I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Resolutions and retrospective

Every new year I make a resolution or two, as most people do. And as the numbers of the year turn from one year to the next, it seems like a good time to look back on the past year and see how successful I was. Last year I saw a new doctor in January (because of the change in Medicare coverage) and learned that I had gained ten pounds since the last time I'd visited a doctor. When you're short like me, that's a significant amount of weight. I decided to start counting calories, and I wrote a post on my other blog about it, which I called "The long slog toward slim."

This January 2012, I have lost all the weight I wanted to lose, and then some. I wanted to lose the ten pounds but have actually lost 18 in total. I'm now thinner than I have been for years, probably since 2005 when this picture was taken.
I remember looking wistfully at this picture last January and wishing I would be able to wear those jeans again without a roll over the top. And now I can. In fact, the strange part is that I wonder now how come I allowed myself to gain weight in the first place. I continue to be active and exercise plenty. But I also had become fond of eating late in the day. It doesn't take many extra calories to add on ten pounds. Conversely, it doesn't take much of a calorie deficit for the weight to begin to fall away.

The hard part was getting started. Counting calories and using an online food diary taught me many things, not the least of which is that some of my food choices were adding calories that I could easily skip. I started counting out the nuts I eat every day (raw almonds and walnuts) so I could add them to the diary, and I experimented with ways to get sugar out of my diet. A scale helped me understand how much a portion was supposed to be. I kept my calories to 1500 per day and was rewarded with pretty consistent weight loss until I hit a plateau after I had lost about eight pounds. Since my new eating plan had become familiar by then, it wasn't hard to keep at it until I began to lose again.

Last year I read two books that helped me a lot: Mindless Eating and The End of Overeating.  Of course I had already read all of Michael Pollan's wonderful books about food. It is endlessly satisfying to read books about food when I'm trying to understand my own relationship to it. I've been a vegetarian for decades (well, a pescatarian anyway, since I eat fish) and things like bacon and steak don't even look like food to me any more. But it's really easy to gain weight by eating too many carbohydrates, especially the simple carbs. That's what I had been doing, and now I'm eating more protein and fat and limiting the amount of gluten foods in my diet. I continue to eat lots of veggies every day, but I was doing that before.

Not long ago I learned that two-thirds of all Americans are overweight. A full third of us are obese, many morbidly obese. The health effects of obesity are well known, but the problem is that our diets are apparently designed to keep us eating more and more. I know that when I eat something high in added sugar, I want more of it, even when I'm full. If I don't eat it in the first place, I lose the desire to overeat. Or I eat something else, something better for me.

Hmmm. This is not where I thought I would be going with this post, but it's a good one. It never ceases to amaze me that reading about food and food choices, diets, and body image is endlessly fascinating, to me at least. What I was hoping to do when I first started this post was to write about the past year's events. I started with the January doctor's visit and it ended up filling the post with food and weight issues. Maybe the thing to do is cover each eventful month one at a time. By the time spring rolls around, I'll have finished the entire year of 2011.

One nice thing about blogging is having the ability to go back and read how I felt a year ago. I've been writing this blog since December 2009. I started writing my own history and then got into the habit of pondering where I am today, giving myself permission to write whatever comes into my head once a week. On this blog I don't use labels or have much of anything in the sidebar except the chronological march of posts. Even so, this will be my 115th post, writing once a week.

And over the past two years, I have found a community of fellow bloggers, friends from around the world who delight me and challenge me by leaving perceptive comments. These sometimes spark new directions and avenues in my thinking that I find to be rather addicting. Thank you for being part of my life. I am enriched by our interaction and continue to gain strength and courage from you.


Teresa Evangeline said...

And I from You! Thanks for this much-needed wake-up call! Truly! Thank You!

Buz said...

As you know, my own eating has also changed fairly drastically (again), but based on my history with such changes, I'm wary of believing I can stay changed forever. This time it *feels* more permanent, but I just don't have complete faith in myself. I've spent too many years addicted to way too much junk. But so far so good. Your life-long example of consistency (even with the little glitches you've described) has always been an inspiration to me, and I'm so glad I have such a beautiful sister (one of five! ;-)

Rubye Jack said...

