Friday, December 09, 2011

Why We Should Not Legalize Prostitution

I'm taking a detour today and talking about something serious. I began reading this article and couldn't stop. This is something we should all think about.

Ten Reasons for Not Legalizing Prostitution

http://apneaap.org/policy-work/external-report-docs/discussion-focus

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

PAN AM PURSES: HIGH-TIME ADVENTURE IN OUR OWN LITTLE WORLD







PAN AM PURSES: HIGH-TIME ADVENTURE IN OUR OWN LITTLE WORLD

I’ve decided to become a jet-setter!

With my new retro Pan Am bags, I’m traveling in style. No matter what exotic location I’m off to—the grocery store, garage sales, a visit to the grandkids, a dental cleaning or Home Depot—I’m prepared to take on the world. Or at least look cool running errands.

Seriously, these new repro Pan Am purses are so fun! I discovered them while surfing online for information about the new ABC series “Pan Am”. Based on the lives of an early 60’s flight crew, the show has kept me captivated, especially the stewardess uniforms and their classy retro fashions when the gals are off duty. I did inherit some vintage purses and gloves from my mom, but when I saw that you could actually buy handbags embossed with that iconic Pan Am logo, I just had to have one.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t that easy. It was no trouble paying for one of these cute little accessories, but as far as actually holding one in my hands, well, they were all sold out. I guess many others had the same idea as me. So I sat on waiting lists and after a few weeks I finally received two of the “Mini-Explorers”—one white and one blue—for use as everyday purses. Before that, I purchased a blue Malay bag from a seller on eBay, who delivered it to me within two days. This rectangular, cross-body bag is beautiful and functional, and tided me over until my other purses arrived. I’m still expecting an “Innovator” tote in light baby blue, which I learned was back-ordered after I had already paid for it.

Made of durable PU with embossed Pan Am logo zipper pulls and pretty printed lining, these bags aren’t super-expensive, yet they aren’t ready-to-fall apart pieces of junk, either. They’re just nice, well-made purses that I think will last a long time if you take care of them. I learned that they actually were first produced a few years ago in a limited edition by designer Marc Jacobs, who has his name in large letters on the merchandise (which I’m not crazy about). You can still find these on eBay. And now many online stores carry the new repro bags, including the official Pan Am Brands site which offers a variety of other items, from carry-on luggage to passport covers to shirts and belts. Besides their classic style, what also attracted me was the name recognition and nostalgia—seeing that familiar Pan Am globe from pictures and TV clips of JFK, the Beatles and others holding their flight bags which were presented to first class passengers, the Beatles being interviewed on their arrival to America with the Pan Am globe on the wall behind them, etc. It just brings a smile to many people’s faces when they see that blue ball, whether or not they actually flew the airline.

A cultural icon, Pan Am World Airways was the largest international air carrier in America for over 50 years until its collapse in 1991. But I sure never experienced it. I’ve only been on a plane twice—first on my honeymoon in the late 70’s and then with the kids on vacation in the mid-80’s, and both times to Disney World. It was fun but not particularly elegant. My daughter-in-law Connie, however, was privileged to board Pan Am planes as a child in the 80’s when she flew to Denmark and back with her family for her father’s job. Although she was only six or seven years old, the trips left an impression.

“You’re right in the image of glamour,” she remembers. “We had to look nice and be clean—not Sunday best, but nice slacks and shirts, and be well-behaved. It was a grown-up affair verses other planes we flew on. We got real glasses, not plastic. But there was no soda pop, and Mom had to pack peanut butter and jelly sandwiches because there was nothing for kids to eat. It was hard to go that long without any kid-friendly food.”

Children did get little wings, however, and even were allowed to visit the cockpit. And the stewardesses were very kind, with “immaculate hair and makeup,” she recalls.

Like me, eBay seller Ashley from California also has never flown Pan Am, but is intrigued by recollections from her mother who came to the United States in 1971 from Nicaragua.

“Her father died when she was very young, so she grew up impoverished,” Ashley said. “When she was 18, a family she worked for arranged for her to work for them here in Los Angeles. Her very first luxurious experience was that Pan Am flight departing Nicaragua for the United States of America. She has told me how amazing it felt, because flying was such a luxury that she had witnessed but never experienced herself. She said the people on the flight were all dressed up—her favorite part. And she tends to remind us of this when she sees us wearing sweats or yoga pants on our plane trips.”

Unfortunately her mother no longer flies, “but she lives through our travels now, and the Pan Am show,” Ashley adds.

Indeed, Ashley loves both the bags and the show, and travels quite a bit. She knew about the Marc Jacobs items but at the time they were too expensive so she passed. Then she saw pictures online of the new repro bags and fell in love. She now has a Mini-Explorer, its larger overnight partner the original Explorer, and the Secret Agent bag for her laptop, with plans to purchase the passport cover, globe accessory case and a wash bag. She has received many compliments and even offers from fellow travelers. She loves carrying the Mini-Explorer, but admits it is not perfect.

