Dome but instead take the trail over to Lizard Lake. This would add about a mile to our hike, but we had already accomplished most of the uphill, so off we went, crunching snow underfoot and big drops of cold rain and snow falling onto our heads and down our backs.
          As you can see from these skunk cabbage sprouting up through the snow on our way to Lizard Lake, even they are emerging slowly during this cold spring. It's a full month today since the first day of spring, and they should be much farther along. We finally got to Lizard Lake and had a very cold lunch break, taking maybe twenty minutes before heading back onto the trail. Everyone was cold and a bit miserable. We took the loop over to Samish Overlook before heading back down to the cars, and we saw this from the overlook:
          You are looking out from Samish Bay towards the Olympic Mountains, and Samish Island is the land mass in the foreground. The Trailblazers commented that they have never seen the tide this low, making it look like you could walk right over to the island. They called it a "minus tide." After looking up the definition, it seems to be a low tide that is actually lower than sea level, which happens occasionally but not very often. By the time we left the overlook and started back on the final push to our cars, I realized that we had covered a fair distance: almost eight miles to be exact, and we still had two miles to go.

          After ten full miles and more than 2,300 elevation up and down, I feel quite justified in self-medicating with a wonderful glass of wine. After we started our final push to the cars, the sun had the audacity to come out and shine on us! People were starting up the trail as we headed down, and now as I sit at my computer I'm looking out at skies filled with more sunshine than clouds. I feel pretty darn satisfied, though, and I've met my first blogging buddy, Kimberly! It was a great day.

          Tuesday, April 19, 2011

          Books and other stuff

          More tulips from last week
          Because I always love to look at pretty flowers, I'm putting in a couple more pictures from my visit to RoozenGaarde last week. I was planning to write a nice leisurely post about the books I'm currently reading, but after having spent a couple of frustrating hours creating a list of books and a profile in Shelfari in order to create a nice display for my blog, I gave up. The limitations of their widget are too difficult to deal with, at least for me.

          Several of my blogging friends use Shelfari (which is an Amazon app, if I'm not mistaken). It gives me a chance to link to descriptions of the books, and I was quite pleased to see that I could also create a bookshelf for books I have read, am reading, and want to read. Here's a screen grab of what I was able to get:
          What a lot of work it was to get this far! However, I am going to simply explain what books I've collected and why I feel like I have suddenly come upon an embarrassment of riches when it comes to reading. You know how you browse for a book and end up discovering a new author? It seems I've just discovered several. My friend Judy also gave me some books to read and I'll just put those on the bottom of the pile, since she's not in a hurry for their return.

          If you enlarge that Shelfari list, you'll see that I'm currently reading four books. One is The End of Overeating, the corollary that follows from Mindless Eating, which I finished last week. I'm reading it in the evenings after snuggling into bed, and I pick it up from my nightstand and read until I get sleepy. (That can sometimes be quite a short time, so who knows how long I'll be reading it?) I've gotten my fill of books about food for the moment. Wish it were that easy to get full when I'm eating.

          Judy also gave me a book last year that really turned me on to the mystery of numbers, especially prime numbers. I wrote about it here. In the comment section of that post, Entre Nous asked me whether I had read Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea yet, and today I picked it up at the bookstore. It had to be ordered. It looks fascinating! I read the first chapter on the bus and could hardly wait to delve into it.

          But as soon as I got home and started to read The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean, I was lost again, wanting to read THAT book. As you can see, I have definitely fallen into a period of being lost in several good books, and I felt inspired to share those riches with you. After spending way too much time on it, and being totally unable to figure out how to put a decent bookshelf widget on my sidebar, I have finally finished this post so I can explore my new treasures. But first, yet another gander at the flowers.

