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That’s So Cheesy

Once upon a time, I could eat just about anything I wanted. Pizza, spaghetti, bagels, Good Humor ice cream bars, lemon meringue pie… And I didn’t gain weight. I didn’t feel sick. And I was happy.

The first food limits were self-imposed when I stopped eating meat at the age of 13. While my decision came about due to my love of animals, I had also noticed that I felt awful every time I ate meat. Who knows if this was physical or psychological, but either way, that was the first food-related restriction. It seemed to bother other people way more than it bothered me. Everyone worried about what I could eat. And where I’d get my protein. And that I’d end up with anemia. This was back in the Stone Age when there weren’t the myriad alternative meat options there are today. Every time there was a family get-together, there was the wringing of the hands as to what they could feed me. I always tried to remind everyone that their entire meal did not consist of dead animals. That there were plenty of other options on the table. But the panic ensued for many years.

Thankfully, after college I moved to Los Angeles, where veggie burgers were found in abundance, and fresh fruit and vegetables were available year-round. And there were other kindred spirits who made me feel that I wasn’t so alone in the world of carnivores.

Pasta was always a great option as well. My favorite was Fettuccine Alfredo, the ultimate comfort food. Carbs slathered by creamy, cheesy goodness melted into one coma-inducing blob of deliciousness. And I still didn’t gain an ounce.

And just around the time I was congratulating myself for still being within ten pounds of my wedding weight, wham! The need for surgery arose. And things started to change. First was that my blood pressure went sky high and never completely reverted to the very normal numbers I had always enjoyed, in spite of the various medical combinations my doctors prescribed. Obviously, diet and exercise were important. So I learned to live within the boundaries of a sodium-restricted diet. Everything began tasting like cardboard. And, I gained ten pounds. So food tasted worse to me, my options were starting to shrink while my stomach and thighs were starting to grow.

Then, sugar became an issue. I didn’t drink sugary sodas, and I didn’t often eat dessert. But I did drink orange juice in the morning. It was my special treat each day. But I grudgingly switched over to low-sodium V-8. Which I now really enjoy, but in the beginning, it made me very grumpy. And more favorite things got crossed off the list.

But I still had my pasta. And I still had my cheese. So I made some adjustments to my diet and carried on.

Then came the thyroid surgery. The surgery I hadn’t been worried about. The surgery that left me without a speaking voice for six months. The surgery that changed so many things about my body, I’m still reeling. But the main two changes were that I got sick every time I ate, eventually realizing it was the gluten that was the problem. And within one year I gained over 30 pounds. So in spite of the fact that I had to cut out my beloved bread and pasta, the weight was piling on faster than I could put food in my mouth.

I exercised. I counted calories. And nothing changed. Finally, I got really strict about what I was doing and over the course of a year and a half, I lost 20 pounds. I was so proud of myself. And I kept it off in spite of so many stressful things happening in my life. Then, out of the blue, last year, the weight slowly started creeping back on. And within about two months, ten pounds came back. NO! I screamed each time I got up the nerve to step on the stupid, traitorous scale. What the heck? I hadn’t changed anything that had been working, and yet those sneaky calories were still somehow sabotaging my best efforts.

I did some soul-searching. There was still one delicious thing left in my diet. I could eat it straight out of the fridge when I was hungry. Melt it on a corn tortilla for breakfast. Shred it over a boring salad and make things tasty. But, it does have lots of calories. And fat. And has addictive qualities. My beloved cheese. The last holdout from my previous carefree life. But in the interest of health and weight control, I researched cheese substitutes. I bought several that were sliced and some that were shredded. I took a nibble of the sliced “cheese” that was supposed to taste like cheddar. I shuddered. I tried the shredded “cheese” over my rice pasta – it wasn’t too bad, melted. Then one of my friends informed me the slices also needed to be melted in order to be food-like. And it’s true. Especially if you add some avocado on top of it.

So far, the scale has rewarded me by going down one pound. One whole pound, imagine that. I’ve given up the last bastion of deliciousness and one pound has melted away. OK.

