It’s the third day of a new decade and a new year, and the expectation is that with the end of the holidays, it’s time to get SERIOUS.
I plan to comply with that – to a point. But the older I get, the more I realize that life is too short to be SERIOUS ALL THE TIME. Especially since the time I have left is getting shorter every new year.
My husband and I spent the entire holiday with my sister and her family. We always enjoy time with each other celebrating the New Year – but in 2019, Linda and I decided to indulge in a longtime dream of ours: to check in to a luxury hotel for Chanukah and Christmas, where we could drink, dine, relax, and be waited upon.
I’ll be writing about that experience in another post. I only bring it up because (a) it was everything we dreamed of and (b) we spent an unprecedented 10 days together, along with most of our adult children.
Carpe Diem and The Gift of Going Analog
My Chanukah gift to my sister was an electric wine preserver. She gifted me with this:
Yeah, it’s an old-fashioned, paper-and-pencil annual planner – something I have not used since I bought my first Palm Pilot. But this one’s got a profane twist that makes it fun to use.
And I started thinking: I am not one for making resolutions, but truly do want to work on myself this year so I can enjoy the time I have left.
When I was young, the simple act of taking pen to paper and actually writing notes was key to remembering them. These days, I have such a hard time remembering things… what if the problem is not so much a failing memory, but my reliance on doing everything digitally?
So as you can see in the photo, I am embracing my new planner and writing down my goals.
How’s it going so far?
Well, I did manage to fast before visiting the UCLA Health center to get those blood tests for my annual check-up later this month. But the timing didn’t work out to get to that morning WW meeting. And I don’t like to work out on an empty stomach.
So I got some breakfast and vowed to work on the rest tomorrow.
In the end, today was NOT my bitch. But maybe I was setting my goals too high? I mean, two out of four ain’t bad, right?
“We both really need to get out of the house more,” my sister tells me. We are both haunted by the example of our parents, whose worlds became smaller and smaller as they aged. It’s too bad Linda and I live 350 miles away from each other, because she’s the easiest person to hang out with.
And I finally bit the bullet and found a primary care physician near my house. This is something I’ve been meaning to do for the last four years (since I recovered from my hysterectomy, which means it has been that long since I’ve had a checkup).
I don’t like doctors. My late mother was something of a hypochondriac, and I went the other way. My philosophy is that if you never see a doctor, they’ll never find anything wrong with you.
Of course, that doctrine is dumb when you get to be my age. So I made an appointment and managed not to cancel it.
The Dreaded Scale and Other Medical Indignities
Prior to arriving at the clinic, I filled out a whole bunch of questionnaires. There was a freeform space where I could tell them anything I wanted. I told them I did not want to be lectured about my weight, that I’m aware it’s unhealthy, and I’m trying to get it under control.
Doctors never read that stuff.
The first thing that always happens at a medical office is they make you get on a scale. Some office staff are understanding when I tell them I DON’T WANT TO KNOW THE NUMBER (it’s always worse than my scale at home because at home I weigh myself first thing in the morning, before I’ve eaten. And at the doctor’s office, I’m wearing clothes -which we all know puts on an extra five pounds).
The second thing they do is take your blood pressure. Mine isn’t all that bad, but it could be better. I tell them it will improve after I lose the weight I don’t want to talk about.
I liked the doctor. She’s about my age and easy to talk to – even though she ignored what I wrote on the form and proceeded to point out my less-than-wonderful BMI.
“You should try Weight Watchers,” she says.
I’m on Weight Watchers, I tell her. I’ve been doing the digital WW program for three years. I initially lost 30 pounds, but then strayed from the program. I keep trying to get back on track, but my heart isn’t in it. Plus, it’s just impossible after Thanksgiving…
“You should go to meetings,” she says. It turns out, she’s a Lifetime member. “You’ll be more successful. If you find the right meeting.”
I’ve done the meetings before. My first time on the program, I was 18 and 130 pounds (which is my goal weight now) and my mom (who was a size 0) convinced me to try it. That was my first experience with weighing every little thing I ate and writing it all down, and I hated it.
But I especially hated sitting through the meetings: getting weighed in, listening to the leader give the weekly lecture, and trying to get us all to connect with one another. I was 18 years old. I didn’t want to connect with all those middle-aged fat women.
And Weight Watchers was slooow. It took me months to lose just five pounds. I eventually quit and lost weight on my own. And for the most part, I kept it under control for my 20’s and into my 30’s.
Middle Age Blues
And then came the inevitable metabolic slowdown, which wasn’t helped by having a baby one month before my 40th birthday. I’ve been yo-yo’ing every since. And so when I re-joined Weight Watchers, I actually was one of those middle-aged women. And I still hated it.
