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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 http://www.minuteclinic.com/newsletter/2011/3/produce/.

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 bzebra@aol.com or Bobbie@zebraeditor.com.

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 http://www.outsmarthormones.com/blog/.

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: www.medicinenet.com/weight_loss/page2.htm

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 http://www.latimes.com/health/la-he-fitness-muscle-myth-20110516,0,7417131.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 http://www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi/. 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. http://www.cbc.ca/health/story/2011/02/14/obesity-knee-osteoarthritis.html

Monday, May 2, 2011

Tip: Suck It Up: There's No Fast Way to Lose Weight!

Ugh. I look at my still-fat belly, and I wish I could go to a doctor and have him or her simply suck out the rest of the fat, so I could get on with life. Liposuction, done in moderation, is allegedly safe, right? Okay, even with all the hoopla surrounding a few deaths as the result of liposuction, wouldn't it be nice to go to sleep and wake up with this fat sucked out of me forever?

Is it forever, though? New studies show that fat sucked out during liposuction comes back in other places in the body, after a year or so, redistributed "upstairs,” mostly in the upper abdomen, but also around the shoulders and triceps. See "With Liposuction, the Belly Finds What the Thighs Lose" at
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/01/weekinreview/01kolata.html.

Oh, heck, this news means I have to keep up my regimen of conscious and careful eating? It means I can't suck down a bowl of chocolates or eat more than one of the lovely tiny French meringues someone brought to my writers seminar Saturday? By the way, I made the woman take the rest of the meringues home with her. They weren't as fattening as many of the other things I could consume, but if I eat sweets, my urge to eat more sweets returns with a vengeance. I do much better to avoid desserts entirely. Fruit, yes. Godiva chocolate and French pastry, no.

I'll say this, though. Even though I have eaten hundreds of salads since starting my food plan nine months ago, I still love them. I vary my salads at home, and I find new and interesting salads when I eat out. If I eat at least one salad for a meal each day, I can at the very least maintain my weight loss. If I eat two or three solid meals, though, I see my weight creep back up.

I don't want my weight to increase; not after all the effort it took to decrease it. By now I've sorted through almost all my clothes, and as a result, I've donated many bags of oversized clothing to charity. It feels good to try something on and see it hang on me like sackcloth. It feels equally good to try on something new and see that it flatters me and doesn't have to be tent-sized, to fit over my body. I also like seeing the clothes go to charity, where they might do someone else some good, until that person, too gets on a food plan and loses weight.

Some of the things I've given away made me a bit sad; a silk suit jacket, for example, that I bought years ago. I found only a few occasions to wear it, so I'm not sure I got my money's worth out of it, but it looks hideous on me now. It deserves a better home than the one I can give it.

Although I have found no easy way to suck out the fat and make it disappear, the day-to-day watching of my food intake has certainly rewarded me a thousandfold, not only in better looks but also in better health. Sunday I attended church for the first time in a long time. A well-known speaker had drawn a huge crowd, though, and the only parking I could find was at the far end of the huge parking lot. I parked, shrugged, and effortlessly strode up the hill to the building. Once inside, I had to walk around the hall to the front of the building, climb up the stairs to the sanctuary, and walk around the large sanctuary to a seat toward the front. When I sat down, I said a little "thank you" to God, because had I made that trek last July, but I would have been winded and in severe pain by the time I arrived in my seat. Instead, I felt absolutely fine, and I was in the right place to remember where I get my strength. Funny thing, though. When I said, "Thank you, God," I heard a still small voice whisper, "Thank you, Bobbie."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tip: Watch Out for the Dieter’s Dilemma!

I’m at the stage in my weight-loss program when my loss has not only slowed to a crawl but sometimes backs up, and I have to spend a few days taking off a pound or two that I put on. At this stage, it’s harder than ever to stick to a food plan, because I’m not getting the reward and excitement of seeing the needle on the scale dropping. The urge is strong to say, “That’s it; that’s all I’m gonna lose. I may as well eat that ___.” Fill in the blank with a high-calorie food—I’m faced with plenty of them.

I keep running up against what I call “The Dieter’s Dilemma.” In the past, when each week I saw progress in my weight loss, I could easily refuse something calorie-laden. Now that I have little to no new losses to cheer about, I’m tempted to splurge on calories. Here’s a perfect example. About two weeks ago, my sister and I went to a restaurant after bowling. We smartly ordered one meal to share. When the server made a mistake on our order, though, she fixed it and added that the owner wanted to apologize by giving us a free flan for dessert. Dessert? I haven’t had a dessert, other than fruit, in months. Flan? Egg custard? Are you kidding me? Flan is one of my all-time favorite desserts on earth. No, the whole universe. A few months ago, I would have been able to refuse it, but not when I’m no longer losing pounds every month. The fresh, jiggly, mouth-watering flan came out on a dish with a large dollop of whipped cream, my other most favorite treat in the whole world. Fortunately my sister and I shared the dessert, so neither of us consumed all the calories, but we both had plenty, and I practically licked the plate clean.

Last week we went to another of our favorite restaurants, and during our conversation with the server, we mentioned how many times we go to that restaurant. At the end of our meal, as a thank-you from the owner, the server offered us another free dessert. What gives? When I was fat as a slaughter-ready hog, no one gave me free desserts, and that’s when I would have snorted them down without hesitation, happy as a pig in sugar.

What the heck, we said, bring on the key lime pie. Perhaps as some sort of offering to the calorie gods, however, this time my sister and I tacitly left the last couple of bites on the plate. Maybe we’re getting better.

Oh, and if free dessert isn’t a dieter’s dilemma, how about Passover, when one plate after another came out, this past Monday night. We’re also supposed to drink several glasses of wine, too. I did manage to sip only one tiny glass of wine and turn down some of the dishes of food and all the desserts, but I left my brother and sister-in-law’s house with a full belly, anyway. Yes, we Jews love any holiday that involves eating. On the bright side, my sister-in-law cooked fewer dishes this year and made sure they were low-calorie, because she’s on a food plan now, too.

My current mission involves fighting the dieter’s dilemma. I must remember to say “no” to free food, free dessert, second helpings, and other tempting treats that undo all the hard work I’ve performed so that I can fit into normal-sized clothes. I keep looking in the mirror to remind myself how much better I look, and it would be a shame to ruin what I’ve accomplished. Every time I leap up from the sofa without having to rock, balance, and groan, I remember how much healthier I am, too. Each time I run up the stairs, I recall how I used to climb up them painfully, one step at a time, and could barely drag the groceries up the stairs into the kitchen. No flan or key lime pie or plate of anything ever tasted as good as being healthy feels, and if I don’t lose another ounce, at least I’m determined not to go back to my unhealthy weight.

