Janesville25.8°

Weight loss is attainable with a little effort, vigilance

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Catherine W. Idzerda
November 10, 2009
"Idzerda, the last thing you need is a burrito supreme."—Ken Veloskey, sports guy, commenting on his co-worker's choice of dinner

Ah, yes, it's good to have friends.


Kenny was right, of course.


Sometime last winter I reached 191 pounds. When you're 5-5, there's no place to put that much weight.


It had been creeping up on me, starting sometime in the late summer of 1997 when I was assigned to write stories for the Portage Daily Register's football tab. I was driving all over central Wisconsin interviewing smarty-pants high school football players who tried to convince me that their names were Bart Starr, Dorsey Levens or Mark Chmura.


"Who's stepping up this year coach?" I'd ask and then go to the drive-through at the Taco Bell and eat while driving with one hand on the steering wheel of my 1977 Ford Fiesta.


With Princeton, Reedsburg, Montello, Cambria, Westfield, Markesan and Cambria-Friesland left to do, there wasn't any time for the daily run and even less time to make a decent meal.


Two years later, I started work in Janesville at 165 pounds, and over the course of the next 10 years I stopped running all together, and my pants size got distressingly larger—14 … 16 … an extra tight 16 … an even tighter 16 … and finally, sometime last March, a comfortable 18 and along with it, an admission of fatness.


I know, I know, TMI.


Nobody wants to know how chunky the Gazette's general assignment reporter is. You're embarrassed, I'm embarrassed, and the whole thing's humiliating.


Here's why I'm sharing this with you: I know there are lots of women out there who find themselves in the same demoralizing spot.


We're not the women we used to be, and we're not happy about it.


I used to do triathlons. Now, I get winded walking up the driveway.


I've recently discovered the secret to weight loss, and I'm pleased to say it doesn't require strength of character or some kind of complicated formula involving grapefruits and carbohydrates, or loss of Oreo cookie privileges.


To lose weight—brace yourself—you need to eat less and be more active.


It's not rocket science no matter what those ads on television or in women's magazines tell you.


I know this because I read it in a book called, "Mayo Clinic: Healthy Weight for Everybody," a book I find rational and reassuring.


I also know this because Cynthia Stenavich, Dean registered dietitian, told me.


"So often the purveyors of fad diets make it seem like there's some mystery, some magic to losing weight, and people feel like it's out of their control," said Stenavich.


Yes, I've felt that way.


"Very often, there's so much judgment that's put on weight, it feels like a moral issue," she said. "People feel like, ‘There's something wrong with me, I can't do this.'"


It doesn't help that people try to change all their habits all at once. By day No. 3 of those diets, they're rummaging around in your desk drawer, hoping to find a couple of candy Sprees.


Usually people come to Stenavich after they've had a "wake-up moment."


"They can't get through the turnstiles at a Brewers game, or maybe they don't want to buy clothes in the woman's section, or maybe their blood sugar is in the diabetic range," Stenavich said.


Or maybe they're on a 13-day trip to Italy and they see only 10 people fatter than they are, and they're all Americans. Or maybe their score on the body mass index (BMI) is in the obese range.


Obese—it's like being hit it the head with a mallet.


Stenavich starts by having people write down everything they eat so they can "discern for themselves where those calories are coming from."


Sometimes, they come from surprising places, such as the daily cappuccino or the pile of Tater Tots eaten with 10 p.m. version of the "News Hour with Jim Lehrer."


After that, there are all kinds of different approaches to getting people started on their weight-loss journey.


Stenavich asks people to concentrate on a few manageable strategies.


"We want to pick the fewest things a person can do to make a difference," Stenavich said.


Tater Tots become Triscuits. A candy bar becomes a Luna bar, a sweet treat without the calories and fat.


Here's another tip: Concentrate on today and tomorrow.


People tend to "back off on making changes" if they see life stretching before them without the benefit of Chex Mix, molasses cookies and any cheese with a high cream content. Not to mention the eternity of exercising.


"It's too much of a burden to think about all of that," Stenavich said.


Here's what happens: Once you gain a little momentum, once you have a few small victories, your attitude evolves.


That daily walk, which at first made me feel like an old lady, is now something I look forward to. The other day, I actually broke out into a jog.


And here's yet another tip: "Life always changes, something always throws you for a loop," Stenavich said.


Don't let those the road bumps deter you—unless, of course, you're jogging.


I lost 15 pounds in a hurry in August and September. The garden was full of produce, and I could eat tomatoes right off the vine.


In October, the produce was gone, and I was back to rummaging through the cupboards for something to eat: Noodles with butter? Tuna with mayo? Brownie mix?


Yup, some of those pounds came back.


I'm undeterred. In Wisconsin, 31 percent of us fall into the obese category.


I don't want to be one of them.


I don't think I'll be the woman I used to be. I think I'll be somebody better.


When I reach my goal, I'm going to take my buddy Ken Veloskey out to dinner at Taco Bell.


Burrito supreme, please.



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