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Q and A

Feb 17, 2009; Liam of MySpace fame... Asks:

Hey, Stacey. I'm having trouble losing weight. Although you seem like the naturally thin type (which makes me resent you a little), I was wondering if you had any theories as to what is the best way to get in shape.
Please share.

Stacey answers:

Hi Liam. I'm so, so glad you asked! Boy, do I have theories. I'm not exactly naturally thin, I'm sort of naturally average, but in the past three or four years I've lost about 25 pounds and now I am thin. You can't do it exactly the way I did it because I have weird, non-dangerous stomach problems--I know that's disgusting, but really it is my stomach and I'm not using that as a euphemism for my intestines, okay? Because of this, I've read dozens of books about food and diet and learned that almost all the information we have about food and diet is made-up bullshit. I know, I know, now I sound like the crazy Scientology person but really, it is, and I will provide references.

So here's what I recommend you do to lose weight: eat as much as you want of anything BUT really, really never eat: sugar, grains, potatoes and their pals, beer, fruit juice, and don't eat anything after 8 at night. Corn is a grain. Go easy on the booze and try to eat a lot of non-starchy vegetables. This will seem weird and uncivilized for a while--especially not eating bread--but then it won't seem so strange, and no one will even notice if you don't tell them. You must eat fat. Don't skip this step and don't listen to anyone who yells at you when you dump butter on your spinach. Eat as much as you want but obviously try to eat natural fats and not trans fat. Because I'm on this diet for health reasons, not weight reasons, I try to eat them in their descending order of healthfulness, which I've decided is: fish fat, coconut oil, butter, animal fat, olive oil, macadamia nut oil, whatever else.

Okay, now this is even weirder but truly don't get into a hardcore aerobic exercise program because it will make you hungry and therefore unhappy and eventually your knees will start to hurt. Resistance training is better than rampant aerobic training. You'll look and feel better. I'm nuts, sure, but my BMI is 18.8 and I promise this won't make you have a heart attack. Also, you won't be hungry after you adjust. The bad news is that when you first cut out sugar and grains you'll probably go insane. It's temporary, maybe for three weeks...or longer, especially if you've been eating a low fat, high-grain diet for a while. It's easier to ease into it if you first cut out sugar for a couple of weeks, then cut out the grains.

For references read Good Calories, Bad Calories by the fantastic science writer Gary Taubes. If you really do this and it works, please let me know.

Feb 07, 2009; Wag Asks:

Wicky-wicky-what? (sorry, couldn't resist). Lucas and Dan are just jealous that they didn't come up with my brilliant solution first. I'm doing well. Life seems to be progressing within expected parameters.

Stacey answers:

Oh good. Expected parameters sounds good!

Feb 06, 2009; Wag Asks:

Well, I figured the burlap would make a good conduit to get the water from the puddles to the roof drains, not just an increase in evaporative surface area. How are you doing?

Stacey answers:

Yes, I understood your clever principal of wicking the water off the flat roof with the burlap. I just didn't pay enough attention to see if it was wicking or what. I will try harder. It's hard to pay attention to the roof. As a child I used to hide on top of the refrigerator when we played hide & seek and even though I was in plain sight no one could ever find me.

I'm a little disappointed in life even though it's better than it's been in a long time. How are you?

Feb 06, 2009; wag Asks:

Did the burlap work?

Stacey answers:

Hmmm. Maybe. There were three puddles and the puddle with the burlap it in vanished way before the others. However, everyone (Lucas, Dan) seemed to discount the burlap as the agent of the fast-drying. I think we need another rain to determine if it was a coincidence. We also need a ladder.

Jan 27, 2009; Xerox Asks:

How do I get with the hot, recently divorced guy at work? Without being creepy/unprofessional?

Stacey answers:

If he's recently divorced, he probably feels like he's a pathetic failure and that women are poison. Therefore, I assume that he's good for sex but not much else. So I suggest you come on to him in a film noir manner that suggests sex, sexiness, and having sex. It's cute, it's sort of respectful, and it's to the point. Ask him out for drinks. Get him drunk. Wear a low-cut shirt. Lean forward. Tell him he has nice hands. Have him walk you to your house/bus stop/bike. Give him a hug goodbye. Make it last too long. Giggle and say, "I shouldn't do this," then kiss him. See where it goes from there. It might be easier (for you) if you actually are somewhat drunk. Drunk is not creepy, drunk is drunk, and if it doesn't go well you can always roll your eyes and half-apologize the next day. Don't even bother to full apologize--you were drunk, remember? Hmmm, maybe not.

However, there's really no way to proposition a co-worker without being unprofessional.

Jan 08, 2009; wally Asks:

You’ve been very kind, bothering to field my silliness in the spirit of even semi-seriousness. There’s one final news item that’s perplexing me on a different level, and it would add considerably to my appreciation (not that this is any motivation) if you’d weigh in: Investors defrauded by Bernie Madoff, …should they have been able to predict financial woe based on his name alone? It is pronounced Made Off, after all, which is what thieves are sometimes described as having done with money and other valuables. Was this a risk that could have been calculated in a split second? Or, forgetting you’ve got hindsight to go on, would it have been unfair if these people thought they could assess his intentions quickly and correctly when so little information existed?

Stacey answers:

I believe there's always a temptation, when something bad happens to other people, to look for a reason why it could never happen to us. We're too canny, smart, intuitive, whatever. But I think it could have happened to anyone. Madoff was a seasoned con artist who hadn't been caught in thirty years of swindling. His name--it's odd, I know! But lots of people who have funny names are allowed to function in our society.

Jan 04, 2009; The Wonderer Asks:

I am wondering this. If I got drunk or just internet drunk and asked you a question and then decided later it was too embarrassing or revealing, would you take it down from the site if I asked you to? Do you have the power? What if it was a really juicy question?

Stacey answers:

Yes, I have the power. Yes, I would.

Jan 02, 2009; Wag Asks:

Hey Stacey! Happy New Year! It appears that there are people on social networking sites dedicating a lot of energy towards looking back by posting pictures, discussing how cool their band or student hangout or defunct radio station was. This can be sort of fun, and I do find myself drawn into it, but I think it's a bit sad at the same time. One of Jenny Holzer's "truisms" is "Looking back is the first sign of aging and decay." I mean, I know I'm aging and decaying, but I got a lot more new stuff to do and talk about! How do you feel about all of this nostalgia, and is people's pursuit of it keeping them from furthering their lives?

Stacey answers:

Hi Wag! I know, I know, I've been thinking about this too. If you'd asked me a few weeks ago I think I would have said that I liked it, I think it's fun and cute to see old friends dressed like members of Bananarama or to recall their unfortunate rattails. In some ways it is amazing. (Like, on facebook, if you befriend Richard Siken, kick-ass poet of darkness, you can see his Bar Mitzvah pictures!). And I do want to remember the defunct band or radio station or anything that took a lot of creative energy. It's okay with me if an art project is old--that just makes it part of the archive. But if it's not exactly an art project--say, if it was a student hang out--then I only want to remember it a little bit. Not too much, I've since decided. I don't want to wade into the memory and splash around and have to blow dry my hair afterward.

So yes, I'm with you, I think going forward is much better than going back. I think technology sometimes gives us access to information we'd be better off without. I think nostalgia is meant to be vague without too many audio visual effects.

Dec 21, 2008; Not a Tennis Pro Asks:

I liked the tennis pro anecdote. This isn't a question, but I still liked it.

Stacey answers:

Really? I thought I belabored the point. But thank you.

Dec 18, 2008; Simone Asks:

I'm a middle school teacher, and my students occasionally make bad life choices (no way!). I see them do cruel, sneaky, or manipulative things and then lie about it, and I'm expected to respond by giving them "talks" or "lectures" or "advice" or whatever. You know the deal. I'm sure you got some as a kid. But whenever I attempt these talks, I always feel like I'm wasting my breath. Or even worse, I feel like a moldy, loathsome, power-tripping phony. Do those "talks" even work? Did they ever have a positive impact on your life? Did a teacher ever say something motivational or chastising to you that actually changed the way you lived your life? Did you even listen?

Stacey answers:

I think they can work. Not always, maybe not even most of the time, but it's kind of wild, if you're 12, to have an adult who's not in your family look at you and tell you what they see. At that age there aren't competing world views circulating in your head yet--it's just the ideas of your parents with a little influence from your friends. So when someone has another way of looking at your behavior, it can be kind of intense.

The summer when I was 12, my mother kept hounding me to take a tennis lesson--just one. I'd already had many in my life. My parents and sister played tennis, everyone played tennis, tennis was in the air, but I kept postponing the lesson. The thing was, it was hard for me to tell why I didn't want to take the lesson. I didn't really think about it. I was shy, and so used to being pushed into summer activities by my mother, that this was just another instance where I felt annoyed and badgered. But she kept telling me that I'd enjoy it, and that it would be great, and every now and then she'd be right about things like this, even though all I really ever wanted to do was walk around and read books.

So anyway, I take the lesson with a young pro I've never met before, slogging through it with no enthusiasm or skill, until after about a half hour he looks at me and says, "Stacey, do you even like tennis?" Now, this was remarkable for me. No one had ever asked me something like this before. I hadn't ever considered that I might have some choice or preference in matters like tennis lessons, or that an adult would see me as someone who might think to herself, "I don't like tennis." As a kid no one asked me if I wanted to go to school or do homework or do any of the things I was obligated to do, and in a way I hadn't exactly asked myself either. But as soon as he asked I saw that I didn't like tennis, I saw it immediately, and I never took another lesson.

What I love about the tennis pro is that he saw me as a person, and showed it by being vaguely respectful and positive in his comment. If he'd said, "Why aren't you even trying? Come on kiddo, try harder," I'm sure I would have tuned him out. But he treated me like an adult and that was flattering, and he managed to indicate that he was disappointed without criticizing me, and I still think what he said was perfect--a small thing that helped me grow up a little. It helped me inhabit myself a little more. It brought up the possibility that I might say no. Now it's my favorite word.

I'm sure the tennis pro had no idea he made such an impression on me. I don't even think I answered him. I think I just shrugged. So you might never know if you're getting through or not...though someday, if you're lucky, a grown-up student might find you and tell you.

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