Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Weighing in on what we should eat

     I love red meat and potatoes -- a T-bone steak, ribeye, porterhouse, filet mignon, roast beef (rare, please), and mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, fried potatoes, french fries, steamed or smothered potatoes.  
Mint chocolate chip ice cream: Oh, how I love you
(photo from fanpop.com)
     I love ice cream -- most any kind, really, but especially mint chocolate chip and that plain soft vanilla from Dairy Queen. Love banana splits and banana pudding and pies with whipped cream.
     Love cookies, especially chocolate chip and Oreos. But just about any kind will do. Love candy and chocolate. I have a lifetime history with Mr. Goodbars, and Tootsie Roll pops are close.
     Love fried fish -- catfish, bream, white perch. Those all-the-catfish-you-can-eat nights we had many years ago at the old (now burned-down) Cypress Inn in north Bossier were a Shreveport Journal sports department special. John James Marshall called them soirees, all-you-can-ram.
      And in the all-you-can category, crawfish. Put me at a crawfish boil and give me a couple of hours. If I have a "favorite meal," this is it.
      My folks loved to eat, and so do I.
      Well, so did I.
      When I kept looking at my expanding waist, and my clothes didn't fit so well anymore, and then when my vision kept getting blurry at work, and indigestion was becoming a daily problem, it was a miserable feeling.
        So miserable that -- at my wife's insistence -- I went to get my eyes checked by an opthamologist. And the result was ... there was nothing wrong with my eyes. But the doctor suggested I go see my general physician because the cause of my blurred vision might be that roll around my waist.
         When I stepped on the scales at the doctor's office, it read "178." (To be honest, I had been avoiding stepping on any scales.) I couldn't believe it. It was a long way from 125, which is what I weighed coming out of college.
          The doctor suggested we do a complete physical; I hadn't had one in years. When the results came back, he was adamant: My cholesterol was too high; my triglycerides -- whatever those are -- were out of sight.
          I needed to lose weight, or he said I needed to take medicine (statins). I had no desire to do that; Bea knew that the statins can have uncomfortable side effects.
          I really wasn't a total physical wreck; I still was doing my daily walk, 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours, and had been for 15 years or so -- not fast walking, but steady. But then I would eat anything I wanted (see above), and I would eat late at night -- after work -- and I never ate breakfast (worked nights, so I wouldn't started my day until about 10 a.m. and didn't feel like eating.)
           It was time for some changes, and Bea -- also not happy with her weight -- felt the same way.
           This was some three years ago, just after our vacation/return trip to Hawaii, where the pictures of me with my old friends from The Honolulu Advertiser show just how prominent a belly I had. I would post some of those "before" photos but, gee, I can't locate them right now.
          We cut down on the white stuff -- white bread, mashed potatoes, most potatoes, white rice, white pasta -- and cakes, cookies, candy. Cut back on using butter and on French bread with garlic, which we both loved. Very little red meat. Very little ice cream. Very little canned goods of any kind.
           We began reading the many articles available on the best things to eat, and we began to check the packaging/ingredients. Sweet potatoes are on that list; those who know me know that was one of my least favorite things to eat; I always avoided them. But we substituted sweet-potato fries (baked) for french fries, and I actually like them.
           We now eat wheat bread and wheat pasta, and lots of salads -- spinach-based, with fruit and mushrooms and green peas, raw vegetables, avocados, olive oil. Sometimes Bea adorns the salads with salmon or tuna salad and sardines (oily fish are highly recommended). Nuts are a good thing to eat, too, and we buy some every week.
         So we eat lots of raw stuff. There are some side effects -- well-known, but we won't talk about that here.
         I'm eating kale, and okra, and turnip greens -- would've been very reluctant in the past on all those. But spinach and broccoli have always been favorites.
          And every day I eat breakfast -- usually a bowl of cereal (with almost no sugar), blueberries and almond milk.
          I used to drink one Diet Dr. Pepper a day (sometimes two). No more. Now it's lots of water, some tea (mostly green tea) and one cup of coffee a day (supposed to be good for you).
          We cut back on salt. I did use it liberally; now I use it sparingly. We try to stay away from sugary stuff. Now when we get something with salt or sugar in it, the taste is exaggerated.
          We've tried to eliminate milk chocolate; we do buy a dark-chocolate bar weekly ... one piece a day. We have substituted low-fat yogurt for ice cream.  
           At Bea's direction, we now take a daily regimen of pills -- vitamin supplements, Prilosec (to control the indigestion), fish oil, L-Lysine, magnesium, a baby aspirin. I don't like taking pills, but I do it because I'm told to.
           OK, I want to stress this: We are not perfect at this; we don't think we are obsessed; we are not weight watchers to the point of getting on the scale every day and fretting about it. Every now and then -- once a week, once every two weeks -- we both feel like eating an "old" meal. So we go get a hamburger, and maybe some fries, or a corned-beef sandwich at Jason's Deli, and then we have the ice cream, too.
           We might even have some mashed potatoes once a month or a small steak -- a real small steak. Still eat more cheese than we need -- goes with our wheat-bread sandwiches -- but not nearly as much as before.
            Candy, or chocolate, still tempts me when we walk into a place with a candy jar. But because I don't go to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram sports department all that much any more, I can stay away from all that candy in Celeste Williams' office. Always love visiting with Celeste, but that candy was not doing my waist or health much good. Good thing, too, that I don't get to Strawn's in Shreveport too often for a piece of banana pie (or the whole pie) with whipped cream as the topping.
           And then there's crawfish. Our son, Jason, puts on crawfish boils, and we went to one this spring. I ate and ate and ate -- crawfish, plus the small potatoes and the corn and the sausage -- and I was so full when I was done. Felt absolutely miserable the next few days; didn't even want to look at much food.
            Portion control remains an issue some days. Snacking remains an issue. My problem is still too much of a good thing.
           So these days the scale reads between 155 and 160, a loss of about 20 pounds. It actually happened pretty quickly, once we changed our diet and our eating routine; it was only a couple of weeks before people began noticing and asking if I'd lost weight.
           After a couple of additional visits to the doctor's office, the doctor read the cholesterol and triglycerides numbers and was very pleased, saying, "You've done good work. Keep it up."
            My weight has stabilized. Meanwhile, Bea -- having stepped up her exercise routine -- has lost more than I have, weighs less than I do, is still losing some. She not only feels good, she looks good (not that she's ever looked bad).
            We've each had to buy new clothes because some of our stuff is now too roomy. I've gone from a 36-38 waist to 34-36; I can again wear a suit that I had outgrown, but I had to give up some of my Dad's handdowns that once fit but now are too loose.
            I probably could lose another five pounds or another half-inch off my waist, and be even more fit. But that might mean buying even more new clothes, so I'm fine for now. I feel healthier, my vision is OK, and my wife seems satisfied with our efforts.
             But, gosh, how about a big T-bone steak, mashed potatoes, and a gallon of mint chocolate chip ice cream?


