Book Clubbing: Author Takes Celebrity Diets for a Spin

Gwyneth surrounded by, but not reading, books.
Gwyneth surrounded by, but not reading, books.

I haven’t done too many book reviews on the blog, but I assure you, I do read. And not just US Weekly and Life and Style either. Why, I’ve even been known to pick up a Vanity Fair at the airport once in a while.

I kid. I actually read a lot. I used to get in a good 45 minutes of reading every morning during my approximately seven-mile commute to work on the metro. You read that right: 45 minutes to go 7.2 miles. So, yeah. Lot’s of reading time.

But for the most part, I don’t really review them on the blog. Way back when, I did review this tome of excellence by Gaga’s ex. And a recent book suggested by former running partner Amy definitely falls into the same genre/category of silly and celebrity-focused enough to be reviewed on ThePoeLog. (That is indeed a genre. You can see it on the New York Times Best Sellers List right under “Paperback Graphic Books,” which sounds scintillating but in actuality is like, comic books.)

The book — “I’ll Have What She’s Having,” is an in-depth exploration on how to map social behaviors. I’m kidding. That’s a different book. With the same title, but by a group of like, professors of anthropology.

No, no, no. The book I read is by a very attractive New York writer who is celebrity-and-diet obsessed. But in a good way.

Over the course of a year, author Rebecca Harrington tried 14 celebrity diets, ranging from Cameron Diaz to Sophia Loren (talk about two different body types).

The results are kinda meh.

First off, let me say, I am not at all a diet person. Never been on one. I’m not really much for denying myself. I know that drinking wine and eating delicious buttery bread every night is probably not a recipe for weight loss. Oh well.

And, I don’t look at celebrities and models and think I should look like them. I’ve never been susceptible to that type of societal pressure for some reason. There’s them and then there’s us. I have a pretty good idea of the effort and deprivation that goes into looking like that, and I’m just not interested. So maybe I’m not the ideal audience for a book like this.

I will say, this is an easy read. Takes about an hour and a half, start to finish, max. The chapters are very, very short. In fact, I got the feeling that I was essentially reading a series of blog posts, not an actual book. It cost me $5.99 for the Kindle edition, and I still think I probably spent too much.

The concept is pretty cute and Harrington is funny, but she’s a bit repetitive. She often mentions that working out like a celebrity is HARD. I feel like this is maybe not news?

Harrington is also far too brief. She starts a diet and then it’s just over. You have no idea from the outset how long she’s going to stick with any particular diet and she combines the days, so it’s just a blur. Like I said, short chapters. Maybe because she was weak from hunger and couldn’t type any longer.

There are a couple of takeaways —

  1. Being a celebrity sucks. And it always has, even if you were Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Kennedy, or even Karl Lagerfield (and can I just say how refreshing it was to read about at least ONE guy who admits to having to diet to stay thin?)
  2. It takes a lot of work to be Hollywood thin. You basically have to deny/starve yourself. Which sucks when you’re rich and famous and have access to all of the wonderful food of the world.
  3. My favorite diet was Sophia Loren’s because basically it was just all about portion control (but not portion control like Victoria Beckham. Poor Harrington tried her “five hands” diet, which basically means you eat a lot of protein but all of it around the size of your palm. So five handfuls of food a day. Yikes.) But yeah. A cup of pasta, not a whole pot. Makes sense to me.
  4. Gwyneth Paltrow can, apparently, cook. Even though it’s all healthy and macrobiotic or whatever, Harrington really seemed to like Paltrow’s recipes the best.
  5. Worst (at least from the sounds of it) might be a tie, in my opinion: Beyonce’s Master Cleanse or Greta Garbo’s celery loaf. Since Harrington couldn’t even get past the smell of the cooked celery loaf to taste it (and who could blame her), we’ll never know the dietary effectiveness, but it does sound vile.
  6. Don’t take book recommendations from former running partner Amy. Actually, it does make for good blog fodder.


Now that’s a diet I can get behind: pork.

Calm Down Everybody, Petunia’s Fine

There have been a number of questions about my trip: Are you excited? Are you all packed? Where are you going to go? What are you going to do? Can you bring back a koala (requested now by two separate people. The answer is: I’ll do my best.)

But more than anything, I get asked, “What about Petunia?”

Believe me, I spend more time worried about the cat than I do my own vacation (OK, probably not entirely true. Probably not even partially true. But I do indeed stress about it).