“We’re not joiners,” Linda reminded me. She’s right. I don’t know if that’s just our nature or the way we were raised, but our parents didn’t belong to any organizations, and I’ve never been comfortable with them, either.
And yet: The digital-only WW plan has not been working for me for a long time now, and it’s kind of crazy to keep trying something with no results. Also, it would be nice to be able to tell that doctor I gave it a try (even if I still get no results).
The marketing department at WW seemed to be reading my mind. Last week, they sent an email touting holiday “open houses,” where you could come in and just see how the meetings work these days. So on Monday, I drove out to one of these and gave it a try.
You still have to weigh in. You still have to listen to a leader give a lecture. You still have to track everything you eat, but there’s an app for that now (which I already had on my phone) and there’s a lot less weighing.
And you’re still encouraged to connect with the rest of the group, but now I feel like I have something in common with them. And it’s kind of nice to be among people who understand that the struggle is real.
Especially in December. If I can make it through the next three weeks without gaining weight, I’ll feel like it’s a success.
*Disclosure: Link to the Weight Watchers program is a referral link. If someone clicks on it and signs up for the program and sticks with it, I will get a free month tacked on to my program.
There was a time when Sunday night dinner for my husband and me could consist of bread, wine, and a selection of lovely cheeses. We had our favorites: brie, Humboldt Fog, an imported cheddar called Red Dragon, and maybe a fruited Wensleydale (this was around the time we were watching a lot of Wallace and Gromit with our toddler, so our choices may have been influenced a little bit).
It was an easy, casual meal that we both used to enjoy. And it’s one of those things I don’t do any more, which is a shame – because I like cheese.
I really, really, really like it.
The Problem with Cheese
I was reminded of this the other day, as I passed the cheese selection at a local supermarket known for such things. I no longer have to deal with a youngster who would hold her breath and complain about the smell of the stinkiest cheeses (she’s grown and flown). But these days, I’m more interested in finding foods rated 0 points on Weight Watchers.
I glanced wistfully at a beautifully prepared cheese plate that was the perfect size for an empty-nest couple: A small wedge of Brie, a log of goat cheese, six slices each of Manchego and something that could be a white cheddar. Plus a couple of sprigs of red grapes and handful of assorted dried fruit. A pound in all, which I concluded was WW eleventy-million points.
It actually adds up to about 30 points, which is 7 points more than my allotment for the entire day. And that’s before you add in the crusty bread (2 points per slice) or crackers (2 points for four of them). Or wine (4 points for a 5-oz glass), because why would I have all that cheese without a nice glass of Cabernet?
I wanted that cheese plate. I wanted it bad. And since I’m really good at finding ways to justify getting the things I want, I did a little research on the health benefits of cheese. And you know what? I found some!
Nutritional Makeup of Cheese
My mistake as a cheese lover is that after years of trying different forms of low-carb regimens, I circled back WW, which is the grandma of balanced diet plans. If I had chosen a ketogenic diet, I’d be able to eat a lot more cheese (but not the crusty French bread and probably not the wine).
Cheese is OK on a low-carb diet because it carries a power pack of protein: there’s a whopping 6.5 grams per ounce of cheddar – and hard cheeses like Parmesan contain even more protein, and even probiotic benefits.
Goat and sheep cheeses are higher in protein, lower in calories, and more tolerated by people who are sensitive to dairy products (so right there is my justification for eating a little more of that Humboldt Fog and Manchego).
Alas, if your diet is a more traditional, calorie-focused regime, you’ll note that ounce of cheddar translates to 115 calories. And 85 of those are saturated fat.
Here’s where the discussion of healthy foods gets dicey. For years, we have believed that consuming foods low in saturated fat translated into better weight management and cardiovascular health.
Advocate Trinity Hospital dietitian Dotty Berzy definitely subscribes to this theory. “If you like cheese, feta, mozzarella and Swiss are the most heart healthy,’’ she says.
Is necessary to build cell membranes, the vital exterior of each cell, and the sheaths surrounding nerves.
It is essential for blood clotting, muscle movement, and inflammation.
“For long-term health, some fats are better than others. Good fats include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Bad ones include industrial-made trans fats. Saturated fats fall somewhere in the middle,” they say.
Generally speaking, the good mono- and polyunsaturated fats come from food sources (think avocados, and olive oils). Animal products like cheese contain saturated fats.
” A diet rich in saturated fats can drive up total cholesterol, and tip the balance toward more harmful LDL cholesterol, which prompts blockages to form in arteries in the heart and elsewhere in the body. For that reason, most nutrition experts recommend limiting saturated fat to under 10% of calories a day,” says Harvard Medical.
