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November 24, 2007

Big Spider Video

This is not for the faint of heart, or anyone who dislikes spiders. Scroll down the page to the video of the 9" female tarantula eating her weekly mouse. She's gorgeous. She wraps her legs around the mouse and kills it. I find that sort of thing impressive.

I've always wanted a tarantula, for as long as I can remember. I think they're pretty. I love to look at almost anything fluffy soft, even if I personally am not allowed to pet it. I've always been attracted to the tarantulas in zoos and such. On school trips I was always the only girl who liked the spiders and snakes. I always wanted to pet the tarantula, but we weren't allowed to. "You can look, but you can't touch," was the clear instruction from the teachers, which of course only makes the young child want to pet the fluffy soft spider even more. They look so soft and sweet and cuddly, but they're actually dangerous, poisonous creatures. Their sting isn't any worse to a human than a bee sting, but if you're closer to their size, you'd be better off not attempting to pet, unless you don't mind being dinner.

One of my friends in college had a tarantula named Whitney that he had named after a childhood girlfriend. What a wonderful tribute, I thought. The childhood girlfriend found it creepy and passive agressive... apparently she had ended their eighth grade relationship.

Anyhow, the big cat obsession is temporarily shared with Big Spider Obsession. I've been watching videos of spiders eating mice half the morning when I should be doing the housework. MR watched some with me. He agrees that they're really, really cool, but he still won't let me have a spider. He was a bit alarmed when, after watching this video, I threw my arms and legs around him and kissed him rather agressively. "5' 2" female tarantula feeds on its weekly mouse!" I exclaimed. After three years of a relationship, you'd think a man could sit in his own kitchen without fear of becoming prey. Not in my house.

I am starting to notice a trend. I like predators. I am starting to fear that I identify with those who hunt for a living. I've definitely missed my calling when it comes to choice of species though. I should have been a tree-dwelling, web-spinning tarantula. They weave very strong webs, strong enough to support their considerable weight, then they just sit around looking fluffy and pretty until someone flies in. Then they eat them. Nice work if you can get it.

What does this have to do with CR?

Well, Danny California has a tarantula. It doesn't have a name or come out from its burrow, but he's fairly confident it's still in there. He's been thinking of buying tarantula spiderlings, and it just so happens that we might be taking a trip to visit one of our hospitals in the Pittsburgh area, near the spider breeder. So we might go spider shopping! Wouldn't that be cool? I'd love to say that I went for a ride on the PA Turnpike with an anarchist and a bunch of baby tarantulas. Most people would react to that with "Ewwwww! Gross!" but I think they're rather cute. I mean, I love kittens. Spiderlings would just be like little fluffy kittens with twice the number of legs!

Danny and I had a brief conversation about spider aging. It was one of the topics mentioned at the CR Conference. Don't try this at home, but there are some species of spiders that live the longest if you don't feed them at all. (Some nutcase is no doubt going to write in saying that I'm endorsing anorexia with that statement.) As it turns out, Danny has read about how if you "powerfeed" spiders: feed them as much as they'll eat as children, and put them in a tank with more oxygen than usual, they will turn out to be giant spiders, much bigger than their normally fed liter mates (or whatever.) But their lifespans are shorter. I'd be interested to study how much shorter. He's thinking of buying a bunch of spiderlings and trying the experiment. How cool would it be to have an animal aging experiment right here on my own staff?

The whole concept of "powerfeeding" made me think about how children are growing up in this country. They're fed more than they need, as much as they can stuff themselves with, and they grow to be huge, both vertically and horizontally. But unlike spiders, they're not being fed their natural diet of insects -- most tarantulas it seems are not quite big enough to eat mice -- (or in the case of children, lean proteins, vegetables, fruits, etc.) They're being fed junk. And it's shortening their lives.

I'd feel guilty feeding a spiderling the crap that I see parents in the grocery store buying for their children. Now I know it's very hard for parents these days... it's one of the millions of reasons why I don't want to be one of them. But in the end, it's the parents decision as to whether or not the chips and cookies make it into the grocery cart. I'm not advocating that one feed children mice and insects. Though I hear that some insects are quite crunchy and delicious. No, live prey is not usually appropriate for children. But food that has nutritional value might be a good idea, so they grow up big and strong instead of obese and at greater risk of disease.

I am very excited about the possibility of breeding giant monster spiders. But I am rather depressed when I see the giant monster children walking around outside. Type 2 diabetes, early stroke and heart disease, and nobody having as much fun as they would at a healthy weight. If parents fed kids the equivalent of a healthy spider diet, the kids might grow to be very tall, but they wouldn't grow to be obese and at greater risk for disease. With so many advantages in the richest nation in the world: health care for those who can afford it, sanitation, access to so much fresh food, it's inexcusable that this next generation may not outlive its parents, largely because of the habits their parents allowed them to acquire as children. Yes, the food industry is largely to blame. And parents can't keep kids in a cage the way we can keep spiders in a cage. But seriously: who decides what food goes on the table, and in the cabinets? The people with the money.

That being said, I'm glad that my food is already dead by the time I get it to the table. Life is stressful enough without having to wrestle with your dinner.

Posted by april at 9:14 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

November 20, 2007

You Really Haven't Come Very Far At All, Have You Baby?

I was thinking the other day about those Virginia Slims ads from my childhood, the ones that said, "You've come a long way, baby."

Ah yes... we've come so far. Now it's socially acceptable for women to smoke. Once upon a time, only men could smoke in public. Now women can destroy their health with the full approval of the capitalist system! Fab!

I was thinking of this months ago while reading the archives of Everywomanhasaneatingdisorder.

Oh, hours of entertainment for the entire family!

First, you've got to love Dr. Stacey. I really think she's onto something so much of the time, very insightful and constantly observing the world around her with a critical eye. She's obviously got the overall well-being of women first in her mind, and her work has got to be difficult. Also, I admire the way she handles conflict on her blog, and how she's quite diplomatic at almost all times.

But I find that Dr. Stacey and I get to a point, a fork in the road if you will, and part company.

Here is a prime example:

I was leaving Dunkin Donuts the other day, as the woman behind me ordered her coffee with Splenda. I began to think how our behavior sends constant messages to ourselves (sometimes consciously, sometimes not) and how these frequent messages add up.

Choosing Splenda or Sweet & Low or NutraSweet over sugar translates to, “I don’t deserve what I want, what I like, or what is available to me. I will settle for second best.?


Consuming excess calories, for no apparent reason, translates to "I deserve second best" ???

Refusing to bring certain food items into your home (especially those you crave), or to have just a couple of cookies (because that would mean you wouldn’t stop) communicates, “I don’t trust myself.?

Again, WTF?

Today, as a co-worker smoked his tenth cigarette of the day, I was reminded of how glad I am that I never started. No, I don't "have just one" in case I might enjoy it. I choose not to poison myself with a substance known to be toxic. Does that make me somehow repressed? Would I be happier if I were to smoke from time to time? Do I just not trust myself to have a cigarette now and again without becoming addicted?

Uh, not really. Why would I want to try? The stuff is bad for me... even breathing in the secondhand smoke is probably a bad idea, from a health perspective.

So... I wonder. Why is it a sign of a lack of self-esteem to choose not to use sugar?

[All you folks who have nutrition superstition about artificial sweeteners go read this before you comment, please.]

Is it also a sign of self-hatred to choose nonfat or lowfat cottage cheese over the full-saturated fat version?

What about choosing a primarily vegetarian diet over steak and foie gras?

What about when my co-worker orders broccoli with his meal instead of fries?

Do all of us healthy eaters just hate ourselves?

I consider myself a liberated woman. I make my own money, I help women workers organize unions so they can better take care of their patients and their families. I can quote Backlash and The Beauty Myth conversationally.

I am especially a huge fan of sexual liberation. I firmly believe that a woman owns her own sexuality, and should do with it what she chooses, whether she's straight or gay, married or not, monogomous or not.

But I would not walk across the street, proposition the fellows leaving the corner bar at 2 am, and have unprotected sex with them. Not because I think it would be morally wrong to do so... it would be awkward at best, but not necessarily wrong. No, I would not do it because I do not want to risk my health for a moment of physical pleasure. Having unprotected sex with people you don't know is a pretty risky behavior, ya know?

The odds of actually enjoying sex with your average Joe from the corner bar aside (unlikely, I know, but go with the analogy for the moment) that's just not safe. Sure, it's a momentary risk, a risk that you could contract a disease within seconds. That's different from the kind of long term risk of pumping your body full of sugar and saturated fat and excess calories.

