Thoughts on Dieting

I recently read a book about dieting for my Copyediting class. I usually don’t read diet books, but it was for an assignment called “read something outside my usual genre.” Normally I read fantasy, science fiction, post-apocalyptic, romance, and YA novels. I like the escape factor of these books. They allow me to get away from the stresses of the world for a while and tap into my imagination. So I decided to as far away from that idea as possible and pick a book that would ground me in the real world and make me think about something many people struggle with: weight loss. Though, to be fair, the book I eventually did choose—I’ll Have What She’s Having: My Adventures In Celebrity Dieting by Rebecca Harrington—seemed to be more of a humorous book rather than a serious one.

Rebecca Harrington (Vintage Original, 2015)
Rebecca Harrington (Vintage Original, 2015)

It was an interesting book—huge spaces between the paragraphs and unnatural apostrophes in the header aside (thank you, publishing classes, for making me never be able to read a book again without random noticing the flaws)—one that detailed how Rebecca tried different celebrity diets. And celebrities… they eat weird things when dieting. (Think a piece of steak on top of peanut butter on top of bread. Or cooked and mashed carrots with seeds that you supposedly roll into balls to eat. Or nothing but spicy water for three days.) But it was an interesting read.

So when my mom and sister tried this new 21 Day Transformation Challenge that’s supposed to make you see how much sugar you’re eating and then wean you off it, I decided to give it a whirl. (Mind you, I figured I’d try it while I was eating a cookie. Not the best time to make decisions.)

The first week was horrible. Yes. Horrible. Okay, maybe it wasn’t so bad for other people and I fully realize now how much I depend on sugar to make me the energetic creature I am today, but I went a whole week without sugar. Not even natural sugar. So no cow’s milk, no honey, no bread (did I mention we couldn’t have grains, either?), absolutely no cookies, and, to my horror, no fruit. That’s right, folks, no fruit. No Fruit.

No.

Fruit.

This was the Atkins diet all over again. (Of which I failed after Day One.)

To be fair, dinner wasn’t that difficult. I normally have some combination of meat and veggies (or just vegetables) for dinner. I couldn’t have a side of rice or cuscus, but I could live with that for a week. Lunch wasn’t that bad, either, since I could have tuna or frozen vegetables. I could deal with that, too.

But breakfast? Breakfast was horrible. I usually have fruit in the morning. I ALWAYS have fruit in the morning. It’s just an easy way to eat breakfast—smoothies, frozen, thawed, fresh—I eat fruit for breakfast all the time. I also always have a piece of fruit sometime throughout the day. (Thank you, Mom, for instilling that in me and then subsequently taking it away when suggesting this “challenge”. I kid!) So to not have fruit was horrible. Plus, I couldn’t have my usual tea in the morning either—black tea with milk and honey—so breakfast was a sad, stressful occasion. (Stressful mainly because it’s almost finals season here in grad school land.)

I got grumpy. No joke, actually grumpy. I’d like to think I hid it well from people, but when anyone asked that would be my first response, “Grumpy.” (So maybe I didn’t hide it well enough.)

Still.

I did it.

I’m not entirely sure it worked, because the whole week I wanted a cookie, and now, even with fruit, I still want a cookie. But I’m significantly happier with fruit in my diet. I even have more energy. (Like I could complete my 30+ minute high-intensity Zumba routine easily when, without fruit, it made me tired halfway through.)

So, what did I learn? Well, I don’t exactly need to eat cookies. I also found out that sugar is in everything, seriously everything, even things I didn’t expect. (I’m looking at you, “natural black beans in water”.)

Overall, I think the rest of the challenge will be a bit easier now that fruit is back in my life.

If you want to try to not eat sugar or grains for a while and look at food labels with a horrified expression when you find out just how much sugar there is in everything we eat, check out the 21 Day Transformation Challenge. (Seriously, though, the WOW workouts are amazing, and I have to admit, the advice they give is pretty good.)

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to eat a strawberry.

Strawberry and Chia Seed Pudding
Strawberry and Chia Seed Pudding

Warm regards,
Kellie

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The Emotion Thesaurus and Why Everyone Should Use It

Hello everyone,

has the excuse for not updating regularly—I’m in grad school—become old news yet? Possibly. And yet.

Yet.

That is still the case.

Regardless, today I want to talk about The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi and why everyone should use it in their creative writing.

I’m copyediting a manuscript—of which shall remain unnamed—for one of my classes and it has brought to my attention how much I loathe repeated actions. At best the common actions are repeated—like “looked”, “smiled”, “pointed”—at worst the not-so-common actions—like “they picked a tea leaf off their lip”—and I found myself hating it. Not just hating it but actively getting mad. Not at the characters, or the plotline, or the setting—of which the story could use more of, if honest—but at the sheer repetition of actions and how most of them showed nothing of how the character was feeling about the situation at hand.

I wanted more. I wanted other actions. And I wanted emotions behind those actions.

While there are many ways to show emotions, I’ve found myself turning to again and again to The Emotion Thesaurus.

I found this book a few years ago after a friend recommended it. We were sitting in Jitters, a café back in my hometown, and chatting about our stories. It was a common occurrence. Our writers group met once a week and, trust me, it was a welcomed gathering and one I found myself looking forward to every Monday.

We segued into writing books—as we segued into discussions about life, kids, work—and this book came up. I bought it immediately after that discussion. (On Amazon, I hate to admit, please don’t judge me. Back then I didn’t know!)

The Emotion Thesaurus is a wonderful book. It is extraordinarily helpful. Each emotion has a spread dedicated to it, giving a basic description of the emotion and physical signals that one commonly feels when having that emotion. The spread also goes into detail about the internal sensations, mental responses, and cues of acute, long-term, or suppressed emotions. These are all things you can use to describe how the character feels, outwardly or inwardly, and they are true to life. Trust me to that, they are definitely true to life.

For example: Say you want to show how sad your character is via their actions. (As you should, show their emotions through their actions, they are just like us and we do that all the time.) You would turn to page 134, with the heading “Sadness” and essentially pick from the actions shown there. (There are so many to choose from!)

Here’ s an example of how this book can help, using the Sadness cues they give:
Shelly’s chest ached, and her vision blurred. “I can’t believe…” She couldn’t finish the sentence, couldn’t form the words. Burying her face in her hands, she slumped in her chair. She just wanted to leave. Wanted to be alone. Wanted a drink.

See how pretty that is? See how filled with emotions? Even without knowing what happened, there are still enough cues in there for the reader to know she is sad about this mysterious something.

How about with happiness? Do you usually use “smile” to show that one character is happy to see another? The answer is Yes, yes you do. Because everyone does. It’s a common action. But there are other actions you can use to portray happiness. For example, on page 84, under the “Happiness” header there is a whole slew of actions that portray this emotion:

Humming/whistling/singing
Telling jokes
Laugh lines
Fluid motions
Enthusiastically waving
Stepping lightly
Initiating contact with others
Leaning in
Initiating random acts of kindness

Is “smiling” on the list? Yes. It’s the first (and second) physical signal—An upturned face and Smiling.

But is it the only action listed there? No.

This is what I’d like to see in the manuscript I’m currently reading for school. Actions. Emotions. Is it too much to ask of the author? No. Is it a bit too developmental for a copyedit? No. (For this class, at least.)

This is what I’d like to see more of in writing, mine included. So, next time, if you’re ever stuck on an action and find yourself turning back to it every time, read this book.

I highly recommend it.

Until next time!
Warm regards,
Kellie

Postscript – I’m going to be updating my blog design sometime this week. Be sure to come back and check it out!