Sunday, February 3, 2013

Fitness and Health: The Background

I've always been on the thin side. I recognize I am lucky like that. I've never really had to worry about weight, but there came a time when I started to worry about fitness and then my health. And I didn't really know how to move forward with that.

No one worked out in my family when I was young. They worked. They mowed the lawn, cut wood and hauled it into the house, they cleaned... they were often moving. We generally ate well balanced meals (protein, carbs, veggies), but no one taught me to cook or talked about the importance of eating a balanced meal.

So when I was 24 and noticed that I put on an extra 5 pounds I started thinking I should probably do something about it. I know - it was only 5 pounds, but I realized it had been a few pounds a year for several years. I was still skinny. I was still referred to as 'toothpick' from time to time, but I started thinking that I needed to take care of myself better. I started to think that if I kept blowing off the idea that a few pounds a year wasn't a big deal, I would find myself 10 years down the line in a spot I didn't like. I needed to be more mindful of my body. I just didn't know exactly what to do or how hard I really wanted to work at it.

My nephew and I celebrating our b-days. My 24th, his 23rd.  PS. I am so hungover here.

I was a runner when I was in grade school and junior high. In fact, I reluctantly joined the track team in 7th grade and, apparently to revolt, I only ran baton races (and earned the cheesy nickname "baton beauty"). So at age 24 I looked back at those running days and thought "I'll start running again". Ha! A lot changes in your body over 10 years and I found myself struggling to run around the block. So I picked up some hand weights and a jump rope and started slow. I wasn't as devoted as I would have liked to have been, but I was doing something. Sometimes.

Over the next few years I found myself going back and forth between working out (always at home) and putting exercise to the side. I started to cook a little bit more, but my range of recipes was quite limited. I attempted to eat more veggies which I always liked, but they became low priority once out on my own. And I should probably apologize to my former room mates when I decided to eat veggies like no tomorrow. Let's just say there is a thing as too much vegetables and you don't want to be in the same room when that happens.

Many of my friends were like me. I had friends who signed up for gym memberships, went once, and then never went again. I started dating a guy who was also thin, but was active for his job at the time. Once he quit that job, all the dinners out and accompanying beers caught up to him and to me. For the first time in my life I was eating my entire meal and adding additional calories with multiple drinks.

So, I stepped back to my old eating habits: 
  1. Eat until I wasn't hungry anymore. Not full, just not craving anymore food. 
  2. Eat slow and deliberately. Slowing down allows our stomach and brain to get in the same spot. Ever eat so fast before you know it you feel stuffed? Plus it was better on my wacky digestive system. 
  3. Eat many times a day. Typically, this would be three meals and a couple snacks, but could vary.
  4. Eat good for me food, but don't deprive myself from eating the not so healthy stuff.
I continued to make some sort of an effort to take better care of myself, but I have to admit it was hard when I was in a relationship with someone who didn't have health as a priority. For a variety of reasons our relationship came to an end and as it did my health efforts stepped up. Ok, so it really started at the very end of our relationship when I found myself going for long walks every evening just so I could be alone. But those walks continued and I cut out beer and soda (I lost 5 pounds fast once I got rid of pop). I joined a small gym and continued to feel better. It wasn't about losing any weight at this point (in fact I needed to gain some after losing 6 pounds in one day - thank you horrific stomach flu). It was about feeling good. It was about having some strength. Plus, I had some other health issues (such as back problems) and I knew that I needed to make my body stronger and more limber for that.

About a year after my relationship ended I met a new guy - my now husband, Jesse. Turns out he used to be a personal trainer and health was very much a priority to him. He worked out, he ate well, and he didn't drink much. We eventually joined a gym together and over time belonged to a couple smaller gyms that we could walk to from our home. He offered helpful advice and made sure my technique was spot on, but never really acted like a trainer. And I appreciated that. He was also just the motivation I needed to stay on track. 

When we moved just over 4 years ago we cancelled our gym membership and planned to find something new near our new house once all settled down. We were remodeling, and then getting married, and then I got pregnant and had issues that forbid me from working out for at least half of my pregnancy. The other half? I just didn't have it in me. 

Then we had a colicky kid. Then we were working full time with a baby... and then toddler. And then one day we both woke up and just couldn't take it anymore. I had been telling myself that I was getting a workout chasing after a kid. Right? Ugh, but I didn't feel that way. I felt weak. I felt like my muscles were starting to atrophy. Gah! We needed to do something about this. Stat! It had been almost 4 years since I belonged to a gym and even though I took walks and was semi active, it just wasn't enough. 

My husband acted first by heading over to the 'big' gym by his work and signing up. It was spendy, but it was close to his work and our home and it provided child care. I was hesitant to join the big gym (I'm cheap, what can I say - and might have been intimidated), but I knew something needed to be done. I sit in a cubicle all day - my options for movement for a big part of my day is limited.

So we started working out and it's going well! I even asked my husband to create a workout schedule for me which I will share in a future post. Yes, there are so many bonuses to being married to Jesse and this is one of them. And my health? It's not only important for me to address these issues and care for them, but to pass on healthy living skills to my kid so she can carry them forward for herself and her children.

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