Jun 29, 2013

Diet or Exercise?

Man, I just had an amazing work-out. I feel euphoric!

I never thought I'd hear myself say that (or read myself write that?).

In high school, I took sporadic sports but I was never really a jock. In college I completely abandoned all sports for baggy pants and all-night raves. Regardless, I never really thought of sports as exercise. In fact, I never really thought of exercise at all. I just stayed thin no matter what I ate. But then something happened in my thirties. My body changed. My butt and boobs got bigger. What?! I thought those were done growing! Then everything else got bigger. But, but, but I still eat the same way I always ate, I thought. However, that was the problem.

In my teens and twenties I could eat a pint of Ben & Jerry's for dinner then binge drink all night at a dance club, wake up the next day feeling fine and not gain one pound. In my thirties, I'd eat half a pint while spending the night on the internet and the next day I'd weigh like three more pounds. What? Come on. No fair. Before I knew what was happening I outgrew all my clothes. Something had to be done.

Also, around this time I started having more and more stomach pain. I wasn't certain what the issue was...ulcer? Something worse? I consulted my doctor and it turned out that my diet was way off. The proposed diet was fairly complex, but one main issue was that I was still eating like a college freshman when it was time to go out and buy real produce and actually use my pots and pans for real cooking not just toss some random frozen meal in the microwave.

I lost 10 pounds in a month on that diet alone. Now, granted, this diet wasn't designed to make me lose weight. Nay, it was simply designed to correct my diet and alleviate stomach pain. It worked wonders. Plus I got the bonus of losing some weight. However, losing that weight so fast made me wicked lazy. I used to swim and go for walks periodically just to get a little outdoorsy time and hopefully shed some pounds, but with winter (albeit mild in SoCal) coming plus my ridiculous new-found confidence in weight loss, I thought I could play video games all day, eat like a rabbit, and continue to lose weight. Nope. Did not work at all. I gained all the weight back. Yay. Go me.

So, the next thing I decided was that it was time for the dreaded exercise. Summer was coming, so I started walking and swimming again. Nothing. I mean, ok, I started feeling better getting fresh air and moving my body, but I, maybe, I shed three pounds. Not enough to really make a difference. Thus I began researching the internet for ideas. Still being pretty lazy, I opted for Wii Fitness. It made bold promises. Most of them fell flat. I'd lose five pounds one week, then gain seven the next, loss three, gain five. It was all over the place! Despite the fact that I worked really hard at being consistent about doing it.

I also tried various types of Yoga, but most of them, while, yes, they made me more flexible and feel inner peace, they did not help me lose any inches from my waist. In fact, they seemed to add inches. No, not good at all. I nearly gave up on it all and ate myself into oblivion, but then I got the Xbox 360 with Kinect and discovered Dance Central.

I exercised my way through nearly every song on Dance Central until I was sick of them all, so then I bought Dance Central 2, which had a handy new fitness section. I immediately launched the easiest, shortest one. I fumbled a bunch, but it was fun. Way more fun than the Wii (no offence Wii!).

Now, because I had so many ups and downs, I had completely stopped weighing myself. I was done. Don't tell me, I do not want to know. *with hands covering ears* La la la la!

But then I had to pack for a vacation and I noticed that all my clothes were too big. Wait a minute... I flipped through my calendar to find the last time I weighed myself. February. It was now June. I ran to my scale. I had lost 10 pounds in 4 months. Big whoop. But then I measured my waist... 5 less inches. WHAT?! Then I remembered, muscle weighs more than fat. In addition to Dance Central, I'd also been lifting weights (to get rid of those matronly upper arms - where the hell did those come from?!?). So, while I didn't lose much actual weight, I did go down several pant sizes. Woohoo!

Now, I must note, that this all started on a restricted diet, but as time passed I realized I simply could not keep up that lifestyle. I may not eat a lot, but I do like having my sweets every now and then, not to mention pizza and pasta. Yum! So, I told myself I was allowed to eat anything, but in moderation. Also, I reminded myself, every time I reached for a cookie or whatever that I had come so far and worked so hard, would I really want to undo what I'd done by eating garbage? Most of the time, the answer is no and I'll eat fruit instead, but sometimes (once a month) the answer is yes and so I indulge. I'm only human, after all, and happiness is key (and chocolate makes me so very happy).

Could that be the key to weight loss? Find something that you enjoy doing that gets your heart racing and makes you sweat 3 times a week coupled with weight lifting for tone and a diet of moderation only? Could I really get my body back to its college size, if not high school, all while enjoying a cream soda or chocolate chip cookie every once in awhile? Is that all it takes - exercise? I must tell everyone!! (Because even my Mum asked, "How did you do it?")

