At first it was just about me. I wanted to lose a few dress sizes by my daughter’s wedding next summer for purely vain reasons, having carried around extra pounds for years now – all cleverly hidden by long sweaters and thigh-length jackets. Once I began looking at how getting myself into shape benefits those I love, however, I began to see my how it affected much more than the one writing this.
Even though I have been lucky so far not experiencing any challenging illnesses or conditions, simple issues surrounding one’s health/weight can come as a sudden wake-up call, especially when blood work reveals unhealthy numbers for cholesterol, vitamin and thyroid health. My lab readouts were a bit disconcerting, forcing me to think long and hard about just how long and how badly I wanted to be around. Suddenly not taking care of me seemed to be a selfish act, prompting me to think about how my lack of self-care might affect the people around me.
I had to ask myself why I would consciously doom my loving partner in life to years and perhaps decades without me. Sure, he might find a suitable partner again, but I know in my heart he would be devastated for a good, long time if I took the dirt nap sooner rather than later. Even sadder to me, however, was the idea of denying future grandchildren the memory my reading them bedtime stories until they are old enough to roll their eyes over it, or being embarrassed by their “yiayia’s” screams at soccer games and sobs at their milestone events.
When I began to think of all the laughter and good times I would miss by checking out early just to avoid doing anything about my “weight” situation, it made me realize that taking care of myself is so much more than leaving butter off popcorn or passing up key lime pie at a dinner party. In the end, staying faithful to a regimen designed to reach your size/weight goals isn’t even about the goals themselves. It’s about the journey one takes to get there – one laden with life-altering realizations along the way. Here are a few I have been hit with through the first few weeks on my own path to better health:
• Drinking water is as important as breathing air. All those Facebook posters and slogans about what water does for you can’t be wrong. After all, I don’t think anyone gets rich over pushing water. There’s no money in it. My skin has improved; my hair is healthier, and everything that aids in my digestion is suddenly having a party.
• Exercise once a day gives you energy after it initially zaps it; I had no idea I could be so productive so late in the day. I actually have to tell myself to slow down so I can get drowsy enough to go to sleep.
• Sugar cravings can disappear in just a few days when protein becomes your friend. It’s weird.
• I am beginning to find that I have wasted precious mornings for decades. Finding ways to sleep until the last moment only robbed me of life-affirming walks in the fresh air that now jump-start my day. Besides, it feels great to brag to my trainer about having done it.
• Being aware of diet and exercise takes being in the moment to an entirely new level. You begin to live consciously, thinking about every morsel that enters your body and using muscles that have atrophied. Your body screams at you at first, asking you why it took you so frickin’ long to pay attention, but after awhile you look forward to seeing the changes that are taking place.
• The feeling of accomplishment of completing a successful day and sticking to your personal commitment to do this is like giving yourself a gift.
• I am kicking myself for not doing this sooner.