What, Me Worry?

Ever since I wrote this post about taking a worry vacation, I’ve been thinking more about why we worry. Of course there is a reality to why we worry. When I watch the tiny birds outside my window, I think about their worries. They need to be ever vigilant or some other animal might eat their food or even eat them!

In the history of our ancestors on this planet, it would seem the hyper-vigilant of the species must have survived longer than the lazy ones. But in this day, I have very little to worry about.

I realized yesterday that I live in a time and a place where I have less to worry about than just about anyone else in the history of planet earth. I’m warm, I’m safe, I’m well-fed and I’m happy. Yes, many of us have hit the sweet spot, and yet still we worry.

I wonder what percent of why we worry is based on completely faulty reasoning. Some say we worry to feel in control because our attention is turned to solving a certain problem. While we think we are solving the problem, we have the illusion that we have control over it. Worry can be reinforcing. We think due to the fact that we worried properly, we got the desired outcome.

The faultiness of this logic became far too obvious to me when I recently learned that I could not live without supplemental oxygen. It had never occurred to me that I would ever have trouble breathing. I had maintained a healthy lifestyle at 5,000 foot elevation and certainly never smoked. Then, after a few years living at 6,500 -7,000 feet, a doctor observed that I might be hypoxic. Very observant. But it still took a couple years and too many different medical tests to prove to me that I needed to live on full-time oxygen.

See how that theory about worrying properly worked out? Ah humanity! How we labor to convince ourselves that we’ve got this, and yet we still all have to die of something…

Since then I have tried to keep my heart open to change, because it’s coming whether we like it or not. These are my watchwords now:

“Even in seemingly dormant times, we are in transition. Losses and gains are in constant play. We are the change-agent, and we are changed. Even without toil, we transform. So wisdom advises us to open our hearts to transition; to honor fully what is passing, to learn from all that unfolds, and to welcome what arrives at our door each day with courage and curiosity.”

Can you risk a whole afternoon without worry?

Sometimes it seems like I was born with a lot on my mind. Starting with the “terrible twos” I have been perpetually asking why. I think too much, I worry even more, and I can still never figure out what may happen next. I guess I was raised to expect the worst, or else this is simply the human condition – more brains than we know what to do with!

So on this blissfully relaxed snowy day, miles from almost all human beings, I wonder what might happen if I stop thinking and worrying and embrace the peacefulness of this moment in time.

Should I risk this level of non-vigilance? What might happen if I stop thinking for a while? What if I feel as free as the falling snow for just one afternoon? There’s always tomorrow to get back to my worries…

Boomer Regrets?

I imagine it is a rare 60+ year-old who doesn’t have a few regrets about some stupid things they did earlier in their life. It appears the most common regrets are financial mistakes that are catching up with them now. For example, poor planning for retirement, not saving enough, early withdrawals from retirement accounts, and underestimating how long we might live.

I never made much so this saying worked for me:

“The amount of money you have has got nothing to do with what you earn. People earning a million dollars a year can have no money, and people earning $35,000 a year can be quite well off. It’s not what you earn, it’s what you spend.”  ~Paul Clitheroe

Other regrets are health-related. Obesity is a common problem for Boomers. The approximate prevalence of obesity is 40.0% among American adults aged 20 to 39 years, 44.8% among adults aged 40 to 59 years, and 42.8% among adults 60 and older. Over 40 % of baby boomers are obese, up from about 29 % of their parents’ generation. This epidemic of obesity is the primary health concern for boomers today. Why are baby boomers so unhealthy? One culprit in there being so many obesity-related chronic diseases in Boomers, could be the big dietary shift that began in the 1950s to fast, convenient, processed foods with additives and preservatives. This generation also felt the need to overwork and were generally too busy, making the pull toward fast food even stronger.

Another strong regret? That they didn’t travel more when they were younger. I was brain-washed from an early age to save, save, save, but also belonged to a traveling family. I had a free trip to Bangkok at age 19 and I took it. Then it was trips to Asia regularly until I lost interest. I also enjoyed a number of trips to the Caribbean and Mexico, and a trip to Paris and Italy in the 1980s. I also took another free trip to Cuenca, Ecuador before we moved down here.

My regrets lean more towards some of the relationship choices I made in my 20s and 30s, ones that set me on a path of destruction for decades. Put simply, I trusted the wrong people because I was young and stupid. Even my first marriage at age 39 was stupid, but lucrative 🙂 Which brings me to a few of my favorite quotes from that period…

Sometimes I sit and wonder, what was I thinking? But then I try to give myself a break and summarize with live and learn. And that’s really the point, isn’t it?

WE MUST LEARN FROM OUR MISTAKES!

I finally got marriage right at age 50, and when it’s right, IT’S RIGHT! After being hard on myself forever for not producing more or having more to show for my life, I met a partner with a great attitude. His opinion?

Get to it! Embrace the imperfection and enjoy the ride!

The irony is that he is a perfectionist and yet he chose me! I have never figured that one out, but we are committed for life now, come sunshine or rain. My revised opinion of regrets is very similar to what Willie Nelson said in his interview yesterday:

“If I changed anything in my past, I wouldn’t be where I am now… and I love where I am now!”

Courage is the mastery of fear

Morning rituals help me center myself for each new day. Since moving out into the southern Colorado foothills with few neighbors, I feel privileged to be able to view an unobstructed sunrise every morning as a part of that ritual.

