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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I was part of a Wellness presentation tonight for a local organization. This the basic text of my part of the presentation...

How did I get this far?

It has taken me 16 months to get this far, and I have worked hard. I started out just walking around the block, then twice around the block, then a mile, then two miles, and so on. I started this change after seeing my vacation pictures from last May, and finally realizing exactly just how big I had gotten. There were things I just couldn't do while on vacation and that made me pause a moment, but it wasn't until I had visual proof that it really sank in. At that point I Googled diet plans and randomly clicked on the link for SparkPeople.com. What a treasure I found! It is a free fitness and nutrition tracking website with a lot of extra resources and a wonderfully supportive community of users. I have joined teams, participated in challenges and made friends with people from all across America and around the world. One of the main points of SparkPeople is that even just 10 minutes of exercise is better than nothing, and most people can find 10 minutes during their busy day!

I have gone from an unhealthy, sedentary lifestyle to healthy, active one. From walking around the block to walking 7 miles a day on a regular basis. I did finally join a gym, and started focusing on strength conditioning and more intense workouts. I have had a Lot of fun along the way, and made some great friends. I haven't just been slogging along forcing myself to workout. I have friends to walk or run with, as well as my dog who makes sure I walk every single day, twice a day. I find I enjoy trying to go a little farther, or a little faster. I am not very competitive with other people, but I am very competitive against myself.

What have been the benefits of adopting a healthier, more active lifestyle?

There were some significant health benefits to losing weight through exercise and a moderate diet. My cholesterol level has been cut in half. My pulse and blood pressure have both dropped. I no longer fit the medical definition of a Type 2 diabetic. I no longer need my CPAP machine. And my skin has greatly improved. I have more energy to do all the things I always wanted to do, but never thought I could.

I use a fancy scale at the County Clinic that tells a variety of stats beyond weight, and it tells me these days that my physical age or "body age" is actually younger than my chronological age. I started this adventure with a "body age" of 72 years old, and now I am down to a "body age" of 32 years old. That is life potential I have regained. 40 years worth!

It hasn't just been physically that my health has benefited. I use exercise to boost my mood, and a diet of primarily whole grains, lean protein, fruits and vegetables has also helped. I can actually exercise my way out of a "blue" mood now. There is a scientific basis for that in that exercise releases endorphins which elevate mood. Taking just a 10 minute walk can brighten my day. Also, by staying busy with physical activities I give myself less time to just sit and fret about minor issues. I have been told that I think too much, but when I am running or working out at the gym, I am focused on proper form or on the music, not brooding over something that doesn't really matter.

It has also improved my relationships with my family, and broadened my circle of friends and acquaintances. For example, I got into kayaking with my brother this summer, and our relationship has definitely benefited. I have more outside interests, so I am more likely to have something worth talking about. I am still fairly shy and quiet, in general, but I talk more than I used to... on more topics than just what I ate for dinner last night.

Also, I have found that success leads to success. As I reach various weight loss and fitness goals I am more self assured and possess greater confidence. I think this is the key area that has improved my relationships. As I gain confidence I am less passive, and (I hope) more interesting. I find that other people are inspired by my weight loss success, and want to try and make changes in their own lives. Nothing could make me happier than to inspire someone to live a healthier life!

Amazingly enough, the changes I have made to lose weight have also helped me financially. I plan my meals and write a detailed shopping list for those meals. There is much less impulse shopping and food waste is minimal. Also, the self discipline I apply to my workouts works just as well for sticking to my budget. I buy fewer frivolous items, splurging only when I have figured it into my monthly budget. It is possible to feed myself healthy food on Food Stamps, it just takes a little planning.

What further steps do I see myself taking in the future?

Of course I want to lose that last 30 pounds. I have also started training for a sprint triathlon, as well as participating in races in both running and kayaking. I want to continue to improve my muscle to fat ratio. But those are just my fitness goals. I also have a goal of returning to the workforce part time, something I didn't have the confidence to pursue before. Otherwise, I just want to continue to improve my relationships with family and friends, and hopefully inspire others to try living a healthier lifestyle.
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