Most of the time, honestly, we just put out extra food and an additional cat box. Lately, we’ve taken to leaving the cable box and stereo on (and the actual TV off) so there’s some human voices resonating through the house (we leave it on Bravo, naturally.)

We travel a lot and she’s gotten quite used to us being gone for days (well, as used to it as a non-verbal entity can be. Let’s just say she doesn’t complain).

Plus, Petunia ignores us pretty hard core even when we’re home. In fact, she’s not too fond of us putting our hands all over her without permission and at very specific times. For example, she likes me to pet her while she gobbles down her kibble. She’s really into it. She’ll even let my cat-neglected co-cat-parent XFE pet her when she eats on occasion. And she’s really aloof and surly when it comes to him. (She also likes it when I sing Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” to her. Which I do.)

So suffice it to say, Petunia’s ok with us being gone for a couple of days. And, she usually pays us back with excessive neediness when we return, such as head-butting us while we sleep. Weaving in and out of our legs while we try to walk from room to room. Insisting that bathroom doors be left open while we’re on the toilet.

But for a longer trip, we try to have someone stop by and let her know she hasn’t been abandoned. Usually, it’s the maid, but this time, we’re trying something different. Former Running Buddy Amy (“Former” because we’re on winter running hiatus. Actually, Amy is. I’m a treadmill slave4eva), will be stopping by and checking in on the Princess. Amy lives very close to us and her kitchen is being completely renovated, so the whole deal works out well for both of us.

So you can all stop worrying about Petunia. If anything, you should worry about Amy. Just look how creepy Petunia looked when I left (yesterday? Wait, what day is it?) morning. Licking her chops and glowing eyes? Amy better look out. (I have no idea why this picture is so small. Click on it and maybe it’ll get bigger)

Five Stages of Porktober Acceptance

*WARNING: A pig was  most definitely harmed in the making of this post. If you’re squeamish, skip this one. If you like tasty, delicious pork and all it’s derivatives, read on.

There comes a time in every girl’s life when she realizes she is not in control of her relationship. She is not the driver of the “You + Me = Domestic Bliss 4Eva” bus. She is not the master of her fate or even, as it turns out, her own bathtub.

No, there is a day when a girl walks into her lovely pink and white bathroom after a long day at work, and discovers a 56-pound pig lounging on ice in her bathtub, right next to the Jo Malone White Jasmine and Mint bath oil and the Kate Somerville ExfoliKate facial scrub.

Honey, look what I found on my way home! Can we keep it?

The story of how this pig came to be in my tub is a long one, debated and revisited over several months. But in the interest of not driving myself crazy, here’s how I came to accept what has become known as Porktober. I will use the Kubler-Ross Five Stages of Grief model to illustrate.

Denial —“This can’t be happening, not to me.”
My normally-sane-personal-chef-for-life XFE first read about roasting a whole pig in the July issue of Men’s Health magazine (so around June). It should be noted that the Men’s Health subscription was a gift I purchased for him a few years back. I wonder which subscription we’ll let lapse next year? Hmmmm. My first response when XFE suggested roasting a pig on the brick-laid back patio of our rented home was, “You must be kidding. That’s never going to happen. Forget it.” I was sure he was joking. Or that the next month’s magazine would contain a retraction along the lines of: “Yeah, remember that pig thing? Nobody in a highly-populated area with historic, woodframe rowhouses close to each other should attempt this. That means you, XFE of Alexandria, Virginia.”

Anger — “Why me? It’s not fair!”; “How can this happen to me?”; “Who is to blame?”
Once in the second stage, I began to realize XFE was quite serious and I raged against Men’s Health and the entire publishing industry. My anger also took the form of ridicule towards the animal kingdom (“Pigs are so stupid.”), the cooking industry (“Roasting is such a stupid way to cook something.”) and domesticity (“Boyfriends are so stupid.”). I received sympathetic nods and increased personal space from those within earshot.

This is what I woke up to at 6:30 AM on Saturday morning. Honey, can you pass the creamer?


