The Hare and The Tortoise
A hare was one day making fun of a tortoise for being so slow upon his feet. “Wait a bit,” said the tortoise; “I’ll run a race with you, and I’ll wager that I win.” “Oh, well,” replied the hare, who was much amused at the idea, “let’s try and see.” And it was soon agreed that the fox should set a course for them, and be the judge. When the time came both started off together, but the hare was soon so far ahead that he thought he might as well have a rest. So down he lay and fell fast asleep. Meanwhile the tortoise kept plodding on, and in time reached the goal. At last the hare woke up with a start, and dashed on at his fastest, only to find that the tortoise had already won the race.
Slow and steady wins the race.
In June of 2014 I joined the weight-loss organization TOPS. I was discouraged and needed some motivation. I had seen an article in the local paper about a man who had lost a significant amount of weight with this group so I went to a meeting to see what it was all about. They were welcoming and friendly. It was more of a cheerleading group than an educational group, but I joined and made friends.
I lost three and a half pounds in the first two weeks and then another pound and a quarter the next week. In fact I lost pretty steadily until the time and weather changed in the fall, losing almost twenty pounds before circumstances conspired against my weak resolve. From October to March I gained more than I lost and was right back where I began with some extra.
Each week we stood and sang a welcome song and then recited the TOPS pledge.
I am an intelligent person
I will control my emotions, not let my emotions control me.
Every time I am tempted to use food to satisfy my frustrated desires, build up my injured ego, or dull my senses,
I will remember, even though I overeat in private, my excess poundage is there for all the world to see.
I will TAKE OFF POUNDS SENSIBLY.
I still hear that pledge echoing in my head when I face temptation so I guess that is a good thing. And when I see the ladies around town we chat and catch up on our lives like any good friend, so that’s another good thing. But the format didn’t quite meet my needs for changing habits and I finally gave up.
It was the old bugaboo of what to fix for breakfast and supper for a husband and two teenage sons that would meet their caloric needs, their manly taste buds and still be suitable for a post-menopausal woman trying to lose weight with a seemingly dead metabolism. (I knew a woman in Maryland, while we lived in Virginia, who was thin and could eat anything she wanted. She laughingly claimed that she at three times a day and her metabolism ate five times. I eat three times a day and my metabolism seems to eat three times a week! In the words of teens everywhere, "Not fair!")
As I pondered all of that for the next year I came to the conclusion that I had to be on a “tortoise” meal plan. I could not lose weight rapidly (darn it) because if I did not change the underlying eating habits I would simply gain it all back and probably more. No definitely more. As that has been the case in all previous attempts.
So, what does a tortoise diet look like? Well, I think it looks a lot like the Reader’s Digest Change One diet. (Diet is not my favorite word but the English language lacks a specific word that connotes healthful eating so I use it when I have to. I remember studying history and coming upon the phrase “Diet of Worms” and thinking there was no way I would want to participate in that particular diet. I was relieved to learn that it referred to the legislative body of a particular German city, and more specifically to Martin Luther’s trial there.) RD’s Change One works on the premise of changing habits one at a time, to sort of ease into setting up patterns of success. I believe it works. There are certainly plenty of success stories included in the book and on their website. Even I have been successful with two or three elements of it, which gives me hope that I can conquer the rest of my bad habits and replace them with better ones.
Saying to myself that I am never going to eat this or that again is simple folly. Deprivation seems to bring on cravings like nothing else. I am not sure of the science behind it but that is what happens to me. However, I do believe that tastes can change over time and craving can go away when nutritional needs are met with high quality foods.
Now, what elements do I want to change (besides planning ahead instead of being spontaneous)? Number one is increase the amount of vegetables I consume each day. Ten years ago my favorite doctor told me that at my age I needed veggies more than anything else to lose weight. I still do not eat enough serving each day and I and my metabolism are ten years older.
Number two is to drastically decrease the amount of sugar I eat. I do not need or want to eliminate it completely, but I am not a teenager who can eat unlimited amounts of candy, cookies, etc. and not suffer any ill effects, the biggest being weight gain. (Unless, I find a way to import our teenage son’s metabolism into my body right quick.)
Number three, I want and need to incorporate more exercise, especially more vigorous exercise, including strength training, into my week. Muscle burns energy even when resting, so the more active muscle I have, the more calories I can burn. Plus, my body will look so much better because “Muscle curves—fat hangs.” (Set For Life, pg. 14)
Those three are my top priorities. I already drink plenty of water, use whole grains, and eat meat sparingly.
Number four is portion control. I can eat just about anything I want if I am careful about portions, and we’ll talk about this later on.
I baked bread today so the house is full of that delicious yeasty fragrance of fresh baked bread, it is almost better than cookies. No, it is better than cookies. My eating was not in line with my goals today. In the interest of excruciating detail and complete honesty I had two pieces of toast with peanut butter for breakfast; a six ounce container of Greek yogurt for lunch; two pieces of banana bread and cuties for snacks; four fish sticks and a piece of fresh bread with butter and blackberry jam, with a small glass of milk for supper. I did not get any real exercise in today and that is not good for me. Wait, I did walk to the Post Office so I was outside for a bit and it is uphill to the P.O. a block away and there are steps to climb up to get into the P.O. so I guess I got in a tiny bit of exercise. I had to take a computer charging cord over to Steve at school today as he forgot to take it with him, and I looked longingly at the track around the football field, but looking is not considered adequate exercise. I really must decide to learn to like to sweat.
I am still using prunes and cuties for snacks and treats in the hope that I’ll lose my craving for sugary candy. At one point in my life, from about age twenty-six to twenty-nine, I did not eat sugary treats of any kind (unless I was served it and could not politely refuse). I walked regularly and was almost a vegetarian and therefore was slim, trim and energetic with my twenty-three inch waist. I would like to feel that way again (although I doubt the waistline is ever coming back in this life).
The tortoise won the race because he was steady in his slowness. He just kept plodding along without losing focus on his purpose, which was to win the race. That is what I need to do. Approach my goal with focus and steadiness, plodding daily towards it. As much as I wish I could wake up tomorrow with the body of my dreams I know that will not happen and I must be patient in my journey, consistent in my actions, and focused on my goal.