Truth be told, I’m still at a less-than-desirable weight, so I’m not abandoning my quest to lose more weight. I do, however, accept that fact that it will take longer than I hoped. Even if I don’t lose any more weight, knowing that I’m still trying to do so will keep me from turning loose of my self-control and forgetting all I’ve learned on my journey toward obtaining a healthier body.

With the support of my readers and my own mental discipline, the next time someone says, “Free dessert,” I’ll say, “That’s the dieter’s dilemma, but no, thank you.”

Monday, April 4, 2011

Tip: Get Off the Sofa!


I went to the gym today. No big deal, you say? Not so. I’ve had to meet deadlines with my editing projects and had appointments and been tempted by other diversions and have come up with any other excuse possible not to go to the gym for at least two weeks. This morning, though, I couldn’t come up with a single excuse. I’ve met all my pressing deadlines. I have no trips planned for the week. I have no appointments scheduled with my doctor, my dog’s doctor, or the optometrist, unlike most of my days, lately. The weather also offered no hindrance, being sunny, dry, and warm out. I had run out of excuses.

Off I went to the gym. A sign on the door says, “Know that getting here is half the battle.” I had won the first half of the battle; I was there.

I climbed onto the recumbent bike, told it to give me a good workout, and began pedaling. Whoa! Within a couple of minutes the muscles in my legs screamed at me, “You can’t put us through such torture!” What? Two weeks ago I pedaled for twenty minutes with no problem, and now I’m tired after three minutes? That’s what happens when you slack off from working out. I pushed myself to fifteen minutes, anyway. It helped that I could watch the Comedy Channel and some really funny comic, whose name I never managed to get. When he quit, so did I. On wobbly legs, I moved on to the machines, but not without a little bitterness. The darned bike not only tells me my heart rate, how long I’ve been pedaling, and how “far” I’ve gone, it also tells me how many calories I’ve used. Fifteen minutes of pressing those pedals burned a meager fifty calories. To put those calories in perspective, a cup of raw carrots is fifty-two calories. I had not even burned off a cup of carrots!

Resentful that I’d expended only fifty calories while pedaling my heart out, I moved from machine to machine, working out every possible muscle in the human body for more than an hour. Next I slipped into a bathing suit, slid into the pool, and performed fifteen minutes of water aerobics and swimming.

Next came my reward: the spa, the hot tub, or whatever you want to call it. Hot water sprayed through jets that massage my weary muscles. What could be better? I had time to think about calories while I soaked. I keep saying I don’t count calories, but I keep them in mind on my food plan. I know that any time I reduce the calorie count of a meal, I’m doing a good thing, but really, until I watched how few calories my body burns, despite what I consider hard exercise, I realize why losing weight is so darned difficult. It also explains why I absolutely have to get exercise that burns off calories; otherwise, my body stores every calorie I take in and don’t use, and what do we call that storage system? Fat. Yup, big globs of fat. Every roll of flab on my body constitutes hundreds of calories I consumed and didn’t expend.

I came home feeling stronger, happier, and upbeat. I promised myself I’ll get to the gym more often. No excuses!

Yeah, right. Next time I get to the gym, it will be because I fought my own demons and excuses and forced myself to go again. Maybe I should dangle a cup of carrots in front of myself.

Starting weight: 245
Weight last week: 189
Weight this week: 189
Total pounds lost: 56
Goal weight: 150

Monday, March 28, 2011

Tip: Don’t Fall Prey to False Weight-Loss Claims


I can understand why people who want to lose weight fall prey to all sorts of advertising that claims to make weight loss easier, faster, or devoid of hunger or cravings. Yeah, I wish. The truth is this: weight loss requires self-determination, conscious eating, portion control, and consistency, and it’s not easy, not fast, and not without moments of hunger, cravings, urgings, and even backslides. I know. I’ve been there, done it all.

This week I’m pleased to report that I finally, at last, have met the mini goal I originally set for New Year’s Eve or before. I not only met it, but I beat it. I wanted to weight 190 by New Year’s, but it didn’t happen. I reset my deadline several times, and I still didn’t meet it. Today when I stepped on the scale, it rose only to 189. Praise the heavens! Raise a flag! It took me three months longer than I expected, but I met that mini goal.

How did I do it? Not by any fads, pills, products, expensive plans, or any of the other things designed to make people lose weight by lightening their wallets. I did it with sensible eating, the type described in my blog for months: lots of vegetables and fruits, limited starches, and portion-controlled protein.

Yes, fruit in general is quite good for us, although oranges have a high sugar content and should be consumed in moderation, as should its juice. That said, don’t fall for any scam that says drinking a specific juice or taking a pill made from some juice or other product is all you have to do to lose weight.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest recently released a consumer warning that urged people not to fall prey to acai-berry-based products. It stated, "There's no evidence whatsoever to suggest that açai pills will help shed pounds, flatten tummies, cleanse colons, enhance sexual desire, or perform any of the other commonly advertised functions." For the full article, see http://scienceblogs.com/obesitypanacea/2010/05/acai_berry_scam_exposed_we_cal.php.

On the non-weight-loss side, I was thrilled to see that one of my hand-painted shirts showed up in the Greenville News, on the body of Rickey Godfrey, a musician originally from Greenville, who lives in Nashville now. It’s good to take my mind off weight loss and editing, the two subjects that consume me most of the time, and do something creative and fun, like painting shirts. Maybe the distraction helped me get back on my weight-loss track. Who knows? As my grandmother would have said, “It didn’t hurt.”

Starting weight: 245
Weight last week: 191
Weight this week: 189
Total pounds lost: 56
Goal weight: 150

Monday, March 21, 2011

Tip: Watch your food environment


“The food environment is overriding all the biological cues,” said Kelly Brownell, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale, who blames what he calls a “toxic food environment” for the prevalence of obesity. He added, “Biological safeguards against weight gain are being disabled, almost like someone went in and changed all the wiring.”

For full article, read “People offered snacks will eat them, whether hungry or not.”
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/08/health/nutrition/08eat.html?_r=2&ref=health

Sure, I read all that information and more, yet I soiled my own food environment, and the results almost devastated me. If you’ve been following my blog, you know my weight loss slowed down to a halt lately. I kept telling myself not to get discouraged; plateaus are common for those who want to lose weight.

What I didn’t do was examine absolutely everything that had changed. I hadn’t been honest with myself, and now I will be honest with myself and my readers: I changed my food environment. It happened subtly. First, I felt great about losing more than fifty pounds. I loved my new look and my new clothes. I felt a great accomplishment, and then ever so quietly, a whisper in my ear was saying, “You did so well, you deserve to have a little fun. Take a break. You earned it.”

