Monday, February 12, 2007

Weight Problems? Some Thoughts on Dieting

159 ............149 ............?

On Saturday, I had a pre-theater buffet brunch at the Ritz-Carlton (great brunch, steep price) with a tall, thin friend my age who's never had a weight problem. She just doesn't understand why people like me have been known to gobble down entire packages of cookies and boxes of candy in a single sitting, with distastrous results.

When I told her that my doctor always weighs me to admonish me (kindly) about the dangers of being overweight, she said that her doctor weighs her to be sure she weighs enough to take her current doses of medication. Under a certain weight, the dosage has to be cut!

Actually, I've been keeping my resolution to lose weight in 2007--not that I haven't made the same resolution before. I've probably lost--and gained--hundreds of pounds over the years. You don't need to remind me that is not healthy. Have I finally learned? My motivation now is not looking better, but walking more easily. Have you noticed that many people like me with "bad knees" and walking difficulties are on the heavy side? Even a small weight loss makes walking easier.

I know that weight loss depends on eating less and exercising more. Of course. Easier said than done. So why are there so many diet books and diet pills available? I guess that publishing a diet book or distributing a new diet pill with a catchy name can be the road to riches. The person who invents a safe, effective diet pill that works for everyone can make millions. I don't think it will happen.

Over the years, I've actually read quite a few diet books and tried several kinds of diet pills. Why? Hope springs eternal. I didn't actually believe in the magic of pills, but I learned some interesting things.

First, non-prescription, non-harmful, "natural" diet pills can work, in a sense. They usually must be taken a half-hour before each meal with a full glass of water. That works three ways:

1) Taking the pills regularly keeps your mind focused on losing weight.
2) The water takes the edge off your appetite.
3) Drinking lots of water is generally a good thing.

However, a cheaper alternative is to drink a glass of water a half-hour before each meal without the pills.

Second, weight management ("diet" is just a four-letter word) is a very individual matter. I am an emotional eater and a binge eater. I try to exercise, but I have a few physical limitations. Also, Chicago's winter weather keeps me from walking as frequently as I'd like to. For me, it's important to eat often: five or six small meals a day. I spend a lot of time at home writing and reading, so snack attacks can be disastrous. All kinds of goodies are less than a block away at Walgreen's and Treasure Island. When strong cravings hit, I'm weak.

I've tried some diet programs, too. Seattle Sutton's (weekly fresh food delivery) works, but it requires some discipline. It's best for those with regular jobs outside the home, those who can't eat continuously even if they want to. Also, the desserts are too good; they tempt me toward binges. Nutrisystem (packaged food via Internet or phone and national delivery) works too, but it has too many great desserts and chips. I ate all of those from a five-week program in the first few days, and was off to Walgreen's for more sweets. (Yes, I know that's crazy.)

The Atkins and South Beach Diets can work too. Eating more protein and fewer "bad" carbs is good. However, Atkins can get boring and perhaps dangerous, and it has those tempting chocolate bars too. So does South Beach, and that program requires more choices, shopping, and cooking. Both of these diets are better for people who like to cook, and I don't.

So what's working for me now? The Medifast five-plus-one diet (Internet or phone and national delivery). I eat one "lean and green" meal of meat or fish plus salad and/or certain vegetables, plus five varied Medifast meals (oatmeal, shakes, hot drinks, pudding, soups, and others). Don't order the meal bars if you're a binge eater like me. This is not gourmet eating, but it's good enough to keep me from being hungry. At the brunch mentioned above, I had salmon, shrimp, and salad veggies.

No, I'm not endorsing the Medifast plan or any other diet program. It's a very individual matter. If you have serious health problems, see your doctor. Talk to a nutritionist. But ask youself what will work for you. Do you have a family to cook for and a love of cooking? Do you have a demanding, stressful job? Do you have a busy social life that usually involves eating? Information on all the diets I've mentioned, and many more, can be found on line.

If you're always hungry (I'm not), no diet will last long. I haven't strayed into a sweets binge for several weeks. I've lost ten pounds since January 5, but of course the rate of loss is slowing down. One or two pounds per week is fine. I have at least fifteen or twenty pounds to go. I hope to reach my goal of 130-135 pounds eventually, go through the recommended transition and maintenance periods, and practice weight management for the rest of my life. My past record is poor, but the older I get, the higher the stakes. Perhaps relating my experiences here occasionally will help me stick to my goal. Please share by adding your comments.

Copyright 2007 by Marlys Marshall Styne


Paula said...

Hi, Marlys,

I found your blog through Eons, where I'm a member of the Eons Writers Club. Boy, can I relate to your weight issues. One thing I find so frustrating is that I do take very good care of myself, but even so, unless I eat so little that I feel hungry a lot of the time, I still can't lose weight. I exercise, almost never binge, and deny myself practically everything I like to eat, but I guess I'm still eating too much and exercising too little. Sigh.

seniorwriter said...

Thanks for sharing, Paula. My arthritis gets in the way of my exercising, and I can't seem to avoid the occasional binge. However, I'm happy to say I'm still about twelve pounds down from the first of the year. I hope I can persist, but the older I get, the harder weight control is.

Paula said...

That's great, Marlys. Are there exercises you can do that don't bother your arthritis, like water workouts, for example?