Weight loss: Dirty little secrets

Current status: 15 or 20 pounds to go

Losing weight — and by losing weight, I mean changing your lifestyle — isn’t easy. But when you finally get into the groove, start eating right and make exercise a habit, the rewards are worth the effort. Trust me, I know.

After years of losing a little and gaining more back, I got tired of being embarrassed about my body, of being the fat friend, of being the non-MILF, of being the one with “the pretty face but …”

I decided early this year that I was going to do it: I was going to lose weight, once and for all. I told a friend in February that I was going to drop 50 pounds by November. The response? “There’s no way you can do that.” Well, I did that friend one (or 10) better. I’ve lost 60 pounds and intend to reach my goal of losing another 15 or 20 by the end of November.

My journey isn’t over. In fact, it will never be over. But here are five kind of good, kind of bad, kind of odd things I’ve learned:

  1. A new wardrobe is not as fun as you think it will be because it’s so expensive, even if you shop for bargains. Just ask my thrifty husband. (Confession: He is kind of right. I overspend.)
  2. Even rings need to be resized. A very nice one fell off my finger the other day. Fortunately, it slid into my purse and I later found it. On the good side, I have a lot of necklaces on short chains that no longer look like chokers.
  3. Shapewear no longer shapes. I like shapewear because it smooths me out under my clothing. And even though there’s less of me to suck in, I still like to suck it in a little more. I have already purchased all-new panties, but I need new camisoles, bras, waist shapers … Sigh. Those things are expensive and no one even sees them under my clothing.
  4. My balance is improved and I feel much more comfortable in my body, except for one spot: my tailbone. I still have plenty of junk in the trunk — it’s just the way I’m built — but for some reason, my tailbone hurts like heck in airplane and movie-theater seats.
  5. Some people will cheer you on, but some surprising others will not. Gore Vidal once said, “Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little.” When it comes to weight loss and improvements to your physical appearance, people get weird. It manifests itself in small and sometimes passive-aggressive ways: They won’t “like” your new, thinner Facebook photo. They’ll say, “Have you lost weight? I hadn’t noticed.” They’ll invite you to their homes for dinner and serve absolutely nothing you can eat, even though they know you’re being cautious. In fact, they’ll go out of their way to put the most calorie-laden foods possible on the table.

The bottom line is that despite the cost, the irritation and the effort, losing weight and becoming more healthy is something you do for yourself and yourself alone. I’d rather have five “thinner me” outfits than 50 of my old size. Ring sizing can wait. Damn my tailbone, I’ll sit on a pillow. And as for friends who aren’t completely supportive of the smaller me? They’ll get used to it. Or not.

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Truth or dare: Answering your questions

L’Oreal Color Riche Lipstick in Wisteria Rose

As I get older, I’m both more and less forthcoming. I’ve learned that some things are better left unsaid, while some that were formerly too humiliating to talk about I now share freely. I’ve been getting a lot of questions from people who follow me on Instagram and I thought I’d answer them here. Some are about makeup, others are about my weight loss, and still more touch on personal topics. Here we go:

Q. If you could look like any woman in history, dead or alive, who would it be?

A. At one time, I would have said Grace Kelly because she was true perfection. Now I’d choose someone else — someone sultrier and sexier. That’s because I’ve never considered my appearance sexy. Everything about me screams “girl next door” and always has. And although I love makeup, I have one of those faces that looks silly in a large wing or dramatically smoked-out eyes. For these reasons, I’d choose to see what it would be like to ooze sex appeal, like Ava Gardner or Elizabeth Taylor.

Q. If you were going out for the evening and could take only one makeup item, what would it be?

A. I used to say mascara, but I finally found a mascara that doesn’t disappear on me in Benefit’s They’re Real. I’d go with concealer because I detest dark under eyes and they always eventually peep out, no matter what I do.

Q. What was your most disappointing makeup purchase?

A. Recently it was two mascaras — the new Charlotte Tilbury and Marc Jacobs ones. They smeared and had no staying power on me, although I’m a big fan of both brands. My most expensive mistake was the Temptu Airbrush System.  You have to wear the foundation that comes in their pods and it wasn’t for me.

