orking as a food professional, whether as a cook at home, food guide, journalist or food talk show host poses nutritional challenges. Occupational hazards include testing recipes, cooking dishes and visiting restaurants for research. Dish-after-dish is described, photographed and, yes, eaten (or at least nibbled at). The result is a grumbling stomach and an ever-expanding waistline.
For me, weight was always an issue, even long before I worked in the food world and certainly before pregnancy.
I was overweight before I stopped smoking, so imagine after. Over time I blamed the quantity of gelato I consumed to cope with my many-times broken heart. I blamed having been educated to clean my plate. I blamed my slow metabolism. More recently I blamed pre-menopause.
What I never did was take responsibility and blame myself. I never saw my sublime ability to procrastinate as a problem. It was always something else.
With age comes wisdom, so now my weight is no longer just about my appearance. As a mature woman, I’m looking beyond the mirror’s reflection and recognizing this as a matter of health, one that needs to be addressed without further ado.
Carrying extra weight means unavoidable joint pains and shortness of breath. Stairs are the enemy. I lived years and years with heavy legs, high blood pressure, and bad circulation, conditions I can no longer ignore.
So dreaded diet it is. But how can someone constantly surrounded by food manage to follow a regime, stick to it for many, many months, and ultimately get back into shape?
The answer, surprisingly, is by eating.
I tried the fasting, the juicing, the crash diets, the newfangled trends, and elimination regimens. Nothing worked. The failed attempts only pushed me more strongly towards binging.
What worked was determination. “It’s got to start in the head,” a client of mine advised. When I lamented that I was too old to lose the weight, he informed me that he had lost a total of 100 pounds ï¿½ 45 kilos ï¿½ at age 62. I had no more excuses.
I knew it was time to finally “retake” my body. The first thing I did was medical. I braced myself for blood work (I’m afraid of needles). I then made appointments with various doctors and nutritionists and found ones I was comfortable with. I joined an online yoga program. I downloaded health-tracking apps and set about recording meals daily. I even scheduled acupuncture sessions.
I began with portion control, avoiding processed foods, sugar, dairy and alcohol. Olive oil (which until recently I used in the kitchen with a heavy hand) is the only fat I’m allowed, and it’s limited. But I eat three-course meals twice a day, always leaving food on my plate at breakfast. I can’t remember the last time I did that.
Summer is also a helpful accomplice. In particular, August is my friend. In August, food travel planning and office work is reduced, and my daily nutrition restricted to salad, fruit and other lean, non-cooked dishes (who wants to turn on the stove in Hades-like heat?).
Resuming restaurant reviews and chef interviews at the end of the summer won’t be an issue. My new eating routine alternates strict phases with more relaxed ones. I’ll just have to plan my calendar more wisely. Fortunately, filming for my all-cheese TV show won’t begin until fall and will be intermittent before the new season’s broadcast date, so my cholesterol levels will have a chance to decrease. Water and herbal tea have become my drinks of choice. Vitamins and natural supplements give me energy and strength.
I am toning my muscles and helping out my cardiovascular system by swimming laps, taking long walks, picking blackberries and working outdoors when possible. I am turning my housecleaning routine into a workout, sweeping the floors with contracted core muscles, putting extra emphasis on dusting and standing in the kitchen to cook or to wash dishes bouncing on my tiptoes.
Abstinence is not the answer. Of course a little bit of sacrifice is required ï¿½ and lots of patience. I will not shed all the pounds over the course of two weeks. The process will take closer to a year.
But I’m in no rush. Now I climb on the scale daily and see the numbers going down, a little at a time. I was never good to myself this way before. The best part is it doesn’t feel like I’m on a diet. Maybe that’s why it’s working.