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Want to lose weight and feel great? Ask Me How! (Actually, don’t. I’ll just tell you.)

It was a busy year.

It was a busy year.

This pic and title are a clever draw to get you to read this.  I know that you’re thinking New Year’s and resolutions and all that.   I just hope you’ll think before you act if you are a parent who wants to lose weight and you are considering buying or selling direct-sales weight-loss products.  You should start thinking after you read this post, “How to talk to your daughter about her body,” over on Hope Avenue.

If you are like me, you have about a dozen Facebook friends now who are attempting to sell me some type of “health” product these days.  They mention a lot of weight lost with less effort than one might expect.  These “health product” shortcuts can help you, but as someone who has watched people close to me suffer from eating disorders, I worry about the message it sends to kids when they see parents use them.
Because I want to live up to my promise, first I will tell you everything you need to know about how I dropped 40 pounds and 6 dress sizes. I really did do that. I hope you’ll read on after that.
I will use just 3 words to describe how I lost the weight. They even all start with S.  Sweat.  Salads. Spanx.
Sweat is from exercise that burns more calories than you consume.   I chose to train for and then run a couple 5ks. Then I signed up for a half marathon in June, 2014.  Besides running, I do some Yoga and exercise videos with my daughter, too.  We look really silly sometimes and giggle a lot.  Sometimes she goes off and colors or plays with the dog while I finish up without her.
Salads are something you can eat a lot of without having to do more exercise than you want to.  When I wanted things other than salad, I used the (totally FREE) MyFitnessPal app to help keep calories burned over calories consumed.
Spanx is because, well, it’s the best $50 you’ll spend in formal dresswear because it doesn’t just shrink, it smooths.
Now, back to my soap box. To be very clear, I don’t mind the sales effort in my news feed on Facebook.  Sure, if someone is posting about what he or she is selling more than once per day, those posts are technically spam.  But I’m in sales and recognize that most of these direct-sellers are doing a great job with curating and even creating relevant, interesting content.I also know that the product these folks are trying to sell me works. First, because these are people I do believe and trust. Also, with some of those products, I feel like you’d have to do something really wrong for them NOT to work. For instance, some direct-sellers say they replace an entire meal with a caffeine-laden shake. As a result, they say they’ve lost weight and feel like they have more energy.  (No Way!  It’s MAGIC!)
So, what is my problem with the direct-sellers?  A couple quick observations on history:

In the 1980s, news became big media business and to keep us hooked they have to have something on all the time that scares us.  So we stopped letting our kids go outside and play.  Kids were okay with this because cable kept adding more channels and video games keep getting better and now they really don’t even need to see their friends in person with SnapChat and Social Media.

In the nineties, the USDA introduced the food pyramid and essentially began recommending a diet based around carbs.  (You can read a little more on that in this post entitled “The Ultimate Pyramid Scheme” on the Carb-Loaded documentary’s blog.)

These things – staying inside and eating mostly grains- swirled around with a couple other factors like food deserts in poor neighborhoods and the rise of juice boxes and boom, we’ve got ourselves a childhood obesity epidemic.Direct from the CDC:  Obesity now affects 17% of all children and adolescents in the United States – triple the rate from just one generation ago.  Ouch, scary.

I know what you’re thinking:  “That’s why I’m selling and using these products, Jenn!  I want to be an example of not being overweight for my child!”  Please hear me out.

Kids today are already hearing so much about food.  Food that is bad, chemicals in food, not eating enough food, eating too much food, etc.  What message do you want to send your kids about food?

When you start using and/or selling weight loss products and let it become a huge part of your everyday life and you let your kids know it, here are five scary things you are demonstrating to your kids:

1.  Being thin is very important.  They’re going to get this message from stick figures like Bella Thorne, Zendaya, Cinderella, iCarly, the fleet of scantily-clad fairies fluttering around Disney, and most other beloved children’s characters on the media they watch, please don’t reinforce it.  (“It’s not about being thin, Jenn!” you say; “It’s about being healthy!”  Oh, that’s why you keep posting before and after pics of your BMI.)

