Cathy and I have each lost 6 pounds this summer, eating 1,800 calories a day.
About a year ago, I had a discussion with a group of knowledgeable, forward-thinking dietitians about mid-life weight gain.
Is it inevitable, we wondered, to gain weight; if so, how much is "healthy"?
This problem was of particular interest to me, since I was beginning to slide into more of a pear shape than I appreciated, and I was encountering other mid-life women having the same problem.
I had thought about dieting, but rejected the idea, because I hate being hungry.
Besides, I'm all too familiar with our growing awareness with diets that just don't work.
In general, I eat well, and I do 30 to 45 minutes a day of varied activities, about four or five days a week, so I thought maybe I had to accept the inevitable.
While pondering this dilemma, I remembered the advice of David Williamson, Ph.D., M.S., of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. He told me he thought he had a solution to achieving "healthy weight."
Based on research, he believes that if each person would gradually work up to exercising 45 to 60 minutes each day, eat lots of grains, fruits and vegetables, and reduce dietary fat, each would achieve his or her own best weight.
When my daughter Cathy returned from college in mid-May, we decided to launch our own program based on Dr. Williamson's idea.
These were our guidelines:
* Eat 1,800 calories a day.
* Limit fat to 20 percent of calories (40 grams per day).
* Keep a notebook.
* Exercise 45 to 60 minutes, five or six days a week.
* Weigh once a week.
We used the Food Guide Pyramid. Most days we had 6 to 9 grain foods, 2 to 4 fruits, 3 or more vegetables and 2 or 3 dairy foods. We limited meat, poultry and fish to 4 or 5 ounces a day, and often substituted a vegetarian entree.
We aimed at 500 calories for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with 300 calories worth of snacks when we needed them most.
There's nothing we absolutely gave up. We've had filet mignon, chocolate mousse, pizza and even a scoop or two of ice cream.
But the acid test of a successful "diet" plan is keeping the weight off for five years. Can we live like this forever? I think so. Stick around for the final report.
Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant to the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center in Baltimore.