Ennui and a Senior Moment
INTERESTING STUFF – 11 January 2014

Losing 30 Pounds in 10 Months

More of you than I would have expected want to know some details about my weight loss. So here goes.

Understand that there are no surprises. Like I said a couple of days ago, I have no magic potion; I did it the the old fashioned way. Slowly.

If you are old enough to be interested in this blog, you should by now have a good handle on your will-power strengths and weaknesses related to food. And if, like me, you have fought extra pounds all your life, you have probably tried a number of fad diets and you know they do not work.

You probably know also to ignore ALL ads and stories about miracle weight loss products including one celebrity physician's claim that he can show you (for a price, of course) how to lose 10 pounds in 10 days. He is wrong. On so many levels.

What losing weight is about - especially a lot of weight over months - is eating fewer calories than are needed to maintain your weight. What this means in practice is that you need to shave a few hundred – 200, 300 – calories per day from the number that maintains your weight.

Because metabolism tends to slow with age and elders are almost always less physically active than in their younger years, it takes longer to lose weight. If you begin a weight loss program, you must understand that so that you do not become discouraged.

I have kept a daily weight chart since I began my program to lose about 40 pounds. So that the chart doesn't become unwieldy, I delete the previous month's daily numbers when a new month begins. Here's the current chart:

Weight Chart

You can see that I've averaged a loss of less than three pounds a month which is a safe and healthy rate. If you expect more than that, you will undoubtedly become frustrated and give up.

A friend who, inspired by my loss after I'd shed about 15 or 20 pounds, began a program and gave up after three weeks or so because, she said, she had gone for more than seven days without losing a single pound.

That happens all the time. Look at those numbers for January – stuck at 129.x pounds for six days. It's not unusual and it's not an excuse to eat pizza and ice cream.

Here then is a list of some of the ideas and practices I use and will continue to do when I have reached my weight goal. From knowing yourself, you should develop your own practices based on proven and sane principles of weight loss.

Cut out almost all meat. The calorie count in a tiny portion is too high to be able to keep the daily calorie count low enough to lose weight.

Use fish for most animal protein – salmon, cod and other high omega-3 fatty acid fish is extra healthy but all fish are good for a low calorie count. About three ounces is a reasonable-size serving. Make vegetables, not animal protein the centerpiece of meals.

Half a cut-up, skinless chicken breast gives a salad some heft when you feel you need it.

Eat enough to always feel full – even overfull - after a meal so not to be tempted to cheat with a bag of chips or a pint of ice cream.

I eat piles and piles and piles of steamed or roasted veggies prepared with no more than one tablespoon of good oil – olive or canola. Vegetables are so low in calories that you can eat them all day and lose weight.

Include fruit and whole grains every day. It is easiest for me to mostly stick with the same breakfast: steel cut oatmeal with half a banana, half a cup or so of berries and of apple sauce or cranberry sauce. Sometimes I add a piece of whole grain toast with a teaspoon of jam on the side.

Clear your cupboards of all – ALL – prepared foods and never buy them again. They are filled with fat, high levels of sodium and a sky high calorie count. The single prepared food on my shelf is low-sodium Wheat Thins to eat my occasional meal of home-made tuna salad as a dip.

Eat as many meals at home as possible. There is no way to know the calories, sugar, fat and sodium counts in restaurant food and all take out. It is a good practice to assume that all professionally-prepared food is too high in calories to be useful for a weight loss plan.

Cook ahead and freeze nutritious foods that are easy to use. I make all my apple sauce (no sugar – just apples, water, lemon rind and spices). I make all my cranberry sauce too (two-thirds as much sugar as recipes call for). I use them, as noted, at breakfast and sometimes as side dishes with other meals or as an afternoon snack.

I steam and freeze a lot of vegetables but you can buy them frozen at the market too. Just be sure to buy the bags with no added butter and sauces.