But still: is it a sign of liberation to do something stupid?

Do we not have enough evidence that excess weight, sugar and saturated fat make people sick?

Is it a feminist act to have a heart attack in your fifties or sixties and wind up in the ICU?

At least, I suppose, we can love our bodies while we're intubated and on a heart monitor.

Choosing, freely, to consume fewer calories, is not necessarily an act of self-hatred. Perhaps it's an act of self-love? I mean, how annoying would it be to end up in the hospital one minute earlier than one really has to?

I do believe that we as women have come a long way in not accepting that certain practices (say, making equal money for equal work) are just allowable for men. But putting sugar in our coffee? Huh? Is it a race to the ICU? It is no big secret that the majority of the population is overweight or obese and that excess weight is contributing to their risk of disease. And that excess calories = excess weight. So why on earth would it be a *good* thing for one to consume excess calories in the form of the tablespoons of sugar Dunkin Donuts puts in people's coffee?

Maybe I'm just not a good enough feminist. But I'll skip the sugar, in fact skip Dunkin Donuts all together, and just head to the nearest Starbucks, where I can drink the coffee black.

Posted by april at 2:31 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

November 18, 2007

All The Right Reasons

My fortune Ipod pulled up Nickleback's album "All the Right Reasons" when I was actually trying to search for Carly Simon's "Easy on the Eyes." The search function is rather tricky, isn't it?

So I decided to write about it. I mean, I can't very well write about my brand new baby organizing campaign at the most strategic target currently available in the entire state of PA, can I? Nobody wants to hear about how much I love my three organizers, Susie, Lisa and Danny... except maybe their parents, whose email addresses I don't happen to possess. You've already heard a lot about how much I love that skinny slightly orangeish boy I sleep next to every night... and you'll hear more about that, since I can tie it in with CR. No, this is a blog about Calorie Restriction with Optimal Nutrition, and food in general, and recipes, and how I feel about food, and reactions to the general food chatter out there in the media, blogosphere, etc.

So there.

Dr. Stacey of Every Woman Has An Eating Disorder has a most interesting post today-ish.

First, let me say that I love the "fork in the road" picture. I must find out the artist and title.

Second, let me say that I am well aware that many women have negative relationships with food and dieting that they would be better off without.

Third, let me pose the question that I posed to Dr. Stacey in a comment that I think blogger somehow ate.

Dr. Stacey,

Do you oppose all dieting?

I am thinking of my mother, who in her late fifties was about seventy pounds overweight, was suffering from various illnesses, and was having terrible joint problems that impaired her ability to walk. Her doctor told her that the best thing to do would be to lose weight. Or she could get a knee replacement in a few years.

She joined one of those diet centers you have written negatively about, Weight Watchers to be exact, and she gradually, slowly, over 3 years, lost 70 pounds. She actually did the program as it's supposed to be done: including several servings of lean protein foods every day, getting servings of high-calcium foods, eating tons of veggies. Basically, cutting calories while improving nutrition.

She also found the support that she got from her Weight Watchers group to be tremendously helpful, not just in sticking to the program but in feeling good about herself while she was doing it. She enjoyed the experience, and never felt shame or pressure. (For the record, at least at her group, weights are never announced. It's written down for only the individual to see.)

My mom's health improved tremendously. She loves being about to walk around without pain. She feels great, and has maintained almost all of the weight loss by continuing on the same healthy habits.

Would she have been better off had she not dieted?

I imagine, though I can not and would not dare speak for her, that Dr. Stacey will agree that it's fine that my mom dieted. I mean, it was, after all, for her health.

Who wants a knee replacement? Health problems? Her doctor told her to lose weight. So I guess it's okay that she went on a diet.

It's not like she was doing it to look better, or conform to society's ideal of beauty. Or, God forbid, to attract men. Or to slow her biological aging process or anything creepy like that.

So that's okay, right?

She did it for all the right reasons.

My question to you is: according to whom?

What are the right reasons for eating healthy food, achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, even if it takes work and self-discipline and social support?

Who decides? Is that up to the individual: in my mother's case, a woman in her late fifties who taught the first women's studies class at Duke, was the only woman in her graduating class at Duke Divinity when women were supposed to be preachers' wives, not preachers, a woman who worked at least three jobs at any given time while raising a daughter to be strong, independent, and happy?

Or is it up to some other authority? Do we have to justify our decisions to the host of pundits who are ready to label anything that resembles self-control as an eating disorder?

In a country where 65% of the population is overweight, and half of those are clinically obese, it can hardly come as a surprise that the movement to pathologize the thin is gathering steam. After all, it serves the capitalist machine quite well to encourage people to accept obesity as normal. Eat the food the food industry serves up, and you'll get fat. [Post forthcoming on how genetics may dictate appetite, but do not dictate weight.]

I mean, after all, why are we choosing to be thin (and it is a choice, for most of us)? Is it for the right reasons? What are the right reasons? Or is it for the wrong reasons?

What are the wrong reasons?


Oh how predictable. The wrong reason is: to attract men.

[Close second: to extend your lifespan. But we've dealt with that elsewhere.]

From Dr. Stacey's entry on how Halloween costumes for women seem to be all some version of short skirt, revealing, even "slutty:"

My question is: Are our costumes designed to attract men, or are we, ourselves, chomping at the bit for a bit of exhibitionism, playing out a playful fantasy on our own? Are we slutting it out for others or ourselves, or do we no longer know the difference?

Hmmmm. I've been puzzling on this one since I read it.

To begin with, I totally object to the use of the term "slut." It implies that a woman's sexuality is somehow a negative thing. So that's problem one.

Second: it's been my experience that "slutting it out," as it were, is an interactive experience. I enjoy dressing up in sexy outfits in the privacy of my own home or when I'm going out to social occasions where they would be appropriate. I enjoy how I look, and I enjoy the effects these rather sexy outfits have on my partner. We have a lot of fun. In fact (oh scandalous!) I enjoy the reactions I get from other men when I wear sexy clothes. It's kinda fun to admire and be admired. It's entertaining. It's affirming. Am I doing it for myself? Sure, cause it's fun. Do I do it when I'm alone in the house with the cats? Not so much. Having men around to appreciate it kinda makes the experience. I'm sure if I were a lesbian I'd say that having women around kinda makes the experience. Would I then be doing it to attract women, and would that be somehow suspect?

Is it a crime against feminism?

This is where I really think that the feminist movement took a wrong turn. Instead of fighting for economic justice for women (kinda like I do -- helping women workers organize unions so they can fight for better standards on the job) way too much feminist energy has gone into cultural feminism, and into obsessing about how women look.

"Can you be a true feminist and still want to dip below your natural weight?" asks Dr. Stacey in the post "In A Cinch."

Now don't get me wrong. I love Dr. Stacey's blog, and I applaud the work she does in trying to help women achieve a state of peace with their bodies and get over eating disorders.

But... this kind of thinking, that it is somehow anti-feminist to either want to attract men or to gasp! lose weight is just goofy. And counter-productive. Some of us find men quite entertaining, and enjoy interacting with them in ways that run all the way from mild flirting to buying a house together. Does that somehow invalidate who we are in the rest of our lives?

Reminds me of when I was in Vermont, trying to run an organizing campaign with some completely insane women who passed off their insanity (and unwillingness to do the work) as feminism, how one of them interrogated me about every aspect of my appearance.

"Why do you paint your nails red?"

Uh, cause I like them that way.

"You do it to attract men!!!"

"Why do you wear skirts?"

Uh, cause they're comfortable, and appropriate for my work?


This is the same woman who called me a whore to my face in a staff meeting, btw. Should have been fired, but I unfortunately was not in a position to hire and fire. In my next job, I clarified that I would have the power to fire anyone who called their supervisor a whore. Doesn't seem like much to ask, does it?

These folks contended that I was an evil agent of the partiarchy... never mind my then seven years (now twelve) of organizing women workers. Nope, that doesn't count. It's how I look, in their mind, that determines whether or not I'm a feminist.

Ladies (and gentlemen, if you're still reading), that's crap.

It's really no one else's place to tell me, or my mom, or anyone else, whether or not their reasons for wearing what they wear, or weighing what they weigh, are valid.