“I use it every day,” she says. “I am super picky about purses; I probably buy one new purse a year and end up going back to my usual Guess purse anyway. So I wish there was a Pan Am bag suited to my exact liking—softer handles, softer exterior, longer handle drops, and medium sized. However, the bags have been quite the conversation sparkers so I’ll keep using them even if they can be hard to carry at times.”

I agree the bags do have their weak points, but the strong points are so worth it! I just love the look of them—they’re sleek and classy looking, even though they’re not high-quality designer leather Coach or Gucci or Juicy Couture bags which I don’t have any of anyway! But they really are stylish, and most of all just “different.” They’re not the same old usual thing you see all over the place. Kinda like my Fuzzy Nation dog purses (see blog article below).

Blogger “Danderma” has plans to buy a blue Orion bag.

“I began noticing this travel bag held by the plane stewardesses as they walked around the airport,” said Danderma, a fan of the TV show. “I thought to myself, ‘It looks so retro and lovely and would make a great travel companion. Lo and behold I went online and there it was!’”

The Orion was given to first class passengers, she explains on her blog.

“Being seen holding a Pan Am bag was actually very in style and dictated the holder of belonging to a certain class. I am going to be brandishing one proudly the next time I go on an airplane.”

Even the actual vintage Pan Am merchandise is highly collectible. Just look on eBay and you’ll see all kinds of auctions for old beat-up (or “well-loved”) Pan Am bags and other items. If I ever spot one at a garage sale, I’m going to snag it! And when it comes to costumes, nothing beats going as a Pan Am stewardess. I’ve seen homemade, thrown-together outfits sell for enormous amounts on eBay, all for women who want to portray that glamorous image at a Halloween party. I love the modest, official looking ones (and there’s even blog articles on how to make your own stewardess costumes) but I’ve seen far too many packaged “sexy stewardess” ensembles for sale that are totally tacky.

And then there’s the show. Oh how I love watching it every Sunday evening. I’m glued to the TV when it’s on, with a Pan Am purse, vintage gloves, and usually a cat or two on my lap. Even my husband watches it. The scenery, the adventure, the characters, the fashions, the romance, the history, the storylines—I like it all (except the parts with the alcohol and premarital sex, but what can you do…). It’s about time a program like this was developed—we’ve needed it.

“I can’t get enough of it,” agrees Ashley, who has a fascination with older eras. “I have never been a big TV-watcher until this season…I wish Pan Am were an hour a day instead of just each week! I hope it lasts. I will be so sad if they were to cancel this sooner than four seasons. There is so much history from that time, there has to be plenty of things they can build on.”

I hope it’s around for a long time, too! Just think, when they’ve exhausted the early 60’s, they can move on to the mid-60’s and the mod era. Oh the fashion possibilities!! And the stories they could tell! My head is in the clouds just thinking about it. In the meantime, even if I’m only picking up a head of lettuce or dropping off dry-cleaning, I will carry my Pan Am purses proudly as a symbol of that golden age, flying from adventure to adventure, no matter how mundane, in my own little world.

For more information, visit:

Pan Am TV Show Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6oVdLIvcNRE

Blogger Review of Mini-Explorer: http://sanlive.com/178/review-of-pan-am-mini-explorer-travel-bag

Pan Am Logos history: http://www.panamair.org/History/logos.htm

Pan Am Flight Bags Museum: http://www.everythingpanam.com/Flight_Bags.html

Sunday, December 04, 2011






DECADE BY DECADE WEIGHT PHOTOS: 1975-2005

Here are some more pictures to show how a person's weight can change through the decades. The first was taken in 1975 when I was 18. As you can see I was very thin, and this was after years of trying to gain weight. My mother would take me to the local drive-in every night where I'd have a big chocolate shake. My grandma often made chocolate chip cookies for me, and when I was old enough I made them myself. I'd eat big plates of Minute Rice slathered in butter, and cake, candy, and pop, roast and potatoes and gravy. Yet this is what I looked like. I was thinner than a 98-pound weakling!

The next picture shows me ten years later, in 1985. As you can see I had filled out a little and was pretty happy with my figure. I could eat anything I wanted, even after having two kids. I remember those pink pants; I could easily get them zipped up and buttoned around my waist, and still sit down comfortably, even! I had to donate those pants to charity LONG ago.

The next picture is from 1995 at age 38. Oh the horror. And I was exercising a lot and TRYING to lose weight then, too!

Finally there I am in 2005 at age 48, after doing the low carb program Somersize for several years.

To read my weight loss story, read below. There are recipes and other photos on my weight loss page at http://cindybinweight.tripod.com/

CINDYBIN'S SOMERSIZE LOWCARB WEIGHT LOSS TEN YEAR ANNIVERSARY UPDATE







CINDYBIN’S SOMERSIZE LOWCARB WEIGHT LOSS TEN-YEAR ANNIVERSARY UPDATE

It couldn’t be ten years! Or could it? And am I still Somersizing?

