Adventures in Weight Loss and Healthy Living

Yesterday found me back in the office of my dietician Heather. As readers may recall, Heather is helping me change my diet so I can keep losing weight and lead a healthy second half of my life. Changing eating habits is not an easy task. Yesterday’s appointment was a chance to tell her how her suggestions were working. The truth was that I was having mixed success. I had managed to take off three or four pounds, but that was over two months. Habits are hard to change, and eating habits are some of the toughest ones.

I used to have three eggs for breakfast. They would easily carry me over to noon, but likely contributed to my cholesterol problem. Now I eat a cup of Kashi cereal with a cup of 1% milk for breakfast. Along with the breakfast, I consume the protein Heather wants me to eat at every meal, so I added two ounces of pressed ham. This carried me through lunch and is only 360 calories.

Drink more water, Heather told me. The only thing is I do not feel particularly thirsty. It is hard to remember to do things like this routinely while the email is streaming in and out and while I am editing web pages. So once again, I made it to noon forgetting to hydrate myself.

Today I was only mildly hungry for lunch, until I actually started eating. I skipped the salad topped with nuts that she recommended, since I knew there was plenty of salad at home that I could have with dinner. Therefore, I bought just a cup of chicken vegetable soup from the cafeteria. It was about 100 calories. I added a zero fat but very tasty Granny Smith apple. 80 calories. 180 calories for lunch so far, but I was still hungry. I reached above my desk for my handy supply of crackers. The six Cheddar Cheese crackers were 200 calories. 740 calories so far.

During the afternoon, I felt snackish. Heather had recommended a box of raisins. They are very sweet and very tasty, and have only 130 calories. Raisins are now my favorite snack, so down the hatch they went. Later, as I waded my way through another conference call the snack monster hit again. I reached for the low fat granola bar. 180 calories. Total calories so far today: 1040.

With work over, I headed to the Gold’s Gym. I exercised for thirty minutes on the elliptical machine which listening to NPR on my headset. Then it was off to use the weight machines. I pressed 90 pounds on the vertical press, 3 sets, and 15 repetitions with each set. On the Leg Extension, I pressed 115 pounds, same counts and repetition. 165 pounds on the Dip Machine. 130 pounds on the Ab Machine. 200 pounds on the Adductor. 80 pounds and 12 repetitions on the rowing machine. I can only guess how many calories I burned. Supposedly, I burned close to 500 calories on the elliptical machine, but I suspect the real amount is a lot lower than that. There is no way to measure calories on all those weight machines, but I can definitely say they were all challenging. I am guessing I burned about 500 calories at the health club today.

I went home and after a shower, I contemplated dinner. I was in a Boston Market mood tonight so I fetched one of their turkey dinners from our freezer. This is the tastiest 360 calories I can find in a prepared dinner, which is probably a sign they have too much fat per serving. I added a small salad, which cannot be more than 75 calories. Afterwards, a banana looks inviting: 105 calories. Time for dessert: three Special K bars (90 calories each) and a cup of 1% milk to wash them down. I am up to 1960 calories.

It was time to head upstairs and blog. At least I knew what to blog about today. I bring three sugar free (but alas, not calorie free) candies for a total of 50 calories. Total calorie intake for one day: 2010 calories.

Heather tells me a big man like me (six foot, two inches) needs about 2400 calories a day to maintain my weight. In addition I need 30 minutes a day of exercise to maintain my weight and more to actually lose weight. Between the exercise and the calories consumed. I think I lost weight today. The hardest part of weight loss is simply keeping it up, day after relentless day. Food ranks right up there with sex in life’s greatest pleasures. To diminish this pleasure is surprisingly hard.

