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That’s So Cheesy

Once upon a time, I could eat just about anything I wanted. Pizza, spaghetti, bagels, Good Humor ice cream bars, lemon meringue pie… And I didn’t gain weight. I didn’t feel sick. And I was happy.

The first food limits were self-imposed when I stopped eating meat at the age of 13. While my decision came about due to my love of animals, I had also noticed that I felt awful every time I ate meat. Who knows if this was physical or psychological, but either way, that was the first food-related restriction. It seemed to bother other people way more than it bothered me. Everyone worried about what I could eat. And where I’d get my protein. And that I’d end up with anemia. This was back in the Stone Age when there weren’t the myriad alternative meat options there are today. Every time there was a family get-together, there was the wringing of the hands as to what they could feed me. I always tried to remind everyone that their entire meal did not consist of dead animals. That there were plenty of other options on the table. But the panic ensued for many years.

Thankfully, after college I moved to Los Angeles, where veggie burgers were found in abundance, and fresh fruit and vegetables were available year-round. And there were other kindred spirits who made me feel that I wasn’t so alone in the world of carnivores.

Pasta was always a great option as well. My favorite was Fettuccine Alfredo, the ultimate comfort food. Carbs slathered by creamy, cheesy goodness melted into one coma-inducing blob of deliciousness. And I still didn’t gain an ounce.

And just around the time I was congratulating myself for still being within ten pounds of my wedding weight, wham! The need for surgery arose. And things started to change. First was that my blood pressure went sky high and never completely reverted to the very normal numbers I had always enjoyed, in spite of the various medical combinations my doctors prescribed. Obviously, diet and exercise were important. So I learned to live within the boundaries of a sodium-restricted diet. Everything began tasting like cardboard. And, I gained ten pounds. So food tasted worse to me, my options were starting to shrink while my stomach and thighs were starting to grow.

Then, sugar became an issue. I didn’t drink sugary sodas, and I didn’t often eat dessert. But I did drink orange juice in the morning. It was my special treat each day. But I grudgingly switched over to low-sodium V-8. Which I now really enjoy, but in the beginning, it made me very grumpy. And more favorite things got crossed off the list.

But I still had my pasta. And I still had my cheese. So I made some adjustments to my diet and carried on.

Then came the thyroid surgery. The surgery I hadn’t been worried about. The surgery that left me without a speaking voice for six months. The surgery that changed so many things about my body, I’m still reeling. But the main two changes were that I got sick every time I ate, eventually realizing it was the gluten that was the problem. And within one year I gained over 30 pounds. So in spite of the fact that I had to cut out my beloved bread and pasta, the weight was piling on faster than I could put food in my mouth.

I exercised. I counted calories. And nothing changed. Finally, I got really strict about what I was doing and over the course of a year and a half, I lost 20 pounds. I was so proud of myself. And I kept it off in spite of so many stressful things happening in my life. Then, out of the blue, last year, the weight slowly started creeping back on. And within about two months, ten pounds came back. NO! I screamed each time I got up the nerve to step on the stupid, traitorous scale. What the heck? I hadn’t changed anything that had been working, and yet those sneaky calories were still somehow sabotaging my best efforts.

I did some soul-searching. There was still one delicious thing left in my diet. I could eat it straight out of the fridge when I was hungry. Melt it on a corn tortilla for breakfast. Shred it over a boring salad and make things tasty. But, it does have lots of calories. And fat. And has addictive qualities. My beloved cheese. The last holdout from my previous carefree life. But in the interest of health and weight control, I researched cheese substitutes. I bought several that were sliced and some that were shredded. I took a nibble of the sliced “cheese” that was supposed to taste like cheddar. I shuddered. I tried the shredded “cheese” over my rice pasta – it wasn’t too bad, melted. Then one of my friends informed me the slices also needed to be melted in order to be food-like. And it’s true. Especially if you add some avocado on top of it.

So far, the scale has rewarded me by going down one pound. One whole pound, imagine that. I’ve given up the last bastion of deliciousness and one pound has melted away. OK.

So, I’m going to try to get some more exercise in my daily life and see if that helps. Some recent studies I’ve read give me hope. One is about the correlation between sleep and weight loss – I could get behind that one. I’m ready to sleep almost any time of day. Especially if I blink too long. Another study said something to the effect that taking a bath might be equivalent to a half hour of walking. Sign me up! If sleeping more and taking baths could get me to my normal weight, you probably won’t see me until the end of July.

 

Meanwhile, nobody better mention taking my avocado away from me. I’m a woman on the edge.

 

Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved

 

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Welcome to the 50s

Numbers-Birthday-Cakes-50I did not sign up for this. Or, at least I think I didn’t sign up for this. Considering the state of my memory these days, I really can’t swear to anything I may or may not have done. But I’m talking about life as a person well into her 50s. Not that I was delusional about what life would be like passing the mid-century mark. I knew that most likely my eyesight would go from perfect to near-perfect. That I might gain a pound or two. And that I might have to rely on color in a bottle when it comes to keeping a few stray grey hairs out of my hairline. When I hit the dreaded 5-0, I think I was more upset about having to admit that I could possibly be that age, than what was actually about to happen to me in every aspect of my life.

