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Monday, December 10, 2012

Climbing Back on the Wagon

Ugh. I haven't written in this blog in a couple of years. You can guess the results; I've lost my accountability and gained weight. The reason weight-loss groups work is accountability. Each week, members weigh in and must be accountable to others, regarding any weight gain. If there's a weight loss, members can celebrate it with others. Accountability is everything when fighting any addiction, challenge, or weight loss. Once I stopped blogging or being accountable for what went into my mouth each day, I lost my accountability and regained a large portion of the weight I had lost.

In the past few weeks, the idea of getting back to this blog and getting back on track has been foremost in my mind, and guess what. Several people have brought up the issue of my blog. "Have you written anything in your 'Don't You Dare Call It a Diet' blog?" friends have asked. I'm sure it was their polite way of saying, "You can't see how big your ass has gotten, but I can."

Like an alcoholic who falls off the wagon and must get back up, brush himself off, and climb back on board to take  that ride of sobriety, I must again face the issue of needing to protect my health and prolong my life by eating right and working out regularly.

I have had a few excuses; I really did. I wasn't allowed to exercise for a while, when I was anticipating and then recuperating from surgery, but at last I have begun going to the gym again, after much too much absence, way beyond my legitimate excuse. Getting an exercise plan back on my schedule is major. Once it slid off my calendar, it was easily forgotten. Every time I go to the gym and do a thorough workout, though, I feel great afterward. How could I have forgotten how good it feels to move and push all the muscles in my body?

An excuse I had for not writing in the blog was that I was locked out of my blog, probably because of inactivity, and it took me quite a while to reactivate it. First I had to have the motivation to go through the motions to reactivate it. Next I had to "find the time" to write a blog entry. Excuses, plain and simple.

What's the difference between an excuse and a reason? As I see it, an excuse is an attempt to justify why I didn't do something I should have done. A reason, however, leads to the positive: I have a reason to be healthy, and I've used excuses to "explain" why I haven't been paying close attention to my food plan.

The holidays are looming; I can't lose weight now. Right; that's an excuse. Well, I'm not going to accept that excuse. I will eat right and still enjoy the holidays. I know it's possible; I've done before, when I was sticking to a healthy food plan.

For the past few weeks, finally, I've been back to eating more salads as a meal, and when I eat that salad at home, I remember to put two tablespoons of milled flax seed in it. It enhances the flavor and adds fiber, and flax seed is supposed to reduce cholesterol, an issue I'm addressing with my doctor. He wants me to take statins. I don't want to take statins. I have two more months to lower my cholesterol a few points, so he can see that I am aiming in the right direction.

Avoiding statins is my motivation. Feeling better is my motivation.

Blogging and being public about my weight challenges, those equate to accountability.

Motivation and accountability--I've added those two major elements to my food plan, and I know the combination works, as does my food plan, when I follow it.

If you have kindness and forgiveness in your heart, climb back on the better-eating wagon with me, please, and forgive me for falling off it.

Does any of this food-plan stuff equate to a major change in my lifestyle, one that I can't sustain? No. The change is subtle. Good choices, correct portion sizes, and variety; that's all I need to move toward a better weight.

Wagons ho!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tip: Spurn Supplements; Consume Fresh Fruits and Veggies

Go and Bobbie, 2008

Bobbie and Go, 2011

My sister Go Nodar and I have often been asked if we were twins, even though our ages are eight years apart. Now that I've lost weight, we get asked if we're twins more often than usual. The photo on the left was taken in 2008. The photo to the right was taken a few weeks ago. Instead of aging three years, I'm three years healthier, stronger, and happier. Some say I'm even prettier.

Beauty has never been a high priority for me; health has.

