Friday, January 28, 2005

Losing weight, losing my mind

Jan. 29, 2005

I've been eating an awful lot of spinach lately. That, or pecking on low-fat cheese sticks and, from time to time, my left arm. This is not a result of a newly developed obsessive compulsive disorder. I'm just awfully hungry.

Dieting has a way of doing that. Day 1 you tell yourself, "This is going to be easy. It just takes discipline." Day 2 your stomach starts to suck inward; it feels sort of like curdled milk looks. By Day 3 you gaze wistfully at every bite, caressing it with your eyes, willing it to last, wishing it would leave you feeling just a bit satisfied. (Perhaps you remember the old ballad, "I dreamed of pasta with its light brown sauce?")

Between meals, a radish never looked so seductive. And that's 20 minutes after clearing the dishes.

My current eating regimen is the South Beach diet, an eminently sensible approach developed by a heart specialist. It includes three meals a day and snacks between breakfast and lunch and again between lunch and dinner. The food is healthy -- vegetables by the bushel, fish and meat in whatever quantities keep you from going insane, salads galore. After a week I've lost 14 pounds, nearly halfway to my goal of 30. And I'm losing my mind.

For those of you who diet, I know you hear the same little voice: "There's got to be a better way." Even if I make it, I fear that the day I tip the scale at 190 pounds, my target weight, I'll lose myself in a vat of hot fudge sundae. Or down a dozen baked potatoes with butter and sour cream. Heck, fruit salad sounds awfully enticing right now. Or a piece of bread. Or a cracker with cheese. They're all forbidden.

"Don't you love all the fresh ingredients?" asks Kathy, head chef, cheerleader, my partner and taskmaster for 33 years.

No dear, fresh cilantro doesn't give me the chills.

Dieting must be done one day at a time. The first day we were in our conversational French class at Alliance Francais, the French Cultural Institute of Boston. Our teacher, a quintessential Parisienne from her carefree scarves to her brightly colored heels wrinkled her eyes just a bit before catching herself. "Diet?" she asked. "And why would you do that?" I'm too polite to probe, but I get the impression dieting in France carries the class of, say, drinking Coca-Cola with coq au vin. It's not the height of style. But just how do the French manage to eat great food, drink great wine and remain "les tombeurs" (the heartthrobs) of the civilized world?

One day at a time. Exercising helps. So, if you are a compulsive muncher like me, does locking the refrigerator and cabinets. This year I joined a gym closer to home. I'm going tomorrow, I promise. After two years of losing weight in spring and summer and gaining in fall and early winter, I'm determined to stay lean year round. And I'm doing this for a higher calling -- my longevity, not my waistline. At least I think so. For the past two years, my general practitioner has told me my cholesterol is fine but my triglycerides are high. This is what he told me about triglycerides: Absolutely nothing. He did, however, get me out of the office in four minutes.

Thankfully, the Internet provided what modern medical practice can't be bothered with -- a translation. Triglycerides, as far as I can figure, can sneak up on you. They've been linked with a higher rate of strokes, and I'm pretty brain dead already. So when I discovered the South Beach diet could lower triglycerides, I knew I could embark on it with virtue, not vanity..

Then a member of that troublesome French class put a boulder in the middle of my high road. Somewhere on the Internet, she discovered this bit of wisdom about health and dieting:

1. The Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.
2. The Mexicans eat a lot of fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.
3. The Chinese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.
4. The Italians drink excessive amounts of red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than
Americans.
5. The Germans drink a lot of beer and eat lots of sausage and fats and suffer fewer heart
attacks than Americans.

CONCUSION: Eat and drink what you like. Speaking English is apparently what kills you.

Thankfully, we all know the Internet's facts are suspect. And radishes can be ravishing.











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