Total Page Views

Monday, August 30, 2010

Tip: Join or Create a Community of Like-Minded People

First let me say that several people have complained they were unable to leave their comments on this blog. That’s okay. Folks have been reaching me through Facebook and by e-mail, and I want your comments, experiences, and feedback. I’m ecstatic that we have become a community of weight-conscious people supporting each other. Together, we will rock!

Let’s all weigh in on Mondays. Let me know how you’re doing, up, down, or the same. You don’t have to give your actual weight, even though I do, to spur myself on. By putting that original ugly number (245 pounds) out in front of the public, I finally had to face the ugly truth myself. Facing the truth and going public with it has motivated me to stay on track. I also feel extra pride as the weight disappears. You can choose to reveal your weight or not. Either way, I'll support you and your goal.

Okay, so today is Monday, weigh-in day, and I stepped timidly on the scale. Yesterday I had gone to my favorite restaurant and eaten my favorite dish there, eggplant parmesan. I can only guess at the caloric enormity of that dish. Three large eggplant slices arrive breaded, fried, and covered in cheese and sauce, and if that’s not bad enough, the plate includes a “side dish” of pasta that’s enough by itself to make another entire meal. In addition, it includes a choice of a Caesar salad or house salad. I can’t make a good Caesar salad at home, so I always go for the Caesar.

Restaurants want to make customers happy, and they know that large portions please customers and high-fat foods please the palate. My sister and her hubby and I ordered the same dish, but as a couple, the two of them wisely split and shared one order. I didn’t have a partner, so I chomped down my entire Caesar salad, but skipped the croutons (every corner cut is a calorie unconsumed!). I then ate one of the eggplant slices and about three or four small forkfuls of spaghetti. I pushed the plate away and asked for a takeaway box. I now have two more meals in my fridge, once I add salads. As a result I pleased my palate, my stomach, my wallet, and my mind. I consumed plenty of food and felt thoroughly satisfied, plus I felt proud to have resisted the urge to eat more, simply because it tasted good.

Still, that breading, frying, and pasta weighed heavily on my mind this morning, and I felt a little trepidation when I stepped on the scale. Voila! My weight is down three pounds from last week. It proves that conscious eating—not dieting, but eating consciously—and a little exercise combine to give me the results I want.

Why do I harp on the “Don’t Call It a Diet” theme? Because diets dictate what you can and can’t eat, and for me, if I’m told I can’t eat something, I’ll soon crave it. If I cave and eat what I craved, I lose confidence and stop following the diet. In addition, if I am told I have to eat something, after a while, I don’t want to eat it. I know, because I’m a veteran of diets.

I tried the Scarsdale Diet years ago. It required that I eat some sort of bread that I had never tasted, and I was not pleased with it. Still, the diet plan called for a slice of that bread toasted and eaten every morning, and within the course of eating a loaf of that junk, I was done. No more Scarsdale for me, and very little weight lost. Another diet called for cooking and eating large quantities of cabbage, onion, and tomato soup. I actually liked the taste of it at first, but it gave me tremendous amounts of gas, which set me up for quite a few embarrassing moments at work. Having to eat that concoction every day, though, I soon lost my taste for it and quit. A few times I’ve told myself I won’t eat popcorn or desserts, and depriving myself of those things would be my diet plan. Oh, heavens, the next thing I knew, I was wolfing down ice cream, followed by large bowls of popcorn.

My food plan, though, is not a diet. The only restriction, if you can call it that, is to be fully conscious of what I eat. I know I don’t need the full amount of food I used to eat. The quantities I used to eat resulted in an overweight body. I now want a more height-weight-proportionate body, which means I have to reduce the volume of food I eat. To do so, I must be conscious of every mouthful of food I consume. It’s the easiest thing in the world! I don’t have to buy special foods, order special prepared foods, pay a consultant, attend meetings, buy and read any more diet books, or undergo surgery. All I have to do is put less food into my body than my body needs for that day. One day at a time. One meal at a time.

Exercise builds my strength and uses up some of that food I like to eat. In addition to my dog strolls, my preferred exercise is swimming and water aerobics, a series of calisthenics performed in the water. Water resistance adds to the workout, plus the water adds buoyancy that reduces the impact on my body. It’s all good.