Often I think, “It won’t be amazing today” and then I turn around in my bed and see something like this.

Living here has made me even more grateful for my life and that it has led to this place full of love and acceptance. It has also led to some tough physical challenges for me. The simple act of breathing has become more and more difficult. I can no longer live without supplemental oxygen. For a while we wondered if it was lung cancer.

There is nothing like the ‘c’ word to make you sit up and take notice, and the challenges of simply breathing every day naturally call my attention to my own mortality. Many years ago I was a follower of Stephen Levine, a well-known poet, author and teacher best known for his work with those with life-threatening illnesses. For over twenty-five years, Stephen and Ondra Levine provided emotional and spiritual support to those who were dying and their caregivers. I highly recommend his books to you. I went to hear him speak in Boulder once for an all day event. That was the beginning of my own internal conversation about my own death. I still enjoy listening to his meditation called:

“Take each breath as if it were your last”

I used to feel so afraid of death. Then my experience of moving quickly in and out of consciousness with a traumatic brain injury provided some strange reassurance. Death is simply the final loss of consciousness. Death is inevitable and really quite simple. I accept it now, and try to love each day that I have left to be alive.

I need to imagine myself in the future doing what I love. For me, now, that is a radical act of courage.

Why am I a writer?

I began thinking about this around 5 am this morning. I have always known that I enjoy the process of writing since my first “essays” written around age 7. Back then I was fascinated with Native Americans and their ponies. What I would give to still possess those short, but well-illustrated stories I wrote! I also loved to read. My favorite memory from grade school is the day my teacher Miss Miller had me stay after class, so I could visit the sixth grade library to pick out my books. I was only in third grade! It helps to have parents who are teachers.

For as far back as I can remember, I have been reinforced for my writing. Everyone said I was good at it. And I have read probably a million books in my sixty-five years on this planet. I picked up a lot of vocabulary that way. Often I knew the words and how to spell them, just not how to pronounce them. Writing always felt like a freeing experience for me, a place where I could express myself without any outside reaction or response. That’s why I began keeping a journal around eighth grade. I still have all those journals. I value them greatly. Perhaps because of that early experience I now find that:

Writing gives me access to my deepest thoughts and feelings…

When I feel the need to understand myself, my intentions and my deeper emotions around a certain topic, I find that if I write about it, new insights present themselves. I do understand how others find this type of personal expression through painting or other forms of art, but for me the solution is always writing.

I fell into writing professionally around age 50 when I was forced to abandon my chosen career in librarianship. Strange as it may seem, I had to be coerced into writing as a career, even though I loved everything about it. When I lost my livelihood, I hired an excellent career coach in Fort Collins who challenged me to just try writing for others. I was soon hooked. I worked as a freelance writer for a few years, selling my work and enjoying the process. However, I found a deep contradiction. In writing, it seemed like everyone was telling me I need to “Find my own voice.” How does one do that when the editors of the magazines I was writing for took away “my voice” when they edited and sometimes even messed up the articles I was writing? When I was totally ripped-off my “American History” magazine, with no kill fee or anything for the article they had requested from me, I gave up on freelance work entirely.

Luckily at that time I learned about blogging from a woman in my writing group. It was a pretty new concept back in 2006, but this woman had found great success, so I dug in and learned everything I could about WordPress.

From my blog “Midlife Crisis Queen” (now removed from the Internet) I built quite a nice platform and a great following, which led to nice book sales and some notoriety. But when I moved down south and we began building our solar home out in the country, I felt the need to diverge into new endeavors.

For one thing, I had chosen to change lifestyles. For another, midlife had passed me by!

Living away from cities is exactly what I needed. I have expanded my voice to include photographs of sunrises and sunsets as well as life close to nature. I like to call it “getting off the grid, mentally.” I learn everyday the lessons we can only learn by leaving “the chatter of the speed-and-greed world” behind.

Now I no longer write for others, I write for myself, and if others find it useful, so be it…

The Process of Growing Up: How generations may diverge and then re-connect

I greatly enjoyed the intelligence and wisdom of a recent interview with actor Steve Yeon on CBS Sunday Morning, February 7th 2021. He is a Korean-American actor, age 37, who weathered the influence of heavy parental pressure, and then transformed that character-building experience into an amazing career for himself. I especially related to his observations, because I have been a front seat observer of this process in my own family for over 65 years.

Mom took this: Dad with us three kids

Steve’s response to boatloads of pressure to become a doctor from his first generation American parents was to take a few biology classes and in that way, show them that this just wasn’t going to work. I suppose I did the same thing, just a lot less consciously, failing a few classes at Colorado College where my Dad taught in the 1970s. My siblings tried other responses to my Dad’s pressure to become a scientist of some sort. My brother John told my Dad (a college professor!) “There’s no future in college!” after high school and then disappeared from our lives for decades at a time. My sister Diane rebelled at first, but then found ways to work within my Dad’s parameters of success. She has been quite stellar in her chosen field of nursing and Long-Term Care.

I found the research on this topic fascinating. It seems that when we relentlessly demand certain career choices from our kids, some may become compliant, but this apparent “compliance replaces the development of problem solving, judgment and autonomous thinking… Without the space to find their own way, teens fail to develop an inner-directed sense of self to anchor them” (Levine, 2006). “Alternatively, encouraging teens to think and advocate for themselves, make their own choices, and experience natural consequences of their decisions fosters the development of identity, values, responsibility, and competence.” The Paradox of Pushing Kids to Succeed” by Lynn Margolies, Ph.D.