These days, I have three reasons for doing CR:

a) To slower my biological aging process, so I can meaningfully participate in the very long term process of changing the political economy of my country and the world

b) To enjoy the immediate term benefits, such as near total relief from anxiety, an invincible immune system, better mental focus, more energy, etc.

c) Because I love the way my body looks and feels when I am on CR.

I don't exactly complain when I catch a male friend turning to watch me walk away. I don't exactly complain when everyone in the office has a cold and I don't catch it. I don't exactly complain when I get mistaken for someone in her early twenties.

I did complain, pre-CR, about not having the energy to walk up the stairs to my third floor office. I did complain, pre-CR, about getting sick with every illness that passed through (and that's a lot, when you organize nurses). I did complain, pre-CR, about acquiring an amount of body fat that I no longer found attractive.

Are the first two reasons right, and the third wrong? Is it a crime against women everywhere to rejoice momentarily in the joy of getting checked out?

We in the CR community are so worried about being painted as anorexics, or even as regular dieters, that we go out of our way to say, "It's about aging! It's not about weight!" And of course that's true.

But let me let you in on a secret: one major reason why I want to slow my aging process is to look younger, longer!

Of course I want to live longer! Of course I want to avoid disease! Of course I want to walk around instead of riding in a wheelchair, and avoid the CCU at all costs!

But guess what else: I want to look hot years and years from now!


Thousands of women workers organized be damned, April CR is not a proper feminist.

Cause she wants to look good.

I am waiting for cultural feminists to join forces with radical Islamists and force us all to cover ourselves from head to foot.

Call me a fuck-me feminist, but a) I never address that command to anyone who is not my Partner of Record b) it's not just about sex, it's about how women relate to each other.

Fat acceptance folks argue that people should be valued for things other than their weight, and I agree. I've written extensively against weight bias. But when I see someone brilliant and influential like Dr. Stacey coming out against all dieting, I have to wonder... what's really going on here? What kind of world are we supposed to aspire to? One where everyone is overweight or obese, but everybody's okay with that? Where the health risks of obesity are just a natural part of life? Where my mom would have gotten both knees replaced by now? Where I would still get sick four times a year and hate my body, but at least i wouldn't be (eeeeeeew!) restricting?

Those thin people must have some kind of disorder because if they don't... if it's possible to be thin and happy and healthy and not anorexic...

Then what does that say about those who can't seem to get their own weight under control?

Maybe those of us who have figured out how to beat the standard American girth growth should be very careful not to say anything in public, for fear of offending those who might not be so... uh... lucky?

Was my vegan ex-boyfriend right when he said that I should feel guilty for being beautiful because it makes all the other women feel bad?

Should I gain weight, cut my hair, chop off my nails, and stop wearing makeup?

Should I throw out all my cute clothes and cover myself in bagginess and drab?

Am I just "slutting it out" in my business suit? After all, I did see a real live male check me out. Am I wearing it to attract men? Should I go to feminist rehab?

Posted by april at 1:44 AM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

November 16, 2007

How To Start CR

This is a repost of an entry I made several years ago... I thought it might be helpful to those who are just discovering CR and the blog!

[DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical professional, a scientist, or anyone who has every handled a live mouse. This advice is based purely on my own experience and what I have learned from others in the CR Society and what has helped my friends work CR into their lifestyles. There is no one way to do CR -- you have to find what works for you. But if you're a girl and you're starting out, this might help you get on the right track.]

I get a lot of questions about how to start CR, and I've come up with a basic set of principles that helped me, but that took me for darned ever to figure out. So maybe if I write them down, you can use them as a shortcut, adapting and fitting them into your lifestyle so that your very own CR practice evolves over time. This advice will be of the most use to women, especially women who start CR with a few pounds to lose, and who are serious about life-extension. But if you're just a guy who likes eggwhites, this might work for you too.


1. Buy yourself some nutritional software. You can get it at http://www.walford.com, at http://www.nutribase.com, for free at http://www.nutritiondata.com. You can also get some useful info at http://www.myfoodbuddy.com, including calorie counts. Use the nutritional software to figure out (honestly!) how many calories you're eating now.

2. Buy yourself a good food scale, accurate to the gram, and a good people scale. Some people say that they don't need to track their calories anymore, or that they track by body weight. I suppose this is possible, but these people have for the most part been practicing CR for a very long time, or they eat almost the same thing every day. Remember, it's total calories, not weight, not BMI, not macronutrient ratios, that seem to cause the mammals to live longer when on CR. So you can't just exercise to make up for extra calories and expect to get any life extension benefits. Lots of people are naturally skinny -- that doesn't mean they'll live to be over 100 looking fabulous. Lots of marathon runners die of heart attacks. So track your calories as carefully as you can, I'd say for at least a year. One thing I've found is that the CR practitioners who track their calories very closely are almost all reporting higher calories than those who don't -- but at much lower weights and BMI's. That tells me that people who don't very carefully track -- especially those who eat out at all -- are grossly underestimating their calories. So buy yourself a scale and use it with your nutritional software to find out how many calories you're eating and what nutrients you're missing.

3. You probably think that hunger is going to be the biggest challenge you face on CR. Almost everyone on CR finds that, especially for the first few months to a year, hunger really isn't that big a deal if your nutrition is well-managed. No, the biggest problem you'll have will be stress with social situations: going out for meals, holiday dinners, work events that involve food, or even just food around your house.

Be ready for this. Sit down with the people who are most important in your life, especially anyone you eat with regularly, and explain CR to them. Don't expect them to think it's a good idea or join you in it, but explain to them that it's very important to you, and that you need their support. You may want to provide them with the link to the CR Society webpage or a good book or article about CR. One of my favorite articles that offers a good introduction (yes it is by MR) is here in AOR's magazine.

This was one of the most critical steps for me. Enlisting the help of those closest to me helped me get through tough stages early on when I felt weird eating differently from how I had before.

4. Don't set any artificial weight goals. CR is not about weight. You can be really skinny and not be CR'd at all (see my college boyfriend Andrew who ate crap all the time and weighed 118 pounds at 5'10"... yes, I have always liked skinny guys, even pre-CR.) I don't look particularly skinny, yet pre-CR I weighed 32 pounds more, so we can assume that ad lib, I eat a whole lot more!


I think Walford is wrong about "Clean up your diet first, then cut calories." That's boring for most people, and doesn't get you the kind of visible dramatic results that motivate you to stay on CR. I'm not just talking about weight loss, though if you start CR overweight and are looking forward to that side effect you'll like it. I mean an immediate improvement in how you feel. My advice is to clean up your diet and cut calories at the same time, but cut calories gradually, so that you don't lose more than one to two pounds a week. If you're not feeling good, something's wrong. Most of us feel almost euphoric at the start of CR, especially those of us with weight to lose. If you're feeling bad: tired, lightheaded, starvingly hungry, then try these two things: eat more protein, eat a little more fat, just plain eat more, but don't add carbs.

Here's what I say to do: this advice applies only to women.

1. Up your protein to 70 grams or more a day. There's a forumla that says to eat 1/2 to 3/4 of a gram of protein for each pound of body weight. I find this totally misleading because if you're overweight, that's going to tell you to eat more than you really need. And besides, I find it optimal for my mood and hunger control to eat a lot more protein than the forumla says I should. So I ignore the forumla and do what's right for me. Give a shot at 70+ g protein per day and see what happens to you. Try to get most of that protein through non-meat lowfat sources. Some of my favorites are: eggwhites, non-fat or lowfat cottage cheese, non-fat or lowfat yogurt, skim milk, shrimp, scallops, whey protein powder. Eating more protein will make you less hungry, combat carb cravings, and make you less likely to call vegan ex-boyfriends. You'll thank me for this someday.

2. Never leave the house in the morning without at least 25 grams of protein in you. For me, that's one cup of eggwhites scrambled, 125 cals, 29 g of protein, every morning. Whey shakes work well too. Protein loading in the morning makes you less likely to have carb cravings later in the day, and I find it has a very beneficial effect on my mood. I am less anxious, more calm, etc.

3. Cut out all grains. No bagels, pasta, rice, etc. Just stop. Stop putting sugar in your coffee -- if you must have something sweet, use Splenda. If you are addicted to chocolate, find the most expensive, fabulous chocolate you can afford, and eat a small piece when you really, really want it. Count the calories and enter them into your nutritional software.