Our children do NOT need more thin “role models.”  They need role models who show them how to have a normal, healthy relationship with food.

Strawberry Shortcake, Then and Now

That’s Strawberry Shortcake, on the left, from back in the day when I was a kid.  On the right, that’s her AFTER she’s thinned out enough to be a part of this generation’s characters.

2.  There is nothing fun about exercise, so we need to find shortcuts to avoid doing too much of it.  Once you find something you like doing, EVERYTHING is fun about exercising.  The truth is, nothing is fun about finding time to exercise when you’re trying to balance a plate of work, housework, playing with your kids, your own non-exercise pursuits, and heaven only knows what else.  As a parent, there is no doubt in my mind that you do deserve a shortcut.  But don’t take one-your kids are watching.  Try to do exercise that is fun and keeps you healthy, not that makes you skinny or “toned.”  Unless you love that.  You should totally do it, then.  Your body should be a reflection of who a healthy, happy you is.  I enjoy the occasional crunch and the back pain it eliminates.  I like to think my body tells the truth about me- I like running, occasional light weight-work, drinking bourbon and eating a cookie here and there.  My husband loves all of those things about me and totally digs my body, too. I do not look like I love Crossfit, but that’s okay.
3.  Being healthy costs money.  A lot of money.  Actually, it doesn’t.  It takes some planning and some thinking and some common sense.  And when my daughter is in her first year of college and broke (because Lord knows I’m unable to foot the whole bill) and gains the “Freshman 15” and discovers that binge eating and drinking with no exercise don’t feel very good, I don’t want her to feel like she’s powerless and needs a fancy pill or shake.  I want her to put on some sneakers and take a walk or a run and go drink some water and eat an apple. Then, when she does have money and she feels sad or lonely, maybe she won’t just try to buy something to swallow, drink or snort to cure it.
4.  Getting other people thin is a fair way to make a profit.  If you’re going to make an extra buck or two, isn’t there something else you can sell? Maybe Tupperware or cooking utensils?  Stuff you can use to show your children how awesome it is to use really good, all-natural food to make a meal together that you then eat together?  If you’re interested in helping people feel better, it seems like a good idea do that for free. Maybe you could learn some fun exercise like Zumba and charge for that if you really feel like you need a profit.  Time away from your children shouldn’t be spent contributing to this country’s horrible weight gain/weight loss cycle.  If it is, please don’t tell your kids what you’re doing.
5.  Food is evil.  Especially yummy food.  That cake I made to celebrate your birth?  It’s like I’m practically trying to kill you.  Okay, so hopefully your kid won’t make a leap like that.  But what message are we sending when, in order to feel good and be thin, we REPLACE AN ENTIRE MEAL with a shake?For a kid, every meal is an adventure. At school, snack time and lunch time will be welcome breaks and time to chat with friends and eat FOOD.  At home, we do everything we can to have our kids stay at the table for the whole meal and try all kinds of new foods. This all fits in with the culture of food and eating that humans have had for thousands of years.Like all animals, humans need food to nourish our bodies.  Because we are humans, we need food that tastes good and is consumed as part of a social ritual to nourish our souls. (It’s okay if a nice, yummy dessert is occasionally part of that ritual. That’s why it’s so important we set the right example.)
That same government who brought us the carb-based food pyramid, the one that counts tomato paste on pizza as a vegetable in school lunches, is fighting back against childhood obesity in their institutions.
In schools they’re having conversations with really young kids about what foods are bad.Telling kids who are too young that ANY food is “bad” is a horrible idea.  I learned this from Sam Sandwich, a character from the Disney Junior shorts between shows.  Last year he told my 3-year-old daughter that eating too much of some foods makes you tired and lazy.  Because she’s 3, she refused to eat lunch because what she heard was “food makes you tired and lazy.”
Of course, in schools, they’re not just talking about bad foods, they’re banning those foods.  Recently, a friend of mine packed a little package of gummy bears from her daughter’s Halloween candy in her daughter’s lunch one day. This resulted in a reprimand from the school. Her daughter is not overweight or obese and eats a healthy lunch every day.
Obviously, Gummy Bears– created in 1920 — were being be brought to reckoning for their finally bringing about an entire generation of overweight children.  By golly, we should have seen this coming almost 100 years ago!
Those are just a couple of examples of what wacky stuff our kids are going to be hearing about food and eating.  And trust me, there are going to be LOTS  of conversations about food and eating.  Disney, Nick Jr., and Sprout and anyone else who acts like they care about children in order to profit, are jumping right on this bandwagon to tell our kids what to eat because actually convincing kids to take action on the other solution- exercising more- could possibly lower viewership.

