Update: How Shallow Am I?

Reader Sherri Byrand got in touch to ask how I’m doing with the diet and exercise since posting  How Shallow Am I? back in March. Well, folks, this afternoon I am wearing jeans I bought five years ago, and my thanks for this go to Paula Roberts. Her Facebook comment on that blog post suggested that I look into the Game On! diet book by Krista Vernoff.

First of all, I have to admit that I’ve never before lost weight on purpose. An occasional illness has knocked me back now and then, but ordinarily the mere thought of restricting calories seems to undermine me within…oh, let’s say fifteen minutes. So I’ve never actually been “on a diet.” My record with exercise is similar. I stick with it for a week and begin to feel the good effects, and then on the eighth day, I think, “I’m too busy” or “I’m sore” or “I need a break,” and lose all momentum. For a year.

Nevertheless, thanks to blind genetic luck, I’ve been quite healthy and relatively slim all my adult life. (“Relatively” is important there: we do live in a country where 60% of the population is overweight or obese.) After menopause, the pounds began to accumulate but the mere words “diet and exercise” bore me senseless. Since turning 60, there has been a very strong impulse to say, “Screw it,” and announce that I am officially Letting Myself Go.

Add the cautionary example of Don’s mother. Nearly a decade ago, Blanche herself lamented that “We live too long,” and that was years before she became too demented to know how ancient she is now. She’ll be 99 in September, and we have concluded that nothing short of a CIA drone attack will take her out. (Trust me: she’d think that was funny if she could still think.) We do NOT want to live that long and during the past few years Don and I have had frequent semi-serious discussions of what bad health habits we could adopt now, in order to prevent such an undesirable outcome.

Starting to smoke at 63 would be deliciously transgressive, but it stinks up the house and makes your teeth brown. Last year, we settled on eating a lot more red meat and drinking a lot more booze. We never went full-bore Mad Men but we did have steak a couple times a week and a drink before dinner 4 or 5 evenings out of seven. And it was fun. Very relaxing and self-indulgent. However, unlike Don and Betty Draper (am I the only one who wonders why they aren’t syphilitic and packing 80 extra pounds?) we did not become imperially slim – possibly because we didn’t include cigarettes in our new regime.

After just six months of “What the hell?” my Don was edging up to 200 pounds and his belly was peeking through the gaps between his shirt buttons; I was getting alarmingly close to 140 while my height stubbornly remained 5’3″ and my blouses were hiking up over a shelf of ass that didn’t use to be there.

Which is when I wrote about trying to take the weight off. Not because I wanted to be healthy but because I had a lot of very nice clothes that were now in a pile marked, “Who are you kidding? This will never fit again.” On Paula’s recommendation, I looked up “The GAME ON! Diet: how to kick your friend’s butt while shrinking your own” and one of the Amazon reviews was, “This is a sensible diet and exercise plan but I wish the author didn’t feel compelled to drop the F-bomb so often.”

Which was all I needed to punch One Click.

Apart from the vulgarity, there’s nothing radical here, but the book makes diet and exercise a team sport. (It was Don and our son Dan against me and our daughter-in-law Jess, and a third team of our friend Dina and her sister.) You get twenty points for exercising twenty minutes — prorated, so you get two points even if that’s all you can manage at first. There’s one point for each of five small balanced meals a day, and points for drinking enough water to make you feel like you’re preparing for a colonoscopy. There are points for working on a new good habits. (Mine was: Put the fork down between bites instead of shoveling food in relentlessly.) There are deductions for bad ones. (No more eating mindlessly in front of the TV.) At the end of each of four weeks, there are bonus points if you lose 1.2% of your body weight.

What makes it practical is that you get one whole day a week when you can forget the rules, and one additional meal a week when you can eat freely. You can have 100 calories a day of anything you like. Nothing’s totally off limits, but you learn not to treat every damn day like it’s your birthday with all the cake and ice cream that implies.

The daily email reports make you accountable to your teammates. The frequent small meals were a challenge at first, but they worked for Don and me, as did the exercise and all that water. In fact, all of it worked for us, for Dan and Jess, and for our friend Dina and her sister Justin. None of us has ever lost weight any other way, and we all slimmed down on this program by about a pound a week.

Two months later, the habits have stuck with us. Don’s down to 178; I was 131 this morning, and I’ve gone from struggling to do four minutes on elliptical to being comfortable doing nearly half an hour. So what the hell? Get the book and try it. You’ve got nothing to lose but your ass.

7 thoughts on “Update: How Shallow Am I?

  1. But I like the ice cream as if it were my birthday! I’ll use my imagination and pretend it is spinach.

  2. you shallow? hardly. but i tell ya, i’m a fan of competition when it comes to working out. i’ve given up trying to understand why it motivates me; it just does, and so i throw in a little friendly dose of it now and then and then surprise myself with the results. congrats to you, don, dan, jess, dina, and her sister. 🙂

  3. Oh, Mary! You will always be my favorite writer – you NEVER fail to crack me up! This is hilarious and still very informative! This sounds like something that just might work for my husband and I. I can motivate myself if I really set my mind to it, but the husband is another story. I think the F-bomb will actually be quite appealing to him since he is a truck driver and uses it extensively. (I use it plenty myself on occasion…). I am going to look into this! We just bought a house and are working on it right now so we may not start the whole exercise/diet thing until we get moved in, but it can be a goal we set!
    Thank you for writing about this! God bless you!

  4. And I’m still losing weight — 131.6 this morning — without really trying. I’ve sort of given up the exercise because I’m basically a slug, but a little protein with each of five small meals is doing the job for me. Thanks for the encouragement!

  5. I suggest reading a Mark Bitman (the NYT food writer) book
    Vegan before 6. Which means he eats lightly, mostly vegan before 6pm and then eats/drinks what he wants or needs (as a food writer) It is a healthy approach

  6. WOW! Okay, so I’m on diuretics now, too — nothing nearly that dramatic but I can see the bones in my hands and feet again and I’m down about 6 pounds of what must have been water weight. I think I’ll skip the cardiac surgeries, though!

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