I recently shared that this fall, I’ve been struggling through a new wave of grief and PTSD.
Then, several weeks ago, I was ready to be done with it already and read the Rachel Hollis book, Girl, Wash Your Face. I was looking for a gentle kick in the butt, and that’s exactly what I got.
Emotionally, I started to breathe again. I started making plans and getting back on track with my life.
But, most surprising to me, I started to care about my weight enough to think hard about how I could incorporate physical activity into my life in a sustainable way.
Key word: sustainable.
I have a deep aversion to exercising in a group, probably related to the fact that 90% of my life’s most awkward and embarrassing moments happened in gym class or while playing team sports. I was never a graceful child, and several horribly embarrassing events reinforced how truly hopeless I was when it came to gross motor skills.
Not only that, for psychological reasons for which I have yet to find the root, I am the least competitive person when it comes to sports, ever. I am plenty competitive in other areas of my life (with myself, not others), but sports? Meh. In fact, if something smacks of physical competition, I am more likely to actively avoid participating.
I don’t know why. But I do know that’s how I work, and I’m learning to work with it.
So for me to enjoy a form of exercise, it has to be something where I can strive to beat my own personal best, not try to beat someone else. Or even better, forget that I’m even exercising at all.
I also don’t like being cold (which rules out many outdoor winter activities) and am not a big fan of sweating in general.
Therefore, my favourite forms of exercise as an adult have been walking and bike riding. Hard to mess those up, right? If I walk with a camera in my hand, I’m actually taking photos. For biking, well… Even though I don’t mind it, I don’t do it a lot.
But that presents other problems—the biggest being that I live in a climate where it is winter for six months of the year. In addition, I have five miles of gravel road between me and the nearest asphalt biking-friendly surface (thus the reason I don’t do it much). And, ever since Jude reached the age of three and would no longer sit happily in a stroller while I pushed it along as fast as I could go (we did live on a paved road at the time), I have completely gotten out of my regular walking habit, and have struggled to develop it again.
The other thing I have a strong aversion to is making public announcements of plans and goals related to physical activity and health, probably because I have never fully committed to any program that I felt was sustainable for me.
I’ve knuckled down on my eating habits over and over, but when it comes to exercise?
Once again, meh.
Once I no longer had any little boys to keep me active by simply trying to keep up to them, coupled with throwing out my healthy eating habits while grieving the loss of my littlest boy in favour of comfort food, over and over, my body began to show the effects.
My once sky-high metabolism succumbed to a suddenly-sedentary lifestyle and sugar binges and the depleted adrenal glands that go along with grieving something like that, and in 2015, I gained thirty pounds.
The next spring, my doctor found a growth on my ovary that he was concerned might be cancerous. He sent me to a specialist who was more cautious, saying he was willing to give me six months to monitor it before putting me under the knife (which I strongly pushed for, as I knew my body didn’t need the trauma of a surgery to deal with on top of everything else.)
When I got home from that, I took the dire step of going on a 60-day juice fast. I lost almost all thirty of those pounds, so I was down to the “comfortable” +10 that had been hanging on for years. And, best of all (and the entire point of the fast), the growth was completely gone at my next appointment.
Now, there were also down sides to that fast, and I knew it was not something I could (or even wanted) to do again for anything more than a short-term (say, 2 weeks tops) cleanse to reset. But I also found that the concentrated sugars in the fruit juices fed, not retrained, my sweet tooth. So when I came off of it, old habits returned, and so did the weight, until I was then 45 pounds over my ideal weight!
On top of that, the psoriasis which had been an issue since my second pregnancy was flaring up worse than it had in years. I knew that my body was still in recovery from the trauma of grieving, and worse than that, I mostly didn’t care. I mean, I cared, but not enough to exercise, because jeepers, I was already writing full time and teaching part time and designing patterns on the side and trying to be a good mom and wife and housekeeper and who has time for exercise on top of all that?
So, last fall, I went to my fallback health plan of adjusting my diet. I read The Plant Paradox by Dr. Steven Gundry, MD, and went on the most extreme elimination diet I had ever tried, trying to nail down the root of my constant health issues.
I did learn some things about my body.
For instance, I am dairy intolerant. I fought that for a while, but when something repeatedly causes you to feel horrible and disgusting, you become emotionally unattached to it. I’ve embraced that one now, though I am still struggling to find new recipes that are as fast and easy as what I used to use and that my family loves. It’s coming, but it takes time.
I am still struggling to find out which other foods are a no-no for me. And sometime this spring, I went back on practically everything (except dairy) in moderation, just because it had become so much work to eat.
My biggest struggle was tea. My favourite way in the world to drink tea is orange pekoe, steeped long, with honey and cream.
Except now I couldn’t have cream. That was my biggest struggle with going dairy-free. But eventually, I retrained my palate to accept just black tea and honey. Lots of honey to compensate for the loss of the bitter-tannin-tempering cream. Like, a tablespoon per 12 oz., for about three cups a day.
So, here I am, back to 40 pounds overweight. And Rachel kicked me in the butt about that, too.
Here’s what I can tell you truthfully about diet and exercise and weight and what it means in my life.
Who you are today is incredible. You have so many wonderful qualities to offer the world, and they are uniquely yours. I believe your Creator delights in the intricacies of you, and he is filled with joy when you live out your potential.
