Dieting Through the Decades

Life is a trip, a journey, an adventure. Sure there are bumps in the road, and I don’t mean cocaine. One of my main problems in the second half of my life has been weight. In my 20s I was a size 8. Then later, a 10. The much dreaded double digits, but I wasn’t too concerned. Yet.

30 Something

For me, when I quit smoking in my early 30s, after a dozen previous attempts, some lasting as long as a year or more, I started eating. As a smoker from an early age, my taste buds had been reduced to ash. I craved nicotine and food was a necessary evil.

Then my buds bloomed and suddenly I discovered sugar and fat and salt and pizza and burgers and chocolate and potato chips. In my 30s I gained 30 pounds. So for the first time in my life, I was a chunky size 14. But very happy to be done with cigarettes. I made a few weak attempts to lose weight, but I was so busy teaching every day, acquiring a graduate degree at night, taking care of my family, and writing that adding one more thing to my to-do list was next to impossible.

Fat 40


First half of my 40s, I was the fattest I’d ever been. Somehow I had gained 20 or 30 more pounds. I was a size 16-18 and wore a lot of Plus Sized outfits. Also, I’m petite, so I looked like a little butter ball. People even asked me if I was pregnant because the extra fat on my face plumped any wrinkles and I held the bulk of my extra fat in my middle.

After a friend showed me a photo of myself all dressed up and looking really huge, I joined Weight Watchers. This is me after losing a significant amount of weight. I went from size 18 to size 14. I’m not really slim and the love handles are evident. Most of my weight was still in my middle. I was somewhat okay with this weight.

50 Revision

After surgically induced menopause, I quickly shot up to a size 16 again. I started getting reports from my doctor that said I had pre-diabetes, high blood sugar, and metabolic syndrome. I took each one of these reports seriously, read all the books and tried all the diets. Sugar Busters, Atkins, Fat Flush, South Beach. They all worked as long as stuck to them. I never got below a size 14, though. And I couldn’t quit, or even limit, carbs for very long.

In my mid-50s, I developed Barrett’s Esophagus (a pre-cancer condition brought on by acid reflux) and had another surgery, this time to remove my gall bladder. My body, I was told, could no longer process fat and I’d have to maintain a low-fat diet for the rest of my life. So much for the low carb approach.

After reading Quantum Wellness, I became a vegetarian. Initially I lost weight, but not that much. The pre-cancer condition cleared up, which seemed like a miracle as I was told it was a “forever” condition and would never get better, only worse. I attributed this miracle to becoming vegetarian. I still get checked regularly for Barrett’s, but it has not come back.

I felt okay about having a cupcake now and then and dark chocolate became a “healthy” favorite. I love potato chips and mashed potatoes and french fries. Those are all vegetarian and I ate them. I balanced these splurge foods with soy products, pasta, brown rice, and multi-grain bread. I also ate pizza at least once a week. I love my wine. Also vodka martinis with blue cheese olives. Yet I also enjoy healthy fare like seafood and salad, things I did not like at all before becoming vegetarian.

In my late 50s, a friend successfully lost a lot of weight on a mini-meal plan and I followed it, vegetarian style. I lost 10 pounds and went to a size 12. Then, at age 59, I lost 10 more and went down to a size 10. But even so, my pre-diabetes was not getting better. My doctor suggested cutting carbs and alcohol. I was already cutting calories to the bone on the mini-meal plan. I wasn’t sure how to incorporate her suggestions and remain slim and vegetarian.

60s: The First Year

IMG_1477I turned 60 last month. That’s me on my birthday. I want my 60s to be a healthy happy decade. I want to travel and be able to walk for miles and sleep well at night. I want to look at pictures and not see a muffin middle, which quickly reappears if I stop my semi-starvation diet for even a week. I want, more than anything to stop the endless round of gaining and losing and gaining again.

From Thanksgiving 2014 until March 2015, I packed on ten pounds. Two pounds a month. When I returned from a winter vacation, my carb cravings were intense. Soon, I couldn’t zip my size 10 jeans. And I had another sugar test scheduled in May. I knew I had to form some eating habits that would hold me for life. I felt out of control but also determined to make some necessary changes, and this time for good.

I of course bought yet another book, this one about forming good habits. In Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin mentions another book, Why We Get Fat. She said the science was impeccable and she’d effortless lost weight and kept it off. So did her sister, a diabetic, and her father who had an issue with belly fat. This was just a side issue in her book about making and maintaining excellent habits. But it sparked my interest so I read the book in a day and was dismayed to find that my vegetarian diet was a real problem for my particular body. This book suggests the same thing my doctor did after the last sugar report: cut carbs. I’d already mostly forsaken sugar and that had not helped my glucose levels. Carbs were the clear culprit, at least for me.

The most brilliant analogy in Why We Get Fat is that not everyone who smokes gets lung cancer. And not everyone who eats carbs gets metabolic syndrome/glucose intolerance/insulin resistance/pre-diabetes. Those medical health terms all mean the same thing. And along with pre-diabetes comes a cascade of almost every serious disease you can think of, diseases that kill you, diseases that cut life short, diseases I’d been flirting with for decades.

When I quit smoking in my 30s, I saved myself from possible lung cancer. People with pre-diabetes are prone to various cancers, including cancer of the esophagus. I’d already done that. Got a reprieve. Didn’t want to go there again. Then with Type 2 diabetes, there’s a good chance of heart disease and dementia, especially Alzheimer’s. I have seen people I love, in their 60s, 70s and 80s suffer and die with these diseases. All of them were overweight. All of them had metabolic syndrome. Science has proven that these life-ending diseases are preventable, but only if you catch the culprit that creates every one of them: pre-diabetes.