Q. Do you have a favorite foundation?

A. I always seem to go back to Koh Gen Do’s Aqua Foundation. It gives me a nice, natural, realistic glow. I’m currently trying out the new Urban Decay All Nighter Foundation and the Hourglass Vanish Seamless Foundation Stick. So far, I prefer the better staying power of the Urban Decay. I’m always looking for the latest, greatest foundation. I can make my foundation look almost perfect, but it only lasts for a few hours. Two recent foundations that didn’t work for me? Charlotte Tilbury’s Magic Foundation and Too Faced Born This Way.

Q. What’s your favorite lipstick?

A. I have several: L’Oreal Color Riche Lipstick in Wisteria Rose, Marc Jacobs’ Le Marc Lip Cream in Clara and Melted Strawberry by Too Faced. They’re all fairly bright and I prefer brights with my skin tone. (My favorite non-bright is Tom Ford’s Spanish Pink.)

Q. Have you had a nose job and, if so, who was your doctor?

A. This is a surprising one that I’ve received several times. No, no nose job. It’s my original nose.

Q. How much weight have you lost? How did you do it?

A. I’ve lost 54 pounds and think I’ll switch to maintenance after another 30. I did not have weight-loss surgery, but would have if my insurance company covered it. I eat healthfully and never go over 1,200 calories per day. I walk 3-4 miles daily on a treadmill and take adult dance classes twice weekly. I also use two products by Hum Nutrition: Flatter Me, which reduces bloating, and Skinny Bird, which purports to reduce stress eating, boost metabolism, curb appetite and control blood sugar. Since losing weight, I no longer have high blood pressure or diabetes.

Q. What does your husband say about your weight loss?

A. Honestly? He doesn’t mention it often, other than to say I look nice. He’s not particularly effusive and never has been. He has mentioned several times that he’d love me at any weight, which is incredibly sweet.

Q. How is your son?

A. My son, James, was involved in a serious head-on collision a month ago. He was in a coma for awhile and there was concern about brain trauma, but we were fortunate. He does have numerous contusions and cuts, as well as broken ribs on both sides. He is healing well, but is in lots of pain. He has been a difficult patient because he suffers from severe anxiety and depression. We will get through it all together.

Q. What makeup trend do you dislike?

A. Instabrows — the large, overdone brows that have been in for awhile. This is partially because I’m a little sensitive about my own brows. I don’t have any, because they didn’t grow back after I had chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer. I have tattoos and it looks ridiculous if I try to draw in bigger brows on top of them. I’m also not huge on a lot of highlighter. I just don’t think it’s particularly flattering on older skin. I try to use it judiciously.

Q. Are there any new products you’d like to try?

A. The new Anastasia Beverly Hills Stick Foundation. And some of the new Charlotte Tilbury lipsticks. Her mascara and foundation didn’t work for me, but her lipsticks are spectacular, as are her eye products and blushes.

Q. You’ve added quotes and poems to your Instagram page. Do you have a favorite?

A. I’ve gotten incredibly good feedback — and a lot of new subscribers — since adding quotes and outfit of the day photos. I try to choose quotes and poems a lot of people identify with, and most of us have either been in love or been hurt in love. I also like inspirational quotes, as well as sharing the poems of talented Instagrammers. Here are a couple items that got great response, followed by my favorite. I hope they inspire you. 

The (s)ex files: weight loss and body image


As almost anyone who’s overweight will tell you, feeling fat often puts the brakes on sex. It’s a body image thing: You don’t feel sexy and that affects your behavior in the bedroom (or the kitchen, or the shower, or …. let your imagination run wild). Oh, sure, there are some super-confident women who embrace their curves and feel sexy at any size, but for most of us it’s an issue.

As some readers of my blog already know, I embarked on a lifestyle change in February. Through a combination of healthy eating and exercise, I’ve been able to lose 48 pounds and want to lose about 30 more. I realize that’s a lot of weight, but in the scheme of things it’s not an incredible amount: I read stories almost every day about women who’ve lost two or three times as much.

