Wednesday, June 20, 2012

500 Days of Dieting

Today is an anniversary day that I, frankly, did not have much faith in attaining. Temptations along the way have been many and reliable. Also reliably difficult to resist for the most part. For the other part, I did not always resist. I still like the things that are so bad for me. Well, if I can attain 500 days, I can certainly attain another 1/2 K!

Overall, I have lost 64 pounds. Although my current daily caloric intake is just 1541, my weight loss has slowed to a virtual crawl. I can no longer say the pounds are melting off, but crawling off like a tiny turtle.

I spoke with a nutritionist at my hospital last week. I asked her if, after such a long time dieting, my body has actually become accustomed to surviving on my present intake of food. She said yes. So, the way to lose more weight after the 500 days of fairly consistent dieting is to give it a nudge: either drop the calories much further, or get more exercise on a regular basis. Knowing myself, either of these will be a real challenge, but I must make a choice and do what I can. I want to lose a minimum of ten more pounds. Anything more than that will be a real bonus for me.

Hmmmm. Do I keep making more goals for myself? I guess so.

I suppose the calorie droppers will be in the form of vegetables and fruits, both store boughten and home grown. My vegetable garden has been supplying me with plenty of fresh herbs, strawberries, shallots, and snow peas. Spinach has come and gone. Some cabbages as well as carrots are ready to harvest, small tomatoes and peppers will be ripening in a month or so, and cucumbers and melons are gaining size. Brussels sprouts will take a while yet. The beans have flowered and I see tiny green beans forming. I don't eat much meat, but I will cut down on it.

As for exercise, I'll be doing that while doing other tasks. I've always despised the boredom of exercise, but I'm pretty sure I can do something while I'm brushing my teeth, or watching tv. (Today is an Errol Flynn marathon on TCM to celebrate that gorgeous man's birthday.) Further reports will be posted irregularly, but I will let you know when I reach another milestone.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Cat Who Would Be Man--A Departure from My Diet Blog

Junior: A Man Among Cats
October 3, 1995 to March 3, 2012

The calico Cutie Pie yowled when a messy kitten popped from her suddenly. She growled at it and leaped from the dresser drawer where she lay during her contractions. The kitten remained attached to her by his umbilical cord and was dragged several feet before I gently took hold of Cutie Pie and returned her to the delivery drawer. Junior had a bit of a rough start. Remarkably, Cutie Pie calmed down, delivered and cleaned five other kittens, and became an excellent mother. It was her only pregnancy and all her kittens were either placed well or kept in our home with their mom, who was soon spayed.

Junior was the dominant kitten immediately. He pushed the other kittens out of his way at each nursing as he nuzzled for his special nipple and when he sucked it dry, he latched onto another and let no one get it. He remained the alpha cat in our home until his death. Yet he accepted any new cat or kitten we got and socialized with them like a big brother.

Never a shy or timid cat, he circumambulated the two homes he lived in, guarding them bravely, chasing away any interloping canines that might stray too close to his property. He could climb a tree with the best of cats. When he wanted to go outside to enjoy the weather, the hunting, and the job of security cat, he’d push his head against the door, and if I did not notice him, he’d meow while looking at the handle. To get back in, he “knocked” on the door so loudly I heard it a couple of rooms away.

Outside daily in good weather, he found the sunniest spots to lay when it was cool and the coolest spots when it was too warm. After all, his orange fur coat was quite thick and warm. Every neighbor who walked by got to know him. They’d laugh because he was so round, so orange, and so very friendly while never leaving the property itself. They had their own names for him—either Morris or Garfield. To me, he was Junior—or June-Bug, Junie, Big J, Big Boy, Juney-Booney, Buddy, J-Meister—but his original name was Tinker-Boy Junior, named after an older cat we had. Occasionally he found himself addressed as Pumpkin or Sweety-Puss. No matter what we called him, he always knew our tone of voice and he came to us.

He rarely brought us the game he harvested, choosing to eat most of it on the spot. He was a super hunter, true to his nature as a feline. We never had a mouse problem, and rabbits did not damage my garden until the last two years, as Junior’s arthritis and sway back slowed him down. He no longer climbed our stairs to the second floor where we slept. His physical condition, earlier so perfect, showed more and more signs of his age as deafness and vision problems made him increasingly cautious.