According to a study from Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, obesity rates have risen dramatically in every state over the past two decades. In addition, Americans who made less money and had less education were more likely to be obese. Adults making less than $15,000 per year, for instance, had a 33 percent obesity rate, compared with a 21.5 percent rate for those making at least $50,000 per year.
Oh, heavens, that information means that obese folks are more likely to be considered less educated, and the obese make less money. Which came first, though? Did we grow in size because we didn’t know any better (less education) or had boring, low-paying jobs because of our lack of education and entertained ourselves by overeating? Perhaps obese people don’t get hired for higher paying jobs, too.

The order of things doesn’t matter. The fact remains that obesity rates are rising, and obesity has an impact on every aspect of our lives, including our health, our happiness, and our finances. It’s a fight every day of my life to stay conscious of what I put into my mouth and what consequences that food will have on my life, my body, my future, and my existence.

Since starting a food plan a year ago, I haven’t bought a single carton or cone of ice cream, for example, whereas ice cream used to be a staple in my freezer. At any given time, I could open the freezer and choose from two or more flavors. No more. Do I never eat ice cream? Not really. At a conference last weekend, participants were served ice cream, and I happily ate mine, the first ice cream I’d tasted in a year. I could have gone back for seconds, as did many other participants, but I didn’t. Conscious eating.

Even though I consciously make unwise choices on occasion, the wise choices far outnumber the unwise ones, these days. I pull little tricks that lower the calorie count of some things that I like to eat. I extend my salad dressing with low-calorie lime juice, instead of adding more salad dressing. I use cottage cheese on my waffles instead of whipped cream. I eat hummus and popcorn chips for a snack instead of a bag of potato chips. I snack on pecans instead of candy. I almost always, every day, eat a salad for either lunch or dinner, and I don't mean a salad with my dinner. The salad is the dinner. I fill it with great things. I choose from things like Romaine, sugar snap peas, spinach, celery, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, grapes, apples, pineapple, dried cranberries, pecans, sunflower seeds, almonds, avocado, and much more. I toss in any leftover cooked veggies I may have. I add a handful of leftover protein of any kind, and I add salad dressing and lime juice, and munch down.

Folks who write to me about their frustration with being at a plateau forget to congratulate themselves for having lost weight and not regained it. Even a plateau can be good news; it means we’re not regaining our lost weight, when statistically most people regain their lost weight.

When we tend toward obesity, every day is a trial; everything that goes into our mouths is a challenge. We can let our vigilance slip now and then, but never for long.

I know my daily salads are key to making me feel better. Eating right to feel better is a message I see more and more, these days. From the CVS Minute Clinic I read the following and more good advice, which I found especially unusual, because the pharmacy that sells supplements does not recommend them. Read on, and to read the whole article, see

Feel better. Eat produce.

Produce has certainly earned its healthful reputation. It’s rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals and fiber, and low in calories and fat. These factors contribute to health benefits including

• Lower blood cholesterol levels
• Decreased risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease
• Decreased risk of certain types of cancer
• Lower blood pressure
• Lower risk of overweight and obesity

Think 5 to 9

A total of 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables each day is recommended. It may sound like a lot, but a serving is probably smaller than you think.

One serving of fruit equals:

• 1 medium piece of fruit, such as an apple, banana, orange, pear, or peach
• 1/2 grapefruit
• 1/2 cup chopped, cooked, or canned fruit, including berries and grapes
• 1/4 cup dried fruit (Dried fruit often has more calories and sugar than fresh fruit)
• 3/4 cup 100% fruit juice

One serving of vegetable equals:

• 1 cup raw, leafy vegetables, such as spinach, romaine lettuce, and broccoli
• 1/2 cup of other vegetables, cooked or chopped raw
• 3/4 cup 100% vegetable juice

Don’t “cheat”

While it may be tempting to just pop a supplement instead of eating more produce, this is not the best way to go.

