The year always ends with my birthday. Now, I am really — 55.
Solidly, absolutely, no question about it, middle-aged. But from the neck down, in my Levis, I can pass for a woman half my age.
For my birthday, and in time for our annual obsession, the New Year GOAL, I am giving you, my dear friends, a priceless gift. The results of my seven month experiment. An experiment inspired by my mother-in-law. The secret of weight loss.
To be fair, it is a formula that my mother, who is the original crunchy-granola, back-to-the-land, tree-hugger, wearing-size-four-designer-jeans-at-86, has been advocating since I was a child. Unfortunately we don’t readily believe our own mothers.
I started 2012 worrying about this birthday. I have never minded getting older. Maybe it was because I practiced. On past big birthdays, when I turned 29 for instance, three days later when the New Year rolled over, I began telling people I was 30 THIS year, even though it was 10, eight or six months away.
I did the same this time, except when I said 55, my brain flashed 70, as in 55 + 15 = 70 because the 15 years since 40 vanished in a flash. I celebrated that birthday by traveling Southeast Asia, four years later MacGyver and I married. I jumped into running his creative business. We learned, we earned, we invested, we won, we lost, we won, we got bored, we hit the road. This I know for sure, the next 15 years will pass faster. I also carry around a terror about our lifestyle. That I will look like the stereotypical truck driver.
In March, we visited MacGyver’s 75-year-old mother, who has always looked ten years younger than her age. I was instantly struck by her appearance.
“You’ve lost weight,” I said.
“Yep, 15 pounds in three months,” she said. “I stopped eating sugar.”
She didn’t eat a lot of sugar, she said, but the little bits add up.
I had just lost five pounds during a month in Asia where I practiced daily, low-key, exercise because I do NOT love exertion and without realizing it, consumed less sugar.
Sugar is getting a lot of play in the media these days. My mother keeps the 40-year-old anti-sugar tome — Sugar Blues — as a bible. New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg is using the law to reduce sugar consumption.
In May, hot flashes were disturbing my sleep.
In June, I was at my highest weight since we began Life With No Fixed Address, 147 pounds, perilously close to the top end of the weight range for my height. I weighed 139 pounds when we began driving, after a year visiting the gym everyday in preparation for turning 50.
I decided we were quitting sugar.
It was easier than I imagined. It turned out we were consuming more than I thought. I had quit alcohol in 2011 because the buzzy warmth of one glass was no longer worth the pain. In its place I developed a passion? an addiction? certainly a reliance on Starbucks’ bottled Frappuccinos, which contain 46 grams of sugar — a third of that in milk sugar — in a 13.7 ounce bottle. That is 12, TWELVE teaspoons of sugar in one little bottle and 15 calories in each teaspoon for a total of 180 calories of sugar in a drink that contains 290 total calories.
We also developed a fondness for Wegman’s mini cranberry oatmeal cookies. I noticed that when I was really hungry, even when I had an apple available, I reached for a fistful of cookies. I was eating one or two made-in-Finland Panda licorice sticks every day and when I didn’t have those, I stopped at the truck stop for Twizzler licorice. We were consuming a lot of sugar.
The ground rules were simple. No obvious sugar. No ice cream, no desserts, no cookies, no candy and no chocolate. No more mints left by the TA shower attendants or departing restaurants. No sugar in my tea or coffee. But I would not wig out over small bits of embedded sugar because sugar is in everything. Our favorite multigrain bread, Dave’s Killer Bread from Oregon, has one teaspoon of sugar in EACH slice. I still have a little ketchup with my fries.
We continued to eat hamburgers and fries from In-N-Out, Smash Burger and Five Guys. We eat pasta, butter on bread and garlic smashed potatoes. Except for sugar, our food choices remained the same.
While I didn’t lose 10 pounds in ten days –ridiculously, I half hoped to — change began immediately. We consumed less food, one Five Guys fries satisfied both of us. If I am hungry, I can wait to eat, or have an apple. Overall, we are less hungry. Sugar is an appetite accelerant.
I still need the sweet taste. I have found three things that satisfy me, Mott’s unsweetened applesauce, Sunsweet D’Noir dried plums, which are soft and gooey like candy and dates rolled in coconut. Occasionally I have a Nature’s Valley Oats ‘n Honey granola bar because I buy them for MacGyver.
And as a bonus gift, try this recipe from the Dairy Free Chick. All real food, no sugar, and FANTASTIC.
In October, MacGyver took a photo of me in St. John’s, Newfoundland and I looked thinner.
In November, a friend reported I had lost weight.
In December, my winter driving pants fit better than when I bought them a year ago.
Christmas Eve in our hotel room I weighed myself. I am 14 pounds lighter in seven months.
When I talk to drivers who have lost weight, they report that when they gave up sugary drinks, Mountain Dew, Big Gulps, Gatorade and started walking around the truck stop they began losing weight. One driver on the Newfoundland ferry, from Gander, said he lost 30 pounds in 2012 by giving up sugary drinks. He has 30 to go.
Sadly, thin is NOT fit and thin does not mean healthy. My weight is where it should be but I continue in my struggle to incorporate regular exercise into our routine. Cardio for my heart and weight bearing exercise for muscle tone.
Surprisingly little effort is needed to get results, my cheeesy exercise, a brisk 30 minute walk and 10 minutes of exercise with five pound weights, three times a week makes a world of difference. I just have to DO it.
That is, again, my goal for 2013. Regular exercise.
Meantime, this 55 milestone deserved celebration so we stopped at the Lancaster, Ontario Denny’s on our return from Quebec, where I qualified for the discounted Seniors Menu.
“Most people aren’t as happy as you about it,” our server Ray said.
“She likes the deal,” MacGyver responded.