Smorgasbord Health – The Dynamics of Change – Our Mental Being

For all readers! (You’re not too young for this!) From our blogger of bloggers, Sally Cronin.

Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life

dsc_1737In the previous post I looked at the voluntary and involuntary changes to our body during our lifetime and where we can influence those changes for better health and longevity. This time it is our mental being that is the focus.

In this post I am taking a look at the enforced hardware changes in the brain that affect us all. Also the voluntary choices we make during that process that also impact software function, particularly when we do not upgrade certain programmes.

All of us as we get into our 60s notice physical changes that are obvious when we look in the mirror and also when we exert ourselves physically. We are also aware of changes to the facility with which our major organs deal with their own aging process and the effects of a lifetime of dietary and lifestyle choices, imposed or voluntarily applied.

In all my discussions…

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Weight Loss for Seniors (and Others) – It Starts with the Haircut

Most of us at my age are pondering whether or not to begin to take social security payments, or when it’s time to retire. Both of these questions pale in comparison to the big one:

After having snacked and overindulged my way through the 15 years, is this the body weight I want to have for the rest of my life? Do I want to have this blob in my midsection for the next 30 years?

I used to tuck my stretch skirts under the blob that my tummy consisted of, and float my shirt over them. (Know what I’m referring to?) My husband would reach over and pull the skirt up over the blob.  I could grab the blob in one hand. Maybe two. One summer day I tried on a favorite dress, and struggled to zipper it or looked at my profile in the mirror and had to whisper “NO” and start all over. That was one too many times.

You should recognize by now that you don’t have to be over 60 to know what I’m talking about. After years of a little late night snacking here, a second helping of desert there, I borrowed from the Rabbi and sage Hillel the Elder: “If not now, when?”

Now two months into this commitment, I’m offering up my advice – nowhere near as sage as Hillel the Elder’s, but at least worth a few bytes of space on some server – for a successful weight loss journey:

    • Couple your weight loss with something else drastic that you’ve been wanting to do for a while. I had also been wanting to cut my hair short, to how I’d worn it as a child. So one day I went into the salon and said to my stylist, “I’ve been talking about this for years. Let’s do it.”                                                                                                                                                 short-cutsShe lopped it off, and the compliments haven’t stopped.  And I’ve already accomplished step 1 of my look better feel better plan. That has given me confidence to go on with this endeavor.
    • Be prepared for the long haul. The hardest may be the beginning, but this is not going to be short and easy. Say goodbye to the quick and easy weight loss of our 20s or 30s or even 40s. Week 1 will become Week 2, which will become Week 3, soon Month 1, Month 2 and so on. Our metabolism has changed, our muscle mass has diminished. You don’t need a new scale! To encourage you, try looking at how your clothing feels, if it’s looser and better fitting. But be encouraged that while you’re changing your eating habits for now, you’re also creating new eating habits for the long run.
    • Do you have any medical conditions that a change in diet could help with? Consider that and incorporate this into your new eating habits. Are you also pre-diabetic? Or have high blood pressure, that a change in what you eat could also mediate? My breakfast is now two hard-boiled eggs and because I have high cholesterol, I remove 1-1/2 of the yolks (leaving me only 1/2 yolk, to add a little flavor and color). I’m also pre-diabetic, so I have eliminated ice-cream and cake. An orange might be my fruit serving;  juice is also eliminated for the same reason, as one glass of juice is equivalent to 4 or more oranges and is too high in fructose sugars. I’m having some almonds each day for snacking, as recommended by the dietician. We eat more Omega3-rich and other foods, suggested to avoid Alzheimer’s., a fatal disease that currently has no cure and which is the cause of death for 1 out of 3 seniors. I have two small Stella D’Oro Swiss Fudge cookies after dinner as my daily indulgence.
    • Do not accept quitting. You’re a train on a track, and you cannot get off. Stay the journey. You cannot get off the diet tonight, and say “The diet begins tomorrow.” Some diets, such as the 5-2 diet, allow you to be “off” the diet for 2 out of every 7 days. After several months, I do occasionally have some ice-cream. But don’t then get angry at yourself for doing this. Justlove yourself, reaffirm your goal, and jump back into your seat on the train.


    • Have a mantra. Mine is “Now or never.” (“I really don’t need this cookie” does not work with me at all!) The only other way for me to lose weight is to become very very ill. That is not an option here. This is about improving your quality of life and living well, not shortening it.
    •  Your diet should not be a foreign language. When you see diets others have eaten and the food looks strange, even the names of food are unrecognizable, that is not for you. Quinoa does not work for me. Work with what you eat and love.