One water aerobics exercise, though, has been my nemesis for years. In it I’m supposed to make a fist, bend my elbows, lift my left knee, touch it to my right elbow, and then alternate, again and again. It’s a good body crunch, provided a person can actually get her knees high enough to touch her elbows. My fat legs have long limited my flexibility, plus my fat stomach gets in the way. I haven’t touched elbow to knee in years. I always made the attempt, but all that happened was that I got winded and frustrated. Guess what, friends. Today my knees and elbows touched. I did it! It was a huge milestone for me. Oh, this losing-weight thing is so much fun, I wonder why I resisted it so long.

Now for today’s weigh-in information.

Starting weight: 245
Goal weight for this week: 223
Actual weight this week: 220
Goal weight for next week: 219
Total weight lost: 25
Overall goal weight: 150

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tip: The first bite of dessert is always the best. Make it your last bite, as well.

After I cut out sweets for a while, I no longer crave sweets. I have my favorite things still in the house, bite-size candy bars and Little Debbie peanut butter bars, but everything is growing stale while I am of the mindset that I want to get healthy and stay healthy. I strongly believe we should not forbid ourselves anything, lest we then crave it, but conscious eating means that if I ate a bite-size candy bar, I’d have to eat considerably less lunch or dinner than I’d like, and I’d rather eat foods that add to my health, than those that merely add to my pleasure and, unfortunately, my waistline.

One friend of mine, though, says she can’t give up sweets entirely. She simply can’t. Well, I haven’t given up sweets, either; I simply choose to make fruit my sweets, now. What I told her, though, is my philosophy (and I swear it’s true; challenge me!) that the first bite of any dessert is always the best, so there’s no need to eat more than one bite to fulfill a serious craving. She decided to buy the slice of chocolate cake that she loves, take it home, dice it up into bite-size pieces, freeze them individually, and eat one maybe every few days or so, if she gets a craving for a sweet snack. Her idea is an excellent one for folks who find giving up dessert impossible.

Instead of eating high-calorie desserts, though, I weaned myself to fruit when I want a treat. I eat a few slices of fresh pineapple or a pear, peach, plum, or pluot as a snack around 3:00, if I feel a little hungry. I needed to break myself of the habit of eating dessert at all. I used to eat a full meal (usually more than I needed to eat) and then dessert, and sometimes several desserts. After that I might still have a bowl of popcorn, but all that is history. I want health more than I want to stuff my mouth, now.

Every time I get on the scale, look in the mirror, or put on a blouse I haven’t worn in a while and see the improvement in my weight or the fit of my clothes, I’m reassured and reminded that I am doing the right thing for my health. Statistically, overweight people die at younger ages than people who are height-weight proportionate, and I’m of the age that I’ve already lost many friends, some of whom were younger than me. I don’t want diabetes, a heart attack, or painful joints if I can do something to avoid all that.

As I write this, I’ve been on a food plan for only five weeks, and it has become second nature to me already. No longer do I fret over what to eat. I no longer have great hunger between meals, only hunger at appropriate meal times.

What inspired me to start a food plan was a visit to the doctor. I’d been hobbling on painful knees for a couple of years, feeling like an old lady, and finally the pain in my back and knees reached a peak that sent me for help. The nursing assistant casually mentioned weight as being a factor for most orthopedic surgery, and when my doctor also suggested weight loss and referred me to an orthopedic surgeon, I didn’t feel thrilled. A week later, when I finally got into the orthopedic surgeon’s office, I had lost a couple of pounds, but the orthopedic surgeon wanted to put me on heavy painkillers and antacids to avoid internal bleeding, and he, too, suggested that I lose weight. I hated the thought of being so full of painkillers that I also had to take a strong antacid to avoid bleeding internally. How many times did I have to be hit over the head with the facts, before I finally listened?

Now, only five weeks later, and with no surgery, I no longer have pain in my back, and my knees are much better, more flexible, and with only an occasional tweak of pain that passes quickly. I can again walk up and down stairs comfortably. I can carry my groceries from the car and up the stairs into the kitchen without having to set the bags on each step to rest. I can walk down my steep driveway without fearing that my knee will go out and I’ll fall. I walk the dog farther and more often and enjoy every step of the way. I feel normal again, and I no longer feel like an aging cripple. I feel young, spry, and ready to go out dancing, something I thought was over for me, forever, just six weeks ago.