A little over two weeks ago, I decided to go very low carb until I could zip my size 10 jeans again. That happened within a week. In 17 days I lost 7 pounds. My first goal was to drop the 10 pounds I gained since last Thanksgiving and I am well on my way. There’s also my glucose testing next month. I don’t want yet another bad sugar report. I noticed another benefit of giving up “bad” carbs: I no longer crave sugar OR carbs. I no longer lose control and binge on anything in my pantry that contains mostly carbs. For the first time in forever, I can have cookies, bread, rice, potatoes, crackers, muffins, donuts and every other bad-for-me foods in the house for my husband, who has been the same healthy size since we married.

He’s one of the lucky people who does not have the propensity to gain weight when eating carbs. I’m not so it is good-bye to bad carbs forever. I’m pretty sure this time I will stick to the diet, because if I don’t, the rest of my life, as I envision it, with good health and great energy, will be over. I strongly believe (it only took a couple of decades to sink in) that if I correct my body’s insulin resistance, the best is yet to come.


  1. Yours is an amazing story Cynthia thank you for sharing it with us. In all the photos you look lovely but your most recent one is especially lovely! Belated happy birthday! Personally, I don’t like the phrase ‘losing weight’ as the emphasis is on ‘losing’. Gaining lightness and good health sounds and is better. Good luck with your sugar test.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow. You took what you needed to do to heart and did it! I am so impressed with your can-do attitude – giving up bad carbs would be tough for me. They are my go-to stress foods. I will say it’s not an all-the-time vice, just when I am overtired and stressed. I have a break from school this next week and am going to focus on eating well and exercising. I have taken your words to heart, Cindy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sharon, yay for your break! As long as your doctor doesn’t mention the dreaded “pre-diabetes” word, you are probably okay to eat your comfort foods. You look so slim and trim to me always!


  3. Chances are, Anita, if you’ve never had a bad sugar report, if you are not overweight, or if the circumference of your waist is under 33 inches, you don’t have to worry about carbs. They’re all good! If any of the above is true, the “bad” carbs are sugar (so basically all cake, cookies, pastries–no dessert or sweets), flour, bread (all grains), pasta, rice, potatoes, potato chips, french fries…all the good stuff. Also alcohol, at least at first.


  4. Hi Cynthia, I really enjoyed talking to you yesterday at the “Meet The Author” event. Now I discover that we are almost the same age (I’m a few months older) and were/are on a similar quest for the “right” way to eat. I won’t go into my own medical adventures here; I just want to share what seems to work really well for both my husband and myself: Dr. Michael Mosley’s “Fast Diet.” I don’t particularly care for the book’s title, because it’s definitely not a crash diet, more of a life style. Now I need to push myself a little further and add some exercise, possibly based on his “FastExercise” book, which is languishing on the shelf, as I’m allergic to mindless physical exertion… My kind of exercise involves turning the pages of a book.


    1. Hi Elisabeth, It was so great to meet you at the book signing! And thank you for buying some books:) I also enjoyed our conversation and planned to look up your blog. Thank you for the lifestyle food book. I am going a bit nuts trying to find what fits for me. Maybe Michael Mosley has the answer I’m looking for. I will certainly buy his book (like you I am a huge reader of every kind of book from fiction to self-help). One thing that helped me with exercise (I felt exactly like you about exercise) was to do it right when I get up. I set out my workout clothes the night before and I brush my teeth and put them on and head to the torture device known as a treadmill. It is really not so bad when you are not fully awake yet! I was amazed that I have been able to continue this new habit for 3 whole weeks! I’m looking forward to summer and walking in Stony Creek park, which is very close to home. I like walking in a natural setting, or destination walking, but the treadmill, not so much. Although as I said, it is amazingly not that bad first thing. And I walk slow and read while walking:)


      1. LOL, when I’m not fully awake, it will seem like a bad dream. You can read about Mosley’s method on his website before buying the book. I’s basically intermittent “fasting.” It comes down to restricting your calorie intake 2 days (of your choice) per week. Once you reach your ideal weight, one day is enough to maintain it. The kind of exercise he advocates is short bursts of intensive exercise (I just sprinted to the mailbox and back!). I also subscribe to Mark Sisson’s Daily Apple newsletter. He’s a paleo guy, and without fully embracing that “diet,” I learn a lot about food and health from his posts. The two are quite compatible. What I like about both these gurus is that you don’t need to deprive yourself. Granted, eating Mosley’s 200-calorie breakfast will leave you “hungry” for a couple hours in the afternoon, but then your 300-calorie dinner will taste heavenly (and you’ll be surprised how filling it can be). Plus you tell yourself, “Tomorrow I can eat anything I want!” And that’s the literal truth. Hubby and I consistently lost a pound per week, and now do the one-day maintenance plan. (I’m a little heavier still because I could not keep it up in India as I was invited to too many feasts and it’s rude to decline…)


        1. I did read about it on his website Elisabeth and tried the 500 calories yesterday. I didn’t actually count, I just cut my food consumption by more than half. Result? I lost 1.5 lbs overnight after being on plateau for a week. Hanging on but fingernails with this until I get my next blood sugar report (due to see doc in mid-May) and then when I see the numbers I will re-assess. I was never so happy when I heard the buzz about short burst of exercise! I’ve long been a fan of the ten minute yoga routine:) and now I allow myself to take the treadmill down to slow in between bursts of speed. Well, speed for me is level 2…but I’m moving.

          Liked by 1 person

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