A couple days after the Christmas plunder of bacon for breakfast and lamb for dinner and a week before heading off to Hawaii, my doctor called and said something like, “Your cholesterol is 238. You better cut the cheese and drop 15 to 20 pounds.” I heard, “your mother died of a heart attack.” Granted, the scales didn’t moan under my weight, nor would anyone call me fat, let alone chunky. I'll never solicit or receive much empathy from Overeaters Anonymous. When I told my sisters that the doctor told me to lose weight they both asked if the doctor had actually seen me.
I hate those mechanical scales where after stepping on the pad you must “guess” at your weight. It's like having your weight guessed at the circus. First, you slide a weighted block across the rail to the one hundred pound notch, an easy given. Then the smaller weight slides over to the point where the balanced arm raises or lowers the tiny arrow when a perfect balance is achieved. The stupid little arrow clanks the upper bracket. It's always further to the right than you expect. The more you move the block to the right, the heavier reality becomes. The process forces you to stand face to face with the fact that your body isn’t that toned, lean machine it might have ever been. Thank God I have yet to see one of these scales placed in front of a mirror. They usually face a wall, where you can't see your eyes roll to the back of your head.
I knew what the scales had been whispering. I had joined the YMCA to lose ten pounds during November and December. I actually gained weight. Muscle, my ass. I was 122 pounds of middle aged post menopausal jiggle. And now the doctor claimed I was full of heart stopping cholesterol.
I’m not a junk eater nor am I a couched potato even in the throes of dark winter days and subzero temperatures. Yes, I grumble a whole lot during every outside venture. It is so easy to slump into a cabin fever depression. And the doctor’s news had done just that, for about 30 minutes. It was so bad that outside the YMCA I sat in the Jeep contemplating my resolve. I never made it into the building. Damn if I would swim one lap or trot my ass around the upstairs track counting light fixtures out of shear boredom.
Recovery from my self-defeat came quickly. I cranked up the Jeep, blasted the defrost on the windshield and headed downtown to Borders. I had to prove that I wasn’t eating cholesterol ladened food (Christmas feasts are not the norm.). I had to prove I had been dealt a cruel set of genes.
The diet section in bookstore was busy with those toying with New Year Resolutions. Three women chatted about their latest diets, and the successes and failures of others who had been on crashes and regimes.
"Have you seen her?" one sniped. It wasn't complimentary. I took a quick glance at the trio, their physiques concealed by massive coats and scarves. You got to love upstate New York this time of year. I bought two books, the Lose Weight Fast Diet Journal and The Ultimate Calorie, Carb and Fat Gram Counter.
Counting calories wasn’t going to be enough. I needed a complicated goal that required me to research what I was about to do and then to set specific targets for calories, fat, cholesterol, protein and fiber. Tracking my exercise and calories burned was also important. My ultimate goal was to prove I wasn’t eating a poor diet and to lose 15 pounds. The cholesterol level may or may not fall below 200.
Since December 29, 2010 I have written down everything I have eaten. When I prepare meals, I measure every portion. In restaurants, I look up their nutritional information, although I have yet to find the data on a Costco hot dog. At the end of each week I track the totals of my consumption against my exercise goals. I graph the weight lost and assess my energy levels. I make little notes about challenges, obstacles and courses of action. My sister would be amazed that I even track water consumption. She calls me the Desert Flower because I drink so little of it.
This week I hit the 107 mark. Minus fifteen. Only twice during the past twelve weeks have I gone over my 200 mg or less cholesterol goal. Most days I don’t even come close. Similarly, I have ranged well below my daily saturated fat target of less than 16 grams per day. If there is a target I can't hit, it is fiber. When I crank it up towards my goal, I pay for it the next day. It's the way my system rolls.
To celebrate I bought low fat ice cream after carefully reading the labels. Then I measured out the ½ cup serving and ate it out of the measuring cup, not to waste a lick of it. I thought I died!
The end of June is still a long way off. That’s when I get the cholesterol rechecked. Meantime, I must add calories back into my diet so I don’t drop any more weight. My swimsuit is sagging.