Saturday, April 14, 2012

Paying Attention

Was I ever that thin?  I cannot
My wedding dress was a size 8.  Twenty-nine years ago, I could fit into that tiny, tiny waist.  Two children ago, I had a waist.  But not any more.
Daddy was painfully thin.  Taken around 1942.
Until I had my children, I was (relatively) tall and thin, built like my daddy.  I could eat anything I wanted without it affecting my figure.  But, after gaining 40 pounds with my son, I found the extra weight hard to take off.  In fact, most of it stayed.  Ditto with my daughter.  For those of you who are keeping track, that's close to 60 pounds.  But it didn't look like I'd gained that much.  I'm one of those lucky (?) people who gains weight all over.  I could still look at myself in the mirror and believe I wasn't so heavy.

Now, I have nobody to blame but myself.  I'm Southern, German, Irish, and Scottish with the bacon-grease-dripping, sugar-laden, carbo-loaded diet to match.  I married a Yankee who's also German, Irish, and Scottish with the Yankee-extra-carb diet to match.  So, I've earned this figure spoonful by spoonful.

Lounging in the pool!  Taken around 1989.
My lifestyle didn't help much either.  I worked full time and earned my degree at night which meant fast food between work and school.  (I owe my bachelor's degree to Krystal hamburgers and canned Cokes.)  A fast-paced personal life--children in sports, husband coaching, a master's degree--extended the fast-food rationale into my kitchen where prepared and semi-prepared foods (laden with empty carbs) reigned for many years.  Add into that my epic addiction to chocolate and Cokes (to which I owe my master's degree), and another 20 pounds had settled onto my frame.

And then my fiftieth birthday arrived, bringing with it a couple of extra pounds.  I continued a fast-paced, high-stress, high-carb life until a not-so-tiny arachnid brought me to a screeching halt.

Last summer, I plucked a tick from my neck as I was weaving through traffic in the city.  I'd been working outside all day.  We're in the country, so the occasional tick is yucky but not uncommon.  Because I was pre-occupied with driving, I just chucked the parasite out the window and kept going.  Later that evening, I disinfected the bite, and went about my business.

Sick or not, the work goes on . . .
Within two weeks, my neck was obviously severely infected, and  I broke down and went to the doctor.  When I arrived my blood pressure was nearly at stroke level.  By the time I left the office, it had lowered enough for them to let me go home, but with medication for blood pressure and a broad-spectrum antibiotic so strong I could have killed bacteria within a six-foot radius of me.  I felt awful for a few days, but, within a week, felt better.  

What shocked me was that I had not realized how badly I felt until I felt better.

I also had not realized how many things I was doing to make myself feel bad.  A particularly stressful autumn made me understand that my favorite addiction, Cokes, were making me sick.  I had to stop.  I did, but I still crave them powerfully.

I knew I had to get my weight under control, but my few dieting attempts were disasters.  Apparently, lettuce makes me as sick as Cokes, so there went that plan.  I like vegetables well enough, but I like them better with butter, so that became problematic.  Frustration reared its ugly head and I battled it with chocolate.

Nothing was working for me until I read, of all things, Pamela Druckerman's Bringing Up Bebe  (see my review at Savory Bibliotheque) which describes her emotional journey as an angst-ridden American mother in Paris.  It's really a hoot.  I learned two important things from the book:  my parents and I are Parisians, at least as far as child-rearing is concerned, and the stylish Parisian mothers maintain their figures paying attention.  What that means is that they do not ever diet, however, they eat moderately during the week and enjoy eating on the weekends.  They do not deprive themselves (as most diets insist that you do), but they maintain a balance.  

Lightning-bolts flashed across my brain:  I may not be able to diet, but I could certainly pay attention!  And I have.  True tech-girl that I am, I found an Android app to help (I use MyFitnessPal, but there are many).  Truthfully, it is nothing but a digital food log, which have always been a successful weight-loss strategy.  This one, however, allows me to add foods by scanning bar codes, and, wonder of wonders, offsets my daily calorie intake with my exercise benefits!

Doesn't this look like a horse to you?
The exercise logging has required some creative thinking.  I searched and searched, but could not find "hole-digging" listed as a cardio activity.  I thought a bit and equated it with fast-walking.  The app also did not have any information on bushhogging (doesn't everyone bushhog????), and I was flummoxed until I thought to equate it with riding a horse at a slow walk!

So, how has this worked for me?

Well, there are frustrations.  My favorite eating-out meal is Chili's Big Mouth Bites.  I usually eat two at dinner and save two for the next day's lunch.  The meal, including fries, weighs in at 2120 calories!  That's nearly twice my daily caloric goal!  No wonder they taste so good.  (By the way, don't let anybody fool you; calories taste wonderful!)  So, I've tried to switch to something like a small steak with steamed vegetables (I guess I'll just have to learn to like broccoli.)

Strawberries stuffed with
cream-cheese buttercream
and drizzled with semi-
sweet chocolate.
Worth every calorie!
Outside of my occasional guilty pleasures, I'm paying attention:  having an apple or banana to assuage the sweet tooth, eating smaller portions, eating more vegetables, and exercising a bit more.  If I choose to have dessert, then I'll make it up by cutting down elsewhere or by exercising.

I've been pleasantly surprised, actually, at just how much you can eat on 1200 calories a day (my daily goal to lose 2-5 pounds per week).  Strawberries, without sugar, are practically freebies, as are many vegetables when not drowned in butter.

Speaking of butter, I'm sticking with it.  I'm not using those faux-butter-like-products; I'm enjoying the flavor of real butter (preferably from the local Mennonite bakery) in small doses and cutting down elsewhere.  I'm definitely NOT using artificial sweeteners, but, again, enjoying smaller portions of well-flavored, quality treats.

Again, you ask, is it working?

Well, yes, it is.  I'd set a goal of losing 60 pounds, and I've lost 20.  Woo hoo!  Break out the cake!  No, wait, that's 500 calories a slice.  Okay, break out the strawberries and a tiny amount of sugar!

Can I keep this up?
Hemingway was right.
The sun sets, but it also rises.

I think so.  I'm feeling better, not as easily winded.  My clothes are not bunching and binding as much.  People, even those who don't know I'm paying attention, are beginning to make positive comments.  And my husband, a bear of a man who has struggled all his life with his weight, is also paying attention, and seeing results.  That's worth it.

So, here I am:  no longer eating mindlessly, not depriving myself, savoring what I do eat, exercising more, taking it slowly, rearranging my thinking.

And it's working.

What's next?

I don't know, but, if I continue to pay attention, I feel like I could tackle anything!

That's it from my end of the world.  What's happening in yours?



  1. You are such a wonderful writer. Ive always enjoyed reading your thoughts!


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