The majority of the research has shown positive health effects from foods rich nutrients, not from isolated nutrients. Experts think it may be the package of nutrients in fruits and vegetables that delivers the biggest health benefits. Plus, there are hundreds of phytochemicals in each bite of fruits and vegetables that are not available in pill form.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Only Two Components to Weight Loss

Ruth Ayers sent an e-mail and said the following:

"I'm fresh from weigh-in, and I lost only half a pound last week. I was very disappointed after all my hard work last week. The record is in my food diary, and it shows that after I spent a year losing thirty pounds by September 2010, I haven't lost any weight since. The half pound makes a full pound total weight loss for 2011. This is very discouraging. Does anyone in your group have any suggestions that might help?"

I said I’d put her question on my “Don’t You Dare Call It a Diet” blog and ask others. I know it’s difficult for some to comment directly to the blog, so if you have tips for Ruth (and all of us), send me an e-mail at or

Meanwhile, here’s what I said to her:

You’ve lost a pound this year, and half a pound in the last week, yet your note says “I haven’t lost any weight since (September 2010).” A pound is a pound, and it counts, big time, in the weight-loss game. Give yourself credit for the half pound last week and the pound this year. Embrace it. You did it! It also means you haven’t gained back any of the thirty pounds you lost last year, which is vital. Our bodies have a way of demanding that they return to our former fat state, after we lose weight. Statistics are against us. The majority of people who lose weight, even with bariatric surgery, regain the weight they lose. With that information in mind, celebrate that you haven’t gained; you’ve still lost weight.

The next thing to do is to learn more about hormonal balance. I’ll be adding more of that information to my blog as I learn more. My brilliant cousin, Dr. Scott Isaacs, specializes in weight loss through hormonal balance (so much of it has to do with our food choices), and he has a blog called “Outsmarting Your Hungry Hormones.” Check it out and sign up for updates at

Now for what not to do. Don’t starve yourself. Eat properly, conservatively, yet often, in small meals. Nutritionist Mary Strugar notes, "The role of appetite is key to weight loss—a detrimental cycle of food restriction that causes hunger pangs may lead directly to overeating.

Also add a little more exercise to everything you do. If you have stairs at home, walk up and down them a little more often than you normally do. If you walk your dog, walk a little farther than you usually do. If you work out regularly, add a little more aerobic exercise to your workout. If you don’t work out regularly, find ways to do so.

For me, I make one meal a day--either lunch or dinner--a salad. I add a handful of protein to each salad, too--some leftover poultry, pork, fish, egg, or even ground beef.

The two components to losing weight are food intake and calorie output. It’s that simple. Eat right (and most of us already know what’s right) and exercise. Why, though, is it so easy to say and so hard to do? For that I have no answer.

Also, in case you missed the comment by Ginger Collins, here it is:

"When I told my doctor about my seemingly insatiable appetite, she told me to cut the chemicals, and I'd see a difference. I quit drinking diet soda (even the stuff sweetened with Splenda) and cut all canned foods containing preservatives. Now, if I can't pronounce the ingredient, I won't eat it. I really do feel a difference. I'm not constantly craving, and I've even lost a few pounds."

Monday, July 4, 2011

Tip: Stay Strong!

Everything we do, all day long, every day, relates to our health, well-being, and weight gain or weight loss. Weight loss, especially, requires a mind-body connection that cannot be broken for a moment. In a fleeting moment, I am able to convince myself that I deserve those four squares of dark chocolate embedded with almonds, and they won’t have an impact on my health or weight. One little slip, and I’m on a downhill trail. Why is that?

Nutritionist Mary Strugar had the answer when she said, "Foods with a high fat and sugar content cause certain chemical changes in the brain similar to those experienced when someone has used an opiate, so it is easy to see why some people find it hard to control food cravings.”

The problem with opiate-like substances is that when they enter your body, your body soon craves another infusion and then another and another. While I fooled myself into thinking dark chocolate and almonds are both good things to eat, because they both have health benefits, I forgot that a dark chocolate square also is laden with fat and sugar, and fat and sugar are as bad as any authentic opiate. Once I eat something even slightly sweet, I soon crave more. Once I cave and eat more, something in my brain says it’s okay—and even mandatory—to do it again and again.