However, his general health seemed fine. He remained alert, fairly active, and had a good appetite. He knew that if he came to me when I sat in a certain chair, he would get his favorite treats. Every time I pulled out the cutting board and prepared meat for dinner, Junior immediately walked over next to me and looked up with expectancy, waiting for the morsels he knew he would get. And, as all cats, he knew immediately when I’d open a can of cat food or a can of tuna or salmon (he loved all things fish), and he’d be right on the spot for his share, which was much larger than the other cats’ shares. He was still the first kitten at heart. For dry cat food, he wasn’t so fast. When I would pull up some catnip and bring it into the house, he would push the other cats out of his way to get his Alpha-cat share, just as he did at his mother’s breasts as a kitten.
With such a good appetite, he naturally had to release a lot of digested food remains. Although that may not sound funny, we had to laugh at him. He did not make normal-sized cat poops. He made man-poops. He really did. I started calling him a man, and continue to do so. The joke was that a man sneaked into the house and used the kitty-litter box. In fact, instead of buying real kitty-litter boxes, I bought a few very large utility pans from a lumberyard.

Even the day before he died, weak as he was, he made it to the litter pan. Too weak to remain standing, he laid in the litter to urinate. He would not dirty his house.

Although a man of a cat, Junior was neutered at nine months of age. In spite of that, if a cat in heat came to him, he would make an attempt to service her! He’d try and try, and get a weird look on his face when nothing happened. We could just imagine what he was thinking. What a funny little man he was.

He loved us all, our family of five. Spending sixteen years with the same people, receiving love, kindness, lots of scratching and petting, and being treated as a true member of the family, he was very attached to us. Every time my son went on vacation, Junior prowled the house looking for him. When we went upstairs to sleep, Junior would join us when he was younger. And when he could no longer get up the stairs, he’d be downstairs on his futon, calling us with loud cries. It was pitiful to hear. Often we would carry our lonely friend upstairs and put him on my bed.

His love of us and our love of him surely helped him in his final months, which took place in the winter. As the end drew near, he ate less daily. He walked much more slowly, stopping every few feet to take a rest. He had a hard time getting on and off his futon, so my son made a little stairway for him out of pillows and a square wicker basket. We brought him milk and water several times a day so he wouldn’t have to tire himself getting to his dishes. My son feared that Junior was cold because we keep the heat low during winter, so he put his electric blanket under Junior for the warmth. Junior loved it.

When I would prepare meat at the cutting board, he’d lift his head and look at me—was he wishing he could still have the good meats he used to get from me beneath the chopping board?  I’d bring him a bit of fresh meat, but he would smell it without attempting to eat it. He would refuse cooked and blended gizzards and liver, formerly a favorite of his. It seemed he was saying he just doesn’t have the appetite anymore.

Even when I’d wash the dishes, he’d stare at me. All of us in the house came to him many times a day and petted him. He always responded to it like the purring machine he always had been. Often he’d get restless, and make it to his favorite spots to lie for a time. His haunches became bony, his spine showed, his skin hung, his eyes became narrower, and his formerly thick jowls slimmed down pitifully as he lost half his weight. Sometimes he would vomit bubbles. His breath was horrendous, much like decaying blood. Yet I still thought that if I could get more food into him, he’d recover and stay with us a few more months if not years. I cooked chicken for him and blended it into the broth to make a nutritious liquid for him. It was very hard to let go.

After my knee surgery in November 2011, it was too painful to walk up the stairs to my room, so I began sleeping on the futon downstairs with Junior. He got used to my being there nightly very quickly, and he cuddled up to me every time I lay down. I sleep poorly, and whenever I’d awaken, I’d see him looking at me, and give him scratching. I brushed him daily. When my knee healed enough in January to make it up the stairs, I decided to remain sleeping on the futon with Junior. By then we could see he was declining just a bit daily. I did not want for him to be lonely for me, or for me to be lonely for my little man.