          Saturday, April 16, 2011

          Market day

          This is the third Saturday that our Farmers' Market has been open for business, which started the 2011 season with every day so far a bit under the weather: first with cold and rain, last week with rain and cold, and today, the best so far, with some sun breaks amongst the cold and just a few sprinkles. As you can see from this young lady making herself a smoothie on the Juice Peddler, she's dressed for our spring weather in coat, gloves and hoodie. I myself thought it was a little cold for a smoothie as I warmed my hands on my coffee cup. She's generating some warmth, however, by pedaling her smoothie to the right consistency.
          Here's the clever Juice Peddler's sign, and you can see the skies look pretty darn good, considering. This has been the coldest and wettest spring in many decades, as was proven by Cliff Mass on his weather blog. His post on "Are Northwest Springs Getting Worse?" has a "spring fever index" showing the number of days since 1948 between February 1 and April 15 that are 55 degrees F or warmer. This year we have had the lowest number since at least 1948, by a LOT! Look at his graph here:
          As he explains in that article, it is not just our imagination that it has seemed so much colder this year; it has been enough to make old-time Washingtonians add socks to wear with their sandals! I still see people walking around in t-shirts and shorts, even when it's nowhere near 50 degrees, but not me. I'm still bundled up and even when hiking I wear quite a few layers.

          Back to today's market scene. I saw the most amazing young busker singing and playing her guitar. She is so excellent and professional, I could not help but ask her how old she is, and I found that this young lady is only NINE.
          At the rate she's going, by the time she is sixteen she will be playing on stages to appreciative crowds. As it was, by the time I left I saw crowds gathering around her and practically begging her to continue singing. She also has quite a repertoire; in the hour I wandered around the market, I never heard her repeat a song.
          At noon I had my usual treat of Ethiopian food: spicy lentils, vegetables and potatoes in turmeric and other tasty spices. Not to mention that the food was also piping hot and served on a special bread made with teff, a grain that originated in Ethiopia and has a unique texture. Apparently it's a very small grain that's filled with big nutritional benefits. (The link takes you to the Wikipedia entry explaining the grain.)

          I also went to the Village bookstore and now have six new books. It's a good feeling to have so many new adventures in reading to explore. Fortunately I only bought three books and the other three were lent to me by my friend Judy, who will get them back someday. Two of the three I bought were used, so they didn't cost me too awfully much, but I still spent more than I intended. A good day, and as the afternoon wears on, the sun breaks seem to be holding. It's almost 50 degrees out there!

          Thursday, April 14, 2011

          Bowman Bay

          I almost decided not to go hiking with the Senior Trailblazers today, since I woke to heavy rain that had turned to heavy SNOW by 6:30am. But once I checked out the weather forecast, I decided that it would not last and that if I didn't go, I'd be really grumpy if the sun actually came out. So, I set out for the Senior Center after taking some pictures of the tulips in the snow. Twelve of us showed up, and by the time we got in our cars to head down to Whidbey Island and Bowman Bay, there was more sun than clouds in the sky. As we headed southwest, it looked like the day would certainly be better than it had started. And I was right.
          We began our hike up the trail above Pass Lake and, as you can see here, the moss has proliferated from all the rain we've been having. It was a little chilly, but by the time we had hiked uphill a bit, we shed our coats and gloves. Linda decided, when she saw this swing as we reached an old abandoned orchard, that she would like to give it a try. We all got out of the way as she swung out and... down. That old rope had a lot of stretch in it.
          After playing in the orchard and taking pictures of flowers coming out, we headed back down to visit both Lighthouse Point and Rosario Bay. The skies gradually began to be more clouds than sun, but the flowers were everywhere. Here's a picture of some flowering currants with the sunlight shining through.
          After we had hiked to Lighthouse Point overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca, we decided to have some lunch and rest a while. Still no rain, but as you can see here the skies are a sort of mellow grey. This picture almost looks like a monochrome, especially in comparison with the others I took.
          However, after I had satisfied my growling stomach, I walked around looking at the sights. So many kinds of flowers! I think there are two or three kinds of moss and the kinnikinnick flowers (I think) are what you see in bloom. The waters of the strait are below, with the shadow of a promontory only visible by its reflection. I fell in love with this picture and had to show it to you.
          We kept seeing this lovely little orchid-type flower, and nobody could identify it for sure. We thought perhaps it's called a shooting star, but this picture shows that once it raises its head up to the sunlight, it's got the little "beard" you see on orchids. Anyone who might know what this flower is, I'd love to identify it by name.
          Fairyslipper or Deer's Head Orchid (thanks, Catbird Scout!)
          Just as we were walking back to the cars, after hiking nine miles and a little more than 2,000 feet up and down, it began to rain. Up until that moment, we had had a sprinkle or two, but the rain never materialized until then, so I knew I had made the right decision, to spend the day in the beautiful outdoors with my Senior Trailblazers. Now it's time for a bit of wine before dinner. Until next time...