This was true for me. With so much pressure from my Dad, I felt inadequate to make my own choices, and boy did I make some bad ones in my teens and twenties! I especially did not develop the ability to “advocate for myself” until much later in life, when I had no one else to advocate for me.

I don’t recall my mother ever pressuring me to become anything in particular. She just wanted me to be a good person. I guess that is the way she saw her role as mother. Her mother, a career woman most of her life, finally became quite supportive of my career goals when I started working on my M.A. in Librarianship. I believe she decided since I wasn’t getting married, she should help me get a good job. She also gave me my homemade quilt at age 24, something she would normally give to me at marriage.

My parents were teachers and did support my choice of librarianship, but I always said I would be a librarian until I knew what I really wanted to be. That turned out to be a writer, which I began in my early 50s. I enjoy writing so much that I couldn’t care less if nobody reads it! I will continue to write until the end of my life… Did I mention stubbornness is our strongest family trait?

Some more wisdom from Steve Yeon: “Generations miss each other right now.”

As a middle boomer (born in 1955), this pandemic hit as my father was on his death bed. This experience last March threw my Mom, his wife of 69 years, into depression and confusion. As she put it, “My leader is gone.” His death threw me into many thoughts about my upbringing and how that process develops over a lifetime. I see it now as first trying to live up to what your parents want you to become — a process of letting go of all that in your middle years, and then a return to re-connect with your parents as they prepare to leave us.

My Dad was first and foremost a renowned botanist, naturalist and teacher. That was his life’s work. I was reminded of that fact this week when I learned that the third edition of Dad’s book: Trees and Shrubs of New Mexico just came out, edited and printed by the Gila Native Plant Society of New Mexico. He always hoped that his kids would get as excited about nature as he was his whole life. And, as it turns out, my older sister Diane became a nationally renowned Elder Care expert, my brother became a high school science teacher eventually, and I became a writer, photographer and gardener of Colorado native plants.

See, sometimes it all works out in the end…

Questions about stevia? Answers here!

I did this research back in 2007 and wrote it up then. Interestingly, no magazine would publish this article, because their sponsors were companies like Coca-Cola. It’s called industrial espionage and it goes on all the time!

The Mysterious Natural Sweetener Stevia

With its extracts having up to 300 times the sweetness of sugar, but no caloric value, the South American herb stevia would seem to be the perfect solution as we all search for low-carbohydrate and low sugar food alternatives.  Stevia is now showing promise in medical research into the treatment of obesity and diabetes because it tastes so sweet and yet has a negligible effect on blood glucose levels, in some cases enhances glucose tolerance.

So why aren’t we all using stevia instead of food additives like aspartame? Political controversy have limited stevia’s availability in the United States since 1991, when the USDA labeled stevia as an “unsafe food additive” and restricted its import. Even though this herb has been used as a natural sweetener for centuries by the Guarani Indians of Paraquay and now claims over 40% of the Japanese sweetener market, the FDA contradicted its own guidelines under which “any natural substance used prior to 1958 with no reported adverse effects should be recognized as safe.”

Stevia occurs naturally, requiring no patent to produce it. As a consequence, since the import ban in 1991, consumers of stevia continue to believe that the FDA acted in response to industry pressure. Stevia remained banned until after the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act forced the FDA to revise its stance to permit stevia be used as a dietary supplement, but not as a food additive.

In an interesting coincidence, Coca-Cola Company and Cargill have now developed a stevia derived patent-pending calorie-free food and beverage sweetener called Rebiana, which they plan to obtain approval for as a food additive within the United States by 2009. It seems stevia may only be safe when Coca-Cola decides to patent it and starts adding it to their own products.

 Suddenly, when big business can make big money on it, it becomes magically safe for the rest of us.

I would only add, be sure what you buy is real stevia and not something with all sorts of additives!

To learn more: https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/stevia-side-effects

How I lost 55 pounds at age 55: It’s not brain surgery, but may require some serious soul surgery…

Laura Lee Carter, M.A. Counseling Psychology, AKA the Midlife Crisis Queen!

Copyright © 2012 by Laura Lee Carter

“Do at least one thing every day that scares you.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Introduction

When I think back to one year ago, when I was 55 pounds heavier and DEPRESSED, so many thoughts occur.  How did I finally do it?  How did I finally buckle down and lose the weight? 

In my case a “program” was essential, and also a very supportive husband.  I think of this now as my re-education program, or really just a simple case of brainwashing. I needed someone to sit me down and show me what I should be eating for the first time ever! 

I used Slimgenics* and it worked for me.  For some Weight Watchers* is perfect. Choose a quality program that works for you, the name of the program isn’t important.  Personal responsibility, accountability and determination are what count now.

I don’t know about you, but I sorely needed instruction.  I needed to be told exactly how much of things like starch I could eat each day and still lose weight.  That is how I finally took control over what I was eating, instead of it controlling me. 

I also found I needed to recommit to regular exercise and/or walking, and cut out what I now call “entertainment eating.”  You know, eating out of frustration, boredom and anger.  I learned that hunger is not sitting around thinking about what might be fun to eat right now.  I needed to learn what healthy weight loss was all about.

