Keeping it off

An Outdoor View

If you're one of those people who can put on a pound just by walking past a plate of deviled eggs, the challenge of deciding what and how much to eat is daunting, especially if you like food as much as I do.

Besides liking to eat food, I like to catch it, preserve it and shop for it. I spend two or three hours a day cooking, my favorite hobby. For an hour or two a day, I watch people cooking on television. When I socialize with friends, food is nearly always the featured attraction.

Over the years, this passion for food, coupled with poor eating habits, took me to almost 270 pounds. Looking around, I had plenty of company. Three of every four American men aged 65 to 74 are overweight. When I realized that my eating habits were threatening my mobility and my ability to enjoy the outdoors, I decided to change them.

Taking weight off is fairly easy and quick, compared keeping it off. Having lost weight before and gained it back, I knew fad diets weren't the answer. I had to change a lifetime of bad habits. I had to learn how to "eat healthy."

I started doing what Dr. Oz advises: Eat like a king at breakfast, a prince at lunch and a pauper at dinner. I strictly limited my intake of "empty" calories, such as those of liquor. I focused on foods with high nutritional values, foods that wouldn't leave me feeling hungry an hour after eating. It worked. In a little more than a year, by "eating healthy" and exercising more, I lost 50 pounds, about a pound a week. I felt better and looked better than I had in years.

What do I eat?

I'm always looking for ways to make healthy foods more enjoyable. One of my favorite dishes for a light meal is the fish taco. It's inexpensive, easy to prepare and nutritious. I often make them with halibut and salmon, but they're good with any fish. I slice the fish into finger-size pieces, dust it with a light coating of salt, pepper and blackening spices, and saute it in olive oil in a non-stick pan. I make a salsa that usually includes sweet onion, jalapeno peppers, tomatoes, tomatillos, cilantro and lime juice. Slap this stuff on a taco-size tortilla, add a little chopped cabbage for crunch, and you have a satisfying, delicious meal.

I hate exercise just for the sake of exercise, so I've found some enjoyable ways to work off calories, including bike riding and contra dancing.

The balancing act of eating and exercising hasn't been easy, but it has been rewarding. Since changing my habits, I've lost almost 60 pounds, and I've kept them off for more than a year. Best of all, I feel great.

I still have my passion for food, but I look at it differently now. Don't get me wrong. I don't deprive myself of anything. I still eat pie, ice cream and seafood gumbo now and then. I just eat far less of those things nowadays, and I never go back for seconds.

Les Palmer can be reached at les.palmer@rocketmail.com.

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