I just lost 30 pounds.
Well, not just and certainly not alone. Weight Watchers and tai chi are my co-conspirators in virtue.
The scale read 151.5 pounds at my first weigh-in on Jan. 20, 2011. Im only 5-foot-1 (I used to be taller) and was about to have my 73rd birthday. (I used to be younger.) All in all, pretty grim.
Inspired by the magnificent Jennifer Hudson and her remarkable transformation, I decided I wanted to be her. Not like her, but her. Not easy when you are a white little old lady who cant carry a tune. Nevertheless, I wanted the magic. And the only way to get that magic was to go to see the Wizard, the Weight Watchers Wizard.
And so I did. But my first meeting was disastrous. I was hot. I was late. I was cranky. What could they possibly teach me? Im an expert.
Well, I really am. I have a Grand Diplome from the Cordon Bleu in Paris that says so. Besides, traveling for me had always been about food food is culture and I ate my way through Europe (several times), the Middle East and East Asia.
To make matters more challenging, I have been a freelance food writer for more than two decades, and was a restaurant critic and food columnist for this very newspaper. It was clear that poached chicken breast and steamed broccoli werent going to do it for me.
Enter my own personal Wizard in the charming form of Ilien Hechtman, my group leader. She read me at once; she sensed my defiance and handled me. She thought I would do better in a small group, and she was right.
The first thing I learned, after my opening salvo of But I dont eat that much (everyones famous first words) was that the word sauté is just another word for frying (I knew that). And I learned that my standard salad, a (very) small handful of spring greens, was just too insignificant to count.
Then, under Iliens tutelage, I learned the Weight Watchers system: a sort of bank account from which you deduct the point values of the foods you eat. (And accrue points for exercise.)
Then the magic began to happen. I started using the oil sprays, just misting the nonstick pans, and my salads grew to fill the whole salad bowl and became a lot more interesting.
One of the best take-aways was Iliens zero-points Magic Soup, just a bag of sliced frozen carrots or any other vegetable you like cooked in broth. I perked it up with slices of fresh ginger (which has the added benefit of being anti-inflammatory), whiz the whole thing together in the blender and always keep some in the fridge. It turns out I didnt have to eat bland food at all.
What worked best for me was the 80-20 rule: 80 percent power foods fruits and vegetables and 20 percent everything else. And lets not forget portion control: I knew that, but I hadnt been paying attention.
Ilien reminded me of other self-evident truths things I have known all my life:
• Dont eat when you are hungry, nonsensical as that may sound. If you have a healthy snack between meals (this is where Iliens Magic Soup comes in) and dont come to the table famished, you are much less likely to overeat.
• Be prepared. If you have something readymade in the fridge, you are less likely to make bad choices. It makes it easier, too, to take a healthy snack or lunch with you. Youll save money as well as calories.