So, I’m going to try to get some more exercise in my daily life and see if that helps. Some recent studies I’ve read give me hope. One is about the correlation between sleep and weight loss – I could get behind that one. I’m ready to sleep almost any time of day. Especially if I blink too long. Another study said something to the effect that taking a bath might be equivalent to a half hour of walking. Sign me up! If sleeping more and taking baths could get me to my normal weight, you probably won’t see me until the end of July.

 

Meanwhile, nobody better mention taking my avocado away from me. I’m a woman on the edge.

 

Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved

 

Don’t Give Me Some Sugar

Magazines in a library

We are drowning in misinformation. Boing, boing, boing – our belief system is challenged so frequently we end up with whiplash. There are studies that make us believe one thing. Eventually, those studies are disproved, and we’re supposed to believe something else. We’ve seen it with so many things we ingest, inhale, inhabit. We’re inundated with ads telling us life will be so much better if only we own – or use – certain things. If we question their safety or efficacy, studies are shoved in our face to assure us that all is good and benign and we should all just shut up, close our eyes, and don’t worry, be happy.

We like to hang onto the things that make us feel good. Years ago, it was cigarettes.  cigaretteWhen scientists were attempting to ring the alarm bells as to the dangers of smoking, the tobacco industry funded studies to calm those fears, assuring the public that there wasn’t any real danger and you could just keep puffing away with no ill effects. You were cool and fun if you smoked. Happy, popular people waving cigarettes around were the pictures we were deluged with on TV, in movies, and in magazines. The images of rotted lungs and cancer-ridden bodies were kept well-hidden for years. Big Tobacco had their own “peer-reviewed” studies published in major scientific journals to counter the bad publicity. Is anyone surprised? My guess is, not really.

e-cigNow there’s controversy over vaping. For those who want to smoke anywhere that smoking is prohibited, e-cigarettes initially seemed like a great option. But now we are hearing about their dangerous chemicals and flavorings and the fact that inhaling the vapor both first- and second-hand may be carcinogenic after all. While I don’t know of any current studies that purport vaping is perfectly safe, I’m waiting for that industry to push back in order to keep their profit margins healthy.

antibac-soapRecently, antibacterial soap has been banned. For years, we felt cleaner, even more virtuous, using antibacterial soap instead of plain old soap and water. It made sense, right? We were germ warriors, fighting disease and nasty bacteria while we sang two  verses of “Happy Birthday” as our hands foamed up with antibacterial cleanser straight from the pump, and water. And now, our halos have been tarnished by the knowledge that it soapwas all for naught. A plain old bar of no-name soap has the same cleaning properties as our fancy, expensive, wonderfully scented cleansers. And it’s probably much safer as well.

But to me, the most egregious betrayal has been done to us by the sugar industry. Sugar! Sweet and wonderful sugar. Where would we be sugarwithout birthday cake and chocolate chip cookies and butter pecan ice cream and chocolate?

What happened was almost Shakespearean in the depth of the lies and treachery that pinned our growing obesity and heart disease epidemic solely on fat. Everything changed after these studies seemed to show, without a doubt, that we needed to stop eating fat – immediately. So new fat-freeindustries suddenly appeared – fat-free everything became the rage. The fact that even more sugar was being added to these foods to make them not taste like cardboard, was largely ignored.

A quote found on the NBC News page sums it all up: “Together with other recent analyses of sugar industry documents, our findings suggest the industry sponsored a research program in the 1960s and 1970s that successfully cast doubt about the hazards of sucrose while promoting fat as the dietary culprit in coronary heart disease,” Kearns, Glantz and colleagues wrote. “By the 1980s, few scientists believed that added sugars played a significant role in coronary heart disease, and the first 1980 Dietary Guidelines for Americans focused on reducing total fat, saturated fat, and dietary cholesterol for coronary heart disease prevention,” they added.

dollarsThink of what this means for a moment. Think of all the money you spent on crappy tasting food because you thought it would make you healthy. Think of all the people who developed or increased their heart-disease risks and diabetes risks because they stopped eating fats, but continued to load up on sugar-laden foods. Think of the fact that the people behind industry-funded research don’t give a damn about anything other than the almighty dollar and we are paying the price for all of this greed and corruption. And we are not only paying the price in dollars, but also with our health – and our lives.

