Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Program Revisited

"Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels," model Kate Moss famously quipped.

Except wine.

And therein lies the rub.

Or the belly rub, if you will.

Last spring, I wrote about embarking on my first ever real "program."

I'd been a very lucky woman until about age thirty-eight: I was naturally inclined to enjoy exercise and I could eat desserts and drink alcohol, without a lot of concern for my midsection.

Then a double whammy hit.

My metabolism hit The Wall, an obstacle familiar to the vast majority of women slightly beyond peak birthing age, and I began taking medication for a health issue, and that medication made me retain water some of the time, so my weight would yo-yo dramatically week to week.

I decided something had to be done.

The answer, for me, is NEVER new pants.

Instead of hitting the mall, I rebooted my workouts, which had become admittedly lame after I was forced to quit running. I added a couple of days a week of real strength training. By which I mean I lifted weights that were actually kind of challenging to hoist repeatedly. And I started watching calories. Not obsessively. But I had to become aware, and realize that, for the most part, the program was the new normal.

Last spring, I dropped between twelve and sixteen pounds in seven weeks (depending on which end of the medication induced weight yo-yo I count from).

I've kept all but four off. No mysteries here. I've kept up the mindful eating and strength training.

It's the wine.

I've resolved to drop those four pounds, plus one more, because I like easy numbers. Which means I'm back on The Program.

So many of you emailed me and asked what I ate during the program that I thought I'd share here.
Basically, I dialed back (but didn't totally eliminate) dairy and wheat, dialed back alcohol to two nights a week, and nixed sweets for two months (the only dessert cheat was when I was a guest in someone else's home).

And I stopped scarfing the Grape's leftovers. This was hard for me. I view wasting food as a major sin.

Here's the food side of The Program:

Breakfast: Most mornings: A couple of scrambled eggs, a whole fresh fruit and/or a cup of fresh berries, coffee with milk. Sometimes yogurt in place of the eggs. Sometimes oatmeal with an apple or banana.

Lunch: Most days: Salad with either tuna or beans for protein, with olive oil and vinegar. No croutons. And obviously no salad bar items soaked in mayo.

Dinner: Most evenings: Some kind of grilled or baked fish or shellfish, LOTS of sauteed green veggies or a salad, rice or a baked potato with a modest dab of butter. Wine with dinner only twice a week. No desserts.

About twice a week, I cooked pasta—and I don't do brown pasta—because it's something we all like to eat as a family. I'd eat a normal portion, and I don't eat pasta without parmesan or pecorino romano. Some cultural things are too sacred to sacrifice on the swimsuit altar.

I'm not a snacker, but if my stomach complained to the point that I found myself tempted to chew on my arm, I'd eat a piece of fruit, some carrots, with or without hummus, some nuts or pickles.

In rare good news, it turns out that pickles are an appetite suppressant. Hurrah!

I'm following the same mindful eating rules again, and experimenting with adding a third day per week of strength intervals, in hopes of jolting my metabolism.

The first week or two are the toughest. I get cranky when I'm hungry. I'm over that hump now and feeling happier.

I will offer one final caveat. For me, it's virtually impossible to diet if I'm not sleeping enough. Sleep deprivation screws with your metabolism. I had serious sleep issues during pregnancy and the first year of the Grape's life. It would have been an awful time to go on a restrictive program.

What I learned: don't set yourself up to fail. Eating healthy foods and exercising can help you sleep better for sure. But never go to bed starving if you're already struggling with insomnia.

I'll report back next month.

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