Yes, it really has been a whole decade since I began the controlled-carb program Somersize. I started in June 2001, took my first real “after” photos in December some 35 pounds lighter, and it’s 2011 now so I thought I’d write a ten-year anniversary update on how I have changed my eating habits forever—for the most part, anyway.

From my heaviest to my thinnest, I eventually lost a total of about 50 pounds by cutting out sugar and refined carbs and learning a whole new way of cooking and eating. It took a little over a year. I was in my mid-40’s then, with one son in high school and another in college. Now I’m almost a senior citizen and a grandma. And am I still 50 pounds lighter? I hardly think so.

Actually I have no idea how much I weigh—I try not to think about that, but just go by how I feel and the fit of my clothes. As for the latter, let’s just say that I can still wear the same blue top as in my 2001“after photos” but as far as those jeans? Forget it! I haven’t been able to get those over my hips for years. And I wouldn’t even try to get them zipped. In fact, I never wear zip-up jeans anymore—its old lady elastic-waist pants all the way now.

Bad things can happen as you get older. I know I will never look like I did in my 20’s, despite losing all that weight. It’s not fair; I spent all my youth trying to gain weight, and getting mad when people called me skinny. Then in my 20’s I filled out and was just right, even after two kids. And then things went downhill in my early 30’s as my metabolism changed and the more I tried to lose, the heavier I got, because I was going about it all wrong. I did lose weight with Somersize, but “the good years” really only lasted a short time before age and gravity took over, and now I feel like it’s a lost cause. But I can’t imagine where I’d be if I hadn’t started eating this way!

And that is precisely why I continue to Somersize. It’s pretty much ingrained in me now. I don’t know any other way to eat. I literally have not had a single chocolate chip cookie for over ten years—which, as you will read in my original Somersize story, would have been unheard of before that. I HAD to have my cookies back then. I never eat white refined flour—not even a crouton! I don’t eat sugary cereals, soda pop, candy, Jell-O, donuts or cake. No Twinkies or Pop-Tarts or Circus Peanuts. Not even an M&M or a mint. I don’t even want that stuff anymore! I have made and decorated elaborate cakes for friends and family and not had a single taste. If someone drops off a plate of Christmas cookies—and they usually do—I’m not even tempted. I haven’t had a pancake or gone to Pizza Hut for over ten years, and wouldn’t dream of eating my hamburgers or nitrite-free organic hotdogs with a bun. I still read labels and make sure any dressings, sauces and the like have little if any sugar in any form. I don’t even use catsup or barbecue sauce because of that. I eat plain oatmeal for breakfast, or totally sugar-free, whole grain dry cereal if I don’t have time to cook oatmeal. I eat meats, fish, eggs, cheese (especially goat cheese), fruit and vegetables, spinach salads, sugar-free peanut butter and raw nuts in moderation, and all organic if possible. I might have a handful of Fritos once in awhile. I rarely eat out, and if I do, it’s a cheeseburger with no bun, and I splurge with French fries. But this is only maybe twice a year! I drink lots of water and of course I don’t smoke and would never drink alcohol, tea, or coffee.

What do I eat that might be considered a guilty pleasure? Well since I’m a certified chocaholic, it started out exclusively with dark chocolate—no less than 70% cocoa (and usually 90% bars—the hard stuff), which has less sugar than regular milk chocolate. I also often ate a spoonful of the totally sugar-free organic raw cocao beans or nibs I ordered from a health food website (“Natural Zing”), just to get my chocolate fix (even though they don’t really taste like anything!). And once in a blue moon I make lowcarb pumpkin pie (for holidays), cheesecake or lowcarb flour-free brownies, sweetened with a very small amount of honey and no crust on the pies. I don’t use any artificial sweeteners.

Then in early 2010 I was sick with a virus which affected my appetite. One day at the grocery store I passed the chocolate ice cream and it looked so good—I just felt that it was something I could eat during that time. Once I started, my habit lasted several months—downing a bowl or two of this ice cream a day. It satisfied me and at least kept me away from any other chocolate or treats. However, one day I saw myself on a video and was appalled, so I stopped the ice cream cold turkey. Although I really don’t think that ice cream caused much weight gain. I probably would have looked the same even if I hadn’t been eating it.

I then went back to eating bits of dark chocolate maybe twice a day. I also discovered “Flora” (formerly “Bija”) dark chocolate covered omega truffles in the health food store. Made with 70% cocoa and filled with organic omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, these are delicious! A bit of heaven in every bite! Unfortunately there are only three bites or portions per package, and each package is quite expensive—about $4. I tried to limit myself to two pieces a day, but more often than not I’d blow through an entire package. But still, that was all I ate as far as sugar—no pop, no cookies, no cake, no candy or anything like that.