          Tuesday, April 12, 2011


          Since today is the nicest day we will have for the rest of the week, I thought it would be a good day to head down to Skagit County and look at the RoozenGaarde display for the annual Tulip Festival, which officially ends on Friday. Judy and I headed down after our workout class and spent a fine day in the sunshine taking pictures of tulips and daffodils. Judy was looking for some tulips that aren't terribly tempting to deer, as they eat hers every spring before she has a chance to see them bloom. Fortunately, there are some varieties that aren't as tasty to the critters, which she will order and plant for next year. Here's a closeup of that beautiful arrangement right behind us:
          The display this year is almost impossible to share in all its glory, but I'll give it a try. Some of my favorite flowers stand out from the others because of having especially long stems, their shape, or because of their amazing color. Pink, purple, red, orange, yellow... all the people walking around were smiling along with me, snapping pictures and exclaiming when one particularly stunning arrangement would be discovered in full bloom.
          Last year I walked to the fields behind the garden and saw rows and rows of different tulips, but this year that same area has been planted with one variety of daffodils instead. I didn't realize that each year all the bulbs are dug up and replanted. It must be a pretty wonderful job, designing the fields of flowers and seeing them come to fruition each spring.
          These white beauties looked almost iridescent in the sunlight. If you enlarge the picture and look across the path, you can see that there are still tulips that have not yet begun to bloom. Some of them have intriguing names and make me wonder if perhaps I should take another trip down there this season. After the tulips are gone, the iris gardens begin to bloom, and perhaps the best idea is to spend more than just an afternoon looking at these flowers. I will leave you with a picture of three friends I made today:
          I heard them gossiping about all the visitors who were oohing and aahing at the beautiful gardens. I think they were spending time taking in the sights, too.

          Sunday, April 10, 2011

          Blast from the past

          Jan, Norma Jean, and family car, 1955 or 1956
          Norma Jean was going through some of her old family photos and found this one that HAD to have been taken in 1955 or at the latest 1956, since she is still pre-pubescent and at thirteen I am, well, stacked. It was taken in Puerto Rico while our dad was stationed there. We spent around three years at Ramey Air Force Base, and we both attended school on base. Norma Jean must have started to blossom herself right after this picture was taken. We both laughed over it, but I was actually quite surprised to realize there was a time when the two of us had such different physiques. Sisters with a two-and-a-half year difference in age rarely have anything that documents what those turbulent teenage years do to a girl's body.

          Not to mention that I must have had one of those 1950s type conical bras to provide me with such a striking profile. Must have just purchased something like this and wanted to show it off, who knows? Whatever the reason for this picture is lost in the sands of time.

          DJ and NJ, 2011
          When we got together last month, both of us still kickin' and having gone through another fifty-some years of life, I think I can safely say we are both in good health and lucky to be able to look back together and laugh at ourselves. I do know that I learned how to apply makeup during those years (as I look at that bright red lipstick I was wearing then) and realize that I learned subtlety sometime later. No wonder I had such a hard time learning how to be ME at thirteen, since I was changing so rapidly I could hardly keep up!