So, to sum up, all I did for 5 months is eat whatever the hell I wanted - in moderation - and exercise with Dance Central (cardio) 10-50 minutes 3 times per week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) plus the occasional Yoga routine then lift weights 2 times per week (Tuesday, Thursday) with Saturday and Sunday as make up days if I missed a workout and doing all that I was able to go from my "big girl" pants down to my favorite pair of college jeans. If I can keep at it and not gain back 10 pounds during the holidays, then I'm hoping to be able to fit into a Slave Leia costume by next summer. *fingers crossed*

[Update on the Slave Leia costume at Comikaze 2013: http://www.melissa2u.com/2013/11/cosplay-at-comikaze.html]

Jun 24, 2013

First Interview & Photos from a California Adventure

While I was off touring the California Coastline* this past week, my co-writer Scarlett Amaris went and lined up our first ever interview for SAURIMONDE, our recently released paranormal romance novel, with Kristi of Kristi's Book Readery (You can check out her Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kristis-Book-Readery/461915803894133).

I was excited and nervous filling out the answers. I must have changed a couple answers a zillion times (okay, maybe like three, but still). You can read our interviews here (scroll down a little bit for mine):


Here's a snippet of mine:

How are your book/books doing right now in comparison to what you hoped?

Well, on one hand I'm happy if even just one person reads our book and it moves them, on the other hand I'd love for even more readers to get to experience Saurimonde. Regardless, the reviews we've received thus far have been very favorable, which makes my heart sing.

Most important thing about being a writer?

For me, writing is like breathing - I couldn't live without doing it. So, I guess the most important thing about being a writer is actually being a writer, and having the confidence and opportunity to live the dream, which actually took me a long time to get to despite having known most of my life that I wanted to be a writer. For years I was crippled by fear and insecurity, but then I experienced a traumatic, life-changing event that made me realize life is short and only you can make your dreams come true so I then grabbed up the reins and pushed ahead publishing my first book, In The Now, a deeply personal and candid memoir about my childhood and college years. Scarlett Amaris, my co-writer on Saurimonde, read In The Now and immediately realized I'd be the perfect person to help her tell Saurimonde's story. At the time I was stuck on a project and welcomed the fun distraction of writing paranormal romance and soon fell in love with the story. It's a dream come true to finally have it published.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

I think I get most of my inspiration from nature, be it the quiet majesty of redwoods or the roaring of the ocean pounding the shore. However, I live in Los Angeles - a concrete jungle - so I don't often get the chance to be in nature, but I grew up between a cornfield and a forest so I crave it. Driving along the coast this past week, we took a detour through redwoods in Northern California. They're so tall and old; it felt amazing to stand amongst them. If you listen long enough, they'll tell you their tales... I find inspiration in music and art, too, so if I can't get to nature I lose myself in a playlist while surfing the internet for paintings and photography that move me. Also, I love to people watch. All growing up, my Mum and I would ride the T from Riverside to Boston and, to entertain ourselves on the journey, we would point out fellow passengers making up whole complicated back stories. We still do this. Just last week we were in a diner somewhere near the coast concocting wild tales. Sometimes, though, inspiration will hit me out of nowhere. A couple weekends ago I was cleaning the kitchen when an idea I had been mulling over for months suddenly collided into a fully formed short story in my brain, so I grabbed up the nearest notebook and wrote 9,000+ words about a possessed ovary while sitting on my kitchen floor.

How do you cope if you get a bad review?

To be honest, I haven't gotten a bad review (yet) but I suppose I would initially feel hurt but then tell myself to let it go.

Occupational hazards of being a writer?

Probably a combination of being super moody when the words aren't flowing and the loss of social graces after being isolated awhile working on a project.

What book or film character would you say you were most like?

Probably Lewis Carroll's Alice because I grew up in a pretty sheltered rural town in Massachusetts then followed my dreams to Los Angeles like naive Alice following the White Rabbit down the rabbit hole to the strange and fantastical Wonderland.

What makes you laugh?

Everything. I laugh a lot, especially at really inappropriate times like when people hurt themselves or during horror flicks when someone gets slashed. I just can't help myself. When I'm feeling down and need a pick-me-up, I search "Schadenfreude" on YouTube - hours of entertainment!

Which has been the hardest to write?

I've been juggling a few different writing projects lately, one of which is called Medicated and it's about a truly frightening experience I had after having an allergic reaction to a prescription medicine wherein I completely lost my mind and hallucinated off and on for a couple of months. That book has definitely been the hardest thing I have ever tried to write. Revisiting that time in my life is emotionally draining and embarrassing. I frequently have to stop, bury it in my desk, and work on fun stuff like fantasy or sci-fi to shed the bad memories and feelings.

Any hints as to what lies ahead for your characters?

More magic, more mayhem, more bad decisions, and more accidental happiness.

Do you have any weird quirks you'd like to share with the public? :)

I think my weirdest quirk right now might be my obsession with the TV show Ancient Aliens. My dad read Erich von Daniken's Chariots of the Gods when I was a kid, so I always saw it lying around the house, but it wasn't until a couple years ago that I finally picked it up and read it myself after marathoning several episodes of Ancient Aliens on the History Channel. The whole concept of ancient astronauts fascinates me. Recently I met Giorgio Tsoukalos at Monsterpalooza and I'm such a big fan that I was nervously shaking like a leaf in the wind the whole time!

