Like many people in their fifties, I wasn't getting enough exercise, wasn't watching my portions or the intake of things that taste really good -- sweets and wine, for example. I felt tired, sluggish, not in shape and carrying around too much weight around the mid-section. Atop that, reports on obesity, diabetes and even the connection between too big a stomach and later-life dementia were worrisome.
I self-reflected in January. I thought about what Jack LaLanne once said, which is "If it tastes good, spit it out." Or about what a friend said about why he worked out consistently -- "because when you look at groups of old men, you don't see any fat guys, do you?" I shared my concerns with my wife, who offered this in the way of guidance -- "Make a project out of it, because when you put your mind to something whatever OCD you have kicks in and you'll achieve it."
I confess that I haven't always been a good listener and have tried to do things myself. But having lost and gained back weight a few times since turning forty, I figured that I needed some guidance. I read articles, I surfed the net, confirmed thoughts and got some new ones. In the end, the website of Mayo Clinic was very helpful. I purchased their diet app, worked on the "Live it" program for two weeks and followed it with the "Lose It" program. Basically, you watch your habits, you track your portions and you watch your weight. And, you keep a daily log -- of goals, of exercise and of your food intake. The first two weeks are tough -- you limit yourself to 1400 calories a day -- and then you move into a mode where you simply have to watch what you put into your mouth and make sure that you move and then move some more.
And since that time, that's what I have done. It's been over 100 days now, and for all but one of them I have exercised for at least an hour a day -- on a spin bike, on elliptical trainers, rowing machines, walking, stretching, using stretch bands, medicine balls, machine weights -- you name it. A typical breakfast is a parfait of non-fat plain yogurt (very low sugar) with some flax cereal and mixed berries. Lunch is a salad that has vegetables mixed in, along with a light spinkle of low-cal dressing, and with a few grilled chicken strips, and some fruit on the side. Water is the drink of choice. If I need a snack in the afternoon, I eat a portion of celery and carrots or an orange, apple or banana. If I need a taste of sweets, I have a small piece of dark chocolate (about 50 calories). Dinner consists of a protein, perhaps a half a sweet potato, some vegetables. I'll have fruit for dessert, and perhaps a portion of popcorn. All told, I fall within the prescription for fats, sweets, carbohydrates, protein, fruit and vegetables, not to mention exercise. Now, if I were to go to a restaurant, as social events and work sometimes require me to do, I'll eat as lightly as I can -- no alcohol or one glass of wine and no dessert. And if I were to indulge in a glass of wine and sharing a dessert with my wife, I'll ration the rest of my sweet calories for the rest of the week to fall within the guideline.
I feel a lot better. I have lost about 20 pounds since January, am sleeping better and feel more flexible. I just had a physical, and my cholesterol is low, my sugar levels are fine and my heart compares to people decades younger. That's not to say I don't have some issues and don't continuously need to figure out ways to deal with stress -- I do. But having a consistent diet and exercising regularly are keys to better health and increased serenity.
None of this is rocket science, except the part that requires the will and discipline to stay the course. It means the will to get up early before work to start exercising and the willpower not to snack unless absolutely necessary. It requires the discipline to hold yourself accountable by keeping the logs that Mayo Clinic suggests. That accountability is key -- it's the log version of holding yourself accountable that you are doing the right thing when it comes to honoring your diet and exercise regimen.
My wife asked me the other day about cravings, and I said that you just have to let them pass. Yes I do miss things -- I love chocolate -- but my forbearance gives me something more -- feeling better, feeling better about myself and ultimately feeling better about everything.