Welcome, 2012, and the post-season season – a time when the waistband of my favorite jeans leaves a red ring around my soft belly, reminding me that it’s time to dump the remnants of holiday goodies into the green bin and head back to the gym.
To me, “Diet” is a dirty four-letter word. In high school in the 1970s, I tried the Scarsdale Diet, then in subsequent decades the “Cabbage Soup” diet, South Beach, and even Atkins for a meal here and there. Everything worked short term, but ultimately set me up for failure.
Ever since adolescence, I have struggled with weight. My petite paternal grandmother would grab a chunk of my upper arm in her bony fingers and squeeze hard, saying, “You’re such a sturdy girl! Oh, if only I had half your strength!”
In contrast, my mother’s mother fed me Swanson’s frozen fried chicken dinners — the kind that came in partitioned aluminum trays with buttered corn and apple cobbler. We ate on collapsible TV trays while seated in front of her black and white console television as fog drifted through the cypress trees in the Presidio along Pacific Avenue. Needless to say, she was my favorite.
Still struggling with my weight after all these years, grandparents and parents long gone, I am now in year four of my third try at Weight Watchers. The first two times I managed to lose 30 pounds, got cocky, stopped attending weekly meetings, and put 35 back on.
Luckily third time’s a charm and not a strike in my case. I lost 52 pounds and have keep most of it off for over a year. Upscale or downscale, every Friday morning my backside is firmly planted in my red plastic chair in the Webster Street meeting room. These are my people.
As my good friend, Hilary, once said, “It takes a village.” I have the unconditional support of Julie, our fearless WW leader, an amazing group of like-minded and entertaining individuals planted in the other red plastic chairs around the room, a spin class buddy twice a week, a Bladium workout buddy twice a week, and an Alameda beach loop walking buddy once a week. They give me a day or two off for good behavior.
Julie made me a beaded “tracker” (WW jargon for food journal) holder that I can wear on a cord around my neck to make sure I am logging my intake. The two little girls our daughter, Emily, cares for saw me wearing it and asked what kind of work do I do, and why was I “dressed so fancy.”
Oh, if I had only known it was this easy it was to become a fashion icon! Think of the time and money saved…
Julie made a "community” tracker bag as well, which we pass from member to member relay-style each week. Two weeks before Christmas, no one spoke up so I succumbed to the pressure and volunteered to carry the torch and take the tracker for Christmas week.
What was I thinking? Clearly, I wasn’t.
So how did it go? Honestly, just between you and me? I didn’t journal. I didn’t calculate one point. There were cheese, crackers, lobster and sour dough bread dunked in butter, both homemade and store bought cookies, and See’s chocolates involved. In the course of a week, I have no idea how many points I consumed. I didn’t even manage to honor my commitment to move at least five minutes a day.
Not even five minutes. Sad, right? One day I drove all the way out to the gym at Alameda Point, noticed that my workout buddy’s little red car wasn’t in the lot, turned on a dime and headed off to Jay’s for coffee. True confessions.
I know I feel better when I work out. I know I feel better when I limit alcohol. I know I have more energy when I cut back on carbohydrates. I know food is fuel.
I know all this and more. Knowing and doing are completely different things.
I also know that a fast walk from my house to the beach and around through the Gold Coast equals one Martini. Some days it’s worth it, and some days it’s not.
So skip the fad diets and work on making good food decisions most of the time.
In terms of exercise, a close family friend, pediatrician to both our daughters and me, gave the best advice. He said, “Alice, the best exercise you can do is to push yourself away from the table three times a day.”
If you’re in it for the long haul, which evidently I am, then it’s decision by decision. Is it worth it? Am I worth it? I heard somewhere that if you eat and drink nothing but what you’re supposed to, you don’t really live longer; it just seems like it.
My advice is to enlist an accountability buddy or two, or a roomful. Show up, and never give up.