Bargaining — “I’ll do anything to keep my patio non-scorched.”; “I will give my life savings if we can stop the pig.”
The third stage involves the hope that the individual can somehow postpone or delay the inevitable. Since the planned pig roast was timed to coincide with XFE’s birthday, I tried to lure him away from the idea with promises of parties at other sparkling locales, complete with DJs, disco lights and bartenders (He likes DJs! He likes disco lights! He likes bartenders!) Alas, alack, he also likes cooking large animals over an open fire and impressing large groups of people with his culinary skills, which are, fair enough, substantial.) There was even a half-hearted attempt at blackmail involving XFE support at a half marathon in Annapolis in late November, which I dropped when I remembered I don’t like running (or doing anything else) in the cold.

Darling, wouldn’t you just rather have some nice little sweet cherry gummy piggies? Wouldn’t you just?!

Depression — “I’m so sad, why bother with anything?”; “The pig is coming, so what’s the point… What’s the point?”
During the fourth stage, I began to understand the certainty of the now-named Porktober. After all, invitations had gone out. Spits had been rented, medieval trussing needles procured. Steve the butcher had been contacted. As the event grew closer, I became more silent, withdrawn whenever pig talk came up. I began to disconnect from my affection towards pigs. I used my Porktober-depression as an excuse for being distracted at work and slacking off at running. Again, there was little or no sympathy for my plight.

The only thing that could possibly bring me out of my depression — sangria.


Acceptance — “It’s going to be okay.”; “I can’t fight it, I may as well prepare for it.”
In this last stage, I began to come to terms with the pig roast and even found humor in the situation, which is, after all, my normal coping mechanism. There were also a lot of eye-rolls and snarking during the final prep and assembly of the pig, which, while perhaps not qualifying as 100% acceptance, is again, a part of my coping mechanism.  

And so, gentle readers, after finally processing these stages, I let go of my expectation that I was in control in this relationship and fully embraced the concept (if not the execution – *insert eye roll here) of Porktober. And, even though it meant conceding dominance, I’m ultimately glad I did. After all, everything from the planning and prep to the oohing and aahhing when XFE and his co-conspirator Leland pulled the pig off the spit made XFE so happy. He was pretty entertained for several months. And, it was, after all, his birthday.

Then, things got very medieval around here.

Other than the bathtub pig storage (my bathroom is the only one with a tub—that’s how I lost out on that deal) and the post-pig-rainy-day-cleanup, we actually had a lot of fun. I’ll give more details in the days ahead. Along with more pig pictures, of course. Don’t let you significant others see it….they might get ideas.

At least Running Buddy Amy was there to cheer me up. We were pretty damn cheerful by the time that pig was done.

Has your significant other ever gotten his way on a crazy idea? How did you deal with it? What bargaining/concessions did you get in return?

Running Rants and Hot, Hot Pants

Anyone up for a little thigh-chafing action?

 I came across this story the other day about running in short-shorts. Not just short-shorts, but SUPER-short shorts. Probably like these from American Apparel. (I often pose like this while running as well)

Admittedly, the shorts in the picture our running temptress alludes to don’t seem “American Apparel short.” Even still, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be comfortable in them. I’m a modest girl. Not burka modest or anything, but I definitely prefer some thigh-coverage during my runs.

My favorite part is the writing on this piece; behold:

“I went on a 4-mile run, and my legs felt so free and unconstrained.”

What the hell were you running in before? A suit of armor??

“I loved feeling the wind on my skin and looking down at my legs and seeing my muscles working hard, which was, oddly, motivating!”

Damn right it’s odd. And it just sounds vulgar. I’m not trying to watch How It’s Made here. But I guess that’s what I get for reading “Glamour,” right? Sex tips AND running shorts advice…..all in one.

At this point in the narrative, I’m imagining that this girl must be pretty banging, like super fit and obviously having no thigh touching issues, unlike the rest of the female running population. And Jessica Simpson. Seriously, is she even wearing pants in that picture? I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure her thighs are touching.

But then, in the very next sentence, our short-short-wearing she-puma reveals that she’s had a baby! How? What? I….I….I’m just so confused! I’ve never had a baby and I have to practically run bowlegged to keep my thighs from touching! I single-handed keep Body Glide in business! Who is this miraculous vixen??

Actually, nevermind. I don’t want to know. I’d probably strangle her with the waist cord from my oversized shorts if I ever saw her.

(SIDENOTE: Running Buddy Amy was gifted a pair of running hot pants from her significant other for her birthday last year. She has never worn them on a run, despite my repeated pleas to do so, thereby ensuring much mirth on my part. I told her she should do her SO a favor and wear them around the house while cleaning.)