While dark chocolate does have health benefits, moderation is key, and I’ve heard that it should be eaten perhaps twice a week in small quantities, and that’s it. Once I bought that gigantic dark chocolate and almond bar (Trader Joe’s is at fault, right?) and tasted one square of its deliciousness, I still had another dozen or more big, fat squares available, so I ate another square, and then another. Thankfully I managed to spread out my consumption of that gargantuan candy bar over a two-week period, but all the while, my body was screaming, “Sugar and fat! Give me more sugar and fat!”

Such inner voices can destroy a food plan quickly. Thankfully I had a wake-up call when I went to the doctor for a routine blood test. During intake I’m always told to get up on the scale, and to my horror, I learned I had gained (not lost, folks, but gained!) two pounds since my weigh-in at his office two months prior. Because I’m not naked at the doctor’s office, the way I am when I weigh at home, and because the doctor’s scale is no doubt more accurate than my home scale, and because I’m not weighing first thing in the morning at the doctor’s office, I’ve always weighed a few more pounds there than I do at home, but what did his scale read? The dreaded 200, the mark I swore I’d never see again.

Of course the truth depressed me. What did I do in the past when I was depressed? Eat chocolate, of course! Did I eat chocolate this time? No. Instead I analyzed the last few months of my life, and I know this: I reached a plateau of weight loss and was having trouble breaking through. My inability to report a weight loss on my blog led to my not writing in my blog as much. My not writing in my blog meant I was a little less accountable for my actions. Being a little less accountable meant I could eat that chocolate or take a second helping or eat more pasta than I should.

It may be the middle of the summer as I write this entry, but I’ve been snowballing, gathering excuses, rolling downhill, and getting larger in the process. I had one word for what I needed to do: Stop!

After the weigh-in at Dr. Lee’s office, I stepped off the scale and stepped back into the weight-loss mindset. The chocolate bar was history, although it probably lives on, clinging somewhere around my middle. Back to blogging, eating consciously, working out, and walking farther and more often with my dog.

On the good side, my blood test results were the best they’ve been in years. Although my cholesterol and blood sugar both had been mildly elevated for years, they are now in the normal range. I credit the cholesterol reduction to the addition of ground flax seed and fish oil to my daily routine, both recommended by my doctor. He believes as I do that it’s always better to take natural substances than to take drugs. I have desperately wanted to avoid taking statins, believing that any drug that requires I have my liver tested regularly for damage can’t be good for me.

Anyway, I’m back on track. I weighed in today at home, it being Monday, and my weight is back closer to what it was at my lowest on this food plan. I am back on track. I will not join the majority of people who gain their weight back after losing it. Even if I never go below 190 again, I’ll never go above 195 again, either.

How frustrating it is, though, to realize I cannot let anything slip. I can’t let my food plan slip. I can’t let my blog slip. I can’t let my exercise program slip. I envy the folks born with small frames and whatever genes there be that fight off obesity, but I’m all the more triumphant for being in charge of myself, my mind, and my weight. I'm convinced it makes me a stronger person.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Weighing In On the Weight-Loss Issue

Where have I been lately, you may ask. I took an unintentional break from blogging. I’ve had a heavy workload, many obligations, and I’m making some big decisions about the direction I want to take my life and my business, so blogging took a backseat for a while. Even though my mind has been everywhere else, the one thing that stays on my mind is my intention to stay conscious of my eating.

Some days I’m conscious that I’m overeating at meals, but at least if I overeat, I’m consuming healthier foods than I used to stuff down my gullet. My thinking is that at least I’m not sitting in front of the television mindlessly eating copious amounts of popcorn and ice cream. The meals filling my stomach these days tend to consist of things such as collards, green beans, broccoli, chicken, fish, peaches, pineapple, or apples.

