Avoiding Diet Detours

So stressed this past weekend went to pick up dinner and also bought a large candy bar, a chocolate cupcake, and a box of cookies. And ate them all. Before dinner. The candy bar was gone before I got my coat off. Had mashed potatoes with dinner. Al poured me a large glass of wine to go with that. I’m only mentioning the carbs.


Because, you know, carbs are what I am not (supposed to be) eating. So the scale has gone up a notch but I’m back on track after two days of deep breathing and Nurse Jackie. Between episodes, I came up with this bright idea to help me stay on track. A permanent shopping list and menu. Why keep reinventing the wheel? Especially just for a short little span of time in which I want to kick ten pounds to the curb?

Due to the stress, I was late getting a post up (usually I post Sunday or Monday and here it is Tuesday already) so I was thinking why not share my plan? So, here you go.

Shopping List

Meat: Ground turkey (2 pounds), ground beef, salmon, chicken breast, bacon, soy sausage

Dairy: Cheeses, yogurt, almond milk, eggs, butter

Fruit: Apples, pears, oranges, bananas, grapes, berries (frozen okay in winter)

Vegetable: Spinach, romaine, cucumber, radish, broccoli, cauliflower, carrot, celery

Also: peanut butter, nuts, seeds, canned vegetable & fruit, soup, tomatoes, tuna



Cheeseburgers & Romaine Salad

Ground Turkey Meatloaf & Broccoli

Salmon & Orange/Spinach Salad

Chicken Cacciatore

Turkey Chili


breakfasts: eggs, soy sausage, bacon, yogurt, nuts

lunches: tuna salad, turkey salad, chicken salad, broccoli salad, fruit and cheese

snacks: nuts, peanut butter, veg & dip, latte


Just so you know, I swap out the fish sometimes for variety. Also, I have been known to eat a pork chop for breakfast. And lunches can be dinner. Finally, leftovers are awesome.


Easiest Diet Ever

Pounds gained since Thanksgiving: 10

Pounds lost since last week: 5

How I did it: No carbs, no sugar, no alcohol. That’s it. This eating program is easier than it sounds. Obviously, since I always do things the easy way if possible. I have spent decades calculating and recording calories and fat in little notebooks, sweating with Richard Simmons, slogging through the  January snow to the gym.


My simple plan requires none of the above. No calorie counting. No notebooks. No exercise. The best part is it works. Fast. Many years of gaining and losing plus dozens of diet/health/cook books analyzed and tried have taught me a few things.

  1. All calories are not created equal
  2. All bodies do not react to calories the same way
  3. Personality & inclination win out over willpower

This is why my diet may not be right for you. I’m pretty sure if you do it, it will work. There’s a boatload of science that backs me up. But not everyone wants to give up bread, potatoes, rice, pasta, cereal and sugar. It sounds too hard because these are the very foods we crave.


For me, it’s way more difficult to constantly monitor my calories, fat, and exercise levels. That’s just how I’m made. I’d rather do other things with my time and body than go through the torture of a traditional diet. Also, I have gone through the torture of traditional to trendy diets. Many times. I’ve detoxed and gone vegan, Weight Watched and South Beached.

And it was all I could do to keep the weight off. It took everything. It took, I finally realized, more willpower than I actually had left by my mid-50s. (I started dieting in my mid-30s). So a couple of years ago I did the easy thing. For me. I cut out carbs and sugar. It was also the healthy thing for me as all my important medical numbers stabilized: blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, liver function, iron levels.

Another reason it’s easy is because you really don’t have to think about it and you can eat this way on vacation, in restaurants, at other people’s dinner parties. You have the steak and broccoli and skip the bread and potatoes. You keep the oil and butter but omit the wine. After a day (or two) you won’t crave carbs or sugar anymore, you won’t obsess about what’s going in your mouth next and you won’t overeat. Snack on fruit, cheese and nuts if you’re hungry but after a few days, you won’t be.


If you’re like me. I’m impatient by nature, also indolent. This is a tough combo but the character is carved deep. I accept who I am and after much trial and error (I’m also stubborn) I have learned how to work with my core personality to (mostly) stay a healthy weight.