Keeping on the running theme: I’ve been looking for races to participate in this fall. One of my very favorite running stores – Pacers – puts on great events. They really do. They’re well organized, the course is clearly marked, there are plenty of potties and other course support along the way, great post-event parties, and almost always, a tech shirt. So Pacers was of course, the first place I looked for a fall race. And I got pretty pumped when I saw this race, which I did last year.

I went to register and look what they’re giving instead of tech shirts:

Here’s what they say about their “new swag.”

“Have enough tees?”

(ED: Bite your sacrilegious tongue. That’s not even possible.)

“Want something new?”

(ED: This is the part where I think maybe they’re going to give away something totally cool like a sweat wicking hat).

“The Clarendon Day 10K/5K is proud to provide a pair of commemorative flip flops.”

(ED: WTF???) 

“Register soon to secure your flips! Limited to first 2200 registrants.”

(ED: Then they make it sound like it’s something totally lustworthy and I better get off my duff and register before they run out. OF FLIP FLOPS.)

Flip flops? Are you kidding me? I do not run for flip flops! I can buy flip flops at Old Navy for like 99 cents! I’m not about to pay $50 to run 6 miles for a pair of flip flops! Not cool.

 I still love you Pacers, but I’m beginning to question your marketing efforts. Are you even aware that there are some races where hot San Francisco firemen hand out Tiffany necklaces at the finish?! (Ok, admittedly, it is put on by the company that supports puppy-killer Michael Vick. So obviously, I won’t be running it. Even for a Tiffany necklace.) Or this one with chocolate AND a running jacket.

The last Pacers event I ran was the Dash for Dad four miler in June which was (a) hot; and (b) featured a hellacious couple of hills that almost killed me. So, I feel, I really earned my sized medium women’s tech shirt on that one. But the shirt? The shirt was a teeny-tiny sized smedium in white, which lovingly showed every roll and bump. Like, Anderson Cooper tight (sorry Anderson, you’re a total silver fox, but you need to go up a size on those black tees).

Seriously, it looked like a baby tee on me. Since I had totally soaked through my normal and now banned Nike Longhorn running shirt during the race, I had to change into the race shirt to ride the metro home without killing everyone with my running stench. When I rolled up to the homestead, XFE took one look at me and busted out laughing. He still asks why I don’t wear that shirt.

Strike two, Pacers.

Long story short (hardly), I’m still looking for some fall races. Any suggestions? And there better be a normal, human-sized tech shirt involved.

New Running Buddy: the Treadmill

Running buddy Amy has been a bit out of the loop (she went on vacation last week – Very rude. I did not sign off on that). Then she got “sick.” Man, the extremes this girl will go through to avoid running with me. I suspect it’s because I’m so awesomely fast. Or stinky. You decide.

I ran with these two chicks the first day without Running Buddy Amy, but I was waaay too fast for them.

But I’ve still been getting up at 5:30 to go run our regular 3 mile loop. And, not to be a big whiner and whatnot, but it’s been pretty hot and horrible. One lovely morning last week it was 81 degrees with 60% humidity when I left the house at 6 am. So….yeah. That DOES suck, thanks for asking.

While I felt pretty pleased with myself for getting up and running, I was also pretty displeased that I was finding the whole thing just so tough. I had to keep stopping for walking/breathing breaks (because breathing in the equivalent of hot soup is not conducive to maximum lung capacity, apparently). And I hate to take walking breaks. To me, it means failure. I know that’s a stupid attitude, but I feel like at this point in my running career (I’ve been running consistently for at least 3 years now), I should be able to run 30 minutes along flat terrain without needing to stop and wheeze.

This last weekend I actually went with XFE to the gym at his work. I hopped on the treadmill in the nice, climate-controlled gym, plopped in my headphones and zoned out for the next 49 minutes. And I ran 5 miles, pretty much non-stop. A HUGE improvement over my everyday performance. And, a big mental boost as well.

"Hey Poe! Wait for us! All we can see is the smoke off the burning rubber of your Mizunos!'

Of course, I ran two days later outside and was pretty miserable/slow. I guess I’m not as awesome as I thought I was.

There are a lot of reasons why I run a lot better on a treadmill, many of which are outlined far better by this lady over here. She’s the, and is one of the reasons I started my own blog. And, sometimes, I occasionally steal/borrow ideas from her. Seriously, she’s great and I read her everyday and I haven’t even gotten tired of her yet, which is amazing because I am a fickle blog reader. Anyway, she hits the treadmill nail on the running head, so to speak. And, she’s got the cutest freaking dog.