Still, overeating is overeating, and every piece of solid information I read points to the pure fact that the only way to lose weight sensibly is to eat less and exercise more, as in this website my nurse friend Deb sent me:

The Obama administration weighed in (pun intended) with this opinion recently: “Americans need to make big changes in their eating habits to fight the obesity epidemic and a host of ailments caused by poor diets, including consuming less sugar, fat, and salt and more fish, fruits, and vegetables.”

I never stop reading about food plans, diets, weight-loss, and related subjects, so I’ve gathered a great deal of information I’ll be relating in future blogs. Today I want to say “boo, hiss” to the folks who burst the myth that muscle uses more calories than fat. The information says exercise isn’t all you need, if you want to lose weight; you still have to eat right. Here’s some information from the L.A. Times:

                                         The myth of ripped muscles and calorie burns

Sorry to say, but gaining muscle doesn't make your metabolism skyrocket. Put down that Haagen-Dazs.

"The bottom line is that weight loss is 90% about diet," obesity researcher Dr. Sue Pedersen, a specialist in endocrinology and metabolism in Calgary, told me. "The studies show that exercise alone is not going to result in weight loss."

To see the whole article, go to,0,7417131.story

Oh, how am I doing? Well, I’m swimming as hard as I can to stay in the same place. I reached a level where I’m gaining two pounds during the week and losing it by the end of the week, gaining it back the next week, and losing it again. At least I’m not seeing my weight creeping up too far, and it’s not getting too close to that ugly 200 mark, the mark I swore I’d never exceed again. I much prefer life down here in One-derland.

Yesterday my sister-in-law and brother gave a dinner party for the family. I’m proud of her; she’s lost almost twenty pounds. She had been using a cane, because of severe knee pain. She’s pain free now, walking without a cane, and walking farther and farther, each day. The meal she served was filled with lots of veggies, and she served fruit for dessert, and everything was delicious. I’m pleased to see that almost everyone in my family is eating more consciously. It sure makes life easier for me, too. My sister-in-law even went into her closet and gave me some of her old clothes that are too big for her. Talk about a bonus!

Yes, I’m blessed with a big, loving, happy family, and each of us is getting smaller and smaller.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Tip: Understand Your BMI

Obesity; ugh, what an ugly word. The only thing uglier is the term “morbidly obese.” People are considered morbidly obese when their weight significantly increases their risk of health issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart attack. I had heard that morbidly obese people weigh at least one hundred or more pounds over their ideal weight for their height. When I began my food plan, I thought I was tottering close to the label of morbidly obese, at about ninety or more pounds above my ideal weight.

Is obesity a personal opinion, however, or is there a way to determine what’s constitutes obesity? I’ve become a walking encyclopedia on the subject of weight loss, lately, and from all that I’ve read, doctors apparently determine whether a person is obese by calculating the person’s body mass index (BMI), which compares the person’s height to his or her weight.

According to the sources I found, obese folks have a BMI of 30.0 and above, and one source says the morbidly obese have a BMI of 40 to 49.9 According to these figures, I used to have a BMI of 43.4, so I didn’t totter close to the line of being morbidly obese, I stumbled right over it. I am now, at 190, at a BMI of 33.7. According to my BMI, then, I’m still obese, but not morbidly obese, which is a true life-or-death improvement.

Friends who see me now say I look great, but there’s a big difference between being within medical guidelines and simply looking better than I did when I was morbidly obese. I will have to weigh 140 to reach a BMI that says I am “normal” weight. Although I’ve been at a plateau for a while, I am still shooting for 150, which would give me a BMI of 26.6. According to the BMI scale, I will still be overweight, but much closer to the normal range.

The fact remains that my body has never been small. I have wide shoulders and hips, so my frame begs for more weight. At least I’ve always thought so, and I’ve never been a tiny person, even when I was young.

According one BMI scale I found, you’re considered underweight if your BMI is below 18.5. You’re within the normal range if your BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9. The overweight are between 25.0 and 29.9, and the morbidly obese have a BMI of 30.0 and above.