          A lot of life has flown through these two girls since that first picture was taken, and I sincerely hope that subsequent years will bring us more laughter and many more wrinkles. I love you, Norma Jean!

          Thursday, April 7, 2011

          Raptor Ridge loop trail

          The skunk cabbages are coming up! Spring is definitely on the way. Today, nine Senior Trailblazers walked from the Pine and Cedar Lakes trailhead to take advantage of a newly blazed trail that goes from Raptor Ridge over to Madrone Crest, creating a possible hiking loop. This new trail is not actually much of one, yet, at least not from the Raptor Ridge side. Once we got towards the far end of the new trail, it was obvious that it even though it has been blazed, it has a ways to go before you could actually call it an established "trail."

          After taking a quick look at the view from the Ridge (which as you can see from the picture below was not much of one today), we went back to explore the new trail. We hiked two and a half miles to the Ridge, with our total distance today a little bit of a mystery at this point, as none of us had actually hiked the entire loop.
          Al, our leader, had been on the new trail two days ago to check it out and only got lost once. He placed some additional flags to make sure we wouldn't miss the trail markings and get us all lost. He also wrote an interesting post about his adventure on his own blog here, calling it "Putting the 'Lost' Back in Lost Lake." He did an out-and-back on Tuesday and suggested we consider doing the loop today, which is what we did. We called the entire hike a "lollipop" because we headed out on the trail, hiked in a loop, and then went back down on the same beginning trail.
          As you can see, it isn't much of a trail on the Raptor Ridge side. But as we picked our way across logs and soft forest mulch, it became obvious that most of the work has been accomplished on the side of the trail that joins it to the Madrone Crest trail.
          We had lunch at the Madrone Crest viewpoint, with little view because of the clouds, but this scene shows you that the sun was trying to break through, even then. As the day wore on, we had more sunshine coming through the trees, and by the time we finished having lunch, we had intermittent sunshine! What a treat!

          The only real difficulty I had with the 9 1/2-mile hike is the steepness at the beginning. It was bad enough that we went UP the steep part, but my knees were not happy about having to go back DOWN the same very steep trail. Fortunately I don't forget my trekking poles when doing any of these really challenging hikes. We went up and down 2,500 feet of elevation gain and loss, and now that I am home writing this post, my knees feel almost normal again. Only a few of us don't use the poles, but it takes some getting used to in order to use them to full advantage. I am anticipating some questions in the comments, and I found this very informative piece on the REI website about trekking poles. I bought my poles there and couldn't have done this hike without them.

          Another great day in the Pacific Northwest, with NO RAIN and even some sun! And great companions to hike with. I am amazed at what a difference a little time outside in the sunshiny woods does for my mood.

          Tuesday, April 5, 2011

          April showers

          Okay, I am certifiably tired of all this rain. It turns out that even diehard Washingtonians are also tired of it! I saw this post on the Cliff Mass Weather Blog, and some people other than just me are saying they are really, really tired of it, too. Apparently this is also the state of affairs in Portland. From Cliff's blog post:
          Portland has had its fifth wettest winter on record and the LATEST on record in getting to 60F. That is really the central problem: as long as we get a few warm spring days it is tolerable... this year there have been few warm intervals.
          This is my fourth spring here in Bellingham, and it's also the first time that I've had such difficulty with the rain. It could have something to do with my recent travel to Florida (where it was warm and sunny most of the time) and the loss of friends and family as well. Who knows? I took this picture late last March, and I understand that this year the Tulip Festival, which began last Friday,  has posted on their website that huge fields of tulips will be on display for "most of April, but not right at the start of the festival." That is right now, with the tulips not beginning to bloom until later this week.
          As you can see from the picture, it was raining the day we went to look at the tulips, but last year they were actually EARLY, with most of them gone by the end of the festival. Not this year. Right now I'm looking outside at the rain coming down and the temperature is in the low 40s (6 C) and a cold wind makes it feel even colder. Not exactly beautiful weather. A commenter on Cliff's post put a link to a graphic description of "The 4 Seasons of Seattle Weather" that gave me quite a laugh. It's almost accurate, too.

