Crabby's Vocabulary Complaints
It Isn't Nice to Keep Elders on Pins and Needles

Old Age and Weight Control

category_bug_journal2.gif There are a whole bunch of things I want to tell you about Social Security, Medicare, some aspects of retirement, caregiving, elders and work, along with evolving cultural attitudes toward aging, scary stuff from the potential Republican candidates for high office and more but you're probably not going to see them for a while.

The reason is they all involve a good deal of research I don't have time for because I'm working on an outside project for the next several weeks. So for the duration, you will get more posts such as yesterday's from Crabby Old Lady and this one – the kind I can run straight from my brain to the screen without much effort.

It has been awhile, but we have in the past talked about our thickening middles and increased weight. Many here have proclaimed that they no longer care, that at our age we deserve to enjoy the Haagen Dazs and let the pounds attach themselves where they may. That certainly describes me.

Then, a few months ago, I noticed it was becoming increasingly difficult to tie my sneakers. Bending over, even with my foot raised onto a stool, left me unable to breathe. Stooping over for anything stopped the air from going in and out so I began feeding the cat on the counter and I was thinking about buying a dustpan with a long handle.

When I tracked down my old blood pressure monitor in a back closet and installed new batteries, the readings were not good. I, who for a lifetime had such low blood pressure even my doctors joked about whether I was alive, was in the danger zone.

Those developments were a strong indication that my weight was no longer a lamentable but acceptable aspect of aging; it was becoming a serious health problem.

About that time, my 70th birthday rolled around and there is nothing like an anniversary with a zero at the end for new beginnings.

I have plenty of experience with weight loss. Beginning at puberty, my body has always leaned toward chubby and there is no telling how often I have lost 10 pounds that regularly crept up. For some years, I tried just about every fad diet that came along except Atkins. They all worked to take off those few pounds, but not one of them is sustainable over the over the long haul.

I finally accepted that there is only one way to lose weight: eat fewer calories than the body needs to maintain its current weight and do it with healthy, nutritional foods.

Recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture ditched its long-standing food pyramid, which they had tweaked from time to time, for a new food plate.


Makes sense to me. And so, after some fumbling during the first few weeks, I arrived at another way of eating. Lots of fruit and vegetables, some whole grains with a small piece of poached or roasted fish two or three times a week and part of a poached chicken breast cut up in a salad now and then.

I've also spent a good deal of time inventing some healthy, low-calorie, low-fat salad dressings and sauces that are tasty too.

Only those are new to me; this has been my basic diet for a long time. My problem has always been all the other stuff I like: good breads and cheeses, hummus and crackers, pastries and most of all, ice cream – at least one of those foods every day and I'm no good at portion control.

The last item in that list is where I go especially crazy. When I eat ice cream (the best food invention in the history of the planet) and wake the next day still able to get into my clothes, I think I can eat more. And more. And I do. Which is what got me, with the other favorites, to my breathing problem.

So I figured that at age 70, I am finally old enough to become less stupid about what I eat. I like to cook and I love almost all food but at last, I prefer to do what I can to preserve my health, particularly at a time in life when more is likely to go wrong with it.

As everyone except fad-diet fakirs have always told us, the best diet is one that you can maintain for the rest of your life and that's what I have created for myself.

It's been four months now and WOW! I don't own a scale so I judge what has changed by how my clothes fit and I am down to only two pairs of pants that don't fall off. Last year, not realizing how bulky I had become, I bought two shirts that, when I tried to wear them, would not button. Now they fit too loosely. (This is going to cost me big time in a new wardrobe.)

But here is what matters: I can tie my sneakers again without losing my breath. Ollie the cat is back to eating on the floor. My blood pressure is in normal range. Oh, I forgot to mention another symptom; I couldn't walk more than two miles without my feet and ankles aching. That is remedied now too. All these problems were the result of being fat.

I still have a long way to go, but it isn't about staying on a diet until I reach some mythical number of pounds. This is not a diet – it is how I eat now and the weight loss will stop when I reach a stasis where calories in match calories out.

I eat mounds and mounds of vegetables and I never feel hungry. I'm too full in the evening to crave ice cream. In time, I will allow ice cream but only as a rare treat and in small servings – no more an entire pint of Haagen Dazs. I'll allow a small portion of cheese occasionally. That won't be difficult given that the tiniest wedges of the really good stuff easily cost $8 to $10 these days.

