An Outdoor View: Losing it

Posted: Friday, October 01, 2010

One day last year, I saw a fat, old man staring at me from my bathroom mirror. I didn't like his looks, and I resolved then and there to change them.

I suppose I was like an alcoholic who has to "hit bottom" before he can change. My eating habits and dislike of exercise had me in a vicious circle. I weighed 269 pounds. Even for my 6-foot, 2-inch height, that was obese.

My obesity greatly increased my chances of having cancer, a stroke, diabetes or a heart attack. The fatter I'd become, the lazier I felt. Tying my shoes or trimming my toenails made me gasp for air. My knees hurt and sometimes gave out. When I sat down, I hated to get up. I found myself avoiding all activity that wasn't absolutely necessary.

The changes I've made in the past year haven't been easy, but were well worth the effort. I'm down to 207 pounds -- still a few pounds overweight, but I'm still losing. I feel healthy and energized, better than I've felt in years. Here's what I did to lose those 62 pounds and feel 20 years younger.

I've been addicted to food since childhood, adding a few pounds every year. My eating knew no bounds. I would eat until I felt full, then eat more. With this dismal record in mind, I resolved to reduce the quantity of my food intake while increasing the quality. "Everything in moderation" became my mantra. Another helpful phrase I took to heart: "Find what works for you, and do it for the rest of your life."

I did some homework. Television -- mainly Dr. Oz -- and the Internet --mainly -- helped educate me about nutritional values of food and why nutrition is important to good health. The book "Younger Next Year" motivated me to keep on keeping on. I learned that the best way to ensure that the weight I lost would stay off would be to lose it slowly, the way I'd put it on. I learned that I could lose 1 pound per week by limiting myself to about 2,300 calories per day. I spent some time learning about calories and serving sizes, so I could know my daily intake.

I had to learn what was good and bad. I learned that most white foods are bad -- white bread, white rice, white potatoes, white sauces -- because they're high in carbs and low in nutrition. The same goes for sodas, alcoholic drinks and anything with "empty" calories. They'll make you fat, but don't provide nutrition to keep you healthy and energized. I decided to ingest this stuff rarely and sparingly.

Fast food, processed food and deep-fat-fried anything made my "Do not touch" list. Having learned the hard way that comfort food is of little comfort when you're gasping for air after climbing six stairs, I made a "Do not watch" list, with Guy Fieri, Paula Deen and Emeril Lagasse at the top.

To compensate myself for cutting foods I craved, I began buying and cooking food that was not just healthy, but that I liked. Grocery shopping mainly in the produce section, I prepared healthy, delicious meals. I started eating at least one green salad daily. Except for an occasional slice of bread with poached eggs for breakfast, I seldom ate bread. For protein, I ate deer, moose, caribou, salmon, halibut, nuts, beans and whole-grain everything.

On the difficult side, I had to spend less time with certain friends. Turning down dinner invitations was easier than trying to resist that second drink, that tempting appetizer or that ice-cream-topped dessert. Taking smaller portions has been hard for me to do. "Eat nothing larger than your fist" has helped, but the temptation to eat more remains.

At the same time I was changing eating habits, I was exercising more. I bought a bicycle, a jump rope and a rowing machine. I found a lady who has dog that has to be walked a couple of times daily, and she (the lady) likes my company. We started going to contra dances, which are fun and good exercise. We sometimes eat at fancy restaurants, but we skip or split the appetizers and desserts. She shares my goal of staying mobile and living independently in our so-called golden years.

Keeping a daily record helped me lose weight. Every morning, before dressing, I'd weigh myself and enter the date and my weight in a tablet. There was something about seeing that column of numbers and seeing those numbers decrease each week that kept me motivated.

Once I was into losing weight, I received no end of help and compliments. Everyone was rooting for me. There was no going back.

I still think about food a lot, but I channel those thoughts into planning meals that are both healthy and delicious.

The guy in the mirror?

Somewhere along the way, I found myself liking that guy.

Les Palmer lives in Sterling.

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