I thank all my fellow food watchers who report I have inspired them to choose to eat healthier and lose weight, and I thank all of you for supporting me. I’m still shooting for that goal of being 200 pounds or under by New Year’s Eve, and it looks quite feasible. I have eighteen weeks and about 21 pounds to reach my goal. After that, I’ll set another goal, until I finally reach my healthy weight, which for me is 150 pounds. I still won’t be a lightweight by most standards, but 150 pounds would be only ten pounds more than my weight in high school.

Let me know what you’d like to weigh by December 31, and we’ll all move toward our goals together!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tip: A Salad a Day Keeps the Weight Away

Glory be, I love this food plan! I weigh myself once a week (or more; let’s face it, even I cheat!), and yesterday was my weigh-in day, and I lost two more pounds. I’m like an alcoholic who’s finally gotten sober and becomes addicted to sobriety, talking about it all the time. Seems all my friends and family members want to join me in my food plan, and they’re losing weight, too. As a result, healthy eating and losing weight top the list of our conversation topics.

I don’t mind. It’s a good thing to see folks around me climbing on my bandwagon toward success. It helps me, and I help them.

I keep saying I’m not on a diet; I’m on a food plan, and I can eat whatever I want, as long as I keep portion size in mind. Last week at the supermarket I saw samples of cake. I took one of the small slices, unwrapped it, and took a nibble. M-m-m good, one of those moist pudding cakes. I moved my cart to my now-favorite section of the supermarket, the produce section, and I took a second nibble of the cake.

Isn’t it funny that the first bite of dessert is always the best? I swear, it’s downhill from there. The second bite was good, yes, but the first one was better. I saw a trash bin near the corn and tossed the remainder of the cake in the trash. It’s fun being completely conscious of what I consume. I fulfilled my sweet tooth without mindlessly inhaling the entire slice of cake.

Let’s get back to the produce section. One of my biggest food-plan tips would be to make at least one meal a day a salad. I never get bored with my salads, because I get all sorts of add-ins. Oh, sure, I use the usual lettuce (I prefer Romaine), spinach, cucumbers, radishes, carrots, and other items from the produce department, but I love to add things that surprise my taste buds, too, such as fresh basil, tasty croutons (in moderation), chopped pecans (in moderation, and chop them yourself; they’re much tastier than the pre-chopped, expensive ones), pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, beets (either plain or pickled), olives (in moderation), granola, dried cranberries, raisins, dried blueberries, corn kernels (in moderation), cilantro, and you name it. Don’t forget the protein, though. Yes, add enough protein to make the salad stick around, so you’re not hungry in a couple of hours. Here’s my favorite protein to add: an egg; chopped leftover pork, beef, fish, or chicken; a chopped slice of chicken bologna, chopped turkey bratwurst…you get the picture. Simply remember the portion size. Limit the protein to the size of your palm of your hand, and you’ll be within portion limits. The leafy greens, however, do not have to be measured or weighed or anything. They’re good for you, and the more greens you have in your bowl, the fewer fatty things you’ll put in it.

Do be aware that some of the items I listed as add-ins are high in fat—avocado, seeds and nuts, olives, croutons, and the like, so include them in moderation, just enough to taste.

When it comes to the salad dressing, forget all those “diet” or low-fat dressings! You’re usually paying for added water, that’s all. All you have to do is know how much dressing to use. Use no more than two tablespoons, and I assure you, when you toss your salad, two tablespoons of dressing will coat every leaf and other item in the bowl. Trust me. If you want more dressing, you can add in a little plain yogurt to your creamy dressings or a little more vinegar to your vinaigrette dressings to expand them almost harmlessly.

So today’s tip: A salad a day keeps the weight away.

Knowing that you will have a salad for lunch or dinner makes meal planning simple and cuts down on your shopping decisions, both in a supermarket and in a restaurant. I like things simple, don’t you?

Before I give this week’s statistics, I need to add something that several people have written to warn me about. I have a goal of losing one pound a week, but people tell me that goal is unrealistic; some weeks I won’t lose that much, and as I stay on a food plan, my body will adjust, and the weight won’t come off as quickly as it does at the beginning of a food plan. These folks are completely right, so I should have clarified two things.

