Let’s Get Healthy (But We Won’t Call It a Resolution!)

There’s just something about a new year, isn’t there?  It feels fresh and new and full of possibilities.  Hence the talk of resolutions and the increase in gym membership purchases!

I am reluctant to commit to something so definite and portentous as resolutions any more.  Not sticking to them seems like failure and who needs more reasons to feel bad?

Still, I can’t deny that some of the good health habits I worked so hard to form a few years ago have become somewhat less habitual. And a new year is as good a time as any for taking stock and making some changes.  I’m still lighter and healthier and stronger than I was before my healthy journey began, but let’s just say that pie has a lot of carbs, and that we don’t hike every weekend any more.  And I’ve got a BIG birthday coming up this year (gulp!), and I’d like to feel healthier and stronger by then.

So I’m going back to the gym and walking and healthy eating, but I’m not calling it a resolution.  In case you are feeling like doing something similar, here’s what I am going to do.  For the rest of this month I am going to reshare posts I’ve written on health, low carb eating, recipes, and hiking, to help motivate myself and anyone else who could use some motivation!  If you want to see what I’m sharing, follow Life in Every Limb on Facebook and be sure to check “see first” so you don’t miss any posts.

Happy New Year and good luck to you on your resolutions or goals for the year or whatever you wish to call them!  Tell me about them in the comments, if you want.

 

Forty Years of Yo-Yo Dieting

I’ve been promising for awhile that I would write about the way I’ve been eating lately.  I’ve already shared with you the positive effects on my health and my weight.  I haven’t sat down to write before now because it feels important to start at the beginning, and the beginning was a LONG time ago.
I went on my first diet when I was a slightly chubby four-year-old, on the orders of my pediatrician.  So I have spent a lifetime feeling fat (even though there were many periods in my life where I now believe I looked just fine), and have been off and on diets ever since.

Me at age two, before hopping on the diet treadmill
Me at age two, before hopping on the diet treadmill

What that first diet was I don’t remember, and I had plenty of treats as a child.  What I do remember is always having the sense that I wasn’t supposed to be eating them, and feeling guilty when I did.  I remember weighing in at the Diet Workshop every week, and eating things kind of like brownies made with Sweet ‘n’ Low and drinking Alba 77.  As I entered high school there was the Scarsdale Diet and then the Change-Your-Metabolism-Diet.  Some of them worked better than others, but I never lost ALL the weight.  I never weighed the magic number the weight tables told me I should.
That's me in the middle, when I was about ten, and always on a diet
That’s me in the middle, when I was about ten, and always on a diet

After gaining the Freshman 15 in college, I came home for the summer and went on the rice diet.  Only instead of the recommended two weeks I did it all summer long, along with walking several miles each day, swimming laps at the pool, and doing 150 sit-ups and crunches every night after working full-time as a Cracker Barrel waitress (a brutal job).  I went back to school weighing 142, my lowest adult weight, but still unsatisfied because the Met Life table said I should weigh 130. (The rice diet allowed me one piece of fruit for breakfast, and one piece of fruit plus either three rice cakes or a cup of plain rice for lunch and dinner.)
Fall 1986 after the rice diet--please excuse fire-damaged picture
Fall 1986 after the rice diet–please excuse fire-damaged picture

I continued dieting all through college, eating very little a lot of the time but what I now know to be all the wrong things (bagels, giant corn muffins, sandwiches, pizza).  After I graduated and got married I found another diet in an old magazine–I can’t remember what it was called but it was mostly vegetables.  I lost 30 pounds in six months (I was still far from 130 but I look good in pictures from back then!), then got pregnant and gained 70 lbs.  I used that diet again after Emily was born and lost almost all the baby weight, the only time I ever came close to doing that!
Leslie's Graduation
1989 – college graduation

Right around this time the low-fat craze started.  I read a book that said you couldn’t gain weight unless you ate fat.  If you avoided all fat, you could eat anything else you wanted and you couldn’t help but lose.  I fell for this hook, line, and sinker, and ate carbs like crazy, avoiding cheese, meat, and french fries, and gained instead of losing.  At some point I did Jenny Craig.  There were a couple of stints in Weight Watchers, one of which helped me lose 60 lbs. in time for my sister’s wedding, at which point I got pregnant for the fifth time.
When Lorelei was little I stopped dieting.  I told myself when I was ready I would join a gym and do Weight Watchers again, but that what I needed to do was live life without constantly feeling guilty about food and bad about myself.  And I do believe I needed to do that.
Me holding Lorelei in a four generations photo taken in 2006
Me holding Lorelei in a four generations photo taken in 2006

