Close to Home: A Sensible Approach to Diet and Exercise | Opinion
A few months ago Dave and I walked about a mile down the road to meet our new neighbors with a pint of maple syrup in hand. We talked for a bit and then she said, “Are you Health Nuts?” The question caught me off guard and I tried to phrase a polite question. “Uh, why do you ask?” “You walked here, and sometimes I see Dave riding his bike in front of the house!” I don’t remember my answer.
There is some truth in his assessment. It’s easy for me to walk out the door in most weather conditions and walk five miles. In my most recent somewhat sedentary job, I used my lunch break to walk two miles as fast as I could, eating my sandwich and banana along the way. After my brisk walk, I felt refreshed, ready to dive into the afternoon’s work. Usually, before the start of the working day, I had already walked or run a few kilometers before breakfast. Those I’ve met since I moved here only know me as a seasoned sportsman, but that wasn’t always the case. Where does this habit come from?
My mother often said, “You’re slower than molasses in January. I suppose so. I spent much of my free time lying on my bed, chin resting on my hand, reading. By the time I turned 13, I was tired of being made fun of for being fat. One day I found a diet in my older sister’s yoga book and started following it. The diet allowed only water with lemon juice for breakfast, a cup of soup, a boiled egg and raw vegetables for lunch, repeating the same for supper, adding a half a cup of cooked vegetables, half a cup of fruit, a salad without dressing, and a glass of skimmed milk. No snacks. No bread. Herbal tea at any time of the day was optional. I remember sometimes feeling dizzy when getting up from a seated position. There were simply not enough calories in this diet for someone to continue to grow and build bone. If you’re wondering how I remember the details of this diet, I’ll tell you. I have before me the now yellowed copy of the diet I wrote nearly 50 years ago. I keep it behind the miscellaneous tab in my recipe box.
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I lost 40 pounds that summer between eighth and ninth grade and started walking long distances during that time. When school started that fall, I avoided the school bus for the three-mile walk to school and then back at the end of the day. I ran my very first half mile, with the theme of the movie “Rocky” running through my head. With the exception of that freshman year in college with my introduction to greasy but oh so good cafeteria food, when I regained much of the weight I had lost, I was able to maintain my weight. This time I worked out using my version of the grapefruit diet (eating only grapefruit) or going without food for days at a time drinking only coffee and other fad diets that I do not approve.
What type of diet would I approve of if I was faced with the daunting task of shedding more than a pound or two? I heard a report on National Public Radio the other day about intermittent fasting and its health benefits. Intermittent fasting can range from skipping a meal once a day to skipping a full day of meals once or more a week, taking in a maximum of 600 calories on those days in the form of broth and other light foods. Another approach is a daily routine of limiting the total number of calories consumed within a 10 hour time window, then going without food for the next 14 hours, staying well hydrated throughout the day. This can be done in a number of ways, such as eating from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., then not eating anything until 8 a.m. the next morning.
In a study conducted at the University of California, San Diego, participants not only saw weight loss with reduced belly fat while using this weight loss approach, but also improved cholesterol levels. and blood pressure. Researchers have found preliminary evidence that fasting is a way to rejuvenate and restore your metabolic organs by giving them a rest.
One of my sisters adopted a version of this weight loss method several months ago, waiting until noon to eat her first meal of the day and stopping all food intake after an early supper. She doesn’t eat “special” foods, nor does she deprive herself of dessert. She had a slow and steady weight loss of 24 pounds and continues to lose weight. After the initial adjustment of skipping breakfast, she found this dieting method easy to maintain. She added regular exercise to her weight loss regimen, wearing an activity tracker on her wrist to record the steps she takes throughout the day, often exceeding her daily goal of 12,000 steps.
All of the above to say that being healthy doesn’t get easier as we get older, but it doesn’t have to get any harder, if you make a plan and stick to it. Don’t put off your annual exams. Follow the references of your supplier. Be sensitive to what you eat. Start moving. Practicing a common sense approach to diet and exercise that you can live with will teach you skills that you can use throughout your life. “When in doubt, close your eyes and imagine your body a year from now if you didn’t give in. Stay strong.” Unknown author.
Doreen moved to the woods from Green Bay in 1984, married Steve O’Donnell and stayed to raise their three children after his death in 1997. Dave Short joined her there in 2016. Doreen welcomes comments at doreenshort2021 @gmail.com.