I just put myself on a diet. I need to lose about 25 to 35 pounds, depending on how much muscle mass I have under the blubber. I am chiseled under there… so maybe I’ll only need to lose 25.
Here’s a news flash: Carla is grumpy about dieting. The very idea of dieting bothers me. As Jesse’s therapist Dr. Abrams once put it, the best way to keep your weight in the right place is to eat the right amount of food for your body. You’re not dieting; you’re just eating the right amount. Duh. Why aren’t I capable of that anymore?
I’ve only ever “formally dieted” once before, just after Anthony and I agreed we’d try to make a baby. I was about 20 pounds overweight, which I hadn’t really realized until then. Being of advanced parental age and all, Anthony and I felt that we needed to be super fit so that we’d be younger in body than the years that had passed us by. We called it “getting in fighting shape for parenthood.”
Also I lost weight and got fit because Anthony didn’t believe me when I told him I was ready to get knocked up, and I thought this would convince him.
I couldn’t really blame him for being skeptical. In my late 20’s, if Anthony made hints about children, I’d say things like, “If you want offspring, you must obtain a womb in your body.” I’d place my hands on my gut and add, “This womb is not open for business.” (I’ve said it before and I can’t say it enough times: it’s a miracle that Anthony didn’t dump my bitchy ass.)
One day in our early 30’s, we were watching the news and saw a piece about eight Ethiopian siblings, ranging in age from infant to early teen, who had lost their parents to famine or war. Anthony sighed longingly and chatted innocently about how we had the means and stability to provide a home to a family of kids like that, so that they wouldn’t be separated. Yikes. He wanted eight children? Nah, he actually wanted a couple of his own genetic spawn. Still, the newsreel conversation was when I realized I was denying something very important to him, and even if I wasn’t sure about kids, I was perfectly willing to fulfill my man’s need for paternity. So then I’d say things like, “If you really want to have children, then as your wife I am the appropriate means by which you can make this dream come true. My uterus is open for business.”
Despite this warm invitation, Anthony insisted that I never, ever get pregnant unless I myself wanted kids. Being old school and all, it mattered to him that the decision be based on my wishes alone. My body, my choice – that old-fashioned, long-forgotten idea.
I got to 37 and suddenly I wanted kids. There’s no explaining it, and I’m not the first woman to go through this transformation. But no matter how much I assured Anthony that I meant it, he would say things like, “You’re lying. You don’t want to have kids. You’re only willing to get pregnant because you love me. That’s not good enough.”
(I think it’s been several months since I wrote about how much I adore Anthony. Have I recently mentioned what a perfect human being he is?)
His argument really rattled me, because it was impenetrable. So I decided to convince Anthony by going on a WeightWatchers diet and getting down to my high school weight and size. I’m still not sure if it was the actual weight loss, or the tortured and martyred way I dieted, that sold Anthony on the idea that I really, really meant that I wanted to have a baby.
I was the grumpiest dieter I’ve ever met. I grumbled and whined my way through meal after meal. I hated every minute of it, counting points, weighing food, calculating point values for the food I made, using my cheating points, figuring out how much food I had to give up so I could go to the bar and drink. It took about 4 months of nearly-daily deprivation and hunger and data management, and I was down to my goal weight. Then 6 months later I was pregnant and on my way to my current, solidly overweight, middle-aged mom’s body. (Anthony has joined me in this body-image journey, though to a much lesser extent.)
I can’t stand it anymore. I’m supposed to be better than this. I take meds to control high blood pressure. Both sides of my family have extensive histories of stroke, heart attack and heart disease. Being overweight is like smoking, it’s just an incredibly stupid place for me to be. I’m too heavy to run without hurting my knees, and I long to run again. Yadda yadda. But I can’t do Weightwatchers again. It doesn’t work with kids and little time to measure and weigh and all that. I can’t count calories for a normal weight loss number. 1200 calories takes thought and planning to work out, unless I eat frozen meals out of a box, which I don’t.
Enter my friend Ken, who just told me about intermittent dieting, or alternate day dieting. Every other day, eat 500 calories. On the off days, eat whatever you want. It makes so much sense for me on a lot of fronts. There’s no day-after-day endless grind like in WeightWatchers – every other day you’re free. It’s really hard to eat two days’ worth of food in one day. Counting 500 calories is, like, half the effort of counting 1200 calories, duh. After a 500-calorie day, one has strong incentives not to over-eat too wildly on the eat-what-you-want day. It’ll teach lessons about not over-eating day after day, and taking light days to make up for heavy days. And, as Ken points out, it makes you feel virtuous.
Ken is a statistician with a very large and well-utilized brain. He writes textbooks about SAS, which is a statistical modeling software system package thingy that people like Anthony, my economist husband, use to manipulate data and reach big conclusions going well beyond my housewife pay grade. Check out Ken’s blog post about how he SAS’ed his weight loss. When you plot your weight loss and rolling averages using SAS, you can say things like this: “The lubridate package contributed by the invaluable Hadley Wickham contains functions to make it easier to use dates in R.” (Pinch your nose tight while you intone the sentence aloud, and it’s even better.)
Whoa. Anthony and I are IN. We started this morning.
It’s been six and a half waking hours and I’m already in a living hell of hunger.
I “ate” coffee with skim milk for breakfast. The quarter cup of milk I put in my coffee used up 25% of my caloric allotment for the day! That’s so wrong! I wonder if I can find the milk equivalent of diet soda. While I ate nothing, I fed my kids yogurt and chicken sausages and cereal and fish sticks (don’t ask, the fish sticks are a Jesse thing) and slices of french bread. I put together Jesse’s school lunch — a freshly made tortilla, frozen black beans and chicken (they’ll defrost by lunch time and taste super fresh), salsa and lettuce and smashed avocado —
Oh my god, just from typing this I’m salivating wildly and suffering gut pain —
and some canned peaches for dessert. I couldn’t help myself – I stuffed the 2 calories of shredded lettuce that didn’t fit in Jesse’s little container into my mouth. Aaaah, so tasty for breakfast!
Around 11 a.m., Nick had his snack of a banana and some juice. By then, my hands were shaking so bad I thought I was having a seizure. I realized I was acting like a dog, drooling as I stared at Nick eating his banana in that totally disgusting way that 5-year-olds eat bananas.
For lunch, Nick got naan and an apple and some turkey balogna. I ate 3 thin slices of deli ham and a banana. Nick didn’t finish his naan. I glared at it; my hand reached out for it. But I successfully got it into the garbage before my mouth sucked it in.
Next my starving hands prepared dinner. I chopped veggies and dropped a whole chicken on top of them in a pot, with herbs and such, and I threw that in the oven to roast at a low temperature. The kids can eat that for dinner while I crouch on the floor next to them waiting to catch food droppings.
Actually, I think I’m going to eat 2 ounces of chicken breast and half a head of steamed cauliflower for dinner, plus a few carrot slices and onions. Maybe a couple leaves of lettuce. That will max out my 500 calorie day. I’ll still be ravenously hungry, but I can console myself by keeping in mind that tomorrow I can pig out.
My family is going to have to tolerate a whole lot of grumpy, because I’m going to be hungry every other day for a few months to come. But as I sit here ruminating on my situation, I’ve had a small epiphany. I think we can all rest assured that the massive fibrous vegetable loads I put down at dinner on the diet days will fuel some pretty fierce gaseous anomalies. I think the dutch ovens I can unleash on my kids may well bring enough good cheer into my world to offset the dieting grumpies.