The eyesight actually started fading away in my late 40s. Considering I had always had perfect eyeglassesvision, I stayed in denial for as long was humanly possible. I was slightly far-sighted to start with. Soon, there was no chance of holding reading matter far enough away from my face to actually make out the letters. Although, I can read street signs in the next city – it’s kind of my hidden superhero talent. These days, denial resides in what strength reading glasses I buy. When it finally becomes obvious that I don’t even realize there are words on a page, I finally cave and go up to the next level. Although I continue to hold onto the weaker glasses, in the hope that, at some point, things will magically shift into reverse and I’ll actually be able to see again.

Laundry_symbols_with_japaneseBut the world conspires against me as well. Lately, in the form of trying to read laundry labels. There are the clothing manufacturers that must have people of a certain age working there, since they have crisp black labels with glaring white print in a readable font that anyone should be able to decipher. But lately, there are the clothing companies that I can only presume to be run by sadists in their 20s with perfect vision. The color of the label is a very pale grey – very classy. The print – for I presume there is print – is the softest wisp of white – in a size which surely must be microscopic, and a font with so many loops and so little substance that they might as well have not included a label at all. So after I attempt for at least five minutes to catch a hint of a word that might be helpful, such as hang, line, warm, will disintegrate… I do what I always do and fling that garment into the washer on a delicate cycle and, if there’s room left on the clothing rack, I lay it there once it’s clean. If not, into the dryer it goes, on a wing and a prayer. Surprisingly, most of my clothes actually survive this process.

I know I’ve discussed the morphing of my body into the Pillsbury Dough Boy numerous times, butmirror I still can’t stop shrieking every time I look in the mirror. I am not this person. At least, I was not this person until a little over 10 years ago. That was the first surgery that started the ball rolling. But it still wasn’t horrifying. There was still hope. Then, 5 years ago came the next surgery. The one that spun me out of my comfortable little bubble of denial into hell. Men, you can stop reading here, because we all know that all you have to do is close your eyes and say, “I wish to lose 10 pounds – in my stomach.” And, when you wake up in the morning, poof! Your body is exactly as you wished. This, menstruation, childbirth, and menopause are all the proof I need that G-d is a man.

chemistry.flask

 

I’ve been somewhat luckier with the hair. The miracle of chemistry has made it possible for me to continue to have some semblance of my actual hair color with just a mere shampoo and a quarter-sized dollop of something resembling shoe polish. So no matter how old I actually get, my hair promises not to give me away. This is the only time in my life I have truly believed in better living through chemistry.

 

Aches, pains, and invisibility have all arrived full force in this decade of my life. The latest indignity is grasping scissorsfrantically through the caverns of my mind to find words that have begun to elude me. I can be about to ask my children to hand me the scissors, and the best I can come up with is to ask for “those things that you cut with.” After my children are done rolling on the floor, laughing at me, I am grateful that I still remember the function of said scissors and the fact that someone actually handed them to me.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI am also grateful to find myself mobile and intact and still here each morning when I open my eyes to the possibilities of the day ahead of me. And so, in spite of wondering how my life’s journey has brought me to this age in what seems like nanoseconds sometimes, I make sure I thank G-d (male or female) for giving me one more day. Whether I can see it or not.

 

Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved

FOLLOW THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD

Sometimes, you get a sign from above that can’t be ignored. Of course, you need to understand it’s a sign. You might have to get whacked over the head if you’re not one who easily recognizes subtleties. But at some point, once the massive headache has subsided, you realize that you have strayed off-course and somehow need to find your way back to the path that will take you to the magical land of Oz.

Let’s start with how I’ve gone astray. I blame it mostly on the luck of the draw. In the past 12 years, I’ve had two surgeries that basically changed my genetic make-up from a person with a healthy weight and healthy lifestyle, to a shrieking, angry person who does battle with the scale and the mirror each day, trying to figure out what the heck happened to my once-decent body.

These body mutations now include high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high weight numbers. And the doctors keep telling me it’s normal aging. Uh, no, I beg to differ. I exercise, never eat anything even slightly enjoyable, largely thanks to the fact that I can no longer tolerate gluten – no bread, no pasta, no cookies, no cake, essentially leaving me two options: cardboard and birdseed.

image.scaleAnd now, the dirty admission. In spite of what all the experts suggest, I am fanatical about weighing myself each morning. On two scales. First, on the newer, digital scale. Once I am suitably mortified by that scale’s horrific news, I lurch over to my old, non-digital scale, hoping for a different result. Which pretty much never ever happens. The keening and wailing begin as I digest the reality that these numbers are not going to change for the better. But I can’t help myself. Because every once in awhile, the number actually goes down. Like when I have the stomach flu. Or food poisoning. That lasts for days and days on end.

Anyway, then came this morning. First, I weighed myself on the digital. The number had jumped by 3 pounds from 3 days ago. Of course it did. For absolutely no reason. This is the punishment I get for even hoping it might have gone down since all I ate yesterday was an orange, some lettuce and, as I said, birdseed. Then, I went onto my old, non-digital scale. I heard it groan. Then I heard a thud. When I looked down, it had died. Seriously. It just couldn’t take it anymore. And so, it’s gone.

I know scales aren’t supposed to die. It has to be a sign. I need to try once again to change my ways. To find my way back to the decent, much healthier body I had 12 years ago. But, how to make this slamming on my head stop, and how to find my way back to the Yellow Brick Road, and – oops, not Oz. Not exactly. Why didn’t I realize it before? All I need to do is look at the man behind the curtain on TV. The man who has all the answers. Just find me a pair of ruby slippers, and I’ll skip down the Yellow Brick Road as fast as I can! Straight to Dr. Oz!

Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved