I saw the light

An article on Page 1 of today’s Active Style section of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette immediately made me think of my very first column that ran across the bottom of the very first edition of the section’s predecessor, which was called “Health & Fitness.”

The article today is about whether skipping breakfast is a “good weight-loss strategy.” My column stated that diets don’t work and told how I saw the light after years of skewed thinking on the subject.

If you go on a diet, you go off a diet. Most people return to their previous eating habits and all that was lost is lost – i.e., gained back. That’s what I wrote in 1999? 2000? Whenever.

It’s still true, at least for me. You have to change your eating and exercise habits, which I did after watching Daddy die an excruciating death caused by colon cancer when he was 48 and I was 26.

And you have to stick with your changed habits forever.

For me it was about health – I’d been slim since losing my baby fat, as in pregnancy weight and full-faced youthful roundness (and was actually skinny, after the stress of my father’s 18-month illness and death).

At some point I threw our scale out and focused on eating healthy food in amounts that satisfied me, but also eating whatever I wanted in those smaller amounts. Beating cancer, while looking good, of course (I’m still a product of the mid-century South), was the real goal.

I remember well – and this speaks volumes about eating, girls and appearance, at least in our household and many others of the ’60s and ’70s – an episode of That Girl, one of my favorite TV shows when I was 11 and 12, in which Marlo Thomas’ character, Ann Marie, describes her daily weight regimen.

Marlo Thomas as "That Girl." Lots of us wanted to be her in the late 1960s.

Marlo Thomas as “That Girl.” Lots of us wanted to be her in the late 1960s.

I’m paraphrasing (I can’t find the clip), but it was something like, “Every morning I weigh. If my weight is [some crazy low number like 104 – which I might have weighed at 11 or 12], I have breakfast. If I weigh [1-pound heavier], I skip breakfast.”

Is it pathological that I remember that so well? Maybe.

Back to the article today – sort of – which spurred this train of thought. Breakfast played a large part in my change of habits. I’d stopped eating in the mornings when Mother stopped forcing me, sometime in my teens. I also thought I was fat as an adolescent (which I wasn’t, as you’ve seen in old pics if you’re a regular reader) and danced around an eating disorder in my late teens.

But in my later 20s I started eating breakfast almost every day – unless I’m not hungry at all or know I’ll be eating a huge early meal, like on a holiday. It all evens out.

For years it was high-fiber cereal with yogurt, but a few years back I realized I needed more fat in my diet – yes, we need some – and switched to Daddy’s go-to favorite breakfast (my version, anyway): crunchy peanut butter and raisins on whole-grain toast.

I fold it over into a little sandwich so I can walk around the house or work the crossword puzzle while I eat it – or take it with me and eat in the car if I’m running late.

And I eat some good dark chocolate every day.

EVERY day, unless something is bad wrong with me. I also remember well advice from former Arkansas Governor and Senator David Pryor’s mother that every meal, even breakfast, should end with a piece of chocolate. (Or something like that. Again, I’m paraphrasing.)

Oh, and in all honesty, I weigh daily on our Wii Fit. If my weight is up a pound or two, I figure it will go down. If it stays up for two or three days, I automatically eat a bit less and/or exercise more. But I don’t diet.

Because that doesn’t work.

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