4. Try out the "weekdays on, weekends less strict" or "five days on, one day less on" strategy at first. I started out CR by dropping my calories from probably 1800 a day to 1200 a day on weekdays. Then when I would go out on weekends with friends, I would eat restaurant food and not worry about it too much. That way, I didn't feel deprived, I got to socialize in food-centered situations, and I got stuffed sometimes. You *will* underestimate the calories you eat in restaurants -- it's amazing how many calories they pack into restaurant food. But most people find that if you try to stop going out all together, you'll be sad and feel deprived and be tempted to eat gak. So go out -- just plan around it by keeping your calories low and tracking your calories and nutrition most days.

5. Drop your calories on "weekdays" to just enough so that you're very, very hungry right before meals and pleasantly satisfied but not stuffed after meals. Eat your protein and as many veggies as you can. We'll deal with the rest in step two. Monitor with your nutritional software how many calories that is. Set your calorie goal for normal weekdays at just below that. I mean just below. Like fifty calories below. If you start to get freaky with hunger, throw a little more protein and a little more fat into your diet. Fat keeps you from going wiggy. I don't know why, I just know it does.

6. Find an unsaturated fat source you can deal with. If you're a refugee from the lowfat diet days, this may feel really bizarre. Nuts? Olive oil on your salads? Measure it. Eat a little fat. Note that lightning does not strike you, and Dean Ornish does not show up on a cloud of thunder and wisk you off to the nearest ICU. Unsaturated fat is good.

6. Figure out what you're not willing to give up. Is it chocolate? Popcorn at movie dates? For me, it was red wine. At first, I resolved to give up all alcohol other than red wine (bye bye margaritas!) I eventually loosened up a bit, but not until about thirty pounds later.


By this time, you should be losing weight. Don't lose too fast: if you're already thin, try not to lose more than a pound every two weeks or so. If you're starting on the heavier side (I was!) up to five or six pounds a month is fine.

If you're a woman, don't expect your weight loss to be linear. I can show 105 in the morning on the scale and 111 in the afternoon, after eating lunch. Women have tremendous water weight fluctuations based on salt intake, time of the month, food intake, time of day, and many other factors that I never quite understand. Weigh yourself first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. Don't pay attention to zig zags -- it's the total picture you're looking at. If you can, graph your weight. You know you look good in your new jeans. Take a moment to feel sorry for the CR brothers, who are always whining that they are too skinny.

It's important during this phase to measure your calories as carefully as possible. Use your scale when you're at home -- don't guestimate. When you go out, you will have no clue how much you're eating. So be sure on regular days.

Tasks for this phase (about a month in):

1. Balance your omega 3's and omega 6's. These are fats and if you get them in balance, you'll feel a whole lot better. Flax oil is a great source of omega 3's -- I eat one teaspoon at breakfast with my eggwhites and one teaspoon at lunch mixed with one teaspoon of olive oil on my salad.

2. Learn to eat new greens: kale, arugula, amaranth greens, various Chinese greens -- give it a try. Make big salads. If you don't like salads, forget I said anything about it. If you're getting your RDA's (which you know because you use nutritional software) then eat whatever you want. I just happen to really like raw kale, and I never would have known it had I not eaten it first at MR's house. So try raw kale and see what you think.

3. Try to get 30% fat in your diet, almost all of it unsaturated. That means olive oil, flax oil, nuts. Find a nut you like, but measure them -- they're very high calorie!!!

4. Check in with your friends/family and see how they're doing with your progress. Are they starting to hate you because you're losing weight and feeling fantastic? Do they think your diet is a big pain? Are they supportive because you're happier and healthier?

4. Take this time to remember that it's your life. You and only you live with the consequences of your decisions.

5. Find someone you can talk to about CR, even if it's a friend you make over the CR Society email list (you're more likely to make friends on the Community list, where the cynical old curmudgeons like MR rarely venture. Read about both lists here.) Someone who isn't bored with talking about food and science and someone who won't be jealous of you when you lose weight and live longer. Well, chances are, your jealous friends will be dead long before you.

6. Figure out what nutritients you're usually missing. Most people don't eat a very big variety of foods, and we're consistently missing this or that. Use your nutritional software to figure out what you're usually low on, and to find the foods that will help you correct this deficiency.


Depending on where you start, you may be in weight loss phase for awhile. This is a good time to start figuring out what your CR personaility is. Do you enjoy keeping a consistent calorie level every day? Do you like eating very little, getting hungry, and then eating more all at once? Do you need volume to be satisfied, and therefore gravitate towards massive salads and stir-fries of low-calorie vegetables? Is eating on the go important to you? Is eating out at restaurants a problem?

Play with your CR style. Try hitting a consistent calorie level for about ten days, skipping your going out meals. See how you feel. Are you happily buzzing along, or are you going wiggy with boredom and hunger? There's no one way to do CR -- you might be an every other day faster! I like to eat three meals a day, keep my calories very low, and then on about the fifth or sixth day go out for a bigger meal. When I do go out, I skip the grains and focus on the protein foods.

Start to think about your designer diet. If you were to make up your daily or weekly menu plan, what you would eat when you were working as usual, what would it be? Put 70 g of protein or more in there, put your omega 3's and your omega 6's in there, and some generous servings of veggies. Make sure you have room for that thing you don't want to give up. Do you want a glass of wine with dinner? A piece of chocolate on Friday afternoon? Pancakes at Sunday breakfast with your family? Find out how many calories it has and put it in, but make up for it elsewhere. You can eat ANYTHING you want on CR -- in the right amounts. You just have to control your total Calories. Deal with your nutritional deficiencies. Is there a food you can eat maybe once a week to make up for something your missing in your regular diet pattern? For example, I tend to be low on zinc, so I eat oysters when I go out to make up for it.

No matter what, don't stop tracking.

Most of us find that CR is a lot easier when we develop a list of things we eat on a regular basis. The fact is, most people do that whether they're on CR or not. Most people just don't have much variety in their diets, so it's important to make sure that what you do eat, you're getting maximal nutrition out of.

My CR is an ever-evolving practice, and I imagine yours will be to. The social struggles, the weirdness of being thin (some of us love it, some of us hate it, mostly breaks down on gender lines.) The change in how you relate to food. Lots of things about CR change over time, and I expect my CR style to keep on changing. If you're interested in trying CR, I hope these concrete instructions are of some use to you. If you don't like them, throw them in the recycle bin and find your own way... there's no one way to do CR! My way works for me, but let me know what you do and I can learn something from you too!

And don't call your vegan ex-boyfriend. Eat some eggwhites instead. Trust me. It works every time.

Posted by april at 10:15 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

I've Been Swimming In A Sea of Anarchy

Four days of working with Danny and I am convinced that he has one of the worst lifestyles, healthwise, of anyone I've ever met. He smokes like a chimney, including cigars. He doesn't drink much but he doesn't like red wine and when he drinks, it's whiskey. He eats all sorts of things that I would definitely not eat these days. He fries tofu for fun. I have absorbed more secondhand smoke from him in 24 hours than I had in the entire previous year.

We were in Scranton, things went well. He showed up to negotiations in the exact same outfit that Edward was wearing. I kid you not. Black pinstripe suit, blue shirt, blue tie. Danny's was striped, Edward's solid. Still. Edward has a mini-me. A smoking, whiskey drinking anarchist mini-me. Really, no one is more surprised than I am.

I've gotta run... I'm finally home and it's time for dinnner. More soon.

Sheryl Crow says:

I've been swimming in a sea of anarchy
I've been living on coffee and nicotine
I've been wondering if all the things I've seen were ever real
Were ever really happening...

Posted by april at 6:22 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 15, 2007

Women's Magazines: Repost

This was one of my favorite entries from about three years ago. I figure a lot of my newer readers never saw it on the old blog, so I'm reposting. Hope you enjoy!

Women's Magazines , November 26, 2004

Last night in the airport I picked up one of those "women's" magazines, having decided that after driving from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, drinking two drinks with my new friends in the airport bar, and eating eggdrop soup (wow, it has been a terrible nutritional two days... no wonder I feel like crap... no giving up CR for me, not even after... but we're jumping ahead...) I lacked the mental focus necessary to give Dr. de Grey my full attention.

Now if you're looking for a diatribe about how those magazines are trash, how women shouldn't focus so much on beauty and pleasing men, you'd better read someone else's blog. I find those magazines very entertaining. I've often thought of myself as something of a later day, less uptight, better housekeeping, female Martin Luther, both as a freedom fighter and also as a lover of wine, women, and song... or in my case, wine, men, and pop music. So I am not offended by the content of Cosmo.