For example, see this breakfast online.

If I scrambled 1/2 c. egg whites  with 1 t. olive oil, 1 t. chopped basil, 1 t. grated Parmesan, and 1/2 c. cherry tomatoes in the morning, I’d be stimulating the culinary sensory part of my brain way too much and getting off to a very bad start. My hard-boiled eggs are pre-cooked and shelled; I do six at a time, enough for 3 days. All I have to do in the morning is add the spoon of mayo, some salt and pepper, make a egg salad, and eat. My milk is the half and half in my coffee. As in “Would you like some coffee with your half and half?” My blueberries I save for later in the day, when I need a little snacking. etc. And no toast.

That same website has this dinner one evening:

4 ounces grilled salmon
1 cup wild rice with 1 tablespoon slivered toasted almonds
1 cup wilted baby spinach with 1 teaspoon each olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and grated Parmesan
1/2 cup diced cantaloupe topped with
1/2 cup all-fruit raspberry sorbet and 1 teaspoon chopped walnuts

That’s cool with me; we have salmon, or tilapia or maybe chicken, sometimes canned tuna. I dispense with the starches (although serve rice to my husband), except for Friday night and Saturday lunch, when I’ll have some bread. The almonds are my snacking food, for after meals. The spinach is great, and we might have broccoli or mixed veggies, sometimes plucked right from my garden. No sorbet for me. It’s the sugars. For Labor Day, my husband fired up the grill and cooked the chicken outside. Same food but a treat, with the new and exciting flavors.

My snacks may be almonds, a probiotic yogurt for lunch, a glass of milk after dinner.

      •  Exercise, and exercise more.  A friend recently complained because she runs 1/2 hour on the treadmill at the gym each day and she’s not losing weight. Defining your goal as weight loss may be the problem. You want to lose weight, but you also want to slim down. These are two different goals. That 1/2 hour on the treadmill is nice but it’s probably just compensating for all the sitting and driving and sitting and driving that we in this day and age are doing. To LOSE weight, and even importantly to BUILD MUSCLE, you’re going to have to jog on a a track, and go beyond that 1/2 hour on the treadmill. What do you love doing? I love to but only on an outdoor track. I love to play tennis, bike, and swim (mostly outdoors). Whatever you can love doing, do it. Ping pong? Do it, religiously.Why is it important to differentiate between losing weight and slimming down? Five pounds of FAT has much more mass (that is, it’s larger) than five pounds of MUSCLE. If you want to also be slimmer, eat fewer calories but build muscle. (See the photos in this hyperlink.) Don’t have a good way to build muscle? Ask a fitness person at the gym to set you up a program. Walk to the store. Bike, if you dare, and if you can. Don’t just walk your dog; jog with him. Your dog might shed a few needed pounds, and build up some muscle, too.                                                                                                                          9_11_035
      •  Learn from, but don’t be or feel bound by, the popular diets of the day, their pros and cons. Use what works for you, but remember, these diets are contrived, made up. Take the principles of healthy eating, know what is good for you and not good for you, and take it from there. Vegetarians and vegans must also make sure they are not getting malnourished as the days of the diet wear on, into weeks and months. Most of these diets have a reduction in starchy carbohydrates and in fructose and glucose sugars. Most include almonds and some nuts (but not too many). And everybody is agreeing: LOW CARBS!! Take a supplement if necessary, to ensure a well-balanced diet.
      • If you go out to eat, be prepared to leave food, and maybe lots of it, on your plate. Contrary to what you learned as a kid, you do not have to eat everything on your plate. Concerned about food waste? I was at an out-of-town wedding last week, and there was way more food than was healthy even for a male adult who was a foot taller than me. I asked the server to place certain items in a bag for me to carry out and I kept everything cool in the hotel mini-fridge. (I also have traveled using our camping cooler.) This worked out well since I was out of town and needed to eat the next day.
      • The reward for exercising is NOT eating. The reward for exercising is a healthier you, and progress in your goal of weight loss and slimming down (building muscle).
      • Get ready to be admired for your resolve. Secretly all around you are people who wish they could lose weight successfully.  They’ll ask, “How did you do it?” They’ll certainly validate you when you’ve lost the weight and tell you how great you look.