What a shock to realize at age 55, that the purpose of eating is to make me more healthy and sustain myself, and not as my primary form of entertainment or a major emotional outlet.

If you stop eating like you have, but don’t replace bad behaviors with something new and healthier, your weight loss will never last.  Replace your bad habits with something sustainable and different.

Now I know exactly what works for my body.  I know the rules and what works.  I know if I eat a set amount of protein, carbs, salt, sugar, veggies and fruit each day, than I will feel so much better both mentally and physically.  I have learned to eat and then wait for that pleasantly full feeling –like pleasingly plump – but so much better!

First you need to trash most of your previous assumptions about what you should be eating or what you think you need to feel satisfied. I now consume about one third of the total calories I used to consider OK and I NEVER feel hungry.  Instead I now eat the proper foods, in the proper amounts for a person my size, age, etc.

DID YOU KNOW?  Junk Food Turns Rats Into Addicts!

When exposed to foods like bacon, cheesecake and ho-ho’s, rats elicit the same behavior as that caused by heroin addiction.

According to a recent articles, pleasure centers in the brains of rats addicted to high-fat, high-calorie diets became less responsive as the binging wore on, making the rats consume more and more food.

This is the most complete evidence to date that obesity and drug addiction have common neurobiological underpinnings.

Why are we all eating so much?

It seems we in the West have created the perfect storm for eating out of control.   How?  Did you know there is a multibillion dollar flavor industry working every day to increase your food cravings?

Some of the best minds in the world are creating natural and artificial flavorings that make your mouth water and keep you coming back for more.

Yes, food doesn’t taste the way it did 20 years ago.  There are lots of scientists whose primary job IS TO GET AND KEEP YOU EATING TOO MUCH,and they know exactly what your brain finds absolutely addictive!

To learn more you must read David A Kessler’s excellent book: The End Of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite.  Here he documents exactly how hard our major chain restaurants work to get and keep you addicted to their food.

What does FAT look like today?

Then we have the American perception of ideal weight, which has been heading up, up, up and away, especially in the past 20 years or so. 

According to the latest Gallup poll, actual weight and ideal weight — have risen, although “ideal weights” have not quite kept pace with actual weight gains.  The average American male now weighs 196 pounds and the average woman is up to 160 pounds.  Both figures are 20 pounds greater than self-reported weights in 1990.

Perhaps more importantly, Americans’ self-professed “ideal weights” are getting higher and higher.  Women on average said their ideal weight is 138 pounds — up from 129 in 1991.   Men on average said their ideal weight is 196  — up from 180 pounds in 1991.   In other words, our perceptions are shifting upwards as our health is taking a gigantic hit.

I know personally how this happens.  Before I decided enough was enough and started seriously losing weight, I could easily rationalize my midlife weight gain.  I would simply turn to others around me and say, “I know I’m overweight, but I’m not that bad. Just look at her.”   As those around us expand, our perceptions get distorted.

For the total reality check, go now and do an honest assessment of your own BMI.  And remember, anything over 30 is OBESE.

Our American addiction to starch in every form!

In addition, the traditional American diet assumes far too much fat and starch for our present lifestyle.  My own upbringing caused me to expect starches like cereal, bread, potatoes, and pasta, not to mention cookies, for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  This is dietary disaster! 

Very few of us in midlife can eat bread or cereal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and a potato or pasta with dinner and expect to remain at a reasonable weight.  This is the road to obesity plain and simple.

Starches are filler foods we needed when we were doing physical labor 60 hours a week. Today we need to fill up on the highest quality proteins, fresh vegetables and fruits instead, and cut starches down to some reasonable size.

What are the facts?  Fat kills us even when we don’t see ourselves as fat.  We will continue to die at an ever earlier age with fat induced illnesses like heart disease, diabetes and cancers of all types. Our  obesity epidemic is leading to sky-rocketing health care costs, which will only increase as the U.S. has become the most obese country in the world!

So where do I begin to lose this extra midlife weight?

According to Dr. Oz, women over age 50 burn 200 calories less per day because of estrogen loss.  But when fat builds up in places like our belly or upper arms, which is common after 50, extra estrogen is also stored, which can lead to even more cravings for fat and carbs. 

WE also tend to exercise less as we age.  Is it because we feel hopeless about ever being fit and healthy again, or because our arthritis is getting out of hand?   Either way, we keep on eating as if we were still 25, as every restaurant in the world is literally plotting to get us further addicted to salt, sugar and fat!

If you don’t believe me, read The End of Overeating by David S. Kessler, former commissioner of the FDA.  The food industry knows that certain substances are like heroin to our brains, and they are trained to find many ways to keep us coming back for more!

If you are reading this e-book, you know personally the ins and outs of feeling fat and disgusting, but also hopeless at ever changing this fact on your own.   “So, what’s a boy or girl to do?”

A few months ago I ran into a former co-worker from my previous life as an academic librarian.   She said “Hi”, but I simply did not recognize her.   She was half the size I remembered her! I felt amazed, totally impressed and mildly depressed!  She said she had been working with Slimgenics for a year or so, and then she warned me:  It’s EXPENSIVE, but very effective.

Flash forward to last June 15th, when I heard some radio talk show host say that he had lost over 100 pounds with Slimgenics and kept it off.  We have a center here in town, so I decided to swing by and check it out. 