However, I don't read them nearly as often as I did when I was younger, so last night was the first time I had taken a look at a Glamour in awhile. In the magazine I found an article by the author of _The Vagina Monologues_, I can't remember her name but you know who she is. She was talking about her new play, I think it's called _The Good Body_, and urging women to give up their obsessions with their bodies in favor of other, more important pursuits. Like, say, taking over the world.

I've always had mixed reactions to this kind of advice. First, I wholeheartedly assent to the premise of Naomi Wolf's _Beauty Myth_. Keeping women focused on beauty, and keeping women divided into categories of irrelevant (if you're not pretty) and slutty (if you're too pretty) is a great tool for oppression.

However, I've never believed in "accept yourself the way you are, even if you're obese." What we eat is something that, unless we are in prison, we have some control over. Yes, it's hard. Yes, I struggled my entire life before March 26, 2004, with the whole body thing. But being relatively thin can be done, and there's tons of ways to do it. I was thin as a lowfat vegan, I'm thinner as a CR'd Zone wannabe, whatever, and I'm not one of those girls who is naturally skinny. Left to my nachos and margaritas, I look like a fertility goddess in a size eight petite.

The thing that was remarkable about this reading of the "Stop worrying about your body, accept yourself the way you are and take over the world!" advice was that for once, I was not one of the 99.9% of women cited as hating some part of their bodies.

That's right. I feel guilty saying it, the other women will no doubt come after me with pitch forks and pumpkin pie tomorrow, but I am happy with my body.

The author of play (wish I could remember her name) is right... liberation from the body hatred that governs most women's lives really does free up a lot of energy!

This will be hard for the brothers to understand, but the sisters should get it right off. Being set free from the "If only I were... thinner, more in shape, blah blah blah" mental feedback loop is like being given an entirely new life.

That's why I think it's so funny when people ask if CR takes a lot of time. Sure, it takes time to play with my DWIDP, to cook my veggies instead of grabbing a burrito, and it takes willpower to not eat like crap all the time. But compared to the constant mental self-bashing of the normal American woman... CR is the world's biggest time saver.

Yes, yes, yes, CR is not about weight loss. Yes yes yes, eventually I may get so thin that everyone will say, "You were prettier before." I remind you, it's not a contest for the cutest mouse.

Living in a way that is extremely healthy, refusing to poison myself with the deadly cocktail of bad food and bad body image, is unbelievably liberating.

Being back in my dad's house brings me back to all the struggles I've had with body image and weight. It's kinda scary to write about it because a) it's not considered cool for girls to talk about ever having body image issues b) I am terrified of not being taken seriously, and I am already fighting a lack of science background that makes me annoyingly clueless way too often. But I think it's important for us girls to be open about this stuff. If we talk about it, maybe we can save other women from the hell we went through. Maybe it just makes us feel better. In any case, here goes:

I was never anorexic. I suffer from a certain amount of survivor's guilt because several of my friends were very seriously anorexic, and one almost died. Have you guys ever read Marya Hornbacher's _Wasted_? It's a bit of an anorexic cult classic. She went to my high school... I am actually in the background in one scene, though not identified. As she got smaller, she gave me her old clothes. I was pretty tiny too, but at a performing arts high school where dancers were marked down on their grade reports for gaining weight, a curvy girl felt fat. However, the example of my friends losing their youth, their freedom, and almost losing their lives, made me too scared to go down that road. So while I wasn't always happy with my body, I did the Jane Fonda workout and ate bagels with mustard (remember those lowfat late eighties?) instead of starving myself. I was also lucky enough to have some great boyfriends and friend-boys who would talk me into sense when I started asking "Do I look fat?" For some reason, men were easier to believe than women. Your mom can say you're beautiful, but it really means something coming from the cutest boy in the class.

I remember the scale in the bathroom I shared with my step-brother at my dad's house. When I was in seventh grade, I weighed 108. I was exactly as tall as I am now, 5' 1.75" and I was one of those girls who started looking like a woman earlier rather than later. On a routine doctor's visit, my doctor told me that she thought I was getting heavy and needed to lose weight.

I stopped eating. I dropped to 92. I looked like a little ghost, and my parents were concerned, but you see, all the girls were shrinking. It's just what we all did. We didn't know about nutrition or anything like that... we thought that skipping lunch would make us look like we were supposed to look. I remember being so hungry that I once ate an entire candy bar that some kid on the bus was selling to pay for the band's trip to New York City.

Years later, when I was in college, I went back to visit the doctor who had said I was too fat and told her how that made me feel. We both had a good cry, and she said, "We just didn't understand back then."

I eventually re-fed, went away to school, fought the anorexic wars and won, and helped some other girls pull through. When I look back on those days of holding back my friend's hair while she threw up, or figuring out exactly what to feed a girl who had fainted due to hunger but just couldn't keep food down anymore (not eating makes it harder to eat... you feel sick when the food hits you) I feel so sad about the youth that was stolen from me and all those other girls. And some boys too... they were far from immune. It wasn't so much about thinness for us, though of course we thought that was the focus. It was about power, about controlling the one thing we had control of in a world where we were powerless.

I survived, but that bathroom scale never lost its grip... after I gained weight in college (knowing the location of every french fry in New Haven will do that!) I got into the lowfat vegetarian thing, at first to lose weight. It worked! 130 -> 110, my pre-CR lowest adult weight. I looked great, and felt a whole lot better than I did on the french fry and frozen mocha diet (does anyone out there remember the Daily Cafe, home of the frozen mocha? Ah, those sunny spring afternoons, skipping class and quoting Nietzche with my friend Katherine... I did enjoy college.) The weight came and went over the next eight years... up during periods of boredom and overwork, down during periods of excitement like the aftermath of the Republican National Convention (how can you eat when there are hunger strikers in jail? how can you eat when you have to clean up after six anarchists who are camping out in your living room?) [Editor's note, Nov. 15, 2007: Be careful whom you feed: you never know who might turn up seven years later as a real grown-up organizer.]

I've been thin, I've been really thin, I've been a little heavy, but up until now, I've never been at peace with my body.

Exorcism of the twin demons of anxiety and negative body image isn't like being quietly set free from a cage -- it's like smashing a mirror with a hammer. And the most important thing is that I did it myself... I carefully and quietly, sometimes obsessively, turned over every little corner of every book I could find, years of the CR Society archives, and the shelves of Whole Foods, until I found a way to save myself. At the time I thought I was just afraid of annoying the other people on the list by posting silly questions... in retrospect, I see how important it was that I did so much research on my own. While there were so many times that I could have asked, I had to figure it out for myself. Now I can look back and say "This is mine. I saved my own life."

Does that help you understand why I want so much to give something back? If you thought you were going to serve a life sentence, and you had resigned yourself to that, then suddenly they kick you out of jail, you have a whole new life! You've gotta do something with it!

I've been wrestling over the last few weeks, especially since the CRS Conference, with the question of what specifically I should do with all my newfound freedom and energy. I've been writing about it, and I've gotten some wonderful help from two CR brothers whose work is a constant inspiration to me.

Over the next few weeks, you'll read the details of my existential dilemma. I had no idea when I started CR that any of this would happen, but when I look back at last winter, I can see the storm brewing. I had, in a relatively short period of time, gotten almost everything I had ever wanted, both professionally and personally. At the same time, my anxiety was eating me alive and my health was going the way of most American woman in their thirties... to hell. These two forces hitting each other was bound to produce something weird.

I can't thank you, the people all over the world who read this nutty blog, enough for your support. When I think I'm about to get hit by a truck on the PA Turnpike, my first thought is, "Thank God some of the brothers have my blog password... someone has to tell my readers if I die!" The next few phases of this journey may take us into some unfamilliar territory. I hope you'll come along with me, and I hope that you'll find these new ideas just as challenging and difficult and powerful as I do. I won't stop telling you what I ate, throwing out easy, low calorie, always delicious recipies. You'll still hear about my cat's hunting trips, my eggwhites, and my adventures with VLC. But I may be going in a direction that neither of us expected when we first met. I hope all that I've written tonight, as weird as it was to share, will help you understand why I am so determined to go running down that road.

I'll close with my favorite quote from Martin Luther, a historical figure who may have had almost as many catchy lines as MR.

