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27 Jul
2009

 

Weighty Matters  Print

Old EinsteinI’ve done a lot of thinking about life lately. People tend to do that in their fifties, especially when a parent passes away or has been very ill (and I’ve recently experienced both). I’ve watched my parents spend their golden years in the vicious cycle of hospitalization and recovery until the hospitalization periods get longer and the recovery doesn’t ever really seem to take hold. The fact is that people are living longer, but I’ve noticed that medical practitioners, despite the best of intentions, have a diminishing ability to recall or follow a patient’s complicated history and many seem to just prescribe some standard protocol that will be approved by administrators, insurance companies and Medicare, despite the outcome on quality of life. So, I’ve gone through a long period of not being sure I want to live much past 75 years of age (should I be that lucky), concerned that the quality of life in my final 5 to 10 or so years might not be all that great.

But then, I realize that life is precious. I have four great children and I’d like to see how they turn out. So, I know I’ve focused for too long on the wrong thing. No matter how long you live, unless you are one of the lucky people who pass peacefully in your sleep one night, you’re likely going to get an injury or illness that runs its course until your time is finally up. And I guess that time might as well be later than sooner. So, until that time arrives, my goal is to stay reasonably healthy and fit and do whatever I can, within reason, to prepare myself for old age. How one should handle that final injury or illness episode, I’m not at all sure. But I am pretty sure you are wondering—what does all this have to do with wine?

I consider wine a food item and I wryly chuckle whenever a doctor says, “Studies have shown that red wine has resveratrol which can extend your life.” When it comes to health, I believe wine is just another food that must be evaluated based on composition and calories. From a dietary standpoint, wine is partly alcohol (with carbohydrates and some residual sugar) and when you consume alcohol, your body has to work to burn off that alcohol before it can work to burn off your stored body fat. So, the more alcohol you consume, the more time has to pass before you can even begin to get the benefits of a diet plan.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve ranged above my ideal weight. Based on that unrealistic chart all doctors push across the table to you during a physical, I’ve been between 12–23 pounds over my “ideal” weight. Based on how I feel, however, I’ve really only ranged 6-17 pounds over the number I feel is truly my target weight and it’s been that way for decades. I’m certainly not obese, but admittedly overweight. Thanks to my wife’s foresight, I’ve avoided trans fats for more than two decades and I’ve cut way back on fried foods over the years, so that has certainly helped a lot. Still, I tend to hang at the same somewhat overweight condition.

Recently, I weighed in at 17 pounds over my target weight. At around 12 pounds over my target weight, I snore and experience sleep apnea. (Guys, if I was a visionary, I would have invested more money to get a more comfortable living room sofa. If you’re married long enough, it eventually becomes your bed.) Being a classic metabolic syndrome specimen (essentially a label for people who have too many cardiovascular risk factors), I know exactly what I have to do to reach my target weight and stay there, but doing what I have to do seems so difficult.

I’ve known for many years what I have to do. Basically, limit (and, for the first few weeks, eliminate) my intake of refined carbohydrates and sugars. It’s that simple. Yet, until I watched my parents cope with serious illness, I just couldn’t do it. Over the years, I’ve always been acutely aware of my weight and what I eat and I’ve constantly fought the battle of the bulge. At times, I’ve gone through a few diet campaigns (each lasting a week or two at a time) and made some temporary progress, but inevitably I ended up right where I started. I exercise regularly and that’s great, but let’s face it—I can’t walk a mile every time I want to “work off” a breadstick. So, I made a decision with conviction 10 days ago. I decided to go at least 21 days without eating virtually any refined carbohydrates and sugars. Then, I plan to go another 21 days, consuming very limited amounts of those items.

I had a good starting point, because I don’t often enjoy french fries, potato chips, ice cream or white rice (except sushi, of course) and I don’t eat cereals, pancakes or fruit juices as a general rule. But it won’t be easy either, since I do need to go 21 days without eating my beloved bread, potatoes, pasta, rice (even brown rice is out), crackers and everything with a medium or high glycemic index. Oh! And no wine or other alcohol! Now, that’s the really tough part for me. I love wine. I mean, I really love wine. I’m the Wine Imbiber after all. So to me, a day without wine is a day without sunshine. Yet, I have to limit calories by eliminating alcohol and refined carbohydrates and sugars for the first 21 days.

My ultimate goal is to lose those 17 pernicious pounds, but I’m simply focused on the foods, portions and days for now. Today is day 10 and, so far, so good. I’ve kept to my plan. I’m working with food items with a glycemic index of 50 or less (except for carrots, which have an index of 71, but the crunch is so satisfying, I have to have one or two occasionally.) I’ve been eating mostly Gazpacho, lean meats (chicken, turkey), eggs, salsas, salads, vegetables (especially bell peppers, carrots, celery, green beans), fruits (apples, cherries, blueberries, strawberries), and small amounts of nuts (mostly roasted, unsalted almonds and some cashews) and I’ve been drinking a lot of water (swirl, sniff, sip, swallow, wallow). I’ve dropped 7 pounds, though I know those first pounds are the easiest ones to lose. The next 10 pounds will be exponentially more difficult. Yet, I am making steady progress.

Since food is sort of an addiction for me, I’ve borrowed a concept from all those 12–step programs. I have my overall goal set, but I just focus on one day at a time. Will I make it to my goal? We’ll see. I’ll keep you posted on my progress. In the meantime, if you have any advice or words of encouragement, drop me a comment on this post!

Comments (3)



Dave said:

Rich,
I wish you well. I’m 30 lbs over my chart weight and 10 lbs over MY ideal weight. I’ve some of the same conditions as you, only I’m not so dedicated. Let me know when you are back tasting the grape as I still hope to get down south to sample a dram or three.
Cheers,
O’B


Jeanette said:

You go Rich! You can do it! Your health is worth all the effort in the long run. You are also setting a good example for your kids. I’m sure wine will taste all the better when you finally reach your goal!


Diana said:

My mom is 72 (she’ll kill me for telling) and more busy than anyone I know. She watches her weight, but she is moving constantly. It’s the computers, they’re killing us……