It’s New Year’s Day. The TV is on, so we’re being treated almost non-stop to diet commercials, because if it’s the New Year, all the folks are expected to grab their New Year’s resolutions and get on board the dieting band wagon, right? Wrong!
The concept of signing up for a diet where you’ll lose twenty pounds for twenty bucks in twenty days or one where you’ll get two weeks’ worth of food and snacks for free both sound … well … counter-intuitive. This kind of instant, wave-your-magic-wand, short-term success seems like a sure-fire recipe for long-term failure. To me the word “diet” says this is something you start one day and end on some other day far in the future. At that point, everything will go back to being as it was before. Should that be the case, if you really did lose those twenty pounds in twenty days for twenty bucks, you can bet they’ll all be back and then some in a lot less than twenty days—and for a lot less money.
I’m writing this today from the vantage point of having come through the holidays with my 75 pound weight loss still intact—a weight loss I’ve managed to maintain for more than a year. My weight loss didn’t start with a New Year’s resolution a year ago. It started with a mid-April trip to our doctor’s office coming up on three years ago now. When I weighed 264 pounds. When I could barely make it up and down the single flight of stairs here in the house. When I couldn’t walk more than a thousand steps without sitting down to rest. When I couldn’t do a single sit-to-stand.
At that point, our doctor said to my husband, either you walk or you order an electric cart. He also told us that he was pretty sure we were too old to lose weight. Since I knew Bill would rather die than be in a cart, we started walking the next day. It took a while to work up to those dreaded 10,000 steps. Now I usually walk 12,000 steps or 5 miles a day, whichever comes first, depending on whether my iPhone or the Fitbit is doing the counting. I don’t always get it done. A week ago when I was in copy-editing hell followed by a chest cold, I had three red days showing—days where I sat on my butt and walked less than a mile a day. Orange days are those with two-to-five miles. Green days are the 12/5 ones, and I now have six of those in a row.
But it’s not a matter of just walking on a daily basis or going to a gym or working out with our personal trainer. And it’s not a diet, either. We had to change the way we eat. What we do is probably closer to Dr. Atkins than it is to anything else—Weight Watchers, South Beach, or Jenny Craig. We’ve cut way back on carbs—on bread and potatoes—but they’re not completely verboten—one slice of Dave’s Killer 21 Grain toast is heaven on earth. We’ve learned to love riced cauliflower as opposed to rice. (Goes great with curries or braised whatever.) We have protein—especially eggs for breakfast. Measured ounces of protein with veggies (roasted Brussels spouts and charred green beans) along with salad for dinner—no limits on the latter. But wait, you’re saying. What about lunch? We don’t have lunch. We’re retired. We have a late breakfast and an early dinner, and we don’t starve. And we don’t feel deprived, either.
Years ago, when we we’re trying a low-fat diet, a visiting dog snatched a piece of chicken off my plate. I was outraged. Murderous is more like it, because when we were trying to do low-fat, we were hungry—all the time. We thought about food—all the time. And meals became the whole focus of every day. The way we eat now, food has receded into the background which, it seems to me, is where it belongs.
We eat fresh food rather than junk food. We watch our portions. We have one helping and don’t go back for seconds, but my mother would be proud. You can damned well better betcha that we clean our plates. And if we do want a snack? Peanuts are good. I’ve lots 75 pounds. Bill has lost 50. We both have new clothes, and we look pretty snazzy in them, too, if I do say so myself.
So what did I do yesterday? I cleaned out my closet. I dragged 10 bags of fat-lady clothes out of my closet. It’s the clothing I bought when I didn’t think I’d ever be able to buy nice clothing again. When I thought I was always destined to be the shape I was then. It turns out I wasn’t and I’m not, but it wasn’t a temporary fix, either. I want those 75 pounds that have gone away to stay away, so when I finish writing this, I’m going to go outside and start walking. It’ll take me a little over an hour, but I’ll get it done.
I hope that some of the people reading this will join me. Because, you know what? However old you are, you’re not too old to make some changes. What’s that? Your knees are bad and you can’t walk? Maybe so, but you can change the way you eat, and you don’t have to order your food from Jenny Craig, either. They sell fresh green beans at Safeway, and you can eat as many of those as you can hold. You can also look up the Sit to Stay Fit videos on the Internet and do the exercises. That’s how our personal trainer started us out—sitting—and that’s where a lot of our workouts still start and stop today—in chairs upstairs, where we go with far more ease than we used to.
You don’t have to make a New Year’s resolution to do this. You just pick a day and start and then you keep at it.
Back in the old days when I was in the insurance business, my agency manager, Gilbert F. Lawson, always said, “Know the score; keep the score; report the score. The score will improve.”
I suggest you do the same, and if you want to send me a score-keeping note to let me know how you’re doing? Feel free. I’m available: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now get off your butt and get going, not because you’ve made a New Year’s resolution but because you’ve made a New Life resolution.
Happy New Year one and all!