Sunday, January 28, 2007

Kaizen for you and me

You're likely acquainted with the quote, "A journey of a thousand miles must begin with the first step." The phrase tidily embodies Kaizen, a Japanese term for the philosophy of making small steps toward continual improvement. While Kaizen is more often found in business literature as a way to improve production, it's also a way of losing weight --ounce by ounce, inch by inch.

But many people seem put off by this small step approach, and I fear that here is where some of you may disengage. You want that weight off NOW, this minute. No matter that it took months and years to gain your 20 or 30 or more pounds.

Still, in your heart of hearts you know that, outside of surgical intervention (even that has no guarantees) there is no innovative, overnight way to drop pounds! Losing weight happens when we burn more calories than we consume. This takes time, this takes effort, this takes facing the fact that we must change our behaviors.

And do me a favor, stop blaming your weight problems on “stress.” Stress doesn’t make you gain weight, depression doesn’t make you gain weight, anxiety doesn’t make you gain weight. What makes you gain weight is your behavior. "I am unhappy (stressed, depressed, anxious, guilt-ridden, blue, grumpy, unloved, and old). Therefore, I will be "nice" to myself and eat a chocolate eclair. Now, of course, you are unhappy, stressed, depressed, anxious, guilt-ridden, blue, grumpy, unloved, old AND fat.

I know that many of you will not be moved to begin changing your eating patterns by my puny efforts at logic, lecture or double dares. Perhaps, however, you might be better persuaded by considering the case of the raw chicken.

There, in front of you, on the kitchen counter is the pale, naked, goose-bumply, 6-pound roasting hen you've brought home from the market. As you gaze at it, it begins morphing before your very eyes into 6 pounds of chicken fat, yellow, thick, gooey, sticky, globular gook, oozing across more than a square foot of your counter to depths of over six inches.

Now, you cannot tell me that if you remove six pounds of a similar fatty substance from your own body that, no matter who you are, how old you may be, and how much you currently weigh, that you are not going to look and feel better for having gotten rid of it.

So go pick a diet, any diet you find reasonable (most of them are) and stay on it for the month of February. Sweet, fun-filled, tidy little four-week February. The time will fly by.

This is the Ground Hog Diet because you start it on Ground Hog Day. Weigh in that morning, naked and after you pee. Then set a goal to lose no more than 7 pounds by the end of the month. Then do it.

There is a rule I'd like you to follow -- but just one, and this is it: Once you weigh on Friday, you may weigh yourself only once a week thereafter -- same day, same time, same outfit, same empty bladder. Deal?

E-you later, darlings. I've got to go cook a chicken.

Special note: I would suggest there are literally hundreds of thousands of web sites devoted to diets and recipes and tips to succeed. Some of it's legit; some of it's nutty. But try to avail yourself of some of the more reliable information. Find some of the truly clever hints to get you through rough spots during the day or that tell you the best kind of food journal to keep (one that notes not only what you are eating, but WHEN you are eating).

Here's a page from an intriguing web site called the Open Directory Project to get you started:

Monday, January 22, 2007

Ground Hog Diet

Like many Americans, every year my list of New Year’s resolutions always has, “lose weight.”

While I don’t jump right into dieting; I do stop indulging, and will resume my normal eating habits. And I don’t weigh myself until about the third week of January. By then I figure my body has registered the extra calories from the holidays but might have dropped a half pound or so from my eating normally again. This is what I call my“Eeeek” revelation, or baseline weight.

From there it’s simple to set a goal of how much weight I want to lose – generally an amount equivalent to one step lower on the standard Body Mass Index (BMI) chart. Nowadays this generally amounts to a modest 4-5 pounds. But don’t pooh-pooh me by assuming I’m just a lucky, small person. Over the years I’ve probably lost close to 300 pounds, but that’s not such a big deal. What’s significant is that for the past ten years I’ve managed to keep 12 of them from coming back!

According to actuarial charts from the dark ages of my youth (“If you are 5’ tall you should weigh 100 pounds, then add 5 pounds per inch to see your ideal weight.”), I was always hopelessly overweight. I carried a residual poor body image forward far into my adult years. Then, about a decade ago, the Body Mass Index became trendy. The BMI chart is far kinder, with its broader (so to speak) categories. (There’s a link at the end of the blog in case you aren’t familiar with it.) It made me feel better about myself because I wasn’t as overweight as those other charts had dictated. (It was the same delight I felt when the clothing industry revised women’s pant sizes, and I started wearing a size 10 for the first time ever!)

Anyway, I have my goal, so I outline my diet strategy. Since I have always been a calorie counter, I’ll calculate how many total calories are contained in the pounds I want to lose, then divide by the number of days I plan to stick to the diet (28). The resulting, astoundingly small figure is the number of calories I may consume daily for one month. (There’s a calorie calculator link at the end too.)