And thank you for being in my life DJan! I learn so much and receive so much support from blogging that I think it has actually changed my perception of things. I'm one of those yo-yo people with the ups and downs of dieting. My problem is when I buy a much of good nutritious food and want to eat it all at once.
You look fantastic in this photo btw!

Linda Reeder said...

It is partly do to your introducing me to Calorie count that I am now among merely the overweight, and no longer obese. I still have a ways to go, but except for this birthday weekend, I'm back on track.
I love that we share our lives with each other through blogging.

Linda said...

I do no enjoy reading about food but wish I did as it will be a liflong struggle for me. Just this morning I resorted to counting almonds and putting them in a Baggie. I was eating too many otherwise. This post is very motivating. Thanks for the encouragement.

Gigi said...

Wow! 18 pounds. Good for you. I'm pretty happy with my weight and have been pretty consistent with keeping it in line - but I have horrible eating habits and this is something I really need to work on.

I'm so glad to have "met" you to DJan. You are a constant inspiration to me.

Linda Myers said...

Another good post, DJan. I can't imagine how a person as small as you could have lost 18 pounds last year!

We usually eat fairly healthy. But I'm not getting enough exercise since cutting back after my back injury last spring. I finally feel like I'm healing so will start back up.

We're heading out for a walk today among Sedona's red rocks. That will be an invigorating start!

Whitney Lee said...

I find the subject of food and health and the connection fascinating as well. I'm getting back to eating more like I did when I was on the detox; it sounds much like what you do on a daily basis. There's just such a difference in the way I feel when I eat better. You're right about the high sugar foods and how easy it is to overeat with them. My downfall is my sweet tooth, and I have noticed that after a few days away from sweets and gluten foods that my cravings for them disappeared. So did my belly. I am fortunate in my age and forced activity level (the large dog requiring walks and the young children requiring everything) as I am not really overweight. Without these factors, though, I could easily slip across the healthy weight line. Getting a handle on how to eat well is key to mine and my family's continued health.
I tend to be a snacker and have found a fantastic recipe for an avocado sauce for pasta. I found that if I kept the sauce separate it made for a fabulous dip (if you like avocados). I particularly like it with carrots-it must be the crunch! I have no idea what it's like with the basil as I've never added it-I'm sure it's wonderful though. The way I fix it makes it a great and healthy substitute for guacamole. On warm pasta it is amazing.

15 Minute Creamy Avocado Pasta

Creamy, thick, and rich with lots of garlic flavour and a hint of lemon. This is my newest favourite pasta dish. The avocado works wonderfully in this recipe to create a sauce so creamy and thick, you will think there is cream hiding in there.
Inspired by My Recipe.org.
Yield: Serves 2


* 1 medium sized ripe Avocado, pitted
* 1/2 lemon, juiced + lemon zest to garnish
* 2-3 garlic cloves, to taste (I used 3 and it was quite garlicky, but if you are not a big fan of garlic use 1 clove)
* 1/2 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
* ~1/4 cup Fresh Basil, (probably optional)
* 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
* 2 servings/6 oz of your choice of pasta (I used brown rice pasta)
* Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
*A pinch of cayenne


1. Bring several cups of water to a boil in a medium sized pot. Add in your pasta, reduce heat to medium, and cook until Al Dente, about 8-10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, make the sauce by placing the garlic cloves, lemon juice, and olive oil into a food processor. Process until smooth. Now add in the pitted avocado, basil, and salt. Process until smooth and creamy.

3. When pasta is done cooking, drain and rinse in a strainer and place pasta into a large bowl. Pour on sauce and toss until fully combined. Garnish with lemon zest and black pepper. Serve immediately. Makes 2 servings.

CiCi said...

I like that instead of this turning out to be a post about resolutions, you are in fact looking back one year ago and tracking your changes and lessons learned. I like that much better. I personally have never done the new year resolutions, I just keep slugging along throughout each year, catch myself once in awhile needing to make a change, and work toward doing it. That is a really great photo of you in the pink tee shirt riding along in your skinny body.

Kathryn said...

Another inspired person chiming in. You could probably start some kind of cult!
I'm hoping that this year is my year to drop some pounds and get on the path to better health. I've changed my eating patterns, but am still taking in too much.
Decreasing wheat and dairy, but have a way to go. Increasing exercise, but have a way to go there too. Thanks for your inspiration; it will help me, I know!

justme_alive said...

