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Slimming Down with Salmon

By Barbara Simmons I December 06, 2019

Barbra Simmons cooking with an arm sling on the grill

Does this arm sling make me look fat?

I wasn’t planning on spending four weeks in a sling this summer and another eight (maybe 12) in physical therapy but, for better or for worse, I decided to have my rotator cuff and bicep tear repaired on the last day of school.

I felt I owed it to next year’s students to start the year off with me and not a sub. Not that writing sub plans would have been horrible, but I will have freshmen starting Italian next fall, and I will be traveling between two buildings teaching exploratory classes to the seventh-graders in the middle school.

I thought it would be a less chaotic start to the school year if I had the surgery as early in the summer as possible and had gotten most of the therapy out of the way.

How did I manage to damage my shoulder like this? No one has a clear answer and generally what I get is “stuff goes bad when you get to be your age.”

I wasn’t anticipating how annoying the recuperation would be. Bathing and dressing are very difficult. I have totally given up on shaving my armpits.

Sorry if that was too much information.

The worst part of being this limited is not being able to cook. I can only tolerate leftover hamburgers and old potato salad for so long. I’m determined to hone my “lefty” skills so that I can do more in the kitchen soon, but certain tasks are just too awkward and even downright impossible.

Eating is a challenge, too. I am managing with the short forks (cake forks) and soup spoons, but cutting meat is still not something I can do. So, since cooking and eating are no longer as enjoyable for me as they used to be, this hiatus has turned out to be a good time to work on my diet.


WWIII (Weight Watchers Round 3). I started a couple of months ago, inspired by my vice principal at the high school. She lost 30 pounds in a few short months and was looking especially fit in her skinny jeans when I ran into her on a dress-down Friday. Being an especially tech-savvy person, she raved about the new Weight Watchers program, explaining how you can do all your tracking and record-keeping on your smartphone. No more public humiliation from weekly weigh-ins before the meetings at the local firehouse.

She sold me.

Personally, I was at an all-time body image low. I had attained the figure of all the German women I knew (over 60) who were good cooks. Big arms from all the housework and gardening, big boobs and a big belly.

I had become cylindrical, like my mom, my Oma (grandmother), Tante Lucie, Tante Gustl, Tante Lanni—all of them. They never worried about their shapes; it was just the way women looked when they got to be a certain age.I did take a few sad selfies (which will never see the light of day) and took my measurements when I started the program. The numbers didn’t lie—I had become cylindrical. It was so depressing.

Getting started wasn’t difficult, though. My information (from WWI and WWII) was still on the company’s website, so I entered my starting weight and started browsing for breakfast ideas. The plan has been revised since I was last on it. There were several eye-opening “no point” foods that had cost me points in the past, like bananas, eggs and fish.

I got off to a “hipster” start and enjoyed a breakfast of avocado toast topped with a soft-boiled egg, alfalfa sprouts and salsa (for a whopping 4 points). I lost about 8 pounds the first week; I’m mostly attributing that to consuming no alcohol whatsoever.

It has been a struggle, especially eliminating the summer cocktails that I enjoy so much. I’m trying to get used to flavored vodka with a seltzer chaser, but I sure miss the gin and tonics. And the glass of wine (or two) that I used to enjoy while eating dinner…or while preparing dinner. The darned alcohol really adds up.

Roasted Salmon with Mustard and Dill

Preheat the oven to 350° or start the grill, checking to see when it reaches 350°.


  • 1 salmon fillet (2½ to 3 pounds)

  • *⅓ cup Dijon mustard

  • *½ bunch fresh dill, washed and chopped


  1. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Mix the mustard and chopped dill together.

  2. Spread all of the mustard-dill mixture on the salmon and place the coated fillet, skin-side down, on the foil.

  3. Bake in the middle of the oven or on the grill with the lid down, until the salmon is pink (no longer red) in the thickest part and flakes easily with a fork. This usually takes 25-35 minutes.

  4. Serve hot or at room temperature.

*A few variations: Whole-grain Dijon mustard can be substituted for the regular Dijon.

Two tablespoons dried dill can be substituted for fresh, but the flavor will not be as bright.

For an Asian twist, instead of using the mustard-dill mixture, the salmon can be topped

with 2 tablespoons soy sauce mixed with 1 tablespoon sesame oil and 1 tablespoon sherry.

A sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds before roasting adds a nice crunch and texture.


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