Friday, February 27, 2009

The Road Ahead

Typically, I like to have a plan before I do something. Losing weight isn't just going to happen if I go about it willy-nilly, I figure. Any time I make a plan, it starts with research.

So here's the plan:

1. Research the topic of "how to lose weight." This includes polling friends for advice, googling, reading up on various popular diets like the South Beach Diet, and posting questions on forums.

2. Spend the first month researching, trying to apply the advice that is easiest for me to apply (seriously cut back on sweets, eat less starchy and simple carbs, eat more fruit and vegetables, go walking several times a week for at least 45 minutes). Then weigh in around March 22 and see if I've lost any weight.

3. Depending on the results of March 22nd weigh-in, I either keep doing what I'm doing, or do something new (I don't know what yet) that will be based on the research I culled in the first month. Then I go another month and weight-in around April 20 or so.

4. If I am on track April 20, I keep doing what I'm doing. If I'm not losing weight at a rapid enough rate (you'd think that losing 2-3 lbs a month is a reasonable goal), I look at more drastic solutions. Perhaps the Atkins diet? My husband is going to blow a fit when he reads this.

The Wonderful World of Internet Radio

Years ago my husband told me about, a website that recommends and plays music to you based on what musicians you already enjoy. I refused to listen to it, annoyed that some program purported to know what music I ought to like.

"I like music because of its structure and emotional content, not because of its superficial texture!" I insisted pompously. Many times someone has come up to me and said, "Oh you like this band, so you'll probably like this other band which sounds similar" and so I listen to the recommendation and usually find I don't like it.

Then a friend mentioned "Edith Piaf radio" on Pandora (thanks Denis!) and that inspired me to give it a try. I played with Pandora for a few weeks. I tried Edith Piaf radio, Cocteau Twins radio, Sigur Rós radio. But eventually I got annoyed that it seemed to be serving up the same songs over and over again. It is possible, however, to add variety to your station by adding additional artists or songs as "seeds." I have only just recently begun experimenting with this feature. (which you can access via Station Options > Add Variety to this Station.

I've had better luck with, especially with the "Sigur Rós radio". Of course, your results may vary depending on the performer you input. introduced me to the music of Max Richter, Stafrænn Hákon and Yndi Halda, which I could not find at all on Pandora. Each artist page on provides easy access to all available tracks by that artist, and also has videos, photos, news and more.

Although Pandora and both call themselves "Radio," their playlists are customized for the listener. There are plenty of other Internet radio stations out there that simply serve up playlists in various musical genres.

For example, tune into SomaFM which features playlists for musical styles underserved by regular radio, such as ambient, house music, American roots music, lounge, avant-garde jazz and indie pop. They even have a Halloween station called "Doomed." SomaFM requires a third party music player like iTunes or WinAmp

Then there's AOL Radio, which has more traditional music categories, like metal, hip-hop/rap, rock and world/international. It has it's own player window that comes up and shows you the album cover for the song that's playing. One thing that's nice about the AOL Radio is that you can skip ahead to the next song if you don't like what's currently playing. and Pandora have that feature, too.

Radio-locator provides a search engine to over 10,000 radio stations from around the world. From there I can easily locate, for example, WVUD (the station I used to dj for in the late 80's and early 90's when it was called WXDR). You can search by music style or country. Bonanza! When you listen to these "real" radio stations, you are typically hearing the live broadcast, complete with dj comments and commercials.

If you keep an open mind (and open ears) Internet radio is a great way to discover new music.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Exercise Me

I love to exercise. Really, I do. I feel so much better afterward and sleep better, too. But there are obstacles to exercise; let me count the excuses:

1. I have a little kid at home. I can't take her with me to the gym or go on a good, fast walk with her. When I try to do yoga or pilates or stretching at home she sometimes tackles me or screams "no!" or demands I play with her instead.
2. I live in Seattle, where it rains a lot. Granted, I could carry an umbrella. But if I wear my walking shoes (my sneakers) out I'll get wet feet. Do I need to spend even more money -- on waterproof walking shoes -- to motivate me? Can I get the same workout pacing back and forth in the living room?
3. Pain and injury (as well as fear of pain and injury). I walked an hour the first two days of my venture, and my ankles and legs hurt afterward. I know it will get better if I keep at it. But what if too much walking makes the bursitis in my left knee flare up? Or I hurt myself so bad that I can't walk at all?

Getting past these excuses is as much a mental game as a physical one. Your advice is welcome!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

For the love of music

This blog is currently focused on two things: my attempt to lose weight and my love of music. These things are connected for right now, since I have made a pact that if I do not lose 7 lbs. in 85 days (weigh-in day is May 17, 2009), I will return the iPod Classic that I have recently purchased.

I have been wanting an iPod for a while now, and part of my motivation for getting one is that I believe it will get me out of the house more if I can just put my tunes in my pocket and head out the door for a walk. So now I have to make good on this notion, and actually exercise more. Today I took a walk with my iPod, up a neighborhood street to Carkeek Park. I walked for an hour! See, it's working already.

Being a natural sedentary individual, I attack any new undertaking by first sitting down at my computer and researching it. So today I googled things like:

calorie agave honey sugar xylitol stevia 

(I learned that agave syrup might be bad for you ... too much fructose, and that stevia has no calories)

Well aware that I should be exercising instead of sitting at a computer, I merrily googled some more, looking for weight loss web sites. I also posted status messages on Facebook about my quest to lose weight and got advice from friends. And for dessert, I started a blog about it. 

I was aware before I made this agreement with myself (with my husband as a witness) that in order to lose 1 lb. a week, a person needs to take in 3500 calories less over the course of the week, OR burn 3500 more, OR (better yet) some combination of the two. So I can simply burn 250 extra calories a day, eat 250 less calories a day, and lose 1 lb a week. Easier said than done?

Trouble is I've never actually dieted or tried to lose weight before, so I can't be sure my body will cooperate with this. I was 105-110lbs until I was around 27 years old. Then began the slow steady upward climb toward plumpness, which peaked in 2005 when I was pregnant with my daughter. I gained 35 lbs with my pregnancy and topped the scale at 171 lbs. Four months post-partum I was back in my pre-pregnancy clothes (thanks to my daughter's enthusiastic breastfeeding).

But then what happened? Over the course of the next 3 years, ten more pounds showed up, squeezing me out of my trousers, and rendering a chunk of my wardrobe unwearable.

So over the course of the next three months, I will be chronicling my attempt to lose 7 pounds, as well as lavishing you with the music I love.