Thursday, September 8, 2011

Weight loss in our 60's. Get with a plan, make a commitment

Nine years ago when I was working full-time and in my mid-50s I came to the conclusion that, "Yes, I was getting older but I didn't have to be old AND fat."
That was in 2002 after I'd gradually packed on the pounds while getting through menopause... climbing to a hair's breath of 170 pounds. That's a size 14 on a 5-foot-2-inch frame. Not good.
The weight had not slowed me down. I was still regularly jogging three miles on my lunch hour, I was an active gardener and my then husband and I were into building a vacation cabin. The work was demanding with lots of hammering and hefting around piles of lumber and sheet board. I rode horses, hiked, fished. I didn't feel old but my clothes were getting bigger and bigger. When I bent over to tie my shoes...ugh.
A close friend and I shared (and still share) many of the same challenges. Among them weight gain. We liked to cook, to entertain. We were subscribers to Bon Appetit, magazine, gave each other cookbooks for Christmas and equated food with love for our families and friends. We went crazy over the holidays with cookies, big meals and entertaining. We also enjoyed a glass of wine.
When she suggested the weight loss program at Jenny Craig, I thought what do I have to lose? Ha.
I had never been able to take off the pounds on my own. Never. My fad diets lasted for a couple of weeks then I'd get discouraged and the effort would fade away. For me Jenny Craig turned out to be the answer with its weekly face-to-face counseling and weigh-in sessions, a 1200-calorie-a-day menu and a program that never let me feel too hungry. That first summer, I took off 20 pounds. I was elated.
But it was only 20 pounds. Once I quit the diet those pounds started creeping back on. At one point my mother looked me up and down and said, "Darling, you need to lose another 20." I hated that. But she was right. Back I went the next spring to the weekly weigh-ins.
Jenny Craig is a program that includes lots of water, moderate daily exercise and most importantly, accountability. I lost another 20 pounds, got down to a size 8 and honestly felt really good about myself, not just for the 40-pound weight loss but for the improved self-esteem.
Here's my confession: I have not mastered the maintenance part of my food life. I've gained 10 pounds in the past 18 months since leaving my full-time job at the newspaper. Semi-retirement has meant more traveling, more outdoor adventures, more eating out on a more erratic schedule.
No surprise, I've gained some weight. I accept the idea that (more than ever) I will periodically need to diet to stay where I want to be in a size 8. I still love food, wine, entertaining and yes, I still view cooking as a creative, giving experience. So today I've started back on a short-term weight-loss program to drop about 10 pounds. What's different now that I've retired? A lot:
 - My dieting incentives have changed in retirement. If my primary incentives while working had to do with appearance and feeling good in my clothes, my need now is to get rid of the weight for health reasons..... help lower my blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels and generally feel better physically. There are a few clothes I'd like to get back into.
- The job routine structure is gone. Working meant my day was built around an early breakfast, mid-day lunch and late evening dinner. It was easier to avoid food. Now, one day I'm out, the next I'm hanging around the house in my bathrobe drinking coffee and eating buttered toast with jam.
- It's easier to over eat in retirement. Access to a refrigerator is nearly constant.
Eating out is a danger was before, it still is. More calories everywhere with appetizers, more fried foods and alcohol.
- Celebratring life is a major priority. In retirement there's a more celebratory approach to life. Every day is a good day. Every day (when you're over 60) is to be treasured. That means more creative time cooking the evening meal, more sampling appetizers to start and maybe a nightly glass of wine.
- More traveling, for sure. There's a real danger here. When I travel I sort of give myself permission to over-indulge. Hey you're on vacation!!! Circumstances may mean it's harder to resist the extra calories, dessert or that Margarita.
Jenny Craig, of course, is not the only weight loss program with credibility and is probably more expensive than some. I buy their food, eat their structured (but varied) menu. My first full week of dieting is going to cost me $100. But after I get into the program there are ways to reduce that cost. Plus there's a trade-off with less spent at the grocery store. I'm squeezing this into my least for a few months.
What makes sense for you?
Weight Watchers ranks first on most diet program rating sites. U.S. News & World Report offers its rankings with Weight Watchers at No. 1, Jenny Craig No. 2 and something called Raw Food Diet, No. 3.
My local hospital offers a weight-loss counseling service that helps you plan your own menu with a weekly weight in. Nutrisystem will ship pre-organized and prepared food to your doorstep.
One plan does not work for everyone. I need weekly accountability and a bit of counseling.
But honestly, you may be old(er) but you don't have to be old and fat! Really, you don't.
Follow up questions:
1. What's your successful weight-loss story?
2. What program has worked for you. Why not share the inspiration.
3. Is it harder to diet when you're over 60?
4. What weight-loss challenges have you over come?

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