"Here I stand. I can not do otherwise. So help me God."
posted by April @ 4:41 AM

Posted by april at 7:09 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Everyone Harbors A Secret Hatred For the Prettiest Girl In the Room

That's a line from my favorite Alana Davis (though it was originally Ani de Franco methinks) song, "32 Flavors." I listened to it constantly when I was 22, and took the advice. Therefore, I strive to surround myself with women who are much prettier than I am. Then everyone can secretly hate them, not me! I've been quite successful. I am rarely seen with anyone who is not far more attractive than I am, female or male. It just came up on my Ipod, which I am still using as a fortune cookie.

Sorry for not answering more comments, but quick:

1. Eeeek! CR without lowfat and nonfat dairy! I am working on an analysis of customs laws in Russia to see if we can send you a package! I have no idea what to tell you, but will think on it.

2. Adding calories is easy. Make yourself whey protein shakes with skim milk, and add nuts and flax or hazelnut oil and frozen fruit for a lovely smoothy. Banana and berries will up your cals fast and if you blend them you can make a shake that won't be very filling but will still be high calorie. Also, nonfat cottage cheese is relatively high calorie for the volume. Add nuts and oil to every meal. Or avocado.

I've been engaged in major work kerfuffi since I got back from the CR Conference, so no time/too stressed to write. But the short update, leaving the kerfuffi aside: Danny is doing great, everyone loves him, he gets his first real assignment today. He also loves to cook and keeps bringing in good food, of which I take precisely one bite. I could easily turn his recipes CR-friendly, I think, and make them at home. He's had a lot of experience cooking in restaurants, and appears to know a lot.

We're headed up to Scranton today for negotiations, then tomorrow I am giving a presentation to college freshmen at the small Catholic college where my mom teaches on CR!!!! Yippie!

This weekend I'll post some good recipes... MR will be turning 37, so there will be some birthday cooking in the house.

Posted by april at 5:34 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 11, 2007

Eight Thing I Love About the CR Society Conference

8. Nobody cares what you eat.

7. Nobody says you're too skinny.

6. There are lots of great presentations that make you think more deeply about how and why we do CR.

5. Catching up with old friends.

4. Making new friends.

3. Everyone looks younger than the last time you saw them.

2. It reminds me that yes, there is hope for longer, healthier life than most people would dream possible.

1. It's the first real vacation I've had in as long as I can remember.

Posted by april at 7:04 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

November 10, 2007

It's Easier to Be Broken, It's Easier to Hide

I have long said that Lifehouse's "First Time" is my theme song for the Scranton campaign. I am now thinking that it might be my theme for the entire year. That campaign was a great example of people who had been broken down by defeat after defeat, followed by cuts to their pay and benefits and staffing levels that were devastating to their families' security and to the care they give their patients. For the first months of the campaign, they were very wary of coming out and doing anything. It just seemed so futile... after pouring their hearts and souls into organizing twice before, only to be beaten by management consultants who taught their managers to lie in their faces, it was hard for them to decide to do it again.

But they did... and new people came out of nowhere to lead the charge. Still, they all looked to Anna. Her decision to go with our union was definitely a pivotal moment in the campaign. She had every reason to hide, and she was never as active in this campaign as she had been in previous ones. But she decided to do it, and her decision influenced at least 100 others. She was definitely holding her breath until that last vote was counted. One of the happiest moments of my year... of my entire twelve year career, actually... was when I called her from the Labor Board to tell her that we won. I got her friend on the phone at the PACU (that's nurse talk for Recovery Room) and told her. She passed the news along. I heard Anna screaming in the background, "We won! We won!" I started to cry. Andy, who had come up for the vote count, cracked some inappropriate jokes and we all went out to lunch. Helping working people build power... it's all real. It's so freakin hard, but it's real, and it is the most amazing feeling on earth.

When nurses first get involved with organizing, it seems impossible that it could ever win. Overcoming their co-workers' fear, trying to keep everyone focused while management is drilling lies into their heads 24 hours a day in mandatory meetings (and yes you can be fired for failure to attend) and then winning a contract... it seems like too big a mountain to climb. Our job as organizers is to grab on tight to their hands and lead them through the maze. They spend a lot of time metaphorically digging their fingernails into our arms. I am covered in scars, not literal ones but ones that another old organizer could definitely see and recognize. There's this weird recognition among old organizers, people who've poured their lives into changing the world. We can make fun of each other, but we get really annoyed if other people do. I remember when I first met The Great Rachel B, who was a legend in her own time in nursing home organizing, and we just couldn't stop talking. Her support was a major factor in getting me through the campaign at the older of the twins.

I've always said that organizing and CR have a lot in common. Both require an unusual amount of self-discipline. Both can make you seem really weird, but most of us came that way so we don't mind too much. Most important, both require a radically different view of the world from the one held by most people around us. To organize, you have to believe that you and your co-workers have the collective power to change things for the better. To do CR, you have to believe that you, through your own actions, have the power to dramatically improve your health and slow your biological aging process.

The evidence supports both ideas. Lots of people have organized, and have won tremendous victories that most Americans take for granted now. I love that bumper sticker that says, "The Labor Movement: The Folks Who Brought You The Weekend." Overtime after 40 hours, any kind of health and safety regulations, laws against child labor, etc. It cracks me up when people say, "Why do we need unions? There aren't any unfair labor acts anymore." These people are usually rich professionals who have no earthly idea what life is like for working people. Still, every day workers are winning improvements on the job because collectively they have the power to take on their employer in a meaningful way. It's a lot of fun.

Same with CR. We just spent the day hearing scientific presentations about how and why CR works. Tomorrow is the skeptic day: we always invite the anti-CR scientists to present too. One of them is really entertaining, a guy named Steven Austad who catches wild mice and does experiments with them. I don't understand all his scientific data, but I love the stories of his trips all over the world and how he catches mice. I am wondering: if he finds a mouse in his house, does he catch it? Does he keep a cat? Was he, in a previous life, a cat? Kieffer would be so jealous of someone who gets paid to catch mice. Kieffer has been hanging around the place where he found a mouse last year for at least several hours a day ever since.

I always find these conferences so inspiring. After three years of CR, it's good to be reminded that there's a reason why we're doing this. Being around real live examples of long term CR practitioners who look and feel fabulous makes me more determined than ever to pull off this most unusual lifestyle, even though it's difficult.

Three days later... I'm back at work, and today was Danny's first day. He seemed happy, ecstatic, overwhelmed. At the end of the day I asked what he thought, and he mentioned that Lisa had told him how many organizers had come and gone, and he wanted to be someone who committed for the long term. Does he just know what to say or what?

I feel very optimistic about the future. CR is hard... real CR, not just the obesity avoidance that many pass of as CR. Real CR, defying biological instinct, fighting the compulsion to eat while focusing on the things that actually matter more in life... like love, work, changing the world, petting cats. Organizing is hard too. I tried to warn him, but he just kept coming back. I guess a lot of people have tried to tell me that CR is too hard, that we should just give up, that we should float along with the tide of ever growing weights and the idea that we should just consume until we can consume no more. And every time I'd chose to do something different. Maybe I'm just a rebel at heart, can't be normal, can't just go with the flow. I'm sure I'm a terrible brat, but I don't plan to accept normal aging and death when there's a very well scientifically documented alternative.

We're both looking for something we've been afraid to find
It's easier to be broken, it's easier to hide
Looking at you, holding my breath
For once in my life, I'm scared to death
I'm taking a chance, letting you inside

But feeling alive all over again...

Posted by april at 8:18 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

November 8, 2007

How To Pet A Famous Biogerontologist

A few days ago, Danny called me from his home town where he was shopping for clothes for his new job.

"Can I wear a suede jacket?" he asked.

Hmmmm, thought I. Have I ever heard of such a thing? I was sure I hadn't seen one.

The salesguy in the background said, "It's so soft I just want to run over there and pet him."

"Well," said I, "You can't very well complain if the nurses try to pet you."

Danny agreed to not complain if the nurses tried to pet him. He's been through a lot worse things than that. Still, I wasn't quite certain that this would be a safe fashion choice. We really do have to be very conservative in our dress, especially those who are under thirty, in order to be taken seriously.

"Does it look like an investment banker would wear it?" I asked.

The salesguy in the background said, "God no! Take it off!"

I trust that Danny went on to buy something more conservative for his new job. He starts on Monday. I am very happy about this. He just seems to want to do the work so bad. That's what we need. Somebody who needs to organize the same way he needs to eat.