Another BMI scale said normal people have a BMI of 18.5 to 25 and the overweight have a BMI of 25.0 to 30.0. The two scales agree that a BMI of 30.0 is obese, but this scale goes on and says that a BMI of above 40 is considered severely obese, and a BMI of over 50 is super obese. Oh, super obese sounds so much better than being morbidly obese, right?

I know, death is a morbid subject, and I know that being overweight can lead to health problems and early death. I’m having way too much fun to succumb to early death just because I love popcorn. I’ve learned to love salads more than popcorn, and my story continues, as does my life.

To calculate your BMI, you can use the quick calculator at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, part of the US Department of Health and Human Services, at Send me an e-mail to report your BMI after you’ve used the calculator. Let’s lower our BMIs together.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Tip: Surgery Isn’t Even a Good Last Resort

I used to wish I could simply go to the doctor, get full-body liposuction, and have him dump all my extra weight in a biohazard waste bucket. Now I know that those who have liposuction, despite all the money spent and pain (perhaps) involved, gain their weight back, in places even less appealing than where it was sucked out.

I’ve always known that bariatric surgery wasn’t for me, though, even before I learned of its drawbacks. First, as an editor, I must remark on the word bariatric, a pleasant euphemism for “the treatment of obesity.” It sounds so much better to say “bariatric surgery” rather than “obesity-treatment surgery.”

A morbidly obese friend of mine once revealed a shocking fact that she told few people: She had undergone gastric bypass surgery years before. She, like most recipients of the surgery, lost drastic amounts of weight, but as the years passed, she managed to pile the weight back on and surpass her original obese weight. Because of her obesity, she did not want anyone to know she had undergone such wasted surgery. Her story reminded me of Al Hirt, a famous trumpeter in my time. He underwent gastric bypass surgery, as well. He also dropped a great deal of weight, but eventually he regained most of it before he died thirty years later of liver failure.

Maybe people think bariatric surgery is a quick fix, but as I understand it, most bariatric surgery, including gastric bypass, stomach stapling, and lap band placement, results in the patient having to eat extremely small portions of food at a time, because the stomach area is drastically reduced. I’m not a doctor, but as I see it, if we could learn to eat extremely small portions in the first place, we wouldn’t need to go under the surgeon’s knife.

A recent report said that people who underwent bariatric surgery lost an average of fifty-one pounds in a year. I lost more than that in less time, without invasive, drastic, expensive, and unnecessary surgery. I did it by doing what surgical patients are forced to do: I ate less.

The report also says that bariatric surgery may not be enough to mitigate the knee pain that obese people develop because of osteoarthritis, but I am more fortunate. My knee pain is gone.

I am thankful that I found the motivation from within instead of paying a small fortune and subjecting myself to a scalpel. I also proved that weight loss can reduce or eliminate knee pain. I thought I was becoming a candidate for knee surgery (according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, about 38,400 knee replacements were performed in 2006-07). Last July, when I went to the doctor about my knee pain, my doctor’s assistant told me her husband sold supplies to orthopedic surgeons, and he said weight was almost always a factor when it came to who needed knee surgery.

I did it; I lost weight; I improved my health; I avoided surgery. Even though I still need to lose even more, I know I will. I know how. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t expensive, and I didn’t have to be sliced open.

In a few weeks, I’m going to D.C. to visit my son, Sandy, and daughter-in-law, Nancy. I spoke Sandy last night, and he said, “Now that you can walk, we have lots of great things planned to do together.”

Now that I can walk. It’s true. The last time I saw him, I was limping and swearing I was okay. I woke up every morning and swallowed ibuprofen, so I could move around enough to perform my daily chores. I avoided walking, whenever possible, because of the pain. Even grocery shopping was difficult, because I had to walk up and down the aisles at the store. I no longer have any such restrictions. Boy, so I look forward to seeing my kids!

I am beating my chest and patting myself on the back, all at the same time.

Here’s my source for information on bariatric surgery and its drawbacks.