I keep good commercial ravioli and other filled pastas in the freezer because it makes a quick meal when I'm tired and tempted to pig out at the local pizza joint just because I don't want to cook.

I heat and add a bunch of already steamed veggies to the plate or bowl and dress it all with a simple, homemade oil and vinegar dressing. It's filling, and heathy too.

Soups are filling and yummy. I cook up huge batches of pea soup and tomato soup and freeze them in pint containers. You can add commercial croutons to give your soup a bit more weightiness. Canned soups are loaded with too much sodium and, usually, fat.

There are 21 meals in a week and you should eat every one of them to never feel hungry. Make one, and only one, of those meals each week something that you love and crave and is probably not conducive to health or weight loss. For me, that is almost always ice cream or cheese.

Going off your regimen for one meal of 21 will not harm your health or weight loss trajectory and will go a long way to keeping you from falling off your diet. It's a treat, something to look forward to each week.

Eat lots of salads. I've told you in the past about my gorilla salad – 12 or 15 different veggies sometimes with cut fruit – melon, perhaps, or grapes. If, in winter, you prefer something hot, roast a bunch of cut up veggies and then treat them as a salad with a homemade dressing.

Do not use commercial salad dressings. They are mostly fat and chemicals, and the low- or no-fat varieties taste awful. It's easy to make an oil and vinegar dressing at home and if you like creamy dressings, a low-calorie version of that is easy too.

Use even homemade dressings sparingly. The trick for salads is to use one tablespoon of dressing and toss the salad for a long, long time to coat all the ingredients. Try it; it works.

Experiment with vegetables. One of my latest favorites is cut-up kale stir fried with chopped onions, garlic, raisins in a tablespoon of oil and balsam vinegar dressing.

I've been working on a winter vegetable stew and getting close to a recipe I like.

I have always loved stuffed baked potato – and depending on what you stuff it with, it can be healthy. I have had to invent my own version.

It is stuffed with a lot of cut up green veggies – steamed broccoli or asparagus or peas, etc. - homemade duxelles and no-fat sour cream. If that last ingredient sounds awful, it's not when combined with other strong flavors. It's the texture you're going for.

When I eat out, I try to choose Japanese restaurants. It is almost impossible to overeat Japanese food.

When Japanese is not available, I try to plan ahead to use a restaurant meal as my weekly treat. One time I broke a rule – no fried food ever - with an entree of deep-fried, fresh oysters, enjoyed every one of them and nothing terrible happened to my diet.

Sparingly, you can be flexible. For me, the daily morning weigh-in keeps me from taking such flexibility too far. I intend to make this my final weight loss program in life.

Alcohol is too high in calories to be used frequently. I save wine for social occasions at home or in restaurants with friends but never more than once a week. And because I drink it so rarely now, I always go for the good stuff.

That's most of it. All these rules are based on good health principles but they are my personal rules – what I have learned that works for me – and I continue to refine them over time.

Yours would be different depending on what foods you like and don't like, how much time you're willing to spend cooking and how motivated you are to lose weight.

I am thrilled with the changes in my life that are directly a result of dropping, so far, more than 30 pounds:

Remember a long time ago when I admitted to urinary incontinence? It's gone. It didn't happen because I'm old; it happened because the extra fat pounds placed pressure on my bladder.

I can walk now for miles at a good pace without breathing hard.

I can clean the whole house without having to stop and rest every 20 or 30 minutes.

I can walk up hills and stairs again. I had been avoiding them because it was so hard to get my breath at the top.

I've kept up a daily exercise program and just this month replaced two days with a new tai chi class. It's not that I work out hard enough to add much, if anything, to my weight loss but I have become stronger, healthier and feel confident of my balance.

In preparation for scheduled cataract surgery, I recently had a bunch of medical tests - heart, blood, etc. All came back normal. The doctor said I'm in terrific shape and to just keeping doing whatever I'm doing.