My long-winded point (aside from boasting about my success) is that it's not hard for elders to lose weight. That's just an excuse – it certainly was mine. Yes, our metabolisms slow down along with, usually, our level of activity. But by eating wisely, we can achieve a healthy weight.

Yeah, I know. There are a lot of humorous rhymes and poems and cartoon characters like Maxine telling us life is too short to deprive ourselves of chocolate, wine and ice cream and at our age, we've earned the right to indulge. Those foods are fine in (for me, extreme) moderation. But a bonus is that I'll be able to afford better wine when I do drink it.

And the other side of those funny arguments is that I have been lucky with good health all my life. I would like to go to my grave in that condition.

Here endeth today's lecture.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mickey Rogers: Learning Their Lesson


Good for you, Ronni, just goes to show we need never give up on our bodies, our weight, and our health!

I recommend all watch the CNN special, "The Last Heart Attack". If you google it, you can find it to watch on line. A lot of it is Bill Clinton talking about his changed diet.

And, as reinforcement, watch "Forks over Knives" (now out on DVD). I watched it with a few of my women friends and we're all committed now to easing into being vegans, i.e. no meat, fish, or dairy, with lots of whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. The evidence shows that such a diet is medicine itself and far more effective than prescribed medications.

Being a bit lactose intolerant I gave up eating ice cream a few years ago - and now substitute frozen yogurt. Low or non-fat frozen yogurt has very few calories (unless you eat the entire pint in one sitting) and maybe you can find a brand and flavor you like. Personally I love Stoneyfield Java and second best is their chocolate one. I scoop some out into a small (very small ) dish and that will more than satisfy me most of the time. I have no interest in a vegan diet - but we normally eat very small portions of beef, chicken, fish, Portion control is the key.

I agree with you totally on ice cream! My husband and I tried Atkins and he immediately dropped 20 pounds and I...stayed exactly the same. Go figure!

The food plate idea appears simple and do-able. I also need to get moving and not work at my computer all day - a challenge here in 113 degree Arizona!

As Richard Simmons said, "Never say 'diet'"!! You've definitely chosen the right path to good health and a good weight.

I'm 74 and you and I apparently have the same body type - everything I ate went straight to my stomach and hips! About five years ago, I chose exactly the same eating pattern and have lost 40 pounds ... and kept it off with no problem.

In addition, I haven't eaten beef or pork in over 20 years!

I've gone from cholesterol of 300 to 190 without medications of any kind, and my other lab tests are all so normal, my doctor keeps telling me, "Whatever you're doing, don't stop!"

And I feel wonderful and am still working a full-time job as as a self-employed bookkeeper for 5 small businesses. Working out of my home is "living the dream" for me. Love it!

Thanks for the encouragement to take better care of ourselves. It is easy to slip into overindulgence as we age. You are an inspiration, Ronni! And a good coach...which we all can use. Keep up the good work and the reminders from time to time!
As a former Weight Watchers leader, I am very much in favor of that program...but I still need a lot of encouragement!
Ruth Marchese

I am a yo-yo dieter. I went on the Atkins diet years ago and lost 20 pounds easily. The problem is, I don't like to eat meat and I couldn't stay on it after losing the desired weight. The result was that I put the 20 pounds back on plus 10 more. Now I lose a few pounds by cutting my portions and then I have company or go someplace where there is tempting food high in calories and can't resist. I gain them back. Then I avoid ice cream (Like you, Ronni, it's my weakness) and lose them again.

My trouble is that vegetables do not fill me over the long haul. If I eat a vegetable salad I am hungry in a couple of hours.

I need to lose at least ten pounds but I am afraid I will kick the bucket before it happens. I also retain water at times and that makes my weight vary as much as 3 pounds. Lack of exercise (and willpower) is my downfall, although I am doing all of my own housework once more and I hope that will help.

I have to change my entire diet to lose weight - not the fruits and vegetables, of course - but everything else.

I have to switch from healthy whole grain bread to low calorie cardboard. I have to remove the cream (soy milk, actually) from my coffee, the butter from my bread, the dark chocolate from my pantry, and the juice from my breakfast.

It's annoying. I can either eat healthy or lose weight, but not both.

Fifty-three years ago I was fat. I'd been chubby since about age 11, but when I got married for the first time in 1958, cooking big meals was considered part of being "the good wife". In less than a year I gained 40+ lbs., going from about 135 to almost 180 lbs. (I was 5'3" at the time). The few clothes I was forced to buy for work came from the back corner of the store where they hid the "women's" sizes. Forget big-and-beautiful!

