I have a number of health issues–ribs and back problems, a MULTITUDE of problems with my lady parts that range from “irritating” to “so painful I’d rather be unconscious.” I have been battling various degrees of anxiety and panic attacks following a brain injury a few years ago which, finally, seem to be mostly under control (thanks, Science). I have had cancer chopped out of my skin and will undoubtedly have to deal with that again. Up until a few months ago I adhered to mostly healthy eating habits (but, you know, with cheese and brownies on the regular) but was still 45 pounds overweight. However, for the most part, I consider myself quite healthy. I don’t know if that’s wishful thinking or denial, but it’s the truth.
Now, with the exception of my weight, an annual physical would confirm that my blood pressure is good, my cholesterol lower than average, and my heart and lungs are clear and doing just fine. Hey, I even grew an inch this year!
However. As my weight continued to creep higher and higher, as my life became more and more sedentary, and my psyche more stressed…I knew I was deliberately ignoring my health. In a larger sense of health I was doing fine–no smoking or drugs, diligent sunscreen application, regular dental check-ups, and take care of my mental health, as well as working with my doctor for years to try and figure out and treat my lady-part issues. But in my day-to-day activities, I was not a recognizable “healthy” person. A few months ago I stepped on the scale and audibly gasped. 198 pounds! On my
5’7″ 5’8″ frame that puts me in a size 14. I’d been buying 12-14 pants/leggings and XL skirts for months, but seeing that 198 pounds on the scale, that was the catalyst. I finally decided to make a permanent change, and promised myself I’d stick with it.
I started going to the gym several times a week. I hated it.
I started buying and then eating more vegetables than any other food, and I stopped buying or baking sweets. I sometimes still devoured just-purchased pastries in my car, in secret, feeling guilty and sick to my stomach.
I made a goal to drink more water and less Diet Dr. Pepper (this is my most difficult health goal, to date).
I kept going to the gym, running a little faster, moving a little bit longer.
I kept buying vegetables, I planned entire meals around zucchini or cauliflower. I instigated scheduled treats, for legit celebrations. I stopped feeling guilty or ashamed about a slice of cake for a birthday.
I added speed intervals to my time on the treadmill, running a little faster and a little longer every week. I figured out it takes 75 minutes of an elevated heart rate for my “runner’s high” to kick in.
I started tracking calories and made sure to burn several hundred more a day than I consumed. I loved knowing the numbers for my inputs and outputs, it turned into a little game.
Slowly, my fluffy parts got a little less fluffy. I stopped craving chocolate and Kraft mac and cheese.
In the last couple of months I have lost 25 pounds, and kept it off. I can run a 5k in less than 35 minutes without wanting to die. I can do this by running a consistent 11-minute mile, and I can ALSO do it by running speed intervals as well. I eat veggies and lean protein almost every meal, limit fruit to a few times a week, and for the most part skip bread and sugar completely.
I am 33 years old and working towards a regular day-to-day health that I have never once possessed. And most surprising to me? I actually like it. I am
stubborn bossy particular about how I frame this new version of my health.
I refuse to give up cheese or dairy.
I don’t like dancing in front of anyone, so Zumba is out-out-out and nothing you can say will change that.
I don’t eat chia seeds, or oatmeal, or green smoothies because I cannot stand the taste or texture and would rather just eat a salad instead of ruining pineapple or a banana with liquid spinach juice.
Without 90 minutes at the gym, my work-from-home routine will net me about 700 steps throughout the day. So, I go to the gym for 90 minutes to hit my 10,000 steps (thanks, Fitbit, you creeper). It is sometimes inconvenient and makes me disgustingly sweaty, but I do it anyway.
And here is the continuously most surprising thing: I have started to like this new routine. I like the veggie-heavy menu; I like spending 90 minutes at the gym (with an audiobook, I am not a robot). I do not miss cupcakes or sandwiches or nightly Netflix marathons. In fact, if I skip the treadmill for a few days I get antsy and irritable. Who am I?
I’m just me, but….healthier?
I am not sleeping better. My skin is not clearer or my hair shinier. To be honest, I’m not even entirely sure that I feel better on a daily basis. But, I know that my heart and lungs are healthier, my brain hamsters are running themselves to exhaustion on a treadmill instead of round and around my head. And my guts certainly appreciate my mostly-whole foods menu.
I still have 20 pounds to go, and I imagine they will be harder to lose than this first 25, but I am hoping to be back to my “fighting weight” sometime this fall. What will I do at that point? Honestly, I don’t really know. I’ve thought of running a half marathon as a way to help me stay focused those last few pounds. But even if I don’t do that, I want to maintain this input (food) and output (burning calories) routine. And not because of my new pants size, and the section of “once upon a time” clothes in my closet I will be able to wear again. But mostly, because this daily change has brought about some more recognizable long-term health benefits that I have started to actually value.
I’ve been adulting for YEARS and am finally figuring out how to take care of myself. Hey, who knows what I’ll do next!