Even though I consider myself a realist, this even surprised me. If you can’t trust something as sweet as sugar, who or what can you trust?  I expect politicians to betray me. I expect boyfriends to betray me. I’ve even learned to expect my own body to betray me. But sugar? It’s enough to push me over the edge in search of a bar of chocolate. Or ice cream. Or both.

chocolate

 

Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved

 

Three Thursdays In February – Or My Left Foot

I’m sure no one would blame me for having heart palpitations as I approach each Thursday this month, after you hear my story. I never used to have this issue. But last year, I had three disastrous Thursdays in a row, to the point that when the fourth Thursday of the month loomed, I pretty much spent it in bed, hiding under the covers. Supposedly, these events were all random and I shouldn’t assign any special meaning to the fact that they occurred three weeks in a row – all on a Thursday. But human nature begs to differ.

february--calendar-53244e39213a5The first event is kind of personal, so I’m not going to go into it here. Let’s just say, it wasn’t positive and it was life-changing. But it happened the first Thursday of the month last year. And I had no idea that was just the beginning.

 

The second Thursday, my beloved Hershey – funny and loving, and my constant companion of almost 16 years – had a stroke. I wasn’t there when it happened, but it was apparent that night that things were pretty dire. He tried to rally the next day, but although he had had several similar incidents in the past, I knew this time he wouldn’t be able to come back to me. He died the next morning, on Valentine’s Day. I spent that Valentine’s Day with a broken heart.hershey.on.deck

 

 

 

 

 

ankle.castThe third Thursday, I tried to be strong and assure myself that the fact that these other awful events had occurred on Thursdays was just a coincidence. School had been out for a few days due to a winter storm, and it was my first day back tutoring. I was so happy to get back to work. All went well, until it didn’t. Black ice got me, my leg shot out from under me and I then landed on it, causing a spiral fracture. Aside from the constant pain and inability to get around very well, it turned out two months later that I had ended up with blood clots in the leg as well! It’s been almost a year now, and things are still not back to normal, – but I’m just grateful I no longer need the knee scooters, the boot, or the crutches.

 

So now, here we are a year later, with two Thursdays down. The first Thursday went by without incident. I started to breathe. The second Thursday was very odd. Let me crutchesfirst say that the ankle that was fractured was my left ankle. So I went to tutor my first student yesterday. She was hopping around on crutches because she had pulled a muscle in her leg – her left leg. I went to see my next student. She had a giant boot on – you guessed it – her left leg. She had fallen and twisted her leg. I came home and let the dogs out. When we came in, Maddie (my six-year-old pup) was hopping around on 3 legs – she must have stepped on something in the yard that hurt one of her rear paws. Which paw, you might ask? Ding, ding, ding! If you guessed the left paw, you’d be correct. I have no idea what the significance of this left foot business is, but I find it to be very odd.

 

There are two more Thursdays to get through this month, hopefully without incident. I’ll let you know if there are any further events. But then again if there are, you might not hear from me. If you don’t hear anything, you’ll most likely find me in bed, hiding under my covers.maddie.undercovers

 

Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved

You Are Beautiful

seventeen.twiggyWhen I was younger, I never felt good about how I looked. I was too skinny, not pretty enough, not graceful enough, just not enough. Looking at the models in Seventeen Magazine made things even worse. I was 5 foot 7 inches, and in my last year of high school, I went from 115 pounds, to 118 pounds. That sent me into a total panic, so I decided I had to take drastic measures. I started skipping lunch at school, instead eating only a box of raisins in a desperate attempt to stop the normal curves of approaching womanhood from overtaking me.