While at a big-box store, I saw a bag (big, of course) of pistachios. What has TV been saying about pistachios? Lowest in fat of all the nuts. What have nutritionists been saying? Eat more nuts; people who eat nuts live longer. Nuts have good fats in them that we need. Bingo! I put the bag of pistachios in my shopping cart and strolled farther down the aisle. Hm. Dark-chocolate-covered almonds. A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing. “Almonds are another nut that’s good for you. Dark chocolate is good for you,” I told myself. “You can have those. You’ve done so well; you’ve earned them,” the devil on my shoulder said. The container (huge, of course) of chocolate-covered almonds made its way into my cart. By then I’m amazed I didn’t buy my real downfall: popcorn. It’s the one food I love above all else, with plenty of butter and salt, of course. At least I bypassed the popcorn and left the store with only two shopping errors, but they were major.

For a normal person a bag of pistachios and container of chocolate-covered almonds would have been fine, but I’m not a normal person. In seven days, I’d eaten every pistachio in the bag. I took to eating five to ten chocolate-covered almonds after a meal, as well. Now you know the truth about my “plateau.” It had nothing to do with normal weight-loss programs and everything to do with my food environment and inability to resist treats that I made available to myself. To make matters worse, once in the mindset that a few chocolate-covered almonds are okay, I saw myself taking larger portions of food than I needed, too. Something had to stop, and finally, it did. Why? Because I actually gained weight. Duh. Surprise? My weight went up three pounds, and I heard myself shout, “No!”

A psychiatrist friend once told me she gets her patients to stop negative thinking by yelling “Stop!” Saying it out loud makes clients hear themselves and recast their thinking in a more positive way. My yelling “No!” from my bathroom scale made me hear myself clearly. I could not let my potentially harmful behavior continue.

Back on the bandwagon I jumped, back to proper food portions, back to salads and no second helpings of anything. Ever. The pistachios are gone, eaten, digested, and the shells thrown away. I can’t undo what I did. The remaining chocolate-covered almonds, however, I put into a cabinet, out of sight, in a place that’s not easy to reach. I need to slow myself down before I eat, think, and be conscious of what enters my mouth. Again. That’s what I’m doing.

Because of my fall from the wagon, I have still not met my goal of weighing 190, which I had hoped to meet by New Year’s Eve. I reset that mini goal several times, but guess what: I’m going to make it, now. I have only one more pound to go, and I’ll be there, and then I’ll set another mini goal, and another and another, until I reach my overall goal.

On the bright side, I easily lost the three pounds I’d gained, once I climbed back aboard the food-plan wagon. I changed my food environment and left nothing to tempt me. It’s amazing how I could so easily justify my wrong food choices in so many ways. I can’t let that happen again.

Starting weight: 245
Weight last check-in: 191
Weight this week: 191
Total pounds lost: 54
Goal weight: 150

Monday, March 7, 2011

Tip: Remember the Reason for the Food Plan


This past week I had a blast decorating T-shirts for a musician who likes to wear unique shirts on stage. I used to date the guy—Rickey Godfrey—years ago, and although he’s married now, we have remained good friends for almost thirty years. When we dated back in the 1980s and 1990s, I made him a few unique shirts that he’s never forgotten, so recently, when he asked for more, my creative juices started flowing again. I pulled out my old fabric paints, some of them twenty or more years old, and tested them. It came as no surprise that most were dried out and useless. Off to a hobby shop to find new paints! Wow! The colors are more copious now and priced better than they used to be. I also grabbed some unusual brushes and applicators. Loaded with my new finds, I drove home and went to work on a few shirts I’d garnered from a thrift shop at a good price. No sense in buying new shirts, in case I messed them up, right? I’d have to wash the shirts before I painted them, anyway, so why not buy them pre-washed, as long as they were in good condition?

The first shirt I decorated fit me perfectly. Uh-oh; that meant it would be too small for Rickey. Guess I’ll have to keep it. I checked the sizes on the next few, to make sure at least four would fit him, and then I dived into the process, loving every minute of it. Most of the decorations took several hours of drying between layers of paint, so I had shirts spread all over the house, on tables, on counters, and even on the floor. All around me lay examples of my creative efforts, and it felt good. When I finished, I took photos of all the shirts, before I packed the four to send to Rickey. I hope he likes them as much as I do. I told his wife to send them back to me, if she or he doesn’t like them. I’ll find them a good home, I’m sure.

It’s good to take time off from my regularly scheduled life to do something that frees me and sends me in a new direction. For a while I took art classes, simply to have something to do that didn’t have anything to do with writing and editing. I spend most of my time writing and editing, and I feared I could burn out. I burned out on painting, however, and haven’t touched brush to canvas in a couple of years.
Maybe T-shirts will be my new outlet for a while. If I can just think of a place where I could market them…

Back to the subject at hand, my food plan. It was time for a reality check. My weight loss had slowed to a crawl (and sometimes a halt), but I still had more than forty pounds to lose to reach my goal. I used all sorts of things to comfort myself and remind myself that weight loss should be slow, if we want it to be permanent and that weight loss slows down after you’ve lost the first pounds (in my case more than fifty of them). All that information is true; however, I haven’t been as diligent about my portion sizes and selections, and I feel guilty when anyone compliments me on my weight loss, because I still have so far to go. What conflict!

Yes, it’s time I admit to myself that I can’t eat a big handful of pistachio nuts, several nights in a row, without having negative consequences when I step on the scale. I’ve slacked off and fallen back into my old habit of eating too much, eating when I’m not hungry, and eating higher-calorie foods at times. As long as I’m facing reality, I admit I’ve worked out less, too.

It’s human nature to slack off after an accomplishment, and losing more than fifty pounds is a huge accomplishment. The problem, however, is that I have forty more to lose, and with my body shape and type, I can’t ever slack off for long. Those pounds leap out of thin air and attach themselves to my waist, hips, stomach, and butt, if I don’t watch out. They’re lurking around every corner, waiting for me to drop my guard, and drop my guard I have. It’s a wonder I haven’t actually gained weight, to tell the truth.

I probably haven’t gained weight because I’m still doing my best to make one meal a day a salad, and that action alone has counteracted my relaxed eating habits at other meals. I have had to rededicate myself several times over the past seven months, and today I rededicate myself again. It’s so darned hard to stay motivated for the length of time it takes to lose almost one hundred pounds, which is what I’ve needed to lose to reach a healthy weight.

On the bright side, despite all my slipping, cheating, and overeating, I have lost another pound. I have reset my mini goal of reaching 190 several times, and I’m determined to meet it this time, by March 15.