When I've reached my weight goal – which looks like it will happen almost exactly 12 months from when I began - I'll need to fuss around until I find a workable maintenance plan. It will be some version of the weight loss program I have relied upon this past year.

That's an important concept to keep in mind for preventing failure or backsliding: the new way of eating is a permanent change.

I hope this hasn't bored you to death and maybe gives you a few ideas you can use if you are contemplating some weight loss.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: Talking Trash


Good Job! Can you share what was your tipping point? What caused you to say to yourself... something has to change. Did you try a few times before it "took"?

Been there and more than once.

Impressive self-care. I am in awe.

You clearly have good reason to be proud of your commitment to living and eating healthier. I hope I can follow your lead. Last year I was on that healthy road and I got lost recently. Thanks for reminding me why its important to find my way again.

Bravo!!! It's basically a Weight Watchers program. We here are doing that too.

Up there in the first comment, Trudi asks what my tipping point was - what caused me to get serious about weight loss.

As I've noted in the past, it was fear. No, make that FEAR. It is well known in health and science circles that what are known as the diseases of age - cancer, diabetes, arthritis, Parkinson's, etc. - begin to show up big time when people hit their mid-seventies.

I was just about to turn 72 and my life had been gradually circumscribed as I got fatter and fatter - I walked slower, couldn't carry in groceries without losing my breath, had stopped climbing stairs and so on.

That had begun happening seven or eight years previously when, having retired, I declared to myself that I was sick to death of chasing the same 10- to 15-pound weight gain over and over again for my entire adult life.

I was old now, I decided, and who cares if I get fat.

As it turned out, I care. I am lucky to have been remarkably healthy all my life and I want to get to my grave in that shape but I had been feeling sluggish and tired and vaguely not well for a long time.

I don't feel that way anymore and the only thing that has changed in my life is what I've described in this post.

Must be related, don't you think - heh.

Ronni - I am also impressed. And I have a question for you. Have you done any research into the effects of diet on dementia? My weight is OK, but dementia is prevalent on my mother's side, and I fear my protein-intensive diet (which really helps keep the weight under control) may not serve me well in the longer term. I'm 57, so I want to lay the foundation now for health in my later years.

Bravo Ronni! I have adopted a similar plan via Weight Watchers Online. All fruits and veg; minimal cheese and alcohol. It works, but I have trouble with maintenance.

I have long created artificial tipping points for myself by projecting events that I'll enjoy if I can move freely and suffer through if not -- mostly hikes these days (once even more vigorous). This helps besides being fun.

This weight stuff is hard. We're an animal that strives to avert starvation, surrounded by enticing high calorie foods.

Ahem - I happen to know that janinsanfran recently lost 35 pounds so let's hear a bravo for her.

Just to show you how frustrating a weight loss program can be and that you must let the daily weigh in be a guide but not discourage you, this morning I weigh 129.8 - up a full pound from yesterday.

I didn't eat a quart of ice cream yesterday, I didn't change anything about how I eat now. It's just happens that way sometimes.

Lisa, no one knows what causes dementia or if diet has any effect on it one way or another.

Thanks for today's blog. I've known for ages what I must do to feel and be my best. I don't see mention of fiber, but if I can do better with those fruits and veggies, then my, uh, lower digestive tract will be happy. Thanks again for the challenge ~~ I'm going to tackle it !!

I've been eating like this for years. I'm so glad someone wrote it all down. I also combined it with exercise 3X/week. It worked nicely. I like to say "East right and exercise, then accept what comes from it." We're not supposed to look like someone else's version of what's good.

Vegetables, fruit and whole grains pretty much cover the subject of fiber. It doesn't then need to be a separate category.

about six years ago i lost 70 lbs in 9 months

one of the things that helped me thru the "rough spots" was the blog I wrote about it every day. I don't know if anybody ever read it but it did me a world of good.