My goal of one pound a week is an average loss. In this way I won’t be disappointed when I lose less than a pound, because some weeks I have lost as many as three pounds, and the average is still good. Secondly, I set my goals high, maybe even unreachable, but I’d rather aim high and do well, if not perfectly, than aim low and perform less well.

If you’re reading my blog and thinking of losing weight, please sign up to follow my journey. You’ll get tips along the way, and we’ll all support each other in our goals. The more the merrier.

Now for today’s statistics:

Original weight: 245
Weight last week: 226
Goal weight for this week: 225
Actual weight this week: 224
Goal weight for next week: 223
Total pounds lost: 21
Final goal weight: 150

Monday, August 16, 2010

The "I Hate to Work Out" Workout

I feel better every single day. I worked out three times last week in addition to going bowling twice last week. Today I worked out, and I may go again tomorrow.

I don’t like to work out; I really don’t. I hate sweating, and I get bored with repetition, but I like working out in a swimming pool. There I don’t know if I sweat, and I intersperse water aerobics exercises with swimming. I took water aerobics classes for years, so I know all the moves. I do the ones I want to do, the number of repetitions I want, and then I swim two or more laps, stop, and do more exercises. Before I know it, an hour has passed, and I can reward myself by slipping into the bubbling hot tub for ten minutes.

Something’s working, and I’m sure it’s the combination of working out and eating right, because this week I lost three pounds. I’ve set a goal of a pound a week, so I’m delighted with dropping three pounds in one week. I like goals; they help me focus and give me something to celebrate when I reach them. Golly, if I had only one big goal of reaching my goal weight of 150 pounds, I’d get frustrated, because it will take me a year and a half or more to reach that goal. As a result, I break my huge goal into smaller ones. Not only do I have a weekly goal of losing one pound, I also figured out that I could potentially weigh under 200 pounds by New Year’s Eve. I haven’t weighed under 200 pounds in ten years, so that’s my next big goal: two hundred by December 31.

My body is already cooperating. Yesterday I easily ate lightly. For breakfast, I had watermelon. For lunch I had a Yoplait yogurt, to which I added a handful of fresh, delicious blueberries. For dinner I felt I’d earned a big salad, so I went all out. I made a big salad, complete with spinach, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, eggs, carrots, beets, celery, sunflower seeds, and radishes and even added a cut-up plum and croutons. I measured my salad dressing, two tablespoons, and mixed my salad until the dressing coated everything. I chomped down and was enjoying every mouthful, but I ate slowly, consciously, and when I was only two-thirds of the way through, I realized I’d had enough. My stomach was telling me to quit eating, and I did. I’ve already said how hard it is for me to leave food on my plate, but last night it was as easy as bouncing a ball. I threw the remainder of the salad in my compost pile and smiled at myself. I’m really into this healthy thing, and I love that my body is willing and eager to go along with the plan.

Now for the official Monday weigh-in results:

Original weight: 245
Weight last week: 229
Goal weight for this week: 228
Actual weight this week: 226
Goal weight for next week: 225
Total pounds lost: 19
Final goal weight: 150

Monday, August 9, 2010

Tip: Weigh Yourself Only Once a Week

It’s Monday, so it’s weigh-in day, and the news is okay; not great, but okay. I lost a pound, which meets my goal of losing at least one pound a week, so I’m certainly not complaining, but I know why I lost only a pound. I had the best week, filled with social activities, which means going to restaurants with family members and friends. I ate out not once or twice but at least four times in seven days. Restaurant food tends to be loaded with calories and portions that are larger than they should be, and buffets are even worse. They beg me to overeat, or so it feels. I did well with most of my choices and quantities, but still, I know I ate more than necessary and ate things I wouldn’t have eaten at home.

A girl’s gotta have fun, even when she’s on a food plan, and I did have fun and lost a pound, too, as my weigh-in this morning can attest. I find it tough to weigh myself only once a week. I often sneak peeks midweek or after eating a big meal, but I know I shouldn’t. Do as I say, not as I do! I had an interesting conversation recently with a girlfriend, who disagreed with me about weighing in once a week. “Weight fluctuates from day to day,” she said, “and sometimes you can be two pounds up and the next day it’s gone. What if you’re two pounds up on the day you weigh in for the week? It could be discouraging.”