Now I simply have to remember why I went on this food plan to begin with. I absolutely must remember the pain I felt when I walked up or down stairs. The volume of medicine I had to take to lower my blood pressure and cholesterol. I must remember how I saw Jabba the Hut sitting on the side of my bed, only to discover it was my reflection in the mirror. I have to look at the nifty, pretty, medium-sized blouses I’m wearing now, instead of the size 22-24 I had to wear before. I have to remember what fun it is to buy clothes in regular stores and not have to look for plus sizes. I have to remember what fun it is to breathe and tie my shoes at the same time. Yes, I used to have to hold my breath, because all my fat squished my lungs into stillness when I bent over. I swear I will remember these things the next time I have the urge to eat more than my body needs.

Starting weight: 245
Weight last check-in: 192
Weight today: 191
Total pounds lost: 54
Goal weight: 150
Mini goal: 190 by March 15

Friday, March 4, 2011

Tip: Limes: The Forgotten Fruit


First to answer the questions foremost in people’s minds: where have I been lately? Why haven’t I written a blog entry in more than a week?

Answer: I took a short drive to the Greenville, S.C., area, and in two days I shifted my entire business focus. I visited a long-time, brilliant friend who just sold her business and is taking a course in Internet marketing. Together we looked at my business website (http://www.zebraeditor.com/), and Rocky pointed out dozens of things I could and should improve. We worked for hours on ways to add more value to my website, reach more people, and help writers even more than I already do. We both came away so excited that she plans to upgrade my website for me as her first class project. Exhilarating as it is, it also has meant a great deal of work and copious communication between us. Forgive my absence from this blog. Accept that I’m here today, reporting in, albeit late.

In my prior entry, I mentioned how much I’ve fallen in love with limes, a fruit few people consider, and let me say the love affair continues. When servers ask for my drink order, I try to remember to ask, “Do you have limes? If so, I’d like water with lime.” Invariably my lunch partners follow suit, and all agree that lime in our water tastes ten times better than lemon. I make sure I squeeze every bit of that precious juice into my water before I drink it.

I squeeze limes on top of my salad dressing to extend it and make it burst with flavor while adding very few calories. Limejuice poured onto steamed vegetables has to be the most appetizing and lowest-calorie way to consume healthy, delicious foods. I should dig deeper and find even more uses for limes, and if you have some, let me know.

When I looked up the content of lime, all the figures were based on one cup of the juice. I barely use a tablespoon at a time, not a cup, but still, now I know that a cup of lime juice contains only 60 calories. I’m not a mathematician, but that figure extrapolates into only a few calories per tablespoonful. Limejuice also contains the following vitamins and minerals:

Vitamin A
Beta Carotene
Vitamin C
Vitamin D
Vitamin E
Vitamin K
Thiamin
Riboflavin
Niacin
Vitamin B6
Folate
Choline
Betaine
Calcium
Iron
Magnesium
Phosphorus
Potassium
Sodium
Zinc
Copper
Selenium

When I read the labels for any “reduced-calorie” salad dressing, the product usually contains more water and salt than the equivalent “regular” salad dressing. Many reduced-calorie foods have added sugar and salt to make up for the fact that the added water literally waters down the taste. Ugh. Instead, I use regular (tasty) dressing, but use slightly less of it. After I add the dressing and before I mix up my salad, I squeeze on the juice of half a lime, which spreads out the dressing so it covers all the greens, and the taste explodes in my mouth. Love it! I'm adding vitamins and minerals, too. How many vitamins and minerals would water add?

To lose weight I eat quite a few salads, often one a day for extended periods. How bored I would get if they all tasted bland, dry, or worse, bitter! Lime solves everything. It makes the flavor of everything in my salad bowl taste better, especially the avocado. Don’t get me started on avocado, though. I’ll have to talk about those dear things in another blog, because I might talk all day, otherwise.

Meanwhile, forgive me for not checking in with everyone for a while. I feel disappointed in myself that I failed to meet my latest mini goal of 190 by the end of February. This is the second time I’ve failed to meet my mini goal of 190. My weight loss has slowed way down, but I’m still moving in the right direction, and I’m still reaping compliments from friends. Best of all, I feel great, and it feels good to feel good.

Starting weight: 245
Weight last check-in: 193
Weight this week: 192
Total pounds lost: 54
Goal weight: 150
New mini goal: 190 by March 15

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tip: An Apple a Day Is Not a Cliché


A grapefruit almost the size of a dinner plate?

Lately I’ve encountered an overwhelming urge to eat more fruit, an urge I can indulge myself in. I no longer crave cookies, cakes, pies, and candy, even though I do eat a piece of chocolate now and then, but nowhere near the volume of sugar-laden desserts I used to eat. Fruit has natural sugars that satisfy my taste buds, and fruit is also loaded with nutrients and fiber. I say “yes” to fruit, and I enjoy exploring all the fruitful possibilities.

A few weeks ago I bought something called a pomello. I’d never seen the fruit before. It looked like overinflated grapefruit, perhaps a cross between a grapefruit and a basketball. I took pictures of it, because I wanted to show how large it was. When I cut it open, the sections were uneven, sloppy, more unpredictable than a grapefruit. I suspected it might taste like grapefruit, but I had no idea it would taste so deliciously sweet. Eating half a pomello was like eating a whole grapefruit sprinkled with sugar, but I didn’t add any sweetener. Delicious! Pomello, it turns out, is a forerunner to the grapefruit, rather than a hybrid, and it’s popular in other countries, but only recently imported into America.

Perhaps because I could not eat grapefruit all the years I was on cholesterol-lowering statins, I’ve had a craving for grapefruit. My cholesterol is once again within recommended levels, so I’ve stopped taking statins and started eating grapefruit (and grapefruit-related fruit) again and loving it.

Is juice as good as fruit? Not usually. I read on the WebMD.com site that apple juice is overloaded with sugar and should be avoided, although apples themselves are a perfect snack.

In general eating the fruit is almost always better for you than drinking the juice from the fruit, because the juice eliminates the vital fiber, plus you’re likely to drink more juice than a single fruit would have, so it would be like eating several apples or several oranges, adding calories to your intake without adding fiber. The one juice that is actually better than the fruit is red grape juice, because it is made from the whole grape, skins, seeds and all, giving you more antioxidants than you’d get from eating the fruit without eating the seeds.

Orange wedges offer even more benefits, not only for the fiber, nutrients, and vitamin C of oranges, but also because eating a few orange wedges curbs my hunger. I love to eat slices of orange for a midday snack.