Then for some reason earlier this year I started eating mint chocolate chip ice cream. I only buy Breyer’s all-natural brand, because they don’t add chemicals, corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, etc. It is full-fat, which is okay on Somersize because “fat is our friend”, but of course it does have sugar, which we all know is our worst enemy, as it raises your insulin level causing fat to be stored. Breyer’s does offer a “Carb Smart” option, but it is sweetened with Sorbitol and Splenda and has all kinds of other hard-to-pronounce ingredients which I try to avoid. It’s better to just go as natural as possible, in my opinion.

Ice cream has been keeping me satisfied and away from the truffles and everything else. And it’s much cheaper! I buy it on sale and a $3.50 carton lasts several days as opposed to snarfing down a $4 package of truffles in one day. Even so, I still want to eventually get off the ice cream. It can’t be doing me any good, ingesting all that sugar. On the plus side, though, it does not have white, refined flour (or any flour), and as a friend pointed out, I’m getting a lot of calcium! I just don’t want to drop the ice cream and then go back to eating a bit of chocolate here, a truffle there, and then still feeling hungry and craving ice cream. That wasn’t working, either! I guess I need to have more nutritious, “Somersized food” available. And I’m not the type to just eat smaller portions of ice cream or eat it “every now and then.” If it’s there, I will eat it.

I'd also like to exercise more; I haven’t had time to do as much as I’d like although I still do pretty well, sweating away to the old 80’s show “20 Minute Workout” which I have on tape, brisk walking, and using my trusty Thighmaster, Buttmaster, and five-pound hand weights. I also do push-ups and leg-lifts. Not every day, but at least several times I week. I was walking every day this summer when we had a long spell of nice weather.

Yet even with all my diligence, I still get discouraged. We got pictures back from our son’s wedding in 2008 and I looked like a lumpy, dumpy tub! And this was well before I started eating ice cream, so we can’t blame it on that. Even friends and family were shocked. They assured me I didn’t look that bad in person, but still, this would never have happened in my 20’s and early 30’s. The camera can’t lie THAT much. It does get depressing. Oh well, my mom was the same way, a skinny Minnie in her youth and battling a protruding abdomen as an adult. But then when she got into her 70’s she developed Alzheimer’s and wasted away to skin and bones before she died a few years ago at age 80. So I may have THAT to look forward to. Ugh! Let’s hope not!

The photos above were taken with my webcam in early November 2011, almost exactly ten years after my first “after photos.” I’m not crazy about these, either, but I’ve seen far worse. Actually the first photo is from 2001 and was posted on Suzanne’s site with other Somersizers, and the other ones with longer hair are recent. As you can see it’s the same blue top. I will show you that much. But you do NOT want to see my lower half. I did, however, take a photo leaning over with my middle obscured from view; this at least shows that I am not “gigantically huge” or anything.

Hard as it is sometimes to just focus on my health rather than my figure or weight, I still swear by Somersize—I firmly believe it’s the best program out there. And I know there are many who will scoff at the idea of following any kind of weight loss “program” at all. I’ve heard it many times from rude people online, telling me that if you just “eat in moderation” and “get off your fat a-word and exercise” you can eat anything you want. I get so mad when I hear these things. As you can see from my original weight loss story written in 2001, eating “in moderation” just didn’t work for me, at least when I got older. It only made me hungrier and caused my cravings to be out of control. And I was exercising like crazy at my heaviest, but did not see true results until I went on low-carb and got all the sugar out of my system.

I also needed the support and guidance of the Somersize chat room I talked about. I honestly don’t think I would have made it without those fellow Somersizers every day that first year. I will never forget what we all went through together and how we cheered each other on. They were my rock and kept me on track. And I learned a whole new way of cooking, making everyday dishes the low carb way. That’s what kept my cravings under control and reprogrammed my metabolism. I still follow these same recipes and have invented some of my own.

And I continue to see all these articles about fat and calories. “Easy ways to cut 100 calories!” or “Fat-free recipes for the holidays!” It drives me nuts! My weight loss story has been posted on the Web for over ten years now, which clearly explains that losing weight has nothing to do with fat and calories and everything to do with hormones, how we have to keep our insulin level in check so that fat will not be stored as fat. Yet people still think that “fat makes you fat” and that counting calories is the key to losing weight. This is so untrue.

And then there were the Yahoo message boards. Oh what a nightmare. I started visiting them in 2004, mainly to dispel misinformation about weight loss and low carb diets. Any time there was a story there about diets, rude people were out in full force calling those with weight problems nasty names and saying things like we need carbs, etc. I was trying to explain that “low carb does not mean no carb”, that you DO eat carbs on programs like Atkins and Somersize, but the key is adjusting your intake of healthy, whole-grain carbs according to your metabolism and activity level. I still don’t think anybody really listened to me.

