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Welcome to the first in a series of blogs that I’ll be doing about health and fitness. The idea for the series came about after I was asked by Andy and the Rev of the Cocktail Hour to join them for a discussion about the topic. To learn more about the Cocktail Hour please visit them at http://cocktailhour.us/about. Stay tuned for more on when that will be scheduled.
Out of the gate, my disclaimer is that this is not an advice blog. I am in no position to give others advice about how to get healthy and fit. What I will discuss is my own journey there, including what has worked and not worked for me. Each person has to be responsible with the help her health care provider to know her own body, its capabilities and needs.
Let’s get started. I come from a long line of short stocky women who tend to gain weight easily, especially at middle age. I grew up on a Midwestern diet of meat, potatoes and sugar. I thank my parents for always making sure that our bellies were full. They did their very best under the circumstances. However, my diet now is nothing like the one I grew up on. I’ll write more about that in another blog about food. An unhealthy diet was a big part of why I struggled with fluctuating weight during my 20s and 30s. One year I would be thin and fit, and by the next I’d be carrying 10 to 25lbs more than was healthy for my 4’ 11” frame. I always kept two sets of clothes. Ones for when I was thin, and then not so thin. I could lose weight easily enough, but I could never keep it off for good. That changed when I changed my view of what it means to be healthy.
When I was thirty nine, I was 25lbs overweight, suffering from the pain associated with having broken my back a number of years prior, and I was a giant ball of stress. I oscillated between feeling sorry for myself and wanting to be healthy and go back to running. As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog, I am a runner. I also had a good friend who died that year of breast cancer. She was only forty when she lost her battle. One of the things that touched me most was how hard she fought to keep her body as healthy as possible going through her treatments. She drastically changed her diet and moved her body as best she could under the weight of cancer and the treatments for it. She desperately wanted to live, and the way to get there was to be as healthy as she could be. I don’t know whether the changes that she made gave her any extra time, but I learned from her that life is fleeting and that the health of our bodies is essential to us being around for a long time.
What clicked for me is that health and fitness have absolutely nothing to do with body image or what others think of you. It has everything to do with living one’s best life and being comfortable in our own skin. By the time I reached age forty, I had lost 27 pounds, and at age forty five I am in the best shape of my life despite a bad back and the aging process. My weight does fluctuate, but only at a rate of 1-3lbs, rather than what it used to. There have been three essential ingredients to my getting to this place. The first is to move my body. The human body was designed to move. Based on our genetics and history of injury, that means different things for different people. I know my limitations and capabilities. I focus on the capabilities and move to the fullest extent possible within them. The second ingredient is diet. Changing my diet and how I think about food has made all the difference, and I would never go back to the way that I used to eat. More than five years into it, I don’t miss a meat, potato and sugar diet at all. Finally, like most people, stress used to play a huge part in making me unhealthy. I still have plenty of things that cause stress in my life. The difference now is how I manage it by meditating and changing how I think about the world. This change has been the most difficult and requires much effort. But, I continue to work hard to keep stress at bay which means I have more energy for exercise, motivation to eat healthy and am so much happier and grateful about life.
So, the three things that I’ll be talking about over the series of blogs on health are (1) diet (2) exercise and (3) finding a happy heart. I hope you’ll join me by posting comments on what works for you as well. I view this as an opportunity for us to learn from and help each other find our paths to our own best health. Peace.