So most of the reasons she outlines, apply to me as well. But the main reason I think I do well on the treadmill (besides not having to worry I will trip on the stupid cobblestones in Old Town and fall on my face thereby knocking out my front teeth and breaking my nose) is pacing. Pacing is a huge deal for me. Because I really suck at it. I’m one of those runners who goes balls out in the beginning, even though I’m having an internal argument with myself on how I should really hold back a little bit so I can actually get back home. Every. Damn. Time.

The other pacing issue is, well, I have a finicky little bladder. I basically feel like I need to tinkle the entire time I’m running. Even if I don’t drink a drop of liquid 4 hours beforehand and I go to the bathroom 3 times before leaving the house. Basically, I’m running in a race against my bladder every single run. Which makes me run much faster than I should. Which then makes me feel even more like I need to pee. It’s basically a vicious circle. So having a bathroom nearby gives me a lot of peace of mind, which means I can calm down and run like a normal person.

Heidi and Brooklyn Decker doing the pee dance while running. That has to be it because there's no reason to be this happy while running.

Now, I’ve run on a treadmill before, so this isn’t exactly a newsflash to me. I always switch to a treadmill during winter, or as I like to call it, anytime the temperature drops below 70. But lately, I had been beating myself up so much for my poor runs, I had forgotten what it was like to have a good one. I might have to sprinkle a few more of those in from time to time.

OK runners. I know most “real” runners find the treadmill to be a deathtrap of boredom. Do you agree? Or are you running trails/sidewalks for life?

Running Like There’s Free Beer at the End (there’s not)

Like other middle-class, upwardly mobile, yuppy white women of a certain age with nothing better to do, I have taken up “running” in the last few years.

I put “running” in quotation marks because mostly what I do is trudge along a few steps behind my much-faster running buddy, Amy. What I really do should rightfully be called “forward-propelling-at-a-slightly-faster-than-a-crawl-pace-without-falling-on-my-face.” (Is that a haiku?)

Amy Running
Her ponytail literally swishes.

This is particularly true in two instances; the first being when I run with Amy. For some reason, when I run on my own, I’m thoroughly convinced that I’m a speed demon. But running with Amy somehow makes me feel slower, even though she’s way faster than me and I try to keep up. Running with Amy also seems to make me more prone to complaining. And walking. I take a lot of walking/complaining breaks.

The other instance where I suck at running is during the height of summer. For some reason, no matter how many great running days I put under my spi-belt during the fall and spring, when the summer gets here and the humidity gets up there, I become the biggest slug. All of which is pretty understandable, but it’s also hugely frustrating.

Amy after
Amy after our run this morning. Fresh as a spring daisy.

me after
Me after our run this morning. Notice necklace of sweat. And beginning of underboob sweat.

Now, it doesn’t help that these two instances of incredible slowness coincide with each other. Amy and I primarily run together in the summer, when it gets too hot in the evenings to run, and we need each other to motivate us to get up at 5:30 in the morning.

When the alarm goes off every morning, I totally think about throwing it at Petunia (calm down, she’s fat and would cushion the thing, it’s not like it would break or hurt her). But thinking of poor little Amy standing around on a dangerous(ish….ok, not really) street corner in Old Town waiting for me while I continue dreaming of eating BBQ with Matthew McConnaughy really guilts me into getting up. I mean, OT at 6 am is sketch! Amy might be accosted by someone with a super friendly dog on a Starbucks run. The “someone” is on a Starbucks run, not the dog. Dogs don’t drink Starbucks. Do they?

The point is, well, running sucks. But luckily, I have a running buddy who somehow puts up with my heavy breathing, sweating (it’s CRAZY! And very stinky. Like a boy), complaining wreck of a self. And just like writing, I keep trying.

me after back
Oh yeah, that’s my back sweat. That pose is doing nothing for my butt.

Any other runners out there? Do you have a running buddy? Are you a morning or evening runner? Any tips for heavy/stinky sweating? Should I just roll deodorant all over myself or AXE body spray myself? I don’t want to be attacked by all those female models so maybe I’ll stay away from AXE.

me after two
Trying to cool off by blowing air up towards my sweat catching hat. I literally wear that hat only to catch sweat.