You see what I’m getting at?  As a parent, if you’re letting any part of your life revolve around weight loss, you’re contributing to what is already an unhealthy conversation about foods.  Worse yet, you’re not just talking.  You’re becoming an example.

And that’s my two cents.  And if you don’t like it, don’t read it.  I’ll probably be forced to keep reading your posts about “ask me how,” though.  Because you’ll still be my friend because I love you and I know you’re an amazing parent and think you’re doing the right thing.  Just think carefully about what you let your kids know about it, okay?

Hundreds of Babies Without Men Their Lives

Baby Cartoon

Baby Cartoon (Photo credit: Ian Kershaw)

I witnessed something scary the other day.

I saw hundreds of babies. They all looked beautiful, sweet and healthy and they were all well-dressed and looked like they had plenty of food and toys.

The strange part was that ALL of them appeared to be in situations where they were cared for SOLELY by their moms. Not one shred of evidence existed that there were any men in these children’s lives.

For me, caring for an infant without my husband would have been a nightmare. He was so great at calming a crying baby. He could gently massage gas bubbles from tiny tummies. He could prepare and warm a bottle like nobody’s business. Tickling and piggy-back rides were other fortes of his as our babies grew older. The list of his contributions to my children’s well-being is endless.

Don’t mistake my observations for judgement of single mothers. There are women who care for children on their own and do very, very well at it. Certainly they made a great choice in having that child! But most of them didn’t choose that as their ideal situation. Lets face it,  kids are a lot of work. Most mothers appreciate, at the very least, the other set of hands that having a man around provides.

That apparently was NOT a consideration when these babies I was looking at came into existence.
It was obvious that these particular babies were all purposefully created with the intention of being raised by females alone. Not one was a case of conception outside a meaningful relationship, death of a parent, divorce, a father in the military or any of the normal reasons babies are raised by their mommies alone. Weird, right? What kind of crazy society is this?

Then, I noticed something even weirder. Only a very small percentage of these babies- probably less than 5%- were boys. And many of those boys had a twin sister. I couldn’t help but think that baby boy twins were only kept around because of their attachment to their twin sister. Logically, I can only assume that there were once the regular old 50/50 ratio of male to female in this baby population. What was happening to the rest of the male infants? Were the boys sent away somewhere? Or -gulp- even worse?

The assumptions were horrifying. In fact, I got so creeped out I decided that I had to leave the doll section at the store.

Seriously, what the hell is going on in 2013, where mothers and fathers are supposed to both be taking active roles in their children’s lives, and little boys are so excluded from the baby doll world? What about a little girl who is raised by her father alone? According to many toy and department stores, that’s just impossible.

I started noticing all this after I heard the “Girls, Boys, Toys — And Gender” segment of OnPoint with Tom Ashbrook. Check it out here: Then, I started having my own experiences when I finally got around to Christmas shopping for my 19-month-old son, who I call Buster.