If you’ve been obese, if your doctor has said you are pre-diabetic, if you notice that you have to work way harder than some of your friends to lose pounds and maintain weight loss, if your activity is more cerebral than physical (I’m a writer and a reader and I love yoga more than zumba), you might be like me.

Not everybody is. My husband loves potatoes and rice and bread and cereal. Also cookies and cake. He works out like a fiend three times a week at his health club. He’s been the same size since we married 30 years ago. This is not a problem for us. In the past I would have to ban certain foods from the house.

But the beauty of the low carb lifestyle is that I can have all these foods in the house, I can even prepare them for him, and not be tempted to indulge. Because I know if I don’t eat carbs the number on the scale will drop approximately a pound a day. And it’s easy to ignore the mashed potatoes because metabolic magic takes away those insatiable cravings that make me feel like a weak loser with no willpower.


I love the feeling of being in control. I love zipping my jeans with ease. I love not having to think so hard about my body. But like I said, that’s just me. It might not be you.

Here’s the sugar lining: after I lose this holiday ten pounds, I will slowly add a few carbs to my diet. So I can have a glass of wine once in a while. I can have a little pasta or  garlic bread or pancakes. And I will not gain weight. If I do…I simply cut the carbs again until I’m back in my skinny jeans. Well, skinny for me.



Why We Get Fat

In April, I kicked off a six-week program of very low carb eating. My mission was two-fold. I wanted to zip my jeans again after a vacation (that happened within a week) and turn a two year “pre-diabetic” diagnosis around. After the first pre-diabetes report, I quit eating sugar. No more desserts. For me, that was huge. I love chocolate and sweets of all kinds. After the second test, one year after giving up sugar, my numbers were better, but I was still pre-diabetic. My doctor suggested cutting carbs that turn to sugar in the body. The white stuff: flour, potatoes, pasta.


This is tricky for a vegetarian. I love cereal, bread, and potatoes. Pasta is a staple. It is almost impossible to eat in a restaurant without either meat or grain. Soon into my new program, I found myself adding a little meat back into my diet. I didn’t like the idea, but my health is primary so I did it, telling myself it would just be for six weeks, until I got my test results. Then, if nothing changed, I could go back to being a vegetarian who relied heavily on grains and legumes for my protein needs.

I am a questioner, so I needed more to go on than just my doctor saying to stop eating “refined carbs.” I mean, I was a vegetarian who mostly ate whole wheat pasta, brown rice, multi-grain bread. The healthy stuff. I’d been eating that way all year. So I knew it was going to take more than just cutting “refined carbs” for me. Auspiciously, at just the right time, I found the book that changed my life and my health forever. Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes. I figured I’d give Taubes’ findings a try, and see what happened.

After about a week of adjustment, my digestion got much better. No more bouts of IBS. And best of all, I no longer had craving or the urge to binge. Freedom from the tyranny of food! Feeling in control of what and how much I put in my body is incredible. For the first time in forever, I can be around cookies, bread, rice, potatoes, crackers, muffins, donuts and just say no. I can even occasionally indulge in pizza or potato salad, but I don’t particularly crave these foods. I don’t even want chips anymore, and they used to be my favorite food.

According to Taube, humans evolved to be meat-eaters. Our earliest ancestors relied on a diet of mostly meat protein, green leafy vegetation and a few berries in season. Our bodies still carry that basic DNA. Grains were only introduced a few thousand years ago, not long enough for our complicated and ancient physiology to catch up. At least for some of us. I love Taube’s analogy: just as not all smokers will get lung cancer, not all carb eaters will end up with pre-diabetes. The research is not in on exactly why, but genetics seem to play a role.

Six weeks later and my test results are in. Good news! I am no longer pre-diabetic. My blood sugar has stabilized. My cholesterol and other numbers, including calcium and some other former deficiencies, are off the charts wonderful. This is what Why We Get Fat predicted. I talked to my doctor about the books’ premise and the changes I’d made in my diet because of it. When she gave me the good news, she commented that my new diet is working wonderfully and to keep it up. Music to my ears.

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.