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Laying Foundations

January 10, 2010

It was a cool October morning in Atlanta, and it was my birthday. My thirtieth birthday. I was actually looking forward to turning thirty – I felt like it represented being a lot smarter and more confident than I had been for much of my twenties,and it might even help with losing some of the youth handicap that I felt like the twenties could often provide in the eyes of older colleagues in the professional world (I was, after all, getting grey hair at an increasingly rapid pace). In the weeks leading up to the big day, I’d gotten excited about thirty and had come to like my soon to be age.

Until I realized, I’d focused on professional pursuits with lots of intensity for the past decade, and I’d neglected my health, my well-being, and to some extent as a result, my happiness. So for my thirtieth birthday, I decided my gift to myself wouldn’t be something extravagant like a new car or a trip, or something fun like golf lessons or a new electronic gadget, but something healthy – a consult with a nutritionist. Seemed like a good idea.

But now I was sitting in the waiting room of her office, thinking about the fantastic birthday dinner I’d planned with my friends for that evening, and thinking maybe I should have done this health stuff on another day. I’d tried diet plans in the past – from crazy things like cabbage soup, that sound like something straight out of the 1980’s that our parents would have done while jogging in their warm-up suits – to expensive prepackaged things that promised to be the easy solution but ended up getting monotonous and boring and impossible for a mere mortal with functioning taste buds to stick to. And here I sat again. Joy.

The nutritionist came out and called me back to her office for my appointment. And so it began. While my waiting time had led to a little bit of dread, I was also truly serious about changing my life, but skeptical as to whether or not this would be the answer and whether or not I’d be able to stick to it. To any of you who are considering going to a nutritionist – do it! But – and this is a big but – find a good one, who’s experienced and can give you personalized advice that you can stick to, taking into account your personal preferences and lifestyle. I lucked out. My nutritionist fully appreciated my busy lifestyle, and the fact that eating out was a big part of my life, for convenience sake and as part of my social life. So instead of giving me strict recipes and menu plans to follow, she gave me general rules for each meal, and advice on how to eat out healthily. She taught me what to order at my favorite burrito joint (a burrito in a bowl with no rice), what to avoid at sandwich shops (panini – loaded with calories), and how to successfully navigate a Thai menu (no curry – hidden fattening coconut milk). I left feeling like I had an actual plan of attack – something workable and doable, and someone to be accountable to.

So I went out that afternoon (having taken my birthday off of work for the first time – a great idea and a new tradition, hopefully) and did some grocery shopping to have the things around the house that I’d need to stick to my plan. The next day, I started eating according to plan, and with a few hiccups around Christmas, I’ve stuck to the plan since. It’s been a little over two months now, and I’m down twenty-six pounds! But that night, I enjoyed my thirtieth birthday dinner with a few of my closest friends.

And I ordered curry.

Next: The harder piece of the puzzle (for me) – exercise.

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