And the taunts I received from those Yahoo posters about Somersize—not everyone, but a lot of people put me down, made fun of the way I eat, tore apart my weight loss story, told me I have an eating disorder, said things like what can an actress like Suzanne Somers know, and much worse. And these were grown adults with good jobs and families, not all young punk kids. This was such a shock after being in the super-supportive Somersize chat room all those months. I even found myself losing my temper with some of these people, they were so cruel. And I remember some even told me I was too thin. I used to have a picture of myself on my profile sitting on the floor in a cute top and skirt (which I haven’t been able to button for years). One woman told me I was too skinny and that her boyfriend “liked women with a little meat on their bones.” Well I have meat, believe me. Even after losing 50 pounds, I still was thinner in my teens and 20’s than I was in that picture, without even trying.

Anyway, I could go on and on about Internet message boards—people are rude and cruel about a lot more things than just weight loss—but this ten-year update is turning out to be far longer than I had planned! Let me conclude by saying that I highly recommend Somersize, it’s the best program there is, and it works for most people (except for my husband, but don’t let that deter you; most men lose weight just by looking at a Somersize recipe!). And as I’ve indicated, I have stayed true to the program for the most part all these years, except for a few habits. I should probably just revert right back to strict Level One Somersize and get all the sugar out of my body again. I’ll do it. Probably. Maybe. Okay probably. Haha. The best thing, though, is that I now UNDERSTAND what to do. I have the skills and know-how to get back on track, which I didn’t have before I knew about Somersize. I don’t feel out of control and hopeless. That’s the big difference. I did it before and I can do it again. Because, as I said back in 2001, Somersize isn’t a diet, but a way of eating—something one can stay on for life.

And so without further ado, here is my original Somersize story written the end of 2001 after I’d lost quite a bit of weight. If you haven’t already read it, please do. Meanwhile, I’m going to pack away my blue top again, eat some Somersized food, and hopefully update in another ten years!

video

How I Lost Weight by Eating Great Food
By Cindy (written 2001)


There it was again, the familiar growl deep inside my stomach. A quick glance at the clock told me it wasn't time yet. It seemed like I had just finished what I thought was a healthy breakfast of cereal and skim milk, a banana and orange juice, hoping it would last me awhile. But I was hungry already! How could I wait another hour to eat my late morning snack? It just didn't seem right to start eating cookies so early. "Oh well," I thought. "I'll get everything ready and mix some of the ingredients, so that by the time the cookies are out of the oven it will be closer to a respectable hour." I pulled out the mixing bowl, the margarine, flour, sugar and chocolate chips. Didn't I just finish a batch of these two days ago? But I had to make them again, because, well, what else was I going to eat all day? I told myself I would exercise later in the day to work it off, and eat something healthy, like carrot sticks.

This scenario was happening all too often as I got older, especially after hitting my forties. Ironically, as a teenager I stuffed myself trying to gain weight and always got mad when people called me skinny. At 5'2", I weighed 93 pounds as a college freshman. Shortly after getting married in 1979, at age 22, I was thrilled to put on ten pounds. During my twenties I had two babies, gaining 35 pounds with each, but the weight came off effortlessly. At one point I was up to 130, which I thought was huge, but always returned to 120 or so without even trying. At my checkup at about age 31, I think I weighed 111 and my cholesterol was 169. I was the picture of health.

But then, over one winter, at approximately age 32, I started putting on weight. There were bumps on my thighs that weren't there before. The scale was climbing past 130. Throughout the rest of my 30s and up to age 44, the more I tried to lose weight, the more I gained. My first step to battle the bulge was using skim milk rather than whole. This would have been unheard of in the past. But with all the milk I drank with my cookies, brownies, cake and other goodies, I thought cutting out the fat in the milk would make a huge difference. It didn't.

The next step was buying fat-free or reduced-fat products such as salad dressings, cheese, cookies and chocolate cake. This was a big deal, buying a fat-free cake. It just HAD to make the pounds drop off. But I kept getting bigger. I used margarine instead of butter. In place of ice cream I often ate chocolate frozen yogurt. Sometimes as a bedtime snack I ate sugary cereal, which I thought was okay because it was fat-free. I tried a new recipe for brownies in which you replaced the oil with fat-free yogurt. I stepped up the exercise. My weight would go up and down, and exercise helped me tone up, but I still was nowhere near what I wanted to be. I believed my body chemistry had changed due to getting older, and that it was impossible ever to be anywhere near 130 again. I even threw out our scale, finding it too depressing to stand on.