Sometimes I like to quick start the diet with a few low-carbohydrate tactics borrowed from South Beach and Atkins, etc. But I can’t stick with those for long; I’m too much of a carb lover. Mostly I aim for a diet eliminating the usual ‘naughty white stuff’ (sugar, butter, cream cheese, white flour, etc.), while allowing modest amounts of meats, whole grains, nuts and beans and lots of fruit and lots and lots of veggies. And, I’m sorry, but I don't ask me to give up potatoes. I mean, for heaven’s sake, the Irish lived off nothing but spuds for a century. I’ll give up butter and I’ll give up sour cream, but not the potato itself.

Then I start read about dieting. I buy books. I look up dieting tips and hints on the Internet. I think about dieting. I start eliminating or reducing a few of my major dietary weaknesses (wine with dinner every night becomes wine on weekend nights only), soups and salads replace sandwiches; portions shrink; I measure oil when I cook instead of eyeballing it.

Then, on February 2, Ground Hog Day, I start my diet. It’ll be a bit harder than usual this year because Ground Hog Day falls on a Friday and weekends are hard times to start dieting. But I will gird my burgeoning loins and set to the task.

Join me? I’ll give you lots of tips and support during that month. And there is only one simple rule that you have to abide by.

I’ll tell you about it next time…

Now, if you’re interested, here’s some fun/interesting/useful information to get those juices flowing (unfortunate imagery).

Here’s my favorite Body Mass Index (BMI) site: The whole site offers an entirely pink and pleasant visit.

You can find the official BMI chart and what its ranges indicate on this reliable, non-commercial site:

Want to figure how many calories you burn a day at your current weight and how many you have to cut back to if you want to lose a certain amount? Check out this professional nutritionist website with a Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) calculator:

And for low-techies, here’s the gold standard, handy, dandy portable reference book to figure calories, The Calorie King Calorie, Fat & Carbohydrate Counter, 2007 by Allan Borushek. It’s a jam-packed compenium of diet facts, tips and recommendations, with calorie lists for fast food, canned, frozen and brand name foods as well as generic foods like apples, salmon, etc. The 2007 edition has updates for net carbs and fiber for folks opting for low-carb regimes. It’s available at for $7.99 + S&H.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Introducing The Old Broad Sheet

Yesterday was my Mom’s birthday; she turned 89. I called her (she lives in Colorado and I live in Arizona) to congratulate her on her “achievement.”

She says she doesn’t know how she managed to live so long; it wasn’t any thing she consciously did. Whatever it was, it worked. She looks maybe 75. (Hell, on a bad morning, I look 75.) Two years ago she joined TOPS and lost 35 pounds and has kept it off. (A considerable achievement since she lives in a senior housing complex where the two major activities are playing cards and eating.) She takes just three medications – two for her eyes (she has controlled glaucoma) and Fosamax for her bones. Her blood pressure averages 110 over 70. She says she feels “remarkably well...for an old broad.”

Hello. I'm Rose. I turned 64 at Xmas, and I don't buy the hype about your sixties being the new fifties (I think that’s Madison Avenue sucking up to aging baby boomers). I am simply not the person I was at 54. Lots of deterioration has taken place in those ten years.

Now I have tasked myself with the goal of fighting a good fight against getting old. And as I am not a person given to extremes, my approach is to do so in a sensible and moderate way. (No eating weird stuff or taking massive amounts of vitamins or running marathons…yet.)

I’m lucky to have that lovely genetic inheritance (not just Mom, but both grandmas, made it to their late eighties, early nineties). Still, science says genetics account for only a third of the picture. You can control the other two-thirds.

And on the flip side, life holds no guarantees. My daddy died at 70, my brother at 62 (both of lung cancer; I smoked for nearly 40 years). So my personal goal is to see that however many years I have left to live are ones where I am healthy, active, feel good (and look good, too, since I think people treat you nicer when you are attractive, even old ladies!)

Why am I sharing this personal goal? It probably stems from my having been a librarian for twenty-five years. As a group, librarians suffer from what I call “enlightenment compulsion.” I mean, did you ever meet a librarian that didn’t just inundate you with stuff when you had a question about anything?

Plus, I’ve been interested in wellness and nutrition topics for years and consider myself a bit of a maven. And I suspect many of you have thoughts and ideas and suggestions you’d be willing to share about aging and wellness and your own ways of “keeping it together.”

If life and time permits, I’ll try to show up weekly with a new posting to the Broad Sheet. And next time the topic will be weight management featuring Aunt Rose's "Ground Hog diet."

E-you later, darlings.
Aunt Rose