An Apple a Day

An Apple a Day

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Say Hello to a Better Body!

An Apple a Day

I never had a weight problem in my younger years. In college, when my friends and I bemoaned our “Freshman Fifteen,” I simply gave up dessert and the pounds melted away like ice cream on a July afternoon. In my thirties, I added an hour of aerobic exercise a few times a week and managed to stay trim and fit. Even when I advanced into my forties and gained a permanent five pounds, I felt great and still looked good in a swimsuit.

But then came the big 5-0.

Turning fifty flipped a switch in my body. Within a month, five new pounds established themselves around my middle and wouldn’t leave, no matter how much I exercised. Half a year later, those five pounds had turned to ten, and on the cold January day I celebrated my fifty-first birthday, I weighed fifteen pounds more than I had the year before.

Then came the day I couldn’t zip a pair of pants that had hung perfectly on my hips a year earlier. Something had to give. I embarked on a diet that included nothing but salad and water. Ugh! I was hungry all the time and felt too tired to exercise. The diet lasted three days, but I continued my exercise: walking two miles a day, several times each week.

Not long after that, a television program caught my attention. The topic was eating habits and how to control hunger. A high-fiber diet makes you feel full. Apples are a great source of fiber and relatively low in calories. Eat one as you prepare dinner, and you’ll be able to control your portions more effectively.

Why not? I thought. It makes sense — I’ll give it a shot.

The next day I added apples to my grocery list. I ate one just before lunch and another while preparing dinner: a salad bright with carrots, yellow peppers, green spinach, and fat-free feta cheese alongside a new, low-fat Greek chicken recipe I had found in a magazine. I traded my usual glass of wine with dinner for a glass of Perrier. The chicken was delicious, and I was full after one serving. The apple trick was working. Day One of the new me.

My low-fat diet and exercise routine continued, but I didn’t see much change when I hopped on the scale each morning. Those pounds were as stubborn as the proverbial mule. I ate an apple with a serving of fat-free yogurt for breakfast and tried not to think about it.

I started walking three miles instead of two and drinking an extra glass of water. My body was not going to win this argument.

Twelve days later, the scale gave in and declared me a winner. I was three pounds lighter when I stepped into the shower that morning. Ridding myself of the extra pounds was taking longer than when I was in my twenties and thirties, but by golly, I was losing weight.

Three more pounds disappeared by the end of February, a glacial pace compared to my younger days. But I was determined to win, determined to lose the weight, determined to get back in those pants I still couldn’t zip.

When I went for my annual physical a few weeks later, I stood on the digital scale in the doctor’s office and watched in horror as the ten pounds my scale said I had lost registered as only six.

“That can’t be right!” I said, wondering how I could pack on four pounds in a few short hours.

The nurse looked at me and smiled. “Does your scale say something different?”

“It must be the wool pants and sweater,” I mumbled, stepping off the scale. I wanted to kick it.

I asked my doctor why it was so hard to lose the weight.

“Your metabolism slows down as you age,” she said. “Do you exercise?”

“I walk three miles, four times a week.”

“That’s good. Keep it up. Do any weights?”

I didn’t, so she suggested adding some hand weights to strengthen my upper body.

“What about your eating habits?”

I told her about the apple diet.

“It can’t hurt,” she said. “A woman your age needs extra fiber to stay regular.”

Great. Add insult to injury.

I bought the hand weights and another bag of apples on my drive home.

“What’s for dinner?” my husband asked when he got home from work that evening.

“Chicken. Any recipe requests?”

“I liked that Greek chicken you made a few weeks ago.”

So I made his new favorite dish, eating an apple as I cooked.

The next morning, I added hand weights to my exercise routine. I had to take two ibuprofen that night to battle muscle soreness, but by the end of the week the pain was gone and I had increased the weight repetitions from ten to twenty. Four weeks later, I saw a difference in my arms. The flab was diminishing as muscles developed.

Although I’ve had a few setbacks, an apple — or three — a day is one of the best secrets to my dieting success. Eating an apple before each meal makes me feel full, which makes portion control a lot easier. And the more I exercise, the better my mood. I really like those little endorphins running around inside my head.

I can zip that troublesome pair of pants now. But best of all, I wore a sleeveless, size-eight dress to my college reunion this past spring.

I found my solution to the problem of the “Fifty-something Fifteen” and it all started with a bag of apples.

~ Ruth Jones ~

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