I agreed that weigh fluctuates; however, my comeback was this: “If you’ve stuck to your food plan and exercised all week, chances are that at the end of the week, you won’t be up two pounds, even for a day.”

Her argument, that weigh fluctuates, is exactly why experts tell us not to weigh every day; a weight gain when you’re on a weigh-loss program can frustrate a person and make him or her go off a food plan. If you give your body a whole week between weigh-ins, though, and you stick to your food and exercise plan, you have a greater chance of seeing a weight loss after seven days.

That’s my tip, then; weigh in only once a week. Mondays are my weigh-in days, so today’s score is listed below. One more pound dropped. More importantly, I feel a difference, an improvement, in my body already. My midriff feels less bloated, my knees hurt less, and I’m able to walk up and down the stairs in my house much easier, faster, and without pain or fear that I’ll fall. As a result, I’ve been walking my dog farther, which adds to my exercise. Things are looking up, even if my weight is down only sixteen ounces this week.

Original weight: 245
Weight last week: 230
Goal weight for this week: 229
Actual weight this week: 229
Goal weight for next week: 228
Total pounds lost: 16
Final goal weight: 150

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Tip: Eat Starches in Moderation

I’m excited. The weight is dropping off, and my neck, knees, and are all feeling better every day. I know I am doing the right thing for my health. The photo at the left was taken in 2006 at Christmastime. Some of that fat chin is already going away.
Yesterday I ate a small container of yogurt for breakfast, a big salad for lunch, and a piece of pork steak, spinach sautéed with fresh basil, and a sautéed yellow squash for dinner. I didn’t have the urge to eat any midday snack, as I often do, and I felt satisfied in my tummy and mind, all day.

My food plan is something I created from information I gleaned in one meeting with a nutritionist and the booklet she gave me from the American Diabetes Association that explains exchange lists. Exchange lists, the booklet explains, are foods listed together because they are alike. Each serving of a food in the list has about he same amount of carbohydrate, protein, fat, and calories as the other foods on that particular list, so the foods can be exchanged with one another. It gives as an example that a slice of bread can be traded for one-half a cup of cooked cereal, because each of the foods equals one starch. The whole concept got too complicated for me, though, so I created my own plan, once I read about starches and that the body quickly turned them into sugar in the body. Too much sugar in the body not only creates havoc for diabetics, but it also doesn’t bode well for people who want to lose weight, because the body stores the extra sugar as fat.

I became aware of the foods that turned too easily into sugar in my body, and I decided to moderate my intake of starchy vegetables, such as beans, corn, peas, plantains, and potatoes. Notice I did not say I would deprive myself of these tasty treats, because if I tell myself I can’t eat something, I start to crave the very item I have denied myself. Instead I learned how to portion out my meals and learned I can eat anything I want, but in moderation. I like to eat, so I learned to choose foods I could eat more of, and still be within the same exchange rate of other foods. For example, a slightly larger portion of sweet potatoes or yams (one-half a cup) equates to a smaller serving of white potatoes (three ounces), so if I feel like eating a potato, I choose sweet potatoes, rather than white potatoes. To make matters even better, a half a cup of sweet potatoes is a large serving, in my opinion, so I can eat even less and be satisfied.

Other starchy foods I limit include breads and crackers, chips, lentils, and even miso soup. Would you believe that sipping only three savory tablespoons of miso soup is equal to consuming half a cup of sweet potatoes? Knowing the difference in portion size, which would I rather eat? The sweet potatoes, of course.

Starches abound in popcorn, noodles, waffles, pancakes, oatmeal, rice, grits, croutons, and most granola, too, but I’ve learned tips such as the fact that I can eat three cups of popcorn, and it equates to eating only six croutons, so you bet I’m going for the popcorn, instead.

Starches provide B vitamins, and many starchy foods also contain fiber and protein, all of which is good for me, so I’m not saying people who want to lose weight should never eat starch. Instead of depriving myself, I keep portion size and moderation in mind, and together they make all the difference. Yesterday I consumed starches only at lunchtime. I ate one small cracker with my salad, plus the salad contained peas. I had also added almonds and sunflower seeds, which contain fats, but nuts in moderation also are good for me.

