I'm not a nutritionist. I'm not a fitness expert.

I am a 57 year old woman who has never felt more healthy and fit in my entire life. Five years ago, at 52, I weighed about 80 lbs. more than I do now. I felt much older, with stiff joints and back aches and no energy. And don't even ask about clothes!

My goal was not just weight loss, but to get healthier. I did not "go on a diet," I did not count calories or carbs. I made lifestyle changes, a little at a time. I tried to eat healthier and move more. You can do this, too. You can make changes to look, and more importantly, feel healthier and fit. You don't have to be overweight to be unfit. You will feel a difference in strength, energy, stamina and flexibility. I'm talking to you, men, too!

I can tell you how I did it. Not everything I do will be right for you. Through posts about my progress; tips and ideas about nutrition and exercise; links to sites I like and find helpful, I hope to inspire others to get fit and healthy and encourage a community of support and an exchange of ideas. And have a little fun on the way! Much of our information will be about local Cape Ann sites - walking and bike routes, gyms, types of exercise, yoga studios, good buys on healthy food - but Guests and commenters from anywhere are welcome as well.

Okay, I know you all want to know. Right now I'm wearing a pair of Levis - size 8. A comfortable size 8!

Twenty year old daughter:
"Mom, why are you wearing my clothes?"
Mom: "Because I can!"

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Where to Start - Diet and Nutrition

For me, diet is a four-letter word when used regarding weight loss. I've never stuck to any regimented diet plan, and there are plenty - Weight Watchers, Atkins, South Beach Diet, Jenny Craig, Hollywood 48 Hour Diet, Grapefruit Diet, LA Weight Loss, Slimfast. Some people may need that, need to be told what to eat and when to eat it. I don't know about the long-term success of any of those diets, but I wonder what happens when you stop following them, if you haven't changed your eating habits for life.

Weight Watchers has been helpful to many people I know. The basics seem to be something you can continue. I just don't have it in me to count points, avoid this so I can have that later in the day. But that's me. Of all the popular diet programs out there, Weight Watchers and South Beach seem to be ones that steer you towards developing healthy eating habits.

Fortunately, I've always been a 'grazer', grabbing small amounts of food all during the day rather than having a few big meals. That is a healthy way to eat - it keeps your energy level up and your metabolism revved, if you eat the right food. Unfortunately, what I grabbed was usually junk. I was a convenience eater and much of the time, the convenient things were cookies, chips - whatever was open in the cabinet.

I started by making those small changes. My focus was as much on adding healthy foods as it was on eliminating unhealthy foods.

I started to stock my frig and cabinets with healthy options that I could eat on the go. Yogurt, bananas, grape tomatoes, nuts, fat-free crackers. I made myself stop and spend a few minutes to put together a quick healthy sandwich. I became a voracious label reader and tried to make sure that I had good carbs, lean protein, fiber and good fat every day. My mind was getting programmed to think, "What good thing can I eat next?" and not think, "I can't eat."

In short time, I was eating much more food daily than I had been, but it was healthy food and my total calorie consumption was obviously down, though I wasn't counting. Fueling your body with healthy food all day will keep you feeling satisfied and energized. The more energy you have, the more you want to move. The more you move, the better you feel and the more calories you burn.

Calories in, calories out - the basics of losing weight. Burn off more calories than you take in and you will lose weight. But 100 calories of processed sugar or bad fat will slow your metabolism and sap your energy. 100 calories of lean protein or fiber will keep your body churning and just plain make you feel better.

And that's what it's all about - feeling better, strong and healthy.

If I had to give my eating habits a 'diet' name, I'd call it the 98/2 diet. Eat healthy foods 98% of the time and that glass of wine or beer or that piece of pizza won't 'ruin' your 'diet' because you're not 'on a diet.' Later, I'll post about specific foods (what I like and what I learned to like), nutrition labels and portion size and how I stopped wolfing down a half loaf of pecan raisin bread on my way home from the supermarket.

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