Everything in moderation

Castlegar News bi-weekly columnist Karen Haviland looks back on dietary and dieting exploits

If you’re one of those lucky ones whose metabolism is faster than a speeding bullet, you will likely not find this column interesting. But if you are like me, cursed with a slow metabolism and questionable genes you will likely be able to identify with this column.

Growing up, I was of an average and healthy build. Of course, I was quite physically active then and thus I could eat whatever I wanted with impunity. And I did.

My father was of German extraction and my mother’s parents were Swedish. I grew up eating lots of ethnic dishes related to my heritage as well as the standard fare that struggling parents would feed their children. In other words, there was plenty of mashed potatoes, gravy and fatty cuts of meat.

Back then, there was little attention paid to healthy fare and so we often ate foods and food combinations which we now know are incredibly unhealthy.

In particular, I remember griebenschmalz, a dish guaranteed to clog your arteries with just one bite. Griebenschmalz is the rendered fat of any animal. In our case, it was the fat from the cheapest piece of beef one could find. Mom would cut the fat off the meat and then cut it into small cubes. After that, she would throw it in a hot cast iron pan, season it and fry it until it was crispy, just like cracklings. We kids love grieben, as we called it and we would practically beg for those crispy little bits.

Another favourite also involved grease – and white bread. Mom would bake ribs in the oven until their greasy drippings caramelized in the pan. Of course we loved the ribs, but the best part for us was taking our bread and dragging it through the pork drippings. Can you imagine what a nutritionist would have to say about that nowadays? Oh, wait, I’m not even sure there were nutritionists back then.

But anyway, the point I am trying to make is that we have come a long way from those carefree days when everything wasn’t dangerous for your health, or likely to cause a stroke, cancer, heart attack, seizures, blah, blah, blah.

Yes, I make fun of it, but you see, it wasn’t long before those eating habits, poor nutritional education and genetics caught up with me. By the time I was 25-years-old I was clinically obese. Of course, people back then called me “chunky” or “big.” You know, all the euphemisms for fat and obese.

Mind you, I saw my obesity not as a health issue, but more so as an aesthetics issue and me, being me, simply didn’t care about my weight if it meant I had to meet other people’s visual approval of me.

As I’ve gotten older and wiser I can now see the error of my ways. Actually, it was about 10 years ago when I first attempted weight loss and lost almost 100 pounds in six months by diet and exercise. Of course, I never really learned the true lesson. I learned how to diet, I didn’t really learn about diet and nutrition.

Needless to say, over the following eight years the weight crept up until I was within 10 pounds of my highest weight. I’m not sure why, but one day it suddenly occurred to me that I wanted to lose weight and keep it off.

It’s taken me over two years, but I have now lost 60 pounds. I have a few more to lose, although I have not set a number goal, just simply the goal to eat better and healthier. The very first and likely the hardest lesson I learned is that I did not need to eat the volume of food which I was eating, and secondly, a treat is a treat, not an everyday occurrence.

I still dream of grieben, and I won’t say I will never eat it again. But if I do, it will be balanced by moderation and other healthy eating options. The true secret to losing weight is not just counting calories. For me it was about changing my relationship with food and viewing food from a different perspective.

I have no doubt that this time I will keep the weight off. The lesson has been learned, and more.

Weight loss and healthy nutrition are not about deprivation. I still eat ice cream and other “junk food” occasionally. Weight loss is really about balance.

If you’re thinking about losing weight, I advise you to consult with your physician beforehand.

Stay healthy.