Still, the nearly 50 pounds I’ve lost has had positive effects, both physically and mentally. Physically, I’m more comfortable than I’ve been in years. Why? Because in the past, I’ve lost weight with diet alone. This time, I added exercise to the effort. I walk three to five miles on a treadmill five days per week. Last night, I set the speed at 3.5 miles per hour and put in four miles. Now that might not impress some people, but consider that I was a non-exerciser. At first, 1.5 miles at two miles per hour was an effort. Now that seems like a cakewalk.

There’s another element to my exercise routine: Two nights per week, I take an adult dance class. On Tuesdays, it’s a ballet barre/stretch class. On Wednesdays, it’s tap — sometimes one class, sometimes two. I took 17 years of ballet and tap when I was young and love to dance, so the classes are a treat. Ballet and stretching elongate the muscles, while tap strengthens my leg muscles and my mind, the latter because of the long and intricate combinations of steps we learn on the spot.

The weight loss, dance classes and treadmill hours have transformed my body. I’m fortunate –some people who lose weight, particularly at my age — replace their concerns about fat with concerns about loose skin. I don’t have that issue; my skin has reacted well and seems to have retained much of its elasticity. Of course, I’m keeping it moisturized with bath and post-bath products that help.

Though my weight loss journey isn’t over, I feel stronger, more flexible and more sinuous. I move more easily. My body is less cumbersome, less clumsy. It’s easier to bend, flex, contort. And when I run my hands down my body, there’s a new sleekness.

That leads me to the sex part: I feel good. My body feels good. My skin — rid of sugar, preservatives and other toxins — is soft, smooth and glowing. I can feel my ribs, my pelvic bones, the muscles beneath my skin. I’m a breast cancer survivor who had double mastectomies with reconstructive surgery. When I gained weight, my stomach got bigger but my breasts didn’t. It gave me an odd, pregnant-looking profile. Frankly, my breasts look great with my flat stomach (thank you, Dr. Alfredo Villarreal Rios).

All of these things combine to make me more aware of my body, in a positive way. The new physical me has affected the mental me. Result: I feel sexy. I’m good with the way I look naked, and that’s something I haven’t experienced in years. A heightened sense of my own desirability and confidence in my sexuality are welcome side effects of weight loss I didn’t anticipate. I’m not saying that every woman who’s overweight should lose pounds to feel sexual — as I said, heavier women who feel hot can be incredibly sexy. But for me, losing the equivalent of two toddlers has done wonders for my sexual confidence and desire.

“One Lovely Blog” award

Hello, everyone! I’m so honored that the talented Laura of the blog Looking Joli Good nominated me for the “One Lovely Blog” award. Please be sure to check out Laura’s blog — she’s always posting new and intriguing content. She’s much more disciplined about it than I am.

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Here are the “One Lovely Blog” rules:

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you and link back to them.
  • Share 7-15 facts about yourself.
  • Nominate 9-15 bloggers you admire and contact them to let them know.


Facts about me: 

  • I love backyard birds and am constantly refilling my feeders.
  • I have three lovely indoor cats and also feed a couple of feline neighborhood wanderers. After dark, a posse of raccoons visits my back deck to nibble on cat food, as does a very sweet and shy possum.
  • I recently started taking weekly tap and ballet/stretch classes. So much fun!
  • I’ve lost 46 pounds since February and want to lose 35 more.
  • When I was a reporter, I interviewed four presidents: Reagan, Ford and both Bushes. I also interviewed three first ladies: Barbara Bush, Nancy Reagan and Betty Ford.
  • My husband and I worked at competing newspapers. We met at the scene of a stabbing.
  • I first got interested in makeup and skin care when I was undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. Chemo makes you look tired and dries out your skin. I didn’t want to look ill.
  • I have been to 18 Rolling Stones concerts, but my first concert was the Osmond Brothers. My dad took my friend Debby Carter and me to see them at the Los Angeles Forum. He says it was one of his most generous acts of fatherhood.
  • Two places I want to go before I die: the Greek Islands and Portofino, Italy.
  • My hair has been brown, red and platinum and lots of colors in between. Golden blonde works best.
  • I’m a proud University of South Carolina Gamecock and I’m pretty sure the Chicken Curse is real, at least as far as the football team goes.
  • I was the reporter who broke the “Ozzy Osbourne Urinates on the Alamo” story. He was a hilarious interview. Sharon was intimidating.
  • I believe having a few close, loyal friends is better than having a lot of semi friends. I love my girlfriends Kelly, Nikki and Diane from high school; my sister, Allison; and my college roommate and lifetime co-conspirator, Jill.

