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.