Sunday, September 09, 2012
Day 9. How old are you and do you think your thoughts about weight loss, fitness, and wellness have changed over time?
I am 41. I've been dieting since I was 11 or 12. I had high blood pressure way back then which I know was why my doctor sent me to a nutritionist but even back then I was only thinking about scale weight. Even at my heaviest, I was pretty darn healthy. My blood pressure had crept up again (but wasn't 'high'). My blood chemistry was awesome. I don't know how someone can carry all that extra weight and have a cholesterol in the 130s (good ratio too!), trigylcerides of 16 (seriously!), and 'perfect' blood sugar and A1C but I did. Sometimes I feel guilty that my journey has been mostly about vanity but I was healthy when I was obese so health wasn't really on my mind. I took it for granted.
For most of my life, when thinking of my body, I have only thought in terms of size and scale number. Fitness never entered my mind. Wellness had to do with my mind and I saw no connection to my body. I was the teenager (and young adult) who was all about being skinny. The skinnier the better. The smaller the number on the label in my pants the better. I restricted calories to regulate my weight. I never thought about exercise (not that I didn't do it - all through high school I worked hard in PE and then all through college I walked miles a day around a very large campus). I besmirched athletics as something smart people like me didn't have time for. Good thing too because years of restricting calories to stay a size 3 meant I was a picture person for skinny fat and couldn't have been athletic if my life depended on it.
That's me at what I thought of as 'my prime' - at the end of HS, between my Cornell and my MIT years, and right before I got pregnant with my olderst. I was VERY VERY happy with my body but looking at those pictures now I find them worrisome. There's no muscle evident at all. No wonder I was klutzy and scared to death of sports!
I didn't have a physical for about 5 years when my children were really small. If I was sick enough to insist on seeing a doctor my husband would stay with the kids so I could go but there was no way I was taking 2 little kids to a physical.... to talk about how stressed out I was taking care of 2 little kids (with a husband who, oh, couldn't make the time for me to go to the doctor to talk about it without the kids along). BUT as soon as I got my daughter off to school for long enough to have enough kid-free time to go... I went. And that's when I started hearing 'exercise', 'exercise', 'exercise'. Every year she would tell me that maintaining 150 pounds was fine. I didn't need to lose weight. I was healthy. But I had a lot of minor concerns - stress, history of gestational diabetes, fatigue, weight - that would all benefit from exercise. This was the beginning of me beginning to think beyond my weight and my size but, still, all through my years at Curves or FitKick or pilates I was really only exercising because I hoped it would help me lose weight.
Then.... I got hurt. Really, really hurt. I had to do jaw stretching therapy on my daughter. That involved using this nasty thing:
Only, my directions were 'off-label'. I was to put that thing in her mouth and push on it as hard as possible and hold for as long as possible. Minutes. It destroyed my forearm and injured the tendons in my elbow. I stopped after about 3 weeks, waiting to let it get better, but it didn't. It took me another 2 months to go to the orthopedic surgeon. 'Complex arm overuse syndrome' Whatever that means. Tennis elbow, carpal tunnel, various neuropathies. And too much inflammation to even start PT. I was to sit. And sit I did. Really in a funk. Two friends were literal life savers. They got on me repeatedly - . Go to PT. Get back to the doctor. You need PT. Maybe you need surgery. 6 months after the injury I finally was well enough to start PT and, lucky, I have avoided surgery. Believe me, I will never take an injury-free body for granted again.
I had to carve 3-4.5 hours a week out of my life to go to PT. And I did it. And I had to make time at home every day to do my home program. And I did it. My friends had really gotten through to me. I was worth it. I HAD to do it. I HAD to get better. For me and for my family. It was a slow process with lots of set backs but about a year after the initial injury I was cleared to join a gym (which I had told my PT was my goal - because around the time that I was starting PT I was realizing that cutting calories alone was what was getting me stuck in the 150s every time I tried to lose weight). And I did it. Why not? I had already carved a lot of time out of my schedule to make time for PT and home exercises. Physical Therapist. Personal Trainer. PT. PT. I was just going to swap one for the other.
Even when I joined the gym I was still compartmentalizing weight, fitness, and wellness. Cardio as going to help regulate my mood and blood sugar. Strength training was going to help me not ever get hurt like that again. And maybe, someday, I'd start losing weight again but I wasn't really thinking about it. Over time it all started to come together though. I think it was sparkpeople that did it. I first joined years ago but I returned shortly after joining the gym - just as I was beginning to lose weight again - and I read and read and read. And I connected the dots. The aging of my parents and grandparents has also cemented my commitment to overall wellness. My father had a quintuple bypass weeks before I hit goal. I very much want to avoid coronary artery disease. My mother has been diagnosed with severe arthritis in her hip and most likely has severe sleep apnea (we finally got her to have a sleep study and she gets the results soon). Both of them are paying the price for being overweight and not paying enough attention to diet and exercise. And then there is my grandmother - she's 95. What if I am bound to live until I'm 95 and stuck in a body that limits what I do? No.thank.you!
I feel like I've gotten much wiser over the years. I've stopped compartmentalizing. I've started integrating. I've FINALLY started taking care of ME. That's taken a certain boldness that I didn't have before. I'm not comfortable saying 'But *I* need attention! *I* need to spend some money on a gym membership or a trainer or what have you. *I* need to take time away from taking care of other people.' But looking at where I had been and where I could be going I had to be bold enough to do it :-)
Now I am looking forward to keeping up with my grand kids when I am my parents' age and hopefully living as long as my grandmother :-)