Buster LOVES to push a baby around in a stroller. It’s pretty much the only thing he will throw a crying, screaming, thrashing-on-the-floor fit about. If we don’t get an afternoon walk in with his “EEEEEE” (his word for baby- It’s also his word for binky, his sister, lights, sky, leaves and tree) he will pitch a tantrum like you’ve never seen.
At his age, his sister would push the stroller but stop every few feet to check on whomever was riding in the stroller. No more than half way through our walk, she would decide she was too tired to push the stroller and beg me to carry it. I hated allowing her to push the stroller.

When my son pushes the stroller around, he’s all boy. He walks fast and pushes hard and doesn’t stop except to chase Oooo-eees (that’s his word for cats- ours is named Louie; incidentally he refers to dogs as kitties) or pick up anything large and exceptionally dirty. Taking a walk with him when he’s not pushing a stroller is much harder because he’s running everywhere, trying to tear leaves of trees and run in everyone’s yard.

So, I thought maybe it would be a good idea to get him his own baby and stroller for Christmas. But I thought maybe we’d get him some neutral or boy colored items. These are NOT easy to find. I’d like to believe that’s because I’ve waited so long to start shopping, but I doubt that’s the case. What’s harder is that even some of my family members seem to think I should discourage Buster’s behavior.

Is there some reason we’re still keeping our toddlers in a 1950s episode of Leave It to Beaver?

Everyone is familiar with “Mommy and Me” dolls. But if you Google “Daddy and Me” dolls, a bunch of really interesting but kind of sad stuff comes up. Sad but good are dolls that are made with a spot where you can put a picture of a father who is far away, like in military service, or dolls that are made with the image of a long-distance relative right on the fabric. Sad but bad are poems about abusive fathers who treat their daughters like dolls.

Do we only commemorate fathers with dolls when they are absent? Why can’t we have at least the same involvement of males in pretend child care as we expect with real child care?

Really, why on earth wouldn’t my son want to care for baby dolls? He watches daddy take care of him and his sister. He sees plenty of manly men pushing their babies around in strollers. I mean, if you see a family out and about and the mom is carrying a purse or a diaper bag or tending to an older child and the dad is just standing there, hands both free, instead of pushing the stroller doesn’t he LOSE serious man points for being a douche?

A lot of times the kitchen/cooking toys are unreasonably segregated, too. First of all, Daddy does most of the cooking at our house. Are we supposed to wait until our boys are grown up to let them watch Daddy or turn on the TV and see Emeril Lagasse, Bobby Flay, or Anthony Bourdain? Well, Bourdain can be a little racy. In fact, I remember in his book, “Restaurant Confidential,” a pivotal moment for his career path as a chef came when he saw the chef at the restaurant where he worked banging a woman right outside the kitchen. Presumably the woman allowed the chef to do so because he was a chef. I wouldn’t want my son to read that for more than a few years. But certainly not because I fear it would influence his lifestyle choices.

I remember going through a few similar things with my daughter, Princess, who is now 4. She did get blocks and cars and even a tool set. For some reason, it’s not as big a deal to let a girl do “boy stuff.” But sometimes it got tricky. For instance, her favorite movie was Cars. So I wanted to get her some Cars pajamas. I had to get them in the boys’ section. Believe me, I got them, though. And they were her favorite. Did I mention I am in CAR sales as a profession?

For Buster, it’s really just the cooking and baby stuff that bothers me. Most of the other girl stuff is pretty lame even for girls, especially now that even Strawberry Shortcake is all slutted out. What’s up with that, by the way?
By the way, I did realize there are a couple of places that are much less segregated. One is our local toy store in Middletown, CT – Amato’s. The other, oddly enough, is Ikea. Just one more reason to shop small, shop local or get your toys at a Swedish furniture store I guess.