Junior did not die alone. I did not expect him to die that day. He had only put his muzzle into the water I brought him, without licking any. I had a syringe full of chicken broth for him, and I was about to feed him after filming him for a few moments. He had been looking at me just a few seconds before I filmed him. I suddenly realized that he let out a small sigh and stopped breathing just as I stopped filming. I petted and called him. Shocked, I wailed loudly, sobbed, and called my son. We both decided to try and revive Junior. He revived for just a few moments, but never got to eat. His eyes covered with an oily film, he took several large, heaving breaths, then he again let out a small sigh. He was gone. No matter how painful for us, we had to let him go. Neither of us could leave his side for a long time. My other sons attended the wake, and a dear friend of one of them also attended. We waked him for several hours after decorating his resting place with Valentine’s Day flowers an older son had bought me. How appropriate that they were purple.

The beginning of his life had drama and stress, as did the end. We are all connected by that, and all subject to it as well.

One of my sons is making a little coffin for Junior. We are burying him beneath a large, full-branched white pine tree. We’re putting a stone on his grave, and every time I walk through our little woodland I’ll think of the devoted companion I had for sixteen years.

In this world of monumental history blasting into the news broadcasts every day, the death of one small animal is no more than the washing away of one grain of sand on an enormous beach in this enormous universe. Yet to Junior’s family, the loss is inestimable.

Would a pedigree have made him more lovable, a more devoted friend, a better companion? To anyone who saw him, Junie was just an ordinary, short-haired, orange domestic cat, the kind you could get for free by the dozens on Craig’s list, or through an index card tacked onto a message board in a grocery store, or from a crowded shelter. But to us, he was a mighty man among cats.

After Junior’s death, my son said that he is going to get his little female cat spayed. If he wants another cat, he’ll adopt. Good decision.

There are millions of cats and kittens whose lives have had no such loving care, no such healthy food, and no such comfortable home. They are abandoned for good reason or not. They exist in little cages in shelters, on freezing garage floors, in alleys, or much, much worse. Approximately 2.9 million meet their deaths in shelters every year because no one wants them. No one took care that they would not be born only to be euthanized. According to the American Humane Association, “71 percent of cats that enter animal shelters are euthanized”. This includes healthy kittens and nearly every older cat, all of whom are adorable and all of whom need a loving home. Everyone has love in his or her heart, love enough to spare for a fellow creature of this wonderful planet. If you have love to spare and a good home, please adopt a cat. The reward will be much greater than you could ever imagine. Love breeds love.

Monday, March 12, 2012

400 Days of Dieting

I chose to title this post dramatically to remind everyone that losing weight is not a short-term experiment but a very long-term commitment. If you give up after a few days, you won't have any success. Also, even when you have reached your goal and think you are done, you still need to be vigilant.

Being about 15 pounds from a personally acceptable weight for my height and age, I am still quite actively dieting, counting every calorie and averaging them daily. My current average is 1541/day. My current weight is 175, and I still have the "love handles". I spot them when I look in my "rear view" mirror. I suppose, though, that when (I don't say "if" but "when") I reach 160, I may try for another ten pound loss or so!

The pounds are dissolving very slowly; however, I don't feel frustrated because I can see the results in my mirror daily. It's a good feeling to put on clothing, look in the mirror, and realize that how baggy it is. It goes right in a box of donations to Goodwill. This works out well too, since one of my sons works there!

I've made mistakes along the 400 days by letting myself go and then having to suffer to get back to where I was before the mistakes. I find that I "prime the pump", so to speak, if I fill myself too early in my day. I tend to lose management of my appetite too easily if my tummy empties when there are still several waking hours left. That's odd, but that's how it works for me. I can resist food more easily if I'm running more empty than full. The last meal of my day is the biggest by far. Then I go to bed full, and fall asleep before my appetite tells me to grab a sweet or a fatty thing. I will certainly have to be cautious for the rest of my life. You can't go up and down the scale repeatedly without hurting yourself. It's very easy going up and very hard going down.

Using the technique of mindful eating must continue as well. As for the Celiac Disease, I must admit that I dearly miss toast, sandwiches, pizza, crackers, and the occasional cookie or small piece of cake. I suppose I will always miss them.

Take care. Here's to the next 400 days. Time to get more little pads of paper for my calorie counting.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Today Is the One-Year Anniversary of My Diet

What a long haul it's been, and it's not done yet! I've lost 56 pounds. I must say that I expected to  lose more than that in 12 months. Yet--I'm being told by people, who include my doctor, that I should not lose weight too quickly in any case. The tendency for about 90% of all dieters is to gain back the weight (which I have done several times in earlier diets), and that's more likely if the weight loss was very quick rather than very slow. 

