Over the weekend, as I caught up with reading email and blog comments I had missed while I was down with the flu last week, I was surprised at how many requests there are for more information about my weight loss.
I thought I had covered it pretty well here and here, but questions arrive and maybe there is a bit more to say especially because, at age 70, I don’t want to ever again need to lose this much extra poundage and over the past months, I’ve put a LOT of thought into how to do that.
What I want is food in its proper place, enjoy it within the confines of maintaining a healthy weight and get on with the rest of living. The following is what I have so far developed toward that end.
I am not interested in becoming a vegetarian, a vegan or whatever else people who don’t eat meat and/or dairy declare themselves to be. That has always sounded too much like religion for me. I have no moral or political objection to meat eating, but even small amounts are so high in calories and fat (not to mention antibiotics) that it doesn’t fit in my daily diet.
Sure, I’ll roast a leg a lamb for company once or twice a year. Yum. There is nothing like beef stew to warm you up on a cold winter’s day. Chicken is a terrific vehicle for all sorts of interesting flavors and small chunks help bulk up salads when they need more heft. Just not regularly for me now nor often.
My main animal protein is fish or seafood two or three, maybe four meals a week. Sometimes, but no more than once a week, I can have pasta – there is a delicious mushroom variety of ravioli in the stores lately that I like with a home-made fresh mushroom/red wine sauce.
Almost all dairy should be no-fat – yogurt (plain), milk, sour cream, etc. It’s not dairy but lite mayonnaise falls into this category too. I’ll tell you that no-fat sour cream and lite mayo are awful tasting. But I use them and/or no-fat yogurt entirely for their textures as a base for some salad dressings and sauces and when combined with strong flavors, you can’t tell how terrible they are.
The dairy exception is cheese – full fat, triple cream, runny, gooey or whatever kind I feel like, fabulous cheese – one small wedge with fruit no more than twice a month as a substitute for one meal in a day.
(By the way, the speed at which time flies at our age is helpful; it doesn’t feel nearly as long between cheese meals as it would have when I was younger and time passed more slowly.)
At first, I called these “rules” but that’s too rigid. These are guidelines that should be followed most of the time but can be ignored on rare special occasions like holidays and dinner at friends’ homes or bent a little for variety.
• When vegetables are not the entire meal, the amount of them on my plate must be at least twice the volume of the main dish, preferably three times the volume.
• Without fail, eat three meals a day; never go so long between meals to become hungry. (This isn’t about health as much as keeping myself feeling full enough to not start thinking about cookies or ice cream.)
• Always buy fresh vegetables and fruits. When they are not available, check the frozen foods which are often fresher because they are flash frozen within a day of picking and haven’t spent a week or more on a truck. Be sure to check that there are no added ingredients – no butter, salt, sugar, etc.
• In general, always substitute olive oil for butter.
• Spend whatever money necessary on the best flavorings and condiments available; they keep meals interesting.
• Don’t forget whole grains with meals. I’ve never liked brown rice much, but I do like wild rice – which is really a grain. These can be mixed in with vegetable salads and stir fries.
• If you want soup, make it yourself.
The reason is that all prepared soups, even the supposedly healthy ones are sky high in sodium. I’ve never used salt in my cooking; other flavorings are more interesting and just as effective. But I was shocked when, a few years ago, I discovered that single servings of commercial soup can have nearly a full day’s limit of sodium in them.
• Always have healthy food around that can be prepared quickly for hunger attacks.
I eat so many vegetables now and they are so filling that I hardly ever feel hungry. But it happens. I’ve always disliked the diet “expert” admonition to keep cut up carrots and celery handy. That just screeches diet and feels like deprivation. Therefore, mostly this guideline means food that can be eaten straight from the refrigerator or heated quickly in the microwave. So…
WEEKLY FOOD PREPARATION
It’s hard to cook for one without having a lot of leftovers going green and fuzzy in the back of the fridge. In the past six months of this weight loss period, I’ve developed a system to feed myself with little hassle and few leftovers that isn’t time consuming when I’m tired.
Here is my refrigerator after Saturday’s early morning shopping trip to the farmers’ market.
This is enough food for the week. In that drawer on the left is a three-quarter pound piece of chinook salmon caught on Friday. I poached it in wine and herbs and it will provide part of three meals this week.
There are jars and containers of several kinds of fresh berries for breakfast smoothies or to add to hot oatmeal (it’s already getting a little chilly here some mornings).
The rest of the containers hold steamed veggies: broccoli, romanesco, cauliflower, beans, asparagus, beets, parsnips, etc. along with some roasted red peppers, some cooked wild rice and there are other vegetables in the crisper that can be added raw to salads and stir fries or heated briefly with other veggies in, for example, an olive oil and balsamic sauce.
All this cutting up and steaming has become my Saturday morning ritual after the shopping. It pays off in that it’s so easy to prepare a meal, there is no temptation for pizza if I don’t feel like cooking. I have no excuses not to eat well.
I play around with the vegetables. Sometimes I’ll prepare a salad by color – all green, for example, with just a touch of red – roasted peppers or sun-dried tomatoes. Or, I might combine them by texture and once I did it by name – only veggies with three or more syllables. Silly.
A big treat this week is that fig season has begun and I bought a dozen or so black mission figs I’m having for dessert this week with some tiny, tasty melons – about the size of grapefruit – that are still available at the farmer’s market.
Here’s a new trick I learned: if you want to lose a lot of weight quickly, like six or seven pounds in a week, get the flu. KIDDING, just kidding. Not a good idea. Still, I dropped a lot of weight last week while I was sick.
It’s great to have so much new energy and I’ve mentioned that I can bend over again to tie my shoes and feed the cat. (For those of you who have asked, here’s a recent photo of Ollie when I was still fat and he was eating on the counter.)
Just a week ago, I discovered I can cross my legs. It’s been so long since I’ve been able to do that I’d forgotten its usefulness. Most of my pants now make me look like I’m wearing a clown suit and some are altogether unwearable now – they fall off. All this is good, but there is a weird part.
Although my hips and thighs have slimmed way down, although my abdomen in nearly flat again, although the bulkiness is gone from my upper back and shoulders, although I can feel, if not see, my ribs, my waist sticks out farther than my hips or chest wall by an inch or two on either side so that the middle of my body – ew! – looks sort of like this:
(Well, that’s the general idea although my drawing is a bit exaggerated proportionately. I’m not much of an artist).
Good god. I don’t expect to regain the 21-inch waist I once had but geez, this doesn’t seem right. Either weight does not come off the body evenly or I’m about to give birth to an alien – maybe two.
I’ll just have to wait and see what happens over the coming months.
NOTE: All of the above is what works for me. In no way is any of it meant to be understood as recommendations for anyone else.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Maureen Moore: My Lead Foot and My Precious Father