These are some of the bloggers I enjoy, in no particular order. Check them out and give them some love:

Thanks again to Laura for nominating me. Remember: If you have a passion, blog about it!

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Keeping a journal: Life is in the ‘dash’

At the end of everyone’s life, there’s a dash; one that links their year of birth and date of death. That simple little dash represents a lifetime of experiences, from first dates to last dances, from youthful optimism to middle-age crazy, from cradle to the grave.

I thought I knew my grandmother, my father’s mother. She was a constant in my life, particularly during my college years and beyond. What a character she was, by turns generous and selfish, kind and cruel. The only girl among six brothers, she was named Lady Iola because her mother wanted her to be addressed like royalty. Perhaps that went to her head, because she lived life her way, taking no prisoners and making no apologies.

Lady Iola was daring, bold and vivacious. She was a flapper girl and a scandal in her small South Carolina hometown. She bobbed her hair, she went to wild parties, she rode down Main Street standing on the running board of handsome boys’ cars. She tinted her cheeks with red crepe paper when makeup was forbidden. And she married my handsome grandfather not once, but twice.

IMG_0389All of these stories she shared with me, and I thought I knew her well. She lived into her 90s, growing more tempestuous and demanding as the years went by. She had a tongue that could soothe in one moment, cut you to the quick in the next.

Not long before her death, Lady Iola gave me something special: her combination scrapbook and journal. In those pages, I discovered a woman I’d never known. Inside the book were vintage Valentine’s Day cards from boys she’d known and loved, well-read letters from friends and beaus, and photographs I’d never seen: my grandmother as a young bathing beauty, a flapper, a World War II single mother, a 40s glamour girl. There was even a card from my grandfather mourning the death of a premature baby, which was a sorrow she never shared. I read the pages and mementos time and again, discovering new secrets, new facets of the woman I thought I’d known so well. I was proud and honored that she’d shared such private memories with me. IMG_0387

Reading my grandmother’s journal prompted me to build a journal of my own. For me, it’s a record of my past — a way to go back in time to relive moments, some happy and some less so. It’s the story of triumphs and failures, of memories tender and terrible, of friendships won and lost, of good boyfriends and bad breakups. Like my grandmother, I’ve saved cards and letters, remembrances of people who wandered into my life for a short time as well as those who entered and stayed. There are trinkets too: a dried homecoming mum, ribbon still attached, from the first boy I ever dated; tickets to the Broadway play I attended with a college beau; tickets to my first college football game; playbills from shows attended with my husband.

What will happen to my journals? Perhaps they’ll go to an as-yet-to-be-born grandchild. Perhaps they’ll go to my daughter. I hope whoever reads them is as entranced as I was by my grandmother’s journal, for they’ll tell the story of a woman who was more complex, more unique and, yes, more interesting than she might have sometimes seemed — a woman who was loving but flawed and who lived a rich life during the dash.

Let’s talk about what’s sexy (and what’s not)

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What’s sexy? A scented, warm bath is sexy.

Like many makeup-loving women, I post photos of my daily beauty looks on my Instagram account. (It’s Makeup_Plus_50, if you would like to follow me.) Instagram is a fascinating site, really, and I’ve come to like it much more than I like Facebook. Since Instagram is all about photos, I guess you could say the “picture is worth a thousand words” adage rings true, at least for me.