Other studies indicate that eating some cheeses can positively affect the gut bacteria in your microbiome, introducing beneficial compounds like butyrate and spermidine (which hve both metabolism-boosting and anti-cancer effects).
That doesn’t mean I’ll be buying that cheese platter to enjoy on a weekly basis. But the next time my sister wonders if she should serve one at a holiday gathering (hint, hint!), I’ll tell her to go ahead – without guilt.
In late middle age, I’ve come to a realization: Playdates are not just for children.
From the day my daughter was born, I lived my life according to her needs: Up by 7:00, race to daycare/school, get a few hours of work in or grab a coffee with the other moms, back for pick-up in the afternoon, then on to after school activities/shopping/meal prep. Day after day after day.
It was predictable. And comfortable. And it all changed four years ago: She went off to college – and I lost my moorings.
This is not one of those posts where I’m complaining about my suddenly empty nest. I’m proud of the fact that I raised a young adult who is taking care of herself, and we’ve found a nice balance. My husband and I find plenty to do together on weekends. We’re all good.
But I have had to figure out some new personal weekday rhythms.
With no reason to get up early, I often sleep in. Since I work at home, I don’t need to leave the house — so there are weeks when I go Monday through Friday without stepping outside to do more than get the mail or take out the trash. I have been known to do my grocery shopping online… because I can. If it weren’t for Facebook and Twitter and email, there are days when I’d have no interactions with the outside world at all.
By “Playdates” I Mean “Meeting for Coffee.” Or Cocktails.
So I now start each week combing my contacts and reaching out to local friends who might be amenable to meeting me for lunch or coffee or cocktails or dinner IRL.
And it occurs to me that this is a skill I developed 20 years ago, when I was anxious to set up playdates for my only child, so she wouldn’t grow up lonely and anti-social.
Only this time, the playdates are for ME. And they are absolutely necessary.
I’ve talked about this with a few of these friends, who are amused by the playdate analogy.
“But you and your husband are always going out and doing interesting things,” they tell me. They know this because I post the photos to Instagram and Facebook. But those activities take place on the weekend… and besides, we all know that we curate our social media feeds so that we only share the interesting stuff. If I posted what my life is really like, it would look something like this:
I could go on, but you get the picture. The highlight of the day comes at the end, when I realize my cat didn’t leave me any hairballs to clean.
My “playdates” on social media may look like just a picture of a coffee cup or martini glass, but they have given me laughter… connection… and sanity. And so I’m off to schedule a few more.
I won’t bore myself researching how many thousands, or millions, of people have diabetes, are overweight, have stress and anxiety, and other unhealthy diseases or conditions that are often avoidable by healthy living. I am becoming one of them.
It seems that while we have written so many words about healthy living and viewed hours and hours of more information about the topic, we are generally not a healthy society.
I’m in my 50’s and this is going to change for me now.
I have little discipline. Somehow I’m not even heavier and an alcoholic. I’ve never met a cheese I didn’t like and I do believe that champagne is the one beverage that is appropriate to consume any of the 24 hours in a day, 365 days a year. But I’ve gained a fair amount of weight since menopause and developed high blood pressure (which is improving).
I don’t play sports and I don’t enjoy gyms. I already have a dog, but don’t really enjoy walking him either (bad mom).
Yesterday was my 1st Day. I’m brought in my breakfast and lunch, to work and walked during lunch. I ate a modest dinner, early in the evening. Today I pretty much repeated the same routine. I’ll have to figure out a lot more if I’m going to be serious about all of this, but it’s a start.
In two days, I will be driving down to Los Angeles to attend BlogHer with my sister and youngest daughter. I’m really looking forward to it. During the drive, my dad will be joining me for the road trip and I’ll be dropping him off in Ojai to visit his old school buddy. I think they are friends from junior high. He’s so excited. But I’m a little concerned about the eating and drinking. There is a lot of it at this conference. Get a few thousand women together and they like to have fun.
I’ll have to be careful and balance it between my deep belief in making memories being so important to our happiness and the idea that I gotta get my shit together. I can make memories without all the calories and alcohol. Truth is, I’ll probably have more memories! Wish me luck.
The morning started with big intentions that ended with little results. Lack of motivation, some depression, same old same old. Saying it was a triple bad day is an exaggeration, but it felt that way.
That’s it. I’m done. I’m on my 50s and something has to change. I need to:
Learn how to tap into my creative side (if I have any left)
Boy, that all sounds overwhelming. “Get healthy” is a huge topic (I don’t know if I can use that word anymore.)
I have been pretty healthy, but I can’t help notice subtle changes in the way I move, my stamina, strength and balance. I don’t mind aging (not like I have a lot of choices) and really don’t feel as old as I am. But I know I’ll feel like a new person if I reboot, It’s time to: