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SIDE EFFECT: SKINNY

SIDE EFFECT: SKINNY

There it was, in the cookbook section of the small independent bookstore I have made my way to every year for the past six in the stunning fall foliage of the White Mountains. I had found myself with some alone time, meandering through the small shops of North Conway, New Hampshire and decided to visit my favorite store for the second time this week. My partner was back at the condo reading and resting, I was out on Main St. trying to support the local New Hampshire economy like a good tourist. I don’t really buy books any more. I relish using the library now, the smell, the neatly covered books with their plastic protectors, the interaction with the librarians and volunteers. But here I stood in the aisles among rows and rows of glorious possibilities and found myself scanning the cookbooks.

One book almost impossible to take out of the library is a cookbook. First of all, a cookbook needs its butter smears and gravy drippings on its pages, eliminating it immediately from being a library contender. For a while I was taking books I had purchased to the beach rather than the library book I had taken out for fear of getting it greased with sunscreen. Now that I am a seasoned library book borrower however I have graduated myself to a successful beach outing with the loaner. But cookbooks still don’t really fall into a successful library book borrow so here I was gazing. I surely don’t need another cookbook, I have plenty I haven’t even made my way through yet, but there she was in her aerobic clothing, midriff bare like a teenager, hair coiffed like Farrah Fawcett, perfectly blonde feathered bang, lovely and firm cleavage gazing out at the camera as if she were posing for seventeen magazine in the seventies. Except the difference was she wasn’t seventeen. Unless she got married at thirteen, she had to be at least forty- five since her bio on the inside jacket fold said she had been married for twenty five years with two teenage daughters.

The person I am speaking of was or rather is Denise Austin of famed workout DVD kind, like Jane Fonda fame. I have never worked out to a Denise Austin video, but I have seen her on morning talk shows back when I was a young mother and she was too. She is a successful famous woman who made a business and a name for herself in the fitness boom way before YouTube and Amazon TV. I picked up the book somewhat startled at myself for doing so. I am not generally interested in books like this screaming at me that skinny is the desired word of choice for my future body. Skinny coming from who has a six pack and her real breasts, probably still has her ovaries too for that matter. But for some reason there in the independent book store filled with my peeps and their natural hair color and birkenstocks I bent down and picked the book up. As my fingers made their way to lift the book I did look out the corners of my right and left side to see who might be witnessing because this book was a bit embarrassing to be seen with. Its cover not only screamed SIDE EFFECT: SKINNY, it had a disclaimer on the bottom. WARNING: Reading this book may cause thinner waistline, toned tummy, slender thighs & a sudden burst in confidence.

I laughed a loud. Denise, really? Did you just come from a time warped seventies Cosmopolitan magazine? For some reason I found myself opening the book to the peruse its pages filled with “Denise’s Tips for the first time!” Words like long awaited and redefining the word skinny showing us that “you don’t have to be rail thin to look gorgeous and live healthier.” I stood there speechless, but enamored with her in a twisted sort of way in what seemed like a very dated message. If I don’t have to be rail thin to look gorgeous, then why is she showing her rail thin scantily clad body as an example? She got my attention. As I read on in this granola book store , she, just in the jacket cover alone, used the word tummy and trim making me think I was reading a Good Housekeeping magazine article on keeping my man happy.

I decided to buy the book. I don’t know why. Something came over me as I read her encouraging yet dated words of wisdom. I felt like I was cheating on my entire female tribe by buying this book so I slithered over to the counter purchasing a second book that I could place on top so as not to be discovered by the gender neutral person at the front desk. Did she just roll her eyes at me? Did she think I was to be pitied for having the type of personality and self talk to warrant the purchase of this book? I wanted to let her know I was buying this book as more female research than as a diet book. I don’t believe in diets or diet books I wanted to say, but I didn’t because actually turns out I didn’t care what she thought about my purchase. What a relief.

