Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Keeping Track. . .It Works

by Maggie Sefton

I've always paid attention to nutrition. I've never subscribed to trendy diets or eating regimens. I've found the balanced approach best---regular cardio exercise and healthy eating. I've also paid attention to the alerts to the foods that can sabotage maintaining a healthy weight and lead to health problems. I kicked sugar back in 1997. I used to add white sugar to hot tea (and I drank 6 to 8 cups/day) and added sugar to other foods.

Once I educated myself about the problems (not the least of which was weight gain as we reach middle age), I did a 180 degree turn. Started drinking my strong black tea with no sugar and no cream. And I noticed a big difference in weight. White flour was another problem food, along with salt. But I'd never abused salt, and I ditched all those addictive white flour bakery items when I cut out the sugar. You know. . .doughnuts, cakes, bagels, all those treats. Does that mean I never eat them? Of course not. But I eat them only occasionally. And that made a BIG difference.

Well, I'm writing about this today because last fall I started cutting out something else that is known to cause problems. Fat. Yes, I'd educated myself about cutting the amount of fat we eat, and knew the health reasons for it. And I'd applied those nutrition principles for years. And I'd noticed the scale going down over the years. Again---cardio exercise is an absolute addition to the lifestyle for many of us after what the French so charmingly call: "une certaine age." :) Well, I'm in that "certain age" and I pay attention.

So--last fall, I decided I wanted to get rid of those last eight pounds that had hung on for years. So I decided to REALLY start paying attention to everything that I ate and the calorie, carb, and fat counts for everything. I started the first of October and started writing down each meal in a little notebook similar to the one pictured. And----this is a biggie----I decided to really cut the fat intake particularly AND to increase the dense and high fiber breads & cereals. I'd already been using them, but this time I only ate the denser high fiber and multiple grains. I'd always enjoyed the flavors of those products so it was an easy switch.

But what really surprised me was how easy it was to cut the fat intake. Really. Ten years ago it wouldn't have been this easy. But now, there are SO many yummy fat free alternatives, including delicious vegetarian alternatives available, that I didn't miss those other foods. Not at all. What really shocked me was that I started looking at a lot of those foods differently. They no longer looked as appetizing or inviting. In fact, I can honestly say that I can walk past the ice cream freezer displays and not be tempted to buy some. Honestly. No kidding. Ice cream has always been a weakness. Not anymore. Once, since October first, I actually opened the ice cream freezer door in front of my old faves Ben & Jerry's, Godiva, Hagen Daas (sp?). I picked up a pint and turned it over and read the AMOUNT OF FAT IN ONE HALF-CUP SERVING! ! ! Then, I shrieked. Really. Right there in the store (small shriek) and tossed the container back into the freezer. No way was I going to eat that. One 1/2 cup serving of some of those flavors had my entire fat intake for one day. Honest. That really registered. :)



What about holidays? No problems. I denied myself nothing when I joined daughters for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. Over several days each holiday. Enjoying many meals, at home and at restaurants. Even my old temptation, Maggie's Chocolate Mint Fudge. No problem. I would eat some of my old fattening faves and enjoy it, but I never ate as much. I was changed. :) Sure, the weekly weigh-in showed a little gain, but it always disappeared once I returned to "healthy eating."

As for the scale---and that old tape measure---well, I have to say I've been shocked. I've lost those old 8 pounds. And I haven't seen those lower numbers for 20 years. No lie. And the tape measure? Even better. Inches off waist and hips. Old slacks and jeans from the back of the closet are fitting. And it's only been five months. . .with two major eating holidays. Wow.

I give credit entirely to the KEEPING TRACK METHOD. That's why Weight Watchers works for people. I didn't do their program. I had my own version of well-balanced, but with lower fat. And my daughters told me about another tool which really helps. It's a food & exercise tracker for your mobile phone, iPad, or computer. And it's SO easy to record everything you eat. Plus, it keeps track. It's absolutely free. Just go to MyFitnessPal.com and download the program. It's great. And it's made keeping track even easier.