It didn't help that my regimen was a time-consuming royal pain. Shopping became a two-hour ordeal because I constantly had to read labels to check nutritional content; only a tiny percentage of the grocery store bread marked "wheat" is actually whole wheat. I always put off flossing until right before bed, sometimes forgot, then had to get back up to do it. Remembering to stop whatever I was doing to tighten my pubic region several dozen times a day was distracting. The temptation to say, "Oh, the hell with it!" hit daily when I craved something sweet and gooey or a drink to ease my way into evening (actually, realizing just how much I missed alcohol was...sobering). But instead I had to worry about meeting my daily quota of orange vegetables. Butternut squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes—I hated them all.

On the other hand, some things were becoming easier. Taking calcium and B vitamins and putting on sunscreen every day wasn't hard. I had more energy after dinner now that I wasn't sucking back cocktails. I could realistically get seven hours of sleep a night by just saying no to Law & Order reruns. It was possible for me to work at the computer without slouching—and when I listened to the little voice insisting that I "sit up!" my back didn't hurt at the end of the day. My exercise routine was getting easier (and if the music was particularly raucous, even enjoyable). Just ten minutes of stretching afterward—I followed a basic plan from the Mayo Clinic Web site—was loosening me up dramatically; in the car one afternoon, I looked over my shoulder to change lanes, and my neck didn't hurt. What I'd thought was arthritis and something I had to accept as part of getting older had simply been unstretched muscles. And given the pounds of roughage I was consuming, my normally recalcitrant bowels were working properly for the first time in decades. I realized that I'd grown accustomed to a constant feeling of bloat, which had disappeared.

By the end of the third week, something astonishing happened: The hunger went away. I missed the taste of chocolate, but I no longer fixated on it. I found a thick, Greek-style low-fat yogurt that was pretty satisfying if I packed it with fruit. (Okay, I also added some maple syrup.) I ate new vegetables, like Swiss chard and turnip greens. I tried recipes from an Indian cookbook that were high on spice, low on grease, and involved healthy combinations of potatoes, mushrooms, cauliflower, and lentils. Even my 14-year-old daughter liked them.

During the fourth week, I went to the dentist and for once was complimented on my "good oral care." I felt a little internal tightening from the Kegels, though I'd read that measurable results—like a husband shouting "Wow!"—could take months. My skin was rosy, and my thighs and upper arms looked sculpted, in a middle-aged kind of way. And my pants were way loose. Not only had I lost weight, but the roll around my gut was gone.

When my month of perfect living ended, I drank a double Scotch on the rocks, slept in instead of rising to pump iron, enjoyed ice cream and a chile relleno burrito that oozed grease. It was lovely not to have to worry about putting on sunscreen just to walk the dog, to let the flossing go (just for tonight), not to have to down a pile of squash. 

But I never bought a replacement pint of cream for my morning coffee, so who was I kidding? Clean living hadn't made me young, but I felt and looked pretty freakin' terrific. My refrigerator is filled again with whole wheat muffins, fruit, and vegetables—orange ones, too. I'm giving myself a little leeway, like special occasion permission to indulge. But I'm back on the program. One month down; can't wait to see what happens in six.

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As a reminder, always consult your doctor for medical advice and treatment before starting any program.


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