Many people try to lose weight. Some succeed; many don't. E.S. Abramson, author of the highly acclaimed From Fat to Fabulous: A Diet Guide for Restaurant Lovers, which has been seen on ABC, NBC, and PBS, lost a lot of weight and has kept it off in a way that might surprise you. E.S. also writes the award-winning Thursday’s Child series as Elaine Abramson. To learn more about her and her books, visit her website. -- AP
Dieting is Fun
“There is no love more sincere than the love of food.” -- George Bernard Shaw.
I have a body by disaster and hair by wash and beware. Now that my physical characteristics are out of the way, let me say that after 40 years of trying just about every known diet that doctors, nutritionists, celebrities, and dietitians dreamt up, none of them have worked for me. I would take off 20, 40, or 50 pounds one year and the following year I would weigh far more than the day I began the diet. There were a number of reasons those diets didn’t work for me. (1) They were time consuming. It seemed to take forever to measure, weigh, and prepare the foods recommended. (2) Their instructions were hard to follow. (3) They required tons of high-impact exercise. (4) They were boring. (5) They were expensive. (6) They required me join a diet group or purchase specific prepared meals. (7) Most important of all, they were not fun, and they did not work.
The news media reports on a daily basis about obesity, weight loss programs, weight loss successes, and politicians who are trying to end obesity not because of the health problems it causes but based on the burden it costs taxpayers.
In less than one week, the Today Show has had boxer Lila Ali, who never eats pork and keeps her refrigerator stocked with chocolate bars; Dr. Oz’s lose-ten-pounds-in-thirty-days diet by limiting your calorie intake; Snookie Polizzi, a reality star who counted calories and lost forty-two pounds; New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who tried to legislate the end to sugary drinks over sixteen ounces; the Mayo Clinic’s money as a motivator to lose weight program; and Today Show weatherman Al Roker, who repeatedly gained and lost weight until he underwent bypass surgery and worked out with a personal trainer.
Mr. Roker says, “Diets never work.” In addition to this, celebrities hawk every diet and exercise plan under the sun. Nielson Company’s TV ratings reported that NBC’s The Biggest Loser did not draw as many viewers as thirty-six other prime-time broadcast programs which rated much higher. I don’t know about other viewers, but I find it boring to watch contestants count calories, exercise until sweat pours off their bodies, constantly weigh in, and be booted off the program when they are unable to lose the weight required. Where is the fun in any of these diets?
I needed to be extremely motivated to begin a traditional diet and stick to it, but motivation always seemed hard to come by. My enthusiasm quickly died when I discovered that each diet came with a “yoyo syndrome” attached to it. If I ate one thing that was not on the diet’s approved list or if my writing or art got in the way and I didn’t have time to do the strenuous exercises required, I found myself right back where I started from. I spent my life fighting the battle of the bulge and watching my scale groan with every pound I gained. On traditional diets, all I ended up with was frustration and anger because I was fighting a battle I could not win.
One of the reasons for not being able to lose weight is eating sugar, and one of the less obvious sources of sugar is your medicine. While doing research for the second edition of From Fat to Fabulous: Another Diet Guide for Restaurant Lovers, I read books on diet and nutrition, calorie and carbohydrate counters, and books on pills and vitamin supplements. I could not find any mention of sugar being contained in drugs in any of those sources.
Actress Julie Andrews portrayed a fictional character in the movie Mary Poppins. When she sang about a spoonful of sugar helping the medicine go down, she was telling it like it is. What I’ve said is not intended as medical advice nor is it intended to make you give up the medicine you are taking. It is strictly to inform you that sugar is found in some of the most unlikely places. In the 1970’s I worked in the weighing room of Barre National, the firm that manufactured Revco’s generic drugs. I weighed the sugar that went into the pills they manufactured. Because so-called traditional diets do not take the sugar in medicine into account, it seemed like nothing I did took the pounds and inches off and kept them off. Because I no longer have access to the USP-NF, a book that gives the exact measurements of all the ingredients that go into making each drug, I cannot tell you the amount of sugar used. But I noticed that if I ate bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, or dessert after I took my medicine for arthritis, thyroid, allergy, or osteoporosis, I weighed more, so I limit those foods in my diet.
My entry into creating and writing my restaurant lovers’ diet came the day I stood in my kitchen and screamed because the pain in my knees was so bad I could not stand long enough to prepare a meal. I had gained so much weight that my knees caved in under me. My husband, being the wonderful caring soul that he is, put the food back in the refrigerator and took me out to dinner. Before I could scream my head off the next night, he took me out to dinner again. Night after night we left the kitchen for one restaurant after another. After a while, just about every restaurant in town knew us and greeted us on a first name basis.
WOW! You’re probably saying to yourself, this lady has it made. You’re right; I do. At the end of three months I noticed that my clothes were falling off me. I also began to notice less pain in my knees. Best of all, for the first time in my life I was enjoying my meals and losing weight and proportions at the same time. I do not count calories, carbs, trans fats, or any of the other things dieters do to lose weight. As for the sugar in my medicine, on my restaurant lovers’ diet I rarely have to consider it. The only physical exercise I get is walking the dog and riding a stationary bicycle. The strenuous stuff I leave to others.
Most people have the mistaken perception that eating in restaurants is fattening. My answer is that it is not fattening if you eat the right combinations of foods. The other mistaken perception is that it is expensive. In From Fat to Fabulous: A Diet Guide for Restaurant Lovers I give a list of ways to cut costs. My husband and I have discovered that with all the waste in preparing food at home, it costs us practically the same amount to eat out. Best of all, it is fun to choose a new restaurant and to select from multiple choices on the menu.
With the odds stacked against me, I lost 50 pounds in one year on my restaurant lovers’ diet. During my second year on the diet, I lost an additional 35 pounds and have gone from a size 22 to a size 12. I have a sluggish thyroid, do not have a spleen, and take medication that causes weight gain, had a slipped disk, and have bad knees which makes any form of exercise extremely difficult.
It has been four years since I have set foot in a kitchen to prepare a meal. My only cooking skills are microwaving restaurant leftovers and boiling water for a cup of tea. The day my microwave goes on the fritz or my refrigerator does not keep my leftovers frozen is going to be a bad day at black rock in our house.
On my restaurant lovers’ diet I am having the time of my life. No mess, no fuss, and nothing but fun. For me, it is happy eating and weight loss at the same time. Recently I have taken up a new hobby. I shop for new clothes every time I get one size smaller. I am no longer the woman who only collected jewelry because one size fits all. The charity shops love my restaurant lovers’ diet, too, because every couple of months I fill their shelves and clothes racks with the clothes that have become too big on me.
For most of our married life, the Jack Spratt nursery rhyme described my husband and me. He was thin, and I was fat. He could eat four times what I ate and never gain an ounce. All I had to do was look at food and I packed on the pounds. Around the time I began my restaurant lovers’ diet, for the first time in his life my husband’s clothes were tight on him. With the exception of breakfast, where he finds it impossible to give up hot cereal, he’s on my restaurant lovers’ diet, too. In addition to losing inches, he says my diet gives him more energy.
With my weight loss, my husband, who is proud of what I have accomplished with my fun, enjoyable, no work, no mess, no fuss, never boring diet, tells everyone, “I’ve lost a whole other wife.”