Anyway, I recently posted a photo in which I was wearing a top I’ve owned for awhile but never worn. I’ve lost almost 20 pounds since February and it’s more flattering now that it was then. It’s a nice, kind of sexy black top — lower cut than I wear on a daily basis but nothing crazy (see photo). The picture had been up for five or 10 minutes when it arrived: what’s known in social media parlance as a “dick pic.” For anyone unfamiliar with the term, it’s pretty self-explanatory. It’s when a guy sends a private message containing a photo of his, as they say in romance novels, engorged manhood.

I’m going out on a limb here, but I’d guess not many women are aroused by the unsolicited arrival of an up-close view of a stranger’s private parts. So, if you’re a man and you’re reading this, take it as an advisory. Do not send women you don’t know pictures of your penis. Now, if you want to send a penis pic to a woman you’re married to or seriously dating, that’s another matter entirely. If you’re both aroused by it, share away — just be aware that your sexy shots might be seen by others in the event of a breakup.

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The little black top …

Anyway, today’s special delivery got me thinking about sex and sensuality. I’m going to be candid here and say that I feel sexier now than I’ve felt in a long time. Feeling sexy is something that comes and goes in a woman’s life. There were times when I felt decidedly unsexy: when I had young children to raise and for a long time after I had cancer, for example. But today? Maybe it’s self-confidence … maybe it’s that I’m comfortable about who I am and what I want .. maybe it’s the weight I’ve lost … maybe it’s that I’ve come to terms with my age .. but I feel good and desirable and, yes, pretty darn sexy.

So, if a picture of a stranger’s private parts isn’t sexy, what is? For me, and for many women, it’s little things, such as:

  • A candlelit bath in steamy, scented water.
  • A hot stone massage.
  • The sensual slide of a balm cleanser as I wash my face.
  • An unexpected flower delivery.
  • A hot shower with my favorite scent.
  • Catching and holding my man’s eye across a crowded room — and knowing, without a word, that’s he’s thinking sexy thoughts.
  • A hand on my thigh under the table at a crowded restaurant.
  • A man who remembers my birthday without being reminded.
  • Leisurely putting on my makeup as I prepare for an evening out.
  • Jungle Gardenia perfume.
  • Jean Paul Gaultier’s Le Male cologne.
  • A kiss on the shoulder — or the neck.
  • Catching my guy looking at my lips.
  • Red lipstick and black winged liner.

That’s about all I can share here. Remember, a little mystery is terribly sexy. Remember, too, that sexiness isn’t the exclusive purview of women in their 20s or 30s. It’s so easy to get caught up in our day-to-day lives — our jobs, our errands, our children, our household tasks — that we lose sight of our sensuality as well as our sexuality.

Here’s a final tip: Your inner thoughts are manifested in the way you present yourself to the world. In other words, thinking sexy thoughts makes you sexier. – Ronda

How cancer gave me better skin (and a better life)

 No one wants to find out they have cancer, especially a mother with one child starting high school and another in elementary school. I had just turned 40 when I got the bad news. I’d found a lump in my right breast. It didn’t show up on my mammogram and my doctor told me to stop worrying. It was just fibrocystic lumps, he said. Go home and relax, he said.

I knew I couldn’t relax with a lump the size of a cat’s-eye marble just behind my right nipple, so I demanded a biopsy. A few days later, my doctor called to deliver the news that I, indeed, had cancer. I met with a surgeon that very day. The verdict: a mastectomy followed by six months of chemotherapy.

A half-year later, cancer-free and with tufts of hair resembling the fuzzy down of a baby duck, I took a good look at my skin. It wasn’t good. I looked older, drawn and somewhat gray. I was still 40 years old but I looked a good 10 years older. The survivor in me said, “This will not do. I am not dead. I’m alive and want to look like it, damn it.” In that instant, my skin-care journey began.

