There’s nothing like a wet suit to accent bulges and curves best left hidden under baggy shirts and slacks. I found that out last Wednesday night when I came home from work to find my husband had a new “wallpaper” on our kitchen computer: a photo of our family of four decked out in wet suits, taken on our trip to Florida over the Christmas break.
When you don’t want to look, it’s easy to avoid mirrors. But a large color photograph on the 17” computer monitor in the kitchen is rather unavoidable. Photos don’t lie. And there I was.
The expanse beneath that black rubber suit — the breadth of the hips, the girth of the belly, and oh, my oh my, those thighs — wasn’t really a surprise. After all, I live in this body. And it’s been talking to me. Stiff joints, knee pain, something called a hiatal hernia. My doctor, a very nice, very polite young man, told me several months ago that I should lose some weight. He seemed worried about offending me, uncomfortable about saying so, practically whispering the advice. He was very gentle. I laughed. Yeah, I’m starting to suffer from fat old lady syndrome, I observed with a jolly chuckle that belied my inward embarrassment. He nodded politely. I promised to pay attention to his advice. I didn’t.
I knew I should heed his admonition, and I thought about it every day, but did nothing. I looked hard at the image of myself in that wet suit. I sat down in front of the computer and stared. Then I changed the picture to one he took of dolphins frolicking at Sea World. There. Much better.
I have to do something about this, I went to bed thinking that night. I realized I’d need help. I didn’t know where to begin. Sure, I’d dieted before. I was never svelte. In fact, I’ve battled with a weight problem since adolescence. As an adult, I came to accept the fact that I would never be thin. But I’d always been pretty fit. Somewhere along the line, being “not thin” became being overweight, then significantly overweight, then, well, obese. There. I’ve said it. And it’s official. My body mass index (BMI) is over 30, and that’s officially obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
I eat too much of the wrong foods and don’t get any regular exercise. That’ll do it. And it has.
I’ve put on 60 pounds in the last 15 years. Sixty pounds!
It happened that I had a breakfast meeting with Central Suffolk Hospital CEO Andy Mitchell the very next day. We met at Lolly’s, a Riverhead classic on Route 58, where you can get great coffee and eggs with the works. Fresh from my horror of the night before, I ordered oatmeal, and was served a huge, steaming bowl of oats. I ate only half.
I brought up the subject of nutrition with Andy, lamenting about the extent of my excess baggage. He told me to read The South Beach Diet. “Don’t mind the silly name,” he advised. Truly, without his recommendation, I would have never picked the book up for that very reason. It sounded like another one of those fad diets, and I knew better. I need to eat less and move more — end of story.
Not exactly. Cardiologist Arthur Agatston, author of The South Beach Diet, explains in very understandable, conversational terms, the science behind gaining — and losing — weight. He sheds light on the role of sugar in the obesity epidemic that’s gripping our nation. Sugar found in many different guises in the processed foods that make up a large part of the American diet, along with nasty fats hidden in unlikely places. And how and why they pose such a serious threat to our health, especially our cardiovascular health.
Dr. Agatston sums up the principles of his diet, devised to help his cardiology patients lose weight and regain their health, like this: “good carbohydrates and good fats, nutrient dense whole foods, lean sources of protein, and plenty of fiber.” You don’t have to approach each meal with a scale and a calculator. And you don’t have to eat anything weird or tasteless. The diet aims to cure you of the sugar addiction you probably don’t even know you have, to fix your metabolism, and to educate you about food so you can make the right food choices. It literally allows you to eat “normal” meals and not feel deprived, while losing one to two pounds per week, the rate doctors say is best for permanent weight loss. I bought the book — in paperback for $7.99 — and read it Saturday. I never read a book about nutrition, health and weight loss that made as much sense.
My husband and I started the diet on Sunday. The biggest hitch is that, for the first two weeks, you can’t eat any sugar or starchy foods at all. But it hasn’t been as hard as you might think. Frankly, I feel too well-fed to be on a diet. We’ve also dusted off the treadmill in the basement and begun walking for half an hour each morning. And that feels really good, too.
I’ve never been one for new year’s resolutions. But the wet suit. That resolved it for me.