I also believe that humans were not made to be out of shape and severely overweight. I think we function better mentally, emotionally, and physically when we take care of our bodies with nourishment, water, and exercise. The lie I used to believe was that my weight would define me, that it would speak volumes about who I was as a person. Today I believe it’s not your weight that defines you, but the care and consideration you put into your body absolutely does.
…trauma is not a life sentence. Extreme emotional pain doesn’t guarantee emotional pain for the rest of your life.
You can choose whether or not to stay there. You can choose to continue to abuse your body because it’s all you know. You can choose to live in that place because it’s the path of least resistance. You can choose to settle for a half-lived life because you don’t even know there’s another way, or perhaps you have no idea how to pull yourself out of it. But please, please stop making excuses for the whys. Please stop telling yourself that you deserve this life. Please stop justifying a continued crappy existence simply because that’s the way it’s always been. Just as you’ve chosen to stay in this place for so long, you can also choose to get yourself out of it.
You need to be healthy.
Hollis, Rachel. Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are so You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be (p. 182). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
You guys. I could not get that out of my head.
Earlier this year, I read The Freelancer’s Survival Guide by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and in there, she talked about how important it is to find a form of exercise (especially for us sedentary writers) that we enjoy enough that it is something we want to do. Like me, she struggled to do this for many years. She eventually settled on running—not because she enjoyed running itself (at least, not when she started out), but because for the 30 minutes a day that she runs, she gets to listen to music she enjoys on her iPod. She found a way to make it enjoyable for her, which made it sustainable.
So, with the motivation Rachel provided and the wisdom Kristine provided, I have been thinking hard about how I can get more physical activity into my life in a sustainable, I-actually-want-to-do-this sort of way.
And I think I’ve finally done it.
For three days this week (since Monday), I have managed to move for between 45 minutes and 2 hours, just around my house. Two days, I broke a sweat. One day, I hit 10,000 steps.
I discovered that I could knit and listen to music or research by listening to interviews on YouTube while walking. Around my house. Where it’s warm, and I don’t have to put on layers of winter gear to do it.
Now, I happen to be on a short break from writing at the moment, and I’ve been focusing on getting some knitting patterns finished and published (more on that at the end), so this week, that has worked for me. But when I’m in the throes of writing or revising or more office-work-heavy activities, two hours of walking around my house, while enjoyable because I get to knit, is NOT sustainable.
But I think twenty to forty minutes might be.
And to supplement the rest of it? I have ordered an under-desk mini-elliptical. It will be here next week, and I can hardly wait.
So now, in addition to a concentrated walking/knitting time (regular progress on my knitwear design business, yay!), I can exercise while I’m sitting. For hours and hours every day, since I typically spend 10 hours a day at my desk.
In addition to this, I have also set myself goals to reduce my sugar intake. I am limiting myself to one sweet drink per day, which I save for after supper (when I typically have a hot chocolate or Golden Turmeric Milk), and one sweet snack, including fruit, and a limit to the amount of wheat and rice in my day. I have substituted my morning caffeine boost for butter coffee, which I can enjoy without honey and which gives me better energy throughout the day without a crash.
So this is me doing what I loathe doing—making a public declaration that I am beginning a health program. My own, one that I believe I can maintain long-term. I started Monday, and only had one day where I feel like I didn’t meet my goals, the day I published my new pattern.
I am 5’10” and, last Monday, I was 194 lbs. My goal? I want to get down to what I consider a “healthy” weight for me, which is approximately 155 lbs. I want to get back into clothes I haven’t worn for a decade. I’m tired of feeling like a fat slob.
And I’m so excited that I think I’ve finally found that sustainable form of exercise that I have been looking for for so long. I’m hoping that, as I see results, it will affect my psychology to begin exploring other ways to get fit, too—maybe even push myself outside my envelope into areas I previously avoided, like winter sports or group classes.
You never know. Things could get crazy.
In addition to my new-found enthusiasm for exercise, this week has had two other exciting developments:
Just Plain Gloves Pattern Release
I’ve been working on this pattern for less time than some others in development, but (thanks to the perennial need for new gloves in this climate), I got it finished in record time. For the knitters among you, check it out in my Design Gallery.
“Up In Smoke” Short Story Deal
In September, the editor I hired to work on The Undine’s Tear approached me about a new project she was launching, a speculative fiction e-Zine with a Canadian focus. The Constellate Publishing eZine is taking submissions on invitation only at the moment, and she invited me to submit based on the strength of my sample chapter that I’d sent her to edit for Undine’s Tear.
I took a week to think about it, because when it comes to short fiction, I suck. I’m terribly long-winded (as this post proves), and every short story I’ve tried to write in the last several years inevitably becomes a novel. (My original word count goal for The Friday Night Date Dress was 7,000 words. It’s 27,000. Yeah, I missed by just a little.)
But after some thought, and working out a couple of ideas I thought I could keep short enough, I said yes. I wrote the story in about two weeks. (Only overshooting the word count limit by 3,000 words, something my editor assures me she can help with). And this week, my editor accepted it, to be published in the new year.
The eZine is subscription-based, and what I’ll earn is based on the number of subscribers, so I confess to total bias when I urge you to go sign up. Not only will you get to read my story when it comes out, you’ll get to discover some other great Canadian talent. All for as little as $3 USD (so, like, $5 CAD) per month. Check it out here. The first story was published this month.
Stay tuned for updates on my journey to better health…
Happy Friday, friend! Enjoy your weekend!