Friday, January 20, 2012

Year one

I've finished one year of my healthy living experiment.

One year ago today, I decided to put my focus on my health; to give up eating badly, start exercising, and see what would happen. I didn't like the way I felt; I was tired all the time, I was overweight, and, worst of all, I felt as if there was nothing I could do to change that.

I'd always heard that after menopause, women just had to deal with energy loss and weight gain; it was our lot in life. "Scale back your expectations," I was advised; "You're not a kid anymore. Deal with it. You'll never be a size six again; you're too old to worry about your figure."

I figured I just had to accept my body the way it was.

In truth, I was feigning acceptance by ignoring it. I didn't look in mirrors, and I didn't step on scales. I avoided anything that made me sweat; I pretended that gardening was enough exercise. I ate whatever I wanted, because it tasted good, and I deserved it. My kids are grown, and this is supposed to be my time, right?

But reality eventually intruded into my fantasy life; at my doctor's visit a year ago, my doctor pointed out that although I was still in the overweight category, the next step was definitely obesity. He told me that if I continued to gain weight at the rate I was gaining it, I'd be there sooner rather than later. Even worse, my blood pressure and blood sugar levels were starting to creep up; if that trend continued, I'd be at risk for stroke and diabetes.

So I weighed my options.

On one side: eating lots of fat and sugar-filled foods was comforting; it made me feel loved to indulge myself. I like to eat. I love creamy, rich food; the richer and creamier the better. On the other side: I was making myself sick. A big box of antacids had somehow taken up permanent residence on my bedside table; and, every morning, I woke up coughing, with a very sour stomach. It was getting harder and harder for me to bend over; I was out of breath and exhausted doing things that I used to do easily. And I was fat. No getting around it. My face was so round, my eyes looked like little slits, and my neck disappeared behind a couple of extra chins. My belly was a giant muffin top, and my bras were industrial-strength. And now, my health was at stake. I'd seen firsthand what stroke and diabetes can do to people, and I didn't want to go there if I could help it.

Not even I could rationalize choosing a daily regimen of creamy cheeses, chocolate and cookies over all those negatives. My doctor swore that it was all reversible; he promised me that eating properly and exercising would change my life. I was less sure, but I knew I had to do something. I couldn't just keep getting sicker and fatter if there was a way out of it; I had to try.

And so I began. I committed myself to four months of healthy eating; no more processed foods, no refined sugars, lots more fruit and veggies, and start every day with a good breakfast. That was the hardest part for me; I have never been a breakfast eater. I had always started my day with several cups of coffee (okay, maybe a muffin or a couple of doughnuts after being up for a few hours) and that was that. But my doctor was insistent: if I did nothing else, I must have a good breakfast first thing in the morning in order to jump start my metabolism and even out my blood sugar levels. I reluctantly complied.

After four months, I was seeing results. I had lost weight, and I felt better. I'd started lifting weights, and I was feeling stronger. I had more endurance, and I was able to do things I hadn't done in years. The antacids went back into the medicine cabinet; I didn't need them anymore. I woke up feeling good; I was sleeping better, and I wasn't sick in the morning. I also, inexplicably, started waking up extremely hungry; breakfast is a treat now. I committed to four more months. And then, four more.

And now, I'm committing to another year. I still want to lose about 5-10 lbs; but I'm not going to stress over it. If I don't lose them, I'm happy with my weight as it is now. I'm healthy again. I'm within the normal weight range for my height and frame size. I won't say that I don't miss the foods I've given up; I do. I crave them still. But as strong as the cravings are, I don't want to go back. I don't want to be sick, fat and tired again. Once in awhile, I do indulge. But only a little bit. And not every day, or even every week. Only when it's something really special.

This is a life choice; I remind myself every day that I'm choosing health today.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Scale

I gave in and bought one.

It was time; I've been on my healthy eating program for almost a year, and I was getting curious. Afraid, but curious. I knew I'd lost weight; but how much?

I've been poring over weight-to-height charts, information on calculating BMI, and I've determined my fame size. (I'm solidly in the medium category.) But all that meant nothing without knowing the Actual Number. I knew it wouldn't be as low as I wanted it to be, and it wasn't. But I am officially inside of the normal weight range for my height and frame size; I've even made it into the old normal weight range from my teenage years.

Yup, just like the bodies that fit into what is now labeled a size eight, the normal weight range has gotten bigger. For my height, the lower limit remains the same, but the upper limit is twenty pounds higher than it was in my youth. Of course, that is for someone with a "large frame;" but even so, the old upper limit was for women who had "big bones."

So, I'm aiming for the center of the old weight range. I'm a medium frame, so that should be just about right for me. It was a very good weight for me the last time I was at it (about 20 years ago!) and it's a number that would give me enough leeway to occasionally indulge without fear of nasty repercussions. I don't expect to get there by my one year anniversary, though I would like to. The slightly compulsive side of me would like to be nice and neat and wake up on the 20th of January at my desired weight. But I'm not going to let that be the only goal that will make me happy.

I'm going to celebrate being back in the normal range, and I'm going to do it without eating something bad for me. I'm no longer a member of the overweight. The scale says so.