Plus, the more I ate low-fat or fat-free food, the more I craved my sweets. I would be "good" for awhile, but it could only last so long before I was making a big batch of cookies. I continued doing intense aerobics to a workout video, the only thing that stopped my cravings for any length of time. Afterwards, I would go as long as possible without eating. I had to take advantage of this one time of day I wasn't hungry. When my appetite returned, I would eat something healthy, like an apple. But soon after, I was starving. So I'd have some low-fat cereal and skim milk. Then I'd be even hungrier. Here I was trying to eat healthy, but how could I ever lose weight when I was starving all the time? I used to eat whenever I wanted. I didn't eat low-fat foods. I ate cookies, making them whenever I had a craving. But now it was getting so that I didn't know when I wanted cookies (or brownies or cake). It was like I had lost my "regulating mechanism". I wanted them all the time! Exercise was just masking the problem, only keeping me from eating cookies for a couple of hours, not curing my addiction. But at least it was something. I would get so upset when anything interfered with my workout routine, like if I hadn't had enough sleep, or had something else to do. Then I knew I would be a slave to the cookies and sweets. Sure, it was great eating sweets. I kept telling myself I always ate cookies before, and never gained weight. So I could still do it, couldn't I? Well, maybe not. Just this one last time, and then I'll stop, or at least cut down. But I couldn't.

In the fall of 2000 I was sick with a virus and fever for quite a long time, and couldn't work out. But I could still eat! I was weighed at the doctor's office but asked the nurse to not tell me what the scale read. I also got my cholesterol checked about this time. The nurse called back with the results, saying it was borderline high and that the doctor wanted me to treat it by eating fruits and vegetables. Great. The more someone tells me to eat healthier, the more I crave the cookies. I tried to eat healthy, but didn't get very far.

In the spring of 2001, after getting back to working out, I was feeling a little thinner. I knew I was nowhere near what I used to be in my younger days, but figured I was somewhere in the 140s. In March I went back to the doctor for something else, and happened to see the number on the scale. It was 158. I could not believe it. I had weighed 155 back in my 20s, but gave birth shortly after! And if I weighed this much now, how much had I weighed a few months ago when I put on all that weight when I was sick? I told the doctor that I was pretty upset that I just kept getting bigger and bigger. He looked at my chart and said I was down a couple pounds from my last visit. I guess that meant I had been hovering around 160. He asked if I watched my saturated fat, calories, etc. I said yes. I mean, I really was trying! (I thought it was a big deal to drink skim milk, not put margarine on my white rice, and go an hour without a cookie!) I added that I worked out almost every day. "I don't know what else I can do, other than cutting out cookies completely," I said. "I don't expect you to cut out cookies completely," he replied. (Ha--that's like telling an alcoholic they can still drink.) He seemed puzzled, saying that it didn't make sense that I would keep getting bigger and bigger while watching what I ate. "You could have your thyroid tested," he said. "That's a common problem in women your age." I agreed to his suggestion, planning to undergo this test at my next cholesterol check.

"Maybe that was the cause for my weight gain after all," I thought later at home as I sprawled on the couch nibbling strawberry licorice sticks. "Maybe all it would take was some medication, and I would be back down to normal." Then I went to get some skim milk and cookies, followed by potato chips. But inside, I knew I didn't have a thyroid problem. So I decided to cut back even more. I ate salads with fat-free cheese (which tasted more like cardboard) and fat-free dressing. I ate fruit and boring, plain vegetables. I exercised more. This only lasted so long until I couldn't stand it anymore and made another batch of chocolate chip cookies. Mmmmm, cookies.

I started noticing that I was getting thick around the middle. I mean really thick. I had no waistline! I thought about stepping up the aerobics even more, but then realized I couldn't do them 24 hours a day. I was feeling hopeless and depressed. At one point I cleaned out my closet and donated 90 percent of my clothes to charity, keeping a few favorites as souvenirs of how I used to be. My feet were so sore when I got out of bed in the morning, I'd hobble to the bathroom like an old woman. I was using antacids more and more. I kept remembering how much I weighed a few months ago at the doctor's office. I checked the Internet and found some charts which said that 160 is almost obese for my height. Yes, the girl that everyone made fun of because she was too skinny was now considered almost obese.

One day I was watching Suzanne Somers on the Home Shopping Network. I knew she had written three best-selling books on her eating plan, called Somersizing. Ironically, several years ago I had skimmed through her first book at the library, and remembered that Somersizing is basically a well-balanced, fairly low-carb plan, with no portion control, no counting fat grams or calories. Somersizing also focuses on food-combining, keeping carbohydrates separate from protein and fat, with low-starch vegetables eaten anytime and fruits on an empty stomach. She had learned of this eating method years ago while visiting friends in France, wondering how Europeans eat such rich food and still stay thin. It made sense, how proteins and carbs digest at different rates. When they are eaten together, Suzanne explains, the enzymes cancel each other out, creating a halt in your digestion and causing the meal to be potentially stored as fat. Her plan called for the elimination of sugar, refined foods and foods high in starch (which your body accepts as sugar) like potatoes, white rice and white bread. I remembered having read Suzanne's sample menu of what she eats in a day. While it was filled with lots of good, healthy food, I thought, "Where are the cookies?" Giving them up then just was not an option. About all I followed with any regularity was eating fruit on an empty stomach.

