LAKE PLACID DIET: February’s weight-loss journey was spent ‘wintering’

The garlic that Lake Placid News Editor Andy Flynn planted in 5-gallon buckets in October can be seen here in the backyard of his Saranac Lake home on Wednesday, Feb. 22, near the snowblower he doesn’t use. (News photo — Andy Flynn)

May 10: 490 lbs.

May 31 (surgery): 460 lbs.

Feb. 21: 388 lbs.

Total lost: 102 lbs.

Lake Placid News Editor Andy Flynn’s backyard at his Saranac Lake home, as seen from the deck, was filled with years worth of overgrowth, including invasive vines, when this photo was taken on May 1, 2021. (News photo — Andy Flynn)

I love the concept of Lake Placid artist Ingrid Van Slyke’s upcoming show at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts: “Wintering,” which opens on March 2. She recently went through a time of grief, losing both parents and her mother-in-law in less than two years.

“My paintings are a metaphor for hope and resilience,” she told me on Feb. 16 during an interview in her studio off Old Military Road. “I believe that everyone goes through this personal time where they figure out what’s going on in their lives, and I’m calling it wintering.”

In her thesis, Van Slyke explains that “Wintering” explores the symbolic and emotional nature of her winter landscapes to the human condition of personal wintering. But she didn’t create the term; her thesis was inspired by — and loosely paraphrases — the book, “Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times,” a hybrid memoir by British author Katherine May, published in 2020.

That’s how I feel every winter — a meaty core of inner reflection during the dark days of winter, covered by a gravy of hope and making plans for the lighter days of spring — but I feel it more this year because of my bariatric surgery (mixed metaphors, I know).

Ingrid could have painted a lot of dark images to mirror her feelings, but she didn’t. Instead, the 20 or so landscapes celebrate the light of winter in contrast to the dark shadows.

Most of the invasive vines and undergrowth in Lake Placid News Editor Andy Flynn’s backyard at his Saranac Lake home, as seen from the deck, was removed by the time this photo was taken on Wednesday, Feb. 22. (News photo — Andy Flynn)

“It never even crossed my mind to go in that direction,” she said. “It was always the hope, and it’s resilience. It’s the resilience of the human spirit to just keep going and carrying on and fighting through. And the winter does the same thing. We’re covered with a blanket of snow. It transforms the entire landscape. And it’s kind of barren, and it’s dark, and then the spring comes and life regrows again. It’s like this cycle of life that keeps going.”

That’s something I try to practice every time I write a “Lake Placid Diet” column. I remain as honest as possible, through the good times and the bad, and try to remain hopeful that better days will come.

After surgery last May, I promised readers to report back once a month with my weight-loss progress, and this month I didn’t want to write anything because I don’t have much to report. I haven’t gone through anything drastic. I haven’t lost a lot of weight since January. And I don’t have any profound wisdom to share.

I’ve simply been working through my stuff. I’ve been wintering.

Thank you, Ingrid, for sharing your story and your paintings with the public. No doubt, people will be going from painting to painting in the LPCA gallery and empathize with your struggle, maybe reflect on their own struggles and leave with a deeper sense that “I’m not in this alone.”

I love it! (Read about Ingrid’s art show HERE.)

So, what kind of stuff am I working through? Mainly the emotional eating. It’s my constant struggle, fighting what I call “head hunger.” (I didn’t make up that term; I heard it somewhere, and it resonates with me, so I use it.) At the end of a long day or a long week, I still have this feeling that I need to celebrate life with food. It doesn’t help that we’re currently in the middle of the food holidays, which started with Halloween, continued with Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day, and were followed by the Super Bowl, Valentine’s Day and Fat Tuesday. Now, just look at the Irish stout packed high near the deli counter at Price Chopper, and you know St. Patrick’s Day is coming. And Easter candy is everywhere!

Head hunger confession: I still love the taste of chocolate and try to wait until the day after Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter — to buy some. That’s when you can find the big sales on candy.

So in a way, satisfying that head hunger through emotional eating is a dangerous — and all-too-familiar — version of wintering. The long week or personal struggle being the dark days of winter and the indulgence of salty, fatty and sugary foods being the hope of spring. Only, I used to do it every day — a vicious cycle of overeating junk food.


I’m still not physically hungry most of the time because of my sleeve gastrectomy, but I constantly get head hungry.

One of the things I’ve done to get my mind away from food is rebuilding the gardens around my house. I live on a street inside the village of Saranac Lake, and we don’t have much land. We have a few garden beds in the front of the house and a small backyard. In the fall, I began reclaiming the gardens after years of neglect and created a plan to grow flowers, vegetables and fruit this summer. With some deck space, the plan includes container gardening. With cucumbers, dill and garlic in the plans, I’m calling it a pickle farm.

A lot of the time I would have spent watching movies and television shows, I now spend on the garden spaces around my house — either getting my hands dirty or planning. Even though thinking about growing food isn’t really getting my mind away from food, it’s different. I’m not growing Doritos or Ben & Jerry’s ice cream; I’m growing pole beans, blueberries, cucumbers, horseradish, herbs, etc.

So, as I work stuff out this February, I’m envisioning spring days filled with renewed growth. Yes, that will include fighting back the weeds and invasive plants, but I’ll also be rewarded with the fruits of my labor, gardens for the birds and pollinators and a harvest I can share with friends and family. That’s my version of hope.

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