Meanwhile, I am at the CR Conference. MR gave his presentation, and he got into an argument with Dr. John Hollozy, a veritable icon of George Harrison and Eric Clapton status in biogerontology. Dr. Hollozy was quite heated about the whole thing, at one point saying, "You're up there talking like a lawyer or a politician..."

He's organizing, I thought. MR is organizing: he's informing people of things they might not know in an attempt to get them to do something that he believes will bring them closer to their stated goals (in this case, slowing the aging process or indeed reversing it) than what they're currently doing or considering doing. Dr. Hollozy disagrees with him (not about CR, he's all for that, this was about SENS) and doesn't like the fact that Michael is organizing circles around his opponents.

Dr. Hollozy, I noted, was wearing a suede jacket. Hmmmm, thought I. Now I have seen one.

I went over and asked if he would mind if I petted it. He didn't mind in the slightest. And so I petted a famous scientist. It would not be the first time. They are very pet-able, if you ask nicely.

Meanwhile, MR appeared to be working overtime at turning me on. He dresses like an anarchist and then gets up and spouts all this fancy science-y talk and it drives me mad. For years I have said that my favorite things are anarchists dressed like investment bankers and science geeks dressed as anarchists. The universe has clearly, once again, decided to take me literally. I am definitely one of those "Be careful what you wish for" people, as the universe almost always takes me literally. I said I liked skinny guys: I meet and fall in love with a man who is 6' tall and 115 pounds. I joke about anarchists dressed as investment bankers, but was always thinking of a certain vaguely Marxist maybe socialist dressed up in a Brooks Brothers suit. The universe, however, took me literally and sent me an actual anarchist to dress up as an investment banker. I realize that my enthusiasm for dressing him up may indicate that I abandoned my Barbie dolls too young. No doubt the women on Every Woman Has An Eating Disorder would say it's better that I dress up an anarchist than that I have my body image damaged for one more minute by impossibly proportioned Barbie. Or perhaps they'd say that I'm just doing CR because I secretly want to look like Barbie, and that my desire to dress up an anarchist while claiming that he is a substitute for my long lost dolls is just another elaborate rationalization for my bizarre and dangerous habit of eating 100 grams of kale with 1 cup of organic cottage cheese and 30 grams of avocado for lunch. Then Dr. Stacey would say something calm, friendly and rational and the discussion would head in another direction.

Anyhow, MR has a gift for breaking down the scientific information in ways that normal people can understand... that was what attracted me to him in the first place. I love watching him argue with the scientists. The shiny Canadian army boots are also a plus. Watching him from a distance, but with my glasses, I am amazed again at how young and vibrant he looks. He would be much more believable if he said he was 27, yet his 37th birthday is upon us next week. Makes me think CR works. Makes me think my boyfriend is really hot, and I am lucky to be with him. Makes me think that he's so wonderful to me, and so sexy, and I really should vacuum the floors when I get home so that his cat allergies don't act up. Love is like that, I think.

My presentation went great. It was all about women and CR, about how the media has seized upon the women in CR as an excuse to link CR with anorexia. I passed around Rebecca Traister's article, and Kate Taylor's from Slate. I shared some of the charming letters and comments I've gotten, full of irrational hatred for anyone who dares count their calories. I think everyone was most interested in the part about CR and female libido, but that's really a post in itself, for another day.

The food here is good... MR and I made ourselves big salads at the buffet at lunch. At dinner I had to do a ton of work from our hotel room, so I just had brewers yeast soup with cottage cheese. Two glasses of wine: one with dinner and one later, after I went on a walk with some other CR friends. Cottage cheese snack before bed. Nancy's organic is clearly filled with opiods, judging from the way I crave it. My bones are happily sucking up the calcium.

It's nice to be here, very nice. It's wonderful to connect with long-term friends. But I am missing home, missing being in the middle of everything. I will be happy to get back.
Very exciting things are happening at work.

Fortune Ipod settles on Edwin McCain's "Cound Not Ask For More."

The fortune Ipod is very wise.

Posted by april at 9:35 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 7, 2007

MR and AprilCR arrive at CR Conference

Greetings from San Antonio!

We are here! After a long but fairly uneventful flight or two, we have landed. First thing we went to the local Whole Foods to stock up on provisions for the event. Quorn tenders, tons of greens and other veggies, Nancy's organic cottage cheese (which MR has just informed me may have opioids... that explains why I appear to get high off it!) and some other treatlets, like a good couple of salsas and some hazelnut oil. We're staying at the same hotel where we stayed for Myrna's wedding a month ago, and it has a full kitchen minus oven, so we can cook our own food.

Thank heaven I am at the CR Conference, where nobody cares if you eat or not. Or what you eat. Of the twelve people sitting at a table for six, maybe nine will be eating. The others have already been fed, or don't eat restaurant food, or are doing EOD fasting, or once a day eating, or whatever. We're all weird, so we're super-accepting. It's such a relief for MR to be with people who are accepting of his eating habits. It's a relief for me too, though I have historically been much more of a "normal" eater, and have even upon occasion sunk so far into the depths of moderation to truly become a "healthy eater" but not a CR'd person.

Tonight for dinner I will make myself some sort of veggie dish with a cup of cottage cheese and a teaspoon of flax oil. I had my typical eggwhites with nonfat cheese, brewers yeast, Texas Pete and flax oil for breakfast. Then I had my salad with Quorn instead of cottage cheese for lunch on the plane because the TSA is so freaked out about liquids that we didn't think they would let the cottage cheese past security.

I had a Diet Coke with vodka on the plane. I think it is the God-given right of everyone to have a drink on any flight over two hours. I counted the calories.

We have the opening reception tonight, and then MR and I are both doing presentations tomorrow. Mine is called, "Hey, where did all the chicks come from? OR: Women and CR." I'll post the outline after I've done the presentation/discussion.

For trashy airplane reading, I bought Pattie Boyd's book, Wonderful Tonight. Yes, she's the woman for whom Eric Clapton wrote "Layla." And for whom George Harrison wrote "Something." She had a rather, uh, eventful shall we say, life. I read an excerpt in a British tabloid that had a story on CR and I was hooked on the tale of this woman who married two of the biggest rock icons of all time. She's like the Cleopatra of rock, the Teresa Heinz Kerry of 60's and 70's music. Makes me quite grateful for my currently rather calm domestic situation. And also very good not to be a heroin addict.

I downloaded "Layla" to my Ipod to go with the book. Here was my Ipod Fortune Cookie's commentary on the way to the airport this morning:

Layla, by Eric Clapton
Brand New Day, by Sting
Overture to the Phantom of the Opera, Andrew Lloyd Webber
Magic, by Pilot
Phantom of the Opera, title song to the show
Rock Me, by Liz Phair

Edward and Susie and the Asparagus-phobe are in negotiations with the nurses at the older of the twins right now. I expect that any minute they will call me with the news that they're handing over a strike notice. My Fortune Ipod seems pretty clear.

Meanwhile, I'll be talking food and science and living longer and the effects of CR on libido for the next four days. The Divine Robert K, organizer of the conference, joked that any discussion of libido can last four hours, so if I alluded to that in my presentation they'd better give me a lot of time.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Posted by april at 6:52 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

November 5, 2007

You're Always Coming and Going

That's what the chief negotiator for management at the older of the twins said to me today in the hall outside the negotiating room. I was walking in, he was walking out, with his team.

"Yes, well, aren't we all?" I asked.

His second in command, a woman I find myself liking in spite of myself, said, "Well Bob it would be rather weird if she just appeared. That would be bewitching, wouldn't it?" She made a gesture intended to call to mind Samantha of "Bewitched."

Existential wisdom from management's negotiator. You're always coming and going. It reminds me of this Michael Kinsley column that he began with a line like, "If you are aging, and who is not?"

I feel like I am changing. Not so much aging. I look younger, but that's just because the circles under my eyes are disapppearing and I'm losing weight again and eating better than during the twins. I'm not going anywhere... in fact I feel more committed to my work and life than ever. I am just not in the mood to take a lot of crap anymore. Hence the sudden change in tone on the blog.

Thanks to all for comments, even if I don't answer them right away. Denise, start with "The Longevity Diet" by Brian Delaney and Lisa Walford. Good luck! I remember those early days of learning about CR. So much fun.

I've learned to put my Ipod on shuffle and I've been using it as a bit of a fortune cookie. I ask a question in my head then close my eyes, fast forward and hit play. Twista's "So Sexy" came up this time. Hard to interpret that one. It's like "May you live in interesting times."