Thanks to you as well Djan. Your blog continues to inspire and is always thought provoking. I enjoy your book & movie reviews also. You are often broadening my view of the world. Hope to see you on the trails again before too long.

justme_alive said...

Thanks to you as well Djan. Your blog continues to inspire and is always thought provoking. I enjoy your book & movie reviews also. You are often broadening my view of the world. Hope to see you on the trails again before too long.

justme_alive said...

Oops it posted twice ;-)

#1Nana said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again, You are insiring! I, too, fight my weight. I also feel blessed to have connected with you and others through our online community. I hope to follow your example and drop a few pounds and increase my activity level. I've got a trip to Italy planned for this spring with my daughter and I need to be able to keep up. Congratulations on meeting your goals.

Dee Ready said...

Dear DJan,
Since I first began reading your blog, sometime in lalte July or early August 2011, I have found myself admiring you more and more. Skydiving, hiking the mountains, eating healthily, quickly putting behind you the theft of your valuables, traveling, reading, and always sharing with us your insights as they come to you.

I so enjoy your weekly blog and I plan on going right away to the library site to see if the two books you mention are available.

Peace and just so you know, I'm feeling much better today. Thank you for your concern.

Anonymous said...

Congrats on losing the weight you set out to lose. You have a lot of self-discipline. You should live a long time, DJan. No worries!

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

A month-by-month recap will give you lots more space to think and talk about whatever is important. And this discussion of eating habits is really useful for so many of us, including The One Who Overstocked Chocolate and Other Sweets for the Holidays...yes, that would be me.

Sandi said...

I always look forward to your Sunday post DJan, as it always offers plenty of "food" for thought!

What a bonus it has been to know you through bogging. I've been paying better attention to my food intake after reading about your experiences. I fall some days, but I'm making slow progress, which maybe is better in the long run, anyway.

I really did notice the difference when I stayed away from sugar and wheat . . . no cravings. How amazing is that!?

Bragger said...

I have also hit a plateau and have been stuck there for 6 months.
The good news is I haven't given up and said "to hell with it," which is what I would NORMALLY do. I need to try the food log thing again; it worked for me when I was on Weight Watchers.

Thanks for sharing your life with us!

Arkansas Patti said...

I am very impressed with your weight loss and your approach. I am aiming for the same goal and may steal some of your ideas. All but the fish that is. Thanks for such a great example.

O-town Ramblings said...

What a timely post. For the first time in my life I've gained unwanted weight. A combination of falling in love, spending time with the one I love who also likes to cook, less exercise and more unhealthy eating choices have all contributed. Being short (5'2") even 10 extra pounds is a lot for me.

This year my goal is to get my butt running again, count calories (a first for me), eliminate as much sugar and white flour as possible from my diet as I can, and basically be mindful about what I eat. To get myself motivated I signed up to run a half marathon in San Francisco in April on what would be my sister Julie's 36th birthday.

Thanks for sharing your own goal and how you reached it. You're an amazing inspiration to me in many ways!

Red said...

As usual, you've said so many interesting things in this post. Two of them really catch my attention. The eating and getting used to the amount we is is so very important. But I have a hard time staying on a lower intake.
Being able to reread what you've written is extremely enlightening and makes you a better all round writer.

Rita said...

You do inspire a person to be healthier in general. Proud of you for exceeding your goal!
Being a housebound, couch potato I am, sadly, in the top third. My downfall is the sweets and carbs. Vegetarian, but not the healthiest one--LOL!
I am so glad to have gotten to know you. I look forward to hearing about your adventures and seeing the beautiful views and hearing your thoughts. You always make me smile. Thanks for being you, lday! :):)

Crazy Life of a Writing Mom said...

That is such a beautiful picture.

This post inspires me to watch my sugar intake. I've been drinking way too much soda when before I used to drink tea instead.

Glenda Beall said...

Your post is, indeed, inspiring, DJan, and I enjoy your posts. Someone once said, we write to learn about ourselves, and I think blogging is one of those ways we learn about ourselves. Like journaling, we post about what we are thinking about our own lives and what we see in the world around us.
I love the photo of you on the horse. I was an avid horseback rider when I was young. I am thinking about going to the dances at the folk school nearby and getting my exercise that way.
I am much too sedentary.
Thank you for sharing with us, your readers.