You’ll know this diet is working when you have more energy in the morning, more energy through out the day, that’s great. Protein for breakfast, rather than carbos, has worked really well for me. You may also be surprised that after a few months you’ve lost your urges to snack on carbs during the day and in the evening.

Enjoy on that ride!

And to think this all started out with a cute bob haircut!





What’s A Little Pound Here and There?

270px-SpaghettataMy pots and pans were pretty scrappy, picked up in a supermarket or hardware store here and there over the years. But the name Calphalon had a nice ring about it. This Calphalon pot, however, significantly shinier than anything I’d had, was three times larger than any pot I had ever cooked in, or lifted, or washed. A box of spaghetti would last me weeks. But suddenly I was cooking up the entire box in one night in the shiny Calphalon pot, every week. There was also now three times as much water to drain! Another mess, too, and a steamy one at that.  Then there was the job of transferring the pasta to the large celadon ceramic pasta dish also three times larger than I had ever known.

Dinner had to be served not whenever I was hungry but carefully calibrated to be too early and not too late. It had to be sandwiched nicely in between my new step-daughter getting home from her after-school activities, and before she went upstairs to practice her flute and do her hours and hours of homework and before the dog got his evening walk. After homework and before bedtime was evening snack time. Ice cream! Ice cream all around, in our bedroom, on the bed, in front of the TV! Everybody loved dinner, everybody loved the spaghetti, and everybody loved the ice cream.

And I felt sick!

The calculation was simple: From a single person cooking or one, I was now cooking for three – myself, a husband (who ran 50 miles each week) and a teenage step-daughter.

Considering as a single, I didn’t even purchase ice cream, my new refrigerator, double the size of the one I had in my Brooklyn apartment, with an entire side being the freezer, held temptation in all forms, shapes, flavors, food groups, and temperatures. It was a very bad day when my step-daughter innocently enough, said to me one day, “There’s nothing in the fridge!” Apparently Dad did a much better job of keeping the refrigerator stocked than I did.

There were a lot of firsts those years. It was the first time somebody had gotten down on one knee and asked me, “Will you marry me?” It was also the first time my physician said, “You have to lose weight.”

Of course eventually my step-daughter went off to college and I was only shopping and cooking for two. I was sure that my waistline would be saved. But no! I was shopping and cooking for two – but the scale, digital and accurate, and I were at a standoff.

Gone was the spaghetti from my shopping cart. Gone the different meal each evening. Gone is the ice cream. But in its place is my husband’s new love and evening snack: frozen yogurt. Coffee frozen yogurt. Quarts of it. And only him and me around to eat it.

Then came another first, as my doctor said, “You’re pre-diabetic. You have to meet with the nurse and go over your diet.”  Loyally, I created a little chart for my weight and checked off food types as I ate them: Dairy, protein, fruit, vegetables, carbohydrates, nuts and oils… I was always the athlete: Bicycling to work, swimming, tennis, but then another first from the doctor: “What are you doing for exercise?”

Gone is the orange juice and Mango Tango. Replaced with countable oranges. Gone the cashews. Replaced with a serving of 8 almonds. Gone the white basmati rice, replaced with brown basmati rice. Gone half an avocado for guacamole; now 1/4 the avocado for guacamole. Two years later, my blood sugar level is acceptable. My weight is still not.

Last month hubby and I celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary. Sixteen years of love, giving, sharing, supporting each others, sixteen years of happiness. And sixteen years of frozen yogurt in the freezer and cake in the bread box for my long-distance runner husband.

That’s also .63 pounds for every year of marriage. This statistic probably wouldn’t bother anybody but me.

“What’s a little pound here and there?”

“You still look good!”

“But you’re so active!”

I swear I can hear my bones saying to me, “Ouch. You’re putting too much weight on me. Lighten up!” I’m sure my digestive system is saying, “Why you making me work overtime? Easy. Easy. Easy!”

Last night I went into my third cooking mode: Cooking one meal for my husband and one entirely separate meal for me. I’m going to try eating high protein: Sliced turkey, egg salad, boiled chicken, tuna and salmon for snacks and for dinner. The husband is getting various Indian food dinners with rice cooked in tumeric, a little wine on the side. Or maybe a mini-pizza. He’d better hope I lose significant weight soon.

For the record, I’m not saying that I won’t try a few of his leftovers as I walk the dishes from the table back to the sink… I am saying that it’s sure a lot harder to take it off than to put it on in the first place.