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Saturday, July 31, 2010

It’s a Good Thing

In my last blog entry I talked about never eating after eight o’clock at night. As a result, I sometimes I feel a little hungry by bedtime, which brings me to another tip.

Tip: Whenever you feel hungry at an inappropriate time to eat, tell yourself, “I’m losing weight, which is a good thing.”

How quickly the hunger pains dissipate when I focus on the positive reason why I’m feeling a little peckish! I think about the many people who go to bed truly hungry, while I’ve had a full meal, and I realize I’m being selfish and extravagant; and besides, “I’m losing weight, which is a good thing.”

In the previous section I spoke about eating when I get bored, and I’ve learned that the one sure cure for boredom is doing something interesting that occupies my mind. The same holds true when I’m trying to forget I’m a little hungry. I know one sure thing that banishes my boredom, and that’s writing. If I sit down at my computer, I lose track of time, forget about being slightly hungry, and I do what I love to do.

Do something that interests you, to keep your mind off the little bit of hunger you feel. Remember that not all hunger is a cry for food, so if you’re a writer, stop thinking about your hunger and sit down and write. If you’re a painter, pull out your palette and get to work. If you like to read, open that book you’ve been wanting to start. If you like to chat with friends, pick up the telephone. Whatever you do, occupy your mind for a few minutes, and your hunger will disappear. Hunger is temporary; calories can be enduring.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Eight O’Clock Rule

I will give away tips as I go along with this blog, and I don’t claim that any of them to be original. To create my food plan, I combined all the best knowledge I’ve gained from many sources. I have no idea what those sources were, but they probably didn’t invent the information either. As a result, you may have heard many or all of my tips, but my food plan pools the best into one place. These guidelines worked for me in the past, and when I stopped following them, I gained the weight back. Now that I am applying them daily, though, they are working again. They add up to a sensible way to eat to live, rather than to live to eat.

The other day several people e-mailed me the same list of funny truths circulating on the Internet. The line that stood out for me was this one: “I have a hard time deciphering the fine line between boredom and hunger.” It’s sadly quite true for most of us. When do I mindlessly stuff food into my mouth? When I’m watching TV at night and have nothing better to do with my hands than have them lift hot buttered popcorn to my lips. Air-popped popcorn itself isn’t bad for me, but it tastes like warm Kleenex. I can’t eat it without adding good-tasting stuff, butter-flavored popping oil and kettle corn seasoning (salt and sugar) and buttery seasoning (salt and butter flavor). When I eat popcorn, though, I’m not hungry; I’m bored, and eating becomes oral entertainment.

We’ve established that I stuff my mouth with popcorn when I watch TV, and when does the best TV happen? After eight o’clock at night. As a result of eating a large bowl of popcorn at night, I go to bed feeling bloated and depressed that I’ve sabotaged myself once again.

Tip: Never eat anything after eight o’clock at night.

Once I took the “Never eat anything after eight o’clock” tip to heart, I found it much easier not to crave my nightly popcorn. When the hands of the clock hit eight, food is over, and that’s it. Period. I see the clock as an immutable force that cannot be budged. Oh, sure, I will attend the occasional gathering or dinner party where food isn’t served until late. I accept that sometimes a schedule will be out of my hands, but those occasions are rare. When I am home and the clock hits eight, that’s it. The kitchen is closed.

I’ve read conflicting reports about whether or not food left in the stomach at night is digested slower and therefore goes to fat easier. It doesn’t matter whether it’s true or not. If nothing else, I rest better without a full stomach. Give your stomach time to digest your food before you go to bed, and you’ll rest well, too.

The eight o’clock rule also makes me eat my dinner meal earlier, so I won’t still be eating at eight o’clock. I eat my dinner meal between five and six o’clock, giving my stomach time to digest my food before I hit the sack.

Try this tip; see if it works for you.

I’ll be back with another tip soon. Meanwhile, know that the plan is working. Even though only a couple of weeks have passed, I can already feel a difference in my chin. When I started the food plan, the fat in my chin made reading in bed uncomfortable. My thick neck interfered with my swallowing, at times.

I lose weight from the head down, with my legs showing my weight loss last, so I’m not surprised that the few pounds I’ve lost so far have made my double chin not quite as fat as it was. Each little success breeds more success.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Restaurant Challenge

Bobbie with sisters Go and Jean, May 2010
The Mayo Clinic Web site gives the following tips on adopting a healthy lifestyle:

Control portion sizes and the total number of calories you consume.
Eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Reduce your intake of saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol.
Limit sweets and salt.
Drink alcoholic beverages in moderation, if at all.
Include physical activity in your daily routine, if approved by your doctor.