On TV, Suzanne mentioned that she had a website and a chat room. Soon afterwards, I checked it out. The people seemed like such a fun, dedicated group. Most all of them had great success with the program. But I still wasn't ready to start myself. There was just no way I could give up my cookies. And eat a hamburger or hotdog without a bun? Forget it. But I kept visiting. It was so interesting, even though I thought that some people were a bit fanatical. I mean, I once mentioned that I was eating up some Flintstones chewable vitamins that I had bought for my son when he couldn't yet swallow pills, and was surprised when someone warned me about the sugar. The amount in that vitamin was miniscule compared to what I ate every day! But these people were not eating any sugar, and losing lots of weight. I was soon getting it into my head that we shouldn't eat anything to raise our insulin level. As Suzanne says in her books, many doctors now are beginning to understand that unbalanced hormones cause weight gain, not fat and calories. Insulin must be present for fat to be stored. The USDA Food Pyramid has way too many unneeded carbohydrates. We must eat protein and fat (real fat, like butter and olive oil, not margarine) to regulate the constant rebuilding that takes place in our bodies. As Suzanne says, fat is our friend, and sugar is the body's greatest enemy.

Slowly but surely I was coming around. I knew this wasn't a fad, it wasn't a gimmick. Suzanne did not invent this way of eating, but she presented it in a clear, understandable manner, and she wanted to share the message because it had worked so well for her. This was the way humans are supposed to eat, enjoying wholesome, nutritious, real food. Not packaged foods loaded with chemicals and preservatives. But could I give up my cookies? I honestly didn't know. I kept looking at the "decadent chocolate cake" recipe in one of her books, a "Level Two" dish made with a small amount of real sugar that you could have after you'd lost all you wanted. I knew that Somersizing wouldn't mean I'd never be able to have a cookie again. I just had stay on Level One and get all the sugar out of my cells and repair my metabolism first. Then I could incorporate some sweets and see how it went. Could I live that long without them, though? I had to give it a try. And so, at the beginning of June 2001, I became an official Somersizer.

I started out by making the "deep dish pizza" recipe submitted by a Somersizer on Suzanne's site. Traditional pizza combines a carb crust with protein toppings, but this dish was legal because it had a crust like a quiche, made with eggs, cheese and cream. I also made a cauliflower dish, using full-fat sour cream. Both were delicious, and I ate much more cauliflower this way than I would have had it been plain. From there, I learned more new recipes, a whole new way of cooking and eating. I started noticing a difference in myself right away. At first I just felt "lighter". Then my rings were getting loose. My double chin disappeared. I had to keep readjusting the little attached belt on the skirt I wore to church every week. Soon that skirt was too big, and I was wearing many of those old clothes I had kept as souvenirs. Even my shoes were looser. I still did not have a scale, so I never knew how much I actually lost. But I knew the program was working.

What's more, I didn't crave cookies. How could anyone want cookies when there is so much other good food to eat? I was enjoying meats, vegetables with butter, delicious salads with full-fat dressing, cheese, eggs, fruit, whole-grain toast and cereal (all in the proper combinations, of course). And I was getting thinner all the time. I waited six weeks before making any desserts, just to prove to myself that I could live without them. Then I started making "legal" desserts such as fudge, no-crust cheesecake, and chocolate mousse, all made with only proteins, fats and natural sweetener that does not raise your insulin level. The desserts were great, but they were no longer what I lived for. I was satisfied and having too much fun eating everything else.

Suzanne lists "funky foods" to avoid because they are bad combinations of protein and carbohydrate, or carbohydrate and fat, etc. Other foods, like corn, popcorn and bananas, are funky because they are very starchy and high on the glycemic index. Alcohol and caffeine, which raise insulin levels, also are to be avoided. Throughout the summer I learned more new recipes, organizing my kitchen and getting rid of the junk and funky food--anything with sugar or that was a bad combination, even including things like canned soup, seasonings and salad dressings. Somersizing almost became a full-time job for me. I was running to the store every few days, stocking up on fresh food. I spent time reading labels to make sure to buy only brands with no added sugar. It is everywhere, disguised as different names. I made my own salad dressing. I chopped more vegetables in a week than I had in my entire life. Our refrigerator was always so full, it became a challenge trying to wedge things in. Meanwhile, our large pantry was collecting cobwebs.

I learned that preparation was the key. I always tried to have legal food on hand so I didn't even have to think of what to eat. I would bring along a small cooler whenever I was out for any length of time so that I wouldn't find myself succumbing to French fries. My husband and I even skipped going to our favorite restaurant we always went to on our anniversary, because their specialty is freshly baked white bread with cheese spread that they bring you first thing. I continued to exercise most days, and drank lots of water. But I no longer was exercising just to keep myself from pigging out. My weight loss was due to what I was eating, not how much I was moving. I also visited Suzanne's chat room almost daily, sometimes for hours at a time. It became such a support group. There were the regulars as well as "newbies" who came in for help. I made many new online friends, one whose doctor put her on the plan, saying that if she didn't lose weight she wouldn't be around to see her kids grow up. She is quite a way from reaching her goal, but lost 92 pounds in her first six months.

