Becoming a different person

Thursday, March 29, 2007

March 29, 2007

Dear Patty,

Last week our friend, Jack, graduated from the same weight management program DC and I completed in December. In 20 weeks, Jack lost more than 70 pounds. He's a different man in all sorts of ways. For one thing, he thinks he'll lose 40 more, and it's hard to imagine anything stopping him.

DC and I went through the program mostly by mixing the flavored meal replacement powders with soda or coffee and blending a shake. Sometimes we made a pizza with the potato meal replacement. Nothing we made was particularly appetizing. We just knew it would be good for us eventually.

Jack took the gastronomic approach. The program provides recipes for dishes that can be made from the meal replacements. Jack probably tried most of them and often concocted his own.

Last weekend, to celebrate his graduation, Jack and his wife Sally joined us for a meal replacement feast. Playing chef, Jack took over our kitchen to bake a barbecued chicken pizza with barbecue sauce replacing the tomato sauce.

DC and I had been smooshing the dough on the pizza pan by hand these many months. Our crust was thick and a little too chewy. With a rolling pin Jack flattened the dough between sheets of parchment paper sprayed with fat-free cooking oil. His crust was thin and crisp.

DC and I have been making brownies by baking chocolate meal replacements mixed with water. They're flat and taste a bit like real brownies. Last weekend Jack made a 3-inch-high chocolate cake made creamier with fat-free chocolate pudding and thickened with egg whites. He topped the cake with cherries.

The low-calorie cake could have come from a bakery. I wanted more.

With salad and wine, we really did have a feast.

I said Jack is a different man. He now works out most every day. When he does he pushes his heart rate into the zone that burns fat and strengthens his cardiovascular system. He says he feels different about himself.

Sally didn't go through the program, but she has been learning about food alongside him. She learned how to gauge the fat content of foods at the grocery store and at restaurants, about emotional eating, how essential both regular exercise and real relaxation are to managing your weight, how positive thoughts can help you succeed and negative thoughts can sidetrack you, how to comfort yourself with things other than food, and the importance of planning meals instead of grabbing something on the run.

Along with the people in the program she learned which foods are at the bottom of the calorie ladder and which are at the top, and the optimum balance of fruits, vegetables, protein, fats and starches.

Sally has lost 20 pounds simply by paying attention. Paying attention to what you eat, how you eat and why you eat goes a long way.

In their book "You: The Owner's Manual," Drs. Michael Roisen and Mehmet Oz list foods that can indeed help people pay better attention. Nuts, fish, soybeans, tomatoes and real chocolate help keep arteries clear and young. Maybe you never thought about arteries aging just as faces do. Our bodies try to repair aging arteries by using cholesterol as a patch. But LDL can cause heart attacks, memory loss and assorted undesirable conditions.

The dietitians who run the weight management program plan to have Jack come back to show new classes how to eat well while losing weight. He's tempted to open a meal replacement restaurant.

Love, Sam

Sam Blackwell is managing editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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