Do Dieters Have Split Personalities?

           Why is it so hard to stay on a diet when success is just around the corner?

           You decide to lose ten pounds, pick a diet, and weigh yourself. Then, it’s off to the races!

           For the first day, week, or month, you are so good! You do everything right. You cut down on fat, sugar and salt. You eat green leafy vegetables, fruit, chicken, and fish. You even hide your stash of candy.

           Then that time comes, maybe it’s the next morning, the next week or next month, when you weigh yourself. You have done SO WELL! The scale has gone down one ounce, two ounces, or maybe even a whole pound. 

           “Great! Congratulations! Wonderful!” you tell yourself. 

Immediately, your brain, that most devious part of your body, speaks. “You have to celebrate! After all, this is America! If you don’t celebrate something, then it wasn’t that important. You have to mark this event so you know you’ve accomplished something.”

           You start thinking about all the ways you can acknowledge this great weight loss. Which would be the best, most meaningful one? Why, with food, of course! You could have a chocolate bar or an oatmeal raisin cookie, the really good kind that are at least three inches in diameter, or maybe a Frappuccino with whipped cream on top?

           Instantly the sane part of your brain speaks up. It’s trying to look out for you. “A pound is 3,500 calories and that’s for sixteen ounces. You’ve only lost half a pound.”

           Let’s do a little math. 3,500 calories divided in half equals 1,750. The chocolate bar is around 300 calories and the super duper oatmeal raisin cookie is around 500. The Frappuccino with all that nice, real, not fat free, whipped cream on top is around 600.”

           Now the devious part of your brain reasserts itself. It’s very warm and friendly so you just can’t resist paying attention. “Why not have all three, just this once? That would add up to only 1,400 calories. You’ve just lost half a pound. That’s 1,700 calories. You’d still be ahead. You would have lost one and one-half ounces!”

           Where did this devious part come from? It seems to know you so well, almost like your best friend. It acts like it’s only looking out for you and shows up every time you start to make some progress on that ten pounds. “What’s going on here?” you ask yourself. “No one needs a friend like this.” 

           You want your brain to tell you: “Great! Congratulations! Wonderful! You’ve finally lost some weight. You need to commemorate this remarkable achievement. Go to your favorite café, sit outside in the sun and order a hot cup of herbal tea. How about orange mango, cranberry apple or lemon zest? You will feel so wonderful afterwards and the number of calories is zero.”

           “Zero calories,” your devious part starts in, “how can I mark this important event by putting something with no calories into my body? I need something that tastes good. That means salt, fat, sugar.”

           “No, no, no,” your sane part says. “You don’t want calories.  That’s the whole point.  You want something with zero calories so you can continue to lose weight.” 

           “What kind of friend are you?” your devious part demands.  “She lost weight, after all. She needs to go out and celebrate and eat something very special with lots of whipped cream, chocolate and sugar. There’s nothing like the taste of real sugar. After all, she just lost half a pound.”

           “Whoa”, your sane part weighs in. “You’re not at the end of the line. You’re only on the first step. You didn’t go on this diet to lose half a pound. You went on it to lose ten pounds. Remember? To lose ten pounds, at a half pound a week, will take twenty weeks. That’s close to five months. You haven’t even gotten through the first month yet. Actually, this is only the end of Week #1.”

           So the real reason it’s so hard to stay on a diet is our brains have two parts—the sane and the devious. It is hard for some of us to realize the devious part is not really our best friend. What we really need is therapy for our split personality!

The Lost Girls of Paris By Pam Jenoff

I’ve just finished reading a great book! What do I mean by “a great book”? It’s the one that when it’s time to go to bed, and you know you have to be up early the next morning, you can’t put down. You just have to read one more chapter. You need to be sure the characters are going to be all right. In fact, you’ve forgotten that they’re characters. To you, they’re now real people.

The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff is like that. It’s historical fiction. There really was a World War II and a Normandy Invasion. There really was a female spy ring run out of London to confuse the Germans and help the Allies. The real one was run by Vera Atkins of the Special Operations Executive. The historical fiction one is run by Eleanor Trigg. The real women were heroic and many didn’t come home. The same happens to the characters in the book.

The chapters alternate between the present: 1946 New York City with Grace Healey, who discovers a suitcase in Grand Central Station with 12 photographs of young women on her way to work one morning.

