Sunday, June 10, 2012

Signs of the Season

As winter clothes come off, it's a sad fact that of life that winter weight has come on. Once upon a time that was taken care of by walking every day. Not any more...

Middle-aged spread, my grandmother called it. It hit her as she approached her sixties, I'm told, and it has me too. At first I was blithely unconcerned--no waistline? No problem. I told I myself I was too old for vanity. True as that may be, I'm in the prime age for the very real health problems that are associated with weight around the middle. Time for action, but mere activity wasn't enough.

Then I met a friend at the grocery store. He looked great--animated, energetic, and less bulky than he had been a couple of months ago. "South Beach diet," he told me, "essentially no carbs that aren't complex and no processed sugar."

I went home and investigated--it wasn't Dr. Atkins Revisited--it seemed sane. Low fat, high in vegetables and protein, low in carbohydrates. No jasmine rice, no beer (except at Oktoberfest, the doctor who developed this was German)--I sniveled a little and then went out and bought fresh produce.

The U.S. grows some really good vegetables, if you can pay for them. The fruit--not so good--which is why I stopped looking at the produce section of my neighborhood supermarket. That was a big mistake.If this new regimen teaches me nothing else, I thought as I picked up bitter melon and ripe tomatoes, it will at least have sent me back to the joy of fresh vegetables.

It's only been three days so I haven't noticed any spectacular changes--except without the sugar from beer and ice cream and egg tarts, I have fewer blood sugar crashes. Meanwhile my lower back still hurts, which I attribute to the added weight that is pulling on it. When I no longer have to take Aleve in the morning, I'll know I'm on the right track.

I don't have a scale. I don't want to become fixated on numbers. I'll know when my clothes begin to loosen that I'm losing weight. In two weeks I'll begin to add rice, pasta,beans, and perhaps an apple or two to my meals; by then I will have developed a firm and abiding passion for vegetables, which at the moment provide variety and texture to my rather boring allotment of protein. It's certainly the right time of year to rediscover vegetables; the farmers' markets beckon.

Last year when I went to Koh Samet with my family, I was stunned by how openly old European women displayed their bodies. No cover-ups for their bulges and wrinkles--I was envious of their acceptance of age. There's a balance I want in my life--that same acceptance along with a careful respect for my aging body--keeping it as healthy as I can while not forcing it into something it can no longer be. This eating change (I refuse to call it a diet) is the beginning of that balance, I hope.

A friend says aging is one of his last adventures. Martha Gellhorn said the same thing, brandishing her glass of scotch and her cigarette up until the very end. I'm greedy for all that life holds right up until the last minute--and the only way I'll enjoy that is to stay healthy. Pass the zucchini, please.

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