My appearance is quite different. I'm wearing much smaller clothing of course. Also, for people my age, the wrinkles are appearing rather quickly, but when I was 56 pounds heavier, I often heard remarks about my lack of wrinkles. Sure, they were filled in by fat. Now, though, with my face so much thinner that the new wrinkles are becoming more obvious as the weeks pass. Disappointing, but better wrinkles than diabetes or worse. At least the hair hasn't gone grey yet but that's thanks to genetics, not diet.

Speaking of diabetes, recent bloodwork revealed that I am no longer pre-diabetec. I'm so very happy about that. Also, my cholesterol is way down. Another positive change is that the intense pressure is off my knees and hips, so my arthritis is not as strong. It's remarkable how much difference it makes when your hips and knees don't have to move all that weight. I recently had my left knee replaced and my healing, I believe, has gone well in some part because I can move around and do my therapy more easily than if I still had the extra pounds.

A question I am often asked, particularly by people who are thinking about dieting and really NEED to lose weight, is about my appetite. They always (and I do mean always) seem to think that I don't have the appetite I had a year ago. They think that I have gotten so used to not eating all the sweets and fats I used to eat, that I no longer crave them. Not at all true! I still love them and I must be very careful when exposed to them that I do not have more than ONE small piece of whatever it is. I cannot eat two pieces because if I eat two, I'll eat ten. It is a real addiction to me and I must be most careful. As I've mentioned before, this is not a real deprivation diet. I do eat things that I crave; it's just the amount that is greatly different. Who said "It is easier to avoid temptation that to resist it"? That person was right. If you are invited to an event that has snacks or free meals, be very very careful. Avoid going there if you can. An occasional huge meal won't make a big difference in your daily average, but if you have too many of them, your average will raise so high you might be discouraged and fall back into the enchanting, mouthwatering trap of gluttony. 

Now I can reveal what I weighed one year ago today. It was 234 pounds. Now I weigh 178. I am continuing the daily averaging of my caloric intake. It stands at 1536, and it barely moves from day to day, because I would have to consume 365 calories more, or 365 calories less, in any one day to raise or lower the calorie average by just one! Therefore, if you do cheat badly and your average jumps by just 3 calories, it will take many days of eating well under the average to get the average back down. Be careful when you cheat. I want to reduce my weight to 160. If I can get it lower, great, but my weight loss has slowed down so much, it may take me another year of calorie averaging to get to that goal. 

Mindful eating is still something I practice daily and am teaching my son, who is developmentally disabled, to do. He is grossly overweight.

Good luck with all your own weight loss efforts. I hope everyone can get healthier. I hope that my efforts have at least been informative. I will continue to post occasionally.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Mirror Image

Look at yourself naked in the mirror, side view and front. Take a hand mirror and reflect the image of your back. Do this at the beginning of  your diet and about once a month during your weight loss. After you lose about ten pounds you'll be asking yourself "Is my belly not hanging as low as last month? Do I have less flab hanging off my arm than I did before? And that creased fat hanging on my back above where my waist used to be--isn't it smaller?" But still you have your doubts. Maybe it's your imagination. But you reach a point where you can see that your belly is not hanging over your crotch. What a beautiful moment. That flab under your arm is not as deep or as flappy as earlier; you can see you have a waist and nothing is hanging over the back of  your elbow.

Try on your old pants. They're starting to hang lower than your waist instead of having to be hitched above it. Soon people begin to say "It's time for you to get a new wardrobe," and you plan a trip to the Goodwill or St. Vincent's or the Salvation Army Store. Best of all, you are feeling very good.

For six weeks I was worried that I was continuing my reduced calorie diet for nothing, because during those weeks I DID NOT LOSE A SINGLE POUND.  I admit I had feelings of discouragement. But I kept faith that my diet would kick in again, and I continued counting every calorie I ate and averaging the totals daily. Today my average caloric intake over the 278 days of my diet is 1555.

