Friday, January 6, 2012

Post-Christmas Pound Consequences

With the holidays past, we now process proclamations of the best diets to pay penance for the poundage we accumulated from too much indulgence on seasonal goodies.

High protein, low protein, low carb, high carb, grapefruit juice, strawberry-asparagus shakes, kumquat-artichoke smoothies, just about anything you can think of (other than maybe cardboard or styrofoam) has been promoted as the perfect means for shedding unwanted pounds. Perhaps you’re in the midst of trying one now.

I know a number of people who eagerly partake in the latest fad, whether it’s pills, a revolutionary waist-wrap, even vibrating devices you stand on. Similar to “get rich quick” schemes, these products promise “get slim quick.”

Even the media get into the act, expounding on the most recent gimmicks. But as I’ve learned – the hard way – the secret to weight control and physical well-being isn’t found in a can or a carton. It’s found in a term we all hate to hear: hard work.

Soon after my open-heart surgery five years ago, I resolved to lose some excess weight and avoid habits that had led to my arterial blockages. So I listened to and read the advice of cardiac experts who talked about proper nutrition and exercise.

Cardiologist Dr. Arthur Agatston, who invented the South Beach Diet, said as his practice shifted its focus from treatment to prevention, via healthy eating, exercise and appropriate medication, they saw a radical decrease of heart attacks among their patients. It went from five patients a week having heart episodes to only five in a full year! When I read that, I decided to try what he was recommending.

I learned what foods were good for me (lean meats, nuts, fresh vegetables and fruits, for example) and which were not. I learned how to read food labels so I would know what ingredients I was ingesting. I learned that the sanest way to eat is moderation – occasionally allowing yourself to enjoy favorite, not-recommended foods, but not all the time. And I learned that while watching calories is useful, burning off calories is even better.

So for the past five years I have faithfully (with very few misses) participated in cardiac rehab exercise classes three times a week, power-walking 2-3 other days each week. No question, it’s hard work. Every morning when I go to exercise I tell myself, “I don’t want to do this!” But like the mom of years ago that would administer castor oil to an ailing child, I then tell myself, “Do it anyway. It’s good for you!” So I do.

I still wrestle some with controlling my weight. The first couple of years I was highly motivated, memories of surgery and recovery still vivid. But in the succeeding years I’ve just had to “bulldog” my way, determined to stick with the program, persevering even though quitting would be much easier and much less demanding. I persist because to do otherwise is to risk severe consequences.

The old saying tells us, “You are what you eat.” So what do you want to be – a cream puff, or a lean, low-fat entrĂ©e?

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