Needless to say, I never needed my thyroid tested. I found the answer to my weight problem through Somersizing. I have come to find out that a thick waistline is a sign of insulin resistance. It means every cell in your body is about as full of sugar as it's going to get, and from then on everything you eat will be stored as fat--even a carrot, which is very high in carbohydrate, or natural sugar. I can eat a piece of full-fat cheese and it completely wipes away my desire for sweets. What I used to eat just set me up for craving carbs and sugar even more. Fat-free and reduced-fat products replace the fat with sugars, starches and chemicals. No wonder I ended up gaining weight rather than losing! Most of us on this eating plan have a carbohydrate addiction. We're hungry soon after eating carbs, even natural ones like fruit. After my carb breakfast, it's all I can do to hold out until lunchtime. But as soon as I can switch to proteins, I'm fine. I feel so much healthier and my digestion is fantastic.

Suzanne recommends we eat only one carb meal per day, and preferably in the morning, when we have more time to work it off throughout the day. So I eat fruit on an empty stomach, wait at least 20 minutes and then have whole grain cereal like oatmeal. For lunch I often have a "Somersized" taco salad: shredded chicken in a tomato and onion sauce, served on a bed of romaine lettuce, topped with shredded cheese, onions, tomatoes, sour cream and lots of sugar-free salsa. Dinner might be pork roast smothered in sauted onions, and lots of vegetables with butter or olive oil. I snack on things like celery and cheese, deviled eggs, and "legal" desserts. I think part of my problem before was that I just didn't know what to eat. We hear that everything is bad for us, that meat and eggs are high in cholesterol, that fat will make us fat. So when I tried to eat what is considered healthy, it just made me crave cookies all the more. But now, thanks to Suzanne's books and website, I have so many recipes it is hard to find time to try a fraction of them.

As I mentioned, there are two levels to Somersizing. You stay on Level One until you are satisfied with your weight, when all the sugar has been released from your cells and your metabolism has been reprogrammed. Then you can go to Level Two, where you are allowed occasional "cheats." But once you gain a pound or two, you just go back to Level One. That's what is so great about this plan is that it's something you stay on for the rest of your life. On a low-fat diet, you are actually losing more muscle and bone mass than fat, and your body will go into "survival mode" and slow down your metabolism. Once you go off a diet, you gain all the weight back and then some. With Somersizing, it's a healthy loss with no "gaunt" look, because you're getting everything your body needs for it to melt into its natural shape.

Also, your cholesterol should go down. Raised insulin levels, not fat, cause high cholesterol. Fat alone does not cause an insulin response. But combine it with a carb, as in cookies or donuts, and the pounds will pack on. Suzanne's books contain medical validation from leading endocrinologist Diana Schwarzbein, M.D., who warns that almost entirely eliminating foods containing cholesterol and fat from your diet can accelerate metabolic aging. If you don't eat enough cholesterol, your body will produce it. The less fat you eat, the higher the rate of cholesterol production in the liver.

Many doctors like to recommend programs that restrict calories and involve portion control. All I know is that I would starve. Counting points is no way to live. You also are allowed treats on these kinds of programs, so that you won't feel deprived. Well, my ideal treat would be a chocolate chip cookie. But who can stop at just one? I would make a batch and gorge for two days. Eating foods like that just sets you up for cravings. I also have heard recommendations for weight-loss shakes and drinks. But how can doctors advocate replacing a meal with a can of sugar? I'll eat real food any day.

On October 26, 2001, the big weigh-in arrived. I went out and bought three new pairs of pants (size 6!) AND bought a scale. I was nervous just thinking about stepping on it. I felt and looked so much thinner. Even my wedding rings, which I had had enlarged twice since my marriage, fell off when I shook my hand. Still, I was prepared to be somewhere in my 130s, what I used to consider "huge". Maybe I really was destined to never be what I was back in my 20s or early 30s. But I was wrong. The scale read 122! I was thrilled!

On November 21, 2001 I finally reached the teens! I was 119.5 pounds! And to think last year at this time I was 160. It would be nice to lose a few more pounds, but not to go below 110. And I expect the weight loss to go more slowly as I get closer to goal. But that's okay, because I'm certainly not suffering eating this way! I am so thankful for Somersizing. I know it is something I can stay on for life. As Suzanne says, Somersizing is a lifestyle, not a diet. You stabilize your blood sugar levels and train your body to use your fat reserves as an energy source. "Above all," she says, "YOU are in control of what you eat...there are no calories to count, so you can eat abundant portions of food and still lose weight." And it's so true! I finally do feel in control!

[By the end of September 2002 I had reached goal weight of 110 pounds]