Monday, July 30, 2012

For the past year or so I've been practicing clean eating.  Clean eating (by my definition) is following a whole and unprocessed (or minimally processed) and mostly organic diet.  My reasons for doing this is to heal my body of any inflammation or disease that may be occurring and to lose the 10 extra pounds I've been carrying around since I quit smoking and went through menopause.  I think I am successful at least 80% of the time!  So the question remains - has it made any difference?

I don't honestly know.  I just had a physical and blood work done and everything is just great.  Other than age related arthritis and work related repetitive strain injuries I am perfectly healthy and disease free and I'm not on any medications.  So why don't I feel like a million bucks?   I've read that it takes awhile to rid your body from years of accumulated toxins and that it can make you feel ill as this happens.  I don't know if there is any truth in that but it could be a possibility.  Maybe I just expect too much.

I haven't lost that 10 lbs. but on the other hand, I haven't gained any weight either and I get to eat lots of food!  It is hard to fit 10 servings of fruits and vegetables in a day as well as protein and grain products.  It really is a lot of food.  Times when I do slip up and have something not so good (like potato chips or bought cookies) I don't feel very satisfied and find myself looking for something else to snack on.  I can see how a calorie dense, over processed diet can lead to over eating and weight gain.

In the last year I've started eating a lot of new foods that I would have never thought to try or that I would enjoy.  I read somewhere that  a taste bud has a lifespan of about ten days and you have anywhere from 2,000 to 10,000 of them so after a couple of months it is possible for your tastes to change.  After eating this way now for so long I have found that I no longer enjoy the sweet, salty or fatty foods I used to and that's a good thing!  So just remember this when trying new foods and give them a couple of try's before you write them off.

I think the sad truth is that for most women my age and older it is a battle just to prevent weight gain let alone take some off.  Our bodies were designed to store weight, especially around the middle, for lean times and for childbearing.  We needed those stored calories and additional calories to get us through pregnancies, childbirth and breast-feeding.  (And let's not forget all the running around after our kids and husbands!)   By the time we hit menopause we've already lost the war against gravity, and the loss of hormones has caused us to lose muscle mass so what little muscle we have left sags.  It's not a pretty picture and a good case for full-body spanx! (Spanx is like spandex on steroids) As we age our metabolism slows down.  It's this loss of muscle and slower metabolism that keeps us from losing weight and calorie-restriction is not the answer.  Restricting calories can actually cause us to lose muscle and loss of muscle causes slower metabolism - it's a vicious cycle.

The obvious solution is to increase your muscle and thereby increase your metabolism.  Aerobic exercise is great for many reasons but in addition to this, strength/resistance training is needed.  The aerobics will get the blood and heart moving and will burn calories but resistance training will build muscle and the more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism will be.  People with a high muscle mass burn more calories just sitting than someone with a low muscle mass.  Alternate between these two types of exercise - maybe brisk walking or cycling one day and weight lifting the next.  I kid you not!  I'm not telling you to go out and join a gym or buy a Bowflex although both are excellent ideas if you are seriously going to make use of them.  You can buy a set of hand weights relatively cheap or even fashion a set with what you have on hand  (a water bottle filled with sand or a can of soup come to mind) and do a search online for muscle building exercises..  Before engaging in any exercise program it would be wise to first consult with a physician. 

I realize that some people have physical limitations to what they can do and it is important for them to start gently with exercise.  Some communities offer aquatic exercise programs as well as tai chi and yoga.  What's great about yoga is that you only have to go as far into a pose as your body will allow without causing injury, and it still benefits you!  You will also find that with time your flexibility improves and you can go further into the pose.  Yoga is something you can practice in the privacy of your own home but I would recommend starting out with an instructor who can correct your pose/alignment while you learn.  It's a gentle way to strengthen your muscles.

I think I'm going to have to break down and start using that dang Bowflex I bought last winter that's just sitting in my storage room if I'm ever going to lose that 10 lbs. !  I'll have to let  you know how that goes.


  1. I wish I only had ten pounds to lose. I think I have ten pounds to lose for every diet I have ever been on in my lifetime! (which amounts to a lot actually! I've been constantly on one diet or another for the past 24 years!) I keep trying though and I guess that's what counts! Love you! xxoo

  2. Hi, I just found your blog via your sister's blog (that I read ALL the time!)The English Kitchen. I love the posts I've read so far here, much of what you've written about I also am trying to do. Eat cleaner, fresher etc. and exercise. I've always been thin and keep balanced pretty well with my weight, but yes menopause does some strange things! I've lost a lot of muscle tone in the middle because I have much low back trouble so it's hard to do those situps! Actually I don't any more. Walking is a good thing for me.

    You mentioned having trouble losing weight though eating healthy. I'd really just focus on getting more aerobic exercise and cut back a tiny bit on the amount of food your eating. Even healthy food has calories! Make sure you don't eat at least two hours before bedtime and cut down on the amount you eat in the evening. I bet you'd see a difference.

    Great Blog, can't wait to read more,