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Monday, July 26, 2010

If Not Now, When?

Last week I experienced so much pain in my knees and back that I knew something had to give. I called the doctor and made an appointment, but I knew the first thing she would say was the usual, "You have to lose weight." Yep, that's me on the far left in the photo with my older brother, older sister, and younger sister. We're not a slender family, but hey, I take the cake. Literally. Add ice cream on mine, please. Oh, I digress.

I know I have to lose weight. I have spread to my uppermost weight ever, a whopping 245 pounds, the last ten pounds of which were the result of a cruise to Central America and South America for a lazy ten days of eating three full meals a day, complete with desserts at lunch and dinner, and the food—every morsel of it—was absolutely delicious. I did not hold back, but the fat piled on.

For years I have put off going on a diet. Last week I realized the only time that counts is right now, this minute. If I didn’t start losing weight, my back and knees were only going to get more painful, until my quality of life went downhill, and I’m not ready for that. Yes, I’m pushing 66, but I’m not there yet, and I’m sure not ready to retire to the rocking chair or have to rely on a walker.

The only time to diet is right now, right as I am preparing to eat, not after I eat. I can’t lose weight if I keep saying, “I’ll start my diet tomorrow” or “Next time I’ll eat more wisely.” Each meal is a “now” opportunity, and now is the time for me to start thinking that way.

Ten years ago my doctor gave me an ultimatum: "Lose weight, or I’ll put you on blood pressure medicine." I didn’t want to take the medicine, so he sent me to a dietician who told me to eat like a diabetic, even though I had no problem with my blood sugar. She explained that the diabetic food plan is one of the wisest, healthiest, and most sensible plans around, and it’s easy to follow. She gave me a booklet from the American Diabetes Association, mapped out a typical few days of meals, and sent me home, a little confused, but determined to lose weight.

I simplified the plan for myself and used all sorts of tricks I’d read in various sources. I kept a food diary and wrote down everything I ate. I ate on a smaller plate. I forbid myself to have second helpings. I learned that if I waited twenty minutes after eating, my stomach would tell me it was satisfied, and I would no longer want a second helping. I cut way back on starches. I cut way back on sweets. I ate more vegetables and fruits. I set up a list of goal weights and the dates by which I would meet those goals. I vowed to weigh in on Mondays and write down my progress.

I refused to call it a diet. Diet is a four-letter word! It was simply a food plan.

Within months I was losing weight so easily that I feared I might be sick. I wasn’t dieting; I was simply on a food plan, but the weight was falling off.

In about twelve or fifteen months I lost sixty pounds and met my goal weight. I looked and felt better than I had in years. My blood pressure dropped into the acceptable range, and I no longer feared having to start medicine to reduce my cholesterol or blood pressure. As an unexpected fringe benefit, I started dating again, after having not dated in four years. I emptied my closet of all my “fat” clothes and completely replaced my wardrobe. Clothes shopping became exciting; everything I tried on looked good on me. My mirror became my friend again.

I swore I would never regain the weight I’d lost. I’d never be fat again.

Within a year, though, my weight started creeping up. My sister noticed and commented, which only made me angry. I knew how to eat; I could lose weight anytime I wanted. Unfortunately I was not eating like a diabetic anymore, though. I was eating like the old Bobbie, the one who weighed some 210 pounds before she started the diabetic food plan. A few times I halfheartedly told myself I would go back on the plan, but my determination waned after a day or two, each time.
Eventually I weighed 210 again, then 220, then 230, and so on. I’m on statins for cholesterol and blood pressure medicine now. I gave up and gave in, and it was easy, because high cholesterol and high blood pressure are painless. I didn’t have physical reminders of what harm I was doing to my body.

Ten years after losing sixty pounds, I weigh more than ever, and my health is deteriorating. It’s difficult to walk down my steep driveway to get my mail or take my dog for our morning and evening strolls, so I’ve stopped walking as far or as often as we used to. Reduce your exercise, and what happens? You guessed it; things get worse.

Okay, I put my foot (and my swollen knees) down a week ago and told myself, “If not now, when?” I began the food plan with fervor. It’s so very simple to follow that I have no excuse for not following it. In one week I dropped nine pounds. I know the first week is always the easiest, always has the biggest losses. I don’t expect to lose nine pounds every week; instead my goal is to lose one pound a week, an easy, slow, healthy way to approach my goal of weighing 150 pounds again. For some people 150 pounds would be too heavy, but years ago, my doctor said 160 was a reasonable goal for me and for my body type, so I told myself I’d beat that goal by 10 pounds. I did it before; I can do it again.

Today is Monday, July 26, 2010, and I held my first weekly weigh-in since I started the plan last Monday. Do I go to some meeting and pay a fee? No. I can do this myself. I have a fairly reliable scale, and that's all I'll use. Here's the progress so far:

Weight last week: 245
Goal weight for this week: 244
Actual weight this week: 234
Goal weight for next week: 233

The fun has begun! Stick with me while I journal about my challenges and triumphs over the next year or more. Cheer with me when I reach 150 pounds, and then let's go shopping together!

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