Wednesday, August 20, 2008

So, You Used to be Skinny

Many of us in our 40's and 50's long for bygone days when we were thin without even trying (too hard) to maintain our fit figure. What was different then? Why does it seem so difficult now to keep those extra pounds off? Some think weight gain just naturally comes with age, but I think a few other things need to be taken into consideration. What is different about your lifestyle now, compared to how you lived when you were in your 20's and early 30's. Consider these ideas:

1. When I was in my 20's I always ate at home. And sometimes a meal was a bowl of cereal. I didn't have the money to eat out in restaurants very often. At some point, eating out became a social event, a time of relaxation, a way of escaping cooking another meal at home. And when we eat out, we get all the calories that come with a restaurant meal: the bread while waiting for the main course; the large salad with the regular dressing (if the restaurant doesn't have the kind of diet dressing I like); sometimes an alcoholic beverage before or with the meal; the large portions we eat too much of; and the offer of a dessert tray. That can make a huge difference in our weight if we eat out a few times a week. It's about a thousand calories more than a bowl of cereal!

2. How easy is it to get food now compared to the way things were 20 or 30 years ago? I go grocery shopping two or three times a week now and I'm always sure to have great snacks available in the house. When I was in my 20's there might always be cereal around, but not always milk; there might be a box of stale cookies, but there just wasn't a huge variety of food to choose from in my pantry. Chances are, I took a look in my fridge, saw nothing tempting, and went off to finish the magazine I was reading and forgot about having a snack. How much food do you keep around you now that you have money available, go shopping frequently, and want to make sure there's a tasty treat around in case you want one?

3. How much do you exercise now compared to when you were younger? Didn't you always have time to go to the gym then? Now there always seems to be a reason why we're too busy to work out. I remember always having the energy to take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk to the other end of the mall instead of driving, ride my bike to a friend's house instead of taking the car. That way of life kept me burning more calories every day.

4. What do you do for entertainment now? Didn't we used to just hang out with friends, laughing, telling stories, playing cards or board games; maybe we went for a bike ride or a hike; lots of times we went out dancing. It seems now all our activities revolve around food! "Let's get together for dinner one night," we invite a friend. "Do you want to go out for ice cream?" we ask our spouse. Think about what you used to do for fun when you were younger (and thinner) compared to what you do now. We might have gone camping for vacation then, whereas we go cruising now--can you imagine the difference in calories we take in (and also the calories we burn) between those two different options?

I have concluded that weight gain is not inevitable simply because we age. Rather, we change habits that have kept us thinner, and our new habits are what causes us to gain weight. Think about what your lifestyle was like when you were a smaller size, and try to get back into some of those great old habits! Find some enjoyable activities that don't involve eating, and that do involve moving around a little bit more.

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