I have also fallen in love with lime. I order it instead of lemon with my water in restaurants, even though not all restaurants have limes. I also buy limes in quantity and use them in several ways. Primarily I use limes to extend my salad dressings. Lower-fat salad dressings are usually lower in flavor yet higher in cost and often higher in sugar than high-fat dressings. Some of those “low-fat” dressings are simply diluted with water, yet the price can be higher for less of the pure product. My favorite dressing is regular high-fat honey mustard dressing. I measure two tablespoons for my salad and then squeeze half a lime onto the salad. I pull out the pulp and add it to the salad as well. The lime juice expands the liquid of the salad dressing, so it covers all the greens, and it enhances the flavor of the salad. I love biting into a bit of the tart/sweet lime pulp amid my greens, carrots, and avocado.

I squeeze lime juice on my steamed broccoli, too, and it’s yummy. No butter or salt necessary.

My only problem with fruit is that it must be eaten relatively quickly, or it spoils, but apples tend to be the exception. They keep a long time in my refrigerator, so it’s easy to keep a few apples on hand for that snack attack, so I won’t attack something more fattening.

At my weigh-in yesterday I hadn’t lost any weight this week, but I’m still on track to meet my mini goal by the end of February, so I’m not worried. I especially love the feel of my muscles and body these days, now that I’m working out more diligently and more often. Yes, underneath all this fat is a truly buff Bobbie!

Starting weight: 245
Weight last week: 193
Goal weight for this week: 192
Actual weight this week: 193
Total pounds lost: 53
Goal weight: 150
Mini goal: 190 by February 28

Monday, February 7, 2011

Tip: Flattery Feels Good; Use It To Stay On Track


It’s been a better week for me. I’m over my cold enough that I could work out again and walk more often and farther with the dog without succumbing to coughing fits or the need to blow my nose. I enjoyed getting back to the gym after being absent for almost two weeks, but the first day, I wasn’t able to complete my full routine. I still felt run down.

Two days later, yesterday, though, I got myself to the gym ready for a serious workout. I rode the bike longer than usual for a warm up. I walked over to the weight-based equipment and pushed myself for more repetitions than ever on each machine. I even went back to a few of the machines and started again, more than doubling my usual repetitions. I spent more time than ever on the abs equipment. I need to continue to reduce the fat around my middle and tone up my abdominal muscles.

I next went to the locker room to change into a bathing suit, and on a whim, I pulled an old suit out of the bottom of my bag. I haven’t worn it in ages, because it has always been tight on me. Yesterday it not only fit well, but it also emphasized my boobs by pulling them together and showing a little cleavage through an open panel down the front. I laughed at my image, because I usually have what my brother-in-law calls “clea,” not enough to be considered cleavage.

I thought about a book I’m reading on how differently the sexes think. It emphasized that men are wired to size up a woman by her appearance, no matter how much we women may protest that we want to be loved for our brains and our character. Men see large boobs, small noses, a good hips-to-waist ratio, and shapely legs as the most important attributes a woman can have. I looked in the mirror at my body. Ha! I have almost no waist, compared to my hips; I’ve always looked more like a fireplug than an hourglass. I have a Jewish nose, cottage-cheese thighs, and boobs that are farther apart than the two sides on the Middle East peace talks, but at least that old, faded, formerly too-small suit smashed my boobs together and gave me cleavage. I sighed and thanked elastic for the assistance. I wasn’t on my way to a fashion show; I was on my way to swim.

In the pool I swam for twenty minutes without taking a break, and but when I glanced over at the hot tub, my usual reward for being a good girl and working out, four men were in it having a lively conversation. I decided to wait them out. My ideal situation is to have the hot tub to myself, so I can back up to the strong jets for a quiet bubble massage. I didn’t want to hear those men’s conversation or get involved in it. Conversation isn’t easy over the noise of the jets, and I prefer to be silent and relax after a workout. To wait out the males, I stayed in the pool and did water aerobic exercises for another ten minutes. At last three of the men left the hot tub. I figured the fourth one wouldn’t be far behind, so I waddled my fireplug-shaped, cottage-cheese-riddled body over to the hot tub for my reward and quiet time.

The remaining guy nodded recognition of my presence when I stepped in. I nodded back, but otherwise ignored him and went to my favorite spot in front of one of the strongest jets in the pool. I slid into the hot water, closed my eyes, and released an uninhibited sigh of relief and ecstasy as the bubbles rolled up my back like warm fingers massaging my well-worked muscles. Through the sound of the bubble jets I heard the guy say something.

“Feels good, don’t it?” he had said.

“Yes, like a massage,” I agreed. I opened my eyes. He wasn’t looking at my face. He was looking at my cleavage. Men!

“Would you like a massage?” he asked, still glancing lower than my chin. [Man talk for “I’d love to get my hands on those tits.”]

I glimpsed at him again. Fit, probably in his late forties, early fifties, with a large but faded tattoo on his arm of a dog holding heavy dumbbells. Apparently he had been lifting weights for years.

Because we were sitting on a bench, the water hit us both at nipple height. His chest was smooth, tight, and hairless, the way I like a man’s chest, and he had a tan, even though it was early February. His eyes twinkled, and he had a charming smile, but all those physical attributes were canceled out by the fact that he had said “Feels good, don’t it?” I can’t tolerate poor English. Women!

What a quandary! The man had offered me a free massage. I love massages, and with his strong muscles, he would probably give me a good, strong massage, but should I say yes to a complete stranger, and in a hot tub? My mind went a mile a minute. First I felt flattered; so few men flirt with a woman who is overweight and in her sixties. I had evolved, worked on my body, improved it a great deal, even if I had much further to go, and as a result, a man was flirting with me. Flattered. Next, though, I felt insulted. He had no interest in my mental acuity, my character, my skills as an editor, my accomplishments as an entrepreneur. All he could see was my cleavage, which took precedence over all else, and it was falsely created by wearing a suit with a peek-a-boo panel. Lastly, I felt a little afraid. What if I let him rub my shoulders? Would his hands stray to my cleavage? That’s all he seemed interested in, anyway. How should I respond? I answered in an indirect way and said, “I don’t think that’s a part of what this gym has to offer.” [Woman talk for “I’m saying no, but in a way that won’t offend you.”]

He grinned and dropped his head coyly, but he didn’t pursue the issue. Instead he asked, “Do you work out with anybody?” [Man talk for “Are you available?”]

“I usually come alone, although I sometimes join friends,” I answered. “I’m used to doing things alone.” [Woman talk for “Yes, I’m available.”] I’m human; I couldn’t resist his flirtations completely.

“I saw you swimming. I swam for twelve years when I hurt my back and couldn’t lift weights, but I’m better now.” [Man talk for “I’m virile and ready to stand at stud.”]

“I noticed your tattoos. You must be a weightlifter.” [Woman talk for “I can see that you are virile and strong.”]

He lifted his well-endowed bicep and pointed to the vicious-looking dog. “Yeah, I’ve had this tattoo so long the dog’s turned into a poodle.” [Man talk for “I’m old enough for you, babe, and I can be gentle, like a poodle. You’ll love it.”]

I responded, “Hey, I have a poodle, and when you have a poodle, you’re never alone.” [Woman talk for “Love me, love my dog.”]

“I like dogs.” [Man talk for “I’ll tolerate your little yap-yap if it gets me what I want.”] He giggled and added, “I don’t know what happened, but since you walked into this hot tub, my shorts started acting up.” [Man talk for “I have gotten an erection from looking at your breasts.”]

“I know,” I answered. “My suit fills with air, too.” [Woman talk for “I don’t want to know about your darned erection; keep that information to yourself.”]

He blatantly glared at my bosom, grinned sheepishly, and said, “Those ain’t air. I can tell they’re real.” [Man talk for exactly what he said, without any regard for or knowledge of the fact that he has insulted the woman.] He then stood, raising his body out of the water and displaying the vast difference between the broad width of his shoulders and the narrowness of his waist. [The male display/mating dance.] He adjusted his waistband and sat back down.

Although shocked that he would say something so blatant about my boobs, I laughed inwardly at what turned out to be a typical male. After his display, if I stood, he’d see that I have almost no waistline. He’d see me for the blubbered Bobbie that I am. I didn’t stand. [The female attempt at hiding anything that isn’t an asset.]

We talked a little more; I learned he’s a bricklayer, which explained the tan. He learned almost nothing about me; men fail to ask personal questions when their focus is strictly on cleavage. He finally rose and left the hot tub, saying he enjoyed talking to me, and I was left to relax into the harmless bubble massage I had earned.

My point is this: I have mixed feelings all the time about my looks. I want people to like me for my other assets. My looks have never been my strong suit, so I resent when people rely on looks alone. People do judge us by our looks, however, and even as I resent it, I have noticed I’m treated better by store clerks and bank tellers and other service people when my body shape is more in line with the accepted standard. When I blow up into a balloon and have difficulty walking, I’m treated less well. I even have a harder time returning items at a store.

I’m losing weight for my health, but the weight loss has other benefits as well, even if it’s an odd, awkward encounter in a hot tub with a man interested in only one thing. At my age, I‘ll take whatever flattery I can get.

The latest news on the weight-loss front is that I’m well on my way to my next mini goal of weighing 190 by the end of February. I’m down by two pounds this week.

Starting weight: 245
Weight last week: 194
Goal weight for this week: 193
Actual weight this week: 192
Total pounds lost: 53
Goal weight: 150
Mini goal: 190 by February 28

Monday, January 31, 2011

Tip: Cut restaurant meals in half

Maybe you noticed that I haven’t made a blog entry in a couple of weeks. I don’t even remember my reason (or excuse) for not blogging two weeks ago, but probably the truth is that it’s discouraging to keep reporting the same weight, and last week I had not made any weight-loss progress in a while.


I’ve also been sick for a week. I came down with an icky, bothersome cold, which made everything more difficult. My throat hurt and my sinuses were stuffy, my lungs congested, and my eyes watery. The last item, the watery eyes, made work challenging, because I make my living editing book-length manuscripts, and I had trouble seeing. I didn’t get much of anything done this past week, to tell the truth, except that once I was able to sleep, I slept in stretches as long as ten hours at a time, curled up with a heating pad on my chest, to help me breathe. It hasn’t been fun.

Today I feel almost normal again, though, and even joined a friend for lunch. Deb said she enjoys seeing tidbits of our conversations come out in my blog. She’s been a big winner when it comes to losing weight, so I listen to her tips and pass them on. She knows her stuff.

Today Deb and I split a meal and still had food left over to carry home. Restaurants in America serve oversized portions. No wonder Americans are overweight. I like to share my meal with a friend or take at least half of it home to eat later. Some folks have said it’s hard for them to stop eating once they start, so they ask for a carry-out container to be brought with the meal. When the food is served, these people cut the meal in half, put half in the carry-out container, and then eat the other half. That’s one way to ensure you don’t overeat. I don’t use that technique, but I do keep zippered plastic bags in my purse at all times, to help me take food home and keep myself from overeating.

Portion control is everything! I eat what I want, but I keep the portions sensible. I even ate a little bread and butter with the meal today, but only a little bit. Warm, fresh bread is a treat, and if I didn’t treat myself now and then, I might splurge on something that would go right to my tush and thighs.

Oh, I have to share another experience at lunch today. After eating, I went to the restroom, but when I went to pull down my pants, they wouldn’t budge. I experienced a moment of shock. Why wouldn’t my pants slide down? It finally occurred to me that for the first time in ten or twelve years, I was wearing a pair of slacks that had a zipper and a button at the waist instead an elastic waistband. I chuckled, unbuttoned, unzipped, and went about my business, but when I went back to the table, I had to tell Deb (and now the world) about not being able to pull my pants down. I’m wearing the first pair of non-stretch pants, the first non-elastic waistband, in a decade or more. That fact spells progress to me, even if I’ve lost only one pound in the last three weeks.

When I’m at the meat counter, I often pick up a one-pound package of ground beef and feel the weight in my hand, just to remind myself that one pound is still a significant amount of weight. Last week I saw a forty-five-pound bag of birdseed at a great price, but I didn’t buy it, because I couldn’t lift it. Yes, I couldn’t lift a bag that weighed less than the amount of weight I’ve lost, yet for years I carried that weight and more around on my back, knees, and feet. No wonder my body parts protested!

Here’s this week’s report, and I can proudly point to another pound gone.

Starting weight: 245
Weight last week: 195
Goal weight for this week: 194
Actual weight this week: 194
Total pounds lost: 51
Goal weight within next three weeks: 192
Goal weight: 150
Mini goal: 190 by February 28

Monday, January 17, 2011

Tip: Low-Carb and Low-Fat Both Win when It Comes to Losing

Snowbound!

In the “battle of the diets,” both low-carb and low-fat diets win, when it comes to losing. A two-year study paid for by the National Institutes of Health and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that the low-carb diet had a slight health edge, however. While both plans resulted in similar changes in total cholesterol, blood pressure, percentage of body fat, and bone density, the dieters in the low-carb group had about two times better improvements in their good (HDL) cholesterol than people in the low-fat group. Read the whole article at http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/weightloss/2010-08-03-battleofthediets03_ST_N.htm.

I never felt an affinity for the low-fat plan, because it involves too much caloric restriction and often calls for foods I don’t find tasty. I must admit that a little fat on my meat, a little butter in my oatmeal, a little fat-filled dressing on my salads all give my taste buds the lift they need to keep me satisfied with my meal. I’ve followed the low-carb plan, therefore, primarily avoiding starches. For six months, now, I’ve spurned or eaten only small quantities of white rice, white potatoes, pasta, bread, and sugar.

Both low-fat and low-carb group in the test kept food diaries. A food diary is something I use when I start a plan, but I let it fall by the wayside at times. When I do, the fat stops falling off. That darned diary is a godsend to me. It not only reminds me not to snack on bad things, because I have to write down every item that goes down my gullet, but it also gives me a record to review, if I see my weight at a standstill or rising. I can read my food diary and see what I changed. Did I add a new item that might be tipping the scales in a bad direction? Did I skip breakfast too often? Breakfast is a downfall for me; I forget it often, and it’s important to set my metabolism for the day by eating something in the morning. Even as I write this blog entry, it’s quarter past eleven, and I forgot breakfast again. Darn it!

Both groups in the study also exercised regularly, starting slowly and adding more exercise per week. Exercise. Ha! This week has been a true challenge to me, when it comes to exercise. Atlanta had a record snowfall eight days ago, followed by freezing rain that added a layer of dangerous ice to the roads and made my steep, curving, shaded driveway impassible. As a result I could not get my car out of the garage to get to the gym and couldn’t even walk down the driveway to walk my dog, for almost a full week. The car is still in the garage after eight days, but on the fifth day after the snowfall, I was finally able to break through the ice enough to walk to my neighbor’s driveway, which was clear, walk down it to the street level, and take the dog for a decent walk. I usually don’t think of those walks as exercise for me, only exercise and enrichment for him, but in truth, when I don’t take him for walks, I become mighty sedentary.

I heard the weather reports and knew the ice was coming, so I went to the gym the Sunday the snow was predicted to fall, but I didn’t know I wouldn’t get back to the gym until the next Saturday. That’s when friends gave me a ride to the gym. I still couldn’t risk backing my car down my icy driveway.

Exercise, darn it, is vital to weight loss, and my inactivity resulted in no weight loss this week.

I’m having to be more realistic with my weight loss. I know people lose more weight per week when they first begin a food plan, as I did. I couldn’t realistically maintain my rapid weight loss forever, but I did want it to last a long time. Now I’m in the phase of weight loss where I can’t lose a pound a week, but I could lose a pound a month, if I stick to the plan, stay active, and keep my eye on my goals. Instead of beating myself up mentally for the slowdown in my weight loss, I’ll accept that I’ve entered a new phase of my plan. I have accomplished some of my goals. I lost fifty health-endangering pounds, relieved the pains in my knees, returned to being able to walk without pain, improved my cholesterol levels, reduced my blood pressure, reduced the volume of my daily medication, went down two or more clothing sizes, improved my appearance, and increased my flexibility. While I won’t stop and rest on my laurels, I will accept that my weight loss will continue, but at a slower rate than it did in the first six months of my plan, and at this point, exercise becomes vital to my continued weight loss.

Up to this point, my exercise involved walking the dog and performing water aerobic exercises and lap swimming. As I reported earlier, last week a friend showed me how to use some of the exercise equipment in the gym. I’d thought working out on the equipment would not be much fun, so I’d avoided it. I don’t like feeling like I’m sweating, which is why working out in a pool works well for me. Still, I had a blast learning about and trying out various machines in the gym. The time went by quickly, and the next day, I enjoyed the feeling in my body, muscles I rarely used. As a result, the next time I went to the gym alone, I worked out on some of the same equipment, tried a few new machines, and did water aerobics and laps as well. I’ve used a combination of machines and water aerobics only three times, and I already love the new feeling in my body. My abdominal muscles are tightening, and I feel more strength in my back. I intend to continue the combination of machine workouts as well as water workouts. I’ve also read that weight lifting helps bone density and is therefore vital to older folks. Yes, yes, I fit that category.

Guess where I’m going this afternoon. Yup, back to the gym. My nephew asked if I was turning into a gym rat. I can only hope!

I must admit to humility and lack of self-confidence, though, when people turn to me as some sort of weight-loss guru. I didn’t invent anything new, I simply pulled together all the things that work for me and have worked for others. Part of me says I won’t be a guru until I reach my ultimate weight-loss goal, but even then, I’ll feel the same way, that I’m just an ordinary person who put information to good use. If I can inspire others, that’s a bonus, but I’m not the originator of any weight-loss information and don’t claim to be. I’ve gotten help from every source I’ve researched, and I get inspiration from writing this blog and getting feedback and/or praise from readers. In other words, if you’re reading this blog, you’re helping me, rather than vice versa, so thank you all.

Starting weight: 245
Weight last week: 195
Goal weight for this week: 194
Actual weight this week: 195
Total pounds lost: 50
Goal weight within next three weeks: 194
Goal weight: 150
Mini goal: 190 by February 28

Monday, January 10, 2011

Tip: Pumpkins: They’re not just for Jack-o-Lanterns

Before I talk about pumpkins, I want to report my latest news. Up to this point, I have only done water aerobics and swimming for exercise, besides my casual walks with my dog several times a day, but two friends of mine signed up at the same gym where I swim, and we all met there Friday for a workout. While Cheryl read a book and walked on the treadmill, Roger and I tried out a variety of machines, something I haven’t done since I was in my thirties, and the machines have definitely gotten more intense since then. He and I rode recumbent bikes for a few “laps,” then tried some various walking machines—I don’t know all the technical terms—but some put too much strain on my “bad” knee. I put the term in quotation marks, because I never accepted that it wouldn’t heal. It took me more than a year, but with determination and physical therapy, I overcame its stiffness, pain, and limitations fairly well, but not totally. Anyway, after a not-too-intense workout, he and I changed into swimsuits and swam a few laps together. While we soaked in the hot tub, we made promises to work out more often. Of the three of us, Cheryl has been the best, walking at least an hour on a treadmill regularly for years.

Two days later, yesterday, I went back to the gym without my friends and rode even longer on the recumbent bicycle and tried out even more machines. I was thrilled to see that I was able to use the machines for knee curls, when seven months ago, I couldn’t even lean my easy chair back, because closing it up had been too painful for my knees. I love to see such progress. I worked out more intensely than before and then went to the pool and worked out with water aerobics and lap swimming again. I have begun a new, more intense routine, and I can feel the results in my muscles today. It’s a great feeling.

Best of all, though, was that while I was stretching in my cool down from swimming, I was able to touch my knee to my nose, something I haven’t been able to do in more than a decade. My flexibility is returning, whereas I thought it would go downhill for the remainder of my life. I really am reversing the aging process!

Now on to pumpkins, my subject for today.

After Halloween, I found a church-run pumpkin patch that was practically giving away its leftover pumpkins. I garnered three of the plump gourds, about six to eight pounds apiece, gave one to my sister, and took two home. Pumpkins keep for a long time, so I didn’t worry about having two at one time.