 

In retrospect, for a girl with self-confidence issues, moving to California – specifically Los Angeles – was probably not the best move to boost my self-esteem. Particularly, working in the entertainment industry where every female looked like she had come out of the live-edition Barbie factory. The message that was reinforced again and barbieagain, both at work and in the dating world was, appearances matter. Youth, beauty and near-starvation were the values that ruled – and (lots of) money was the only thing that might help alleviate the lack of any of the first three values.

 

 

From a young age, girls are praised for being pretty. As we get a little older, we’re praised for being beautiful. Or thin. Or both. Brains and talent often take a back seat, or are mentioned almost as a consolation prize.

 

Two things I saw today brought all of this home to me once again. The first was a photo of Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford. You might be aware that Ms. Fisher has been relentlessly derided by many online users for having had the temerity to actually age. She has ably shut down the haters, but it’s still disgusting that she has to put up with this kind of garbage. So the words that go along with this photo (from Being Liberal) are: Men don’t age better than women – they are just allowed to age. Exactly. star.wars.awakens

 

The second thing I saw was a post about a young actress named Ashley Benson who was told she was told she was too fat to get a role. Ms. Benson is a size 2. Wrap your head around that. A size 2 is considered too fat. Will Hollywood only be happy when they cast skeletons in their films? And young girls see this. Or they see completely unrealistic, air-brushed images of other young women, thinking this kind of perfection is the only way they will be accepted – and acceptable.

dove-campaingThere are people fighting against this, most notably the Dove campaign for real beauty, attempting to widen the definition of beauty.  According to one of their studies, only 2% of women around the world would describe themselves as beautiful. How sad is that?

 

As we age, women become invisible as far as our society is concerned. But in spite of that, we’re still expected to be stylish, wrinkle-free, and as always, thin, or we’re discarded like yesterday’s trash.

We’ve made some strides over the years, but just like the lack of income equity, there is no such thing as age equity when it comes to gender. Or body image equity. Since Hollywood – which is where so much of our societal expectations come from – is still mostly ruled by testosterone, I guess this should come as no big surprise. But maybe we can work on the vocabulary of gender. I’m not saying it’s wrong to tell a girl she’s pretty, just as I believe it’s OK to tell a boy he’s handsome. But let’s not stop there. Let’s make sure our children see the beauty in what’s inside a person. And that different sizes, shapes, colors, and abilities reflect diversity, which is a good thing. A beautiful thing. How poor this world would be if we were all the same. Let them celebrate the fact that everyone is unique. And that no matter what society says, they should love themselves. Which is something we all need to remember, no matter how old we are.

valentine_heart

 

Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved

 

New Naturally Nancy Recipe: Spiralized Zucchini Crumble

Posted on

zucchini.9

 

If you’re looking for a quick, healthy recipe for all the zucchini you’re finding as summer approaches, I’ve come up with a great recipe for you. I spiralize the zucchini so it’s like pasta, and add beefless crumbles, so it’s a healthy, gluten-free, vegetarian version of spaghetti and meat sauce. Give it a try – you won’t miss the pasta or the meat!

https://nancywriteon2.wordpress.com/2015/05/27/spiralized-zucchini-crumble/

Tough Break

snow.tableIn most parts of the country, this awful winter is starting to loosen its grip, and spring is attempting to make an appearance. Living in the South, it was especially jarring to deal with as many weather events as we had the past few months, consisting of freezing temperatures, snow, and ice. The relief is palpable as we walk outside and see determined little buds pushing their way through the hard ground, and trees bearing welcome blossoms. I do understand that compared to many areas of the country, most particularly Boston which had the most mind-boggling epic snowfall the past few months, we really have little cause to complain. But there are reasons one chooses to live in the South, and weather is not the least of those factors.

So, when schools were closed due to the ice covering most surfaces, I heeded all warnings to be careful. That black ice was sneaky and insidious, and every step outside needed to be taken with concentrated caution. And I was careful – at my house where I hunkered down during the bad weather. But after days of closed schools, meaning no tutoring, things changed by the end of the week, and I embraced the return to making a living.

