Daily Archives: September 8, 2017

Irma and The Craziest Diet of All

Hello, all, and welcome to the wonderful world of hurricane prep.

Since we first learned of Irma–was it just a week or so ago?–things have gone crazy on TV and the Internet, with dire warnings to ‘take this seriously’ and ‘get out if you can’. Here in the Charleston area, water is scarce, there are lines to get gas, and you can’t find a D battery (for flashlights) anywhere in town. School has been cancelled from today through Tuesday.

Despite all this, I’ve chosen to stay and ride it out. According to the latest tracks I’ve been following on http://www.weather.com, by the time it gets to us, the storm will be a Cat 1 at most, and might be down to a tropical storm. Hell, it’s not even worth getting out of bed for a tropical storm.

In the last 2 years, I’ve ridden out the 1000-year flood (which devastated parts of South Carolina, and guess which area got the highest amount of rainfall? Yup, Mount Pleasant, which I call home–27 inches.) I can remember the entertainment value of watching the Clemson-Notre Dame game (which they play about once every 30 years, so it was a big deal), played at Death Valley. (I had more than a passing interest in this, as both my sons were there, attending the game. ) You could literally SEE the rain pouring down as they played, but they got through it. (My younger son, when he got back to his brother’s apartment, stripped off his clothes and told his brother to throw them out; they were too waterlogged to bother washing. He also put in an immediate request for duck boots, which has stood him in good stead during storms in the last year.)

We also rode out Matthew last year, and aside from losing power for a half hour and being basically pretty bored for about 8 hours (I’m not a television freak, so there wasn’t a lot for me to do), nothing else that was bad happened to us. I had thought we might have a tree come down on my car, but we only had a few branches scattered around in the aftermath. And once it was over, we dried out and moved on pretty quickly. (I realize this wasn’t the case with everyone affected by Matthew;  I’m well aware that we were very lucky.)

So with four flashlights ready to go, candles, bottled water (3 cases), plenty of junk food (in case we lose power) , cash from the ATM and my car full of gas (in case it turns out the models were wrong), I think I’m all set for Irma. Will report on my experience with THAT next week. But all my life I’ve been very lucky with weather, so why shouldn’t it be the case now, as well?

Meanwhile, I’ve begun a new program–well, a new OLD program–which I’ve known about for 30 years and which, unfortunately, I never took seriously enough when I was younger to try out. And this one is way more important than weather, because it affects my health.

Most of you who know me, know I’ve been very frustrated about my weight, for quite a few years. Since moving down to Mount Pleasant, I’ve gradually put on more and more poundage, until I hardly recognize myself, and even worse, I suffered a minor stroke last November, which I’m convinced is the result of my weight issues. In fact, I’m pretty certain that virtually EVERY health issue I face right now is the result of uncontrolled weight gain.

BUT… finding a program I could do FOREVER has been a challenge. I’ve explored a lot of options, including a return to Weight Watchers (which has become more restrictive, though also, I think, a lot healthier), programs offered through local doctors, and things that involve behavior modification, like eating in a five-hour window and at no other time.

At this point in my life, I’m not willing to do anything that’s difficult, complicated or too restrictive. I had lost 35 pounds 9 years ago with Weight Watchers (on an older version of the program), but that program, for all intents and purposes, no longer exists. They’ve added things such as unrestricted fruits and lessened the point values for protein (they want you eating lots of protein), but have also heavily weighted a lot of foods I used to eat on the program, with tons of extra points since they’re carb-heavy. And the doctors’ programs more often asked me to give up things like gluten and sweets (forever) and almost everything I eat now, to eat organic fruits and meats (which I have no objection to doing) and essentially, learn to like stuff that there’s no way I’ll ever enjoy.

The result is that I’ve been unable to COMMIT and STICK TO any program for any length of time. I knew that I needed something that would allow me to eat A LOT and feel good about it, that would give me a chance to correct myself when I went off the reservation, and something simple enough that I could do it now and do it FOREVER and not have any concerns, while I was staying healthy.

Then a few weeks ago, while I was brooding over (non) weight loss in a Weight Watchers meeting, one of the people there was talking about eating pineapple, and someone else said, “But you don’t get the bromelin in the pineapple by eating it that way.”

And a light bulb went off in my head.

Thirty years ago, I had read THE BEVERLY HILLS DIET and been fascinated by the idea of food combining in order to promote proper digestion, which many people believe facilitates good health. The idea, which led to a #1 bestseller in 1981, is to begin your day with an enzymatic fruit: pineapple, papaya, mango, kiwi, strawberries and others. The fruits have marvelous properties in their enzymes which allow you to eat and lose weight, because they aid in proper digestion.

The other most important rule is NEVER to combine protein and carbohydrates, though you CAN combine protein and fat, or carbohydrates and fat (which means you can have oil on your salads, or dip your bread in olive oil). The reason for that is the enzymes needed to digest protein and carbs do not mix well; they tend to fight each other, resulting in awful digestion and eventually, disease and certainly, fat.

I had read this with great interest 30 years ago and even tried it half-heartedly. (The program began with 42 days of, pretty much, nothing but fruit.) You HAD to eat pineapple and papaya and mango, and give up EVERYTHING ELSE (though Judy Mazel, who created the program, swears she will only ask you to give up two things FOREVER: diet sodas and artificial sweeteners, because they can’t be digested at all). I actually decided to eat strawberries instead of pineapple (they also have bromelin, just not as much), and found after trying it that I couldn’t handle it, and gave it up. (Here’s the good news: I did eventually lose all the weight I wanted to–in my 20’s–and remained a size 5 for six years. But I didn’t give up junk food or learn to eat better–I kept all my bad habits intact. Still, I kept my weight down, until my late 30’s, when I had my first pregnancy. That’s when things went crazy.)

I keep a shelf full of diet books in my library (I admit I love re-reading them, because however good or bad the diets are, they’re all written with enormous optimism:  they give you hope that you can change). I went in and dug out THE BEVERLY HILLS DIET and re-read it. And then I did what I had never done when I first read the book (because I couldn’t at the time): I went on the Internet to check it out.

I learned that Judy Mazel had, alas, died in 2007 (likely from a stroke). I learned that she had in 1997 published THE NEW BEVERLY HILLS DIET, a modified version of her great program, and immediately ordered it, to see what was different about the new program. And I began to think seriously about adopting food combining as a way of life: With no food restrictions or portion control, and no food I can’t eat, as long as I plan for it–I can do this. 

The new book finally arrived, and I dug into it. The new plan was FAR less restrictive than the old one: in fact, she introduced foods beyond fruit ON THE FIRST DAY, which I found to be much easier to handle. There were several days where you could go off on your own (to prepare you for the lifetime version) and foods like pasta, popcorn, steak and shrimp in a 35-day ‘starter’ program that promised to knock pounds off you. (And if the testimonials in her book are any indication, they do–10-20 pounds in those first 35 days.)

I decided to commit to this way of life FOREVER (which means giving up my beloved Diet Cokes, though I CAN have champagne even while eating fruit, and I love it partially because it’s carbonated). And I interviewed my local produce guy, who explained how to eat a papaya and showed me where to find figs and cut-up pineapple. I spent a small fortune buying cut pineapple, strawberries, grapes, figs and apricots (full of potassium–very good for you) and this past Tuesday (because I always start a diet on Monday, and this past Monday was Labor Day), I began.

Does it work? I didn’t love eating the pineapple, but I did, all day Monday, until I got to make and eat a big salad and corn on the cob. Tuesday, I decided to skip the 8 ounces of prunes (which I loathe) and eat figs instead. After one fig, I decided I really couldn’t like them. So I went to the strawberries (after waiting an hour, as directed) and that night, I had 1 1/2 baked potatoes with butter and black pepper. (I’ll admit I dusted a little salt over the potatoes when it seemed just too dull.)

Day 3 was simple. I ate green grapes (which I love) all day long. Drank plenty of water.

Today, Day 4, is dried apricots (which I don’t like at all, but maybe that potassium is worth it) and salad and for dinner, PASTA. I’m so excited about this!

I’ve had no issues doing this, apart from one or two moments of longing, and am even prepared to do this when we’re in the middle of Irma (I’ll make sure to have enough fruit on hand!) I can have shrimp and steak on Sunday, but it’ll have to be early, because it’s supposed to start raining early in the evening.

In three days, I’ve lost more than 5 pounds. I’ve eaten my tablespoons of sesame seeds (required) every night. I haven’t taken a single antacid tablet (usually something I take every day), and I’ve slept really well (must be the calcium in the sesame seeds). I have more energy (no doubt because I’m digesting properly–FINALLY), I haven’t had a Diet Coke in four days–haven’t missed it–and I’m feeling very optimistic about the rest of the program.

Will it work forever? I don’t know. But for now, it’s working. And if I have to modify during Irma (ie, eat fruit early and then combine properly for the rest of the day after that), I will.

Be safe from Irma, everyone!!