Seeking Skinny

xmas 09 064Bikinis and me are over for good and I’m good with that. However, The End of Dieting by Doctor Joel Fuhrman is so outrageous and eye-opening that I just might be scared slim. Fear isn’t really the right word for how I feel reading this book and taking in its messages. More, I feel hope. For the first time in a long time it’s sinking in about what exactly I must change for optimum health.

I don’t mind getting old, it’s actually pretty fun and interesting, but looking into the not-too-distant future, I do not want to be a sick 60-something.

Fuhrman’s investigation into the myths of the standard American diet shock me. He’s got the data and he is not afraid to point the finger. One of the more outrageous claims he makes (and I paraphrase) is that if you are slim and eating the standard American diet as dictated by our government’s food guidelines, you are either a smoker, a drunk, a drug addict, or have a disease that is quietly killing you.

Whether he actually comes out and says the dairy and meat lobbies in this country have a huge impact on what those government food guidelines say, I’m not sure. But it’s implied and anyone with knowledge of how Washington works can connect the dots. Sounds cynical, but I tend to believe him about the meat and dairy folks colluding with lawmakers, even while Michelle Obama, with best intentions, champions better health.

The last time a book had a significant effect on the way I eat turned me vegetarian seven years ago and this former filet mignon and cheeseburger lover has never looked back. I dropped twenty pounds when I stopped eating meat, but soon, I began replacing my old favorites with more cheese, butter, bread, crackers, pasta and other refined carbs. I also opened the door to dessert, and I’m not talking fruit and an ounce of dark chocolate.

What I learned over time is that vegetarians are not necessarily healthy eaters. Chips are vegetarian. So is dip! And cake! I’ve known forever that I consume too much sugar and don’t exercise enough. Until this book, I was okay with that and with my big middle. Yes, photos can be painful, but I don’t feel fat unless I actually grab my love handles or glance in the mirror just after a bath. As with pictures, that’s when I can see the truth, even if I don’t feel it.

But now I’m learning not just what my problem is but WHY I still have this issue. It’s not about calories, but also about where those calories come from and how they metabolize in the body. As my old Weight Watcher leader used to say “Nobody ever got fat eating vegetables.”

So far, the nutritional science in this book makes sense to me. I don’t really think slim people who eat meat and dairy are secret addicts or have a disease. I know many slim people who eat the standard American diet and are not addicts. Yes, they’re dying, but aren’t we all?

For  me, it comes down to wanting more control over how I live out the later years of my life. And yes, how I die. I want to travel,  feel energetic, keep a sharp mind, be free of disease for as long as possible. Doesn’t everyone?

Smile & Go Slow

I wanted the smile lines at the corners of my eyes to show in this photo. I like my smile lines. It means I’ve been happy a lot in this life. Wrinkles don’t bother me. I feel lucky to have come this far. It’s interesting to be older. I’m not saying it’s all roses. But I’ve developed a theory over the last six months, which, apart from the births of my babies, have been the happiest of my life. Every decade gets better.

I’m working on the inside these days. My head used to be a mess. Meditation took care of that. Now the body has rebelled after years of mindless abuse. So I’ve added walking to the yoga and am taking it slow. The first day I used the treadmill in my new house, I had to hang something over the too-bright winter white outside my window. (We still have not gotten around to fixing up the basement.)

I hung a pretty saffron colored scarf my yoga teacher brought back from India. It lets in light and shows the black patterns. Perfect. But before it was hung for real, I tried thumbtacks (no way) and hammer and nails (wrong chair) overreached and fell from the tall chair into the low one. Was fine. I walked the treadmill, listening to music. Closed my eyes when I felt like it.

The next day my middle had some bruising. It didn’t hurt and I’m not going to be wearing a bikini again in this life, so I shrugged it off and moved on. But those bruises are trying to get my attention. They say I need to connect with my movements, grow more aware of my surroundings and actions. Can’t just spin a dozen plates anymore and hope one doesn’t crash.

Slow down. Savor. For an Aries, this is a huge order. We’re an impatient bunch. But it’s important enough that Mars (my planet) itself is slowing down for a bit. And that kind of forces me to slow down, as well. Which is a good thing.

Graceful Aging

Yesterday I woke up as usual, had a coffee with my special French Vanilla Fake cream, and then a banana. I visited my beautiful private bathroom and never did get to drink my second cup of coffee. Finally, on the last trip out of the master bath, I looked at my bed, crawled in, and didn’t get out until my husband came home.

I’d never spent an entire day in my new bed, so it felt good to just cocoon and let the world go about it’s business. I’d finished a novel and turned it in to my publisher Saturday, the day before; I could take Sunday to really rest. I ate sparingly and meditated for an hour (a personal best). I took naps, read the newspaper and finished reading a book I’d found on Twitter called “Middle Age Beauty” by Machel Shull.

I was intrigued by Shull’s story. She’d been a face model in L.A. and at 40 found herself unemployed and over the hill. She didn’t want a facelift, so she turned inward. One of the maxims in Machel’s book is that great beauties die twice, once when they lose their looks, another when their heart stops beating.

I was cute for a minute in 1976, and in reading her book, I would never have guessed Machel has the kind of looks that make a woman die twice. There’s nothing conceited about Machel. Her tone is approachable and her voice is different, in a good way. Like she’s a friend confiding over soy lattes.

Instead of taking the usual Hollywood road of surgery and fillers, Machel set out to find ways to age gracefully. Her book includes several interviews with professionals: doctor, therapist, nutritionist, spiritual guide. These were inspiring bonuses and gave Machel’s words increased validity. Machel asks good questions. Questions I would ask.

I didn’t learn any new tactics from Machel’s book, but taken as a whole, on a day when I was stuck in bed, perhaps because of bad nutritional choices, (That fake sugary cream? The two glasses of wine the night before? Maybe the brie? A stomach bug?) what she wrote had a big impact. I knew about drinking vinegar to cut appetite, about melatonin for sleep, about giving up wine to lose inches in the waist. About walking and lifting and yoga. Knowing and doing can feel galaxies apart.

Machel, for all her celebrated beauty, is truthful and down to earth. I felt like she had taken me aside and whispered in my ear how much weight she gained when she married and moved from L.A. into a community that prized fine food and wine. It’s close to what I needed to lose a few years ago.

With the help of my superfit friend Lisa, I lost 15 of the pounds (less than half of my goal) and have kept them off for two years, but my weight is still a health risk. Who knew it was a beauty risk too? Well, look at the picture of Lisa and me. We’re the same age. There’s your answer.

Being overweight does plump out the wrinkles, but Machel has some other ways to do that, all natural. (Which Lisa must also know as she doesn’t have a wrinkle on her pretty face!) When I lose the rest of my weight, if wrinkles appear (I do have smile lines at the sides of my eyes, but I like them) I just might try Machel’s #1 timeless beauty secret, which I will not share here, so as to keep back some spoilers.

In a few weeks, I’ll be 59. I’m already thinking “60” because my brain works that way. At 60, if I’m still here on the planet, I want to be healthier and happier. And thanks to Machel, and the continuing support from my dear friend Lisa, I have a clear road map to follow.