And then, wham! The black ice got me. I ended up with a spiral fracture of the ankle.castfibula. The pain was constant and it was hard to sleep more than a few hours at a time. The inability to walk or do much of anything for myself was frustrating. And at the time, I didn’t think to ask for details when the doctor told me that he wanted to see me again in 4-5 weeks. In my mind, I thought that meant that in about a month I’d be back to normal. As normal as I can be, anyway.

crutchesThe first thing that I discovered to my shock, was that I have absolutely no ability whatsoever to get around on crutches. Having never broken any bones prior to this, my thoughts about crutches were largely based on the people I’ve seen who seem to get around with the greatest of ease. Younger people. I thought I was in halfway decent shape. How ego-deflating to realize I couldn’t even make it down the driveway in under 10 minutes. Even worse, there’s a step of approximately 10 inches in height from the kitchen into the garage. It was hard enough getting down without toppling over, but nearly impossible to get back into the house. What to do? For over a week, I didn’t even leave my house. But I was getting cabin fever. So I decided to be brave, and at the same time give up any shred of dignity I had left. I put a pillow on a chair by the door, and when I came home from a brief drive that somewhat restored my sanity, I opened the door, yanked the pillow off the chair, and crawled into the house. That went on for 4 weeks. My son couldn’t understand why I couldn’t just hop back into the house the way he demonstrated to me effortlessly. Several times. Insult to injury.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the options available these days when one knee.scooterbreaks an ankle, I have to say that the invention of the knee scooter has been an absolute life-saver. Due to my complete ineptitude with crutches, I would probably be living in bed, under my covers if it weren’t for the knee scooter. But until I got the OK to balance on the fractured-ankle leg, I was unable to get the scooter in and out of the car on my own. Meaning I either had to drive with a companion or be meeting someone at my destination who would do that for me. Or, in the case of my last doctor visit, when a lovely lady in the parking lot took such pity on me seeing me trying to make my way into the doctor’s office using crutches, she went to my car with me and got the scooter out so I wouldn’t further humiliate myself. It was great until I had to get it back in the car by myself after my appointment. No helpful souls were in sight. I ended up almost breaking my nose as the loose end of the scooter swung into the car as I attempted to not fall over. As I said, the concept of dignity has pretty much disappeared from my life.

I went back to the doctor after 4 weeks and was told that things are improving and to return in 3 more weeks. Wait, what? No miraculous healing after 4 weeks? But when will I be normal I asked him, again, assuming that there was  hope I could ever be considered normal. He studied me and asked what being normal meant. I told him that in this case, I meant able to walk again. Well, after 3 weeks of more of the same – except for now being allowed to use the bad leg for balance and apply slight pressure on it – if things continued to improve, I might be able to use the air cast as a walking boot. I once again forgot to ask for how long.

daffodilsAfter almost 6 weeks, there is hopefully a light at the end of the tunnel. With the onset of spring, comes a bit more mobility and freedom. Although things that you never think about are suddenly major obstacles. How do you take out the trash? Vacuum or wash floors? Doing laundry is completely exhausting. Grocery shopping is finally an option, but only one bag per trip, and getting the groceries into the house while on crutches involves at least 3 trips of slowly emptying out the one bag into 3 little bags. I’ve been lucky that I’ve received help from my children, and kind and generous friends. When I’ve felt down, the drive-through window at TCBY has been a lifeline. I didn’t realize until someone pointed it out to me how lucky I was that I broke the left ankle since I still retained my ability to drive. Whew!

My ego has been appropriately humbled. My delusions of fitness and youth are now gone. Reality is harsh and kind of scary, but I am relieved that things do seem to be headed in the right direction. Except, of course, for the times I do topple over or run over my toes with the scooter. Again, lessons in humility.

And on a serious note, I have chastised myself for my bouts of self-pity. Because this is just a glimpse into the world of those who have to live with some sort of disability on a long-term or permanent basis. Everything we take for granted can be daily obstacles for those who can’t take anything for granted. Kindness helps. Patience helps. And empathy,  putting yourself in the shoes of another person who is going through a tough time in whatever shape or form, is probably the best gift you can give to anyone.