I stored one of my pumpkins in a cool, dry place and baked the other one. It couldn’t have been simpler to cook. I put it on a cookie sheet, poked a few holes through the skin with a fork, and baked it at 300 degrees until it felt soft, which took about three hours. By cooking it slowly, I ensured I wouldn’t burn it. It’s also okay—and faster—to cut up the pumpkin and boil it on the stove, but doing so requires a large, strong knife and a strong person to wield the knife, plus the pumpkin soaks up the water and releases its vitamins, so I opted for the slower, easier, tastier, healthier way. Once the pumpkin was soft, I let it cool and then cut it and removed the seeds. The seeds also have great food value, if you toast them. I put the seeds and stringy bits in my compost heap, though. I had enough pumpkin to deal with.

When you have six or more pounds of one vegetable, you have to be inventive. First I cut one half of the pumpkin into strips and froze it for later. With the other half, I found many ways to use cooked pumpkin, and they have all been delicious. I did not want to make anything sweet, such as pumpkin pie, because I’m avoiding sugar, so the first night I cut away the skin from some of the cooked pumpkin, added a little salt and butter, and chowed down. Delicious.

Another night I chunked up some pumpkin, put it in a blender with chicken stock, and blended it into a soup. I warmed it up, added a little pat of butter and a good squirt of lime juice, and ate the soup with a side salad. I ate the remainder of the soup for lunch the next day. Again, out of this world.

One time I sautéed chunks of cooked pumpkin flesh with olive oil, onion powder, and garlic salt and ate it as a side dish with a pork chop. It took me more than a week to eat half a cooked pumpkin, and I still have more in the freezer. I will find many other ways to eat it, as well.

Here’s the best part: During the week I ate pumpkin several times a day, I lost more weight than usual, so I looked up pumpkins and found out why. One full cup of cooked pumpkin has only forty-nine calories. Forty-nine calories! My pumpkin soup must have had only about fifty calories, and it made a filling, delicious lunch by itself and dinner with a side salad.

I did a little more research and learned a bunch of interesting information about pumpkins. One cup of cooked pumpkin has the following:

Calcium - 37 mg
Carbohydrate - 12 gm
Dietary Fiber - 3 gm
Folate - 21 mcg
Iron - 1.4 mg
Magnesium - 22 mg
Niacin - 1 mg
Potassium - 564 mg
Protein - 2 grams
Selenium - 0.50 mg
Vitamin A - 2650 IU
Vitamin C - 12 mg
Vitamin E - 3 mg
Zinc - 1 mg

Pumpkin is rich in carotenoids, known for keeping our immune systems strong and healthy. Beta-carotene, also found in pumpkin, is a powerful antioxidant as well as an anti-inflammatory agent. It helps prevent cholesterol buildup in arteries, thus reducing the chance of stroke. Because pumpkin is rich in alpha-carotene, it is believed to slow the process of aging and prevent cataract formation. Pumpkins can reduce the risk of macular degeneration, a serious eye problem that usually results in blindness. My mother had it and was legally blind for many years.

The high amount of fiber in pumpkin helps with bowel health. Loaded with potassium, pumpkin is associated with lowering the risk of hypertension, too. The zinc in pumpkins boosts the immune system and improves bone density.

I didn’t choose to eat pumpkin because of any of those things, though. I just knew that it cost little and would taste good, and it does. Well, in truth it doesn’t have much flavor on its own, but add some spices, and it becomes tasty. It certainly doesn’t need to be baked into a pie with sugar and whipped cream to make it taste good. It’s easy on the budget, and it’s great for people who want to lose weight.

I need to pull the other half of that pumpkin out of the freezer now, to give my weight loss a boost, because I can see the needle on the scale went down a little, but I did not lose a full pound this week.

Starting weight: 245
Weight last week: 195
Goal weight for this week: 194
Actual weight this week: 195
Total pounds lost: 50
Goal weight for next week: 194
Goal weight: 150
Mini goal: 190 by February 28

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Twenty Percent of My Weight Gone!

Whoops! Monday slipped by, without reporting in. Instead of writing a blog entry, I spent a relaxing day at a Korean spa with a girlfriend, celebrating her birthday, basking in the saunas, getting foot massages, and eating delicious Korean food.

At the food counter, however, I had difficulty finding a selection of food that fit my mindset of conscious eating. Most choices had noodles or rice as a large portion of the dish, so I opted for fried dumplings with a side dish of cabbage with thousand-island dressing. Fried foods may not be the best choice, and the dumplings had flour wrappers (evil fat-storing starch and oils!), but nobody said I have to be perfect. I’m not on a diet, anyway, but on a food plan, so if I have to step slightly outside the food plan on occasion, it’s okay, because I stay on track most of the time. I can splurge a little here and there; otherwise, I might go crazy and drop the whole plan. The only real problem with the dumplings was that they tasted too good, and I ate most of them, and I didn’t need as much food as I ate. Oh, well.

I’m doing well on my plan. I’m still delighted that I met my mini goal of reaching 195 by New Year’s, and I’ve now decided on my next mini goal: I will weigh 190 or less by February 28. I have eight weeks to lose five more pounds. Goals work for me, and I know I will do all I can to meet that goal.

Sometimes I have a moment when I can’t believe I’ve actually lost weight. It has seemed so easy, and it happened so quickly that I’m still adjusting my belief system. Every morning when I awake, I pat my midriff to double check that it really is considerably smaller than it used to be, and every morning, it is.

I went to the dentist today, and the hygienist said, “Wow! You sure look different from your picture!” My picture? I’d forgotten that a couple of years earlier, she took my photo to place in my digital file. Photos help the staff recognize patients and call them by name, a little touch that always makes me feel special whenever I visit. I looked at her computer screen and saw the big, fat Bobbie face that used to belong to me. In reality, my neck now looks longer, my face slimmer, and my shoulders more delicate. I like the new Bobbie. When I lose more weight, I may insist that she take another photo. Naw, I like seeing the contrast. I need reminders to congratulate myself and remind myself I’m on the right track.

I have lost fifty pounds in five and a half months, and I am now more than halfway to my final goal of losing 95 pounds. I’ve lost twenty percent of my body weight! Yay, me!

Okay, this entry is short. Watch this spot for a diatribe on pumpkins, coming soon. I’ve discovered that pumpkins aren’t just for Jack-o-lanterns anymore.

Starting weight: 245
Weight last week: 196
Goal weight for this week: 195
Actual weight this week: 195
Total pounds lost: 50
Goal weight for next week: 194
Goal weight: 150
Mini goal: 190 by February 28