I saw my doctor this week for a physical in preparation for knee replacement surgery, and my weigh-in showed that I have lost 52 pounds. I am very pleased. My doctor is very pleased. My reflection in the mirror (sideways, front, and back) is far more pleasing than it was last Feb. 6, when I began counting my calories. I would like to lose about 30 more pounds, but I won't force it.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Herb-a-Licious Dishes Or Save the Salt for the Slugs

No, I don't mean salty slugs. I personally don't eat them although I'm pretty sure they are very high in protein. I mean save the salt to sprinkle on the slugs in your garden, because it kills them. And, guess what--it can kill you too!

My spice rack is where the magic of cooking flavorful salt-free foods begins. My son Ron made it for me, according to my needs and the space available. It's in a most convenient space a few feet from my stove, my counters, my table, and my pantry, and it's alphabetized (so my sister suggested; I used to have it arranged according to whether food is sweet, hot, spicy, meat, vegetables, etc.) so I just step over to it whenever I'm cooking or baking, and choose my spices and  herbs. I grow herbs too. My family is so accustomed to taste-full food that when we eat out they can tell that much of the flavor is just from salt.

I especially appreciate my spices and herbs now that I must stay gluten-free.

Lists are pretty boring, so skip this list unless you REALLY want to know what I flavor my food with. 
Allspice, ground; Allspice, whole; Alum; Anis; Arrowroot; Bacon bits (real);Basil (a dozen varieties in my garden too); Cayenne; Celery salt; Celery seeds; Chili powder; Chive rings(and in my garden); Cilantro (in my garden too); Cinnamon sticks; Cinnamon powder; Cloves ground; Cloves whole; Cumin; Curry (very hot); Dill leaves (and in garden); Dill seeds; Garlic minced; Garlic powdered; Ginger ground; Mace ground; Marjoram; Mustard ground; Mustard whole; Nutmeg ground; Nutmeg whole; Onion chopped (and in my garden); Onion powdered; Oregano (and in garden); Paprika; Parsley (and in a flower pot); Pepper black; Pepper red crushed (and from my garden); Pepper white; Rosemary; Saffron; Sage ground; Savory; Sesame seed; Tartar, cream of; Thyme (and in garden); Turmeric; plus 12 salt-free blends.
This spicy soup is delicious.

Curried Carrot Soup

Sauté in 1 T of oil
5 stalks chopped celery
3 chopped onions
5# of chopped carrots (in a 2-gallon pot)
Water to cover
Enough low-sodium bouillion to flavor (I used 11 tsp)
2 T strong curry
In last moments of cooking, add fresh or dry parsley to taste

This recipe is delicious. It makes two gallons of soup, with only 1335 calories in the entire pot. That’s less than 42 calories per cup. We each had a very large serving bowl of this soup as part of the main course. However, I added turkey sausages in the last 15 minutes of cooking the soup, so we had meat in our main course too. My son ate his on bread. I ate mine with prepared mustard (no gluten I hope).


Thursday, July 28, 2011

I Lost 40 Pounds

In the last two weeks I have noticed that my weight loss is slowing down. I spoke with a nutritionist about that, and she told me that now that I am getting so much closer to my "goal" weight (I don't have it set in stone, though; I realize that it's emotionally healthier to accept what I can reasonably achieve and feel satisfied with it), my weight loss will not be as swift as when I was obese (wow, I'm not obese anymore). Proportionally, my daily caloric intake to maintain current weight is much closer to my future caloric intake required to maintain a more ideal weight than when I was 40 pounds heavier. 

I admit that I feel a little disappointed that the pounds are not "melting" away as they did in the first 150 days of my diet. I figured that I was losing the equivalent of one stick of butter every four days, and I impressed myself with that. Now it takes me about a week to lose that, still not too shabby. I want to keep it off, so naturally calorie counting and averaging is as important now as it was on Feb. 6, when I started my diet. My current average is 1544 calories per day. That number is much closer to the calories I'd need to maintain the goal weight. Then I'll need about 1943 calories per day. When I began my diet, I would have needed closer to 3,000 calories per day, but at that time I was eating only about one-half the calories I needed for maintenance. It makes sense that I was losing weight so quickly because maintaining my obesity required so much more food consumption. I expect that I will reach my goal around the winter holidays, and maybe into the year 2012. Come back and visit to see how I'm doing.