One day I took a long look at myself in the mirror and realized that the lump reflected there was ME. I decided to change that day. My husband and I were headed for divorce by then (despite my cooking or maybe because of it). I lost 70+ lbs. over the next 8 months by eating once a day, lots of salads and very lean hamburger (no bun).

Disclaimer: my approach is not for everyone and may be medically dangerous for some. I still eat once daily in the evening, and my meal still consists of salad, whole-grains and fruit. I do have a sandwich, cookie or small piece of cake sometimes, but I pay close attention to how my clothes fit and the scale. As soon as 1-2 lbs. creep on, it's back to basics. I walk whenever I can and have also built extra physical activity into my life.

My weight has stayed within a 5-lb. range for 50+ years. Sure, I miss some of the foods I used to eat, but the tradeoff has been well worth it. I have no weight-related illnesses at 74+ (nor does my 6', 178-lb. husband at age 82). In my view a lot of eating is done routinely out of habit, and habits can be changed, albeit not always easily.

Great post-- it's amazing what the difference of even just a small amount can make on easing arthritis and decreasing the needs for medications for problems like blood pressure or cholesterol, even diabetes. Kudos on the new regimen!

My compliments. Brava, bravissima.

As a Dietitian (R.D), my professional life was spent helping people with their various diets. I know how easy it is to set your goals, gather your will power, your support people and go on a weight loss diet. People can lose weight. Making permanent changes in their eating (and drinking)habits, however, is the hard part. Like you, Ronni, and many others, my main meals are really healthy. It's the extras that do me in. I've just lost the 10 lbs I gained over the Winter by reducing carbs, which really helps with the hunger pangs, smaller portions of the foods I like and no wine or beer or the nibblies that go with them. (I can pass on sweets, but greasy salty snacks are my poison.)

Now the challenge is to get through the upcoming Winter fun and sociability in the So. Texas RV Park we escape to. Like you, my biggest motivation is discomfort: bra and waistbands too tight, feet hurt, etc. I refuse to buy bigger clothes. I used to be able to both diet and exercise, but a half hour walk, while good for me, doesn't burn many calories. It's much easier to not consume 100 calories than it is to work it off. I weigh about what I did after my last baby for the first time in 40 yrs and I mean to keep it that way. It feels so good!

Good work Ronni. Long life and good health to you.

Congratulations on your healthy weight loss!

I think they only way I could do all that is to live with someone who cooked for me and didn't allow any additions to the diet, such as desserts. We gave up dessert, except for special occasions, about 6 months ago. Mr. k lost 12 pounds and I only lost 5. I know if I would walk, my waist would thin out some.

I don't cook much, and husband and I have totally different ideas of what a "good" diet looks like. I am with kenju-I need someone to cook good meals for me. I don't snack much, but exercise is not on my regimen. I know I need to do it, but just can't seem to figure out exactly how to do it in a way that is sustainable. I'm at the highest weight I have ever been. Although I am not happy about it, I'm not moving forward yet. Congratulations to you on your success!

Congrats on weight loss. This has encouraged me to try and loose a stone. I do exercise but not enough to loose weight.

What an inspiration you are, Ronni!! I can't imagine having your determination, but I can hope that one fine day I'll find it and put it to use!

When you're ready for the ice cream, I recommend Weight Watchers Giant Fudge Bars. Every bit as good as the old Fudgesicles from childhood...but bigger and creamier. Our local stores struggle to keep them in stock.

I like the new My Plate graphic, too. What took them so long?

Congratulations on your success. It really does make you feel better. I used to have creaky joints and it took me a while to get up from a sitting position before I could move again. Since I've lost weight, my knees no longer hurt, and nothing creaks or complains. What worked for me, in addition to exercise, is smaller portions. I do this by literally using tiny bowls and utensils (from the baby department). When I have a bowl of ice cream, it is in a little baby dish, and eaten with a little baby spoon. I don't deprive myself of anything, but just eat less at a time. Vegetables go on a big dish, and anything considered a treat or snack goes in a tiny bowl.

Calories in, calories out was easy when I was moving around. Sitting still forced me to examine what I put into my mouth, in no small measure because I had to ask someone else to get it for me.

Without wanton snacking and with a modicum of exercise I've maintained my post-Jan 8 weight... even the 10 pounds I lost in the hospital and never put back on.

Mindful eating, my girlfriend calls it. So glad to see it worked for you, too, Ronni.

Congrats to you! This is definitely the way to eat. Physical activity is really important and that's where I am erratic in action.

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