 

Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved

 

Welcome to the 50s

Numbers-Birthday-Cakes-50I did not sign up for this. Or, at least I think I didn’t sign up for this. Considering the state of my memory these days, I really can’t swear to anything I may or may not have done. But I’m talking about life as a person well into her 50s. Not that I was delusional about what life would be like passing the mid-century mark. I knew that most likely my eyesight would go from perfect to near-perfect. That I might gain a pound or two. And that I might have to rely on color in a bottle when it comes to keeping a few stray grey hairs out of my hairline. When I hit the dreaded 5-0, I think I was more upset about having to admit that I could possibly be that age, than what was actually about to happen to me in every aspect of my life.

The eyesight actually started fading away in my late 40s. Considering I had always had perfect eyeglassesvision, I stayed in denial for as long was humanly possible. I was slightly far-sighted to start with. Soon, there was no chance of holding reading matter far enough away from my face to actually make out the letters. Although, I can read street signs in the next city – it’s kind of my hidden superhero talent. These days, denial resides in what strength reading glasses I buy. When it finally becomes obvious that I don’t even realize there are words on a page, I finally cave and go up to the next level. Although I continue to hold onto the weaker glasses, in the hope that, at some point, things will magically shift into reverse and I’ll actually be able to see again.

Laundry_symbols_with_japaneseBut the world conspires against me as well. Lately, in the form of trying to read laundry labels. There are the clothing manufacturers that must have people of a certain age working there, since they have crisp black labels with glaring white print in a readable font that anyone should be able to decipher. But lately, there are the clothing companies that I can only presume to be run by sadists in their 20s with perfect vision. The color of the label is a very pale grey – very classy. The print – for I presume there is print – is the softest wisp of white – in a size which surely must be microscopic, and a font with so many loops and so little substance that they might as well have not included a label at all. So after I attempt for at least five minutes to catch a hint of a word that might be helpful, such as hang, line, warm, will disintegrate… I do what I always do and fling that garment into the washer on a delicate cycle and, if there’s room left on the clothing rack, I lay it there once it’s clean. If not, into the dryer it goes, on a wing and a prayer. Surprisingly, most of my clothes actually survive this process.

I know I’ve discussed the morphing of my body into the Pillsbury Dough Boy numerous times, butmirror I still can’t stop shrieking every time I look in the mirror. I am not this person. At least, I was not this person until a little over 10 years ago. That was the first surgery that started the ball rolling. But it still wasn’t horrifying. There was still hope. Then, 5 years ago came the next surgery. The one that spun me out of my comfortable little bubble of denial into hell. Men, you can stop reading here, because we all know that all you have to do is close your eyes and say, “I wish to lose 10 pounds – in my stomach.” And, when you wake up in the morning, poof! Your body is exactly as you wished. This, menstruation, childbirth, and menopause are all the proof I need that G-d is a man.

chemistry.flask

 

I’ve been somewhat luckier with the hair. The miracle of chemistry has made it possible for me to continue to have some semblance of my actual hair color with just a mere shampoo and a quarter-sized dollop of something resembling shoe polish. So no matter how old I actually get, my hair promises not to give me away. This is the only time in my life I have truly believed in better living through chemistry.

 

Aches, pains, and invisibility have all arrived full force in this decade of my life. The latest indignity is grasping scissorsfrantically through the caverns of my mind to find words that have begun to elude me. I can be about to ask my children to hand me the scissors, and the best I can come up with is to ask for “those things that you cut with.” After my children are done rolling on the floor, laughing at me, I am grateful that I still remember the function of said scissors and the fact that someone actually handed them to me.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI am also grateful to find myself mobile and intact and still here each morning when I open my eyes to the possibilities of the day ahead of me. And so, in spite of wondering how my life’s journey has brought me to this age in what seems like nanoseconds sometimes, I make sure I thank G-d (male or female) for giving me one more day. Whether I can see it or not.

 

Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved