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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


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

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