I had tried Weight Watchers twice and felt certain that program didn’t really work for me.  Why?   Because I feel weight loss is not a group activity, either the counseling or the weigh-ins.  (NOTE: I am NOT a GROUP person, and generally call most group activities group grope!)

I know I need a lot of individual attention, and I’m a natural cheater when it comes to measuring all my foods, etc.  In other words, discipline is a problem for me!

Come to find out, Slimgenics is VERY EXPENSIVE, but for me, that’s one good reason why it worked.  You try plunking down over a $1000 up front and then challenge yourself to cheat.   No way!   You have already spent too much money to cheat!  I knew I needed to SEE SOME SERIOUS RESULTS!!!  And long-term results too!

Join me in this emotional journey as I confront my many cheap excuses and bad moods, to FINALLY change my life while getting rid of some terrible eating habits.   I’ll let you know all of the thrills and spills involved in serious midlife weight loss.  I’m shooting for a 50 to 60-pound weight loss!

What I’ve learned so far…

I’m really glad we have a Slimgenics Center nearby because I NEED all of my questions answered and the daily pep talks from my counselor.   I can’t imagine paying so much money without a full explanation from an actual person. 

The most interesting new information I received was how important water is in weight loss.   Did you know that water is possibly the most important catalyst in losing weight and keeping it off?   Not only is it a great appetite suppressant, it also helps the body metabolize stored fat. Less water intake may cause an increase in fat deposits!  Who knew?   Low water intake is very hard on your liver so it cannot work as efficiently to metabolize stored fat into energy.

On Slimgenics, I never really felt hungry, but you do have to pre-plan every meal very carefully at first.   Get a new ounce scale to weigh your meat portions.  I know overall, this doesn’t sound like much fun, but feeling healthier, lighter and more confident will make this all worth it! 

Being on a plan like this also adds new motivation to exercise more than normal, that and the lovely cool weather we’ve been having lately!

The Emotional Experience of Weight Loss

These many physical changes in my life are really impacting my moods.  My new and improved midlife husband  Mike says I’ve been acting a bit manic-depressive lately, but he loves the fact that I’m on a plan and I’m on my way to a healthier me!

My first few weeks were tough, especially when I see those big, delicious-looking meals on the TV ads for places like Olive Garden and Applebees… How depressing to think I can never eat like that again!

I complained to my ever thin, but wise husband about feeling deprived, and he had the perfect answer:

“Don’t worry about all of that right now. Just stick to your goals and tomorrow will take care of its self!”

At first I feared that this program would never work for me because of menopause, but the real anger set in when I realized how truly restrictive my diet would be for the next seven months.  All of my lovely starches were GONE!   OK, not gone, but do you know what a 50 calorie piece of bread looks like?  Do I really only get 2 a day?   Pathetic!

Surprisingly, I realized that I went through the normal emotional response to the death of a loved one as I let go of overeating: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

But even that changed over time.  I realized I didn’t love rice and potatoes as much as I thought.  Certainly not more than life itself!  What I love is the sauce that goes on top of these things.  So now I add lots of veggies to all of my sauces and eat as much as I like!

The good news?   I feel good about taking responsibility for my own overeating habits. I’m finally getting control of my water retention problem. I feel reassured that I am on a plan that has worked for thousands.   I’m losing weight slowly and sensibly, and I’m confronting directly those fears and worries I have every day, instead of distracting myself with large, unhealthy amounts of carbohydrates. After just one week, I’m 3 pounds lighter and 100 pounds happier, because I’m on a plan and I feel hope for a better future!

I find I am now seeking out different forms of comfort, escape and contentment, returning to activities that have always given me pleasure, but I have not done in a long time.   I’m listening to music more, stretching, gardening, and other forms of creativity.   The loss of vast quantities of carbohydrates has forced me to consider further how I spend my free time, and my perpetual dilemma with the need to feel “productive” all of the time.

I KNOW this new stage of my life is a healthy adventure for me, and well worth the temporary discomfort. I know I’m going to be old, but I don’t have to be fat too!

I do feel so much healthier, more energetic, and lighter than I have in years. I constantly remind myself this is not some sort of short-term, quick fix. This is a total lifestyle transformation. I’m doing what I have been told to do and it is definitely (and surprisingly!) working. I am finally on a high protein, low fat diet with lots of fresh vegetables and fruits, and very low levels of starch (as in rice, bread, potatoes, etc.)

The most surprising part to me is how reinforcing and delicious the protein snacks can be. As you know, when you are restricting calories, you really need something to look forward to during the day. In my case that is the required two protein snacks per day. These snacks are full of protein from soy isolate (10-15 grams of protein), but only 190-150 calories each. They really rev up your metabolism! Who knew you could make a healthy snack that tastes like sour cream potato chips or a chocolate bar?

My favorites are the “Diet Protein To Go” brand, and I LOVE my daily Chocolate Fudge Cake. Add a little fresh fruit to this cake and you have a GREAT, chocolate dessert! In fact, I’m sure I eat more chocolate now than before I started my life changing food plan! This all makes me think I could get addicted to protein snacks, which means I might also get addicted to losing weight. 

That’s got to be a good thing!

What is YOUR correct amount of protein per day?

