I am sure that if I had not stopped (around age 25) eating the typical American diet of manufactured, processed, overly refined, fatty, sugary, and junk foods, I would weigh triple what I do now. However, my weight is more than I’ve ever carried and I am faced with the painful truth that a structured eating plan and lifestyle change is truly in order. I hesitate to call it a diet, because, as I said, DIETS DON’T WORK. They don’t work because after the weight is lost, the pounds come right back on. It requires a lifestyle change and, most importantly, being happy with that change.
What prompted this? I am writing cookbooks. These books include videos of me demonstrating a recipe from each book. We shot our first video in June, and when I looked at the rough cut, the big, ominous sound of realization blasted in my head.
In my eyes, I looked like a sausage stuffed too tightly into its wrapper. Everyone else said, I was being too hard on myself (how supportively nice they are). But I was truly surprised at how far away from what I thought I looked like was compared to what I was seeing in that video.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not gigantic, but compared to what I lived with for most of my life, swizzle-stick-thin and eating as much as I wanted, this is unacceptable to me. Laugh if you want, but that’s the way I feel. It’s unacceptable because, unlike most of my adult life, where my weight was steady and reliable, for some time now it has continually crept upwards. I have a few good years ahead of me and I don’t want to be inside a continually growing pant size and a body that keeps me from enjoying the activities I love.
How is this a surprise? We all have a body image in our heads that fool us, even in front of a mirror. Sometimes that body image is worse than reality, sometimes it is better. We’ve all known men with bellies hanging over their belts who still think they are batman fit and handsome. This goes for women too, but it is usually on the other side of the mirror. Women tend to be more critical of their looks and body shape than men do.
It may not come as a surprise to people who know me that I’ve always had a more masculine than feminine outlook on life—I hate shopping (except vacation shopping). I never worried much about girly things. I am direct and straightforward. I like cars, tools, and such. I am resourceful and solve problems, meet challenges instead of letting them stop me. On the other hand, I also like girl things—fashion (to a limited degree), jewelry, flowers, perfume, bubble baths, dancing, decorating, knitting, crochet, kittens, and puppies, oh, my! The bottom line, though is that my basic nature is more Catherine Hepburn than Brittany Spears.
So maybe it isn’t much of a surprise that I had a better inner picture of my body shape than showed up on this latest video. That inner image was at least 30 pounds lighter than I am now. I am determined to turn the tide of expansion and shrink—without diets or deprivation. Aging, crashing metabolism be damned. I can, and will do this!
Food is more than just sustenance for humans, it has an emotional tie-in that is enormously strong. For a lot of us, it is social, art, creative, comforting, adventurous, and mood altering (think chocolate). For me it is all those things. I was just lucky to inherit “skinny” genes from my father’s side of the family or I would have been a card-carrying dieter’s anonymous member for most of my life. Or maybe not. I might have opted for the more direct approach of liposuction. Perhaps I would have chosen to just be okay with me as I was. That last one is doubtful, though, since I am from a skinny family. Well, except for my great-grandmother and she was such a bitch that no-one counts her.
I turned to the knowledge and wisdom that I have used for decades to help other people. Hell, I even have a weight control CD and Book for sale with an amazing program for achieving the perfect weight. “Practice what you preach,” were the words echoing in my mind. OKAY!
The first step is to know exactly how much food I was shoveling in during the day vs. how little real exercise I get now. I used to teach yoga, and Tai Chi. When I was younger I was a ballet dancer (until i discovered boys). As a young woman, I went dancing in clubs nearly every night, I hiked, walked, and gardened, and more. Now, my exercise consists mostly of hauling my mother in and out of a wheelchair, and cleaning up after her. Thank the gods that I have a two-story house so I go up and down the stairs a gazillion times a day.
I started keeping a food diary and counted up the calories that came with that food. I downloaded an I-Pad app to keep a calorie count. The first few days, my 1200 calorie a day limit was surpassed each day, but just by a tiny amount (usually). One day in the first week, I was a bit under 1200. What this means is that unless I change a few things, I will continue to creep up the scale with accumulated calories.
I insist on not only taking a look at calories, but also with considering the quality of the food too. For example, there is plenty of evidence that diet soda’s and artificial sweeteners make us fat. Empty calories, no matter how few, also contribute to weight gain more than nutrient dense foods of the same caloric intake. Real food helps us. Junk food hinders us.
So this is a story that has no real ending yet. I am starting to pay attention to how I keep eating even when I’m not hungry. I have looked at cutting portion size a little.
For example, I make amazing home-made ice cream. I am really fine with one scoop, but two look so much better in the bowl.
Solution? Use a smaller bowl. Amazingly simple, but it works for me. I also make incredible cookies, usually low sugar and with really great ingredients. Solution? Grab one at a time instead of a handful. I’m fine with one or two. I don’t need four! If they are on my plate, I will eat them.
This goes for every food. If I scoop too much onto my plate, it is more likely to be eaten. In restaurants, if the omelet is four eggs, I will overeat. I can ask for it to be made with fewer eggs, etc., etc. One really good tip is to ask for a to-go box right away. Immediately scoop half of the food into the box. Unless you really need therapy, it’s unlikely you will finish your plate, then rip open the box and gobble that one too.
Being mindful and paying attention to when my body is full is enormously helpful.
But what about emotional eating? I’m not immune. There are plenty of days I think, I deserve . . . . I’ve had a bad day and want . . . That’s the really tricky one. Again, portion size is all important. For example, when I really want a martini, I can put it into a smaller glass, or pour out some of it right away.
Then there are social gatherings, family get-togethers, and such. If someone brings a plate full of brownies, and you don’t want to hurt their feelings, take one, nibble, then when they aren’t looking either trash it or wrap it up and stick it in your pocket or handbag. Throw it away later.
Friends and family feel good when you enjoy their food. You can enjoy a little as much as you can too much. Compliment the chef, eat slowly.
I am already comfortable with eating only some of my food. I was never a member of the clean plate club. However, lately, I find myself eating a bit beyond what I’m comfortable with. I just discovered something amazing about that. When a food is to-die-for-good, my mouth wants to keep tasting it. If I put down my spoon, fork, or fingers for just a minute, that feeling fades and I can easily know that I am done.
I haven’t yet, but will use the NLP and hypnosis tools I so expertly use to help other people—not to deprive myself (that never works), but to help my new eating patterns feel comfortable and natural. There is so much more that I don’t have time or space to share right now. More is to come though. I have a lot of cookbooks to write, including pies, cookies, and ice cream, plus. I want to enjoy what I create and will do so without sacrificing my comfort and health.
I’ll keep everyone posted and I look forward to sliding back into my comfort zone, having more energy, and enjoying the rest of my life.