If you’re interested in learning more about exchange lists, contact the American Diabetes Association or the American Dietetic Association or go to or

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Don't You Dare Call It a Diet!: Tip: Stick to the Fresh Food Section in the Superm...

Oh, no! A hungry day for me! Don't You Dare Call It a Diet!: Tip: Stick to the Fresh Food Section in the Superm...: "Today is a hungry day for me. Who knows why we have days when we are hungrier than other days? Still, those hungry days are difficult when ..."

Tip: Stick to the Fresh Food Section in the Supermarket

Today is a hungry day for me. Who knows why we have days when we are hungrier than other days? Still, those hungry days are difficult when I’m working so hard to reach a healthier weight. Here’s what I’ve eaten so far today: For breakfast I had about three heaping spoonfuls of vanilla-flavored yogurt with some shredded wheat and Kashi Go-Lean cereal topped with strawberries and blueberries. That’s a big breakfast for me, but a few hours later, Mr. Hungry knocked on my door, long before lunchtime. I drank about four ounces of V-8 juice to stave off my hunger until lunchtime.

For lunch I did not feel like eating a salad, which is my usual lunch, and the pork steak I was thawing was still frozen, so I looked in the cabinet for something to eat. All sorts of things begged for attention: potato pancakes, pasta, couscous, all filled with dreaded starches. Instead I chose a can of Progresso hearty beef soup. The soup spoke to me today. Hmm. The label said it held two servings per can. Ha! I pay attention to that information, though, because the calorie and fat count is based on the serving size the manufacturer arbitrarily sets. Progresso soups do not call for added water, so I knew I’d eat the entire contents of the can, which doubled the 225 calories per serving listed on the label. Okay, so my lunch would be about 450 calories. I’ll talk more about calories some other time, but for now, know that I don’t actually count them, but I do keep them in mind. For example, I know that for me to lose weight I must eat fewer than 2,000 calories a day. Dare I eat a 450-calorie meal when fewer than 2,000 calories a day is my target? Of course. I had fewer than 350 calories for breakfast and 25 calories in my mid-morning V-8 juice. I still have 1,175 calories left before I push the 2,000-calorie limit. I plan to have a few ounces of pork and a large serving of sautéed squash for dinner, so okay, here goes! Open soup, pour in bowl, insert bowl in microwave, heat, and savor.

Here’s the concern, though. Whenever I eat prepared foods, such as a can of soup, I’m likely eating much more salt than I should, so I’ll make sure not to use much salt if any at dinnertime. I also paid more for that can of soup than I would have paid for the ingredients for a fresh salad, if I’d made myself a salad for lunch. I try hard not to eat prepared foods, but I’m human. It makes me think, though, of all the prepared products that are on the shelves that allegedly help people diet and lose weight. Atkin’s, Special K, South Beach, and many other types of diets are represented on the supermarket shelves, all at high prices and all manufactured at some remote, possibly rat-infested facility. Ugh. Look at my photo of the many products available at Publix. Almost a whole aisle of the stuff.

Diet foods abound, it’s true. Big companies love to charge big bucks for products manufactured in their facilities for people who prefer not to prepare their own food, but my food plan makes food preparation so simple and inexpensive I usually have no excuse to shop anywhere but in the produce and meat section of the store.

For the price of six servings of bland, processed, manufactured diet food, I can buy a package of three fresh Romaine lettuces that provide the foundation for fifteen or twenty meals. When I am being the very best food planner (although I’m not always ideal), I shop primarily in the produce section, meat section, and dairy section, all around the outside edges of my supermarket. I even buy my salad dressings in the refrigerated cases on the side wall. I then go down the aisles in the middle only to get paper towels, toilet paper, or dog food. Oh, I do get whole grain cereals, too, which are in the middle of the store.

I keep in mind, though, that almost everything in the middle aisles of the supermarket is not only more expensive than what I can make for myself, but also loaded with salt and those dreaded starches, the very thing my food plan moderates. On those inner aisles I find bread, pasta, crackers, cereals, nuts, popcorn, potato chips, soft drinks, pancake mix, sugar, and more. On the outer, refrigerated walls, I find yogurt, eggs, meat, seafood, and an entire cornucopia of fruit and vegetables. Guess which choices are better for me.

When I buy 99% of my food items on the outside edges of the store, my total price tab is lower than expected, and certainly lower than if I buy frozen dinners or packaged food. In addition, I have fresh, delicious food to eat.

