"It was imprudent of us, in the first place, to become authors. We could have become something regular, but we managed not to.
We were lucky, but we were also determined." Roy Blount Jr

"I don’t change the facts to enhance the drama. I think of it the other way round, the drama has got to fit the facts,
and it’s your job as a writer to find the shape in real life."
Hilary Mantel

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Lighten Up!

I write from the Lodge, to which the dogs and I returned yesterday so I could attend an important meeting. The subject was police dispatch services, and the attendees were police chiefs (I always want to call them "chieves"), 6 state reps, and 2 Selectmen. Very enlightening.

I'd intended to return to the cottage today. But the grim weather--cold, very rainy, dark and gloomy--slayed that urge and I stayed in place. Outside it's barely 60 degrees. It's the sort of day my exercise bicycle was made for.

Now that my weight loss totals 19 lbs., I shall explain the why's and wherefore's. I could wait till the more impressive 20 lbs. but I mightn't make it and anyway, that was never my goal. And I'm stuck inside on a dull day and the Muse is on hols somewhere and I'm tired of fact-checking.

Health coaching is available through the Chap's benefits program at work. Last year I availed myself of it--we both did. I joined the cholesterol program. Mine is normal but I wanted to see if I could get it down to a lower number. And I did. I think I shaved off about 10 points.

This year I wasn't sure which program to join. There was a stress reduction program, but the day my health coach phoned in to sign me up, I wasn't feeling too stressed. They've got a menopause program--way too soon for that.

It was late winter. It had been a fiercely snowy season. I had cabin fever.

"Is there an exercise program?" It was also sort of a cheating question, 'cause I knew with gardening season and outdoor season in general, I'd be getting more exercise anyway.

"Not specifically," the coach told me. "That falls under our weight loss program."

Weight loss? Like, um, dieting? I'd never been on a diet in my life. I could still wear clothes I had in grad school. In college. I didn't even own a scale. I got weighed once a year, at my annual physical.

"Well, okay. Sign me up for that one."

Not only did she sign me up, she immediately started in on the goal setting. "How many pounds do you want to lose?"

I had no idea. I didn't know what I weighed, and couldn't recall what my weight had been at my last physical. I snatched a number out of the ether. "Five pounds." I'd never been on a diet, but 5 lbs. didn't sound too difficult. I'm not that much of an eater. Add in some exercise, and I'm there already.

There was a lot more to the goal setting. I had to tell her all my eating habits (pretty damn good) and exercise regimen (sort of bad). She offered up some recommended actions and said she'd mail me an information package.

That was in early April. Nineteen pounds ago.

I can be a very disciplined person when I want to be. I'd demonstrated it during the cholesterol program last year. I resolved to make the necessary lifestyle changes and, more important, stick to them.

How I Did It

1. Exercise.

My old exercise regime was a combination of free weights and my exercise bicycle. I'd fallen "off the bike" so to speak, and needed to get back on it. And I did, but not as often as I expected. Mostly my exercise has consisted of using the free weights once or twice a day, and walking a mile or two three or four days a week. (Usually at the Big Lake.)

2. Food Intake.

I've never been a fan of prepared foods. I cook virtually everything from scratch and use natural ingredients--fresh whenever feasible.

I tweaked my breakfast habits a little. I usually only eat a banana for breakfast but I started substituting yoghurt sometimes.

I'm not much of a lunch person either. I graze. If I felt peckish at midday, and I was home, I used to have a piece of toast with Gentlemen's Relish, or a warm pita with Indian lime pickle. If at the State House, I had yoghurt.

I made a simple change, ditching the bread items and sticking with the yoghurt. Sometimes I supplement with dried apricots, dates, or nuts.

My big meal of the day has always been supper. Meat and veg, most days, plus salad, but at least once or maybe twice a week we have a vegetarian meal. It's not much different nowadays, I'm just controlling my portions. It's the one meal that includes carbs, but different carbs because we've completely switched over to whole grain everything--pastas, tortillas, pitas. When eating on my own at the Big Lake, I often have a salad, even for my dinner, and even if I've only been eating fruit or yoghurt all day. The salad base is baby spinach, and the other elements are some combination of mushrooms, tomatoes, goat cheese, grilled chicken, caramelised onion, chopped nuts, craisins.

We still dine out. Often I'm just as likely to order an appetiser for my main course as an entrée, so again, not much change here. I'm a lot more conscious of my choices.

3. Beverages

I am a caffeine addict. If I told you how many cups of tea (milk, no sugar) I drink each day, you wouldn't believe it. So when I was advised to drink a lot of liquids, I already had a head start.

I'm supposed to be drinking a lot more water. I do try. But water is boring, unless it's a really hot day and the water is really cold. So after consulting with my health coach, we decided I could substitute fruit juice. I prefer 100% fruit juice, which has calories. So I alternate with plain, calorie-free water. My favourite carry-along beverage is a little elderflower cordial mixed with water from our own artesian well.

Many years ago I abandoned hard liquor, mostly because I was giving up carbonated soft drinks. (Caipirinhas are an exception, and we only have those at special times.) I had already reduced my intake of wine to some extent. My other beverage of choice is hard cider--usually on Fridays with pizza--or at the weekend. I'm not drinking any more or less wine or cider than I did before.


In late June, when my health coach called in for a follow-up, I'd lost 11 lbs., more than double my 5 lbs. goal. She calculated my new Body Mass Index (BMI). I was doing so well that I set a whole new goal--15 lbs. total. And now I've bettered that.

It took a while for my body to look and feel different. After I lost the first 7 lbs., I remembered that film clip from Oprah's television show, when she wheeled in a red wagon with a lot of lard piled up, exqualling the amount of weight she'd lost. So I grabbed a newly purchased 5 lb. bag of sugar and 2 1 lb. boxes of superfine sugar, to equal 7 lbs. I couldn't believe how heavy they felt.

Now, to do the same experiment, I would have to hold one 10 lb. bag of something, and a 5 lb. bag, and four 1 lb. bags.

Or, to make it a lot easier, I can lose another pound and use two 10 lb. bags.

So, there you have it. I'm doing more (exercising) and less (eating) but I don't feel like a slave to the bicycle or the free weights, and don't feel deprived in the food department. While I don't need a new wardrobe, my clothes fit differently and some of my skirts are looser at the waist.

I'm off to re-calculate my BMI. I've never not been in the "normal" range, but I suspect I'm safely in the low-normal region now.

And then I have to hop on that exercise bicycle!

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