In the meantime, while not avoiding the occasional treat, I ate what I considered to be healthy:  beans and rice, whole grain bread and oatmeal and other whole grain cereals, lots of fruit and vegetables, very little meat or cheese because they were high in fat.  Of course, I had my vices:  coffee with cream and sugar, Mountain Dew Monkey Ice from Weigel’s, a shared dessert while eating out, but although I went through fast food drive-thrus with the big kids almost daily, I rarely indulged.
I didn’t weigh myself for many years, and while I did not balloon when I stopped dieting constantly, I did slowly add pounds.  And I got older.  Finally, my weight began to affect the way I felt.  A friend not much older than I had a close call.  My left leg was swollen and painful, and walking upstairs made me breathless.  I could tell my blood pressure was getting high (after a lifetime of being subnormal!), and I started to get scared.  I decided that in 2014, as soon as I had access to medical care, I would have everything checked and then start a journey to better health.
I’ve been sharing some of this journey with you in my ObamaCare posts, without including a lot of details about how I’ve changed my eating habits . . . but now this post has grown very long so I will make this a two-parter with Low-Carb Love Affair to be published in a day or two!

Am I a Junk Food Junkie?

How many of you remember this song:

My husband was listening to a playlist of “one hit wonders” this afternoon while we were working.  I don’t guess I’d heard that song since it enjoyed its run on the charts back in 1976.  The idea that bingeing on junk foods is a lot like getting high on illegal drugs is supposed to be funny, and as presented in the song, it is.  But WHAT IT IT WERE TRUE?
As I promised, I’ve been reading Diet Rehab, in preparation for giving its principles a try (love of bacon notwithstanding).  And Dr. Dow’s premise–one that serial dieters will find very attractive–is that they are addicted to food and it’s not their fault.
You listen to the song, and you laugh.  You hear your fat friend griping about how she looks as she eats her McDonald’s Value Meal and if you’ve never had a weight problem you feel secretly superior and scornful.  You comment on AOL articles about fat people with comments like, “He needs to stop stuffing his fat self and get some exercise.  That’s all there is to it.”
But what if food is a drug?  What if fat people are self-medicating their faulty brain chemistry?  You don’t cure a heroin addict by saying “Just Say No!”  You don’t tell your chronically depressed spouse to suck it up and just get over it already.  You don’t insult your alcoholic friend by telling him that it’s easy to quit drinking.
No one wants to be a drug addict, or an alcoholic, or depressed.  That’s a given.  Although there are plenty of mean spirited folks out there who attribute addictions and mental illness to character flaws, most of us have seen enough of the science to have accepted that these things are biologically based.  So far, the science in the diet rehab book seems sound.  What I’ve read does not contradict my long experience with dieting–about which more later.
One thing I know:  no one WANTS to be fat.  No little boy wants to be the last one picked for teams.  No teenage girl wants to be without a boyfriend.  No man wants to die young from heart disease.  No woman wants to feel frumpy and undesirable.  If it were easy to lose weight, NO ONE WOULD BE FAT.
Maybe Dr. Dow has come up with part of the reason it’s so hard.  Maybe he’s come up with an answer.  We’ll see.

I Want a New Drug

Junk food is as addictive as cocaine.
That’s a pretty provocative statement, and it comes straight from the press kit for Diet Rehab, a book by Dr. Mike Dow, the cohost of Freaky Eaters, which would probably impress me if I watched t.v.  I don’t know yet whether I believe it or not, but I am getting ready to find out.
That’s my copy of the book, which I now disclose to you that I received for FREE in return for reviewing it.   I have not read it yet.  But I’m going to have a little fun with this.  If it makes any sense at all, I am going to do what it says and share the results with you.
I know one thing I like already:  that blurb at the top stating that “You’re addicted to bad food and it’s not your fault.”  For someone who has spent most of a lifetime feeling guilty about every morsel consumed, that’s a refreshing message.  More on that later.
So the plan is that I will read the book this week, then start following the “28 days of gradual detox” the following week.  Once a week–let’s say on Mondays–I’ll share with you how it’s going. (This will definitely not involve any scales.  A tape measure MAY be used.  We shall see.)  At the end of the four weeks I will pronounce judgment on the book.  I’ll explain the theory and the procedure as we go.  If anyone wants to join in, let me know and I will send you instructions!