Saturday, March 26, 2011

CHAPTER 12: Grains and Potatoes and a Story about Staying on Top of the Weight Issue

A couple of you have sidled up to me and asked sotto voce “How do you keep your weight so, ah, normal, when you’re eating all this delicious stuff you put on your blog?” I usually mumble something about wearing black or being mindful. The truth is that the first two months of the blog, back in May and June 2009, I gained. And gained enough to make me nervous. Having lived most of my life feeling, if not always looking, chubby, I took the gain of five pounds, hefting me over 140 (at 5’4”), seriously. Having foresworn “dieting” many years ago, I knew that I needed to construct some long-term guidelines for myself that might help stabilize the gain and possibly encourage a loss. Since that July, between 10 and 12 pounds have come off very very slowly with many ups and downs. But steadily down. No one will ever call me thin (and I don’t aspire to that description anyway) but I now feel back in my normal range. So here are the principles I’ve been using since that fateful day in July. Perhaps one or two of them will strike you as helpful.

Exercise portion control.

Use smaller plates (10-inches in diameter). Your eye and brain perceive a full plate of food and you feel full eating less. It’s a perception thing.

For lunch, I have a favorite green bowl. I can eat whatever I want, as long as it fits in the green bowl.
Cut back on pre-eating (snacking or having a glass of wine) before dinner.
Serve plates in the kitchen. I tend to nibble when serving bowls sit in front of me.

Pay attention to what you’re eating and drinking.
Eat more fruits and vegetables.
Eat less protein, starches, and fats. But don’t eliminate anything entirely. Our bodies want it all.
Eat desserts, enjoying every bite, for special occasions.
Drink less wine. I have been in the habit of drinking a glass or two of wine nearly every night. I’m trying to drink every other night instead.
Eat more slowly, at least 20 chews per bite. I find this very difficult but worth trying.

Exercise regularly.
I try to go to the gym two or three times a week. It’s a 30-minute workout mostly to keep my muscles from getting flabby. As long as I'm there, I walk fast on the treadmill for 30 minutes.
I also walk outside at least six miles a week, usually with my friends, Barbara and Geraldine. I record my miles on a computer program in which I virtually walk across the United States, complete with photos and maps to show me where I am. I have walked over 3000 miles and am currently in Montana. Check it out at Tools to Keep You Active You need to wear a pedometer to keep track of your mileage.

I hesitate to mention one more thing that I do: I usually don’t eat breakfast. This practice is idiosyncratic to me and would make nutritionists, dietitians and probably some of you blanch. I have nothing against breakfast. In fact, I love breakfast foods and often eat them for dinner. But I am rarely hungry for breakfast, so why eat? If I’m hungry, I eat. Simple as that.

There are weeks when we are eating out a lot, traveling, cooking dinner parties, or vacationing with friends. The principles don’t exactly go out the window, but they get modified to fit the current reality. And that is how it should be. It is wonderful to eat delicious food without worrying too much about the consequences. Once I’ve returned home, I reinstitute the principles. And that feels good too.

A couple of books have been really helpful in educating me about eating and weight:
David Kessler, The End of Overeating and
Brian Wansink, Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think.

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