Counting calories with every serving, (her latest suggestion) definitely helps. Trying to figure out if I am eating sensible portions is tougher. I started out well back in February. I wondered if I could have spaghetti with dinner and still not exceed the portions of protein and carbohydrates she wanted me to have with dinner. I had to weigh the whole grain pasta on a scale, and four servings was not a lot of pasta. Three ounces of protein (but no more) at every meal is very easy to get. It amounts to four frozen turkey balls that I threw into the spaghetti sauce. The result was tasty but underwhelming in quantity and I had already hit my carbohydrate quota for the meal.

The body, or at least my body, wants more. It likes my weight just fine. It does not understand my obsession with Body Mass Index. “Don’t you know I’m trying to store extra fat, just in case there is a famine?” it is yelling at me. I know all the strategies, but integrating them altogether is, frankly, just another damned chore in a day full of damnable chores. Knowing how many calories are in my “standard” breakfast and lunch help. I can then plan dinner accordingly. However, with dinner I also need to balance calories with standard portions. It all amounts to the same classic dieting advice: eat less and exercise more.

Ah, exercise. That has been a challenge of late. A couple weeks ago, I broke a toe in my left foot, which put the kibosh on exercise. It was not that I did not try to exercise. At the time, I did not know my toe was broken. I figured it was just “sprained”. In fact, I did the stupid male thing and exercised anyhow. It resulted in bruising which spread to my other toes. I tried carefully biking to work: same effect. Next, I spent a week in Denver on business. There I was up before 7 a.m. and rarely retired to my hotel room before 8 p.m. There was little opportunity to exercise but at this point, I had figured it out: do not even bother until the bruises disappeared.

I was certainly mindful of the food temptations while in Denver. The Club Lite sandwich at the local deli near the Denver Federal Center tasted great. I am sure it was low fat, but it was hard to guess how many calories I was consuming. In the morning, the hotel put out a huge complementary breakfast bar billed with eggs, greasy sausages, hash browns, juices, waffles, donuts and muffins. If you looked for it, you could also find bran cereal, skim milk and fruits. I started out well but by the end of the week, I had succumbed to a muffin or two with breakfast. My dinners did not appear to be highly caloric, but their calorie content was impossible to ascertain. Because I was getting virtually no exercise because of my injury, I felt I would be lucky if I did not gain any weight during the trip.

I am home and back on my normal schedule. It is easier to follow a diet. In our modern world though it is not easy to constantly monitor a sensible diet, get the exercise your body requires, work a productive day in a sedentary job and pay attention to your significant others. Those four activities along with sleep can consume a whole day. No wonder losing weight is so hard in our culture. However, further weight loss will simply require both rigorous vigilance to my diet and upping my exercise. Now that spring is finally here and I can bike to work most days I can easily add additional exercise. After seeing the podiatrist about my toe today, I also know that I can exercise with my feet again. Exercises that hurt like running though are still out.

I wish I could be like Wendy. Wendy is a woman I traveled with last year. She is forty something, blonde, trim, in shape and consequently quite attractive. She is also a vegetarian. She has the sensible eating thing down to a science. At the hotel breakfast, she happily consumed just cup of oatmeal. She grabbed an apple and consumed it later in the morning. She staggers her eating during the day with snacks. She makes it all looks so effortless, which I suspect it actually is to her. In addition, she makes time for exercise every day no matter what. On that trip, it meant getting up at 6 a.m. and hitting the hotel’s exercise room. I figure if she can do it, so could I. The real question is can I do this relentlessly and for pretty much every day for the rest of my life? Why do I have to do it but the French do not? How do they stay so fit and trim, eat fatty foods, have so little heart disease, smoke, philander and yet live into their nineties?

I do not know these answers but I can see the appeal of living in France now. I have been getting regular exercise for a quarter of a century, but apparently it is not enough. My body is going to require a lot of persuasion. 49 years of eating habits are excruciatingly hard to change permanently.

The brownies my daughter unwisely baked were still on the kitchen counter this evening. I looked at that last brownie in the pan lustfully, then calculated that if I ate it, it would add close to 500 calories to my diet.

Reluctantly, I put it back in back the pan and reached for the Special K bars instead.

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