I have noticed how much more protein I have been consuming both through the required amounts on the diet plus through my protein snacks. It seems that this increased level of daily protein helps me lose weight more quickly. It definitely makes me feel less hungry even though I’m eating a lot less total food than I used to.

For example, if I do have a bowl of cereal in the morning, I know now I will be thinking about food for most of my day. But if I stick with my 2 eggs and one piece of no sugar, 50 calorie toast first thing and then a protein bar around noon, I simply don’t get hungry until much later in the day.

So how much protein do we need to sustain a healthy body? Most experts believe that most of us get more than enough protein daily. In fact, some believe the average sedentary American eats about 50% more than they need, ranging from 40-70 grams per day, depending on your gender, age and situation.

If you’re an exerciser, your protein needs increase since resistance training and endurance workouts can rapidly break down muscle protein.

How to Calculate Your Protein Needs:

Divide your weight in pounds by 2.2.  This is approximately how many grams of protein you will need to consume each day.

Use a lower number if you are in good health but sedentary most days. Use a higher number if you are under stress, trying to lose weight, are recovering from an illness, or if you are involved in consistent weight or endurance training.

If you are anything like I was, you are not getting anywhere near this amount of protein per day.  You’re probably loading up on carbs and missing out on the advantages of revving up your metabolism with a high protein diet.

I found weight loss was so much easier when I raised my metabolism through exercise and protein consumption while also drastically cutting down on starch and sugar calories.  I found I needed to consume at least 60 grams of protein per day along with lots of veggies and two fruit every day. 

Revving up your metabolism!

Certain things will increase the energy you produce, at least briefly. Eating a meal raises your metabolism, especially if it’s high in protein.  Certain substances like caffeine may increase your energy by raising your metabolism temporarily, but sometimes with adverse effects.

Foods such as red pepper, black pepper, ginger, green and black teas and other spices are being studied for possible weight-control benefits.  These all raise metabolism through the body’s heat production and energy use, but whether they can provide long-term results, and at what dosages, remains unclear.

Did you know the BEST thing you can do to improve your long-term brain function and plasticity is to move your body every day?  That’s what keeps your brain young and active.

The BEST way to change your metabolism is to exercise on a regular basis.  This actually improves your long-term brain function too.

Pushing your metabolism higher

When you’re physically active nearly every day, your body maintains an elevated metabolic rate.   This keeps your engine revved up and burning calories, even while you’re relaxing.

Making small changes every day, like walking to the store instead of driving, does increase your metabolism.  Also, cutting your own grass, raking, hand-shoveling your snow and gardening all help you feel better both mentally and physically!

Ten foods that curb food cravings & boost metabolism:

Eggs: Eat two eggs with toast each morning, and you’ll feel less hungry and eat less all day long.

Beans: Beans contain a digestive hormone which is a known appetite suppressant.  Beans can also stabilize your blood sugar.

Salad: Studies show that women who ate a large veggie salad before a meal consumed 12% less starch during the meal.

Apples: With 3 grams of fiber per apple, and the blood sugar stabilizer pectin, apples greatly curb between meal cravings.

Lean beef: Fight unwanted muscle loss while dieting with 5 ounces of lean meat per day.  The amino acid leucine, found in meat and fish, helps you lose more weight and fat.

Green tea: Contains lots of antioxidants called catechins which speed up metabolism and help you burn fat.

Olive oil: Helps boost metabolism.

Grapefruit: Eat grapefruit regularly to help you drop pounds.

Vinegar: Contains natural acids and enzymes that act as an appetite suppressant and boost your metabolism.

Cinnamon: Helps you fight diabetes by increasing the body’s insulin response, while experiencing lower blood sugar levels and increased insulin production.

Some useful healthy eating tips:

Plan ahead, and don’t wing it, because you will probably end up overeating or eating something unhealthy instead.

  • Always start your day with a good, high-protein, low-sugar breakfast like eggs. This will help you manage hunger throughout your day. Remember: overeating the night before isn’t an excuse to skip breakfast.
  • Skipping a meal can result in overeating later or poor food choices.  Have protein throughout your day and try a late-afternoon snack (fruit, carrot sticks, popcorn) for quick energy.
  • Add protein to each meal — such as a hard-boiled egg, tuna or nonfat cottage cheese — to manage hunger and sustain energy. But watch the salt content on that tuna or cottage cheese!
  • Train yourself to stop eating after one serving.  Stop and wait to feel that nice full feeling a few minutes after you finish. If you are particularly hungry, make sure you have one food you can eat as much as you want of, like vegetables, salad or fresh fruit.
  • If you must eat at a fast-food joint, order a salad. Most now have great choices that include fruit and protein. Don’t use too much dressing, though!
  • Shop for groceries when you aren’t hungry, angry, lonely or tired.  Never bring food home you don’t want to eat.

Try sugarless gum when you get the urge for something sweet after a meal.

Save alcohol for special occasions. Alcohol is all sugar and “empty” calories, plus it can contribute to the development of breast cancer.

For a real eye-opener, see how many grams of sugar are in just about everything you eat!  

Less sugar equals less hunger.

Public health enemy #1: SUGAR in every form!

New studies suggest the key to weight loss and maintenance is eating a diet that keeps our insulin levels low.  The hormone insulin helps your body store fat, and makes sure it stays put.  This means that if you control insulin, you control fat.  It’s that simple.