When I got back to my room, I opened the book and began reading. I can’t remember the last time I read a book like this if ever, but I loved her enthusiasm for skinny, flatter tummies, smaller hips and yes she even used the word sexier (Helen Gurley Brown would have been proud). Her tips and lists of how to start this seven day fat blast diet (which by the way is twenty one days) is really designed for women or ladies as she likes to call us to motivate us with her cheery words who have a lot of time. Her Super Splurge lists on the mandated “cheat day” on the seventh day of each seven day run are foods I wouldn’t let pass my lips even on a dip into the dark side. Kit Kats, Hershey bars, “You may have anything you want on Super Splurge day as long as you keep it to under 1500 calories!” She proclaims like this is some anointing of goodness coming our way. Am I reading a Saturday Night Live skit? For some reason 1500 calories and Super Splurge seem to be on opposite ends of the reality spectrum. I forge ahead though for some reason I am sucked into Denise Austin’s approach despite its warped sense of reality. If my new gal pal Denise was sitting down on the couch next to me she would likely be saying, “Alayne, did you try any of it before you criticized my theories?” My reply would of course be no Denise, I haven’t, but I am open to giving you a try.

I really enjoy starting new food plans, I love the beginnings of them, the shopping to fill up my cabinets and fridge with all of the allotted foods from the convenient grocery list provided at the back end of the book. I love the Sunday prep day cutting and dicing and slicing the inordinate amount of vegetables to get my little plastic baggies ready for quick on the go snacking when I am running late (or starving because I have been eating vegetables for twenty one straight days whatever comes first). There is hope and starry eyed dreams of the twenty first day where the promises of flatter tummies and slimmer hips await. Her advice is counter intuitive to all of the Whole 30 advice I have worshiped mainly because it has worked for me.

Ditch the mirror, the hell with the scale, figure out what foods make you feel shitty (sugar, wine, carbs) and bask in the glory of not having to worry about how you look (because as a feminist and modern woman, looks shouldn’t matter) but how you feel, this is the desired goal. Denise on the other hand aims for us ladies to look skinny, to have flat tummies, which in turn will give us a sense of confidence we didn’t know we were lacking. She wants me to weigh myself at the same time every other day. I can’t remember the last time I got on a scale (which by the way could be the reason her exclaimed Side Effect: Skinny title got my attention. I don’t have to weigh myself to know I have gained weight since my surgery and let’s face the truth here, there is only so long I can use surgery and recovery as a scapegoat for my gain). Excuses and more excuses, but I read through her fat blasting plan with its prescribed daily commitments like morning stretching every day, Denise Austin’s super slimming seven minute walking training every other day and countless other lifestyle changes that require a full time job. But Denise manages to fit it all in and she has a multi million dollar fitness empire, so anyone can!

She has countless ways for us ladies (I am not exaggerating here when I say every time she uses the word ladies to motivate, I have a vision of Aunt Lydia in The Handmaid’s Tale coaching her lovely handmaids to ready themselves for their “celebration nights” with their commanders in Gilead) to move even when we weren’t aware we could be. When we are talking on the phone, (walking the length of whatever room you are standing in), standing in grocery store lines (five tummy tucks), brushing your teeth (leg lifts of course) and about ten other possibilities I was completely unaware of until Denise and I met in her book. Denise in her happy blonde and sparkly way has made me realize that fitness and food planning can be a happy choice we make for better lives for all!

She believes in low fat everything. Has she read the sugar content in all of this lowfat? This is a bit of a shift from all of the otherwise rationale nutrition thinking I have been reading about since I had my first diagnosis almost four years ago. She believes in egg whites mostly, rather than those very fashionable egg yolks that have caused me to buy four dozen eggs at a time from my local farmer (6.00 a dozen thank you very much) She believes that Super Splurge days aka cheat days should consist of an array of shitty candy and fast food which she gives the calorie counts for. Two tablespoons of m and m’s, 1 reeeses, 2 small Halloween candy size Hershey bars, 1 small Wendy’s chocolate shake. Even when I have done a super splurge BD (Before Denise) it surely wasn’t with m and m’s. And even if it were, does smiley Denise think I am the type of woman who would eat only two Tablespoons of m and m’s? As I said though, I am going to give this a try to see if all of the promises deliver. The one thing about me is when I park my mind on a new food plan, three weeks is easy. Who knows, maybe I will be fifteen pounds lighter, thinner hips and flatter tummied. I don’t think a diet is going to make me more confident, though, I think building my own business empire, buying a 3900 square foot historic building on my own, three breast cancer surgeries in three years, not to mention two fabulous new tits, have secured my place in the confidence checklist.


Denise and Alayne hanging out together in beautiful New Hampshire Mountains. Confidence Indeed.

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