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What do you do to stay healthy?

My wonderful and insightful publisher here at Santa Cruz Parent, Parmalee, just sent out an honest and brave assessment of her health. I thought it was a wonderful way for her to start us into this holiday season. Like her, I find it (almost) possible to skip Halloween candy, but then along come all these lovely events with all this lovely food, much of which I cook myself!

Here’s what Parmalee says about her new routine: “No more! Get up, get dressed, walk briskly for 15-20 minutes, drink a glass of water, eat a small meal and then start work. Telling you this is scary! I can’t quite bring myself to tell anyone my weight but I am willing to commit to a program and to tell inches lost. I have a notebook for recording everything: my goals and why, the rules I’m making for myself, water and food consumption, cardio, resistance exercizes, waist measurement, etc. I know better than to give up entirely on the “comfort” foods, but I am going to make some rules for myself about when and how much I can have. Coming up: stuffing or pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving? I choose stuffing, but only three tablespoons.”

I credit my parents for instilling a healthy sense of balance in their children. We always had great food at our house, almost all of it homemade. When other 70’s kids were eating Twinkies, I was learning to make homemade sticky buns, cheesecake, brownies, pumpkin pie… And not only that, but we were growing, canning, and making most of our standard fare, too. From an early age, I learned to be an adventurous eater, and a healthy one. For the most part.

But then comes the reality of metabolism. We largely inherit that, and though there are things you can do to stir it up, you’re otherwise pretty much stuck with it. So my family was lucky: we were all blessed with an incredible, fast metabolism as kids. I used to eat anything I wanted. When I was in college, I would eat a pint of ice cream almost every day! But then, like everyone in my family, my metabolism slowed down. In my teens, I was too thin. In my twenties, I was slim at ten pounds more, in my thirties another ten pounds came along, and then another ten stuck around after the babies.

Now I’m not so cavalier about my eating. And having lived with partners with serious weight concerns, I heartily recommend Parmalee’s approach. The first thing is to notice what you’re eating. I realized that I would easily let myself eat fattening or sweet things that I didn’t actually like all that much. Just by choosing not to do that, I cut out all cheap chocolate (except I let myself steal one mini-Snickers bar from the kids’ buckets every Halloween!), all fattening snacks like potato chips, which I don’t really like all that much anyway, and badly made desserts like mix brownies (yech!) and low quality packaged cookies.

If you still have a problem with keeping track of what you’re eating, I lived with someone who took part in a weight loss study that proved that the first thing anyone can do to lose weight is just to write down what they’re eating. Even if you don’t try to change your eating habits, writing it all down will start you down the path immediately.

The next step is feeling good about the stuff that’s good for you. I try to take time to prepare myself a nice salad for lunch. I adore a nice salad, and yes, it takes ten minutes that I don’t often have, but I feel better when I make myself do it. And when I say salad, I don’t mean with candied nuts, creamy dressing, and fatty cheese! You could easily eat yourself to obesity in the salad line at Fresh Choice.

And despite a recent study that showed that exercise wasn’t actually all that effective in taking weight off, everyone I know who has lost a lot of weight found that it was key to keeping themselves feeling energetic and focused on the goal. Other more heartening recent studies show that you don’t have to do a formal exercise program to improve your health. Parmalee’s morning walk is a great way to start it: You have to start somewhere. Then make sure that you never park right in front of the store, that you never take the elevator (unless you have a stroller along), and you jump at any opportunity to move. Other studies show that exercise is key to keeping weight off.

And Parmalee’s last point is the most important: If you try to punish yourself by not enjoying food, it’s all going to backfire. Because we all know what happens when someone is starved: they binge. When you go to all those holiday celebrations, don’t make yourself eat only the healthy stuff. Look at what’s being offered and make your choices wisely. If you don’t really adore pumpkin pie, then skip it. Personally, I’ll take the pumpkin pie and skip the pre-dinner munchies.

I feel lucky that I don’t have to lose a large amount of weight. I’d love to take some off the middle, but I’m OK as long as I can fit into my jeans! I try to notice when that starts to become a problem, and then remind myself of all the stuff I knew already: pay attention to what I eat, enjoy the things that are really good for me, cut out the bad stuff that I don’t really adore, and then reward myself with something I love.

Posted in Parenting.

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  1. Parmalee Taff says

    Oh my Suki, now I’m doubly on the line! Parmalee

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