  1. From Karen Ann Bryant Dye: This is something we definitely need to be more diligent about at our house. I had no idea that excess weight could impact our vision. Thanks for sharing your experience, and congratulations to you and Bea on your healthier lifestyle. You look great!

  2. From Harlan Alexander: Oh, thanks! All I need is a long-distance Facebook friend sending me on a guilt trip!... lol... Keep up the good work and I'll try to get with the program.

  3. From Tim Looney: I'm afraid it's an age thing, Nico. I fight it all the time myself. Right now I'm in pretty good shape. But I usually spend about 6 months pigging out and 6 months trying to lose weight. I love to eat also! I'm a chocoholic. I love sweets of just about any kind. And I love Italian, Mexican, Chinese, American ... just about any kind of food. Period.

  4. From Marty Mule': I was afraid when you talked about blurry vision you'd be diagnosed as diabetic -- as I was. No fun. But it sounds as if you're under more control than I am. Good job.

  5. From Jim Pruett: Mom's famous quote: "Eating was a lot more fun before cholesterol." ... Good work!

  6. From John James Marshall: They rebuilt Cypress Inn. ... Let me know when you are ready for a trip back in time!

  7. From Kent Dailey: Sounds like a great weight management plan, and, yep, every now and then you just HAVE to have that "special" meal you've been craving!