Tonight we headed off on another extended camping trip.  We’ll be spending the next four nights camped out.  This year, it’s a little different with the drunken-orangutan-like movements of Buster, our Princess, and our brand new puppy, Emma.  But still, I’m ready.  If you didn’t read my very first post- “Roughin’ It,” you should know that I’m pretty tough when it comes to camping.  I could survive for days and days with nothing but two fully stocked refrigerators, my crock pot, my cupcake maker, a smoker, air-conditioning, a flush-toilet of my own, several cases of beer, a handle of Woodford Reserve, 100+ of my closest friends and family, and of course, my mommy and daddy camped right next door.  Because it’s only the basics like that that matter.

Really, I have all that stuff.  If you don’t know how I camp, I went into great detail about how I don’t camp in this post:  How I Don’t Camp.

This camping trip is particularly special, though, as it is a family reunion.  Grammy, a very special 95-year-old lady, will get to see all ten of her children.  They’re traveling in from California, Kentucky, Texas, Massachusetts, New York, Maine, and probably more states I’m forgetting, to Connecticut to get together as they do every 5 years or so.

The usual crew we camp with will be there, too.  Most of them are the local part of this giant family.  I’m not actually related to most of them.  My mother’s sister married one of the ten siblings.  Out of kindness, or maybe because there were so many of them already that they didn’t notice, they’ve always treated me like family.  Which is really nice and made for some difficult explanations when putting together already-complicated family-tree projects my cousins had to do.  In fact, some didn’t realize I’m not actually related for a while.  One cousin’s husband was more than a little disappointed to find out he’d been putting up with my crap since I was 15 and there was no real blood to back it up.

But I’m not the only non-blood-related member of this giant family.  It seems they’ve picked up many stragglers along the way who are now considered family.  They’re all wonderful people.  In fact, my husband is one of those stragglers.  I actually met him on my first “family” camping trip after I returned home from Oklahoma.  You don’t get to become family if you’re not tough enough to take some ribbing but kind enough to contribute something- whether it’s fruit pizza, a bottle of some liquor, or just good conversation.  Really the best thing you can contribute is a willingness to be the butt of our jokes for a while, I think.

I think the group needs to be studied.  You know it if you’re a part of it, but there’s no membership cards.  This reunion was well-organized by a few members of the group because it is larger and it has a few scheduled activities, but most camping trips come together with just a liaison to a campground.  The rest just happens without any official leaders.  I think everyone sees Grammy as the matriarch, but like Queen Elizabeth, at this point she’s not real interested in being in charge of everything.  She does enough of that at her nursing home (that’s another story.)  We all show up at a campground and there may be some scuffling about who camps where and how certain people behave, but we always seem to work it out.  We take care of our children and each others’.  We share food sometimes.  Sometimes we don’t.  It would be impressive if I were talking about 20 or so people.  But it’s usually over 100 and includes something like 20 dogs.

Finding campgrounds has become tough, too- we’ve been thrown out of a few.  Weird how they don’t like noise all night long, giant campfires.   One campground seemed particularly sensitive about stuffing some clothing including a shirt that matched the campgrounds “STAFF” shirts and then burning it in effigy after they’d told us to go to bed too many times.  But we’re a big group, and we like to have fun.  We’re always up front before we visit a place.  If we’re on a trip and things are getting less than fun, Grammy will even mention “We’ve been thrown out of nicer places than this one.”

As rowdy as we are during the camping, we always clean up our campfire and all other messes we create.  When a campground we frequent was hit hard by a tornado a couple of years ago, a big group of us (not me, I had two small children, so not looking for credit) went up to the campground to help clean up.  Treat us right, let us do our thing, and we’ll not only pay you thousands in camping fees, we’ll help you when you need it.

The members of the group include several races and religions.  Members of the group have a wide span as far as employment- everything from retired and current business owners, nurses, engineers, firefighters (so the large campfires are usually somewhat contained, or at least someone understands the risks being taken), military, school-bus drivers, teachers, DCF workers, realtor/railroad workers, several IT folks, craftsmen, etc.  And we all get along as neighbors for a few days.  Even more of us do when we have a reunion.  It’s an awesome temporary community and it will be even larger this weekend.  I’m so glad that my kids get to be a part of it.

