On The Road With Project Louise, Marveling 'Who Is This Person?'

In my previous job, I spent a fair amount of time on the road each summer, traveling to theaters in the Berkshires and on Cape Cod. (Hey, somebody had to do it.) And I gained weight – because, I told myself, it was impossible not to gain weight when I was traveling so much, eating road food and going to restaurants and so on.

Well, that was just plain wrong.

I realized that this weekend, when a family event put me on the highway for an eight-hour road trip. (Sixteen, actually, if we’re talking round trip.) And I am here to tell you that, even on the New Jersey Turnpike, you do not have to eat junk.

True, 99 percent of what they sell on the New Jersey Turnpike is junk. But I managed to find some dark-chocolate-covered soy nuts for a snack, along with plenty of water, and that was a lovely supplement to the fruit and whole-grain crackers I had packed for myself. Add in the veggie-packed chicken sandwich I toted along, and you can see that I was doing just fine without the aid of Ronald McD. or Popeye.

What’s a little surprising to me is that I did not exactly do this consciously. I did not say to myself, “Hmm, I am trying to lose weight, and I am doing Project Louise, and I will be letting myself and my readers down if I succumb to the lure of the French fry, so I’d better pack other food.” No, I just ate what I really wanted to eat. I chose my food for its taste, and it tasted a lot better than those fries.

At the hotel, too, I made a choice that would have surprised me a year ago.

The breakfast menu waxed rhapsodic over the Belgian waffles, the homemade berry pancakes, the eggs Benedict … and I went with what sounded best to me, an egg-white omelet with tons of grilled vegetables. It was completely delicious, and unlike the waffles and Benedicts, it didn’t leave me feeling overstuffed and vaguely ill.

All this feels huge to me. It’s one thing to make yourself eat better foods because you know you should. But when you get to the point where you actually prefer them, making the healthy choice is no longer work – it’s fun. And these days I’m all about fun. Why not? It’s summer, and life is short.

That’s also why I took a little time away from the family obligations for a purely self-indulgent activity. But it wasn’t a manicure or a shopping spree or even (my usual go-to leisure activity) reading a great book. The hotel had a pool, so I went for a swim. Both days.

Again, this is a shift. Having decided that I was allowed to have a little time to myself, I thought about what I would most like to do. And what I would most like to do was … exercise? Who is this person?

Now, granted, I didn’t do a really hard workout. But instead of lounging by the pool and glancing up occasionally from my book to admire the water, I actually got in it and swam. And it felt great. It also, I am sure, was responsible for my not getting the usual shoulder pains attendant on an eight-hour drive – I was too relaxed to seize up.

I don’t want to paint too rosy a picture here. I did, after all, have a snack pack of Doritos at one point, and I really could have swum more aggressively than I did. But I am just going to pause and celebrate the apparent fact that my habits, finally, are shifting, and that it feels good.


Now for the hard part: My coach, Allison Rimm, and my editor, Carey Goldberg, have gotten together and agreed that, six months in, I really should be exercising more often than I am. Like, just about every day. So they are plotting how to make this happen.

Meanwhile, my wonderful trainer, Rick DiScipio, dropped me a note to say he’d read my last post – you know, the one where I said I’d call him – to see how I was doing and whether I wanted to get together. Yes, you may conclude from this that I failed to call him. But I am getting together with him this week, no matter what.

And Carey and Allison are coming up with their plan, whatever it may be. Next week, Carey will be writing the Project Louise post instead of me – so I guess we’ll all find out then just what she’s got up her shapely sleeve.

As long as it doesn’t involve burpees, I can’t wait.


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