I’m not saying I don’t buy frozen fish, but it’s not packaged as a meal. I buy large packages of frozen, individually wrapped tilapia, for example. The price is great, and I can pull out one portion, let it thaw for a few minutes, sprinkle it with garlic powder and onion powder, and sauté it with slices of squash or florets of broccoli and cauliflower. In a matter of minutes I have a low-cost, sensible, healthful, tasty, meal.

Still, I am human; I slip and slide and backslide, and I still have food in the house that I purchased before I decided to return to my sensible food plan, so those things may get consumed over the next months, but I’ll be mindful of what I eat. What I refuse to do, though, is fall prey to those prepackaged manufactured pieces of diet-food crap sold at the supermarket. Period.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Tip: Leave Food on Your Plate

I've talked about “If not now, when,” and how staying in the moment when I prepare a meal allows me to prepare a meal of the right substances and right portions. I also told about my childhood and how I learned to clean my plate. From my parents, aunt, and grandparents, I heard all the things that could possibly said to make me eat: “Eat! An empty plate is a happy plate! The children in Europe are starving! Try it; you’ll like it! Eat one more mouthful. You can do it!” I internalized the belief that a good girl cleans her plate. I mentally congratulated myself when I polished off every last morsel that could be picked up, scraped off, or even licked from the plate. “Good girl,” my internal dialogue told me. “Good girl. Only a bad girl wastes food, and you don’t want to be a bad girl.” I took that dialogue from my childhood right into my adulthood.

Yesterday I watched a movie titled Beyond Belief, wherein many types of therapists give snippets of information on how our belief system holds us back from achieving our goals. When we find ways to change our belief system, these therapists said, we can achieve anything we want.

How right they are! For years I believed I could not lose more than nineteen pounds. Where did I get that figure? All my adult life my weight hovered heavier than recommended for my height, so I tried many a diet in an attempt to look better and feel better. You name the diet, and I tried it; the Scarsdale diet, grapefruit diet, cabbage-and-tomato-soup diet, apple diet, and so forth. Every diet I ever tried worked—for a while. I could lose five, ten, fifteen pounds easily. Almost every limiting diet, though, has to be temporary. You can’t stay on them forever; they are not sensible eating plans. Not only that, they all required vast changes to my normal food choices, and when I had a family to feed, I had to eat something different from what I fed my family, which made sticking to the diet even harder. I had more weight to lose than most people, and with all the complications a diet created, I always gave up after a few weeks or a month and went back to my regular eating habits. As a result, no matter what diet I tried, the most I’d lost was nineteen pounds. Naturally I internalized the belief that I could lose only nineteen pounds. Anything more was impossible. Another belief: I can’t lose weight without endangering my health. The most devious of all, perhaps, was my original belief: Good girls clean their plates. Bad girls waste food.

What is your internal dialogue, your internal belief about food, about losing weight, about meeting your weight goal?

For me, when I realized my beliefs—that I could not lose more than nineteen pounds, that I endangered my health if I tried to lose more, and that I should not waste food, lest I be wasteful and therefore bad—I could scoff at them. Pooh! In truth I had never even tried to push past my mental limit of nineteen pounds of weight lost. I consciously knew my health was endangered not by losing the weight, but by not losing it, and I could find ways to avoid wasting food, if that issue continued to come up. By canceling out all the beliefs that limited me and kept me from losing weight in my past, I was able to lose sixty pounds and maintain my health, even improve it. My blood pressure went down to acceptable levels, and I avoided going on blood-pressure medicine for five years or more.

Unfortunately new beliefs undermined me. Once I lost the weight, I believed I could easily lose it again, and today, right now, I would eat whatever I wanted, because I’d eat better tomorrow. I did not think of the “If not now, when?” concept and kept putting off eating properly. I even let the “Good girl; clean your plate” belief creep back in, and the pounds crept back on. I kept waiting for something to click in my head, and when that click happened, I would go back on the sensible food plan that had worked so well for me.

I forgot that my food plan is not a diet; it's not temporary; it should last a lifetime. It’s a healthy way to eat; it’s not a punishment.

The only way to change a belief is to recognize it, face it, scoff at it, and replace it with another belief. When I think, “If not now, when,” I am able to stop eating when I’m satisfied (not full; that’s a different matter entirely!) and even leave food on my plate. I admit that leaving food uneaten is one of the hardest things I can do, but it’s something I deserve to do for myself. I ask for a to-go box at restaurants if the portions are too large; in that way, I’m not wasting food. It can make another meal for me, and sometimes two more. If something isn’t cooked perfectly, I find it even easier to leave it, now. At a restaurant yesterday, for example, I ordered a Caesar salad with grilled chicken. The outside edges of the chicken were overcooked and dry, so I ate only the three middle strips and left the two outer strips of chicken on my plate. As an afterthought, I offered them to my friend, but I admitted they weren’t very good, and he declined. When the waitress took away the plate with food still left on it, I cheered silently. I was a good girl for leaving food on my plate!

I look for excuses to leave food, now. I have changed my belief system. I believe that leaving food uneaten is something to be celebrated. A good girl doesn’t overeat. A good girl knows when to stop eating. A good girl can reach her goal weight, no matter how many pounds away it seems.

Oh, I weigh myself on Mondays, so here’s this week’s take:

Original weight: 245
Weight last week: 234
Goal weight for this week: 233
Actual weight this week: 230
Goal weight for next week: 229

Total pounds lost: 15

Final goal weight: 150

Sunday, August 1, 2010

"If Not Now, When?" Part II

Tip: As you plan any meal, and even while you eat it, think “If not now, when?”

When I started my blog about my food plan, I referred to the terrific quotation, “If not now, when?” Many sources have been credited with that quotation, including John F. Kennedy; however, the saying appeared in the Talmud, long before President Kennedy’s lifetime, and is attributed to Rabbi Hillel, one of the most influential scholars in Jewish history. See, I warned you that almost nothing in my plan is original; the only originality I claim is that I’ve pulled all the best information together into one source that works for me. I hope it works for others, as well.

Staying in the moment allows me to be conscious of the fact that the time during which I plan a meal and eat it is the only time I can make a difference in my food intake. It took me a while to realize that I could not effectively say, “I’ll start dieting tomorrow,” because, as Little Orphan Annie told us, tomorrow is a day away—always a day away. Now, this moment, is the only time I can, in reality, do anything. This second is all I have. When I think, “If not now, when?” while I prepare food or consume it, I automatically plan healthier, lighter meals than I might have otherwise eaten. Continuing to think, “If not now, when?” even helps me stop eating before I have overeaten. It reminds me to leave even a little bit of food on my plate, which is something I had difficulty doing, in the past.

My excuses for cleaning my plate have been copious and compelling. Born in 1944, less than a decade after The Great Depression lifted, I grew up with parents and grandparents who still vividly recalled the days of shortages and hunger. I suppose they felt comforted that they could feed their children plenty of food. Even if I did not feel hungry, my grandmother commanded, “Eat! The children in Europe are starving.” As a child myself, I could not figure how my eating to the point of discomfort would help children on another continent, but I did as I was told. I was a good, obedient child. I ate.

If I thought I had it bad at home, though, my cousin had it worse. I spent a great deal of time at her house, and her mother had strict table rules: children never left the table until every morsel of food on their plates had been swallowed. No water was served during the meal, lest it use up one cubic centimeter of space in our stomachs that could have otherwise been filled with potatoes and beef. I have memories of my cousin and me in tears, forcing food down our resistant gullets for hours, or so it seemed at the time. I do recall at least one time we left the dinner table stuffed and waddled straight to bed, so much time has passed.

As a result of my upbringing, perhaps, I have always had difficulty eating small meals. Food was supposed to be enjoyed in massive quantities. If, however, I remember, “If not now, when?” as I prepare my meal, I remember to keep the quantities within acceptable limits, and eating every morsel on my plate does not create a problem.

Habits formed in childhood may be difficult to break, but no habit is impossible to break once I set our mind to it (heck, I even kicked the smoking habit thirty years ago; anything else is a piece of cake—whoops, no pun intended). My challenge, therefore, has been to stop eating when I’ve had enough, even if it means leaving food on the plate.

Leaving food on the plate…oh, so hard for me, in the past, but I dare myself to learn to do it, when the portion size I’m served is too large. We’ll talk more about this subject later.