Sunday, August 29, 2010

Diet- the four letter word

A couple of years ago when I first realized that I was terminally bored, there wasn't much I could do about it. It was the middle of my daughter's senior year in high school and we had several college visits planned, plus various other things, that meant I couldn't commit to a job or anything else.  So I decided the one thing that I could do would be to work on getting in shape.  Which was something almost completely different for me-- other than a brief stint with aerobics in my twenties, I've been almost entirely sedentary my entire life.  Due to lucky genetics, when I was younger I still managed to be in pretty good shape, but the older I got, the less genetics counted, and the more pasty-looking and pathetic I became.  I didn't exactly know what to do about it-- I'm a couch potato, a geek, a nerd, a booklover.  I don't do exercise. 

Or at least I didn't.  Because I had to do something, and that was the only thing I could think of that was manageable at the time and that felt like enough of a change.  I was clear on one thing:  it wasn't going to be about losing weight.  And it hasn't been.  I'm in much better shape, and my clothes fit better and I look better, but I weigh pretty much exactly the same as I did when I started. In fact, there have even been a couple of times in the midst of this that I've gained weight. 

What I started with was the treadmill.  I got some good music for my iPod and I just started making myself do it three or four times a week. On the days I didn't do the treadmill, I tried to do something else-- either go for a walk, or do yoga or stretching or something.  Always with the iPod going-- that turned out to be the trick for me:  having music I enjoyed listening to so I didn't really think that much about what my body was doing.  At first I had to drag myself to do it, but before long I was almost(not quite) looking forward to it. 

And then I even started looking for ways to make it more challenging.  I started doing ab work on some of the off days-- which was a challenge, because anything that pulls on my neck leads to migraines, and it took awhile to find a set of ab exercises that doesn't put any strain on the neck.  Then about a year ago, I added free weights while I was on the treadmill.  Nothing fancy (a year later, I'm still using 3 lb weights, just more repetitions), but it was enough that I could tell a definite difference when I would go to lift something.  And a funny thing happened.  It turned out that actually being stronger physically made me feel stronger emotionally, too.  It's been a good thing for me.  I find that I miss my routine when we're out of town and I can't do it.

But, as I said before, it has been unrelated to my weight, and I haven't changed my eating habits at all.  In fact,  they've gotten considerably worse.  I guess I've been using the exercise as an excuse to eat more, and more unhealthy stuff.  Then this summer started.  It has been stressful, to say the least.  My dad's illness, the intensive class I was auditing during the month of June, all the travel (three trips via plane!  that's more than I usually do in a year! plus all the driving to UTown, and a trip to Seattle to help my daughter move in to an apartment), and being in charge of a week-long family reunion in mid-July-- I've been stressed.  Although I was still exercising, I wasn't taking very good care of myself otherwise.  About halfway through the family reunion, I noticed that I was just stuffing food in my mouth.  All day long.  I'm not sure why that was helping me manage the stress (or even if it really was), but once I noticed it, I could watch myself do it.  All day long. 

and predictably enough, my weight ballooned.  I don't weigh myself-- I hate to obsess about the number-- so I'm not sure how much I actually gained, but when the pictures came back from the family reunion, I was shocked.  How did I let it get that bad?  I looked like the Michelin man. 

So.  I know from previous experience that I can't diet.  That would be another post, but since it's a topic that bores me, I probably won't write it.  I've stepped up the exercise a little, and I'm just trying to not overeat. And to make healthier food choices.  It's working pretty well so far-- I finally did weigh myself last week and I'm already back down to the same weight I've been for several years now.  But I wouldn't mind seeing if I can ditch ten pounds or so.  I still wouldn't even be back to the weight I was before my now-13-year-old son was born, but I would probably feel better.

This was actually going to go in a different direction when I started, but maybe I will save that post for tomorrow because this one has already gone on too long.

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