And the past: 1944 London with Marie, one of the 12, who was sent to France as part of a female spy ring to help the Allies. She was picked because she spoke French so well no one would suspect she was really an English spy. Marie had learned French, and her way around the French countryside, which turned out to just as important, when she was a child. Every summer, she and her mother had gone to France.

The Lost Girls of Paris is well written, vivid and inspired by true events. It has a number of plots and sub-plots to keep you sitting on the edge of your armchair waiting for the next thing to happen. The twelve photographs hold the story together as Grace searches to find out: Who were they? How were they connected? Did any survive?

There aren’t a lot of wartime books about female spies and women doing heroic things like blowing up bridges and sending back radio messages right under the enemies’ noses. If this is the kind of reading you enjoy, then this is the book for you.

Here We Go Again!

Whenever it’s time to write I get this “here we go again” feeling. All the cool, neat ideas I have in my head make an immediate beeline for the door and I’m left with nothing. Even things I originally thought were pretty funny don’t sound that way anymore. Years ago I wrote a humorous piece titled Do Dieters Have Split Personalities? It’s about why it’s so hard to stay on a diet when success is just around the corner. The Ann Arbor News published it in their Opinion Section. They must have liked the piece because they gave it most of the page. If I redid the piece and freshened it up a little, would it make for a good submission to our Deadwood Writers’ Anthology? That’s where my problems began. Someone in our writers’ group insisted I should check with the Ann Arbor News to see who had the rights at this point in time. Originally that didn’t sound like much of a problem so I agreed. But it’s turned into a big headache. The next day, I sent the Ann Arbor News an email giving them the title of the story, the section, date and page number where it had been published. I told them I’d like to freshen the piece up a bit and submit to my writers’ group. I got a prompt email back saying: “That would be handled by our print group.” They included an email address and a name to send it to. I thought, this is going to get settled quickly. That turned out to be the understatement of the year. On March 9, I emailed Todd and explained the situation. No one answered. I waited a few days. By March 13 I realized that no one was going to answer. I sent an email to the nameless person who had told me to contact Todd in the first place. This time I asked for a telephone number. The response was complete silence. I decided to let this problem sit for a few days, hoping something would happen or I’d come up with a brilliant idea. By March 18, I decided to try phoning. I got the Ann Arbor News’ print edition number from Google and dialed. Jan answered. I asked to speak to Todd. She said she’d connect me. But all I got was his voice mail which wasn’t very helpful. I left my name and number. Then I called Jan back. This time I explained why I was calling and asked if there was someone else who could help me. Jan said yes. Actually, Mickey was the person who did this. She would connect me. The phone rang several times and then I got Mickey’s voice mail. I left my name and number again but didn’t have much hope that I would hear back from him. Then I had an idea. Frequently, people will respond to an email before they’ll respond to voice mail. I’ve never understood why. I called Jan back and asked for Mickey’s email address. I sent him an email explaining the situation. When I woke up Tuesday morning, I checked my email: lots of messages but nothing from Mickey. But, around 11:00 a.m., I got an email from Sara. When I saw that she is the Regional News Manager for the Ann Arbor News, I began to feel better. It looked like my problem was going to be solved after all. Sara wrote, “If you signed a freelance agreement with us, the copyright belongs to us. If you didn’t, you are free to rework it and submit it to your group. If you did sign an agreement, please let us know and we can give you a release.” Now, the truth is, I wrote this piece in 2008 and the only thing in my file is the piece and the 2008 cover letter I sent to Arny. 2008 was eleven years ago. How am I to remember if I signed a freelance agreement or not? I don’t think I did because, knowing me, I would have asked for a copy and put it in the same file with the published piece. The only thing I do remember is feeling nervous when I walked into the Ann Arbor News downtown, met Arny, and had the photographer take my picture. I shared this with Sara, minus the nervous part, and asked if she could send me a release to be on the safe side? I checked my email this morning and there was nothing from Sara. I decided to wait until 11:00 a.m. before printing copies of this piece to bring tonight. I also hoped I’d hear back from Sara in the meantime. This turned out to be a good plan. At 10:29 a.m. I got an email from Sara saying “Please feel free to rework and resubmit the essay to your writers’ group. You can use this email as official permission.” Mmmmmm… after 14 days, closure. Not only do I have the rights to my piece, I have written proof. Great! For once, this is not a case of “here we go again”.