          One good thing about sitting around in front of my computer is spending time with my blogging buddies. It's really true that I sometimes feel these friends are like virtual family. I may not have met them, but we know things about each other and learn things about the world that I would otherwise miss. Mel at Luna Secrets put a wonderful post up today about Eric Whitacre with a link to a video on TED telling the story of his virtual choir of 2,000 people. Each person sent him (via YouTube) a single voice to be added to the choir. It makes the most amazing song. It's not finished yet, but if you go to the website (either Mel's or TED's), you can listen to the first few minutes and hear all about it. TED stands for "Technology, Entertainment, Design" and started out as a conference to disseminate information about ideas worth spreading. I discovered it a while back and forgot about it, until Mel sent out this inspiring video.

          So, there are good things going on out there, I have to remember. The world is not all tsunamis, government shutdowns, war, and rumors of war. It's not always easy to remember until somebody reminds me of the incredible beauty we humans can create.

          Sunday, April 3, 2011

          Mindless eating

          I'm reading a fascinating book right now, called "Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think." After having lost ten pounds over two months, I went off the reservation when I went to visit my family last week. I gained two pounds back in five days, although I was pretty careful with what I ate and didn't eat, there was so much more food around that what I usually have in my own environment that I know I ate more than I would have otherwise.

          Smart Guy gifted me with this book, which he is also reading, and I'm absolutely astounded with what I am discovering about food and dieting. This cartoon illustrates the story of Brian Wansink's (the author of the book) research on why we eat more or less than we think we do. One of the studies he conducted involved college students who were seated at a table of four diners, but two of the 18-ounce bowls (which they agreed not to touch) were rigged with a hidden tube that kept the bowls filling back up. Although they didn't reach the original full mark, I'll let Wansink tell you what happened (p. 30):
          People eating out of the normal soup bowls ate about 9 ounces of soup. This is just a little less than the size of a nondiluted Campbell's soup can (10.5 ounces). They thought they had eaten about 123 calories of soup, but, in fact, they had eaten 155. People eating out of the bottomless soup bowls ate and ate and ate. Most were still eating when we stopped them, 20 minutes after they began. The typical person ate around 15 ounces, but others ate more than a quart -- more than a quart! When one of these people was asked to comment on the soup, his reply was, "It's pretty good, and it's pretty filling." Sure it is. He had eaten almost three times as much as the guy sitting next to him.
          The interesting thing to me is that most people didn't comment about feeling especially full, since they thought they had only consumed about a half bowl of soup. They had 62 people conduct this experiment, and every single one consistently underestimated the calories and the amount they had eaten. What he points out is that the visual cues we use to tell us when we are full are every bit as important to satiation as the actual amount we consume.

          I'm in the middle of the book right now, but the main premise that I am excited about putting into practice is to find those mindless calories that I can stop consuming every day, thereby not needing to continue to diet to keep those favorite jeans fitting just right. He says that 100-200 calories every day can be cut out of one's daily diet without even noticing, using his techniques. This adds up to about ten pounds by the end of a year, but if I increase by the same number of calories every day, then I'll have gained that amount in a year's time. Slow but steady, either direction.

          It took me those two months of measuring and calculating to find out how many calories I was actually eating. Now I know what 1800 calories looks like in the kinds of food I usually consume. I will continue to skip avocados and cheese, snack crackers and other kinds of comfort food that were way too available all day long in Texas with my family.

          Now that I've lost most of the weight I originally wanted to lose, I think I'll try this method of weight maintenance and eventual loss to see if it works. I'll also continue to monitor my progress with the scales, since I finally broke the barrier that kept me from stepping on them and don't want to backslide. The link in the first paragraph takes you to information about the book, the author, and the entire premise behind why we eat more than we think we do.