Cutting Sodium

Cutting Sodium

I ignored the first warning sign. It happens to everyone, I thought. Your body only changes as you get older. I slipped my dress back under my hips, the zipper that was impossible to close hung open like an open wound.

The second warning was harder to ignore. During my annual checkup, the nurse put me on a scale. I blinked twice when I saw the result. I was 32 years old, 5 feet 4 inches tall, 137 pounds (62 kg), and it was the worst form of my life.

My doctor gave me a warning. Ten pounds more, he said, and you'll qualify as overweight according to the body mass index scale. Your body mass index, he explained, is a statistical comparison of your height and weight with those of the general public, which classifies you as normal, overweight or obese. My number 23. 5, was in the upper part of "normal" and ordered me to do something about it.

When I got home, I saw myself in the mirror. Who was this tired woman with rolls around her waist and the thighs that carried the sewing tracks of her pants? I thought about magazines and television programs aimed at weight loss. I had never felt that they were talking about me. I was not obese. I did not eat fast food every day. I started jogging occasionally or riding a bicycle. It is not enough, said a voice inside me. It feels terrible. I do not have energy. I can not close the zipper of my favorite dress. It's time to make a change.

"Yes," I said softly. "But, how?"

I did not let myself look at the scales until the end of the week, but when I did it was worth it, I had lost 5 pounds.

The enemy with the naked eye

Sal. It's in all the tables, in all the restaurants and in almost everything you buy in the supermarket. According to the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, your daily intake should not exceed 2. 300 mg, or if you have high blood pressure, 1. 500 mg per day. I never thought about the amount of sodium I consumed until I started looking for ways to eat healthier. Out of curiosity, I started keeping track of the food.

My sodium intake ranged from 3,000 mg to 5,000 mg per day, which is mainly found in instant, canned or processed foods, the trifecta of sodium overdose. On a normal day, I ate cereal for children for breakfast, a turkey sandwich on white bread for lunch, and canned soup, a box of macaroni and cheese or a frozen main course for dinner. As is normal since these options are similar, many were full of salt that left me bloated and slow afterwards.

In his book "Making the Cut," fitness expert Jillian Michaels warns that too much salt can slow down your metabolism and keep your body from burning fat.The diet proposed in your book limits sodium intake to 1,000 mg per day. With this in mind, I gritted my teeth and went to my pantry. What I found made me tremble.

The can of Chef Boyardee Mini Bites Beef Ravioli contained a total of 1. 400 mg of sodium. The package of Nissin Top Ramen Noodles Chicken Flavor prepared with the seasoning package contained 1. 820 mg. The DiGiorno Cheese Stuffed Crust Pepperoni Pizza contained a total mind numbing of 5. 150 mg. I realized that my pantry was designed to feed a fraternity house, not a woman who works in her 30s. My refrigerator had not seen a fresh vegetable since the Bush administration and my fruit basket had a bag of potato chips. I needed a makeover of the food, and fast.

Mission: Impossible?

I set an initial limit of 1,000 mg of sodium per day: 250 mg each for breakfast and lunch, and 500 mg for dinner. Once I got my body used to eating healthy foods, I planned to slowly increase my intake to no more than 1,500 mg per day to allow for occasional indulgences.

My first trip to the grocery store with a low sodium status in mind was disappointing in the extreme. Everything, apparently, contains more sodium than it could afford. My beloved bread of sourdough? No, 200 mg per serving. A can of soup? No, 1. 800 mg per can. Turkey? I could not afford the 460 mg, nor the 350 mg of an ounce of sweet pickles.

I walked through the store, downcast. It would have been easier to achieve peace in the Middle East, I thought. However, I had to fill the basket with something. I grabbed quick-cooking oats, broccoli, carrots, grapes, tomatoes, low-sodium crackers, low-sodium rice chips, couscous, feta cheese, whole wheat pasta, rice, basil and olive oil. As I left the store, I crossed my fingers and hoped to have the willpower to eat everything instead of rushing to the nearest Burger King.

A new world

During the first week of my low sodium diet, I expected to feel hungry, grumpy and dissatisfied. Without my macaroni with cream and cheese, how am I going to get through a bad day? The answer was simple: plain couscous with basil, a pinch of feta cheese and a pinch of red pepper flakes, all with approximately 200 mg of sodium. Instead of a turkey sandwich, spread peanut butter on Saltine's "Hint of Salt" cookies with only 30 mg of sodium per nine crackers. I exchanged the corn dogs for StarKist Very Low Sodium Chunk with only 35 mg of sodium per half can. For dinner, I ate steamed vegetables and white rice seasoned with Mrs. Dash blends without salt. Surprisingly, these fresh and light dishes left me satisfied, but not full.

The second week, I felt energetic enough to start running.I no longer felt bloated or slow after dinner, I was not afraid to put on the elastic waist jogging pants. I ran for 20 minutes three days a week. I did not let myself look at the scales until the end of the week, but when I did, it was worth it, I had lost 5 pounds. I looked at myself in the mirror and smiled. "There's no going back," I told myself.

We want waist

I followed the 1,000 mg diet for two months and then adjusted my intake to no more than 1,500 mg per day. A year later, I lost 19 pounds (8 kg) and got down two sizes of clothes. I do not count calories or fat, I have found that foods low in sodium are low in calories and saturated or trans fat. Sometimes as Thanksgiving, it is simply not possible to eat less than 3,000 mg of sodium per day. But those days do not come often and when they do, I can not let them go and I enjoy being with my loved ones instead. After all, a diet must be a tool, not a master.

I miss macaroni and cheese? Of course. Did I fall off the cart? Yes, I licked my fingers after falling into some chicken wings. But every time I feel bloated and my belly presses against the waistband of my pants, I remember the decision to lower the sodium content. And that dress that I could not close the zipper... I was wearing yesterday.

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