I can’t say my skin is perfect today, but people tell me it doesn’t look 56. I have a few fine lines, but nothing that gives me pause. How did I go from gray and lifeless to vibrant and alive? Quite simply, I never skip my skincare routine. I don’t care whether I’m tired, sick, cold or sleepy, it will be done. I have it down to a science: cleanser, toner, serum, moisturizer, eye cream, eyelash serum, lip balm.  Sometimes I use a face mask while I’m writing or watching television. Many nights I wear one to bed. I exfoliate to remove dead skin cells and promote turnover. I wear sunscreen and avoid the sun.I apply firming cream to my neck and décolletage. I take skin-care supplements.

Would I do all of those things if I hadn’t had breast cancer? Maybe. Eventually. I probably would have waited until wrinkles and lines appeared. And really, that’s a bit late. It’s always better to prevent the signs of aging than to deal with them once they’ve taken root. So my advice to women, all women, is this: Start taking care of your skin right now. Today. Baby it. Pamper it. Show it some love. It will love you back.

Speaking of showing love …

I mentioned that having cancer gave me a better life. It’s true. It did. At the back of my mind every day is the knowledge that breast cancer isn’t like other cancers. There’s no magical date upon which you’re considered cured. It can come back one year, five years, 15 years, 20 years later. When it does, it’s often with a vengeance.

Every day for me is a gift. Every person I love, friend or family, is a gift. The number is limited, just like our time on earth. I love each member of that elite circle fiercely and irrevocably. I tell them so, often. And I know, without a doubt, that my love is returned.

If you can’t say something nice …

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I woke up this morning feeling let down … let down by myself. I try to put my chin up and ignore slings and arrows, but every so often I disappoint myself and fire back with both barrels. While it feels good at the moment of impact, it feels less so when my temper cools.

The good news is that spring is in the air and there’s a distinct change afoot. Green blades are springing up on the lawn and a wild daffodil is blooming in the corner of the yard. I live in a historic district and I often wonder about the long-ago woman who planted it. Best of all, my Carolina Wren – the one that sleeps beneath my back-porch rafters – has returned with his puffed-up feathers and sweet, sweet song.

The change of seasons is a good time to make some changes in my life. I’ve already started. For the first time, I’ve joined a gym. And I’ve embarked on a healthier eating plan by replacing some meals with healthy juices. Although those changes are good, it’s also time to make personal changes too. After all, my mother always says that pretty is as pretty does – and lately, I haven’t been feeling so pretty. With that in mind, here are four things on tap:

• I’m going to stop borrowing trouble. I’m a stewer and a brewer; I’ve always been. I dwell on things that ultimately aren’t serious at all. (You know, the whole mountains out of molehills thing.) I’ll lie awake at night, my mind churning over issues that in the light of day amount to nothing: something I said, something someone else said, a real or imagined slight. I’m going to work on that.

• I’m going to relax. It’s not so much that I don’t like change; it’s that I like being in control. I want to decide if and when something happens or doesn’t happen. I don’t like to cede decisions to anyone else. I like to chart my own course, steer my own ship. I must learn to be more graceful and accepting when that’s not possible.

• I’m going to listen more and talk less. I don’t like silences. Sometimes I catch myself babbling just to smooth over quiet moments that seem awkward. I once watched a film in which the protagonist left silences for others to fill. The things people said in those quiet times were fascinating and extraordinarily revealing. It’s a technique I employed in my work life as a reporter and I want to apply it to my personal life too. Sometimes I get tired of my own voice!

• I’m going to be my own best friend. My husband’s job is in another state and I’m a writer who works from home. While I enjoy my own company, that kind of solitude on a daily basis can be daunting. As I mentioned, I joined a gym. I’ve resolved to take a group class at least three times per week. That will keep me moving about and active. And I’m going to take myself out to lunch or dinner at least twice per week without fail. My home is lovely and my two cats are sweet creatures, but it will be refreshing and healthy to get out more.

Finally, and not insignificantly, I’m going to work on those take-no-prisoners blasts. When I’m tempted to go in with guns blazing, I want to employ Thumper’s quote to his mother from Disney’s Bambi: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”