I wish I had the energy to cook and stay on my feet long enough to prepare healthy food. I have prepared full meals twice recently when I had company and I suffered doing it. So steaming and roasting veggies is out of the question for me. Instead I am using Meals On Wheels because cooking a full meal is no longer easy.

I admire your discipline, Ronni. After painfully losing 20 pounds, I gained 5 or 6 pounds over the holidays while at my daughters. Now I have to spend weeks losing them. One of the mysteries of life is why is it so easy to gain weight quickly and why does it take three times as long to lose it.

My diet is a good breakfast of oatmeal or other non-sugared dry cereal with as much cut-up fruit as I can find. In the summer I will have as many as 5 fruits (melon, half a banana, blueberries, and strawberries). I use very small portions of each. For lunch I have an apple and hard cheese. For an afternoon snack I have more fruit or a hard boiled egg or a few nuts. Dinner is a meal from the MOW program that always contains a small portion of meat. However, the calorie content is kept low on these meals so I am able to slowly lose a pound or two.

I do hate re-losing those pounds I so painfully lost last year, but I will do it. I guess I am on the yo-yo diet. Sigh!

I can't figure out if I posted in the wrong place or didn't hit something right, but my posting seems to have disappeared.

I posted that I'm eating the same way as Ronni is and I too have lost 35 pounds since starting to do so. I eat almost all vegetables, fruits, whole grains and nuts with a very little bit of animal products --- mostly oysters, clams, cold-water fish (in sushi) and roe. I've been very excited about this way of eating and I blog about my experiences doing so. I've found some really great recipes too, like sweet potato lasagna that is out of this world. Keep up the good work Ronnie. I enjoy your blog and it's good to see someone else eating like I do.

Ronni, Three cheers. Jim and I are doing the same new life style change. Have discovered crustless pizza......just take all the veggies, a very small amount pasta sauce and a pinch of cheese, lots of oregano, them bake. Our condo smells like our favorite pizza joint!

I was struck by how similar our diets are. I gave up beef and pork years ago but cook and eat a fair amount of fish and chicken. Also a lot of grains, fruits, and vegetables.

However, I seldom cook potatoes, and I do love cheese and use it sparingly when I cook.

My main health challenges are having two chronic metabolic conditions, Type 2 diabetes-- associated with having had two high birth-weight babies--and thyroid disease.

Diet and exercise are very important in managing diabetes, and so far I've been able to prevent any long-term damage by diet and exercise alone for over 10 years. Fortunately, I love to walk and belong to a fitness center for those occasional rainy days in Seattle.

In terms of your upcoming cataract surgery, I think you'll be amazed and pleased with what a dramatic improvement it makes in your vision.

Nice job Ronni! I can relate to your struggle and am impressed at your list of tips. Smart, sound advice.
Thank you!

Gee Ronni, Always knew you were special but am totally knocked out by your long term food plan and your ability to stick to it! Must have lost and gained 100's of pounds over my 85 years. Always about 10 lbs. over where I want to be!
Have always loved to cook and fortunately I have a hungry and appreciative audience--so can't really give that up...
company and parties are really what make life worth (my) life worth living. C'est la vie.

Way to go, Ronni - you're inspiring for many in this most important area of living. I also tackled my physical self last year, upon turning 70 and having prediabetes, even though I was/am a pescetarian (fish). The key is to burn more calories/day than those eaten. In addition to a diet similar to yours, I forced myself to walk, then slow jog for 45-60 minutes every day. It took about 2 weeks early every morning to realize the NEED to "set up" my days and I've never considered stopping since. That and diet helps sleep as well. Making it a priority caused other routines and plans to change, at times a problem, but so what - their importance paled by comparison. Another side effect is the wholesome feeling of self-empowerment ('scuse the yippie, yuppie, yappie?term...), and this leads to an overall welcome attitude change. In a way, I decided to not be a victim, even if it failed.

This is a great list Ronni. The only thing I might add to it is beans. Most beans are a good source of protein and have other nutritional elements that keep you healthy.

