January 28, 2013
I don’t pretend to be an expert on weight loss or health care in any way, but I have interviewed a lot of people on the subject and come away with a lot of information.
Couple that with the fact that I am pretty much a life-long struggling dieter — interspersed with a few bouts of sanity — and I have developed an almost endless fascination with the things we do to lose weight.
Thankfully, I, along with much of the rest of the world, have gone from nearly complete weight loss ignorance over the past several decades to something approaching knowledge. That doesn’t mean we always know what to do with that knowledge — and it always seems to be subject to interpretation.
But I’ll give you a clue as to how my diet journey has progressed. The first diet I remember going on was one of my own devising at about the age of 16: The Lucky Charms diet. (Folks, DO NOT try this at home.) I would eat just one large bowl of Lucky Charms per day. That’s it. Nothing else.
I lost weight, all right, almost 20 pounds within a couple of weeks. But my stomach was empty most of the day and I was weak and fuzzy-brained from lack of nourishment. Then the weight loss stopped, no doubt because I had put my metabolism into extreme starvation mode. And when I could no longer sustain this very bad crash diet, the pounds just came right back, plus a few extra.
A friend of mine had the same approach, only her foods of choice were Baby Ruth bars and Coca Cola. Apparently, the nutrition segment of high school health had fallen on deaf ears.
Today I know that a handful of small meals spaced throughout the day with an emphasis on diverse whole foods supplying protein, carborhydrates, healthy fat and lots of nutrients, can help me lose weight without wanting to gnaw on my hand from raving hunger — and more consistently over a longer period of time. And you don’t have to give up on flavor.
Couple that with consistent exercise and plenty of water and you have a winning combination. Of course, maintaining that combination is what presents the challenge. I’ve tried this equation or others of a much less sensible nature many times over the years without a lot of success. On the crazy end were juice fasts, cabbage diets, grapefruit diets and more. I also tried Weight Watchers, Atkins and a few more organized programs through the years with varying success.
I’ve come to the conclusion that the path to diet failure is to think of your diet as, well, as diet. When I think of diets, I think of strict, punishing regimens designed to achieve one single goal — losing weight — and get back to “normal.”
But we — scientists and “dieters” — are learning more and more that success in reaching and maintaining a healthy weight is about adopting healthy behaviors for life.
I admit, taking this change to heart has required a few mental gymnastics on my part. I’m used to expecting big things from myself and roundly beating myself up when I slip. I cringe at the way I have talked to myself in the past when I’ve slipped. I would never dream of talking to anyone else that way, so why would I heap that kind of abuse on myself? Dieting and failing is a body blow to the self-esteem.
So my New Year’s resolution (OK, my Oct. 28, 2012 resolution) was that I would diet no longer. Instead, I would pursue a healthier way of living that includes nutritious, fresh foods, plenty of water daily, and consistent exercise several days a week.
By and large, I’ve done pretty well at that — but not perfect, never perfect. One thing I have managed to do since I made this resolution is completely cut soda out of my diet, but it wasn’t too big a break-up. I prefer water and unsweetened iced tea anyway.
But I’m also not ashamed to say that I fall off my plan at least once a week — sometimes once a day. I like bread. I like ice cream. I don’t think I’d want to live in a world where they don’t exist, or create a world like that for myself.
The difference between my past dieting life and today is that I don’t sweat it too terribly much. Instead, I try (it’s a work in progress) to tell myself, “Well, that was yummy, but that’s enough for this week,” and get back to making better choices — until the next time around.
Believe it or not, this kinder, gentler attitude has worked pretty well so far. Since last October I’ve lost 27 pounds, made it out to the gym to work out at least four days a week, and usually five, every week but one (when I was sick), and am having a good time tracking down healthy recipes that my family will actually eat. I’ve cut my personal fast food budget to almost nothing, too, so I’m saving money in the bargain. And I think my tastes have actually changed to the point where I prefer the healthy alternatives to the less healthy ones more often than not.
I’ve stuck to this much more reasonable plan longer than almost any diet I’ve ever been on and feel better about the outcome than ever before, too.
As anyone who knows me is aware, I have a lot farther to go in this journey toward a healthier life. I no doubt will encounter bumps along the way.
I hope sharing these triumphs and tribulations through this journal may inspire others to take at least some small steps toward better health in their own lives: maybe start walking — even if it’s only for a few minutes — or substitute water or tea for sugar-laden drinks, or cut out one dessert this week.
As the Go Red for Women folks are stressing this year, small steps can lead to big changes. They are going to be providing some good tools and information about taking steps toward better health in their big, three-day event Jan. 31 through Feb. 2. Here’s a link for more information http://bit.ly/WrglcD.
From time to time I will also be sharing sensible, science-based information that I’ve learned either from local experts or respected national sources.
Even though I’m a bit of an introvert, I’ve found that the buddy system can be a big help along the way, so I hope this journal can offer a little support and encouragement for others.
Kathy Ursprung is the managing editor of The Dalles Chronicle. She also shares tweets about health topics at www.twitter.com/katt775.>>