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Dawn's Column Caution: Calories Ahead
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There's candy on every counter, in jars and plastic orange pumpkins left over from Halloween. Thanksgiving is two weeks away and Christmas and New Year will follow shortly thereafter. Beware all those who dare to enjoy themselves during these special occasions. You will likely pay a price by packing on extra pounds.

Adding inches to my waistline and hips is not in my game plan, especially not after all the hard work I've done to get to where I am now. To update those of you who've been following my fitness quest, I'm still doing bootcamp style workouts and I have to say I'm looking more svelte and still getting stronger. The great thing about working out like this is that I don't worry much about eating something that's overloaded in calories every now and then because I know the workouts will take care of it. There's a certain amount of freedom in it.

I'm watchful of my diet, but not neurotic about it. I eat pretty well over all. However, being that Halloween candy has been lingering around the office, I've eaten it. Since Thanksgiving is around the corner, too, I know there will be calorie-laden entrees, desserts, and cocktails waiting to be consumed. So I've decided to get ahead of the game a little and restrict my intake of sweets and carbohydrates for a couple of weeks before the holiday arrives.

I'm hoping to drop a few pounds before Thanksgiving, so if I gain some over the next couple months I won't be too worried about it and the clothes I'm wearing now won't be too small after the holidays are over. With the workouts, I expect I may even be able to maintain the loss.

One of my coworkers wants to coordinate this short-term and highly effective weight loss endeavor with me, that way it's like a team effort. Another coworker is doing this other diet with their spouse, eating better and cutting out sweets. Maybe I should stop here and call these diets by a different name because most people associate diets with being hungry, denying themselves, and suffering. This is not that kind of dieting. It's more like making better food choices and making a lifestyle change.

I've never been a dieter, but I think I can empathize with those who've gone on "diets." You know the kind I mean, those dreadful ones where you eliminate entire food groups, only drink shakes, or consume soup. I have friends and family members who've done such things only to gain back what they lost and more.

I once had a roommate who did the bacon and grapefruit diet - where you can eat as much as you want of two those items and still lose weight. Then there was someone I knew who lost weight by only drinking a cup of black coffee and a slice of toast for breakfast everyday. I'd get bored with such limited choices, I don't know how they had the willpower.

I also had a friend who took diet pills because she thought she was fat compared to her petite, smaller-framed friends. Well, these diets all worked for a while but these people gained back every pound and more, and my diet pill friend really did a number on her metabolism in the process wishing she'd recognized back then that her size was healthy for her frame. Everyone knows this about diets: Nobody likes them and the results don't last.

I'm referring to something different and I think that helps my attitude about it as well. I eat as much as I want of healthy foods, and while I may not like giving up ice cream or wine with dinner, I know it's okay for me to go without it for a while.

Of course, the thing that I've found really kicks in the weight loss is the combination of a good diet and exercise. I'd always heard the fitness experts tout this combination as the most effective way to lose weight, but I never did it that way.

Fitness was something I used to take for granted since I ran on a regular basis. I basically ate whatever I wanted, but my body also required better nutrition so I didn't crave as much junk either. I just exercised and that was it.

After some injuries, my running stopped and my fitness faded, the diet changed for the worse as well. That, by the way, is one of the best ways to gain weight.

I got back on the fitness wagon this summer because I wanted to look good in a bikini on the beach for my late summer vacation, and it worked. I did it by doing a diet change and intense exercise and got very fast results. That was a huge motivator for me to keep going. I continue to get more fit and the smaller size clothes in my closet are now wearable, just by doing the workout and having "normal" eating habits, which has also recently included Halloween candy.

Now it's time to step up my efforts again and drop a little more weight since I'm expecting there could be some gains ahead. So the candy has got to go, at least for a while because I know it will return in the coming weeks with a vengeance. This year, though, I will be ready ... to enjoy myself and know that I won't have to worry about a little overindulgence.

Dawn M. Henley is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News, and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at or by calling 847-3021.