This is my first entry on Sparkpeople. I've been lurking on the site for about a year now and over time learning more and more about the resources that are available here. Last fall I started to track my food, exercise, and weight. I reduced certain things in my diet (junk food, alcohol, and eating after dinner), and increased my exercise, and I lost fifteen pounds and got more fit. But then I lost interest and stayed away from the site for all winter.
I did (mostly) maintain the new eating habits and continued to exercise, but I stopped tracking my food, weight, and exercise. About a month ago, I read Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma and decided to make an even bigger change: I stopped eating meat. I was something I'd been thinking about for the last several years, and I believed that it was a change I should make for a variety of reasons, but until recently, I didn't have the energy or motivation to make the changes in my cooking and eating habits. Over the winter, though, I gradually started cooking more things from scratch using whole ingredients and I tried out lots of new recipes. That gave me the confidence I needed to feel like I could make the switch to being vegetarian. Also, over the winter I began exercising more, and consequently became more aware of the kinds of things I was putting in my mouth to fuel my body and its activity.
It has been a month since I went vegetarian and switched to minimally processed foods. I have noticed one definite change: I have a lot more energy! I also feel much more positive about my ability to take charge of my health. Given the multiple chronic medical conditions I've developed over the last decade and the ongoing pain I deal with on a daily basis, I've felt a major loss of control over my body. I came to believe that my body controlled me--I had no control over it.
But now that I've retired (due to the chronic health problems), I have more time, energy, and willpower that I can use to focus on making myself healthier. Before, the bulk of that energy went into my job, focused on just getting through the day with the pain and fatigue I experienced, and essentially nothing was left over to take care of myself. Retiring due to the health issues required me to make a major concession to my body, to admit that I could no longer look past the health issues and go on as if they didn't exist. In a sense, retiring required me to admit that I was not able to control over my body.
Ironically, though, retirement has given me the space and time to realize that I can have a great deal of control over my body. Even though there are certain constraints that I must work within due to the chronic health problems, I still have a lot of control over how I feel and how I look. I choose to exercise, to strengthen my muscles and my cardiovascular system, and to reduce my weight. I choose to eat food that is good for me, in order to manage my weight and my mental health.
While my health conditions do effect me, I have some control. I choose to go for a walk rather than take a nap, to fight fatigue and feelings of depression. I choose to lift weights so that I can carry my groceries, now and in the future, and to keep my bones strong so I don't become incapacitated and bedridden as I age. I choose to stay active now, despite the pain, so that I can continue to be active in the future. When I envision my future, when I see myself at 60, 70, and 80, I don't want to see myself lying in bed or on the couch, complaining about how weak and exhausted I am. I want to see myself as a vibrant, active, and capable person, who despite ongoing health challenges, lives a rich and satisfying life.
You can read my other, non-Spark People blog here: misanthropicidealist.blogspot.