I love the way you do your own thing, and how you're smokin on your own flame...

That's what the fortune Ipod says. I am fairly sure that means that we're about to give ten day notice for a strike.

Negotiations going not well. Management is delusional. They're putting proposals on the table that they must know or will soon realize will provoke a strike. Which we could pull off if we had to. But noboday wants that. It's just goofy. Put some sensible proposals on the table and avoid the fight. The nurses aren't even asking for all that much. Today while Edward was in another meeting I worked with our negotiating committee to make a new wage proposal. It was a ton of fun. I've never written a wage proposal before today. Nobody could find a calculator so we did the math the old fashioned way! Edward liked my wage proposal... it took a couple of minutes to explain how we came up with it but when he really looked at it he loved it. It's a great feeling to learn to do something new. I spend so much time teaching that it's fun to be learning new things again. Not that every day isn't full of new things to learn.

Negotiations food: salad with grilled chicken. Like you had to ask. Boring. Maybe I'll become a vegetarian again. I could take my whey protein shakes around with me. I feel guilty about eating meat. I feel guilty about never publishing the entry on why I am no longer a vegan.

Tomorrow is the last day before the CR Society Conference. I am excited to go. It's amazing to see old friends who don't visibly age.

I should go to bed, though I have doubts about my ability to sleep. At least MR and the cat will be warm. I wore my coat for the first time today. The trees on the way to Scranton are beautiful. It would be lovely weather for a strike. But then again, I said that about February in the Poconos.

Posted by april at 10:43 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 3, 2007

Danny California

I have said before that my taste in music is awful.

I am a great organizer. One of the best. I am a decent cook, especially of healthy foods, especially on a budget and fast fast fast. I am a pretty girl, capable of looking better at 33 than most women look at 21.

But I know nothing about music. Nothing. And I'm usually okay with that, except that today the job interview for new guy (who is about to get his own blog name) veered into the direction of music, and he knows a ton about it, as does the husband of the president of my union (First Gentleman?) and they set out on a long convo about the guitar while I contemplated how I would tell my newest organizer who also happens to be a classical guitarist that he has to cut his nails.

I told him. He stopped walking and said, "Are you crazy?"

Well, the answer to that is of course yes. I am as mad as a hatter who has been sniffing the hat making chemicals for twelve years. How else could I be the best organizer in the country?

He stopped walking. We were taking a walk. I kept walking. I knew he'd catch up.

We agreed on a nail length that would allow him to play the guitar while still being taken seriously by nurses in Philadelphia.

Later on, after the Pres had okay'ed him (she loved him, actually, as I knew she would, though she wondered what was up with the freakishly long nails. I explained that it's a guitar thing. I tried to remember why I know that. I think I learned it at Interlochen.) I called him when I was on my way to get my nails done. I let him pick my color. Dark matte burgundy. I figure, if I'm making him cut his nails, he should be able to pick the color of mine.

There's just something about this kid. I keep forgetting that he wasn't there during my Yale sit-in of 1996... he would have fit in so well.

Sure enough, April CR is a radical. She is definitely not an anarchist, and she doesn't want to go to your Revolution if she can't wear cute shoes. She does not quote Emma Goldman. She expects her staff to quote her.

She is a great organizer. She is kinda thin and gets the RDAs of most things most of the time. She lives with a man who wishes she got more RDAs and ate fewer calories. She is currently making him eggplant pizzas with fat free mozzarella, tomatoes, asparagi, and capers. Flax and olive oil will top said pizzas. There are a lot of them.

She just wants to organize, and to be young and well enough to do it.

She does CR. She is the director of organizing of the last truly independent union.

She just hired this kid whom she's going to name Danny California, after the Red Hot Chili Peppers song, because a) everything she objects to has happened in California, so she loves the line "California rest in peace" [correction: I am very happy that CNA exists, and that happens on a regular basis in California] and b) he has been everywhere and done everything and deserves such a name... I met him seven years ago when we were in the midst of a rather, uh, stressful organizing campaign of another sort and c) he would probably be really annoyed to be identified by such an obvious pop music reference. And she lives to annoy those who once annoyed her.

Now time to eat dinner with the love of my life. Eggplant pizzas. Amazing how versatile capers are. Amazing how misplaced modifiers can make it look like eggplant pizzas are the love of my life. They are not. I do like them. But the love of my life is MR, the Prophet of the Biotech Rapture, the skinniest man I have ever seen, my exotic Canadian sex toy who would marry me if he had to in order to get me out of the country if they outlaw unions.

Mental note: ask Danny if he's got a plan for getting out of the country. I suspect that he had a plan long before I did, cause he's the kind of person who really needs one. But just to be sure.

She has completely lost her mind.

She cooks with capers a lot.

She is fairly sure that within 18 months, she will have led the campaign to organize the largest hospital in Philadelphia.

She is nothing if not an organizer. She loves her nails, she loves her skinny yet well-proportioned (er, hum!) body very much. She loves doing CR and talking about CR and blogging about CR and blogging in general and writing and cooking and lilacs and pumpernickel bread and obscure Carly Simon references that no one but her mom would get. Except for maybe other people's moms. Carly Simon is definitely a mom thing, which makes it quite odd that she (meaning me, as I'm on this third person kick for all the wrong reasons) loves Carly Simon so much.

But she loves organizing most. And she feels the magick brewing now. Now, in a way that means you'd better freakin' train some folks to be ready because the floods are coming. And now that I have Lisa an Susie and Danny California, I am sure we can handle it.

Organizing is my life. It is who I am. Maybe I will weigh 110, maybe I will weigh 98. At the rate I am going, I will weigh 98 in six months.

It's not about weight. It's about who you are in that body. I feel confident that I am a person who should be alive in many years. To organize.

To make some sort of fundamental change in our politcal system.

And that Danny California and Lisa and Susie will be right by my side, and will be better organizers than they ever imagined they could be. That their names will go down in history as the great organizers who changed the map on Philadelphia and throughout PA in 2008 - 2010, and that anything I could teach them will have been great, but that I will learn how to get out of the way and let my girls and boys do their magick.

And if I was the magnet that pulled these people together, then it will have been worth losing the ability to tell a funny story about the anarchist who was living on my couch seven years ago. Besides, he was really living in the guest room.

Posted by april at 8:43 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

November 1, 2007

Happy November!

And a happy one it is.

I am oddly cheerful today... odd considering that I had a terrible fight with my best friend two days ago over a very stupid misunderstanding, but I was extremely sad until this morning. Then this morning I woke up, took a shower, had every intention of going to the gym, then got hit with a wave of exhaustion so bad I felt like I could barely stand up. So I went back to bed. Slept for an hour. Got up, felt great.

Halloween was weird. Weird because I was so focused on work and fight that I kept forgetting it was Halloween, then wondering why all these people were dressed so funny. I was in the ladies room downstairs in our office when this woman walked in wearing a costume and proceeded to adjust it in front of the mirror. I almost made the comment that I keep forgetting that it's Halloween and that's why everyone is in costume. Then it occurred to me: what if this woman is not, in fact, wearing a costume, but always dresses like that? Unlikely, but not worth the risk to make chit chat.


We had no trick-or-treaters. We never do. Which is sad because I have all sorts of cool toys to give out. Bracelets, ghoulish finger puppets, glow in the dark snakes...

We're down to the wire on the older of the twins, and I'm working a lot, a lot a lot. I am very excited because Saturday morning the new guy I want to hire is meeting with me and our president, and if she okays him, he's in. I think he's going to be great. I hope so. We need the help.

To commenters: Anne, thank you for the kind words! How very sweet of you!

Shannon: Hello! It was wonderful to hang out with you at Myrna's wedding! Julian is such a lucky guy. The miracle oil is flax oil. Take one teaspoon night, one teaspoon morning. It's great on salads, fruit, or basically anything. Keep it in the freezer, only buy the kind in a dark glass bottle (we buy Flora brand) and never, ever heat or cook with it. It must stay very cold or else it oxidizes. It should be stored in the fridge at the grocery store. If it's not in the fridge, don't buy it. Put it in the freezer when you get it home. It will cure your dry skin. It is also a mild anti-depressant.

Low cal breakfast: the eggwhite omlette! Buy eggwhites in cartons, sizzle them up with veggies, non-fat cheese, or whatever, and then after removing from heat top with salsa, hot sauce, and your morning flax oil teaspoon. It'll be just like at my house!

More soon... gotta work...

Posted by april at 6:32 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack