Tuesday, January 10, 2012

HOW I LOST 150 POUNDS IN 30 YEARS: The Second dieting Decade

“I am going to lose so much weight it will take me five years to gain it back.” ~Rush Limbaugh

I heard him say this while listening to his radio show a couple of years ago. He was talking about having started the “low-carb” diet again.

I have now eaten myself into the “I weigh more than I want to” zone once again.

It takes me ten years, not five, to get back to reality. And, the good news is that I have never blossomed up to the 185 I weighed when I first went on the diet.

Overconfidence, not Mexican food is the culprit. When I feel good, I eat. When I feel bad, I eat to feel good. It’s a vicious cycle. OK, it’s an emotional response. The psychologists can ramble all day long about what makes us eat what we eat.

I am very opinionated about it. I like to eat fat. It’s in our DNA. The fast food hamburger restaurants didn’t get rich serving “spring greens” for heaven’s sake.

Whatever it is, my second dieting decade was a result of moving to the mountains and the food associated with feeling warm and cozy.

Living in the White Mountains of Arizona is healthy, especially living in a town like Greer. The air is clean because it is hundreds of miles from a large city and you are “in heaven” at 8500’ elevation.

Our water is the snowmelt from Mt. Baldy, the peak that rises above Sunrise Park Ski Resort. It seeps into the ground and comes straight across the Apache reservation land and the forest with nothing in between to contaminate it. Gravity brings the water into our home without the aid of a city water company or electricity.

There are four seasons. A wood fire is usually burning. Yes, even in the summer when the monsoon summer rains come to the mountains it can be chilly.

Of course, comfort food cooking is also nourishing to the senses and the soul. Eating it is a highly prized activity. Our table in Greer was always filled with food and people.

Pappy's Diner on Main Street in Greer, Arizona
A few steps from our front door was Pappy’s Diner. He opened at 5:30 AM every day of the year.

A few steps from the front door the other direction were The Golden Horseshoe Stables. HD and Rica worked there for tips with a few “summer” kids taking dudes on trail rides. They spent many summer rainy days in the wrangler shack listening to tall tales and learning from the cowboys how to play Dominos.

The Golden Horseshoe Stables on Main Street in Greer, Arizona

The children and I would go to the diner for breakfast or lunch pretty often. It was entertaining to stop by and see what the townsfolk were up to, always being greeted by Pappy’s 3-legged dog, Bear.

Yep! That's Pappy getting ready to cook up some steaks for the nightly cook-out on Main Street.

Now and then a tourist would stop by to get a sense of the local “color”. They could easily be “put off” from ordering breakfast when they saw Pappy smoking while cooking, ashes from his cigarette dropping into the skillet.

The chairs were tree stumps and the table was a counter. There were today’s and yesterday’s and last Sunday’s newspapers sitting around in case you didn’t have anyone to talk to.

Right to left, Dad, Mom and Millie sitting on stumps in Pappy's Diner

We locals thought we were “gritty” and would show off for the tourists as we ordered biscuits and gravy, eggs, pancakes, fried potatoes with onions, bacon, and sausage, all cooked on the same grill where, accidentally, of course, Pappy’s cigarette ashes had dropped into the mix.

HD and Rica had friends from town spend the night often. It was always a treat for them to go to Pappy’s for breakfast on their own.

One weekend, Rica had a couple of friends spend the night. The girls went to the diner for breakfast the next morning. They ordered the big country breakfast: Eggs, bacon or sausage, fried potatoes and toast with butter and jelly.

Pappy brought the plates to the table and all seemed well. Everyone was ready to “dig in” and enjoy. Then they noticed Kate’s plate. It was different.

She sat there shyly staring at it.

Her plate had two fresh, unbroken eggs, two frozen sausage links, one unpeeled cold potato and a piece of bread untoasted.

Pappy heard the ruckus and laughter coming from the dining room. He poked his head out from the kitchen, and, with a big smile, came to the table. “Is something wrong?” he queried.

He did bring Kate a cooked breakfast but the “joke” provided a cozy “forever” memory.

Pappy would also cook a hamburger for me for breakfast. Most restaurants make you wait until they’ve cleaned the grill after breakfast because they won’t mix hamburger grease with the grease from cooking bacon and sausage. In this case, the same grill was also used for cooking eggs and pancakes. Yum.

My parents and their friends came from Illinois to Greer to visit (check on us) shortly after we moved there. They loved Pappy’s, the Lee Valley Mercantile and Molly Butler’s.

John, the wrangler, and Dad leaving on their trail ride
John, one of the wranglers from the stables, took my dad on a trail ride in the mountains. John would always tell the unsuspecting “dude” that he spotted fresh bear scat nearby and they would have to be very quiet so that the bear didn’t spook the horses. Dad had such a wonderful afternoon with John. He was rosy cheeked and beaming when he came back to the cabin.


John, the wrangler, after he made the big time.

Boyce with HD, Anna, and Rica
I invited Archie, the cowboy poet, John, the wrangler, and old Boyce, the horse trainer, to come for dinner to entertain the folks. They had a grand time and laughed so much. And, the cowboys got a home-cooked meal.

This visit would be the last time I saw my dad alive. I had no idea he was so sick. Now when I look at the pictures of him then, I can see how weak he looked.

Just before they left town, Dad stopped by the real estate office and sat down at my desk. He looked at me, took a deep breath, and said, “Janet, if you can manage to make a living in this beautiful little town and find happiness here, you will have fulfilled every dream I could ever have for you and your children.”

Mountain comfort food is the same as comfort food anywhere but I learned to cook a couple of new things after moving there. Biscuits and sausage gravy and Posse Stew come to mind.
This second decade of eating and enjoying the mountain cuisine was coming to an end; I started wearing very large tent-like dresses to my teaching job and I could barely climb the stairs to my classroom without huffing and puffing. The jeans had gone to the back of the closet in exchange for sweat pants as my weekend attire.  I had quit weighing myself.

Summer was coming. I needed to be able to climb mountains to show real estate to customers, I wanted to hike the trails around Greer with my friends; I wanted to feel healthy and energetic.

Enough is enough!!

I bought a scale and lots of eggs. I weighed 170.

I retrieved my jeans from the back of the closet. I started walking to the end of the road and back along the river almost daily, I planned some hiking vacations, I planted a garden and I enjoyed feeling healthy again.

I instructed Pappy to “hold the bun” and had only steak and salad at Molly Butler’s.

I was ready for miracles!

This time I lost 45 pounds.


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