These are some of the little things that helped me stay on track, along with specific tricks for specific problems.


I weigh myself almost every morning, and keep a chart.  I have a really good scale - a balance scale which I bought from a doctor who was quitting private practice, and which doesn't vary by two pounds every time I step on it.  I think it's important to be able to trust your scale.  And definitely keep a chart, either on a piece of paper or on a computer.  I do both.

A chart allows you to see at a glance if you're making progress.  Too many people get discouraged because they've been watching what they eat for a whole week and see no progress.  The reason they see no progress is because they aren't looking!  If you don't keep a chart, how can you know?  "Oh, I can tell!" just doesn't cut it. 

Keep a chart.


When I was younger, I had long, thick hair.  As I aged, it got thinner, so I cut it shorter to maintain a full look.  I'm now growing it out again, and it's down my back 5" past my elbows.  The bottom six or eight inches is still a bit thin, but it's quite a bit thicker above that.  Here are the stages of what I did to get it thicker:

1.  A high-protein diet.  About twelve years ago, Tony and I decided to do the Atkins diet.  That's low carbohydrate, high protein, and fats were not limited.  After a few months, I noticed that my hair was thicker.  High protein helps.

2.  No harsh hair dye.  When I started coloring my hair, at about age 42 (I figured after I lost weight that I would treat myself) I used the harsh, level 3 dyes, but after a while they made my hair brittle and it kept breaking off shorter.  So I weaned myself to a level 2 (washes out after about 12 shampoos) coloring, and I don't have that problem any more.  It's not like permanent hair dyes are actually permanent, after all.  When your hair grows out, you have to do it again anyway!  In 2010 I actually quit coloring my hair at all.  I thought I might have to cut my hair short, but I never went through the piebald phase because the semi-permanent colors just faded away.

3.  Hormone replacement.  I read recently that you can tell how well your hormones are doing by how fast your hair grows.  I would add that it grows thicker as well.  I started progesterone therapy in about 2001, and as it grew out, my newer hair was noticeably thicker.  When I braided it, there was a definite difference, not just a gradual tapering.

4.  Braid your hair at night and roll up the ends.  I have some thick yarns (six 4-ply strands braided together) which I use at night to roll up the ends of my braids.  I end up with curly hair in the morning, and the ends don't rub themselves on the sheets and break.  No split ends.


If possible, eat with a friend who is like-minded about diet.  My husband and I live alone, now that the kids are grown, and he is at least as enthusiastic about losing weight and keeping healthy as I am.  He reads the health-nut literature too, and we discuss it.  He seldom turns up his nose at the healthy meals I fix, though he does keep peanuts and cheese sticks around to "supplement" my meals if I don't fix enough to satisfy him.

And don't give up on your "partner".  It took me about twelve years of what I thought of as setting a good example (along with occasional nagging) before Tony got on the health bandwagon.  It can be done alone; it's just not as much fun.


I still think the best way to eat for health is low-carb.  Chart of fat vs. muscle

Last year we discovered millet flour (Tony is sensitive to wheat, barley and rice, so we've been avoiding them).  I'm afraid I went overboard with millet flour.  I was fixing millet muffins a couple of times a week.  And we started eating more tree fruit, which is high in sugars.  Both of us started gaining fat.  In the chart at right, the top, blue line is my fat percentage according to our body composition monitor, and the bottom one my muscle percentage.  As you can see, in the fall and winter of 2009 my fat started getting out of hand.  It wasn't only my diet - I had hurt my foot and began sitting behind my stand-up desk to let it heal.  About the time of the fat peak, we began Atkins again in earnest (no grain, no tree fruit or potatoes) and I began standing up again behind my desk at work.  My fat percentage began to plummet and I gained muscle.  It works!

Don't beat yourself up.  Don't quit!

If you slip up on a feast day, caused by birthday cake or turkey with stuffing, it's not the end of the world.  Simply write down what you ate (yes, all of it) and keep going.  If you get sick and skip a whole week of exercise, just take it up again (you may have to start slowly) when you can.

I acquired a frozen shoulder by overdoing my forehand smash in ping pong about four years ago.  My right shoulder wouldn't move much and was weak and sore.  Having gone through physical therapy for my frozen left shoulder about eight years earlier, I knew what to do to gradually free it up and strengthen it.  But during the two years when I was in do-it-yourself physical therapy (professional physical therapy works faster and better, but is more expensive and I didn't want to miss work) I modified my exercise program to baby that shoulder, using a weight in the other hand, but nothing on the injured side.  I stretched and worked up in weights, so now I am not unbalanced any more, but it took me over two years.  It would have been a good excuse to quit exercising, but I worked through it instead.  Don't quit!