I like to spice them up with chili powder, cumin, peppers and onions and either eat them whole or mash them up and put them in a whole wheat tortilla wrap with a little salsa. Yummmmmm.

Congratulations! You give terrific advice for anybody facing a similar challenge. And you know what: it sounds delicious too.

Wonderful, and your plan is a keeper, healthy and sensible. I've lost about 25 pounds by eating similarly over the last three years and the first thing that happened was my feet and knees quit hurting. The benefits are amazing.

Loved reading this post and comments. Terrific window into how aging people can be their own best advocates. Having an informed, energetic leader makes a difference too. Thanks, Ronni.

Btw, it your approach to eating as aging is not going to be a book, could be swell pamphlet. Just sayin.

Sounds sensible. I wonder about all those ads for miracle plans, diet pills, magic bullets, etc. Don't people notice the part that always says "combined with diet and exercise"?

Looks like quite a few of us eat sensibly. I've lost near 70 lbs in two years from 2009 to 2011 and hit the plateau until just recently. Yep that plateau lasted over a year! I had excess job stress prior to my retirement thus horrible weight for me. My cardiologist said I've done great and it happens. He also said sometimes you have to eat 'near starvation' mode [he is in excellent shape and older than my 67 years and is quite active] so he said for me to try to keep calories around 1300 but under my recommended 1550 and it's worked to break the plateau....so far, I've lost 4 pounds in two weeks but average only half a pound a week which is what my doctor also liked. I walk daily and have work-out DVD's for the rainy days. No meat either for me and mostly I eat the way you and others state here. So keep it up everyone. The goal for me is to die 'upright' as in not bed-bound.

I forgot to add that the last 25 pounds as I've got remaining to lose are indeed the most difficult to lose, so my doc says. Good luck everyone.

Way to set a goal and follow it, Ronni.

I lost13 pounds last year, but wasn't overweight before. I had plantar fasciitis and went to the doc. She said go get blood test. I did. There was no sign of diabetes, lack of vitamin B or thyroid problems.

I had way high blood pressure.

Doc wanted to give me medication. I said no, give me another way to lower bp. She gave me the dash diet.

I said give me two months and you will see a different me.

Went home, followed the diet.

I garden like a maniac, am in a cycling group and walk miles.

Anyway, went back to doc just before leaving for Florida. She took one look at me and said wow.

She took my blood pressure. Back to normal. I never had high blood pressure before.

But we had a big renovation in our house and the stress of that was horrible.

I basically eat like you do Ronni, and my blood pressure is still good.

Had to donate most of my clothes to the Sally Ann.

My doctor told me on last routine visit: You are heavier than ever since we first met 10 years ago. Next time I'll show him--besides, I need to be in shape by my Greece vacation this summer. Good to have a goal.

Jim Smith, do you have a link for the recipe for sweet potato lasagne? Sounds yummy!

Bravo,Ronni - this is so inspiring. I'm printing and posting it in the kitchen.

Now if I can just pry myself away from my comfy chair and laptop.

Well done Ronni! You are an inspiration!

Ronni, this is awesome!

Very inspiring,Ronnie. I can't wait to reach that "point" where I take charge of my weight. I did it with cigarettes and I will probably do it with this health issue as well, eventually. Very good ideas. I will remember them. Thank you.

Dear Ronni
I loved your diet and trying to follow it.
You do not have any milk?
And eggs?
And coffee and tea?
And about water?
Thanks for the inspiration

Here's a link for Jim's Sweet Potato Lasagne: http://www.finallyourtime.com/2014/01/sweet-potato-lasagna.html?spref=fb

I surely admire you Ronni. After hardly losing 20 pounds to body blitz and diet soups, I gained 7 pounds over the holidays.
Now I have to go back to weeks losing them.
why is it so easy to gain weight quickly and why does it take three times as long to lose it.?

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