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I know. Losing weight is hard. When you get older, it’s even harder. You think that maybe the latest fad diet might do the trick, although in your heart you know that best-selling writer has no magic to offer for your weight struggle.
Well, I’m here to tell you that you can do it! Throw away your diet books, your internet print-offs, and the latest recommendation from a friend who is the worst example of a well-managed diet. (Don’t you hate people who tell you how to eat as they gobble down a cheeseburger and fries?)
My recommendations are not easy. They are not based on government dictates of a healthy diet. They will not feed your wounded spirit or reduce your over-active appetite. You probably won’t like them. But they will work. No measuring. No groups. No counselors. Just li’l ol’ me and my time-tested cooking and practices. So here goes:
- Don’t set goals for how many pounds you want to lose. The whole idea is that you’re going to change your whole relationship to food—for life.
- If you start to crave having some food that’s really bad for you (for example, a chocolate fudge ice cream sundae), put something sweet in your mouth, like one piece of Hershey’s dark chocolate. No fair making excuses that you get these cravings at least ten times a day. If you’re thinking about food that much, you need to find a hobby.
- Identify the foods you like and learn to cook them creatively. We often have stir-fry recipes, so lots of veggies there, with brown rice cooked in broth. We eat a lot of chicken, so you’ll find lots of marinade recipes online. (My husband doesn’t eat fish.) During this week we’re having an asparagus/cashew stir fry with peppers and brown rice; a homemade vegetable soup for our meal; “breakfast chicken” (which is a bit of a splurge, coating the chicken with a little ranch dressing and cornflakes) with brown rice and veggies; spaghetti and meatballs; and a lentil stew with lots of veggies and smoked turkey kielbasa. Most of these are easy to make or we make big batches and freeze them. We have seven batches of split pea soup and eight batches of vegetable soup in the freezer.
- Cut down on portions; this step has been critical for my weight maintenance. The more my age goes up, the more my portion sizes go down. Way down. But I don’t leave the table hungry, because I judge how my belly feels, not whether I feel like I want more to eat.
- Cook only as much as you need, or if you make something like a brisket, take only one serving and commit to freezing the rest. No seconds.
- Don’t cut out sweets completely. After every meal, we have our favorite tea and one—yes, ONE—chocolate chip cookie. They’re the big ones from BJs. It takes care of my sweet tooth.
- Exercise—yeah, I know, there’s no time. MAKE TIME! Okay, I’ll calm down. I take a brisk 35-minute walk, Monday-Friday, and work out at our gym three times per week, including some cardio. Don’t ask yourself if you feel like working out—you’ll never do it. Instead, write it on your calendar and even if you’re tired, go do it. You need to make it as regular as brushing your teeth. You do brush your teeth, right?
- Cut out as much bread as possible. We have a couple of little slices of French bread with our soup with butter, and my other bread splurge is one slice of pumpernickel at lunch. (I love it with a thin layer of hummus and a couple of little pieces of lox.)
- Eat fresh fruit to satisfy your sweet tooth. I love raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, mango, mandarin oranges and such, with a little low-fat yogurt. I never eat no-fat anything. Too blah.
- Herbs, herbs, herbs! I grew up with a mother who only used salt and pepper, and sometimes garlic. As an adult, I discovered that cooking with herbs and other flavors is so much fun! Basil is one of my favorites; then there’s rosemary, thyme, oregano. I also discovered fennel, leeks, and shallots! Experiment and learn what you like; after a while, you’ll use the ingredients that please you most.
I could make lots of other suggestions, but the bottom line for weight loss and maintenance is—are you ready?—common sense and moderation. So boring. But so true.
If anyone wants to contribute other suggestions for practical weight management, speak up. Just remember: the best diet in the world has little to do with the guidelines.
It has to do with you.