Eating too much sugar (in ANY FORM) makes you fat, by triggering insulin.  It’s also linked to wrinkles, aging, cancer and a compromised immune system.  If you would immediately cut your sugar intake down to 10-15 grams per day (a couple teaspoons), you would greatly reduce your risk for illness, diabetes and cancer. 

Cutting down on your body’s production of insulin is key to reducing fat production.  One apple equals 12 grams of sugar.  The American Heart Association recently suggested limiting sugar consumption to less than six teaspoons per day.

I know of what I speak hereI cut out all sugar, alcohol, antibiotics, most dairy and artificial sweeteners (EXCEPT STEVIA) from my diet a few years ago, because of an overwhelmingly bad case of Candida overgrowth.  I limited my diet to meat and vegetables and then added in a few apples and blueberries gradually.  And amazingly enough, I found that I was hardly ever hungry!

Stevia is the best non-calorie sweetener because it is not artificial at all!  It’s an herb.

With up to 300 times the sweetness of sugar, but no caloric value, this South American herb seems to be the perfect solution to our search for low-carbohydrate and low sugar food alternatives.

Stevia occurs naturally, requiring no patent to produce it, and has been used as a natural sweetener for centuries by the Guarani Indians of Paraguay.  It also now claims over 40% of the Japanese sweetener market.

Stevia is now showing promise in medical research into obesity and diabetes treatment, because it tastes so sweet and yet has a negligible effect on blood glucose levels.  In some cases it actually enhances glucose tolerance.

Try some tea for weight loss

Another way to reach your weight loss goal, is refreshing teas from around the world.  In the morning try fermented Chinese Pu-erh Teafrom China, for a great burst of antioxidants plus many health benefits. There are even claims that this tea can shrink fat cells!

Chickweed Tea is a powerful diuretic. Chickweed tea helps the body flush excess water or fat from the system, leading to regular urination and a cleansed, toned body.  It can also act as a mild laxative.  In addition, it may help increase your body’s metabolism for increased weight loss.

In the evening, try Bilberry Tea. Drinking one cup a day may inhibit eye and vision disorders by strengthening the walls of blood vessels in the eye and benefit the retina, reduce inflammation, and help support cardiovascular health, help with gastrointestinal problems, ease varicose veins, and lower blood sugar in diabetics.

What is the healthiest salty snack for weight loss?

Fiber promotes belly fat loss by creating optimum health. When you do consume sugar, if you eat it with a good amount of fiber, like an apple, or blueberries, you ease the amount of sugar going directly into your system.  Artichokes, oats, beans and whole grain products are excellent sources of fiber. 

What is one of your healthiest snack foods? Fiber-filled popcorn! It is my personal favorite! It is so satisfying, and yet doesn’t seem to add as many calories as others snacks. Popcorn reigns supreme among whole grain snack foods, with the highest level of antioxidants. Focus on whole grain snacks (the first on the ingredients list), which are rich in antioxidants. Then hold the butter and keep your salt intake as low as possible.

Transforming obesity in midlife, up-close and personal

I have been studying the problem of obesity on a personal level for the past year.

Last Memorial Day, my father experienced life-threatening health problems which required major surgery.  This turned into the wake-up call I needed to finally lose some weight. I got into a program last June, and finally got serious. I lost 50 pounds over eight months, and haven’t gained one pound back in the past few months of maintenance. The name of the program isn’t important. 

Personal responsibility, accountability and determination is what counts here.

What works when it comes to permanent weight loss? Certainly NOT silly “tips” and gimmicks which promise it will be easy.

I finally received the instruction I needed to control what I eat, instead of it controlling me.  I found I needed to rec0mmit to regular exercise and walking, and cut out what I now call “entertainment eating.”   You know, eating out of frustration, boredom and anger.  I learned that hunger is not sitting around thinking about what might be fun to eat right now.  I needed to learn what healthy weight loss was all about.

I now eat to sustain myself and only when I actually need to.  I replaced one behavior pattern with another that worked with my specific midlife metabolism.  It really is simple reprogramming.  Most of us had NO training in eating properly.  We simply eat the way we were told to, and in most cases this is a BIG mistake which catches up with us in midlife

In my case, this meant no more sugary drinks, fruit juice or not.  Being 50 pounds overweight was NOT OK, and so I greatly increased the amount of lean protein and the number and variety of vegetables in my diet.  Now I only eat two fruit/day, and have switched to two very small portions of starch each day, as in one 50 calorie piece of bread and 1/3 cup rice instead of a whole cup I used to eat.

At first I hated the whole idea.  I wasn’t actually hungry, but I had PLENTY of mental resistance.  Then slowly, as my extra weight fell off, I found I did not miss the extra starch, and I began to feel 500% better both mentally and physically!

In my first few months I lost ten pounds/month, then five/month, and the last few months only three or so, with a total weight loss of 55 pounds in eight months.

More importantly, taking full control over my weight has really changing my attitude about myself.  I feel so much more optimistic now!  If I can change this, what else can I improve in my life?

I’m finding more fun things to do, stretching more, and walking more.  I just feel so much healthier, happier and lighter.  I take lots of Omega 3 and 6 plus many vitamins.   Overall I see my diet as so much healthier than I’ve consumed in ages, and I have finally found some true sense of portion control.

