Making New Habits

You know how you can be told something a million times, but it isn’t until you are ready that you really hear it? (I think that says something about teaching, and how a system that expects everyone to learn the same thing at the same time couldn’t possibly work.)  Well I heard a report on the internet from the CEO of Weight Watchers, on how he maintained his weight loss, and it suddenly clicked for me.  I’m only 59 and have been dealing with weight issues all my life — I guess I’m one of those people who take a reeeallly long time to learn my lessons…


I’ve been anxious about my weight since I was a teen, unfortunately, even when that was an absurd worry. I started drinking black coffee when I was fifteen, to have a snack with no calories, even though I didn’t really love it. But now when I look at pictures of myself as a young woman, I look really good!  I’d be proud to have such a great body now.  I’ve never been on the thin side, but have found that a little bit of weight kept me from getting sick as often, and felt comfortable.  A little bit of weight I say, not a lot.  However,  I’ve done what many other women have done, dieted, and exercised, and worried.  I lost many pounds through an old Redbook diet that was my go to when I wanted to lose weight (they had a great baked chicken crusted with mustard that was fantastic) , then with Weight Watchers.    They both worked.  But I hated how I had to put my whole being into the program in order to lose the weight.   I had to make it my work, concentrate on it day and night.  It was never easy.    The other half of the equation, exercise, has also been an uneven task for me.  Sometimes I get into it, joining a gym or playing raquetball, riding my bike or swimming, but often it was just more than I could manage.  The only thing I’ve ever been able to do consistently and actually love, is walk.  I could walk for hours and there was a time when I found I could eat anything I wanted and not gain a pound because I walked it all off.   That was when I broke my ribs on the bicycle and couldn’t do anything else but walk (and wanted to be out of the house as long as possible, because my partner at the time was extremely difficult to be around).   Unfortunately now, I can walk for about 45 minutes, sometimes an hour, but those days of hours and hours are gone.

So my friend said that although it takes only 6 days to make a habit, it takes 6 weeks to undo it. I’ve decided to use that to my advantage in both eating and exercising, and concentrate on making new habits, instead of worrying about getting rid of the bad ones.  My reasoning is that if I make enough good ones, there won’t be time or energy for the other unhealthy ones.  I also know that diets don’t really work in the long run, one has to make a change in eating as a lifestyle, and the perfect reason has presented itself to me! Prevention of any more cancer!

At the Present:

Now that I’m through the worst part of the bone marrow transplant, the chemo, and the cancer, I have done major research on what kinds of food are really really good for the body.  Not just one book or one magazine or one nutrition talk by an oncologist, but many.  And I’m really excited about the results, plus I have an incredibly supportive partner who will try anything that sounds like it will be good for us.  She never complains about my failures (just doesn’t eat them after the first try), doesn’t mind how food looks (you should see some of the blender concoctions I make!), and doesn’t expect traditional meals.  In fact, we never sit at a table and eat, as that’s hard on my back, so we are living room munchers, and both completely happy with that.

Back to that CEO, well, he said that he lives by his routines (both for food and exercise),  they eliminate the need for constant decision making, and free up his mental energy for other things he’d rather think about.  BINGO!  I’ve heard that from many places before, but am only now really understanding how that works.  I have a routine for my morning right now, which includes getting my dogs out for a long walk every day, and I know how well that works.  So now I’m going to do the same thing for my breakfast, my lunch, and the routine of riding the exercise bike (recommended by my spine surgeon), and doing pilates exercises, with the weekends to change it up if I want.  I am reminded that my dad has told me again and again that he fixes the same great, healthy breakfast of granola, fruit and nuts every day, that he absolutely loves more than any other meal.   Sarita is the same way, and because she’s a vocal “enjoyer” of her food, I know that she loves her same breakfast of miso, tofu and mushrooms every day of the work week.

So what I’ve learned about food in all my research, from the most important on is:

Organic, organic, organic!  We don’t care what the research says, as long as we can afford it, we’ll buy organic and know that there are that many fewer chemicals going in my body to stir up the cancer cells or do whatever other bad things they do.

Juice as often as we can.  We got a juicer several years ago, but forgot about it until we were recently reminded by my acupuncturist.  It turns out to be a wonderful way to use vegetables so that they won’t go to waste, plus it is the best sickness fighter we’ve come across.  If we get sick, it makes the duration short, and mostly we don’t get sick at all, and that’s saying something for someone with a low immune system who’s married to someone who spends all her days with children!  We almost always combine fruits and vegetables, but we just make up the mixtures as we go, and we’ve never disliked the juice we’ve made.

Eat raw food as much as possible.  I use the blender, food processor,and even the dehydrator for this, and have found a great recipe book by a teen brother and sister, which is my favorite among raw cookbooks.  I do feel like having warm and cooked food in the cold days of winter, but we still try to eat some raw every day, and we’ve learned to eat raw before cooked (we heard it was better).

Give up processed food,  white sugar and wheat as much as possible.  I am a sugar lover and I am a bread/cracker lover, but I find that when I eat them I also crave them, and tend to overeat.  So I’ve learned to use date sugar, maple syrup, and agave sparingly.  And I love to make bread, so I still do it once in a while for a treat, but I now buy spelt, rye, buckwheat, coconut, quinoa, amaranth, and brown rice flour, and make crackers and more dense breads most of the time.  Mixing them together gives me that wonderful feeling of being the kind of improvisational cook that I really am. (I can’t follow a recipe exactly if you paid me to, and I kind of like that about myself, although it does cause more recipe failures I suppose.)   Then we spread homemade tampenade, hummus, tahini, or other great things on them.

I’ve never been much of a meat eater, but meat has become a condiment, rather than the main course.  Even Sarita, the carnivore of my life, now finds herself getting tired of eating meat when we have too much of it.  We eat beans, chickpeas, (she eats fish, but I still don’t like it much), nuts and eggs, instead.

My breakfast is oatmeal and blueberries and kefir, with some green coffee for a treat.  My lunch is yogurt, nuts and a vegetable, crackers.  And for dinner we snack on veggies and meat, with chocolate, dried fruit,  or homemade ice cream (homemade with yogurt and half and half) for our dessert.  Easy.

Tea, cinnamon, dill, chia seeds, cardamom, turmeric, sweet potatoes, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and beets are favorite vegetables,  sprouts (Sarita makes them), pineapple or papaya (for digestion), nuts, dried fruit, bananas, dark chocolate, and fermented foods like yogurt,  kefir, tempeh, miso, and fermented veggies that I plan to make with the new pickl-it jars I ordered.  These are staples.  The simpler the preparation, the more we like it.  And we’re never hungry, frustrated, calorie or point counting or craving bad foods.  It’s a great way to live, and I’m absolutely sure I’m healthier than ever.  Why didn’t I do this sooner?   I don’t necessarily think it would have kept my cancer away, but I do know it would have helped my low energy, my depression, my constant sicknesses from school, my headaches I used to live with.  I know people told me that, my girlfriend from grad school showed me by living it, and I’m sure I must have read it as well.  But it took my own serious sickness (and even a year after the worst part) to really get it, and to feel the difference.


The thing I don’t like about weight watchers is that they have all these products that  you are encouraged to buy to snack on, that have just a few points.  And I’d buy them because I needed them to keep me from being hungry.  So the processed food increased, the tension about the weigh-in increased, the tricks for dieting became my main thoughts.  It was exhausting.


Of course my saved energy will be used for knitting, knitting and more knitting.  But who knows, I may branch out to other things, such as crocheting, increasing my walking stamina, and doing more projects with my grandson.  For whatever time I have left, I will definitely always enjoy eating, but I will also enjoy not worrying about it.  Now that’s living!


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