Brett Kavanaugh?

The thoughts expressed in this article are solely those of the author.


Sometime this month the Senate is going to vote on whether or not to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. The Republican Party, in general, thinks he’ll be the fifth vote to overturn Roe v. Wade and abortion will no longer be legal in the United States. The Democratic Party is fighting this. But what about the people, the citizens of the United States? How do most of them feel?


This issue is complex. For one thing, abortion only affects women. I can’t imagine a man having one. I think of Kamala Harris’ question last week asking Judge Kavanaugh if he knew of any laws that let the government regulate the male body? He had to stop and think. And, after a very long pause, he said he didn’t.


I remember a time when abortion was illegal in the United States. What did girls, and yes, they were girls—16, 17, 18 or older, do when they found out they were pregnant, unmarried and couldn’t or wouldn’t marry the father? They had what was called a “back alley” abortion or went down to Mexico or used a coat hanger.


Most of these abortions didn’t go well. Usually the person performing the abortion was not a doctor, or if they were, they were not performing the abortion with the latest equipment in a sterile environment. Frequently, later that night or the next day, the girls had to be rushed to the hospital because they were infected or hemorrhaging. Many died, and of those who didn’t, many could no longer have children because of the damage the procedure had done to their internal organs.


Then along came Roe v. Wade. Women and girls could now have safe, legal abortions. Almost everyone lived. There were few infections, few hemorrhages and almost no one died.


So then, did all women, or most women, go out and have abortions? No. Most women don’t want abortions. They want to have children. But they want the option of abortion available for those who do.


Do most women believe abortion should be a nine month choice? Of course not. They want a time limited option available in which a woman can have a safe and legal abortion. After that time is up, unless there are extraordinary circumstances, like the life of the mother is at stake, abortion would no longer be a possibility.


I’ve participated in many conversations between women who are very liberal, very conservative and in between. After a while, we were always able to come up with reasonable limits, while at the same time keeping the option of abortion available for those who need it.


In recent surveys, 35% of Republicans, 60% of Independents and 75% of Democrats* want limited, legal abortions available to everyone. Almost no one wants to go back to the old days of “back alley” abortions and all the dangers they entailed.


Where do you stand on this issue? What do you think? How does your position on this issue affect how you feel about Brett Kavanaugh being nominated to the Supreme Court? Are you in favor or against his nomination and why?


What’s So Special About Chautauqua?

The Chautauqua Institution is a small town in Chautauqua, New York. It’s located in the western part of the state and only really comes alive in summer. People first start arriving in late May and leave in September. Some stay for the whole season in lovely old, restored houses. Others come for a week or two and rent a room, an apartment or stay at the old Athenaeum Hotel.

Yes, there are a few year-round residents, about 400. But that is nothing compared to the approximately 7,500 daily visitors at the height of the season. Some buy season passes but most buy weekly or daily ones. The passes include many excellent lectures and classes from 9:00 a.m. to the evening performances in the Amphitheater that start at 8:15 p.m.


Why? What makes Chautauqua so special? It’s the people who come and what is offered. During the nine-week season, each week has a theme. All the classes, lectures and performances for that week revolve around that theme. And all of them are excellent.


Some of the themes from this year are: Life of the Written Word, American Identity and The Arts and Global Understanding. We went for Week 6, July 28 to August 4. The theme was “The Changing Nature of Work”. We had an absolutely marvelous time.


We stayed at the Athenaeum Hotel and after breakfast each morning went to a lecture on the efficiencies and inefficiencies that are built into our economy. At 10:30 we headed to the Amphitheater so we’d be sure to have a seat for that days’ talk. At noon we went to lunch and around 1:15 p.m. walked over to the Hall of Philosophy so we had good seats for the 2:00 p.m. presentation. On Monday Sister Joan Chittister spoke.


We usually stayed for the 3:30 lecture as well. That’s how we had the opportunity to hear Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio. Then it was back to the hotel to get ready for dinner.


Afterwards there was always a performance in the Amphitheater from 8:15 to 10:00. One night it was a symphony. Another it was a ballet. On our last night it was “The Piano Guys”. They were the perfect end to a magical week!