I have been maintaining my goal weight for the past four months by weigh myself every morning and adjust accordingly.  I find I can eat just about anything now in small portions, pizza being the toughest!  I mean between the dough, the salt and the grease, watch out!

The icing on the cake was when the members of my exercise class (all age 60+) gave me a standing ovation one day.  I found my best support came from my loving new husband and others who are older and wiser than me, those who saw clearly how I was cutting my life short by ignoring my bad habit of overeating.  It is only those who truly love you, who can help you see the problem more clearly,

All of this has increased my awareness of the multitude of health problems brought on by overeating.  Most of us have no idea we are actually OBESE.  We just keep adding on weight over the decades and do not realize the harsh long-term effects.

Go check your BMI NOW.  Tell the truth and stop pretending. 

Do a reality check when it comes to the life-threatening and life-shortening powers of obesity.

Healthy midlife weight loss

This morning I got naked and glanced at myself in my full-length mirror.  My immediate response was shock and awe!  I unconsciously said out loud: “Oh, so this is  what I’m supposed to look like!”

Isn’t it funny how easily we get used to seeing a fat person when we look in the mirror?  The weight comes on so gradually over many decades, and then suddenly by age 45 or 50 we can hardly imagine our bodies any other way.   Getting back to a normal, healthy weight may seem absolutely out of reach.

What I have learned from my year of healthy weight loss?

Weight loss is a journey which begins by believing that you MUST change your life NOW, and then admitting you need some serious instruction and support. 

Especially in your first few months when you are struggling to believe it is even possible for you to get back to a healthy weight, one-on-one support is so essential.   Otherwise, who are you going to cry to when you feel so many mixed emotions as your hormone levels shift, and you change inside and out?

Weight loss is all about getting rid of the rules you learned as a kid and the norms you see around you EVERYWHERE.

We all need to first trash as much as you can of our previous assumptions about what you should be eating, what you need to feel satisfied, and what your new normal will be.  I’ll bet I now consume about one third of the total calories I used to consider “normal.”

Starving yourself is your shortest path to obesity!

When you wait until you are super hungry before eating, you will find it almost impossible to fill yourself up.   Just like waiting to take a pain reliever until you cannot stand the pain, it will take that much longer to stave off your hunger.  I now eat 4-5 what I call large snacks each day and I NEVER allow myself to feel true hunger.

A fair amount of “hunger” is in your mind, not your belly.

Sitting around thinking about what would taste good right now is not the same as HUNGER.   Weight loss may require you to find lots of new interests and ways of distracting yourself from focusing on food full-time.

Remember all the fun things you used to do instead of thinking about eating all day long?  Mine were playing, walking, swimming, stretching, listening to music, writing in a journal, reading a good book, walking out in the sun, and gardening. 

Get back into all of your former good habits again!  And be sure to exercise or else you will look like “flab on a stick” after you finally lose your extra weight!  I exercise constantly, but still have plenty of brand new “hangy down parts.”

You will need lots of support from family and friends, but believe ME, it is possible for you to find a much healthier way to live.

Changing your habits requires determination, dedication, and maybe even some outside help. Who knows, it may lead to a midlife crisis. So, what’s the matter with that? It beats the heck out of dying prematurely of a heart attack, cancer, diabetes or any number of other obesity-related illnesses.  

Besides, this just feels so great!

Please feel free to contact me any time for further information at: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com

Sincerely,  Laura Lee Carter

Women and Weight: How do you deal with it?

There is no end to the complexities of women, our obsession with weight, and self-love. Being raised in an extremely visual culture, where men tell us how we “should” look and feel about ourselves, has led to far too many girls starving themselves to death over these exact same issues.

Whenever I hear Karen Carpenter singing her syrupy love songs like “Close to You” and “Goodbye to Love” I can only feel a deep sadness that she would or could not choose to keep herself alive past age 32. Carpenter suffered from anorexia nervosa, which was little-known or understood at that time. Her death from heart failure in 1983 related to complications of her illness, led to increased visibility and awareness about eating disorders.

Karen was born five years before me in 1950 into a world where how you looked was just beginning to mean everything to a girl. I don’t remember weight influencing my childhood much, but once I reached puberty I began to notice that weight could be a powerful influence. My older sister seemed perpetually tortured about her weight. I was skinny as a kid, but I did have my own personal experience with anorexia in my early twenties. I became severely depressed and lost over 40 pounds very quickly, but as soon as I fought my way out of depression, the weight came back on easily.

Through the decades I tried not to worry much about my weight, but in my early fifties I found myself seriously overweight. My days of eating whatever I wanted whenever I wanted were apparently over.

I was lucky to find a weight-loss program that finally taught me the best way to choose my foods and the right amounts to maintain my weight in a healthy and generally sustainable way.

I lost over 50 pounds and kept it off for a few years, until I became absolutely stressed out over our move to Walsenburg and the process of building a new home in the middle of nowhere. I was so stressed I decided,

“I deserve to eat whatever I want!” That did not work out well…

So recently I’ve begun again. Back to tiny portions of starch and lots of protein and vegetables. I’m glad I eventually learned what proper nutrition looks and feels like. I’m also happy that I’ve never had to obsess about my weight. My only concern now is my health, aka keep breathing and moving!

There’s just two things I wish they would have taught us in high school. Why didn’t they teach us something practical like proper financial planning and what proper eating looks like? They could have saved most of us a lot of grief!