It sounds simple, doesn’t it? Basically that’s the plan I’m on, too. Yes, people have asked for the details of my food plan, but it’s too lengthy to tell in total in one blog, so you’ll get bits and pieces as I go along. Basically, it’s what I said before and what’s listed in the Mayo Clinic site: More fruits and vegetables, fewer starches, controlled portion sizes, and fewer sugar-laden desserts or snacks.

Today my food challenge involved a free lunch at Carraba’s Italian Grill. I went to a financial seminar, one of the many offered to old farts like me, in hopes that we will entrust our life savings to some stranger who calls himself a financial planner. This seminar, however, promised to explain the advantages of rolling a traditional IRA into a Roth IRA, and I wanted to learn more about that subject. I learned the tax benefits are tremendous. Yes, when I started my IRAs, I was told that the value of a traditional IRA was that the contributions were tax-deductible, and the money in the IRA would be taxed only when I took it out after retirement, when I would be in a lower tax bracket. The problem, however, is that my house is paid off, and I have fewer deductions, and my business is doing well, and I have no intention of retiring fully for a long time, so when I reach the age that I am forced to take distributions, I’ll probably be in a higher tax bracket, not a lower one. At least a Roth IRA doesn’t force you to take deductions. All that stuff is financial mumbo-jumbo and not related to my food plan, however, so I’ll think about it later.

For the moment, my challenge at the restaurant was to choose from the three options available. All were forms of chicken, so that part was good. One was a chopped-chicken-stuffed ravioli with no vegetables. No vegetables? No brainer. Pasta and meat do not make a well-balanced meal. That choice was out. The other two choices both involved grilled chicken and grilled zucchini, but one had a cream sauce with sun-dried tomatoes, and the other featured cheese and mushrooms. I opted for the second one, and when it arrived, I drained most of the cheese from the middle of the chicken and moved it to the side of the plate. I was glad to see the portions were sensible in size, although my intent in restaurants will be always to eat less than is offered, whether or not I take home the leftovers. I ate slowly, so my stomach would fill up. When I finished eating, I had left the cheese, some of the chicken, and a little of the zucchini on the plate. For dessert, participants were given a mini cannoli in a take-away cup. I took mine; I never turn down food, but I haven’t eaten it yet. Later I may taste it and decide whether to eat it a mouthful at a time over the next couple of days. If it’s not wonderful, though, I’ll toss it out. I’m not crazy about mascarpone anyway. It’s defined in the dictionary as “a rich, fatty Italian cream cheese.” I’d rather have rich, fatty ice cream. In small portions, of course. That's the thing about my food plan; I can eat anything at all, but portion size rules.

When I got back home I went online and discovered how many people had read my blog and sent supportive notes through Facebook, cheering me on in my plan to reach a better weight. My heart warmed. Believe me, I pondered the wisdom of going public about my decision to start a food plan. I knew that if I failed in my goal or backslid, everyone would know it. I decided to go public, though, so I would feel the inherent pressure of my peers. In the past few years whenever I started a food plan, I told no one, thinking I wanted to surprise people with my lower weight. Every time I tried that method, though, I surprised only myself with how quickly I lost my motivation and went off the plan.

You, my friends, are helping me pile on the motivation to reach my goals. I need every bit of support, motivation, and encouragement I can get. You are the rails beneath my train, and I appreciate you more than you know.

Speaking of rails, let me get off track for a moment. This morning, despite the orthopedic doctor’s advice to take two Aleve with breakfast, I took only one ibuprofen. I hope to keep my medication level as low as possible. Even so, I felt well enough after lunch to take a side trip to a specialty lighting store, where I hoped to find an attractive replacement for the ugly builder-grade fluorescent light in my kitchen. When I walked into the huge lighting store, two young women sat far in the back, well behind a counter. I approached them, and one of the women stood and walked toward me. I assumed she was coming to help me; instead, she slipped through a side door and disappeared. The other woman remained seated, looked busy. Humph.

I wandered the large store on my own, ducking beneath hundreds of chandeliers and other hanging fixtures, walking and walking, despite my sore knees, before I finally located the fluorescent lighting section in the farthest room at the back. Alas, when I looked at the few meager selections, I had already seen almost everything there at Lowe’s or The Home Depot, and at about half the price. My sore knees and I walked back through showroom after showroom, reached the front of the store, and left, all without anyone even saying “Boo!” Oh, well, chalk that excursion up to “exercise.” Even the Mayo Clinic said to include physical activity in my daily routine.

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!