One year later: my healthier living update

About a year ago, I wrote that I would periodically keep you abreast on my journey of weight loss and healthier living. (Actually, I wrote this mostly to remind myself so I would not slip.) Based on previous attempts at dieting, I discovered a truth: taking weight off is relatively easy. Keeping it off is harder. So how am I doing a year later? How am I doing after about nine months of Weight Watchers, giving up Weight Watchers because I wasn’t learning anything new and am now all on my own? Did I balloon to the size of Orson Welles (or for that matter Kirstie Alley)? Did I make it back to the same weight I was at when I was married and was a skinny thing? Did I yoyo back and forth? What great wisdom have I learned that I should share with the rest of the world?

A year later, I find myself within a couple pounds of where I was when I left Weight Watchers. That part is good. When I weighed myself on Monday, I was one pound above what is considered a healthy weight for my height. That part is not ideal, but being one pound overweight is better than being twenty three pounds overweight, which is where I was when I began my journey in January 2009.

So I can say I succeeded, with an asterisk. My goal was always to take off a chunk and then maintain it, since that was where I had failed many times before. The asterisk means that I slipped a bit. Over the holidays, I indulged too much, exercised too little, and not coincidentally, I also picked up five pounds. I knew what to do (start counting using Weight Watchers points again) but it took me a month or so to find the wherewithal to do it. When I did, it worked reliably again and the pounds came off. Yet, once I lost the few pounds I put back on, I found little incentive to keep reducing. Getting back to the weight when I was married continues to be an elusive and perhaps not very important goal.

Nevertheless, maintaining a near healthy or healthy weight for a year is a genuine accomplishment. I went back to some bad habits, but not all of them. When I wasn’t counting points on a sheet of paper, I had a good idea how much I could realistically eat and not gain weight.

I am usually fastidious during the week. For example, for breakfast this morning, I had one cup of Cheerios with skim milk and a cup of blueberries. This carried me over nicely until lunch. I packed a banana and a cup of grapes to have with lunch. When I eat at the cafeteria at work, four times out of five I am getting a soup and salad for lunch. It’s nearly automatic. My sweet tooth will not wholly be denied. I try to fit in one chocolate treat, which often means a bag of Dark Chocolate M&Ms, a favorite. My salads are quite low fat and full of healthy vegetables. I skip salad dressing and garnish the top with just a little cheese. Dinner, at least when I am eating alone, often consists of an entrée of from the diet part of the frozen food aisle. Lean Cuisine gets a fair amount of my business. Many of their entrees are quite tasty and reasonably healthy. (I particularly enjoy their Shrimp and Angel Hair Pasta, one of the best diet entrees ever, except for the sodium.) Their main value is portion control. I may supplement it with some bread, add in a banana or some other fruit. If my sweet tooth calls, have a 1-point Weight Watchers Fudge Stick.

On the weekends, I am more lax. On my Fridays off, my wife and I still engage in the fatty practice of breakfast at Silver Diner. Once or twice a month doesn’t make it a bad habit. Instead, it’s a treat. Otherwise, I have given up most restaurant eating. Recently, someone at work has been leaving out chocolate Easter eggs and I confess it is hard to pass them by without doing some grazing. I do binge at times, but not egregiously.

Over the last year, I have also been challenged by other physical problems. It is hard to follow Weight Watchers when you are having vein or tarsal tunnel surgery, and two hospitalizations these last two months hasn’t helped either. It is much easier to be good when your life is not topsy turvy.

My doctor is still not happy because my cholesterol level is still elevated, but not dangerously (110 bad cholesterol). He would like me to eat a lower fat diet than I do, but my diet is markedly lower in fat than it used to be. It would be difficult to excise too much more fat from my diet, but if driven by necessity I am sure I could. In my near future, I may end up on statins or other drugs to reduce cholesterol. Over the last eighteen months or so, I have also developed an irregular heartbeat. It is likely though that dieting has reduced heart problems rather than caused them.

My exercise is reasonably consistent, but at a lower level than when I weighed twenty pounds more. When I ate too much, I tried to make up for it by exercising more. Exercise is still a good idea, and I typically hit the health club three times a week as well as walk up many staircases. While beneficial, if you want to maintain a healthy weight, excessive exercise has no particular advantage. If anything, burning those calories makes you want to eat more. One of the lessons I have learned is that although you need enough exercise, you do not need to go overboard. If you are concerned about having and maintaining a healthy weight, calories matter more. In general, Americans consume far more calories than we need. I have trained myself to demand fewer calories than I used to. If you are struggling with this problem, I suspect you can too.

So here’s to me and my mostly successful first year, and here’s hoping a year from now if I write about my adventures in healthy living and weight loss again, I will at least be where I am now. Perhaps I will find the impetus to take off another fifteen pounds and literally be the man I was when I was married. It would make a good goal for my 25th wedding anniversary in October.

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