Thursday, October 22, 2009

Letting go of my pound (or thirty) of flesh

194 pounds
It's been four days since I've worked out—that's the longest I've been inactive since I started this blog, and it scares the bejesus out of me. I'm going for a walk as soon as I finish this post and hope to not have another lapse like this for a while, but my behavior this week still gives me pause. Because I can't believe how easy it is to lapse into bad habits and how difficult it is to get moving again once I stop.

I've talked many times on this blog about how I lost weight from 1999 to 2007, but I haven't yet fully explained why that stopped in 2007. I think it's time to do that.

Of course, this is hard for me to talk about—to own up to my failures and admit that I haven't always lived the way I wanted to live and the way I advocate that others live. Since I don't believe in dieting, it's probably obvious that what I do believe in is healthy living and healthy eating. I made a big change in the way I do those things back in 1999 (what some people call a "lifestyle change"), and until 2007 I stuck with those changes. That's eight years of living in a way I'm proud of. You might be thinking that's a long time to be healthy, but you have to remember that I don't believe in denying my cravings or eating rabbit food. In fact, as many of you already know, it's just the opposite: I believe we have to give into our cravings rather than letting them fester and ultimately grow into a two-ton chocolate sundae we can no longer ignore. Instead of denying ourselves what we want, I simply believe that we've got to eat as much healthy, homemade food as we can and that we've got to exercise almost every day for as long as possible. I also believe that the number on the scale is not NEARLY as important as these two things. And I've believed that for ten years now.

So what happened in 2007 to throw me off my game? It's actually pretty simple.

In June of 2007, my husband and I found out that the college where we were teaching back then was in danger of closing. It was a huge emotional and financial blow that ended up taking its toll on both of us physically. As soon as we found out about the precariousness of the college's future, our boss told us that we should start looking for other work, and we did exactly that. What followed was eleven months of sending out job applications and interviewing, six months of trying to sell our house and looking for a place to live in our new town, and six months of subsisting in a rundown rental house before we finally moved to the beautiful home we live in now. (Thanks, Tracey!) When all was said and done, the whole ordeal took 21 months. From June of 2007 to February of 2009—one month before I started this blog—our lives were in a state of upheaval.

I want to say up front that I know these are mundane concerns—we're certainly not the first people to have to find new jobs in another part of the country. No, our challenges were not unique, but that didn't make them any less taxing.

And that's kind of what I'm trying to get at here—Dave and I went through a stressful year and a half, the kind of year and a half most people are forced to endure at one point in our lives, and the result was that we came out the other side with good jobs but also with much worse health.

At the end of the 2007-2008 school year, even Dave had gained weight. This is a person whose weight had not changed since I met him in 1990, but after that exhausting school year, he was—for the first time in his life—five pounds heavier than when I first laid eyes on him.

And, of course, I had gained much more than five pounds. In June of 2007, right before the bad news was delivered, I had bottomed out at 176 pounds, a low I had also hit the previous summer, but one that I was working hard to maintain. But, as you may know, when I started the blog in March of this year, I was up to 203 pounds—that's almost a 30-pound weight gain. When I realized what had happened, my first response was, How did this happen??? I had been losing weight for eight years, but as soon as I stopped focusing on my health, I began to let go of all that I had accomplished.

So how exactly did it happened? What happened was that we were so worried about being out of work and so tired from working full-time and spending all of our free time applying and interviewing for new jobs that we cut out everything we should have kept. Worst of all, we basically stopped exercising altogether. Maybe we would squeeze in a walk once a week, but even that was rare. And, just as importantly, we cut back how much we cooked at home. On the drive home from our former place of employment, we had to cruise through a neon alley of fast food restaurants and take-out eateries, and we stopped at those establishments more times than I care to admit. Our lives became about getting through the day, the week, the year, rather than being about living. We had the sense that if we could just make it through that awful year—and find new jobs and a new place to live—then we could deal with our health later. We would be happy, we told ourselves, when it was all over.

To some extent, this worked. We did find new jobs and, eventually, a great place to live. But the cost was wicked—five pounds for Dave and thirty pounds for me. And I can't help but look back on those 21 months and wonder if the cost had to be so extreme. Couldn't we have found more time for working out? Why wasn't I able to squeeze in a thirty- or even fifteen-minute workout here and there? Was it really necessary to let things get so bad???

I suppose there is nothing I can do about the mistakes of the past, but what I can do is avoid them in the future. So as I start to feel myself falling into the old trap of putting my health second to other, seemingly more pressing concerns (like work), I feel like I have no choice but to put my metaphorical foot down. I simply refuse to allow it to happen all over again. I refuse to let my health fall to the wayside.

Will there ever be another four-day period when I go without exercising? I have no doubt that there will be. But there won't be another four-month period. I promise you that. Not now. Not ever. Not if I have anything to say about it.

1 comment:

  1. I've been making healthier choices when it comes to food, but I have yet to get into the exercise habit (or even the exercise fluke). What you said about getting through the day instead of living struck a cord with me.