Anyway, this reunion is going to be fun.  There will be even more kids for our children to play with this trip.  And we’ve managed to book an entire campground.  So I’m looking forward to catching up and telling some old stories and making some new ones.  But I better get to packing.  I’ll leave you with a nursery rhyme I wrote a couple of years ago (I didn’t use the proper name):

Lovely Mrs. Grammy never lived in a shoe,

But she has a large family and

Camping is what they do.

No broth in sight so they drink beer instead,

They burn things all night

And then go to bed.

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Ladies, This is Your Car-Shopping Opportunity, NYC style

Sorry for the short notice, but it snuck up on me.  All of a sudden I find myself drooling over live pics of the Mercedes-Benz CLA 45 AMG and the all-new Subaru WRX and the Porsche 911 GT3 and I’m thinking “Wow, Twitter, isn’t usually this cool.” And it dawned on me,  these are just some of the many debuts (55 to be exact) happening in NY at the Auto Show and realize that I’d meant to tell you all about this sooner. 

The NY International Auto Show is a pretty big deal.  Manufacturers will be putting their best face forward to show you everything wonderful about their cars because the media will all be there (long before the public gets to go) reporting every detail, good and bad, of what they see. 

If you are planning on buying a car within the next year, possibly even two, this is a chance to shop the way we smart women like to shop.  We like to browse the options, touch, feel, see, assimilate, without anyone bothering us.  Preferably with our friends, our kids if we have to bring them, and an opportunity to grab a nice lunch or at least some coffee.  (I wrote about this in my Dear Car Dealer, Don’t Make Us Slay the Mammoth post.)

If you haven’t been to an auto show, it’s probably because it sounds like a guy thing.  But if you think about it, it is the one place where you could shop for a car the way you, as an intelligent, discerning female, shop for everything else. 

There’s even a special, private Ladies Tour with Tara Weingarten, Editor-In-Chief of  From the short bio I read on the site, I’m certain that I’d enjoy at least hanging out with Tara if I can’t find a way to have her life.  (I’d never heard of that site before now, but it is actually a LOT less lame than most women’s automotive sites.   In fact, I have to mention I got caught up browsing it for a while and found myself pretty amused and informed when I did.  That’s a whole other tangent I will save for another post- how disappointed I am by most automotive websites for women.)

Unfortunately, you can’t buy a car at the show, but the upside of that is that there are no car salespeople.  Most manufacturers will have someone available to answer your questions about the car or give you a little talk about it, but those are usually model/actor types.  (Both male and female will be available for your viewing pleasure, if it’s what I’ve seen before.)

Here’s what you should know if you decide to go.  And if you do, please let me know because I cannot this year.  😦

New York International Auto Show


Location:  Jacob Javits Center NYC, NY

When:  Open to the Public Friday March 29-Sunday April 7th 10 am – 10 pm every day except Sundays, 10 am to 7 pm (including Easter)

Tickets: Adults $15 Kids 2-12 $5 Kids Under 2 FREE.  Strollers ARE allowed.  Buy online and use Promo Code NY13AAA to save $2 (Thanks Retail Me Not!)

Private Ladies Tour:  Saturday and Sunday, 9 am (you get to go in an hour early), $50 More details at the website here.  It’s the only private tour that’s not sold out. 

TIPS:  If you can, go during the week and go during the day.  At night, the fifteen-year-olds and their stinky body spray are all up in the cars talking about what wheels they’d put on them.  Map out what manufacturers you want to see, there’s A LOT of walking.  Don’t be afraid to browse, though, you might fall in love with a make/model you’d never thought of.  Bring your camera and take pics so if you’re not buying a car for a while, you’ll remember which ones had the features you like.  Have fun.  Try on every car like they’re shoes.  Really, really expensive shoes.

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