Is there a person, alive or dead, you dream about meeting if you could?

William Shakespeare. My freshman year at Boston College I tested out of the basic English class requirement so I was allowed to take any English class I wanted. I chose a class entirely devoted to the writings of Shakespeare and loved every minute of it. There's a lot of strange humor in Shakespeare's works with which I connect. I'd love to be able to have a chance to sit with him and get to know him, what made him tick, who was he really, what inspired him... Also, Shatner. I'd love to meet William Shatner.

(Read more here: http://kristisbookreadery.blogspot.com/p/author-interviews.html.)

Also, you can purchase SAURIMONDE here:

*Now that business is out of the way, I thought I might share some of my favorite shots from my California Coastline tour from LA to Mendocino.

Our first stop was Morro Bay wherein lies the famous giant rock, albeit obscured by ominous mist.
Our next big stop was the Hearst Castle in San Simeon. I fell in love with the pools. Above is the Neptune Pool and below the Roman Pool.

Elephant Seal snoozing on beach near San Simeon

Sea Lion mama and baby in Santa Cruz
Then we explored some redwoods where I had to hug a tree.

We had a pretty extensive adventure. I'll add a couple more shots below, but if you'd like to see all of them, I'll be uploading more photos to a Flickr set over the next several days (as I have time): http://www.flickr.com/photos/melissa/sets/72157634266792438/

View from Mendocino

Glass Beach, Fort Bragg

Wine Country, Goldeneye Winery

Grape Leaves


Catalina Island

Famous Catalina tiles

Interior wall design, Casino Theater, Catalina Island

Tiffany lamp in ceiling of Casino Ballroom

Me & Jeremy at The Casino, Catalina Island

Cool fish  in the Japanese Garden at Huntington Gardens
[Edited to add interview snippet. 7.10.2013]

Jun 7, 2013

Yoga Is Not Evil, Duh

I'm kinda mad at the Tea Partier guy for saying that yoga is evil. (ICYMI: http://aattp.org/tea-partier-do-yoga-and-you-get-filled-with-satan/)

Even though I'd like to think that most people will automatically assume that the guy is nutballs crazy, I fear there will be more than a few who will believe him, as well as a few who had already believed such nonsense.

And, sure, you could argue, so what? Let them have their crazy, nutball theories, how's that affect your life?

However, not too long ago I worked with someone who was highly educated and actually believed that if you did not pray or accept Jesus or whatever that while in a meditative state or while doing yoga, demons could invade your soul. Seriously? Demons?

But here's the thing... Here's why it bugs me. I notice things in the news like this all the time. I forget now where and such, but there were a group of Christian parents trying to get rid of yoga at a school because they said it was a religious practice and shouldn't be allowed in schools. Ironically, those same types of people want prayer to be allowed in school, as well as nativity displays. So, I guess "religious" practices are cool *only* if Christian. All else must go.

The dumb thing is, yoga, while it may have some ties to Eastern Philosophies (or "religions"), is really just a set of stretches and poses. It's a sport. A form of exercise. Nothing more, nothing less - if all you practice is the moves.

And it's incredibly good for you.

While experiencing some of the worst times of my life, yoga and exercise has always lifted my spirits.

Yoga poses are long, they require patience and inner strength - both physically and mentally. While holding those poses and stretching my body into odd positions, I feel all these negative emotions in my body unlock and just wash away. I feel freer, lighter, more focused, and more clear-minded. Not empty headed. There's a difference. And, yes, while you're clear-minded, your own personal "demons" from your past might bubble up, but not like actual, real demons. Sometimes I've even broken down and bawled like a baby, unlocking deep traumas. Afterwards I feel refreshed, more alive, ready to take on any obstacle. It's amazing, really.

Now, I suppose, if you're living a lie, keeping some dark secret hidden from the world, then maybe, just maybe, yoga would be evil to you, because it'll force you to face yourself in the quiet moments, in the silence of your mind. Force you to face your inner "demons." But that is a good thing!! You shouldn't be living a lie, you shouldn't have dark secrets.

I had dark secrets. Really, truly dark ones that shattered my soul into a million pieces and made me despise myself. I screamed, I kicked, I cried. I did not want to face them. I did not want to reveal them. To myself or others. But then one day I just let go.  I faced them and I overcame them and doing so made me stronger and enforced the positive relationships in my life, while driving out the negative.

Soon I had enough confidence to not only face all my own demons, but also own them, reveal them, share them with the world as a cautionary tale for others so that someone like me out there in the world struggling with her own "demons" could take solace in my experience and fight to get her life back on track, too.

Yoga, among many other things, helped me to become what I always wanted to be but was always too afraid to fully realize.

Perhaps, this Tea Partier guy has his own dark secrets he doesn't want to face and that's why he hates yoga so much. Or, maybe he's just an asshat. Either way, I challenge anyone struggling with trauma and other struggles to try yoga. It just might change your life...for the better.